Why You Should Take Pictures of Your Physical Media Collection

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Photo: Vladimir Sukhachev (Shutterstock)

Owning physical media has its perks, especially in this era of streaming and digital distribution, but it comes with risks as well, like getting lost, damaged, or stolen. That’s why it’s wise to keep a detailed record of your collection in case something bad happens. The easiest method is photographing an item’s serial number. This is common practice in hardcore collector circles, but it’s worthwhile for anyone who buys physical media.

Chances are expensive items you own like cars or even home appliances are protected by warranties and insurance policies, but your bookshelf of Nintendo games, classic movies, or vinyl records isn’t. And while you could take out an insurance policy on your physical media collection, it’s usually unnecessary (unless you have a specific rare or exceedingly high-value item you’ve gone out of your way to insure).

Instead, simply having detailed photographic records of the serial numbers for each item in your collection—or at the very least, the rare or special pieces you care about most—can help you recoup losses through homeowners insurance in the event of a fire or other disaster.

Similarly, if someone breaks in and absconds with your collection, you can use the list to reclaim stolen items if they show up at pawnshops or online marketplaces like Craigslist. They will also help you settle any issues with shipping, moving, or travel companies if something is damaged or lost in transit.

The records don’t need to be fancy; just snap a few photos of the product’s serial codes and keep them on your phone, maybe back them up to your computer and cloud storage to make sure you have multiple copies. Just about every piece of media you buy has a serial code or product identification number of some kind—you’ll find them on video games, Blu-rays, CDs, vinyl records, books, graphic novels. The same goes for tech gadgets like computers, tablets, smartphones, or gaming consoles.

You can, of course, get more detailed with your documentation, like creating spreadsheets listing the title, serial code, photo records, and other important information if you want. There are even apps for cataloging games, comics, movies, and magazines that include barcode scanning and cross-platform tracking. But the bare minimum is to photograph the important or highly valued items in your collection so you can reference them later if needed.

The most important part is making sure you’re documenting the right number. Serial codes and other product identification numbers can show up just about anywhere: on the spine of a book or disc case, the printed manual, even stamped on the back of a video game cartridge. A quick internet search can help you find where the numbers are (and which ones you want to keep track of).

It’s admittedly tedious to find, photograph, and tabulate a large physical media collection, but even if you only do this for your most cherished (or highest-valued) items, you’ll be glad you took the time if misfortune ever strikes.


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