Staying Organized

When I was a kid, keeping my sports cards organized was simple. All of my baseball cards went into a long cardboard box specially designed for cards. My basketball and football cards usually went into binders (often organized by teams) and eventually I started pulling out the “valuable” cards (anything that had a Beckett value of $1 or more) and put them into top loaders and kept them in an old Everlast shoe box (which I sadly still have). As I acquired more and more cards, I needed more storage methods. My football cards went into a plastic box I got from K-Mart while my basketball cards (I had given up on baseball by this point, so that old cardboard box was still big enough) got rubber-banded in bricks of 50 and shoved into the empty boxes I busted. When I got out of the hobby sometime in high school, everything I owned fit neatly into the box my CD boom box came in.

When I got back into the hobby in mid-2008, I discovered that sports cards were mainly bought and sold over the Internet and my credit card and sudden disposable income quickly got to work buying up singles and lots of boxes. Currently, all of my cards are in complete disarray. The cards I had prior to high school are still organized the way they were while all of my new cards are either still in the hobby boxes they came in, or in a few more of those K-Mart plastic card bins I picked up. My Emmitt Smith and Michael Jordan cards are the only ones that I feel are really organized anymore. As an accountant and a person who quite possibly has a strand of OCD (thanks, Mom), this is really bugging me. When I try to find a specific non-Emmitt card, I might have to go through three very large boxes which are filled with more little boxes. Some of the cards are still in individual packs because as I busted a product, I had no where to put them, so I just inserted them back into the packs and then back into the hobby box. This is unacceptable!

Along with my return to the hobby, I also discovered Beckett’s online organizing tool “My Collection”. I quickly dumped a lot of my cards into there to find their overall book value, and then realized this could help me keep track of what I had. Over time, my opinion of Beckett has dropped drastically, and I no longer put any emphasis on their trivial book values, or have access to them as I allowed my subscriptions to run out. I had kept an Excel spreadsheet of my Emmitt cards (again, I’m an accountant…it makes sense to me in Excel), and I thought of putting all my cards into a spreadsheet. But searching and finding specific lists of cards (for example, all Dan Marino cards, all Rookie Cards, etc.) would be a huge burden. That’s when I decided to use MS Access, a huge database program. Now I can easily see exactly what I have in any sort of organization. I can see all of my Seattle Seahawks cards produced by Topps since 1996. I can review a list of all my autographed New York Giant cards from 2007. I can even see exactly which cards I have featuring Emmitt Smith in his dreadful Arizona Cardinals jersey. Finally, a computerized method of organization I can trust and use with a high degree of functionality. I already have over 1,400 unique cards entered into the database (I need to figure out how to get Access to total the Quantity column). While my moving has stopped all progress of entering cards, I now have a direction and feel like I am accomplishing something and can get back on track as soon as I am moved, unpacked, and settled in my new house (which will have tons of room for cards! …. unless we have kids sometime soon).

But this still leaves me with what to do with the physical organization. I still want to keep my Emmitt cards separate, which should not be a burden. However, I don’t know what to do from there. Do I put them all into K-Mart card bins by year, then set, then card #? Do I put them in order by player or team (for quick trade reference)? I am leaning toward the first option as I can add a column in Access that tells me which #ed bin each card is in. Then they will have the most logical order and if I need to pull out all of my Jerry Rice cards for a trade, I can run a query in Access and know exactly which bin(s) to go to. But what do I do with my few complete sets? Do I leave them in their binders or pull them out and put them into bins? What about my “valuable” cards. I cannot put toploaders into these K-Mart bins. Do I risk putting a tiny nick into my Bowman Chrome Orange Refractor Autographed rookie card of Colt Brennan? What about my Exquisite Rookie Autograph Gold card of Adrian Peterson. Even if that card couldn’t pull the Beckett price of $1,000, I still would vomit uncontrollably if I accidentally put a slight crease into it because it was in a bin with all other 2007 cards.

What do YOU suggest? How do YOU organize your cards, either physically or via computer?

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