Old collections: basement fodder or cool display?

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Confession: I have a lot of Speech and Debate trophies from high school. They fill up a few big plastic tubs in my parents’ basement. They mean a lot to my nerd self and every year or so my folks ask if they can finally toss them out. Every year I just can’t bring myself to do it. I have other collections too: Archie comics, Elfquest graphic novels, old skool My Little Ponies… okay I get it, I’m not cool.

The point is this:

What do you do with (potentially embarrassing) collections with which you can’t bear to part?

Do you keep them locked away in a basement/attic/under the bed or find ways to display them in your home?

I know I could find a way to display them like these action figures or add them to the decor, but what do YOU do? I have a feeling my boxes of random gavels are going to clash with my non-judicial decor, but maybe they’ll come into play when I need to settle an argument…?

Comments on Old collections: basement fodder or cool display?

  1. I’ve been known to toss alot of stuff out. I do have a box that has alot of small childhood stuff. My dad found my old music box on the floor when my kids wanted to listen to it and thought I was going to throw it out, so he took it. I was mad when I found it in his house.

  2. Here’s the thing. I have a LOT of trophies. Some of them are huge. They take up a lot of room in my parents’ house.
    And I’m very near the point where I can accept that though they make me proud to be wicked smart in terms of grade/middle/high school, I don’t need shiny plastic to remind me of that. And I’m certainly never going to display them as they are in my house–gold and faux wood? Ugh!
    So I’m thinking about spray painting them.
    Flat white or black, or maybe the spray paint that’s supposed to make it look like stone.

    As for my other “collections”?
    My vintage cameras are scattered about my office.
    My vintage hats are pinned to the walls in my childhood bedroom.

  3. I’m very interested to hear some ideas, I also have a ton of debate trophies, as does my hubby.

    I think would be fun to make one giant megga trophy and use it as a floor lamp maybe? The unscrew pretty easy and then just stack the pieces on a pole, make a 10 armed multi wi.fed guy at the top? Of course painting it

  4. I have an Elfquest graphic novel collection too! My main collection is of porcelain dolls my parents bought for me every Christmas and birthday. It isn’t something I would decorate with myself, so I am holding onto them for my own children (if my husband and I have any, or if not my goddaughter or a niece). But I also collect kitschy coin banks (including a giant armadillo bank from Texas, and a cuss bank) which I do display in our bedroom.

  5. I’ve gone through this, with all my elementary-school recreation league basketball trophies. When your dad’s the coach, you play every year so… there were a bunch. Here was my thought process for solving the problem once my husband and I bought our own home: “Mom deserves to finally have a basement free of my junk, since I now have a basement of my own that’s bigger than hers. Do I want these taking up space in *my* basement? No? Ok, do I want to display these someplace in my home? Not really? Ok, can I/will I actually take the time to re-purpose these in some way? No? Ok, must pare down.”

    I chose one trophy (the biggest, natch) to act as a sentimental representation for the entire lot, added it to my “box of sentimental crap” (I have allowed myself ONE Rubbermaid bin in the basement for this purpose) and disposed of the rest. As meaningful as things like that are to us as adults, we usually don’t need the whole collection to remind us of how hardcore we rocked the court (or the debate podium).

    • This is what I have done with many of my “collections” of stuff from over the years. Keep one, toss the rest. But before I toss the rest I take a picture of it. I have lots of strange photos of all my old stuff, but it brings back the good memories without all the space being taken up.

    • So true!! I go through all my mementos yearly and get rid of things that don’t hold meaning for me anymore. I still have a box of sports medals, and some other items, but most of it is relegated to a rubbermaid container. I like things to be clean and simple and organized, I’m a bit of a minimalist that way.

      As someone who is storing other people’s collections in her basement and garage, it can be very draining and frustrating seeing someone else’s items take up space you want to fix or use. Whether or not that item holds personal significance for someone else is irrelevant because you don’t have the connection yourself…instead it just feels like junk.

      I think going through and either finding alternative uses, or creative recycling is a fine thing to do. Heck you could even have a badass trophy room (or nook), if you aren’t ready to let go.

      For some of the things I’m keeping, I’m planning shadow boxes or creative ways of displaying them. Other things I relegate to a memory box, something I can sift through on occasion. You could also look at taking photos of all your trophies, and find other photographs or mementos that relate to the trophy and building a scrapbook around that. That way you have the trophy, but not necessarily the physical part of it. Perhaps even take the plaque piece off and put it in a book?

      Maybe create a wall art piece out of all of the little engraved pieces on the trophies. You could do some really neat artwork with that for sure!

      • To build on both the token and photo ideas, why not get a shadow box big enough to hold your favorite trophy. Then, take photos of all the others. Line the back of the shadow box with the photos and then stick the one you kept in the box. Now you can probably find a place to display *one* trophy box in your house, even if it’s just in a gaming/craft/spare room.

    • Agreed. Luckily, most of my music awards are medals and reside on a ribbon board now and will go in a shadow box eventually, but I used to have all sorts of odd collections that I’ve pared down over time. Mini ceramic animals? I just kept my favorite and sold or donated the rest. Decorative pencil collection (I was a weird kid)? I gave to my sister for her classroom. American Girl doll collection? Not getting rid of that, those dolls are awesome! They’re in a couple of bins for when I have kids. My dad wanted to give my Felicity tea table away to the guys fixing the drains in our basement and I almost had a heart attack.

      It’s all about figuring out what you’re most attached to. 🙂 Shadow boxes or small shelves are great for most collections.

      • Didn’t every kid have a collection of decorative pencils? I just got rid of mine last year.

        I also have a huge collection of medals but mine are all from academic competition. In four years of high school there were only two tournaments I didn’t medal at…but mine are hidden away still mostly because the SO still gets a little bit pouty at the sight of them since he only won four or five… :p

  6. I collect Elfquest too~! In addition, I collect cats with wings. I have several figures and prints that are scattered over the apartment. I personally prefer the look of spreading them out rather than having them all in one place.

  7. I had a lot of old awards that I recently sorted through and only kept the “best” ones. There were a few that were most meaningful to me that got put into a memory box and everything else went out. I don’t regret it. Other things, like a couple of lunchboxes I have collected are on display. If I were you I would sort through the collections and pare down and part with the least cool, meaningful items. And then display the rest and/or keep some special pieces in a memory box.

    • I have some first editions, the ones with the original covers. I heart them so much. I can’t believe they’re being reprinted in B/W. Sadface.

  8. I have about 30 old My Little Ponies from the 90’s…I figured I’d save them for my own kids someday, but now I’m wondering if there’s an artful way to use these.
    My mom also has about a dozen ceramic dinosaurs that I made in art class in high school. She has them (and other relic kid creations) on display in a shelf of a guest bedroom.

    • I like the idea of making a little shadowbox/diorama to display the Ponies in (I have a ton of them too), maybe with a hinged front, so when children come along, they can go into service as toys again.

  9. My feeling is, if the things are important to you, they shouldn’t be a box somewhere gathering dust. Take them out, put them on display, and share those memories. Make them into art or decor if you are crafty-inclined.
    And if they’re not important enough to justify that, then they are not paying their rent and you should let them go. Take some pictures, make a scrapbook, and find them new homes.

    For the trophies especially, you might contact a local school or daycare. Many of those could be repurposed for a new generation of award-winners.

  10. If you have a lot of trophies, but no space for them, you could set up a display, photograph them and then get the photograph printed out large format (maybe poster size) get it framed and hang it where you would have a display cabinet if you had space. then you have a display that shows off your achievements without taking up space.

  11. I have these Breyer horse figures/statues that I collected when I was younger because I was crazy about and still do adore horses which are in a box. What I have been looking for to display them (I just haven’t been able to find just the right one) is a curio cabinet, just a glass display case with shelves. Maybe this could work for a lot of your collections? I would totally put My Little Ponies in one too – that would be great.

  12. What about taking some nice, individual photos of each – I’m thinking full size and then close-ups of the plaque or special details – and writing up a few sentences about your memories from earning each trophy, then putting the photos and memories together in a basic scrap book? Hmm, now I’m thinking of doing this because I don’t have space to display some of my collections of memories. Many are in drawers or closets where I never get to see and appreciate them, but I still have to lug them from space to space each time I move.

    • I’m a terrible keeper! The idea of snapping photos has helped me in getting some of those things out of the closets. We set up everything nicely on a table, snapped pics, then packed stuff straight from there to the thrift shop. I’ve kept a few pieces here and there that are particularly important to me, but have been able to pass along the majority.
      Also, if you have a lot of trophies that you don’t need anymore, many trophy shops will take them in as donations; the parts can be reused for other people/groups who need something low cost for their special award.

  13. See if you can turn part of the trophy into a Christmas tree ornament – works great with medals. Screw an eye into the back of the my little pony – Christmas tree ornament.
    I love the idea of painting the trophies various colors (rainbow maybe?) and lining them up on a shelf.
    Put the top of the trophy on the posts of your four-poster bed. Make it look like distressed copper for a really cool effect.
    I like the coat hook idea, but you could also use them to make hooks for your jewelry.
    Frame a picture of your activity/sport and put the top of the trophy on the picture frame, on the top, or one on each side.
    So many ideas!

  14. And this is why I’ve said for years that schools in a given speech & debate league should agree on a pattern of dishes to give as awards!

    People who mostly finish 4-6 will end up with a lot of dessert plates and a dearth of dinner plates… but the most devoted competitors will leave school with the equipment to hold a dinner party in their first grown-up apartment.

    I culled my trophies. There was an intermediate stage of holding onto a few especially prized ones that were also easier to display.

    My Little Ponies and action figures, though, I’m all for displaying. Almost anything looks good when it’s organized into a display case and kept behind glass doors. (You want the glass doors to keep dust to a minimum.) IKEA’s good for that sort of thing, if you’re okay with IKEA as a housewares source.

    Heck, display the trophies that way if you want. As a visitor, I’d probably treat it as a cool conversation-starter (either on tournament experiences or on the vagaries of trophy design), so why not?

    • “And this is why I’ve said for years that schools in a given speech & debate league should agree on a pattern of dishes to give as awards”


    • YES! This would be awesome! Anything useful would make a far better memento, like, I dunno, ceremonial pot plants?

      I’ve received mugs for things I participated in as well as gifts over the years, so I now have heaps. But on the plus side, I can use those for planting small things, storage and other such stuff, so they do actually have uses. I should really start keeping some of them out!

  15. I’m a slowly reforming hoarder (the polite term for it is “antiques and collectables dealer”) and I have had to force myself to edit collections. It’s hard, especially if they have sentimental value. But if I have a collection of something, either I LOVE it…and therefore display it in my home so that I can see it and enjoy it, or I don’t need it and I sell it or give it away. I love the other posters’ ideas about taking photos and putting them in a scrapbook. If you honestly can’t figure out a crafty way to make the trophies fit with your decor, I say go that route. Life is too short for clutter, and if something is packed away you aren’t enjoying it or collecting it, you’re hoarding it. 🙂

  16. Along these lines, my friend once made the most awesome quilt ever completely from ribbons she had won. It was pretty heavy, though – more of a tapestry, really.

  17. I have a lot of old cards, programs from shows and ceremonies, trophies, and assorted knicknacks. I’ve started just taking pictures of them/scanning them into my computer. From there, I can either put the pics on facebook, or just stash them away in a folder somewhere. After the scanning/picture taking, items are either trashed, recycled, or donated to Savers/Goodwill/Salvation Army as appropriate. This way, I keep the memories, reduce the clutter, and give back to the community.

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