If you have a variety of valuables that you want to display in an attractive manner, you’ll want to consider the various types of display cases before you purchase one for your home, office or place of business. How you show off your collectibles, sports memorabilia, nostalgia items, vintage toys, China or other pieces you've collected over the years can enhance or detract from people's perception of your collection. An attractive display case vs. a dusty shelf tells people you value your collection; lighting, easy access and spacing all contribute to how much people will enjoy your items.
As you start your search for a display case, you might want to begin with form, rather than function. There are so many options for displaying your items that you will most likely find one that does the job you want. However, if you choose a functional piece that doesn't fit the space, it can cheapen your home of office. For example, if your case will go in your family or dining room, which are furnished with tasteful, matching furniture pieces, placing a white, laminate-and-Plexiglas display case in the room may be awkward. Decide what design requirements you have for your piece and then match functional pieces to your decorating needs.
Do you want guests to be able to touch your items? If not, you may want a lock on your display case, or one with a cover that lifts on and off but doesn't have doors you can open. If you want to be able to take items out of the case and replace them on a regular basis, you'll want easy-open doors and a stable unit that won't fall over or pull off the wall if it's opened and closed frequently. You can choose from smaller, wall-mounted cases, taller, stand-alone floor units and corner curios, depending on your space.
Decide on whether you need or want glass or Plexiglas windows, shelves or covers for your display cases. Plexiglas is sturdier, but more commercial, and may not be appropriate for an upscale home display. It may be a better choice for a business, home office or basement. Glass is more elegant, but may attract more dust and break easier.
Determine how you want your display case lit. If you will be placing it in an area with adequate ceiling lighting, you may not need interior lighting for the case, or lighting above every shelf. If you plan to light a glass-encased cabinet with lights placed in front of it, consider the reflection this will cause. If you have the opportunity, try to re-create the lighting you will use to light the item when you are in the store or at the seller's home, if you are buying the piece used.
Curio cabinets are designed to display multiple, unique items, rather than matching items, such as China. These types of cases may have lighting on multiple levels to ensure that each shelf's contents are easily visible. Because they are intended to display unique and personal items, these cabinets may be more decorative than a simple, commercial display case.
China cabinets let you display your family heirlooms and usually match a dining room table and its sideboard. In addition to glass-enclosed areas, a China cabinet may have open shelves for displaying items. Some China cabinets have interior lighting for displaying items. In addition to China, you might display crystal or silver in these cabinets.
Businesses display goods from guns and jewelry to bakery and cold cuts in display cases. These display cases often feature little in the way of decoration, and open from the back so that employees, rather than the public, can access items inside. To increase the amount of goods you can display, consider a clear top. Plexiglas is sturdy, but may fog if you place items on it and remove them frequently. Look for slanted shelves to give lower-level items more visibility. Check to see if the case comes with a lock and how sturdy it is.
If the items you wish to display aren't related, you may want to use single-item display cases. You can mix uncovered and encased items in your display area to showcase or protect more valuable or delicate items. Covering certain items may help reduce degradation from dust, humidity and harsh lighting.
If you start your search with your budget, you may limit your choices and end up buying a display case that doesn't offer you everything you want. Develop your wish list first and then shop for new cases. If you can't find what you want in your budget, look at used pieces that have all of the features you want. You may find exactly what you want well within your budget with online searches or visits to estate, yard or garage sales.