Organizing and Storing a Puzzle Collection

I have several hundred puzzles (okay, maybe several thousand…) to keep track of. It’s taken me several reorganizations to be happy.  I’ve also been inspired by photos of other people’s collections, and gotten ideas from them, so I thought I’d share some info on my collection in case it’s useful to anyone.

1. Location

Where do you have space? I initially had my puzzles in our basement, but ultimately moved them to the finished attic of our home for more room. The sloping ceiling has been a pain, but I’ve been able to find different height shelves to deal with it.

To avoid: Water and dampness, extreme heat and extreme cold.

puzzlecloset

My puzzle collection circa 2000, in a basement closet. Annoyingly, I can see some puzzles in this photo I no longer have and that I haven’t been able to find again on ebay.

2, Adjustable Shelving

I currently use this adjustable wire shelving. It’s sturdy and looks nice and it offers maximum flexibility. It comes with different height posts, so I can mix up tall, medium and low shelves depending on the slope of my ceiling. The shelves themselves can be adjusted to fit the puzzle boxes height.  They’re also pretty cheap, which helps. You should be able to find similar shelving at Ikea.

my-collection-Wasgij-SM

 

3.  Shelving Puzzles Vertically

It was a revelation when I saw someone else’s puzzle collection and noticed they stored puzzle boxes vertically, like books, instead of stacking them on top of one another. This makes each puzzle easy to pull out without disturbing others, and I think it looks a lot better too.

verticalshelving_jigsawjunkie

4.  Sort Order & Shelving

For some time, I organized by brand,. This has the advantage of having similar boxes next to each other.

However, as my collection grew I realized it made more sense to keep my puzzles together by category and then artist. Ravensburger, for example, has cartoon puzzles, collage puzzles, Colin Thompson fantasy puzzles, ‘challenging’ puzzles, etc.  Steve Crisp, who does British nostalgia, is published by WHSmith, Gibsons, Sunsout, and Falcon. I decided I wanted to look at all my similar themed and same artist puzzles together, and not have them broken up all over the room by brand.

Another tip: if at all possible, LEAVE ROOM TO GROW. You don’t want to have to move a ton of puzzles because you get one new one.

I have an excel that breaks down my categories and sub-categories (usually artist or series name).

series excel

Above: Sample of my Breakdown by category and artist. 

My full category/artist list can be seen here:  jigsawjunkie_categories_Artists (pdf).  And here’s the excel if you want to edit it: jigsawjunkie_categories_Artists(excel).

Obviously, this will be different for each collector based on the categories and artists they prefer.

5. Shelf Tags

It’s not necessary to have your shelves tagged, but I like the look of it and it does make things easier to find at a glance.  I used these shelf tags here because they were the cheapest I could find and the work with my shelves.  I have a shelf tag for the categories. For the artists, I only tag the ones I have at least 2 puzzles by.

These Avery address labels are an ideal size for the shelf tags. You can download a template from Avery, design your labels, and print them out at home. And here’s a freebie: jigsawjunkie_tags_heye.

 

MC_Heye1_detail2

Above: the tags on a shelf

6. Puzzle Status Tags

I use the same Avery labels mentioned above, in transparent, to create tags I use once I have completed a puzzle. I put them on the back of the box. The labels are self-adhesive and can be pulled off the box again with no damage.  Since I often buy older puzzles on ebay, I like to keep info on whether or not the puzzle is complete, if it came with the original inserts, etc. After I complete a puzzle, I rebag the pieces, the border pieces in a separate small zip lock baggie inside a larger zip lock baggie that has the rest of the pieces. Though lately I have been using a temporary mounting system instead of reboxing completed puzzles.

puzzle specs

You can download the above tags here:  jigsaw-junkie-puzzle-status-labels.pdf.

7. Et Voila

Photos of my current puzzle collection in our attic. Keep in mind I’ve been collecting for 20+ years.

 

 

Hope this has been helpful!

JJ

18 responses to Organizing and Storing a Puzzle Collection

  1. Scottish Jen says:

    I love this post – thanks Jane! Your puzzles are beautifully displayed. I especially like the colourful Christmas Waddington puzzles and all those lovely HOP puzzles. You have inspired me to start organising and cataloguing my collection.

    I have one question. Am I correct in thinking that you shrink wrap your puzzles again after you finish them? If so, if there any particular method and/or product you use? This seems a good way to keep the box and its contents safely together. I will be using my garage space for the foreseeable future and so may use a combination of silica gel tiny ‘pouches’ and shrink wrap to protect them as far as possible from possible cold / moisture. I know from my haphazard storage over the past few years that the puzzles don’t come to much harm in a cold space but I have a new impetus to look after my puzzles as best I can. Thanks again for the inspiration!

  2. Hi, Jen! I’m glad it was helpful to you!

    Yes, I have reshrink-wrapped my puzzle boxes when I finished a puzzle. I pickd up an 18″ shrink wrap bar thingy with heat gun on ebay fairly cheap (it was used). I found that I needed the 18″ width center fold roll and that handled all my puzzle boxes. I did re-shrink them for the reason you mention — to protect the boxes in storage and also to feel ‘guaranteed’ that nothing would ever fall out of the box and get lost.

    Some people use shrink wrap for small home business or even just for resealing food bags, so they made ‘home use’ ones. Something this: http://www.uline.com/BL_2455/Economy-Shrink-Wrap-System But you may find something cheaper on ebay.

    However, recently I’m preferring to keep the puzzles together, do a temporary mount, and shrink wrap THAT so that I can still see the puzzle assembled.

    Jane

    • Scottish Jen says:

      Thanks Jane. This is really helpful information.

      Jen

  3. Kali says:

    I love this site, it’s like puzzle paradise 🙂 finally someone who loves puzzles the way i do 🙂

  4. Helen SS says:

    Scottish Jen.
    Please see my post at the end of the previous page. I live in Scotland as well. Nice to see a post from someone from my country, wonder if I live close to you?
    Jane is an amazing person to have made this website for all us puzzlers out there. I just love this website as well.
    Helen SS

  5. Deanna Gearinger says:

    Jane, I just found your site and I love it!! Very helpful!! I was hoping you had pics of how you stored them and, voila, you did. I love doing Excel spreadsheets for just about everything, so I thought that it was cool that you keep up with your collection that way. I haven’t got to the point that that’s necessary, but it won’t be long. For instance, I came across a new puzzle with a missing piece and I was trying to think of a way to keep track of that. (It’s a White Mountain puzzle and they are sending me a new puzzle as a replacement.) I was disappointed to see that White Mountain was very low in your brand comparison, but then I saw your positive review of their Christmas puzzle and that made me feel better about them.

    I have always loved puzzles, but just started getting back into about a year ago. I’m 52 and retired and we just built a new home at the lake and we have a finished bonus room like yours with the slanted ceiling. My collection has just about outgrown the TV cabinet, so I will be keeping that in mind for the future. I have one Ravensburger cupcake puzzle and about 24 White Mountain. What I don’t like about the Ravensburger puzzle is the small pieces and the square/flat knobs. I prefer the round knobs, not sure why, I just like that classic look, I guess.

    I have to say that I like the price of the White Mountain puzzles and the good price break they give on their website as well as getting some good prices on Walmart.com. I do agree about the excessive dust, but that really isn’t one of my higher priorities.

    Do you have or remember the ET Springbok puzzle? I did that one years ago when I was in high school and loved it. Anyway, just wanted to comment and I’m sure I’ll be writing you more comments as I go along. Thanks for helping out all the puzzle nerds out there.

    Deanna

  6. Jacqui M says:

    Hi Jane. Your site is amazing and I am so glad you started this. Great info and it’s nice to know that I’m not alone in my obsession with puzzles!! Have found your comparison pages especially useful as we get more access to US etc puzzles over here in Scotland. My other half actually built 2 storage areas for me for my puzzles (one for Christmas puzzles and one for the others) they are great but almost full already. Wish I’d read this before he’d done this (although they do look nice) as the shelving is a great idea! Now, how to explain I want them all re-arranged!!! Thanks for access to your spreadsheet too. I have a Word document which I use and a separate `wish list’ for puzzles I want. I’m really bad at remembering all the ones I have so these help me keep track and acts as a reminder (mind you I have still bought more than one puzzle a couple of times!!). Will use your spreadsheet to increase my wish list!! Wish we had better access to the puzzles you get in the US! I hope all involved with this site never get bored. Enjoy the new puzzles coming out. Jacqui

    • Hi, Jacqui– It’s always nice to hear from another puzzle person. I’m so glad the spreadsheet is helpful. Welcome to the site and I hope to see you around the comments sections often.
      Jane

  7. Alexandra says:

    Hi Jane, I just found your blog and loving it! I wonder if you can share some tips on how to store the finished puzzles? I live in a one bedroom apartment (goes without saying space is limited!). I have glued the finished puzzles, which helps because they are now flat and thin. But I’m not sure how to protect them from dust, dampness etc. without framing them. A lot of my puzzles are non-standard sizes and framing them would cost $200+ unfortunately… Thoughts?

  8. Pascal Racine says:

    me, I glue always my puzzles. I make one by month.

  9. Rokhmatun says:

    Hi Jane, I am Rokhmatun from Indonesia. Your blog and your puzzle collections are really amazing. I really love jigsaw puzzle but it is really difficult to get a good puzzle with
    a “good” price (I mean cheap) in my country. Most of the puzzles are came from outside of my country so the prices are much higher than in the original country. If I buy form outside, the shipment costs much higher than the puzzle price itself. I would love if there any publisher provides free jigsaw puzzles sample. Based on your 20+ years collecting experience, do you have any idea Jane? Thank you.

    • Jane says:

      Hi, Rokhmatun. I’m glad you found our blog. I wish you the best with your jigsaw hobby. Unfortunately, I don’t know of any companies that ship free samples. But perhaps there is something like ebay in your area where you can buy used puzzles for much less shipping cost? Or maybe you could try to organize a group of puzzle fans and share the expense of buying and shipping a puzzle? Best of luck, Jane

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