How to Organize Your Card Collection

Organizing my cards is probably one of my favorite things to do. Don’t get me wrong, it can also feel like a chore sometimes. But in the end, for me it’s one of the most satisfying things about collecting cards. Maybe it addresses some deep-seated psychological need or something. Whatever it is, it keeps me interested.

Organizing your cards partly depends on what you focus on collecting. I’m going to focus on the set collector, or at least my take on set collecting, as that is probably those most massive effort related to organization. Collectors of teams, players and the like can also use some of these ideas and concepts, but those collecting goals also have the most avenues for how you organize.

I’ll start with the most granular part of my process and then move through to the larger levels. You’ll see some DIY tools I use for my collection. Then I’ll also talk about displaying cards. You might as well show off your favorite stuff (Hey you Mom does it with those flowery plates she collects, why can’t you?).

>>> READ MORE ABOUT STARTING YOUR CARD COLLECTION <<<

Sorting Your Card Collection

My main collection is ordered by year, brand, set, then number. I have all my singles packed in boxes in that order. Whenever I get new cards I start sorting them immediately. It’s become habit at this point. I typically open and sort and set them aside. I don’t get them to my main collection immediately as I will take some time to go through them a few times. In the end, this sort helps to get them into the main collection. Since they are sorted you can run through the boxes that are ordered with what you’ve been sorting. I typically have a box that acts as a “ready for the main set” place.

As I mentioned, my main set is singles only. I order my doubles by year and brand, but I don’t worry about a specific order. That ends up being what I use for TTM autos. I won’t ever send out a card or bring a card to a game that I don’t already have another of.

An example of one of my organized boxes.

My sorting technique.

Card Collecting Organization Tools

To make this all work there are several tools that I use. They range from the internet to little strips of paper. As your collection grows you’ll develop a process of your own that works for you. Some of the tools I use are:

The Internet:

There are always cards you can’t identify. I’ll use the Topps site, Beckett, Wikipedia, anything I can to identify a card. There are always places that list out the different types of parallels and inserts that you’ll find in packs. The best and most useful ones are those that have pictures.

Card Boxes:

You’re going to need something to put these things in when you are done. They make boxes with rows about the size of a card. Large boxes with 4-5 rows do the trick. They are easy to move even when full. I think the ideal box I think also has a top, but I can skip that. I tend to have some cards in a place with dust so I prefer that.

Card Binders:

Card binders, with the plastic card sheets are great when you have something you want to display. I recommend getting as heavy duty plastic sheets as you can (within your budget). They just feel better and I like the way they wear better down the road. The one thing to worry about with binders is filling them too full. If too full you run into a situation where the rings can damage the cards.

Pocket Pages:

These go hand in hand with the card binders. Heck, you have to have something to put the cards in and then get them into the binders.

Card Sleeves:

These are a must for you most important cards. “Penny Sleeves” are the lighter, flimsier version. A “Pro Sleeve” the harder version.

Dividers:

Dividers help to go through your cards later on. I start with just little scraps of paper that I write on. As I have time I make my own dividers from there (more on that next).

Examples of what you can use to organize your card collection.

Just some of the things you can use to organize your cards.

Do-It-Yourself Collection Organization

Another great way to save some money is to do what you can yourself. I create my own card boxes and my own dividers. The dividers are a Word template that I’ve made. I label each one in Word, but you could easily just write on them yourself instead of printing them. The dividers of course go with my sorting method, for example, 2016 Topps Chrome. I always make sure to have year, brand, set, and one more level if needed.

The other easy DIY part of my collection are the boxes I use for storage. I discovered that a bulk printer paper box works great. I have easy access to them through work as they recycle them anyway. They are the perfect size for 4 rows of cards with a little wiggle room. I take the top off the box (which I will label later with “Baseball 1” or something like that. I don’t put the years on it as it could change with the more cards you get. Then I cut about 5 inches off the main part of the box. This leaves me with a box (and top) that is enough for some cards, and some head room for the labels I made. Lastly, I take what I cut off the top of the box and make myself some dividers that I tape into the box. The only thing any of this really costs me is some paper and some packing tape.

>>> READ MORE ABOUT MY DIY CARD STORAGE SYSTEM <<<

Secure Your Card Collection

You want a way to keep your cards safe. Keeping them away from the elements and danger is important. The boxes (or binders) provide some security. The other part of security is thinking about where you store them. I try not to put my boxes on the floor (if they are in a basement I always worry about a leak or flood). If you have space for shelving, I’ve found the Billy shelves from Ikea fit my system.

The second part is to try to make sure the place you put them is not too hot or cold. Third, try to not have them in a place that critters like. I know Mom might want to put the old cards in the attic, but if you’ve ever seen what a squirrel can do to a cardboard box you might think twice about that.

Overall, as your collection grows, organizing is more and more important. Having an idea of a system to start is good, but make sure you can be flexible as you go along. I have fun organizing cards, but I don’t want to have to redo my work constantly either. Have fun, and keep those cards safe!

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