About the Author
Marianne started playing Magic since Innistrad came out and is still not very good. She likes silly combos, attacking with dragons and organising all her cards alphabetically. She lives in Cork, Ireland.

Organizing Your Collection #2 – Boxes of Cards

In my last article, I talked about what kind of things to take into account when you’re choosing how to store & organize your Magic collection. This time, I’m going to talk about a few of the most common methods people use to store their cards and how well they work for different purposes.

Massive pile of cards in a cupboard/under your bed

Courtesy of Casper Orluff

Classic pile of cards. Courtesy of Casper Orluff

I know some players who use this method, I think because it takes no time or effort at all. Simply throw your cards on top of last week’s, and you’re sorted. It’s easy to expand this method as your collection grows, however your housemates/significant other/neighbours may object.
However, it’s not that great when it comes to keeping them in good condition. Cards get easily scratched or bent when they’re in a heap, and people are less likely to trade with you if your cards are in bad condition. It’s also difficult to find a card when you want one for a trade or a deck, and you may end up buying or trading for cards you already own and just can’t find.


A shoebox is a fine place to start storing a small collection. Our collection lived in a shoebox until we both started drafting a lot and it outgrew the box.
Firstly, it’s super cheap – assuming you bought some shoes at some point, the box comes free. Also, it’s easy enough to carry a shoebox around if you need to – as long as the lid doesn’t fall off during transport.
It’s pretty easy to use a few bits of cardboard to divide up the box into sections so that you can begin to sort your cards to easily find what you’re looking for. You don’t even need to sort too much as your collection will be pretty small so just splitting by colour or set would be fine.
A shoebox is fairly robust so can hold as many cards as you can pack into it without falling apart, and it will keep the cards in decent condition – one thing to watch out for though is that you may not be able to completely fill the box as it might not be the right shape to hold rows of cards, and if your cards are rattling round then they might get damaged as you carry the box around.

Fat pack boxes/holiday boxes

Fat pack boxes come in different designs for each new set.

Fat pack boxes come in different designs for each new set.

These are the main kinds of boxes sold by Wizards of the Coast, they’re pretty easy to get hold of as most shops that stock MTG will have these for sale at some point – fat packs when each set is released, and holiday boxes in November or December. Fat packs generally don’t cost very much more than the price of the nine boosters that come with it, so the box itself isn’t a huge cost if you were planning to buy some boosters anyway, the holiday boxes are a bit more expensive for what you get but the box is a more useful size.
They’re about as easy to transport as a shoebox, and the lid is a bit less likely to fall off in transit – holiday boxes get quite heavy when they’re full, though.
The holiday box is divided into three rows and comes with a few dividers, which makes it quite easy to organise cards and split them into sections. Additionally, you can fit a plastic deck box inside a fat pack or holiday box to separate out some particular cards, or so that you can fit your deck inside the box as well as loose cards.
These boxes are fairly robust, and they’re the correct size to fit an even row of cards in, so they keep your cards in fairly good condition. If you pack the box very full though, the cards at the front and back can get caught by the lid so I tend to put a bit of cardboard or a sleeve at each end to protect the end cards. You can also sleeve all your cards if you want to protect them from scratching against each other inside the box, but I don’t bother with that except for rares.
It’s fairly easy to expand your collection (unless Wizards discontinue these products) as you can just buy a new box each set or each year. A fat pack box will hold a playset (four) of all the commons and uncommons from a small set, and one row of a holiday box will hold a playset of all the commons and uncommons from a large set. As these boxes are all the same size, you can pile them up in a corner and keep all your cards in one place.

Bigger boxes/long boxes

This long box can hold several thousand cards, so it's good to use card dividers to split up the rows.

This long box can hold several thousand cards, so it’s good to use card dividers to split up the rows.

As I mentioned, the holiday boxes and fat packs are pretty expensive if you only want a box, and there are several manufacturers that make bigger boxes to store cards in. These can be single row or multiple rows (typically three or four), mostly they are corrugated cardboard but you can get single row metal or plastic tins also. Unfortunately they don’t tend to be stocked by the smaller gaming shops as they don’t sell very fast, so often the best place to get these is either at a large event with traders such as a Grand Prix, or buying online (and often the shipping can be more than the product).
These boxes (especially the multiple row boxes) are generally for long term storage as they’re quite difficult to transport without a car, and they get very heavy as they can hold a few thousand cards ie several sets worth. We use these for storing cards that have rotated out of the standard format as we don’t need to access those cards so often.
These boxes are a bit more robust than the fat packs and holiday boxes as they’re corrugated card not just thick cardboard. They generally come flat packed so you can order a bunch, and then assemble them as and when you need. They’re plain so you can write on them which cards/sets/colors are in which box for easy reference, but they don’t look very attractive.


Most players have at least a couple of binders to keep relevant trades in (this is a trading card game after all), and they can be split into two kinds – firstly the ‘book’ types which have pages of plastic pockets bound in – these come in different sizes but generally there are the small ones with four to a page, the A4 sized ones with nine to a page, and there’s also some new wider ones with three rows of four so you can keep playsets together. Secondly you can get ring binders and buy the loose pages of plastic pockets separately (these are all generally A4 sized with nine to a page). You can use any kind of ring binder really for these, and they’re easier to expand by just buying more sheets, but they also get pretty heavy.
Binders are generally more expensive than boxes for the amount of cards you can store, so most players use a combination of the two – binders for the higher value cards or easily traded cards, and boxes for storing at home.
Binders make it fairly easy to find what you’re looking for as you just flick through the pages. They also protect the cards quite well. One pitfall is that the cards can all slide out if your binder is accidentally turned upside down, so you need to be aware of that when it’s in your bag. There are book-type binders with pockets that open to the side rather than the top to avoid this problem.
The main reason why most players don’t use binders for all their cards is the expense vs how many cards you can store, binders also take up more space than boxes due to all the plastic pockets. If you have multiple binders be sure to label what’s in them to save time finding cards in the right binder. It can also take more time to organize your cards as when you want to add one card at the beginning, you then need to move every other card along one.

Card index drawers/custom built storage

I don’t know any players myself that go to the trouble of getting furniture for the express purpose of storing cards, but I’ve seen a few examples online. If you can get hold of one of the old card index drawers that libraries used to use for library tickets, they tend to be the right size for storing cards too. These days most libraries will already have got rid of these as they’ve all switched to electronic databases but there’s a few around. Other people may also commission their own storage system that suits their collection. Obviously this is an investment, and it may not be that easy to expand once it’s filled. It looks a lot better than ratty cardboard boxes, though!

In the end, most players use a combination of methods to store their cards due to the different ways they want to use them. Hopefully you can now judge which ones are best for your collection.

Our Standard collection: Khans block, Origins, Battle for Zendikar plus trade binders

Our Standard collection: Khans block, Origins, Battle for Zendikar plus trade binders


Organizing Your Collection #1 – Piles of Cards

This picture was not staged. Courtesy of Casper Orluff

“There’s a Jace in there somewhere…” (This picture was not staged.) Courtesy of Casper Orluff

When we moved house a few months ago, Himself wanted to call our new house ‘the house of cards’ as we own so many. Often we have piles of cards all over the house, until I get around to sorting them all out again. Himself has been playing Magic off and on since he was at school, and I started playing about four years ago, our collection has since grown from one shoebox full to several thousand cards.

It’s quite possible to play Magic without owning a large collection. One advantage is that you have a lot more space in your house for other hobbies! Some players only play Eternal formats and have one deck they always play – so they may only need to own about a hundred cards (one deck plus sideboard options).
You can also buy cards you want for a deck as singles and then sell them on when you change decks. Other players own no cards and simply borrow or rent entire decks for a particular tournament.
If you really don’t want to ever have to organize any cards, you can play online and the computer will keep all your cards in order for you. However this article assumes that you own at least some amount of paper magic cards, and you’re trying to store them and organize them in some fashion.

Our local Magic events are mainly Limited format, as that is more popular locally than competitive Constructed. I like playing Limited, but one of the problems is that if we’re not careful we end up with piles of cards all over the place which are old draft pools. This is the main reason why we have a lot of cards, it’s simply that we play a lot of limited Magic.
Other players may have different reasons to keep a large collection of cards, for instance I know a player who tries to collect one of every card that’s printed including one of every promo card. Some players like to speculate on card prices, so they may buy lots of a particular card when it is relatively cheap and hope to sell off at a profit later on.
In some areas, it’s necessary to keep a large collection because there isn’t anywhere locally that sells a lot of singles – this is the case where I live, so we tend to keep hold of four of all our commons and uncommons so so that we can change Standard decks without having to buy a lot of cards online.
As there are different reasons for players to own their collections, so there are also different methods to store your cards. Here’s some things that would be good to consider when you’re deciding how to store and organize your cards.


Whatever method you choose, as your collection grows you’ll probably need to expand your storage to accommodate it, so consider the expense of both initial set up and then expanding it.

Ease of expansion

It’s great to have a cool box that fits all your cards in, but what about when you “accidentally” acquire a bunch more and now your box is overflowing? Generally as time goes on your collection will grow, so consider when you start how you can keep your cards organised as your collection grows.


Aside from the classic ‘throw all your cards in a pile’ method, it will take time to organise cards so that you can easily find them again. Consider how much time you want to spend on this – not just the initial time, but also how long it takes to maintain and keep it organised.

Easily find your cards

This depends on your collection size. It’s mostly due to how you choose to sort your cards rather than the storage method, so I’ll go into this a bit more later.

Ease of transport

As well a storing your cards safely, you may also want to carry some of them around to trade with other players, so it’s common for players to keep certain cards separately to their main collection for ease of transport. If all you want to do is keep ALL THE CARDS like some kind of [card]Hoarding Dragon[/card] then you don’t need to worry about this.

Card condition

One important thing to consider is how good a condition you want your cards to stay in? It’s all very well to throw basic lands in a box where they may get rattled around and a bit scratched, but this kind of treatment can devalue your high end cards significantly, so bear in mind how to protect your high value cards from damage.
Please – whatever your cards, never store them in a bundle wrapped in a rubber band as it makes baby Jace cry.

Our Standard collection: Khans block, Origins, Battle for Zendikar plus trade binders

Our Standard collection: Khans block, Origins, Battle for Zendikar plus trade binders

However you store your collection, you still need to make sure your cards are organised so that you can find what you’re looking for though – this can take quite a bit of time to set up and maintain but it means that you can find last minute sideboard cards on the morning of a tournament or find cards for your new cool commander deck easily.
There’s probably a few different ways to organize cards, but this is the one I use, as it seems fairly logical and it is easy to expand as new sets are released.
Sort by set, then color, then alphabetically.
If you’re not sure what set a card is from, look at the symbol on the type line. Cards from some preconstructed decks like the duel decks or the modern event deck have their own set symbol, as there’s not normally enough of those to split into their own set I generally keep those cards with the most recent normal printing.
Color is obvious – you can order the colors however you like (I tend to use WUBRG just because that’s how Wizards sort them on their lists of cards). Just keep to the same system for each set rather than swapping them around, so that you don’t get mixed up later.
You can also divide up by rarity – I tend to separate out the rares and mythic rares from the commons and uncommons, but I don’t split otherwise.
If you don’t have many cards from each set, that might be enough sorting for you, but I also sort alphabetically by English name (as the majority of my cards are English). This just means that I can flick through the cards in the box instead of lifting loads out of the box at a time and then the rest of the cards fall over.
All this can take a while especially at the start, but it’s quite satisfying to see all the organised cards at the end all neat and organised. I also keep a list of what cards we’re missing (we never quite manage to get a playset of everything) so that it’s easy to check what we’ve got at a glance.

In my next article, I’ll talk about a few of the most common methods people use to store their cards, and see how they relate to the considerations I mentioned above.