Article: Collection Management Part 1: The Basics

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Collection Management Part 1: The Basics

Collecting any toy line like "Transformers" begins innocently enough. You like an action figure, maybe a Masterpiece or Generations figure. Then you get another and time passes and you fill up all the free space on your desk. Then you get a shelf or two and mount them on the wall...only to fill that up within a couple months. The next thing you know, Transformers are spilling all over the place, hiding behind curtains on window sills and "mysteriously" winding up on your nightstand. At some point, you realize you've become a hardcore collector, and to borrow (and re-word) a famous saying: with a great collection comes great responsibility to organize.

This article is the first in a series that seeks to offer some pointers on ways I've managed my collection (currently cataloged at about 3100+ pieces with more to be counted). I've also provided links and descriptions to products that have helped me do this. This is a very "United States-centric" article since that is where I am based. If you are outside the U.S., I recommend seeking out equivalents of the items I show below in your countries.

Whether your collection is moderate or outlandishly huge, there are some basic items I recommend having on hand to help manage your collection:

Stanley 10-099 6-Inch Classic 99 Retractable Utility Knife - $4.48 at
As a collector, you're going to be opening a lot of bubbles, taped boxes and other types of packaging to free your figures from their plastic and cardboard prisons. My preferred tool to do this is a utility knife. I like this kind because of its grip as well as the ability of the blade to retract. If you have one with the appropriate sharpness, it should slice through tape and bubbles without a problem. They can also help you open up stubborn flaps on the sides of boxes by nudging the ends out. This is one of the first items you want to have on hand when collecting. Just please be careful when using it. This object can be dangerous and if you're not an adult, make sure an adult is supervising you or helping you out.

Swifter Duster Starter Kit $4.49 at Target
It's not just enough to have items for storing your figures, you have to take care of them too by keeping them as clean as you can. Dust is the enemy of the collector and you'd be amazed how quickly it can gather. The Swifter Duster is fantastic as it touches whatever surface you're cleaning very lightly while picking up plenty of dirt in the process. Figures with solid footing won't be knocked down if you carefully go around them on shelves (but personally I'd clear them all off before dusting). You can of course use these dusters right on the figures themselves, though you may need something smaller like Q-tips to get into the smaller edges and folds of some figures.

Ziploc Bags (216 Bags) $17.47 for 216 Quart Sized Bags at
Ziploc Bags (or any resealable bag of the same style) are very useful for a variety of reasons. You can store parts in smaller sized bags, whole figures in larger bags. Even if you organize your figures in drawers or containers, this helps keep all the parts belonging to a figure with that figure. I've found quart sized bags to be the most useful for storing Deluxe and Voyager Class sized figures. Other sizes may require smaller or larger bags.

Sharpie Permanent Markers, Fine Point, Black, 12 Pack (30001) $6.13 for 12 at
If you're going to store these items in plastic Ziploc bags it helps to have something that can write on them to remind you what's in the bag if you ever for get a character or toy's name. Sharpies will do the trick. There are also some bags with a special area printed on them that allow for easier writing.

44 Combo Drawer Small Parts Storage Cabinet $28.00 at Home Depot
As you collect Transformers, it's inevitable that stray parts are going to wind up popping up here and there, especially from figures you may get that cannot store their parts in their alternate modes. Organizers such as this are nice because they're built to be durable and they have drawers of varying sizes. For KREO collectors, these organizers can also help you store your extra KREO bits, especially those that come with the Micro-Changers.

Brother P-touch Home and Office Labeler (PT-D200) - $19.99 at
If your figures are going to wind up inside containers, you're going to want to have an idea of what's in those drawers or boxes. A P-Touch labeler is a wonderful way of making quick, clear labels that you can stick to draws, plastic containers or even folders if you're saving instructions and packaging inserts. I personally scan and then recycle all my packaging if I can, but I know many fans like to hold on to it.

Pendaflex Hanging File Folders, Letter Size, Assorted Colors, 25 Count (75708) - $7.97 at
Transformers can come with a ton of paperwork. The backing cards, inserts, instruction booklets, catalogs and so on add up after a while. Unless you are hardcore about holding on to every piece of paper, I'd recycle anything you have triple copies of (like some of the Bot Shots catalogs for instance). For the paperwork you do keep, I recommend using these folders in concert with your P-Touch labeler to organize everything. I personally have the items organized by series ("Generations", "Beast Wars" etc.).

The items above are just the start of your collection management. In my next article in this series, I'll talk about the types of furniture I've used over the years to display my figures.