Getting Organized – Collecting 101

My original catalog. Printed spreadsheets from excel divided much like the current website. The photos are all numbered for easy reference.

Being organized is more than making sure your collectibles are in neat rows. Knowing what you have and where it is can be important for redecorating your Snoopy Corner, selling pieces, or even insurance claims. Cataloging your pieces and storing them properly ensures that you will maximize your investment.

CATALOGING

If you become a serious collector, you’ll want to start taking inventory of what you have. Having a handy list to reference saves you from buying doubles. When should you start? If you’re having trouble remembering everything you own, it’s time. If you’re considering collecting as a regular hobby, start the cataloging early. You’ll thank me!

The method for cataloging is up to you. You can go low tech and use a notebook, or go electronic for easy backups. A text listing can be complemented by photos and/or videos of your pieces. Cataloging your collection can take a lot of time, so frequently save multiple backups: one on your computer and one on a USB drive, external hard drive, or online hard drive.

In the past, I have used Microsoft Excel spreadsheets to easily organize data. Afterwards, I moved to Microsoft Access database which allowed me to import photos to associate with the entry, but it would frequently become corrupted. Currently, this website is my catalog. I use WordPress as a content management system, but all the entries are just basic html code. It is automatically backed-up, offsite and accessible from any computer. Plus, with a smart phone, it is always at my fingertips.

The setup of a catalog can vary based on the collection. You can save as much info as you want and specialize it to your specific area of interest. Depending on the number of items you have, you may want to break up your list based on type of object or manufacturer. Here is a listing of some of the basic info:

  1. Detailed Description
  2. Type of Object
  3. Manufacturer
  4. Year Made
  5. Condition
  6. Price Paid
  7. Where Acquired
  8. Material
  9. Dimensions

Dot labels in our collectibles books prevent us from buying doubles.

Too much work? If you collect vintage pieces, try marking which items you have in a collector’s guide. Our family uses dot stickers from Avery to mark which collectibles we have. The dots are removable and quickly allow us to see what items we have. This is a great help to us while shopping, since we sometimes reference the books anyway for pricing info. For additional information, the occasional small post-it note is added. While this doesn’t cover everything, it does the trick for most items.

INVENTORY NUMBERS

One collection I bought had inventory numbers on all the items. Doing this is up to you. Personally, I don’t because it’s too time consuming for my large collection. Another big reason is the stickers can ruin the collectibles. The glue can dry out and be hard to get off a collectible. The ink may bleed through over time, leaving permanent marks. Using pencil would solve the bleeding problem, but it can be rubbed off and dirty collectibles, too. I can see where they are convenient when searching in a large catalog. Make sure if you’re using stickers they are in VERY inconspicuous places. Organizing is meant to preserve collectibles, not ruin them.

Snoopy shows off this short, but descriptive box label.

STORAGE

Once you’ve collected a while, you may not have everything out on display. Some items will need to sit in storage until you rotate your display. Proper storage is important to prevent breakage, melting, leaking, molding and even bug infestations. Believe me, that last one is the WORST (and it wasn’t something I packed.)

Location, Location, Location! Hot attics and damp basements are not the best places for your precious collectibles. Certain items can be stored in those areas, such as glassware. Always consider the location where you’ll have to store things. If space is limited, prioritize what items need to use the premium, temperature controlled environment. Candles, snow globes and other collectibles that cannot withstand extreme temperatures should be given special consideration. Perishable items, such as food and dog biscuits, may not be good candidates for storage where bugs or critters may invade.

Boxes and packing material are essential to storing collectibles. Whether you’re buying plastic storage bins or reusing old boxes, make sure your container will keep out dust and debris while keeping your collectibles safe. Use packing material that won’t damage the collectibles. Wrap collectibles in a plastic bag if using newspaper and avoid colored tissue paper. Shelving may also be necessary. Make sure the units are secure and won’t tip if you’re in an earthquake prone area.

Labeling your boxes is a great way to locate collectibles when you want them. To make things a little easier for myself, I try and theme a box whenever possible: all music boxes or misc office supplies. On each box I write out a label of what’s inside. If you want to get more detailed or can’t do themed-boxes, consider putting a box number for each box and then referencing that number in your catalog. Also, a group photograph of everything in the box attached to the box is a great reference tool.

INSURANCE

Protecting your investment is a must! Talk to your insurance agent about insuring your collection and what is needed to make a claim. Some of the collection may be covered by your homeowner’s insurance. Collections can usually be insured up to a certain amount without an inventory of the collection. Larger collections may need an inventory to be fully insured. Your inventory listing should be backed up offsite or online, just in case both your collection and computer are destroyed. Photographs can prove your ownership of the items if the item is destroyed or stolen. A professional appraisal of high-ticket items may be needed for certain items, especially if they are one-of-a-kind.

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