Collector’s Corner: The Great Case Debate

There comes a time in every collector’s life where a brick wall is hit. A tall, impenetrable brick wall known as… limited storage space!

For me, this has been more of a continual struggle than an eventual terror. I live in a pretty small space, and I collect both books and films. My book collection seems to take up the majority of my space no matter how picky I am when weeding the shelves. As a result of this abundance of books occupying most of my shelving (and several hidden-away boxes), my film collection has always been limited to a single bookcase.

My movie shelves have never been totally full, as I do a good job of tossing out blind-purchases-gone-bad and other things I don’t see myself watching again. Still, I find myself rearranging the shelves often, looking for better ways to organize. I’ve tried horizontal rows, vertical stacks, blending a few of my larger coffee table books into each shelf, putting TV seasons on a separate cart, confining boxed sets to a single shelf… it’s a continual work in progress.

One thing I’ve never really been willing to do has been to part with the cases. “To keep, or not to keep” those plastic rectangles is somewhat of a hot-button topic among the disc-obsessed. Binders and organizers save a heck of a lot of space, but isn’t part of the appeal of a collection to have everything in its complete, original package? To have a wall full of spines whispering the names of all the films you’ve watched and loved?

My thinking is beginning to change on this. I don’t think I could ever go full minimalist and put everything into an organizer, but looking at my shelves has been driving me a little bit crazy lately. The larger the collection grows, the smaller the room feels, and I’ve realized there are some films I just don’t care about keeping the packaging for.

For classic films with beautifully illustrated covers, or special editions, or that sentimental ex-Blockbuster blind buy of Ghost World (which became one of my favorite films), I absolutely want to keep the cases. But my far-too-large collection of Nicholas Sparks films and early millennium rom-coms? Nah. These are never going to become “collector’s items” — they’re a dime a dozen in Target aisles and Best Buy bins — and the artwork isn’t particularly special. Why not save the space, to make way for more Criterions and classics with gorgeously-designed covers?

I’m still torn here, as separating some of the collection into disc organizers complicates the organizational scheme. Do I keep only pre-1970 films in their cases, or only favorites?  Do boxed sets and TV seasons get to keep their packaging? After years of enjoying the simplicity of a fully alphabetized collection, will it drive me nuts trying to remember what’s in the organizer and what’s in an original case, when looking for particular films?

I went so far as to order two DVD binders, thinking I’d take a “classics/Criterions only” approach to keeping the cases, but the binders got lost in the mail. (Fear not, Amazon gave me a full refund.) My sister is convinced that this means I’m meant to get the cool organizer she has from the Container Store, but perhaps the universe is blowing me toward the pro-original case side of the debate.

I’m curious to know whether any of you use binders for your full or partial collections, or if perhaps you’ve tried it and regretted it. Feel free to share your own experiences and opinions in the comments!

8 thoughts on “Collector’s Corner: The Great Case Debate

  1. With 1500 tiles I feel your pain. I built shelves in the basement as I love those spines…..but the space answer lies in ripping your films to a hard drive…..all your tiles in one small box ;-)


    1. Haha, that would very easily solve the conundrum, but I’m not willing to go that far. Though I’m not obsessed with keeping the packaging for every film, I am for some reason very attached to the discs themselves!


  2. Well, you know what I use to store my movies…that glorious, 750-case faux-wood monstrosity called The Monolith! I’m all for saving the cases – I really like how they look on the shelf – but I do understand someone who wants to get rid of them for space reasons. I also have one of those big storage notebooks, but it’s filled only with home-burned noir films (off TCM when I still had cable) and baseball and hockey games I recorded off TV. How many movies-in-cases do you own? Maybe you need to buy yourself an official “The Motion Pictures Spinning Tower of Films’ storage unit!


    1. I do need to replace my shelves. They’re getting pretty creaky! (I actually have two bookcases in the movie room, one with movie-related books and one with films, and they lean slightly toward each other in a mildly frightening way haha.)

      I ended up moving everything from the ‘80s and later into boxes with slipcases. I had 417 individual cases (not including my Blu collection which is smaller, or my boxed sets which take up an entire shelf), so a monolith of my own may have worked! I’m pretty happy with how it turned out, though. I’ll probably be doing a post on it when I finally replace the Leaning Towers.


        1. I didn’t snap any recent before pictures but do have old ones on my laptop somewhere, so I’ll be sure to include them and take a few new ones! I’m rearranging all of the furniture in that room and hanging up some cool wall art in addition to the new shelves, so that’ll make it into the post too. Not sure when it’ll be up though, it’s a big project! I’m still hunting for the perfect replacement bookcases.


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