How to Display Your Toy Collection

How to Display Your Toy Collection

Is your collection taking over?  Looking more like a warehouse?  Maybe just a bit cluttered?  The single biggest mistake many collectors make (unless you ask their spouse who would suggest the fact they are collecting) is the proper display of that collection.  Collectors will buy large numbers of toys and quite a few will spend little if any time on display. Which makes no sense to me, as the display is key.  A great display will give you daily enjoyment and pride, more so than any one purchase.  In this article, I will take you thru the process of picking a display that is right for you.


Make a Plan

First create a plan for your display.  Where will it will be located?  How much space are you going to allow?  How much you will spend?  Then make this about both protecting your investment and your enjoyment. Give some thought on logical groupings of your collection.  Do you want them displayed in action diorama style, individual highlights, in rows…etc? I have found this planning is very helpful in setting up your display and making it look great.  Grouping can take many forms including: toy line, series, character, height, year, type and more. Below is a display by character.

More is Less

You don’t need to display everything, oftentimes less is more. Displaying only a part of your collection and rotating what is displayed is a great idea.  Case in point the collection below, sure it’s fairly big, and there are some great rare items.  However, what is most impressive to me is you can see everything.  Loose or sealed everything looks better when it has room to “breathe.”

Make a List

Another often overlooked aspect is tracking your collection. Tracking your collection makes it easier to create displays and to rotate your collection with a purpose. Create a list of your collection and reference it so you don’t get duplicates or forget what you have or need.  This list will also come in handy when you want to insure your collection and you do; here’s an article about why you need to insure your collection.  A friend recently made a great tracking tool for G1 Transformers that is free; check it out at Bahweep.


Know Your Enemies

So what are the enemies we must keep in mind during this process? First is sunlight; do not allow direct sunlight to enter the room, if you do, you should UV coat the glass.  The second big variable is dirt and dust; do you want to clean your toys or prevent it altogether?  The selection of a cabinet or shelf will determine if you ever have to mess with that again.  A closer review of everything killing your collection can be found here.


Closed Versus Open Displays

So what are we going to put our figures in or on?  When you boil it down you basically have 3 options:  enclosed displays with doors, open displays, and floating shelfs. Given that floating shelves can be fully customized and made quite easily if you are handy, I won’t talk about them much. I will say that with their lack of doors and vertical supports, I consider them optimal for viewing pleasure.  That trade off is you will be fighting dust accumulation. And even if you are handy, they are time intensive and semi-permanent having been built to suit the collection.  Collections tend to both grow and change in scope.



High end enclosed display cases start around $400.  I think few realize that the IKEA DETOLF   glass cabinets are only $70! For the price of a few figures, you have a whole case.  Additionally, they are available with many accessory options.  Add some IKEA LED Light Strips and dust seals and your well on your way to a great looking display. The entire vintage G1 run can be displayed for the cost of a nice Fortress Maximus.  Below the whole 1984-1990 G1 Series is shown in 7 DETOLF Glass Cabinets.


Another popular choice is the IKEA BILLY bookcase, of which there are many styles.  They can come with or without glass doors.  Compared to the DETOLF this option gives you more linear and horizontal space; however, they are not as deep. Thus, these shelves lend themselves more to setting up dioramas. These also are generally a little more “spouse friendly.” Personally the doors are a tradeoff, the more you have in front of the figures the more it takes away from the display but the doors also make it so you have less cleaning.



My Personal favorite is the Ikea FJÄLKINGE shelving unit.  Little talked about, with several models to choose from.  They are deeper than the BILLY, which gives you a little more flexibility.  When you look at it in the catalog it’s a bit uninspiring, however I think the results speak for themselves. The same collection is pictured in the FJÄLKINGE shelfs and DETOLF cabinets.  Which would you prefer?


DETOLF Pro’s and Con’s


  1. Cheapest display shelves you can buy
  2. You can dust seal them
  3. Can buy extra shelves as needed


  1. The bottom shelf is on the floor.  An ideal solution would be a riser that is also a cabinet to store the extra accessories
  2. Fortress Maximus is too tall to fit the standard shelf height.  Moving the shelf up requires a little customization but is very inexpensive
  3. Glass shows a reflection when viewing
  4. Can look crowded


BILLY Pro’s and Con’s


  1. Inexpensive if you don’t add doors
  2. If you add doors, you will keep them clean
  3. Adjustable shelves
  4. Spouse friendly as it looks more like furniture


  1. The bottom shelf is on the floor. An ideal solution would be a riser that is also a cabinet to store the extra accessories
  2. If you add doors, the glass shows a reflection when viewing
  3. Framing on doors impedes viewing


FJÄLKINGE Pro’s and Con’s


  1. The bottom shelf will be raised off the floor if you buy a unit with a storage drawer
  2. No doors impeding viewing
  3. They are adjustable
  4. They are metal
  5. Simple design
  6. Open design with long spacing allows for maximum flexibility in your setup
  7. No reflective glass


  1. Dust
  2. A little more expensive


Final Tips and Takeaways

One of the biggest mistakes is overcrowding. Space permitting, you should try and provide ample space for each figure.  You don’t need to show off every item in your collection to make a statement. Not everything looks best side-by-side on a shelf.  For toys, some of the best displays are with the figures interacting with each other in action poses.  Try highlighting items or subgroups and give them their own area.

Get some accessories for your displays.  Invest in good lighting; good lighting makes all the difference!  Add some risers to get your figures on different levels when it makes sense.  Finally, I personally love the lite Energon cubes, get yourself some and turn them on!

Any tips I should add?  Have an awesome picture of your collection you want me to include in future articles? Drop me a message.  Wanting to know when we post our future articles. Just click on the red button found below.


Author: Chris Ingledue

Affiliation:  Autobot

Function: Theoretician

Bio:  I’m the founder and owner of Wheeljack’s Lab.  My vision has always been to reunite customers with their favorite childhood toys, triggering fond memories and reigniting their imaginations.  Every day I work in the “lab” where it’s Christmas 365 days a year; scouring the internet – like we did the Sears Catalog of yesteryear – for the next great treasure, awaiting the arrival of the postman as if he was Santa Claus himself and helping collectors worldwide with their own versions of Christmas.  Every day is an absolute joy!


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6 thoughts on “How to Display Your Toy Collection

  1. Great article. If you are taking suggestions, I would like a deep dive on collection lighting. I am currently setting up my Billy display in my new house and am at a loss for what type of lighting to get. I want strip lighting, but am looking for something that doesn’t have a plug for each shelf. Something where the lights can all run into a central box and have just one plug. (6shelves) Mobile phone control over the lighting would be a plus. Keep up the good work!!

    1. Well I already got quite a few other articles I’m working on. By the time I get to it you’ll be done! It’s actually on my list already. If you send me some info and a picture(s) I will include it once I get to it. Thank you Chris

  2. Great article. Question on displaying the G1’s – found a way to keep them from tumbling in event of needing to move a smaller display? Such as the cassettes or minibots?

  3. I’ve been fighting with how to properly display boxed figures in an aesthetically pleasing way, while still allowing them to all be seen.

    Any suggestions?

    1. I would either make or ask a local carpenter to build some floating shelves. I Googled it and what I’m talking about pulls right up. Pick a material to match your room or toy line. Then draw out your vision.

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