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Trading Card Central - Collecting Tips

How many of you have purchased a pack of cards and then thrown out all the ones that you considered worthless because you did not want to mess with storing them? If this is not your style, are you the type that saves every card you have ever purchased even though you do not have a clue where they all are? Regardless of what type of collector you are, there is one central problem that every collector faces - how can you find a way to organize all of your cards in a logical manner?

Once you figure out how to do this, you will be able to quickly locate any card that you need. You will also be able to check your inventory for cards that you are missing. In order to really get your collection organized well, you may need a more robust system than entering your cards in a spreadsheet and then dumping them into a shoe box! Below we have listed some key areas where we think you need to spend time in order to build an effective inventory system.

  1. Use the proper type of storage devices

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The first impulse for new collectors is to simply throw their cards in a shoe box. While this is certainly one way of getting the job done, it is definitely not the most efficient method! Whenever you throw cards into a box, some of them will become bent or damaged under the weight of the other cards. What you really need to do is to decide what cards you will keep and do you want them to be physically separated? For example, collectors often group their cards into these general categories:

  • Common Cards (cards that are not listed in most price guides)
  • Cool Cards (cards that are favorites, regardless of their monetary value)
  • Premium Cards (all cards valued over five dollars)
  • Complete Factory Sets (normally left in their original box)

For common cards, we suggest storing them in cardboard boxes that have dividers inserted so that the box contains multiple rows. Some collectors also use photo albums to store their cards, but this would not be a cost-effective method of storage for a large collection. The multiple row boxes allow you to store up to 5000 cards in a box. In addition, if these boxes are used properly, the cards are standing up and kept in excellent condition. However, if you pack the rows to tightly, you will end up damaging the cards when you try to get one back out. In addition, if you have a row that is only partially filled, you will need to place some type of block in the row to keep the cards standing up. If you do not, the row of cards will fall over and some of them will be bent. One method is to make a block out of an old card that you no longer need. You simply need to fold it so that it is a little bit wider than the row. Once you have done this, you can place it at the end of the cards and it will serve as an excellent block. Other methods would be to make blocks out of pieces of Styrofoam or any other type of foam material.

For cool cards, you may want to utilize a variety of storage methods. Typically, you want these cards stored in such a manner that you can easily show them to other people or view them yourself. Some of these cards may be kept in photo album type binders. Others may be kept in plastic sleeves and then stored in a single row storage box.

For premium cards, most collectors will place each one in a plastic card case that is held together with screws. These holders are then stored in a clear, plastic show box.

  1. Track your cards using computer software (Check out the Software section for more information.)

Now that you have the correct storage devices and you have decided how to group your cards, you have to come up with a way to track them so that you do not spend all day trying to figure out what you do and do not have. If you only have a couple of hundred cards, then you might be able to get away with using a spreadsheet. However, if you have a large collection, you are really going to have to use a software product that is designed to catalog your cards.

For organizational purposes, some collectors believe that it is very important that your software has a field that is used by you to track the location of your cards. If you follow this method, you will have to assign location codes to all of your storage devices. Remember the cardboard boxes with multiple rows that were mentioned earlier? You could assign each row a unique code. For example, you could choose to label each row AA1, AA2, AA3, AA4, AA5, etc. Then, physically write these numbers on the ends of each box so that you can see them even when the box is sitting on a shelf. If you so desired, you could even place a piece of cardboard in the middle of a row and then assign two unique numbers to each row. The advantage to doing this is that you have now narrowed down the physical location of the each storage code.

Now that you have a tracking system in place, you are ready to enter your cards in the software. When you enter a card in the software, you will fill in the location code of where it is stored. Once you have filled a box up, you can then go back into the software and do a search for each location code that you have used for that box. This will bring up a list of all the cards in this box and then print this off and leave a copy in the box. Remember, even if you do not use cardboard boxes, you can still assign each storage device a number. We suggest using a different numbering scheme for cards that you have stored in a photo album. For these albums, you could use a storage scheme that starts with P. Then, add a letter to P that is unique to a each binder. For example, start with A for the first one that you do. The last number that you assign is the page number of where the card is stored. Therefore, if you see the location code of PA10, then you know that this card is located in photo album A, page 10. The bottom line is that if you will take the time to set up a logical tracking system, you will be able to manage your collection better and you will not feel so overwhelmed when someone asks you about what cards you have.

One of the side benefits to following the system that has been described is that you are able to manage a much larger collection then someone who is trying to track their collection on a scrap piece of paper! Because of this, we suggest that you store ALL cards that you get unless they are duplicates that you do not want. There are several reasons to do this.

The major reason is that you can never be sure that a card worth nothing today may become worth a lot tomorrow. Mark McGwire or Kurt Warner are prime examples. For several years after they became professional players, you can bet that a lot of people threw their cards out because they were not a big star and they did not want to mess with having to store their cards. Now that you have your collection well organized, you can quickly go back and see if you have today's hot card. The other reason is that there are a lot of people who want your common cards so that they can complete a set. Now that you can manage a lot of cards, you do not mind keeping ones that might not be important since you might be able to sell or trade them to someone else down the road.

Collecting cards should be fun and as stress free as possible. By organizing your collection wisely, you will obtain even more satisfaction with your hobby.

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