In any hobby where you're dealing with thousands of items, organization is a necessity of the first order. Eventually, you're going to want to find that one cover, check to see if you already have that cover, etc. Thus, your covers need to be organized in some efficient way in order to facilitate you working with them over and over again. Since they're your covers, you can certainly organize them in any way, shape, or form you wish, but most collectors over the years have gone with the following:
Generally, alphabetizing within your various collections is the way organizing is usually handled. So, for example, if you have a collection of covers from your hometown, you'd probably want to simply house them alphabetically by the business name. If you have a series of covers from the same business, I always like to arrange them from oldest to newest. This not only enables you to view the covers chronologically, but also lets you see how the business evolved. A particular bank, for instance, may show 3 locations early on, 6 locations a few years later, and 9 most currently.
Still, there are many instances where, owing to the exigencies of the particular collection, simple alphabetizing is either not enough or is abandoned entirely in favor of some other approach.
Size of the collection is certainly a prime factor here. If you're dealing with a collection of thousands of covers (anywhere from several thousand to tens of thousands---Hotels, Motels, Restaurants, Banks, etc.), the 26 divisions afforded by the alphabet are still far too large for efficient organization. In this type of situation, collectors normally opt for first organizing by state, and then alphabetizing within each state. If that doesn't go far enough, then you could organize by state, then city, then alphabetizing.
There are a number of categories where alphabetizing isn't used at all or is used secondarily. For example:
- Categories that are collected by catalog listing #. There are lots of categories for which lists exist, but only a relative few that are almost exclusively collected by catalog #. It's almost impossible to deal with Navy Ship, Girlie, and American Ace collectors, for example, if you don't work by the listing as they do. Thus, you'd have to have such collections arranged that way, your want lists would be by catalog #, and so on. That's why those categories, when offered in the weekly auction here, are almost always identified solely by catalog #...because I know that's the system used by collectors in those areas.
- A collection of Dated covers would ordinarily have the dates as of primary importance, so they would be organized by year, and then, perhaps, alphabetized.
- A collection of Dated Auto could be organized first by year, then by make...or first by make, and then by year.
- Match Company covers would be arranged by manufacturer. The same would go for Manumark collections.
- World's Fairs would usually be arranged chronologically by year.
- Mileage Chart collections and Map collections would be organized by location.
- Sports Jewelites feature teams as the main item, so they would be sorted by team first, then chronologically by year (most have dated schedules).
- A collection of Sets, or Sets & Series, would quickly grow to otherwise unmanageable numbers if alphabetizing was the sole method of organization used. So, here, you'd probably want to break down the collection into various subcategories first, such as Banks, Store Sets, Gas Stations, Chain Hotels, Girlies, etc.
It should also be noted that some categories are traditionally collected ( and thus housed) separately from the larger category that they would normally fall in. For example:
- Fraternals, for example, refers to all issues from fraternal organizations. In practice, however, the larger fraternal organizations (Elks, Moose, American Legion, VFW, etc.) are seen as separate categories and are collected and housed as separate collections. And those are normally organized by lodge #.
- Military is not seen to include US Navy Ships, an entirely separate category.
- Hotels/Motels/Restaurants are generally not seen to include the large chains in those areas (Holiday Inns, Sheratons, Best Westerns, etc), all of which are collected and housed as individual collections. The same can be said of the smaller, specialized chains, such as Dave and Buster's, Planet Hollywood, Outback Restaurants, and so on.
- Financial Institutions would include Banks, Trust Co's, S&L's and Credit Unions, but, traditionally, Banks and Trust Co's form one subcategory, while S&L's and Credit Unions form another.

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