Your Collection is How Big?

Posted by George, gamura collecitalius.

I have been playing Collectible Card Games for over 15 years. When you have played as many games as I have and you get cards in packs 10–15 at a time, the piles can really start to add up. When you add in the urge that I have to collect these games as well as play, you can really end up with a unique challenge . . . keeping a collection organized and being able to actually build decks to play the game.

The Early Days:

For me, the early days consisted of lots of nights in the college dorm, playing a game called Spellfire. This game was the first one that I ever played and I loved it. In retrospect, the game had a lot of problems, but it is probably still my favorite. The closest that I have seen since then is the multiplayer EDH / Commander format for Magic: the Gathering.

Keeping track of my collection for this game was easy: Each set has a nice round number of cards at 100 (big sets were 400 or 500) with a “chase” set of rares numbering 25. To make my life easy, each card was numbered and I used graph paper to keep track of my collection. If I had a card, I filled in its number. That simple. My friends and I traded with each other a lot, but there wasn’t on-line trading or eBay. Every card trade had to be made in person.

Since we played a lot, I sorted cards by their type and kept them in long cardboard boxes. There were no gaming sleeves back then, so the cards got a lot of wear just by looking for them. We didn’t have any idea that cards could have value, so we were not concerned about that wear and tear.

The Decipher Days:

While Spellfire was a ton of fun, I soon found other games. Decipher published several games based on various licensed properties. The first of these was Star Trek, followed shortly by Star Wars and then The Lord of the Rings. We played these games for a long time, and this is where I first moved into being more of a collector.

Technology was getting a little bit better and I gave up my graph paper lists of numbers for spreadsheets. Star Trek and Star Wars didn’t always number their cards, so the spreadsheet was really needed to make lists of cards and help keep track of them. The spreadsheets also provided a lot more options for keeping track of data, promotional cards, and foils. Because I started trading on-line, I needed the additional organization to keep track of all deals that I had in process.

I still used cardboard boxes to keep cards and generally sorted them by card type or faction. These games put out lots of cards relative to Spellfire and it became much more difficult to build decks. When I stopped playing The Lord of the Rings, my cumbersome collection was nearly 40,000 cards!

Welcome to Today:

After a few years away from CCG’s, I jumped back in with Magic: the Gathering. Since it is a game that has 18 years of history, nearly 100 sets and 50,000 unique cards, I knew there was NO chance that I will be able to collect them all. I also knew that I had to find an easy way to store the cards so that I could easily build decks. In my opinion, Magic is a game that you play and not try to collect them all.

I still decided on using a spreadsheet to keep track of my collection; some habits are apparently hard to break. As an option to the advances in technology, I have considered keeping my list on a mobile device, in my case an iPad. The device is easy to use and I even wrote this post completely on my iPad.

This time, I decided to do something different to store the cards for building decks. I now use binders, where I keep up to four of each card. They are sorted by set, which works well for me and makes finding and replacing cards really easy. It is also easy to build decks; all you need to do I just flip through a binder. Extra rares (past 4) and foils are kept in a trading binder. I also keep up to four extra of commons and uncommons in the traditional card boxes. I have found that having some extras of these cards is occasionally needed, but not often enough to slow me down when building decks.

One final thought on the way I sort my collection today: It is really easy to find cards to put into decks and doesn’t take a lot of storage space. The concern? With the portable devices today, I rarely pull out binders to look for cards. I have an app called Decked Builder ( that I use on my iPad (there are Mac and iPhone versions as well). I typically build my decks using this tool, test and refine the deck a d, then actually build it. Apps like this are something that you should consider if you have the technology available.

Leave a comment below and let me know how you store your collections.

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