Go on. Let your inner interior designer loose. Or at least clean up the mess.
Your collection can be a great sense of pride. Or it can be a big pile of junk. It's great to have but if your special room reveals you as just an accumulator, how to display sports memorabilia is a class you shouldn't miss.
Often, items are stored in a manner that may be beneficial to their conservation but not aesthetically pleasing. When you own cards, signed balls, jerseys and the like, an opportunity may present itself to create a room in which the collection can be displayed rather than just stored. Working with a keen eye to organization and focusing on the most prized pieces are the keys to developing a room you won't be embarrassed to show your in-laws.
Jerseys are great as mementos and collectible pieces. The first step in properly displaying a jersey is to identify whether you want to show off the entire jersey, or if it can be folded to display just the numbers or a signature. Large frames or shadow boxes will be needed to make sure the jersey stays clean and crisp when vertical, and the cost of these can be significant. For signed jerseys, if might make more sense to fold the jersey so that the signature is displayed along with the nearest significant identifier, such as a number or team logo. Folding a jersey for placement in a shadow box will enable the collector to display the piece on a bookshelf or small wall shelf as opposed to hanging the entire piece in a large frame.
Signed posters or photographs can also be displayed either on a shelf or in a large frame, depending on the piece's size. When hanging autographed photographs, symmetry is the key to a clean, organized appearance. If more than one poster or autograph is to be hung, most designers will place the largest piece in the center to be complemented by smaller pieces hung on either side either individually or in groups that balance each other out. Lighting in a room can reflect harshly off of a glass frame, taking away from the full experience of viewing the piece, so frame lights might be a wise in lieu of highly reflective overhead lighting.
Balls and sports cards are more manageable from an organizational standpoint, and can be placed with relative flexibility to the other pieces. The collector should always get a case for the ball or card so that it looks more like a preserved antiquity than a piece of cardboard or athletic equipment. Placing balls in their cases in a line on a shelf is attractive and adds dimension to the pieces. For rooms with a bookshelf, pieces should be placed with equal spacing on all of the shelves waist level and above. When the bookshelves are deep and dark, it is good to move the pieces towards the front of the shelf to maximize the viewing angle.
Consider buying high quality cases for your best baseball cards, including those that can be used to display them like a picture--standing up so they can be appreciated rather than stacked in a box or stuck inside a binder on a shelf. If you do use binders, buy slipcovers or those binders that stack vertically on their own without smashing the pages to the bottom.
Glass frames and plastic memorabilia cases have a tendency to show dust more than natural wood surfaces. Cleaning and upkeep of any sports memorabilia room is necessary. Keeping items dust free and keeping the memorabilia display space free of clutter is beneficial both cosmetically and to the life of the collectibles. Any collector serious about his or her pieces will already be firmly committed to their preservation, so cleaning such a space can be enjoyable and satisfying. Go ahead, pick up the Pledge. It won't kill you.
When you add something new to your collection, put it in its proper place within a few hours. Otherwise, chances are it will sit and collect just where you left it.
If you collect vintage baseball cards or memorabilia, don't be afraid to mix in a modern era lithograph depicting vintage players. This writer has a large poster of Hughie "Eee-yah!" Jennings in his famous pose just inside the door, sharing space with a display of T206 cards and the first-ever All-Star game program. Nothing wrong with that as long as the theme and the mood stays the same.
Don't be afraid to consider actually bringing in an interior designer to help you. You don't have to spend big bucks, either. Local colleges often have top level students anxious to try out their ideas for a fee that's well below what you'll pay a pro.
The most important thing is to develop a vision, stick to it, get rid of the clutter or store it away and don't procrastinate. Sooner or later, someone is going to want to see your collection and you want a display that won't have them reaching for the door to escape the impending avalanche.