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Organization and Storage

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Organization and Storage

Bill Crittenden
January 6, 2006

As a collection grows, organization and storage become key to enjoying that collection.  A disorganized collection makes finding an item time consuming and frustrating.  A collection not stored properly can be damaged more easily.  Here are some tips to organizing and storing different types of collectibles.

The first part of storage involves finding a place to put all the stuff.  While most collections seem to end up in basements, try to get a dehumidifier to minimize damage and musty smell.  Model decals are especially susceptible to high humidity, followed by cards and brochures.

Die Cast Cars

Die cast cars come in many different scales, and from many different manufacturers.  That means that there are many, many different sizes and shapes of boxes that they come in.

The best place to put most scales, in my opinion, is on a shelf.  Totes and boxes generally aren't space-efficient, the round corners can damage boxes and make finding a particular die cast difficult.  Small scale die cast, such as 1:64, can be placed in boxes.  I recommend against plastic totes with rounded corners, as I've bent a few box corners in them.  If you can find the original shipping boxes, those are best.  Ask your local store if they can set some aside for you.

Organizing by box type is one way of ensuring maximum stuff in minimum space.  Boxes of the same type and size will stack better with less open space than mismatched boxes.  Therefore, I suggest separating die cast by scale.  Large scale (1:12, 1:10) in one area, 1:18 in another, 1:24, 1:43, and 1:64 in others.  1:64 should be further separated based on whether they are boxed or in clamshell.

I'd just like to take a timeout from the serious content of this article to point out that while the boxes make nice displays in the store, cardboard backed packages (such as those from Hot Wheels, Matchbox and Johnny Lightning) are a pain in the posterior to store and keep undamaged.

Even sorted by scale, different manufacturers have different box sizes.  1:18 scale boxes generally stack well with each other, but be careful putting a heavy box on a small or flimsy box.  For example, don't stack three Highway 61 Hudsons on top of a Maisto PT Criuser.

1:24 scale is generally lighter weight and without the weight comes less worries about damage from stacking boxes.  The same applies to 1:43 scale and 1:64 scale boxed cars even further.

Once sorted into general sizes of boxes you can basically organize the die cast a few ways.  Sorting by year makes a particular car easier to find but may be difficult to organize and keep organized as some manufacturers of late model die cast don't put years on the cars as late model cars are generally the same year-to-year.  You could organize by make, or make and model if your collection is large enough, but then if your collection is large finding a particular Camaro in the big pile of Chevy might be hard.  You could organize by manufacturer, which allows the most efficient stacking of same size boxes but then you would have to remember who manufactured what to find what you are looking for.

Organizing race cars does allow more organizing options than street cars.  Aside from the same issues of scale and box type, you can organize by driver, car number or year.  Action boxes stack well and the more recent ones are well labeled with the silver sticker that has all the information you could need on the end of the box.

Model Kits

Organizing model kits works much the same way as die cast, except that most model kits are roughly the same size box with exceptions for multi-kit packages, large scales and specialty kits.  Also, the extremely light weight allows you to stack different size boxes fairly high without worrying about damaging boxes.  Not that it matters to some modelers, since many boxes just get tossed out when the model is built.

Like die cast, I think model kits are best on shelves.  However, when selecting shelves you won't have to worry about weight, just how much can be put on a shelf safely (without risking tipping over).

Becuase model kits are easier to sort than die cast, I recommend sorting street cars by type of kit, then make and model.  Die cast kits and prepainted kits in a separate section, then sort by make and model.

Organizing race car model kits allows the same extra sorting options that applied to die cast.


There are only three good places to put cards.  One is in hard plastic cases, in pages in a binder, or in boxes made for cards, without a rubber band in sight.

When putting pages in plastic cases or binders, use archival-safe plastic pages, such as those made by Ultra-Pro.  If bargain cases or pages are not of the best quality, they can end up damaging cards.

Sorting cards allows the most creativity, as almost all of them are roughly the same size (there are a few oversizes, some undersizes and die cuts).  You can sort cards of street cars by make or model or by set.  You can sort racing cards by type of race car, driver, sponsor, or by set.


Car brochures, such as the ones from auto shows and dealerships, can be difficult because they come in so many sizes.  I'll share with you how I organize more than a few years worth of brochure collecting.

First of all, the smaller brochures are in boxes.  For the sake of space, I primarily organize by size.  Any stack of any collectible generally takes up space based on the largest item in the stack.  This way, I don't need an enormous space to store lots of little brochures in boxes made to accomodate the largest.

The smallest brochures are in comic boxes.  If it's small enough to fit in the comic box, it goes in, sorted by make and model.  Any comic store should have them, usually made from the same sort of cardboard as card boxes.  If you want extra protection for valuable items, you can get archival-safe plastic sleeves and backing boards in different comic sizes.

The next biggest brochures go in magazine boxes.  These can be found at many comic stores, usually made by the same people as the comic boxes.  The same sleeves and backing boards for comics also come in magazine sizes.

Larger brochures can be harder to store.  Many of them are roughly 11" x 11".  At that size, many scrapbooking paper storage solutions will work for them, since most scrapbook paper is 12" x 12".  However, costs may be higher, as there is little cheap mass storage such as cardboard boxes (scrapbooking paper is expensive).  I use a legal-size file cabinet and lay them flat in a drawer.  For a large collection you can explore the methods archivers use to store masses of newspapers.

For any collection, I recommend using a computer to catalog the collection.  This way, you can organize for maximum space while still being able to find the item you may be looking for.  As added bonuses an inventory also makes insurance claims easier, and can prevent purchasing duplicates.

Some things to remember when organizing and storing your collection:

  • It may take some time to organize, but it will take more time to find something you need if you don't.
  • The time it takes to find something in a disorganized collection increases as the collection increases.
  • Don't spend too much on storage, as that is less you have for the hobby itself.
  • Find the right place to put it before deciding how to store it, often location will limit what you can do.
  • Don't let it frustrate you.  You're supposed to enjoy collecting! ©2005 Bill Crittenden

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