Buried Alive: Organizing Secrets for Keeping the Best Collections

The staff at Collector's Connection are just as prone to our treasures getting disorganized as our patrons. But with the right organization system, adding to and browsing our collections remains an exciting rather than daunting experience.

With extra time at home social distancing this past year, our employees have had extra time to parse through their collections. Below you can find their tips on the best methods and supplies suited for your collections.

We hope that their ideas provide inspiration for your collections now that we are continuing to play commander-format Magic: The Gathering games again on Fridays 6-9 p.m. and Saturdays from 2-5 p.m.


Keeping a Magic: The Gathering Collection that "Sparks Joy"

by Jess Morgan

I fluctuate between wanting everything related to an interest I love and having just enough to play. So when I organize, I take inspiration from Marie Kondo's de-cluttering methods to find a balance between stuff that "sparks joy," and not owning so much that I can't process what I have.

I checked out what folks had already written about applying the Marie Kondo method to their MTG collections as I started playing Magic, but didn't find anything written about how collections were organized after being de-cluttered.

I wanted a process that felt intuitive but was easy and enjoyable to maintain.

Visualizing my version of a perfect collection, I had my goal set: A structure that allows me to deck build with ease, but also accounts for the occasional craziness of opening several booster packs at a time!

I sort my collection by color and card type first. Then, by creature type.

All my creatures are organized with like creatures, since I like to build around "tribal" groups the most. All my humans, elves, beasts, goats and elephants live together. Having all green elves together makes for a quick deck-building experience.

I organize my instants and sorceries by what they do (for instance, putting all my blue card draw spells together).

This method of sorting helps me avoid having more copies than I want of reprints of the same card without cluttered spreadsheets of what cards I have from each set or if I had kept base sets separate from each other.

I only keep cards that I know I'll want to build a deck around, love the artwork of, or inspires a deck build in some way.

Even if I never build with them, I know that if a friend builds with them in a relevant deck that it would feel good to gift it to its new home if I'm attached to the card enough to hold onto it for a time. At times, my commons find homes with my friend's kids... instigating future players to get into the hobby, too.

Once they were all sorted, my creatures settled into a four-row box. I scooped up a couple two-row boxes for my other lands and spells. My hope is they'll all rotate into a deck eventually.

Even if it's a non-competitive set for teaching friends or a janky oddly-themed deck I only have for a week, I'd love to see all my cards used at some point. Or to rotate them around my primarily EDH-format decks. Looking at MTG as a game I could teach anyone that I share quality time with (not just people who collect themselves), I like having several decks and re-working or parting with them as they get over-played or boring; a collection I can pull out in many different spaces that I occupy, just as I would with a good 'ol game of rummy (but way more fun).

I don't worry about how much money each card is worth in how they're stored.

Instead, keeping them all organized in a way that they all feel relevant, grouped in a way that I know how I plan to use them. I skipped over the tedious spreadsheet methods I saw for larger collections and set out to created my own system.

If it's valuable and I am not going to play with it, I prefer to sell it to a card shop, (so that I can buy more cards!) keep it among my trade fodder or gift it. If I don't like the card enough to keep it nice or within a spontaneous art project, I might as well find it a new home.

And of course I've setup a joy-filled space for playing, complete with fancy dice and play mats.

Using the art cards from packs and recycled cardboard boxes for dividers has been a fun a creative experience. I've found that some deck boxes work well for drawer organization, as Kondo suggests for spaces that otherwise fill with clutter. Placing cards in portfolios that are visually appealing has also enhanced how I feel about my collection. My space for card-playing contains just as much joy as other spaces I've "de-cluttered," and I wouldn't have it any other way.


Keeping it Simple: "WUBRG" and Boxes

by Eric Tapper

Any avid collector knows the slippery slope of staying organized. One minute your collection is a library with its own Dewey Decimal System, a few purchases later and you are left in disorder. I’m no master of organization, but I have developed some healthy habits to avoid plummeting down the slippery slope of MTG card chaos.

First, do not allow yourself to accumulate too much before sorting new acquisitions.

I use a couple five-row boxes to store my non-rare card collection. These are very cumbersome boxes, and I recommend everyone use a three-row or four-row box if you don't want to lug them around. To avoid hauling these larger boxes from room to room, I use a bundle box as my benchmark of unsorted cards. They hold about the same amount as you would open in a booster box, around 500 cards. Once my bundle is full, I know it is time to filter them into the larger collection. Often, I find myself pulling out a few cards to use in decks, which usually ends with a small handful of loose cards. I treat every loose card as though I just opened it; once done, in the bundle it goes.

Next, decide how you want to sort cards and use labeled dividers to stay organized.

I can’t emphasis this enough. It is too easy to pull out a handful of cards and accidentally put them back in the wrong place. Sorting 10,000 cards is an arduous task that I don’t recommend anyone take on. I sort my collection in "WUBRG" order — the order in which the symbols appear on the back of a Magic card; white (W), blue (U), black (B), red (R), green (G) — leading with colorless and ending with multi-colored. I break down each color section into three subsections; common, uncommon, and non-basic lands. I sort my rare cards in a separate box with the exact same color sections and with subsections: rare/mythic non-land, non-rare foil, rare/mythic lands. If this sounds confusing, no troubles. The important thing is that you find a sorting standard that works for you, and more importantly, stick with it.

Finally, make a trade or set binder for the cards that you would most commonly pull out of the boxes you’ve made.

The type of binder you put together could entirely depend on the format you play. I have known a lot of standard players that have set binders - four of each card - for easy deck building. I primarily play Commander — a highly sociable multiplayer format — so I prefer a trade binder. I load up my trade binder with all of the cards that I think are worth trading. These could be cards with beautiful art, over-hyped, newly added, high-powered, or even just expensive. Ultimately, I view these binders as a form of expression, and they make a great companion to any event.

Remember to stay organized.


Getting Organized with a Database like Excel

by Dominick Briggs

One day I went into my basement to find a specific Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle comic and I was met with three brown boxes simply labeled “COMICS” and it pushed me over the edge. For a time I thought I just had too many records, movies, cards and comics. But instead it became clear I needed a database before I bought anything more — it was time for me to get organized.

That afternoon I went to Collector’s Connection and acquired six BCW record boxes, three monster-sized card boxes, and five BCW comic boxes to replace the countless milk crates, shoe boxes, and other assorted cardboard that my collections had previously resided in. After they had new uniform homes, my dream organization became one step closer to a reality.

First, I started with my vinyl, with a rough alphabetical sort through the boxes by first letter of the artist or band name, making sure to keep space in each box for future additions. Next I labeled each of these boxes with a number, and copied the contents of each box to an Excel spreadsheet along with its corresponding box number. With that information now in Excel I was able to alphabetize the collection by box and print up contents lists at the click of a button. Now whenever I want to play a song I can look up to see what box it’s in on my computer or phone, or if I’m feeling low-tech I simply read the lists in the box.

My D.V.D.'s were my next major organization hurdle. I had assistance from my significant other Meg. As I rattled off their titles they wrote them down on journal paper. I was then able to easily transfer those titles into Excel along with the addition of any genres that I thought were pertinent, such as; Superhero, Comedy, Drama, Sci-Fi, Action, Western, Anime, or Musical. After I had that information in Excel I was able to sort the titles by genre and then sort alphabetically within those genres on my shelves. With a couple of specific titles, I even linked the spreadsheet to the Wikipedia articles for the film or show, so whenever I’m looking for something to watch I can read up on the title to jog my memory about it.

My comics were pretty easy in comparison, as I took an approach more akin to my vinyl collection only instead of sorting the boxes by titles alphabetically I minimally sorted by hero/shared world. I ended up with an Avengers, Star Wars, Spiderman, Batman, Daredevil and Turtles box, along with a “Good Stuff” box and a few miscellaneous boxes. This more relaxed sorting allows me to have comprehensive Excel lists without a need for obsessive sorting whenever I buy new comics. I simply put my new books in the back of the box and add them to a physical list on the box to be added into the excel document whenever I feel like printing up new box lists.

The last major organization roadblock I had to overcome was my card collection. With how many cards I own, I knew Excel wasn’t going to save me this time — I was going to have to do this the old fashion way. So, I cut up a couple comic backing boards to be the specific width of a card, but a little taller and I labeled them in marker with every letter of the alphabet or type of card. Using my homemade dividers in my new card boxes allowed me to alphabetize and organize as I moved through the box. After I had the cards sorted by rarity and alphabetized I could choose specifically which rare cards I would take the time to enter into my database. And while I wouldn’t have an excel spreadsheet to reference every single common card, I would at least be able to search through my card collection at a rapid rate as long as I knew the type of card and first letter of its name.

And just like that, I had all my collections in order and could tell what I did and didn’t have. While it took me almost two whole days to implement a collection-wide database, the upkeep since has been far less time consuming, and now I know just exactly what I need to fill the gaps in my collections and simultaneously prevents me from buying doubles. Everybody has a personal way to organize their collections, and while I can’t say the Excel route will be perfect for you, I can tell you it has been working wonders for me.

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