Organized Baseball (cards)

I had two eye surgeries last week. Two! The retina in my right eye got detached, seemingly around 3 months ago, but I only noticed it a few weeks ago when the damage entered my field of vision. The surgeries were successful, but it’s going to take a while before I have improved vision in the eye.

While eye issues kept me from my weekly baseball cards blog post, they didn’t keep me from the cards themselves. I had some stuff to put away and I went fishing for doubles, triples, quadruples I could list on EBay. Though my vision was problematic, it didn’t deter me from easily retrieving what I needed. Why? Because I’m so friggin’ organized!

I’ve always been pro-long box. They are the most effective, and efficient, way to store cards. They also are best because I can access the cards. If you haven’t read Mark Armour’s “Death of a Museum” post, do so. It hits me right where I live. I love to handle my cards and pulling them out of boxes is a real pleasure.


The only downside to my system is that I have used and reused the same boxes. They’re all labelled, but some are labelled on both ends. I thought I had averted mass confusion, but it took my three weeks to find some old football doubles and I was driven to near madness. Turns out I had them filed under 1992 baseball. Still, I was organized enough to realize (eventually) how I could track them down.

Some sets are still in their original boxes, if need be. I have pulled some sets out when their initial resting place bugged me. 1980’s Donruss came in the worst boxes, flaps folded inside the box. That always struck me as corner dinging by design.


I use albums and sleeves on occasion. Mostly it’s for oversized cards that won’t fit into regular size boxes. A few “normal” card sets are in sheets. I have no criteria for what makes it to an album enshrinement, but some do. It’s not nearly so satisfying to thumb through Ultra Pro sleeves as it is to have a handful of cards, but it does make it easier to show them to others who may not be as sensitive to handling other people’s stuff.


I have a close friend who is also a collector and, to be kind, less organized. It leads him to worry that when he kicks the bucket, his cards will find their way to the dumpster. I’ve offered my services for when his demise comes. Still, it would behoove him, and all, to get their card houses in order. If you won’t do it for yourself, at least do it for your family!


Note: I am immensely curious how people keep their cards and how they enjoy them. Feel free to drop a comment on that.


Author: Jeff Katz

Jeff Katz is the former Mayor of Cooperstown, the “Birthplace of Baseball” and home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. His latest book, Split Season:1981 - Fernandomania, the Bronx Zoo, and the Strike that Saved Baseball, (Thomas Dunne Books, 2015), received national attention, with coverage appearing in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Sporting News and NPR’s Only a Game, among others. Katz appeared on ESPN’s Olbermann and The Sporting Life with Jeremy Schaap and MLB Network’s MLB Now, with Brian Kenny. Split Season: 1981 was a finalist for the 2016 Casey Award for Best Baseball Book of the Year.

22 thoughts on “Organized Baseball (cards)”

  1. When I was a kid, I kept sets in one box and doubles in masses in other boxes. Superstars — however nebulously I defined that — made their way into sheets and binders so I could page through them regularly and admire how lucky I was to have such cool cards. I kept full sets in their original boxes in which I received them.

    Now, I keep my Brewers cards in binders. I still have some sets in set boxes. Otherwise, I have all my other cards sorted by teams and in those big 5000-count boxes.

    I’m lucky I have a lot of storage space!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I have said this before, but I have all of my pre-1983 cards in penny sleeve toploaders and otherwise loose in cardboard boxes. If someone were to ask me right now if I could hand them a stack of NY Mets from the 1969 Topps set, it would take me two minutes to service the request.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. At the core, this is why it pays to be organized. I can’t imagine not being able to find, quickly, something you’re looking for. Especially from a collection that no doubt runs into thousands and thousands of items.


  3. Binders for all players with at least 8 cards or a reason to have them out; sorted alphabetically then by year. Boxes for all other commons, also alphabetically sorted.

    I can’t pull a set or team, but I can show you every Don Sutton card I own in the order those cards appeared over the duration of his career.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. He’s my usual example, since Sutton’s career was so long… I’m in the process of sorting in about 3500 cards collected in the last two years or so; halfway through the 40,000 in my collection. I have this idea in my head of what I will do with this all when complete, but I’m not sure when I’ll get started since I have at least six weeks of sorting left.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve flip-flopped on how I store them. Space has become more critical of late, so I now just store them in boxes. I, too, like to be able to handle the cards. Plus, I’ve heard bad stories about storing them in binders; I have notice some of my cards looked a little bent after pulling them from pages.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Jeff, I have often found myself battling how to organize, even today(!!!!) when I am working from home.

    Here is what is on order:
    • 6″ Album for my All-Time Red Sox Collection (one card of every player to have appeared in a Sox uni
    • Another soon to be fruition Red Sox odd ball album
    • A long graded box for my Pre-War, Vintage high-end graded Sox cards. Also in this box are Red Sox vintage oddballs not graded, relics, and auto cards
    • Sets in binders: Topps 1959, 1965, 1968, 1971, 1975, 1981, 1984, 1986, 1993, 2009, barely started 1955 Bowman
    • Another soon to be fruition 1970s/1980s food issue odd ball album
    • Another soon to be fruition No-Hitters/Perfect Games album

    But then there is where I hit a roadblock over and over. From penny sleeves to top loaders to pages and the cycle keeps going around and around. Pages to semi-rigids, top loaders back to pages …. AAAARRRRGGGGGGHHHH! I have quite a bunch of vintage Topps super stars, leader cards, All-Stars, RCs, combo cards from 1952 to 1979 (and to present) that I don’t know how to organize.

    Do I put in pages by years (makes the most sense and I still pick up these off conditioned beauties here and there). Just some of what I’m talking about: 53 Bob Feller, 54 Duke Snider, 58 Aaron and Mays, 63 Mantle, 67 Yaz and on and on.

    I just recently thought about taking my favorite Topps cards I have from 1952 to present and create sorta a type collection of Topps Through the Years. One 9-pocket page per year (maybe two if I couldn’t eliminate cards). It certainly would create some great posts for me ( and would also include the one page each for all the Traded/Update sets (74, 76, and so on). I could add a page of subsets/inserts like the 1969 Deckle Edge too. But THEN, what do I do with the other cards??? What happens if I gotta bump a 1967 Topps Whitey Ford for say a 1967 Tony Conigliaro? Where does Ford go? In a box yet again? I suppose this route would help streamline my collection and extra stars and what not could help me acquire (through trade) other cards I desire more.

    Would love some feedback as well and possibly some counseling … hey, maybe this is good post for me today as well.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. This is a post unto itself! I don’t have any real advice because, ultimately, as long as you can find everything, you’re cool. That being said, the more arbitrary you get in how you sort, the more crazy you’ll make yourself. I’m well into that in my record collection.


  6. I have been an historian, writer and editor all my professional life – continually surrounded in one way or another by books, newspapers and periodicals of all types. They are not decoration for me; they are companions, consultants. My office, or any room in my home, for that matter, feels lifeless without carefully curated volumes around me.

    Only baseball card collector predates my professional identity. From my first packs, to the collection I have today, I consider the cards as much memory, time travel, as they are collectables. Therefore, presentation of and access to the collection is almost on par with the content. What good is my 1972 Topps set, from the year of my birth, if I cannot display it, pull it down from the shelf, and thumb through it?

    Storing cardboard in cardboard always seemed like a moisture disaster waiting to happen; hard plastic cases (especially sealed graded case) are so far removed from the card, I might as well be collecting e-Topps silliness; sealed faculty sets are for investors, not lovers.

    I am admittedly a ‘sheets guy.’ My cards exist in my home library (not hidden away in a back corner of the basement, as my wife might like) in plastic mainly nine- or six-pocket sheets within matching binders, each labeled on the spine. (I know. I know.) But like favourite books, I often pull one down and flip through its pages – sometimes looking for a specific card, more so to take a moment to remember. Often I grab a card from the pages, to feel it. Amazing how that can take you back so fast. This is not a haphazard collection – I organize and care for it like a librarian would their bound charges.

    I like living among the collection, enjoying it daily with little effort. And this is the best way I have found to do it in the least messy way possible.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I’m committed to raw cards versus graded. For a long time I had my hand collated sets in long boxes (’74-’86; from childhood collecting). Duplicates and unfinished sets were in long boxes too, or in the larger 5,000 card boxes. When getting back into the hobby a few years ago (at age 47), I felt better & safer access to my cards for me & for others would be achieved through albums. I bought an album for each set I had (including my 70s football/basketball/hockey). Additionally, I decided with my new collecting I would build vintage sets – all Topps from ’51 on & ’50s Bowman. Knowing full well I’d likely never compete the project, I still bought an album & sheets for each set. I still keep long boxes for post ’86 sets I’ve bought whole, duplicates, second sets, & oddball stuff. But there’s no question I prefer the combined access & protection of the sheets for the vintage sets. I store all of the albums flat, rather than standing up, to help preserve the integrity of the sheets. I have plenty of other cards to handle when I get the itch to hold them in my hands.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m with you on keeping albums flat. I’m a big fan of raw cards. When commons started getting graded, I really went dormant. That was not a great idea, because there have always been raw cards, en masse, on EBay. I’ve been getting back into set collection lately, stored in boxes!


  8. Another thing. I am perhaps unusual in that when I look at my 1969 set it is not only to revel in the cards — it is to revel in the 1969 baseball season. I can recreate the 1969 All-Star game rosters. When I make lineups for the 1969 Red Sox, I have first moved players around to reflect what team the guys actually played for. One of the oddities of Topps in the “series” era is that the cards for the 1969 Red Sox is a moving window depending on when in the off-season the card was printed. So if you sort your cards by team, there is no time that such a team actually existed.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Example — In April 1969, the Red Sox and Indians made a six-team trade. Dick Ellsworth, who went to Cleveland, was in Topps’ final series and they actually put him on the Indians. The other five players are on their old team. As a child (and a Red Sox fan) this annoyed me.

        Liked by 1 person

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