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The Hidden Cost of Collecting

It happens to all of us. You’re browsing an online storefront, a Facebook buy/sell/trade group, or eBay and you see a good deal. Let’s say it’s a Gyarados. Of course, then you look into more cards from the set and pick up a few of the holos that you like. You love the PreRelease version so you go searching for a STAFF copy. You stumble upon a great deal on some various promos while you’re searching and get 5 or 6 of those. It’s a weekend and you just spent all your excess money from that paycheck on Friday so mail delivery takes until Monday. Beginning of the week and your mail day is straight fire. You knew what you signed up for. That is, you know until you realize you’re out of sleeves.

The cards need sleeves. The sleeves need binders. If it’s PSA graded you need sleeves for those and boxes to put them in. Display cases? Shelving? A bigger house?

Card storage is the biggest hidden cost that exists in collecting.

First, let me say this: I feel your pain.

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Pokemon cards occupy most of my apartment and I only store a fraction of what I’ve got tucked away here. I could stop here and we could all loathe our situation together but I’ll do you one better. Here are a few tips for minimizing the unavoidable costs of storage and maximizing your storage dollars spent.

1) Know what you collect.

Sealed product, loose singles, binder sets, and graded cards all require unique methods of protection and storage. Setting goals and sticking to them is critical to having a satisfying collection. If you decide ahead of time what you’re going to collect in the immediate future, you can tailor your storage pick-ups to those goals. Buying 10,000 matte sleeves for all of your eventual binder sets quickly becomes a dumb decision if you change your mind three days later and want PSA graded cards instead.

2) Order in bulk.

10,000 matte sleeves aren't always dumb. If you know you’re a set collector who wants to collect and sleeve each new card as it is released, buying in quantities that match what you can afford to collect and have committed yourself to is a fantastic way to save money. This advice is more pertinent to the small storage (sleeves/toploaders/etc.) than the large (shelving/display cases) but if you give it a shot you’ll find it is true. Storage products aren’t like the cards themselves. You don’t need to be a distributor or spend $100,000 to get access to quantity discounts. Shop around and critically compare your options. But remember: If you’re buying in bulk you ALWAYS make a small order to test the product first.

3) Assume you’ll need double what you think.

If you fill your entire house with shelves you will fill them. Trust me. Collection growth can be hard to predict. Even the most committed, narrow-path collectors pick up the odd plush, poster, or figurine how and again. That’s part of having fun with your collecting experience. Building in additional shelf space, binder space, or PSA card boxes gives you the freedom to acquire items a little outside of your exact collection vision as they come along without cluttering every nook and cranny around your living space. Additionally, extra storage and display space mean different options for arrangement. Most collectors enjoy the process of organizing and reorganizing their collection. More space supports this practice.

4) Good storage is worth saving up for.

Watching great auctions and buy opportunities pass by is difficult for everyone. But the reality is that great opportunities occur regularly and you probably want a hundred different things anyway. Good storage is an investment and it ought to be treated like one. When you look for quick storage fixes and opt for dollar store plastic bins or penny sleeves instead of shelving and quality products you set yourself up for more costs in the long run. Almost everyone that buys cheap storage options either ends up with damaged goods or regret. A good collection is best enjoyed in a good atmosphere. Instead of getting plastic shelving, invest in a nice wooden bookcase. If you’re going the binder route, ditch the 3-ring that has indented tens of thousands of peoples’ cards over the years and get a nicer Ultra Pro, Monster, or other collector’s album. Or, if you’re a PSA addict like myself, get some nice, decorative cases that hold a good number of cards and match your bookcases or general decoration.

5) Avoid overkill.

If your collection is only worth $100 it can still be thoughtful, meaningful, and awesome. However, you probably don’t need a large safe, an insurance policy, and a locking document box to keep it in. There is a delicate balance to be struck between security, practicality, and visual appeal in the world of collection storage. Only you know what your collection means to you, which parts you want to be displayed, and which parts need to be tucked away for only the occasional glance. While it might feel cool (and feeling cool does have intrinsic value), you probably don’t need a large metal locking PSA card case. It’s worth noting that in all the six figure collections I’m personally privy to not a single person utilizes those. Opt for the black hinging boxes or the custom wooden storage boxes that are all over eBay. You’re going to have more display value and a more flexible talking point as your cards will be less pretentious for talking about with friends and guests. Maybe you don’t need to binder up every common and uncommon and could benefit from a few small deck boxes, leaving you more funds to purchase a higher quality contained binder for the cards you’re most attached to. Appropriate storage and display will go a long way in making sure you have the right gear when you need it and the right appeal when you want it.

There is no magical right way to collect but developing healthy practices and thoughtful habits will go a long way in making your total experience as good as it can be. Storage costs are a reality of our hobby experience but they don’t have to make you miserable. If you follow the principles I’ve outlined above and put your own thought and flavor into the decisions you make, you can guarantee yourself more fun and fewer headaches.

‘til next time,

Charlie Hurlocker