Organizing My Trading Cards!

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Growing up a sports fanatics nothing was more exciting then opening up a new pack of cards. Particularly in the pre-internet (or early internet) days it was the best way to learn about players, memorize their statistics and build an encyclopedia level of knowledge. My go to spot was a place called Sluggers in Thornhill, Ontario, Canada (featured in the documentary Jack of All Trades) and in the US it was Field of Dreams. Between my brother and I we amassed quite a collection, but like a lot of kids cards end up fading in to the background and it becomes something your mother wants to get rid of so she can clear out space in her house.

While looking for things to do during the pandemic, my parents shipped my cards down to me in LA. The boxes came and there was a lot! The boxes were heaving and opening them up brought back a lot of memories. I had some of my more “special” cards in top loaders there were a lot in binders and even more loose cards in boxes. So I set out a goal organize my collection!

Some of the Top Loader Cards

I was 1-2 years too old to get wrapped up in the Pokémon whirlwind so I either saved (or cost myself) thousands of dollars. The majority of my cards are Basketball, though there is a little Baseball and Football in the mix. So I set out on my quest!

How did I organize the collection?

There are a lot of methodologies, but it is important to make a decision so you can dig in and go to work. Some of the most popular ways to organize:

  • By Series and Card Number
    • So if you have a complete series you can have them ordered by their number
    • Definitely a lot of work as you need to gather all loose cards by series, then sort numerically
  • Alphabetically
  • By Team
  • By Player
  • By Year

Ultimately I decided on a hybrid approach of Team and Player. I took items out of existing binders and boxes and went through all my cards and created 3 separate piles:

  • Hall of Famers: The players that defined the era. MVPs, Multiple Time All-Stars
  • Notables: Solid players, maybe made an All-Star Team or have some significance now (like a former player turned coach, commentator etc)
  • Scrubs: The dudes you need to look up on wikipedia as you have little or no recollection of

From here the Hall of Famers got all stored together, the notables spanned a few boxes and the scrubs were a plenty and put in the furthest back of the closet (as that would be the final portion). Then came the next phase the actual sorting.

Organizing Trading Cards
How the sorting process looked
  • Hall of Famers were all sorted by individual player. Each player would get there own binder pages which would get placed in alphabetical order
    • Anything super cool was isolated to be put in top loaders
  • Notables were sorted by team and then each team got binder pages which would eventually get sorted and placed in binder in alphabetical order
  • Scrubs were sorted by team and then placed in a giant storage box in alphabetical order
  • All Older Cards (later 70s/early 80s) went in to Binders
  • Also made a binder for USA Basketball cards

How long did it take?

A while! It was a fairly long process spread out over the course of several weeks. It wasn’t all on consuming, so every night I’d clean up each night and just store the cards in ordering so everything wasn’t lying around all the time and getting in the way. On nights if I was half watching TV (TV is on but I’m on my phone/computer), I’d try to do the cards instead. I felt a lot less drained then I did after spending all those hours on my phone! It was also a fun trip down memory lane, so it had a good nostalgia factor. I still remember getting some of the cards, I also had 1 sheet of Portland Trail Blazers cards that hung up in the office of my grandparents store, so it always brings back great memories.

1990s Portland Trail Blazers
This hung on the walls of my grandparents store for years, so it’s cool to have it in my possession

What’s did you use to organize the cards?

I still had a lot of sheets and binders from my youth that survived so that was a good start. Though I found that I quickly needed more sheets and a few more binders + a big storage box for the less eventful cards. Here where the items that I liked.

I bought some new top loaders:

  • Ultra Pro: Easy and affordable. It’s always good just to have some on hand

I bought a lot of different sheets:

  • DO NOT Buy the Amazon Basic Sheets!!!
    • They were super flimsy and all the cards fell out like anytime they moved, they’re also super wide which is strange
    • I ended up with the Ultra Pro Sheets as well as some that came with the IDJWVU binder

I bought 3 Different Binders:

  • The IDJWVU was a nice binder, I was able to fit all of my older cards in there, it is a good size easy to store. I liked having something waterproof especially for those older cards
  • The TopDeck binder is huge! It’s really big, but seemingly was the only option that offered 16 cards per sheet and I used this for my hall of fame players (I had 30 players featured in this binder). The sheets are built in and it does look awesome once they are all set and displayed
  • The Ultra Pro is the old reliable. It’s a good enough size to load with sheets.

For Everything else I bought a storage box:

  • It was pretty massive, but I filled like 80% of it, so it was worth it.

I’d love to know how you keep you card collection organized? Also would love to know about any good card shops (either in person or on-line)!


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