One thing that always ends up being a challenge to any adult collector is storage space. Money obviously is a big factor too but there’s always ways to get some stuff really cheaply from car boot sales or charity shops etc. But, unless you live in a mansion, space is often going to be the main parameter affecting your collection. Some of us are lucky enough to have small rooms we can use as ‘man caves’ (maybe they should be called ‘person caves’ in this day and age), or a shed, or even just a corner or two in the house. Whatever space we have it’s never enough. And so we have to be creative with what we display and how we display it.

I read recently that a famous person (I can’t remember who it was unfortunately) once said that if you collect something you should put it on display for people to see. Otherwise, what’s the point. It loses its value and purpose as a collection if it is not seen. I tend to agree. The only exception is if it is something very valuable and you’re hanging on to it with the view of selling it in the future. Then, of course, you can store it away safely.

You could also rotate collections so that you have one collection on display for a few months and then you pack it away and get another collection out of storage to display for the next few months. That’s a good way to keep things fresh.

But the bottom line here is that I like to display my collection. I like to be able to share it with other people and I also love looking at it all myself. First of all it obviously brings back a nice bit of nostalgia every time I look at them, but also some of these items are just gorgeous works of art that are great to look at.

So if you have limited space, what’s the best way to display stuff? Well, it obviously depends on what you have. Here are a few of the kinds of things I display and how I do it.

  • If you’re buying new units or shelves it’s good to think about what you will be storing on the shelves and whether you need narrow shelving or deep shelving. There’s no point getting deep shelving if you’re just going to be displaying one row of VHS tapes or standard sized books for instance. You can of course double up rows if required though
  • Height of shelving is crucial too. The units from IKEA are good for this as you can adjust the space between your shelves. I have smaller height of shelves containing things like action figures or books, but taller spaces for shelves that hold my collection of big coffee table books. For example I managed to make one of my shelves the perfect height for my joystick collection
  • joysticks

  • One nice way to display action figures or toys in a deep shelf is to have a platform at the back (it can even just be a white box or two) that can raise up the toys in the back row, and then have another row in front of that on the shelf level.
  • One of my shelving units houses my computers and game consoles. I wanted to have them all very visible but after I reached a certain number in my collection it was proving tricky. So now I overlap them at an angle so you can still see part of them. That’s a good way to keep using the space you have but in a different way
  • I love having shelves of books. But I found myself with an ever increasing collection of magazines, large comics, sticker albums and movie storybooks which are harder to store in a visible way. Most of these don’t have spines, and the storybooks have great covers that I wanted to be visible from the front. So what I plan to do (but still haven’t managed to get round to it yet) is to add them to the side of my shelf unit and have little ledges for them to go on and then elastic over the front so that it is a kind of pocket that I can stack a few of these magazines onto and have them visible from the front and easily swap them around if I want different ones to come to the front. It will also makes it easier for guests to browse them rather them have them stored normally on a shelf where you have to slide out each one in order to see what it is
  • I’ve seen some great examples of collections where people use angled corner units to make sure no space is wasted in the corners of the room
  • Glass cabinets – many people invest in glass cabinets to display their toys. I’ve particularly seen this with people who buy the larger figures such as Hot Toys etc. If you’re spending that much money on figures you want to be able to light them properly


  • The fun part for me of displaying collections is arranging the displays. Do you display every item or just the best ones? Do you have them categorised or ordered in some way? Do you prioritise people being able to look at them or people being able to easily pick them up and examine/play with them?
  • One issue you might find, particularly with old toys is that they might not stand up very well. Often I have to prop them up against something behind them. He-Man figures are often the worst, as the rubber band in their legs may have gotten too loose and they are left extremely bandy legged. If this is the case with your figures I urge you to watch Toy Polloi’s videos about fixing figures and in particular his MOTU rubber band repairs
  • Toy Polloi

  • While on the subject of He-Man figures, even when the rubber band is ok they are still often quite hard to stand up. There have been some genius ideas for self-made stands for MOTU figures which people have cleverly made or even 3D printed themselves. Check out this thread about it here on
  • He-Man stand

Carded figures

  • A lot of people obviously collect carded figures and these have their own challenges when being displayed.
  • You can buy plastic cases to house them in, and I understand that these are essential if you’re talking a Star Wars or He-Man figure worth over £200. You want to protect that item. But I love the tactility of carded figures and the ability to ‘take them off the peg’ and look at them, just like you did in toy shops back in the day. If the card is ‘punched’ then it’s easy. You can just hang it up on a pin in the wall. But if it’s not punched then you have a dilemma. Do you punch it just to be able to hang it easily (many collectors would scream ‘Nooooooo’ at even the thought of that), or do you find another method?
  • One nice method that I’ve seen to hang unpunched cards on the wall is to get two strips of plastic panelling and attach them to the wall at just the right distance apart that you can slide your carded toy behind them from the side. This is a nice solution apart from the fact that the top and bottom centimetres will be covered, and also if you want to get one out from the middle of the row you have to slide all the other ones out one by one. I’m not too fussed about getting cards unpunched when I get my carded toys, and one of the main reasons is that it makes it easier to hang when it’s unpunched
  • Trap Jaw carded


  • When you don’t have lots of display space, storage becomes all the more important. Items have to be stored away for multiple reasons. Perhaps you’re keeping them safe for future investments. Maybe you’re keeping things handy so you can rotate collections every so often. Or maybe you have something that just doesn’t lend itself to being displayed but you want to keep it accessible so you can refer to it at any time
  • I always use plastic boxes now, with lids, instead of cardboard boxes. You can get small ones and big ones. They can stack easily. You can see what’s inside them. And probably most of all they are crush proof and much more fire/water proof than cardboard is
  • One dilemma I often have is regarding boxes for toys and gadgets. For example I might have a ZX Spectrum computer in my collection and I want to display it out of its box. So what I do with the box? I end up with lots of boxes stuck up in my loft piled up. But I like my boxes, so I’m going to keep them
  • Probably pretty obvious but I also like to label my boxes well on three sides, so that I know what’s in it if I’m looking at it from above or one of the sides. I try to keep the contents pretty similar so that I’m not mixing lots of things up as that’s when you lose things and have to start rummaging around which can damage things
  • I always hang on to any bubble wrap that I get so that I can use that to protect things that I store
  • A benefit of storing white items is that they won’t go yellow in the sun. Things like NES, SNES, GameBoys etc were all easy victims of that, so if you store things away and just take them out when you want them then you can minimise that danger. If things do go yellow then one option is to use Russell Jerome B-Blond 40% peroxide cream from Boots for £1.69 a bottle, which I’ve heard from @Tomleecee can do wonders for yellowed plastic

Storage units

  • I know a few people, in the UK and US who have storage units just to house their extended collections such as Big Yellow Storage or Safestore. It’s certainly a good idea, particularly if you have valuable items that you don’t need to display or access regularly.
  • One new service I’ve heard of in the US is called which is basically a managed storage facility where they take your items to and from the unit so you don’t physically have to go there. Sounds a pretty good idea as it means you can access your stuff more easily. Sadly they’re not in the UK yet but you can check out their locations page if you’re in the US

At the end of the day we all have to make a decision about what we keep and what we let go of. I’m sure I’m probably in the majority in terms of classifying myself as a bit of a hoarder. Retro collectors normally are. So I’ve learned to be a bit more organised with how I use my space and I do also now have to be a bit stricter about what I keep. It’s tough though. So tough.

My main criteria for keeping something is…
1) Does it have a huge amount of personal nostalgia for me?
2) Is it cool to look at on display or have that wow factor for people who come round?
3) Will my children want to play with it?
4) Will it keep any value?

If it doesn’t say Yes to at least one of the above then I don’t keep it and instead just take a photo of it for I consider this website as my extended loft in many ways. I will be uploading some photos and a video of my ‘person cave’ soon, by the way.

I’m interested to hear if anyone has any other tips and tricks for how to display or store things. Let us know in the comments if you do.