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Virtual Toy Chest's
Guide to Storing Toys

Ever since we were kids we have had to put away our toys. When we were young this may have involved throwing them in the closet, or putting them in the toy chest. Today this may involve packing them in a box and puting it in the basement.

This is a guide to help toy enthusiasts properly store their toys.

Like all material things toys may be damaged. There are seven primary causes of damage to toys:
  • Sun Light
  • Oxygen
  • Gravity
  • Heat
  • Cold
  • Dryness
  • Dampness

Sunlight has the potential to fade packaging, and discolor plastic and paint. Oxygen "breaks down" plastic and metal. White plastic is especially susceptible to this. Gravity can warp toys. This is particularly problematic if the toys are piled into a box. Heat can melt and warp toys. Cold can cause plastic to become brittle. Dryness can cause rubber to crack and dryrot. Excessive dampness may lead to problems with mold, rusting of metal parts, and warpage of boxes. When storing toys it is important to take these dangers into consideration.

Where to store the toys?
For many of us, the best option is a closet. It is dark, and has a controlled climate. Another good option are dresser drawers, which are also dark and have a controlled climate. Inevitably these places get filled. The four remaining options are: (1) out in the open in the main part of the house; (2) in the basement; (3) in the attic; or (4) in the garage or shed. The first of these is usually the best option of the four. One problem is that the toys may be exposed to sun light. Basements may be damp, and sometimes cold. If you have a finished basement it will make an ideal toy storage area. Attics are not climate controlled and are generally inaccessible. Toys may be exposed to excessive heat and cold. This makes attics a bad choice. Like attics, garages and sheds are not climate controlled, and thus are a bad choice.

Storage Containers
Now that we have gone over where to store the toys let us discuss what we will store them in. In this regard, we have many options avaiable to us. The most important thing is finding the right size box. It is also important that the boxes work well together, so that your closet does not end up looking like a game of Tetris. For storing loose action figures I have found that the two best options are plastic shoebox containers and tool drawers.

The plastic shoeboxes, as pictured above, are the most economical and sturdy containers on the market. However, they are not airtight.

Kitchen containters and disposable containers are both airtight. Unfortunately they are more expensive. The disposeable containers are not very sturdy. When packing your figures in these boxes I do not recommend piling action figures on top of one another. If you must, I recommend using clothing or paper as padding, as peanut packing material has a tendency to react with the paint on the figures. None of the plastic containers shield your toys from the sun, so it is best to put them in large cardboard boxes.

The tool drawers, such as the one pictured above, are ideal for storing 3 3/4" action figures such as Star Wars or G. I. Joe. They may also be used with 1" - 2" figures. This type of drawer has the advantage of giving you good access to the figures. Other types of drawers, as pictured below, are also availble which are good for storing small figures.

Those of us who are so inclined may wish to design their own storage. A plastic milk carton, such as the one below, can be turned into storage for a He-Man type figure.

Smaller figures can be placed in jars of various sorts. An enterprising individual may make their own compartmented storage unit.

Carded and boxed toys are more susceptible to being scuffed, warped, wet, crushed, and ripped than loose toys. Thus special care is needed when storing them. For storing such toys, the most economical and space efficient option is the original box in which they were shipped to the store. One danger is that the toys may be damaged if the box is crushed. Another popular option are pegs such as are used in stores. I do not recommend this as the toys may be exposed to sunlight, and the packages may be hurt by the pegs. Some people also store MIB toys on shelves. I do not recommend this, as the toy may be exposed to sunlight, and may be crushed by other toys. A fourth option is a cardboard or plastic box just big enough to hold the toy. Specialty boxes of this sort are produced and are recommended for valuable toys. Non-transparent plastic boxes are especially good that they protect the toy from water, sunlight, and from being crushed.

A fifth option is a larger cardboard or plastic box, as pictured above. If using a larger cardboard box, make sure that if the box is slightly crushed that the toys will not be damaged.

For storing larger toys, vehicles, and playsets larger boxes are needed. Again, it is most important to find the right size box, and one that fits your space well.

This box is one size up from the shoebox. It is good for storing a vehicle or larger toy.

This box is good for storing old fashioned playsets or several smaller vehicles. You may want to consider large drawers for storing vehicles, although they are generally very expensive.

This box is best suited for storing several larger action figures.

Extra large boxes, as shown above, may hold large vehicles or playsets. They have the advantage of protecting your toys from the sun. None of these boxes are truly airtight. You can help prevent damage from oxygen by putting the toy in a heavy plastic yard bag and sealing it.

Packing the Toys
If the boxes are going to be moved around I recommend packing the toys in the boxes, so that they are not damaged by falling over in the box or by rubbing against the side of the box. I have found that clothing and unused newsprint are the most economical materials to use. Simply wrap the toy in the material, and fill in any extra space in the box with more material. Unfortunately in some circumstances the paint on the toy can react with clothing and newsprint. This reaction seems to be caused by high temperatures. Plastic ziploc bags may also be used to wrap the toy, but they can react with and even melt to it. I would always strongly recommend against using peanuts, as these seem to always stick to the toys even in normal conditional.

Storing the Boxes
All of these boxes need to be stored. In this regard a closet organizer or shelving is useful. Like the boxes, it is essential to find shelving that matches the size of the boxes that you are using. Large plastic shelving is very economical.

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