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Organizing Your Binder

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This week at the Revenue Review we’re looking at different ways of organizing your binder and the pros and cons of each. This is Part Two of a three-part series. Last week I explored how to build a binder from the ground up, and next week I’ll walk you through the process of selling off most (or all) of your binder to turn a profit.

Let’s start with some common ways to organize trade binders.

Not using a binder

Don’t do this. Ever. Even if your options are to use a card box or watch the entire Twilight saga with your little sister. Suck it up and pretend you’re watching Blade.

I’ve seen a lot of newer players carrying around boxes that they keep their rares (and a mess of other random cards) in. It’s exciting for me because you never know what you’re going to find, and you know not many people will have taken the time to look through it. But 99 percent of the time you won’t find anything worth getting, and you’ll have wasted infinitely more time than you would have if they had just used a binder.

Organizing by color

This is what I do with my binder, and it works especially well with smaller collections. With each color (and Gold/Hybrid, Promo, Colorless, and Land cards) separated, it’s very easy to find any particular card my partner is looking for. Since I have a small collection, about 4 pages of front and back cardholders per color, it’s not very time-consuming to sort through.

I also leave two blank pages of cardholder in between each section so I can stock new cards in. This allows you to quickly and easily slot cards into where they belong amidst a night of trades. This isn’t the flashiest method of storing cards, but it gets the job done, especially on the lower end.

Pros:

-       Easy to organize and update

-       Easy to find particular sections and cards in small collections

Cons:

-       Doesn’t work well with larger collections

-       Requires you to leave blank pages in your binder

Organizing by price

This method is very hard work to keep up with and is really only recommended if you expect to deal with a room full of sharks who are spending minimal time on each trade. While it’s certainly useful to open someone’s binder and see their best cards up front, I think the risks far outweigh the benefits on organizing your own binder like this.

For instance, if you open up a binder organized like this and find their Murmuring Bosks all the way with the junk lands, then you are going to jump all over that if you know beforehand they’re valuing them at a low price, rather than the $4 it’s currently fetching on Ebay.

There also is a ton of upkeep associated with this, which is the biggest reason why I don’t recommend it. It’s one thing to keep track of prices in order to be a good trader, but it’s another entirely to spend hours meticulously rearranging your binder.

Pros:

-       Presents a very focused and professional-looking binder

-       Is very easy to navigate when dealing with serious traders

Cons:

-       Difficult to manage and keep updated

-       Presents high risk if not properly maintained.

Organizing by format

This method works very well when you have a lot of older cards, regardless of how many you have. Most traders are looking for Type 2 (Standard) cards, and can just be completely turned off if you show them a bunch of rares from 2004. Splitting your stuff up by time period can really make it easy to distinguish what you have the most of.

The drawback to this is that casual traders looking for cards can be a little intimidated by your binder. Of course this depends on your audience, but some of the guys I trade with wouldn’t even know what I meant if I told them, “here are my Type 2 cards, here’s the Extended section, and behind that is Legacy, and if I have any Vintage-only stuff, it’s in the back.”

If they want some random Green fatty they might not have seen before to fill out their casual or EDH deck, then you create some extra work when they have to search through three sections of Green cards, or more if you don’t have it organized by color.

Pros:

-       Works well with large collections

-       Speeds up trades with focused partners

Cons:

-       Can intimidate casual players

-       Divides colors more than once, increasing possible search times

Other concerns

Stacking cards:

Some traders have asked me if I stack cards behind one another in my binder. There’s two sides to this argument, and both have valid points.

Obviously stacking your four Baneslayer Angels on top of each other in a single holder will save space in your binder, but it comes with the increased risk of damaging the cards when taking them out.

Personally, I stack my cards on top of each other. I don’t want to have a binder that is too huge to carry around because I was worried about slightly bending the corner of my fourth Gideon Jura. Taking care when removing cards and not pulling them out willy-nilly goes a long way. Just be careful with your collection, and you should be able to keep your cards in good condition without too much trouble.

Putting cards in outside sleeves:

To clarify what I mean by this, think of the typical nine-space binder page with another possible nine spots on the back if you put cards back-to-back. I have a friend who only uses the six innermost spaces on each page because the ones on the outside are more likely to slide out when flipping through pages.

I understand the concern, but I don’t think it’s worth running at 66 percent capacity to minimize an already-small risk. The fatter your binder gets, the more logistical issues you have carrying it around and navigating through it. Just be careful when carrying and turning through your binder and you should be fine.

Another trick I use is to put a card I have multiple copies of at the top outside edge of the page. It’s a lot less likely that your cards will accidentally fly out when you have three Cryptic Commands with two Coralhelm Commanders sitting behind them. Using the combined weight of the cards will keep them from sliding out of your binder, and is safer than putting your only [/card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/card] by itself on the top and outside of your binder.

Differences between large and small collections:

As I’ve said, I have a pretty small collection, so everything I’ve discussed comes from that paradigm. Stacking your Fauna Shamans on top of each other doesn’t work when you have 15 of them. In order to give you another perspective on this, QS’s James Trentini wrote a bit on how he handles his collection, which is much more sizable than mine.

"When carrying a large amount of stock with you it can be hard to sometimes organize it in a way that makes the trades simple and easy to complete. I've looked through some binders and it's hard to find the things you want in them because they are so disorganized and scattered, you don't want that to be you.

The way to save space and make things simple with large amounts of cards is to only have a singleton of any given card in the binder page. Any multiples of the cards in your binder should be kept in penny sleeves and left in a box in your backpack. What this does is allows more cards to be displayed while giving you a secure way to carry multiples of what you need. When you have 12 copies of a card you don't need to show them all off, simply state that you have multiples of most of the cards in your binder and that if they want more than one to let you know. As far as organizing a large collection I go by tabbing out my binder into multiple sections in the following order:

  • Lands
  • Colorless/Artifacts
  • Blue
  • White
  • Red
  • Green
  • Black
  • Foil/Foreign/Promo/Alternate Art in same order: L/A/U/W/R/G/B.

Keep in mind that the color order is all dependent on what is popular at your local area, blue is very popular here and so that is first in color order for me. The first half of your binder should be Type 2 with Legacy/Extended after. What this does is allows your trade partner to jump straight to the cards they are looking for and don't have to scan each and every page for a card they want. Now I have tabs labeled so as to make their decision making easier for them, the faster a trade ends the sooner the next one starts. Hope this helps those of you who like to carry a large amount of staple cards with you, now go out there and trade!

- James Trentini

@jtrentini on Twitter"

That’s it for this week, I hope you enjoyed the column this week and find it helpful. Let me know in the comments if there’s anything I missed or you want to see next week.

Thanks,

Corbin Hosler

@Chosler88 on Twitter

Corbin Hosler

Corbin Hosler is a journalist living in Norman, Oklahoma (also known as the hotbed of Magic). He started playing in Shadowmoor and chased the Pro Tour dream for a few years, culminating in a Star City Games Legacy Open finals appearance in 2011 before deciding to turn to trading and speculation full-time. He writes weekly at QuietSpeculation.com and biweekly for LegitMTG. He also cohosts Brainstorm Brewery, the only financial podcast on the net. He can best be reached @Chosler88 on Twitter.

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14 thoughts on “Organizing Your Binder

  1. I keep a maximum of 4 of each card in my binders. Minimizes the risk of getting the short end when something shoots up in value, and you trade away all 8 in one night.

  2. Good article. I tend to organize by price, but I'm really not satisfied with the results. It seems to attract more sharks than anything else.

    You get into trouble putting 4-6 cards in a sleeve around the edges if you trade a couple away. That's when cards go flying out. You were stuffing 6 cards in there, but now you only have 2. The page warps.

    I only double up (4x) cards I'm looking to trade as a playset. I'm not looking to do single trades on lightning bolts, counterspells what have you. If I can get $2 (minus fees) on eBay for the stack I don't want to trade you one for $0.50, esp since you are likely asking for it as a throw in.

    I'd rather you take all 4 and give me $1.50 worth of throw in. I only really trade cards under $1 like this. I'll spread playsets of rares out and use the Jon Medina line "I need a little extra for breaking my playset".

  3. I found the article informative, and I enjoyed it. Thank you for all the hard work.

    One thing I didn't see mentioned is organizing by rarity. What I have begun doing, and my trading partners have thanked me for, is sorting by both color AND rarity. I also have tab for each rarity. That way, if a trading partner wants an red uncommon, they know exactly where to go. I've found much more success with this organizational style, and wish that it had at least been briefly touched on.

    Another point I would also like to make, is that if you have a smaller magic collection, but also play other TCGs is to think about throwing those pages into your binder as well. I recently got into the WoW tcg. I didn't really know a lot of people who played it, but I put my trade stuff in the back of the binder, with a tab identifying it. I've found 4 people who play WoW from doing this. This has also allowed me to trade off WoW cards for Magic cards. I personally think of it as diversifying my portfolio. I have been able to make more trades in my favor because I am helping people find more cards for their other tcg collection. I'm happy to trade a $10 wow card for an $8 magic card, as I know there is more liquidity in magic.

    1. This is an interesting point. I have been known to pull out the Pokemon cards from time to time with old friends. Time to put those Charizards back into the binder? I think not, but your point does apply to WoW and possibly YuGioh. I know next to nothing about other TCGS, but it certainly can't hurt to have a section for these.

  4. Just throwing in my personal organization system:

    2 binders, one 'lead' and one 'pimp'.

    Anything over ~$10 goes in the pimp binder, which I don't pull out unless there is something important I need. That binder has multiple copies of each card in it.

    The lead binder is organized by section. Standard at the start, then Legacy/Extended, then EDH/Casual, then Foils.

    Each section is further broken down by color. Once in a while I sort from oldest to newest, but that goes by the wayside pretty quickly.

    I separate each section with a dividing tab.

    No more than one of each card in this binder. (except the foil section) I keep spares in fat-pack boxes – one for each section in the binder. I then keep the fat pack boxes in a separate pouch of my backpack.

  5. "Even if your options are to use a card box or watch the entire Twilight saga with your little sister. Suck it up and pretend you’re watching Blade."

    Best part of the article haha

  6. @Chas Andres

    I like this idea, especially the keeping only one copy of a card in the binder. Your binder in effect becomes a menu, and when they order cards off of it, you go into the appropriate boxes and grab the number of copies you need.

    Obviously this is most useful for larger collections, and I don't think I'm quite there myself, but if I were, I'd consider that system without hesitation.

    @Chosler88

    Thank you for another informative article!

    I do see your point where if I separate cards into tournament format, I need to have multiple Blue sections, multiple Green sections, etc. and that could frustrate casual players. For my needs though, this does not apply, as I almost exclusively am trading at my local game shop's FNM, where 90% of my trading partners are interested in Standard, and a smattering are EDH players. In this case, I need to keep my Type 2 binder separate from everything else, as anything they can't immediately use in their decks takes up time for them to flip through.

    As always, it's about knowing your audience, and if I were in a heavier casual crowd, I see the benefit of not segregating by tournament format, and would combine all cards from a color into one area.

  7. Thanks for the feedback guys. Glad you enjoyed the article! Part Three of the series may be ready for next week, but it might also get pushed off a week. I plan on giving a walk-through as I sell part of my collection, so hopefully I'll be able to get it all done in time.

  8. I would actually advise against packing a bunch of cards in the top three pockets, as that stretches them out and actually increases the chances of cards flying out of the binder.

    I think as long as you have a system and can explain it to people, i.e. all the blue cards are in this binder or here are all my standard cards, you can save people you're trading with time and they (and you) will appreciate it.

  9. My collection is still pretty small and diverse so it's just sorted by colors, multicolor, artifact/colorless, land. When my portfolio gets larger I'll consider things like making a Standard/extended section then an eternal section, or depending on the value might do what i've done in other TCG's and make 3 binders.

    Binder A – High end binder. Things like jaces, vengevines, fetches, duals, wastelands, goyfs, forces, or any super stuff like moxen, vintage staples, etc can lead in here. Everything at minimum $10 or more, though depending on how high end it gets you can lift the barrier to $15 or $20. IF you have things like moats, loyal retainers, power, vintage staples, underground seas, jaces then you shouldn't put them with your zendikar fetches and abyssal persecutors.

    Binder B is your lead binder and probably the one that you should pull out first and sees the most action. All T2 and legacy playable staples $10 or less should be in here. Depending on your volume you can leave the zendikar fetches in here as your high end point. Aside from things like jaces, primevals, cobras, molten-tail masticore, and duals my current binder is a perfect example of what a lead binder can be, and what many traders often show me as their lead binders. Organize this one by T2, extended, then legacy. If you have room stuff some EDH stuff in there too. You can also include any promos/foils/foreign with large appeal in here. $1 rares should be the minimum and only if the particular one sees play in a tier 1 deck. Key uncommons can be featured here too.

    Binder C – Your low end binder. Most dollar rares that don't see play all the way down to bulk can fit, also the obscure low end FNM or gateway promos that don't have a home. Usually you'll pull this one out last as either an act to seal the deal, or have casual players look through and find some fatty or swingy big card for their kitchen table deck for their $1-2 rares you want and they have no interest in (maybe higher end cards too? You never know). With most players and traders though expect to use it for the guys who want that last $0.50-1 push they need to seal a trade, or collectors looking to complete sets.

    Binder D – Optional but can yield some decent results. Put any low end techy cards here. This ranges from staple common/uncommons in all formats to any random cards used in sideboards that doesn't fit in another binder. You'll be surprised if you throw this binder on the table with say Binder B will get you. Some cards alone might be able to give you a premium, especially at events. We're not even getting into the benefit of being the "go-to" guy for those random uncommons everyone needs for their sideboards at the last minute that dealers "forgot to pack"

    Just some ideas i use personally, and can't wait to get more use form when my collection fills out. I have enough bulk rares that I'll make my C binder when i can afford to, and my B binder is halfway towards being a truly strong B binder that I can leave the A-team on their own in another binder, and the D-binder out of it. THe commons/uncommons get a lot of look from my trade partners though both as deal sealers and for the random cards they can't find to finish a deck (actually had a guy trade me a hand of the praetors for a playset of kor outfitters and disfigures because he couldn't find them elsewhere). I have to say this part of my collection has truly been the MVP to trading up as I have both online and off.

  10. I'm a collector first and trader second so I organize my binders with different priorities than most…

    I have my large binder organized in the following way:

    First, Standard then Non-standards (I only have a few that I carry around)

    Secondly, By colour, artifact, colourless, land

    Thirdly, by set Scars first, back to Zendikar

    Then under each set, 1 page for rares, mythics and chase uncommons, another for all the other uncommons of the most recent set.

    Lastly, each page is arranged alphabetically.

    This makes it exceptionally easy to find a card quickly with the downside of a very large binder, and no prioritization of traders.

    In my trunk I leave a binder with playsets of all the uncommons and staple commons of all the standard cards. This lets me be the go-to guy for cards needed at the last minute sideboards.

    Finally, at home I leave my collection of non-standard cards with low trade value. Mostly kept for nostalgia as I doubt any of them will ever see play again.

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