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

34 thoughts on “Organizing and Storing a Puzzle Collection

Add yours

  1. 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.

    1. 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

  2. hey!
    Love your idea! I usually lend my puzzles to others quite often the result is that my puzzle boxes often get damaged any solution to keep them safe?

  3. This is an inspiration! I love puzzles and am starting my own collection! My goal is the 40,320 piece puzzle! How did you get into reviewing puzzles! That would be a dream for me!!

    1. Hi, Megan. Good luck with the 40,320 piece puzzle! I’ve never attempted one that large. I just created a website and started blogging about puzzles. Give it a try.

  4. Would you happen to know of an app that I could use to track/record the jigsaw puzzles that I have completed. I too have been using an excel spreadsheet but an app (like Goodreads for books or Episoder for television) would make life so much easier.

  5. Anyone else like me? I simply can not do a puzzle more than once – kind of liking reading a book twice! I give my puzzles away! (and yes, I’m having to ‘pace’ myself as I do a puzzle a week – at a minimum – and that is expensive!

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