Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Amateur's Guide to Displaying Collectibles

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle action figures. Hand-painted Warhammer figurines. A painstakingly assembled model Aston Martin. Kitschy convention knickknacks like a Chrono Trigger keychain and chibi Hellsing stickers. There's no end to tangible displays of geekery--but there's a distinct premium on display space.

Unless you have a dedicated He-Man showroom, showing off your geek swag may require a little bit of creativity. There's a fine line between displaying collectibles and putting collectibles wherever there's a bare surface, so allow me to discuss a few options for displaying your belongings in a manner that is both aesthetically appealing and a practical use of space.

Perhaps the most obvious place to start is with any surface that never, ever gets used in any way. If you've got a setup like I do, there should be plenty of space on top of/just in front of major electronics such as a television, a computer, or a computer monitor. Even the floor can be used for display purposes, provided that a newly placed object won't hamper your movement, be eaten by the dog, or mysteriously disappear after you carelessly vacuum the carpet.

Even places that see regular use can become display areas for your collectibles. People don't necessarily use 100% of their coffee table and kitchen table space. Chances are good that there's a ledge or corner in your bathroom or kitchen that could use a dorky touch. Bookshelves that aren't crammed to the edge provide ample space for objects that are easy to see past/move out of the way when you go for a book.

As a rule, I like to keep anything I might spontaneously play around with in an easily accessible location. If you don't mind your guests playing around with your collectibles, a PEZ dispenser next to the lamp or an oversized Transformer that permanently occupies a seat on the couch can provide entertainment when you're entertaining and spark discussion.

Naturally, fragile and irreplaceable items should be solidly placed out of reach and away from the blast radius of a dropped bowl of soup or the reach of Mother Nature--a good blast of wind or a spatter of rain through an open door or window can easily ruin your day, and your priceless origami Predator.

Along those same lines, anything that's particularly small or easy to knock over should be kept in a place where you can quickly retrieve it if it gets pushed around, and where it won't break or knock over something else if it falls. Seems like obvious advice to me, but sometimes you don't think about these things until your prized plastic dinosaur is face-down in the garbage can next to your desk.

If circumstances permit, consider putting the walls and ceiling to work. Wires and string can be draped over a hook and tied around a Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man that can hover in your kitchen. Plastic army men can dangle from a nail just as well as any calendar. Especially if you throw a few glow-in-the-dark stars up there with them, adhesive putties are great for fastening tiny Star Wars ships from the ceiling, as long as the Millennium Falcon doesn't drop out of orbit and onto your head.

If you've got an item you're less-than-proud to own, or any kind of object that you can't bear to toss but don't want to have in plain view at all times, there's no shame in putting something "on display" inside your closet or desk drawer, provided there's enough space to make it look like it's on display and not in time-out. Surprise your visiting relatives with a scandalous Onegai Teacher statuette next to the box of Froot Loops in your pantry. Guard the bottles of shampoo in your upstairs closet with that Bill Gates snowglobe. The possibilities are endless!

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