The size of a collection is oftentimes a point of pride for collectors. The larger it is, the more impressive it becomes, giving it a “wow” factor when people see it, making you more of an authority on that particular subject, and undoubtedly the envy of other fans. As your collection continues to grow, however, it’s vital to have some way to keep track of it. Letting it get out of hand without some form of organization can cause a wealth of problems and heartache. Fortunately all of that is easily avoidable.
Let’s start with the most basic of basic reasons why you need to keep tabs on your collection: knowing exactly what you do and don’t have. It’s a common problem: you find something cool at the store, but you can’t remember if it’s something you already have!
There’s certainly nothing wrong with having a few duplicates in your collection (some collectors strive for it), but purchasing something extra should be an informed decision and not something that happens accidentally. Otherwise, you’re wasting money that could be spent on an entirely new item.
All collections cost money, and it’s beneficial to have some sort of budget in place for it. So why would you want to waste money unnecessarily on items you already have? For example, I’m an avid Star Wars collector, but one of my primary focuses is the character Darth Maul. One day I went to the store to peruse the shelves and my attention was immediately caught by two figures: a new figure from a recently released line and a Darth Maul figure.
I wanted both figures, but at that particular time, I was only able to pick up one. During this period I wasn’t doing any tracking on my collection and I couldn’t remember if I already owned the Darth Maul. I purchased the Maul to ensure I wasn’t lacking it, only to find out later I owned not one, but two of them already! Because I wasn’t keeping up with my collection, I missed out on getting something new (which I had to find online later for an increased price).
Knowing What You Need
On top of making sure you don’t accidentally re-purchase an item, having an accurate account of your collection can assist in figuring out what you need/want to add to it. Regardless of what you collect, there’s undoubtedly something you’re on the hunt for. You may remember one or two of the “big” things you want, but there’s probably a longer list of smaller items that easily slip your mind.
Knowing what’s already in your collection will help remind you of what you don’t have. Say you’re creating a list of items that are a part of a smaller series within your collection (i.e., a specific author within a book collection). By looking at what you have, anything you’re lacking will stand out. This will make it easier to create a separate and more accurate wish list. Jotting down a list of things to look out for is great, but without knowing what you already have, it’s easy to leave something off your list.
The Worse Case Scenario
In terms of collecting, one of the most horrifying things that could happen is the loss or destruction of your collection. We shudder to think of it, but there are circumstances that could result in you losing parts, or the entirety, of your collection. Everything from theft, flood, fire, to even an errant beverage spilling into a storage container can cost you vital pieces in your set.
Fortunately, there’s insurance for those instances (some companies even offer protection specifically for collections). Insurance can provide the funds necessary to recover your damaged or stolen pieces, but if you don’t know what’s in your collection, how can you replace them? Plus, you can’t give an insurance company an accurate dollar amount on the damaged/missing pieces if you don’t know what they are. If you can produce a list of the items in your collection with some approximation of their worth, insurance companies can get to work faster on helping you restore your collection.
Disasters or thefts aren’t the only situations to be prepared for however. Something as simple as moving to a new residence could require you to replace parts of your collection since boxes could be lost or crushed. It might not be as devastating as everything burning up in a fire, but you’ll still want to replace those items. This is impossible if you’re not tracking your collection.
Display and Storage
Chances are the size of your collection eclipses the amount of display room you have available, meaning some, or the bulk, of your collection needs to be stored. Having a means of cataloging/tracking will save you loads of time and hassle when it comes to both storing and displaying pieces in your collection.
My cataloging efforts are simple, using nothing more than basic spreadsheet software. The key to my organization, however, is how I store my collection. Everything is in numbered tubs, and those numbers are notated on my spreadsheets, so not only is there an account of what I have, but I also know exactly where each piece is kept.
I rotate pieces on my shelves (after all, what’s the point of having something cool if no one else sees it!) and this system makes it easier to change things up on the display. When it’s time to put something back into storage, it helps to know which bin it goes back into; preventing things from becoming lost in the transition. If I want to put a specific item on display, I’m able to look up it’s location and go right to it so I don’t have to dig through everything in order to find the piece I want.
The fun and joy of putting new items up on the shelf to show off is easily lost when you’re spending hours digging through storage bins to find what you want. It may not be a huge issue for some collectors, but it may be enough of a hassle to keep you from rotating things out often, relegating large portions of your collection to boxes and nothing more.
Now that you know why it’s so important to keep track of everything in your collection, let’s look at some of the ways you can do so without straining yourself or breaking the bank. One of the primary reasons collectors don’t keep track of their collection, is because they’re not sure where to start.
It can feel overwhelming, but the best way to get started is deciding how you want to get organized in the first place. A quick search on the Internet will reveal a plethora of software you can purchase that cater to collection tracking/cataloging. Each one has different capabilities and features, so you’ll need to look at them carefully before selecting the one you want in order to make sure it fits your particular needs. Here are some decent ones you can find online:
Specialized software isn’t the only way to go, and if you’re looking for something more simple and cost effective, like the simple methods I utilize, all you really need is a spreadsheet tool (Microsoft Excel or even the free spreadsheet option within Google Drive). Good use of the tabs and organization options inherent in those programs can give you all you need to get your collection in order while also providing flexibility to add in as much or as little information as you want.
If neither of those sound appealing, there’s always pens and lined paper. It sounds silly, but even scribbling down information on notecards is better than nothing at all. While cataloging your collection sounds like a massive undertaking (depending on its size) and time investment, it’s crucial that you do it. Find a way that works best for you and take the plunge, as it can save you oodles of grief in the future.
Be Nerdy, Be Proud!
Your collection is a big part of who you are and should be looked upon with pride. Don’t diminish your passion by failing to keep up with it. Yes, cataloging everything will take time and dedication, but compared to the time you’ve spent gathering your collection, it’s a drop in the bucket. In order to keep it protected and ensure it continues to move forward with you, it has to be done.
Don’t let the size of the task prevent you from ensuring your collection is safe and accounted for. Show pride in what you’re passionate about most and don’t let it get beyond your control.
Jordan Maison is an artist, writer, father, and avid Star Wars fan who tries to intersect all of those at every possible junction. To hear him talk about more nerdy things and his art, you can follow him on Twitter @JordanMaison or Cinelinx where he serves as editor in chief.