How to present your collectibles with style!

by Liam McGill

Whether it's fine china and vases, vintage action figures or a large collection of books or vinyl, you’re reading this blog post for a reason: you have a collection that you’d like to give the presentation it deserves. Well, worry no more, as this guide will cover how to present your collectibles from the smallest shrine to even those that encompass entire rooms. So get that collection out of those storage containers and lets get presenting.


Get appropriate shelving

First off, let's get the most important item sorted first: where are you presenting your items? While you can easily keep your items stored in plastic containers, this can quickly become a nightmare depending on how you’ve organized. So a good shelf is a must, whether its a bookshelf, a display cabinet, or a set of floating shelves, if they look good and they match your needs, that’s all that matters. Depending on what it is that you are storing, we’d also recommend placing the shelves away from anything that may harm your chosen item, such as obscuring the spines of your media from direct sunlight to avoid sun damage. Regardless, let’s cover some different types of shelving and the pros and cons of each alongside what they're suitable for:

Floating Shelves / Simple Shelves

Floating Shelves - Mainland Furniture NZ

In most instances, these are the most obvious solution for a quick and easy solution for presenting collectibles. Floating shelves and cube shelves are quick and simple solutions that are easily found from most hardware/general department stores available at a variety of prices.

 

This is great for things such as miscellaneous collectibles or growing collections as you can easily purchase what you need easily and the design won’t change. They’re also often available as flat packs meaning you can easily ship them in for cheap.

 

However, therein lies the issues with simpler solutions like this: they’re made cheap. Often units like these are made from MDF or particleboard and are flat packed to keep prices low, but this then puts the build quality of the units into question, as any major exposure to liquid or an overly damp/humid environment will see these units puff up and lose all structural integrity. Since they’re flat-packed as well, that means the shelves are held together by screws and screws alone, meaning that it’s risky to place anything heavy on top at risk of the unit breaking under the weight. There are outliers, such as the cube shelves we linked above that are made from Oak and feature dovetail-joining, however, these are outliers and not the norm.

 

As such, we’d recommend shelves like these for smaller collections of lighter items, such as small book collections, lighter ornaments and photo frames, and small CD/DVD/ Game collections. However, make sure the depth of shelves works for what you’re storing and especially for floating shelves, avoiding storing anything fragile from any height to avoid the unit breaking from a fall.

Bookshelves

The most obvious solution here, bookshelves offer a lot of display area and are available in a variety of shapes and sizes to fit plenty of needs. This also means it’s far easier to find a good unit for cheaper as bookshelves are less likely to be mass-produced into flat packs, and will often either be shipped as complete units or if they are flat packed will use metal framing to better support the shelving.

 

However, bookshelves are often not designed like floating/cube shelves, meaning that if you purchased a bookcase 5 years ago and want another one from the same manufacturer, you might run into trouble finding a unit that matches your current shelf. As such, we’d recommend purchasing a unit to fulfill your needs and more to avoid this issue if it arises. If you’re purchasing this unit for a growing collection, such as vinyl or other collectibles, we’d even recommend buying two units if you can and keeping one in storage for when the time arises due to the constantly changing tastes and preferences of the general public.

 

Also, just because they’re generally built better doesn’t mean they all are, make sure the bookcase you’re purchasing is going to hold what you want it to without fear of the shelf breaking under the strain. Bookshelves are also designed to have an open front, so we’d again avoid placing fragile items on them, especially in high locations, to avoid having your delicate and timeless ornaments forever broken and gone to time. Thus, we’d recommend bookcases for larger and heavier items, such as vinyl collections, larger figurines, and larger collections of media such as books and games. 

Display Cabinets

If you’re displaying items that either cost more than the shelf you’re placing them on or are priceless in terms of sentimentality, then a display cabinet is what you need. Like a bookshelf, display cabinets come in a variety of shapes, sizes and styles to fit your needs, and have plenty of the same pros and cons of a bookshelf also, those mainly being build quality and risk of being unable to purchase the same unit again.

 

However, display units still have their own sets of pros and cons, namely price. Most display cabinets will be made with a lot of glass, which means not only will the unit cost a lot due to its use in making the product, but it will also mean the unit may cost more to ship due to its incredibly fragile nature. This leads to the other issue with glass, it’s fragile, meaning that not only could you wait weeks to receive your unit only for it to arrive with a shattered panel, but if the unit is ever damaged, such as it falling in an earthquake, then it’s going to break in a dangerous, messy and costly demise.

 

The other minor con that will depend on what you are storing is the fact display cabinets have doors, which depending on your chosen item could cause trouble as the doors mean that your item has to fit within a square area, unlike ‘open shelves’ which allow a small amount of overhang.

 

Thus, we’d only recommend a display cabinet for collections that deserve it such as priceless ornaments and picture frames, or one-of-a-kind collectibles that cover the cost of the shelf alone in price. This also means we’d recommend properly securing these shelves to avoid any damage to the items inside which we will cover later on.


Storing your items

Now that you have your chosen shelf, let's get storing your goods. Obviously, some simple rules will apply here for your chosen items, such as storing books, music, and DVDs with the spines facing outward so you can quickly and easily browse your collection, furthermore on the topic of music, ensure you’re storing your vinyl with the spines in a vertical position to avoid warping and damaging your collection. When it comes to ornaments and photo frames, make sure they’re placed so that everything is visible to those who want to view them. We’d also recommend placing items that are taken out often closer to the front to ensure that you don’t accidentally knock something you don’t intend to.

Presentation

Now for the main event that you read this article for, presenting your collection with the style it deserves. This is obviously up to personal tastes, preferences, and capabilities but it’s also important to follow some key rules to turn your collection from a scrambled pile to an archived collection worthy of placement in a museum.

Theming

This one is a bit odd to explain as it’s to do with how your collection is setup in the first place, but when done right can take your collection to another level. If you’re a book nerd or gamer and have a specific series that you particularly love, then organize them together on their own shelf. If you’ve got family photos organize them into different types of groups, so if you’re of the age that your children now have children, organize the photos so that each family is grouped in their respective area. It obviously depends on how you want to organize them and the collection you’re handling, but making sure that your ornaments are organized so that like-for-likes are at least near each other can quickly minimize the headache when someone asks to see something that you can’t quite immediately locate.


Organization

Organized collection - Mainland Furniture NZ

This is obviously for collections of media such as books, games, and music and it is a given, but it’s still worth saying. ORGANIZE YOUR COLLECTION ALPHABETICALLY OR IN A WAY THAT MAKES SENSE! You may understand your cluttered chaos but any guests that want to browse your collection to see what you have are going to play an i-spy to find the piece they want to see. If you’ve got a small collection, keeping things alphabetical should suffice in quick organization, but for larger collections, that’s where you can have fun finding ways to catalog your collection. For music and movies, you can organise them into genres, such as horror and action or metal and jazz. For game collections, you can try keep consoles and even manufacturers together, so a whole shelf for Playstation and another shelf for Nintendo and another for Xbox etc. 


Another part of the organization aspect is little accessories that let you better organize your collection. If you’ve got a massive collection of vinyl, consider getting some cardboard spacers that poke out slightly from the rest of the collection to segment the collection into each letter. If you’ve got a large library of anything, chances have it there’s a seller on Etsy or Aliexpress with something to help organize your collection that tiny bit easier, such as end labels, display stands, and protectors.


Decorate!

Decorations - Mainland Furniture NZ

This seems a bit redundant; decorate the decorations, but when done right it will elevate your collection from a bunch of stuff to a prized and curated catalog. One super simple way to decorate your shelves is to add backlighting, the recent trend of LED light strips to illuminate your shelves is a fun way to make sure your collection is the center of the room it’s within. If you’re storing your collection on a waist-high shelf, consider placing coffee table books related to the collection on top. Whichever way you choose to decorate your shelves, ensure there’s a reason for someone to either look at or go to the shelf you’ve chosen.


Conclusion

So now you’ve done it, you’ve successfully created your shrine for your passion. Now you have a place to host everything you love so now what? Admire it! Cherish the memories that the photo frames and ornaments bring. Put on your favorite album or movie to honour your collection. Celebrate that what you love is now on display for everyone to see and that they now have a home.


Q&A

I have an incredibly small collection, how should I display that?

Sometimes your collection is less an expression of size but rather a handful of items that have some significance to you. Thus when it comes to presenting items such as these, we would definitely recommend either a smaller shelf, or in some cases, wall mounting the items to give them their own “space”. This idea can also apply to larger collections of items, especially vinyl, as people will select their favourites and give them special residency in a location separate from the rest of the collection to signify that the chosen items are “important”


How do I protect my collection from dust?

Dust will always be an inevitability, and while there may be some preventative measures to minimize the amount of dust that accumulates, you will never be able to escape it. However, choosing a display cabinet over open shelving, and making sure that the cabinet is away from any major sources of airflow, such as doorways and windows, can help try to keep your dust accumulation to a minimum. However, for a more general guide on how to prevent dust build-up, this article should help in trying to keep your entire house spic and spam.




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