The collectibles market in the US is currently evaluated at $1.6B, and it’s been expanding steadily over the past few years. From comic books to antiques to vinyl records, people get attached to a variety of things and end up having sizable collections. And it’s not just a passion – trading collectibles can be quite a lucrative side hustle for some. Of course, you need to be knowledgeable about your chosen field of collectibles, and you must ensure that they’re being kept in pristine condition. Here’s how self storage can help with that:

Why self storage is great for storing collectibles  and what you should be looking for in a unit

Collectors know all too well the struggle of finding space to store their items properly. Keeping them at home is not always practical, particularly in the case of big collections. Not only that finding space is an issue, but collectibles might also need specific conditions, such as controlled temperature and humidity or no exposure to sunlight. Spaces such as attics, basements or garages are thus not suitable, generally, for storing collectibles. The best solution remains to rent a self storage unit. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Get a self storage unit that’s large enough to fit your stuff. If you’re a stamp or coin collector, a 5’x5′ storage unit will do just fine. However, if you are collecting larger items, such as paintings, books and magazines, Lego sets, and so on, you will probably need to get a larger, 5’x10′ unit.
  • If antique furniture is your passion, then you should get a 10’x10′ unit or even a larger one. The main goal is to have all your collectibles safely stored in the storage unit, with enough room left to comfortably reach each pieces and without having to stack delicate items one on top of another.
  • You need a climate-controlled self storage unit. It’s essential for collectibles to be kept in a controlled environment, which avoids temperature and humidity variations.
  • Make sure you get self storage insurance that covers the actual value of the items you have stored.

That being said, let’s delve into the details of properly storing various types of collectibles, whether in your home or in a storage unit:

How to store paintings

Storing paintings can be tricky, as they’re very fragile items and, at the same time, can have a large surface and can be hard to maneuver. So here are the main things to do:

  • Never store paintings rolled up. The paintings need to be properly framed, and if the canvas looks in any way creased or isn’t tightly fitted inside the frame, you should reframe it properly.
  • If you’re planning to hang the paintings in your home, it’s recommended that you use a wall that’s not exposed to direct sunlight, at least not for the most part of the day.
  • In case you’re preparing the paintings for storage, brush them thoroughly with a soft brush, making sure you are touching the surface of the painting and the frame as little as possible. It’s best to wear soft cotton gloves while handling the paintings.
  • If you notice flaking or other defects in the paint, seek out professional help from a conservator.

  • Add backing boards to prevent bending and warping, particularly for large paintings.
  • Cover the paintings in wrapping paper or some soft cloth before storing them.
  • The best way to store paintings is on slotted racks, which keep the paintings upright and prevent them from touching one another.
  • Make sure you always pick up paintings by the sides of the frame and not by the top. Also, if it’s a large painting, two people should move it to avoid any accidental damage.

How to store antique furniture

Antique furniture is almost always made of wood, but it can also contain upholstered parts. Both wood and old textile can easily be damaged, so it’s important to follow some rules when storing it as shown below:

  • First, inspect the furniture for woodworm- or moth-related damage. If you find problematic areas, treat the entire piece of furniture with specific chemicals to get rid of those pesky parasites.
  • Clean the furniture thoroughly. Dust the wood with a soft cloth. If you notice grime and dirt buildup on the wood, you can wash it gently with warm water and soap, but make sure to let it dry off completely. Then, polish the wood with a wax-based cleaner.
  • Vacuum the upholstery gently, at low speed. Test any cleaning substance you are planning to use on a small, hidden area of the upholstery first.
  • Old furniture can have various issues (wobbly joints, cracks, damaged upholstery). Unless you have a lot of experience fixing such issues, it’s better to ask for professional help. Poorly done repairs can substantially decrease the resale value of antique furniture.

  • Once the furniture is repaired and cleaned, you can start preparing it for storage. Use corner protectors to avoid damage during and after transportation. Wrap the furniture using stretch wrap, bubble wrap, special furniture covers, or old sheets. Add mothballs to upholstered furniture before wrapping it.
  • Whether you’re storing your furniture in a storage unit or in a different space, don’t set it directly on the floor. Instead, raise it on wood pallets.
  • Place the furniture at a distance (two or three inches) from the walls. This way, there’s proper air circulation around and underneath the furniture, preventing humidity from being transferred from the walls or floors to the furniture.
  • Don’t place items on top of antique furniture. Even if it’s something very lightweight, the contact could damage the varnish on the furniture.

How to store vinyl records

Vinyl records might sound a lot better than other mediums (or at least that’s what vinyl aficionados say), but they’re certainly a handful when it comes to using and storing them. Vinyl records are easily damaged – so here’s how to store them long term:

  • Use both inner and outer record sleeves to protect your vinyl from dust.
  • It’s very important that you keep the records in a stable environment, temperature and humidity-wise. In this sense, a climate-controlled storage unit ensures the right conditions. If you keep the records in your home, put them in a cooler room that’s protected from direct sunlight. A finished basement is a good idea; however, avoid attics and garages.
  • Vinyl records should always be stored upright and never stacked one on top of the other.

  • Keep the vinyl records that you aren’t using currently in lidded boxes.
  • Clean the records before putting them in storage, particularly if it’s for a longer period of time. Use an antistatic cloth or brush to remove dust and other debris. If there are fingerprints and other stains on the record, you can also use distilled water and a microfiber cloth to wipe it gently, using circular motions. Dry the records off before putting them back in their respective sleeves.

How to store old books and magazines

Whether it’s old books, vintage comic books, or magazines, old prints have their fair share of fans, with paper items being some of the most fragile collectibles. Here’s how to make sure your beloved old books and magazines stay in good shape:

  • Paper becomes brittle when exposed to excessive heat or moisture, which takes spaces like the attic or the basement off the table (unless it’s a completely finished, waterproof basement). A climate-controlled storage unit has incontestable advantages – not only is the temperature pretty much constant throughout the entire year, but the humidity is also optimal, at around 50% to 55%. Old books are affected not only by excessive moisture but also by very dry air – so balance is key.
  • Store books upright and make sure they don’t tilt – you can use book stoppers if the shelves are not completely full. Tilting causes books to warp and lose shape.
  • Large books (atlases, encyclopedias) can be stacked, just don’t build overly high book towers. You can safely stack four to five large books, with the thickest of them at the base.
  • If you have old books with torn covers and loose pages, take them to a book conservator to repair the damage. That’s particularly important with expensive books, as unprofessional repairs can decrease their value.

  • Remove dust and dirt from old books using a soft brush. Document cleaning pads are ideal for dealing with caked-on dirt on a book’s cover or pages.
  • If there are mold and mildew stains on your books, you need to deal with them immediately. Place some wax paper underneath the infected page you’re working on to avoid spreading the spores. Expose the affected pages to fresh air, allowing them to dry off – mold and mildew usually grown on damp paper. Then, use a brush or a soft cloth to remove as much of the mold and mildew as possible. Finally, swab the affected areas with hydrogen peroxide and let them dry off once more.
  • Expensive books should be kept in individual storage boxes, while magazines and comic books should sit in individual plastic slips.
  • If you’re renting a self storage unit for your books, use sturdy shelving in your unit. However, don’t put your books directly on the shelves. Put them inside cardboard or plastic lidded boxes, making sure you are arranging them upright. Then, put the boxes on the shelves.
  • Inspect your old books and magazines regularly to prevent potential damage.

How to store stamps

Philately is one of the most common hobbies – many of us probably had a small stamp collection in our childhood. If that passion stuck with you and you are now the proud owner of an extensive stamp collection, here’s what you need to do in order to keep it in pristine condition:

  • The first step, one that you probably have covered already, is to always use stamp albums. Shop for stamp albums made of acid free plastic and paper. Never store your stamps in bags or boxes.
  • Avoid touching the stamps as much as possible. You can buy stamp tongs to handle them.

  • You need to pay a lot of attention to humidity when storing stamps. High humidity causes mold, mildew and warping, but it also affects the gum on the stamps, which decreases their value. The ideal humidity level for stamps is at around 50%, which is about the same humidity level you can find in a climate-controlled storage unit.
  • Use sturdy lidded boxes for your stamp albums, whether you’re planning on keeping them at home or in a storage unit.
  • In case you’re storing stamps at home, where humidity is harder to control, you can add silica gel packs to the lidded boxes to absorb excess moisture.

How to store coins and banknotes

If you’re a passionate numismatist and are in the process of building a serious coins and banknotes collection, you might want some directions on how to store and care for it. Coins and banknotes need special care. Here are the main things you should know:

  • Purchase coin holders (there’s a variety of models made of plastic or cardboard). If you prefer cardboard holders, it’s a good idea to get the ones with coin-sized polyester windows – this way, you’ll be able to admire your favorite pieces without taking them out of the holders.

  • Get banknote albums for your banknotes – and keep the albums away from excessive heat or moisture.
  • Cleaning old coins and banknotes can be tricky. In the case of banknotes, you should only do it if a banknote is very grimy and has mold or mildew stains. In this case, you can dab it very gently with a soft cloth dampened in warm water with soap. You can treat mold and mildew stains with vinegar diluted in water in equal amounts – swab the problematic areas with this mix, then allow the banknotes to air dry.
  • Coins are not as fragile as banknotes, obviously, but you still need to be very careful when cleaning them. Scrubbing old coins can deteriorate the inscriptions, which will decrease their value substantially. Use less aggressive ways of cleaning old coins – an efficient method is to soak them in vinegar or lemon juice for 10 to 15 minutes, then wipe them with a cotton cloth. This process should remove any traces of oxidation. If there’s caked in dirt and grime, leave the coins to soak in soapy water. Then, try removing the dirt with a brush. If you can’t remove all the dirt, just leave the coin as it is. An old, slightly dirty coin is more valuable than an old one that’s scrubbed clean but ended up with damaged inscriptions in the process.
  • A 5’x5′ storage unit with a controlled climate is ideal for storing a numismatic collection. The constant temperature and humidity, plus the lack of sunlight, ensure that your collectibles remain in the best shape possible.

How to store watches and clocks

Antique watches and clocks have delicate mechanisms that need extra protection. Dust, moisture and extreme temperatures are just some of the factors that can deteriorate old watches and clocks. Here’s how to store and care for them long-term:

  • Use dedicated watch storage boxes for your wrist timepieces, and always store them face up.

  • Dust and moisture are the biggest enemies of the miniature mechanisms inside your wristwatches, so make sure you store them in a clean, cool place that’s not overly humid.
  • If you’re storing your watches long-term, whether at home or in a storage unit, use a larger, second-lidded container where to put your watch storage boxes.
  • In case you’re storing your watches at home, where humidity levels are harder to control than in a climate-controlled storage unit, you can use silica gel packs inside the watch boxes.
  • Antique clocks are more challenging than watches when it comes to storing them safely. They are a lot bigger and can have parts (glass dome, pendulum) that break easily.
  • Remove the detachable clock parts and pack them separately in bubble wrap or other protective materials.
  • Wrap the clock in bubble wrap also (it’s the best choice, as it protects both from dust and mechanical shocks).
  • Set the clock and the accessories in durable boxes – wooden crates are great for this purpose. Whether you’re storing antique clocks at home or in a storage unit, avoid putting the boxes or crates directly on the floor. Use wooden pallets or something similar.
  • Cleaning and repairing antique watches and clocks are jobs best left to professionals – it’s a highly specialized skill, and the chances of something going wrong are too great if you try to fix them yourself.

Collecting things is not only a very agreeable pastime but can also be a lucrative activity, depending on the type of collectibles, the time you dedicate to it and the skills you develop along the way. Let us know in the comments below what items you are collecting, what made you decide to become a collector and in which ways your passion is enriching your life.


Maria Gatea is a real estate and lifestyle editor for Yardi with a background in Journalism and Communication. After covering business and finance-related topics as a freelance writer for 15 years, she is now focusing on researching and writing about the real estate industry. You may contact Maria via email.

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