Ever had a bright idea? Sure. We all have. Ever have a bright idea that snowballed into a big project? Well, that’s what happened to me this month.
Summer is the time when I can get the most work done restoring plates for my YOM business. I have plenty of plates in progress during July and August, and when they’re ready to be organized into my stock boxes, I slip them into paper envelopes and file them chronologically into my six stackable plastic bins.
These bins are like nothing I’ve ever seen. They’re made of thick, sturdy polypropylene plastic. They’re designed to stack, and they’re just over 14 inches long, so both short and long Ontario plates can fit inside them. They’re about 8 inches high, so the plates stand up with no wasted space. I only had six of them. Years ago, Eric Vettoretti and I bought a large collection of plates, and they came in these bins… we each took half. They were the perfect plate storage size, but they were already pretty old, and I didn’t know where I would ever find more of them.
Earlier this month, I finished restoring a trio of 1951 pairs, and unfortunately, my six boxes were full, so I had no place to put the 1951s. I looked at my basement plate storage “system” to see if I could come up with another idea.
- Thin, breakable plastic totes, used for my sprayed-and-ready-for-detailing YOM stock;
- Many banker’s boxes for my collection, but they’re taller than the plates they store, and many are overloaded and starting to rip;
- Five thick cardboard tile boxes for my trade stock. Nice size, but they don’t fit long plates;
- A couple of odd cardboard boxes for miscellaneous stuff.
This wasn’t a system. It was a semi-organized disaster. I live in a skinny townhouse, with minimal space to devote to my collection and business. I wasn’t using my space efficiently enough.
I emptied one of my six polypropylene plastic bins and studied it. It was made in the 1990s by a now-defunct company in Pennsylvania. It did have a product number, so I did some Googling and found a match from a company in Florida, which now makes the same bins. Of course, ordering anything from Florida would be expensive. I adjusted my Google search to see if they were available in Canada, and I came across something interesting: ULine. The same Canadian company that supplies my plate bags when I buy them in bulk! I discovered that ULine produces their own version of these boxes in exactly the same size as the six I already had, so they’d nest together.
Long story short, I took some measurements and figured out that I’d need about 30 more bins to store all the various collectibles, business stock and traders that I have in the basement, plus have a few out in the garage for good measure. I would have to take my shelving apart and adjust it a bit, but I could definitely nest the bins atop one another store everything along one wall. ULine sells in bulk, so I’d have to buy four cartons of eight bins for a total of 32. In the quantities I purchased, the price-per-bin broke down to about $20 after taxes and freight. I had my choice of boring gray (which I already had), blue, or fire-engine red. I chose red, just because red is awesome.
I also have other miscellaneous hobby-related items, like price stickers and frames, which I could store in my new system if I picked up a carton of short boxes (3 inches high instead of eight). So I added a carton of those.
Plate collecting isn’t a “phase” of my life. It’s a life-long hobby, and it has a business aspect, and for too long, I’ve been cobbling boxes together that have never really done the job properly. These bins will permanently do the job. For those of you who outlive me and attend my estate sale, you’ll see that the bins will also have outlived me.
I had fun emptying my old banker’s boxes and re-organizing my collection in the new bins. It’s a job that took a couple of full evenings. As I went through my collection, I culled a few plates from it and placed them in my trade box (nothing earth-shattering, but there were a few downgraders that were never pulled out of the collection when I upgraded).
Now, when I look at my storage shelf, I have smaller, lighter boxes that fit together well and are easier to move around. I have sturdier trade boxes to bring to swap meets. And, most importantly, I now have ample space to store those three restored 1951 pairs that started my down this whole path!
How do you store your plates?