Sunday, April 9, 2023

The Mechanics of Joker Collecting

 I sometimes see questions about the mechanics or logistics of joker collecting. How do the rest of you handle all this? Here's my system, such as it is.

I keep my jokers in three ring binders mostly in pages made for collecting baseball or Pokeman cards. These album pages can show 9 jokers at a time, front and back. I also have some pages for oversized cards and tiny card.

How many binders do I have? Good Question: I have a little more than two dozen albums in use right now. Maybe 26. They are not a uniform size nor color. Some are overstuffed, some aren't yet full.

There's a third shelf not pictured.

Here's a picture of two other shelves. The top shelf on the left has  decks that I've already taken the joker out of but where I think the deck is special and I want to keep it.  The bottom shelf on the right has a number of decks that I have not yet opened. There is of course lots of clutter of decks that I want to give away. Jokers and other cards that aren't in their final resting place. Boxes of joker that are either extra extras or jokers that I have not yet started sorting. 

One of those boxes, for instance, has nothing but Scatterman jokers (Cartamundi jokers or Sowers). Why? I seem to have accumulated a lot and it's such a massive project to see of the hundreds in that box are different than the 150 or so different Scatterman jokers that I've already organized in an album.

The albums look like this

Inside most albums, there is a simple organizational note to myself. For example, this  Artsy Album features my "artsy" jokers which includes subcategories of formal classic art, modern / digital art, mermaids, digital / mystical jokers, and skulls (just the head) which is a new subcategory of mystical.  I find that if I don't write a note to myself to explain the organization of each album, I get confused and make  mistakes.  (NOTE, these notes only cover the categories physically in this album. There are other "artisy" subcategories which are in other albums and so they ere not listed there. Specifically: flowers and fruits, card themed jokers, masks, and statues and sculptures)

This next photo shows how the pages of the Art Joker Album works. It also gives a hint of what my desk looks like when I'm sorting jokers which is a lot of the time.

Here's another view of what a table looks like when I'm organizing.

Here's a little insight into how the categories emerge. There are categories which are big, such as animals. Inside the animal section, I try to organize each page coherently so there would be dogs on one page, maybe cats on another. As the collection grows, there might lots of pages of cats so I make that into a section but the subcategories keep emerging.  For instance, the cats section now has subsections such as wild cats.  So each nugget of a concept emerges first on on page or set of pages. I also try to make each page look coherent and aesthetic. For instance, here's a page from the performers section, subsection of performers with cards. Notice how on the jokers on the sides how I try to get the jokers facing into the center of the page.   And how I try to find a certain symmetry on the page.

Here's a view of another shelf where I store my most valuable decks. In the these old decks, I keep the joker with the original deck and put a photocopy of the original in the albums. Here's an article about buying old decks and how in these cases, I keep them together. I'm sure Jason will the thrilled to see his book, Paper Empires,  prominently displayed there.

My go-to most important reference work for understanding American jokers is of course Hochman, as expanded and recreated by Lord and Lady, Tom and Judy Dawson.  It is pictured below. It is also available online both as a PDF and a Kindle book. This online version is slightly updated, perhaps only photography.   I have created a list of the reference works, websites, groups, organizations, and other resources that help me with my joker collection.  Suggestions welcome.  

Boxes for storing and protecting cards. 
 I started with random boxes, shifted to show boxes and USPS boxes and an am now adding boxes for protection and display.
Carat boxes for display or protecting individual decks - Hard clear expensive shells. I bought a 12 deck one from Here's Carat Case Creations that catalogs the difference sizes and where they can be bought. 
Clear foldable cheap boxes - These come in many shapes and sizes. I bought my first set from  Pictures and more details to follow. The challenges is that I want to store and protect   decks of playing cards that  can be narrow or wide. Sometimes just the deck. Sometimes the deck and a cardboard box. Sometimes a larger leather case. Once I get this all figured out I'll put up some pictures and guides on sizes. Right now I'm using 2 /34 x 5/8 x 3 3/4 which is larger than a simple deck needs, too wide and too tall.  I just measured by decks and boxes to see what I need. I'll try to place this order with

Sizes In Centimeters                                    wide        tall        deep            need
Old leather wide boxes (Congress 606)        7               9.3        2.3                40
Narrow leather boxes                                   6.3 .2?        9.9        2.3                20
cardboard box modern wide                        6.6                9.2        1.8
wide deck                                                    6.3 .2?        8.7 .8?    1.8                20
narrow deck                                                5.6 .7?        8.7 .8?       1.8            20
Old leather wide boxes - in inches            2 3/4            3 3/4            15/16                

Display cases.

My real focus as a joker collector is an attempt to build and publish a taxonomy or organization of jokers so that a person, with a normal or weak memory (like me), can quickly see where a joker belongs in the collection based on the image in the joker.  Here's a description of my progress on this quest to organize the world's jokers.

Extra Jokers for Trading. I generally put the extras in the same pockets as the original until it gets too fat with maybe 5-10 different extras. I've tried setting up duplicates on separate pages since I believed that it would make trading easier but so far, it hasn't really helped.

Lastly, I also display some of jokers in artistic wall displays. For example:

Sometimes people ask how many different jokers I have collected.  The last time I counted, Jan 1 2021, I had about 7.5K different jokers. I believe that I have about 9K jokers at this point. Once I get to about 10K, I might switch and start focusing only on a few types of jokers such as old American ones.  

Any questions? Email me:  john  at

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Thanks for your input and for reading and thinking about jokers.