Sports Card Collecting 101: Glossary of Sports Cards Terms and Definitions – It seems as if the hobby of collecting sports cards and entertainment trading cards is one that continues to evolve year-after-year. With those evolutions come new terms and definitions as they relate to trading cards.

Sports Card Collecting 101Even manufacturers have specific terms for certain cards like Refractor (Topps), Prizm (Panini) and Young Guns (Upper Deck). It’s easy for both novice collectors and seasoned veterans to get confused by the verbiage and terminology related to collecting sports cards.

With that in mind we thought we would produce a comprehensive glossary of hobby terms and definitions. This is meant to be an all encompassing tool so don’t be offended when we define regular card and base card. (Yes we know they are the same thing but do you know which companies use which term?)

If we have forgotten a term, or you need clarification on a definition, let us know in the comments section.

Sports Card Collecting 101: Glossary of Hobby Terms and Definitions

Use the letter tabs below to go directly to sports card collecting terms and definitions that begin with that letter. Certain sports card collecting acronyms are also listed as well as related terms. Also, for a larger view of an applicable image, simply click on it and press “Esc” to return to the definitions list.


Acetate Trading Card


Acetate: A clear, transparent plastic occasionally used by trading card manufactures in place of other, more traditional, paper and cardboard card stocks. One of the most popular uses of this type of card has been used in Upper Deck hockey products including ICE and Trilogy. By Clicking on the picture you can see  the printing on the back of the card through the card’s front.


American Card CatalogAmerican Card Catalog: The creation of hobby pioneer Jefferson Burdick, the American Card Catalog serves as the Dewey Decimal System of trading cards. Burdick dedicated his entire life to creating a standardized classification for trading cards that is still used today. The designations represent how the cards were originally distributed.

Related Term(s) – American Card Catalog Designations (most frequently used): T – 20th Century Tobacco, R – Gum, M – Publications, E – Caramel, N – 19th Century Tobacco. See the complete list of designations.

Artificial Scarcity: A term used in reference to the practice of trading card manufacturers intentionally short-printing specific cards to make them “rare”.

Airbrushed CardAirbrush: Used to describe a card that has been artificially altered. This was an often-employed technique used prior to digital technology when a player was traded to a new team and the trading card manufacturer had no photograph of the player in their new team uniform. The existing player photograph was changed using an artist’s tool called an “airbrush.”


Artist Proof: A type of parallel card. They were originally produced by Pinnacle Brands Inc. in 1994.

Auction House: The hobby of sports card and sports memorabilia collecting serves a wide range of collectors. Some of these collectors have a wealth of financial resources at their disposal. Often times, purchases of high-grade cards and vintage sports memorabilia are made through one of the hobby’s numerous auction companies.

  • Sports Card & Sports Memorabilia Auction Houses (too name a few): Heritage Auctions, Robert Edwards Auctions, Memory Lane Inc., SCP, Goldin Auctions, Sports Card Link, Mile High Card Company

Autograph Authentication: The process of having an autographed item examined by an expert or third party authenticator to determine if the autograph is legitimate and in fact signed by the person purported to have signed the item.

On-Card Autographed Card Autograph: A signature of an athlete, entertainer, celebrity or other personality.

Autograph Card/Autographed Card: A trading card accompanied by the signature of an athlete, entertainer, celebrity or other personality.

  • Related Terms – Auto and AU: Abbreviation and acronym for the word autograph.


Base Card: The main cards that comprise a sports card or non-sport product’s base set. The cards are typically numbered on the back of the card.

  • Related Terms –
    • Base Set: All of a trading card product’s base cards.
    • Regular Card: A term used by Upper Deck to describe a base card.

Bat Tube: A clear, plastic, cylindrical shaped container with removable rubber end caps used to store and display baseball bats.

Bat Tubes


BCW: A manufacturer of storage supplies and display pieces for trading cards and memorabilia.

Beckett: The publisher of various sports card specific publications and pricing guides.

Beckett Covers

  • Related Terms
    • Beckett Media: Used to reflect the fact that the company produces hobby related media coverage in both print and digital formats including video, radio, magazines and trade shows.
    • Beckett Collector’s Club Grading or BCCG: A service of Beckett Grading Services created to specifically grade cards for sale on the Shop at Home Network. The grading scale is highly subjective compared to those of the standards used for their premium services BGS and BVG.
    • Beckett Grading Services or BGS: The division of Beckett responsible for card grading (see below).
    • Beckett Vintage Grading or BVG: A division of the Beckett Grading Services division that specializes in the grading of vintage trading cards.

Big Four: The “Big Four” refers to the four rarest cards from the American Tobacco Company’s (ATC) 1909-11 T-206 set. They are: Honus Wagner, Larry Doyle “NAT’L,” Sherry “Magie” and Eddie Plank.

T206 Big Four

Bip: A collector created term to describe pulling multiple copies of the same card from a single pack.

panini-america-2014-black-box-mainBlack Box: A super-premium gift presented by Panini America to attendees of the Industry Summit (see below) and the official Panini VIP Party at the National Sports Collectors Convention (see below).


Blank Back: A trading card that has no printing, of any kind, on the card’s back. This can either be by design or as the result of a printing error. Blank back cards that are printing errors often carry a premium in value.

BlasterBlaster Box: A packaging configuration for collectible sports cards and other trading cards, typically reserved for retail distribution through a “big-box” store such as Wal-Mart or Target. The boxes usually contain anywhere between 5-10 packs and on occasion a premium (see below).



BlisterBlister Pack: A retail-only package that contains multiple packs of cards. These usually consist of 2, 3 or 4 packs sealed in a hardened plastic bubble against a cardboard backer. In recent years, many blister packs may also contain a few standalone cards, usually parallels and wrapped in cellophane. They can also be used to package team sets.


Book Card: A trading card that combines two trading cards into one by attaching them with a hinge, or spine like a book. They can be vertically or horizontally oriented and usually are a high-end card showcasing game-used memorabilia and/or an autograph.

  • Related Term – Booklet Card: Synonymous with book card.

Draft Board Patch Auto 2

Book Value: A slightly outdated, but still used, term that equates to a card’s monetary value as listed in a printed price guide (see below) like those published by Beckett Media (see above).

Bowman*: A brand of trading cards owned by the Topps Company. Bowman was originally a gum manufacturer that produced sports cards starting in 1948. The company was purchased by Topps in 1956. The first use of the Bowman brand name by Topps was in 1989. Today, the Bowman brand includes several trading card sets, primarily focused on prospects and rookies.

* To learn more about Bowman, watch our video and read the corresponding article on the history of the company and brand.

Box Break: Usually referred to as the expected contents contained within a box of sports cards. Also can be used as a term for the process of opening a box of sports cards.

Box Break Site: A website that conducts Group Breaks. (See below.)

  • Relate Term(s) – Major Box Break Sites: Ripping Wax, Jaspy’s Hobbyland, Nasty Breaks, Topshelf Breaks, Ultimate Box Breaks (to name a few).

Box Card: A card whose origin is typically from the bottom or back panel of a food product. Examples include Hostess cards of the 1970s.

  • Related Term – Panel Card: Synonymous with box card.

Box Card

Box-Topper: A premium included in a box of trading cards. Through the years these have included everything from autographed baseballs to mini pennants, over-sized cards and numerous other items.

Break: A slang term used to describe the process of opening a box of trading cards.

  • Related Term(s) – Crack, Bust

Brick: A term heavily used in the hobby of the early 1980s when trading cards were bundled in quantities of 50 and consisted of the same card and sold as a unit. The practice most often occurred with the selling of the same rookie card. The term and practice are rarely used today.

Brick-and-Mortar: With the emergence of online e-Commerce and with it online retailers and eBay storefronts, the term brick-and-mortar was established to designate a traditional card shop as being a physical retailer.

Buyer’s Premium: Most auction houses charge the winning bidder of an item an additional percentage. This is called a buyer’s premium. It covers the expenses and profit margin of the auction house allowing the gross gavel price (see below) to go to the seller.


1910-11-T3-Turkey-Red-Baseball-Cabinet-Ty-CobbCabinet Card: An over-sized trading card, usually measuring between 5″x7″ and 8″x10″.  They were issued by tobacco companies in the 19th and early 20th century. They were commonly produced on a thick cardboard stock and available as premiums via mail-order. Display cabinets, called Curios, were very popular pieces of furniture during this period of time. They served as a perfect  place for collectors to display these pieces, which led to the name, cabinet card.


Card Show: An assembly of sports card and memorabilia collectors and dealers. These events first originated in the 1970s as small regional shows, usually taking place in a mall, hotel lobby or banquet room. Today, these shows still exist but have also evolved to include much larger shows attended by collectors from across the country.

Card Stock: The material a trading card physically consists of and is used as the printing medium.

Cardboard Connection: An independent website that generates hobby related media content.

Case: Typically used in reference to a packaging of  a specific trading card product. Cases contain multiple boxes depending on the product and can range between 2-20 boxes.

Case Breaker: A term referred to a person or business that opens multiple cases of product or operates as Group Breaking website (see below).

Case Hit(s): In an effort to encourage the purchase of cases of trading cards, some manufactures guarantee a specific type of high-value or short-printed card in every case. These cards are referred to as “case hits”.

Category: A term used by industry professionals in the trading card business to describe the retail and hobby market for selling sports cards and entertainment trading cards.

Cello (Packs/Boxes): A form of packaging similar to cellophane that was used for retail trading card distribution in the 1970s through the early 1990s. They are sometimes referred to as rack packs (see below) for the way they could be hung on a pegboard “rack”.

COACertificate of Authenticity: Also known as a C.O.A., a Certificate of Authenticity is a document attesting to an item’s authenticity. They are commonly issued by a third party grading or authentication company “certifying” that an autograph is in fact legitimate or that an alleged “game-used or worn” item was in fact, worn/used by said player. Individual sellers can, and often do, issue there own C.O.A.’s, however, they carry very little value compared to those issued by a reputable third-party services in the hobby. (See Third-Party Services)

  • Related Term – Letter of Authenticity L.O.A: A more formally written letter detailing specifics of the item, opinion of the authenticator and is signed by the company’s president and the examining authenticator

Chase Set: Used in place of insert set by many non-sport or entertainment trading card companies.

Checklist: A listing of all of the cards contained in a product’s base, insert and subsets.

Chrome: The original metallic-like trading card stock manufactured by Topps.

COMC: An acronym for the website Check Out My Cards, which is an online marketplace where collectors can buy and sell cards.

Commemorative: A collectible created to acknowledge a historic event, record-breaking achievement, anniversary or other special event.

Collated: Refers to how trading cards are inserted and distributed during the pack out process of the entire product run before shipping from the manufacturing or printing facility.

  • Related Term – Collating: Often used to refer to the process of hand assembling a trading card base set.

Collector’s Corner: An online marketplace specializing in PSA-Certified items.

Collector Revolution: Another online marketplace designed as an alternative to eBay for collectors to buy and sell cards.

Common(s): A term used to describe the least expensive cards in a set. These can be player cards not belonging to a rookie, semi-star or star. They can also be used in reference to any non-insert or parallel card as well. The later being the more common use of the term in the modern collecting era. Common, can also be used to describe lesser known or desirable players in memorabilia sets such as silk blankets, bobbleheads or figures.

Condition: Used to describe the attributes of a trading card or collectible that contribute to its overall physical quality based on a condition scale (see below).

  • Related Terms –
    • Condition Issues: The specific physical flaws of a trading card or collectible that affect it’s overall condition and contribute to its overall value.
    • Specific Condition Issues –
      Condition Issues1. Centering: A Mint condition card is considered to have perfect centering which is conveyed as being 50/50 Top to Bottom and 50/50 Left to Right. The values adjust with the larger number indicating more border on one side than the other as in 70/30, 60/40, etc.


      2. Crease: A visible wrinkle in the card stock.


      3. Edge Wear: A condition that causes the edge of a trading cards to appear fuzzy or shows layering of the paper.


      4. Notching: Indentions on the edge of a trading card often caused by a group of cards being held together by a rubber band which was quite a common storage technique by kids in the 1950s and 1960s.

      5. Soft Corner(s): A condition in which the corners of a card display fraying or layering causing the card to have the appearance of a rounded corner.

  • Condition Scale: A series of terms used to describe an item’s condition in a decreasing scale of quality.
    • Mint (M), Near Mint (NM), Near-Mint Mint (NM-M), Excellent (EX), Very Good (VG), Good (G), Fair (F), Poor (P) (These terms have evolved through the years creating hybrid combinations and new terms altogether. See also Grading Scale.

Completist: A term used to describe a collector who pursues every example of a particular trading card or collectible.  As examples, people who build Master Sets (see below) would be considered completists as would player collectors that chase the Rainbow (see below) of parallels for a particular card.

Cut Case: A distribution method used by Topps to liquidate surplus cards during the mid-70s up to the early 1980s. These cards were cut from printing sheets and packed into a plain box devoid of any marketing. Cut cases consist of approximately 8,650 standard-sized trading cards. Unopened cut cases are extremely rare and in certain cases the cards can be very desirable as they do not contain wax and/or gum stains.

SP-LC---DiMaggio-AutoCut Signature: Also known as “Cuts” is an autograph on a small piece of paper, or one that has been “cut” from a larger document. On their own merit, they hold the lowest value of any autographed item. However, “Cut Signatures” are often used by sports card manufacturers to create special inserts, many of which are often one-of-a-kind. As a result, the low valued “Cut Signature” can be transformed into a rare and treasured collectible often carrying significant value.


Dealer: A term that refers to a person that buys and sells  trading cards and other related collectibles as a source of income. Several years ago this term was used strictly in referring to those people who set up tables at local card shows, ran mail order businesses, placed classified ads in newspaper advertising that they would be at specific geographic location on particular dates for the purpose of buying people’s collections.. However, with the advent of eBay and other online marketplaces, a large percentage of collectors have themselves become dealers, if only on a part-time basis.

Death Bump: A brief spike in the value of an athlete’s or celebrity’s trading cards and other collectibles following their death. This is a short-lived phenomenon and prices typically return to levels prior to their death.



Diamond Border or Cut: A trading card with a border design that does not run parallel to the edges of the card. The card itself is cut as normal, making the term a bit of a misnomer. The card pictured at the left (click to magnify) is a mini-Chrome card from 2010 Topps T-206 of legend Honus Wagner. As you can see the border design on the card has notching at the corners, and thus the term diamond cut.


Diamond Certified Dealer: A program created by trading card manufacturer Upper Deck to designate and reward dealers of Upper Deck product that meet certain distribution criteria and attain specified sales goals.

Die-Cut: A trading card that has had part of the card stock removed to create a specific shape, design or function, such as a stand-up. In today’s collecting era, such cards are used as inserts and are usually short-printed resulting in increased rarity to that of other cards in the set.


Ding: A “ding” is the term used to describe damage on the corner of a trading card. Dings  commonly occur as the result of  cards being mishandled. A card with such condition issues (see above) is obviously worth less than a card without a “ding”. The result of a ding is a bending of the corner or a fraying of the paper at the corner.

  • Related Term – Dinged Corner

Distributor: A wholesale specialist serving as a middleman between the manufacturer and the retailer that provides marketing support, sales promotions and other incentives to help drive product sales along the distribution chain.

  • Related Term(s) – Major Distributors: GTS Distribution, All-Sport Marketing, Peach State, Southern Hobby Supply, Magazine Exchange

Doctored/Doctoring: A term typically used to describe a trading card that has been altered to cover-up or eliminate a condition flaw. Cards can be “doctored” in several ways including, being: trimmed, built-up and flattened, the process of which is doctoring and is heavily frowned upon by hobby purists.

  • Related Terms –
    • Trimmed: The process of using a sharp-edge to remove soft/dinged corners or cutting the card to fit to a specific size or dimension.
    • Built-up: Using a corn starch paste to create an artificial corner for a trading card whose natural corner has been completely torn off.
    • Flattened: The process of crease removal using the back of a teaspoon to rub the card “flat”.

Donruss: A trading card manufacturer that began production of entertainment trading cards in the mid 1950s. They began production of sports cards in 1981. The company and brand changed hands several times and the intellectual property, including the Donruss name is now owned by Panini America.

* To learn more about Donruss, watch our video and read the corresponding article on the history of the company and brand.

Double Print (DP): A trading card that has two-times more cards than that of the other cards in the set. A typical trading card sheet consists of 132 cards. Depending on the number of total cards in the set, some cards are often included on the sheet more than once resulting in those cards being “double printed”.

Pinnacle Dufex


Dufex: A manufacturing technology patented, by the now defunct, Pinnacle Brands, Inc. It involves a reflective quality applied to a card with foil-like coating. This printing technology was widely used by Pinnacle across multiple product releases. It quickly became a favorite of collectors who appreciated the distinctive difference from that of other trading cards.


Dump or Product Dumping: The practice of quickly eliminating unwanted inventory by selling it at or below its cost. See also MAPP.


Embossed Mickey Mantle

Emboss, Embossed, Embossing: A printing process that actually presses an imaged, design or text into the paper of the card leaving an indentation.

Encapsulated: A card that has been sealed in a tamper-resistant, permanent plastic case. This typically occurs after grading or authentication. However in recent years, some higher-end sports cards products have been produced with the cards encapsulated at the trading card manufacturing facility and come packaged as such.


Entertainment Trading Cards: Trading cards that are printed without sports as the subject but instead entertainment subjects. These can include TV shows, movies, comic book characters, art and fantasy, models or anything that is non-sport related.

  • Related Term – Non-Sport Trading Cards: Used for years to describe entertainment cards and still used today. However there has been a bit of a switch in the hobby to define these trading cards by what they are (entertainment) and not what they are not (non-sport).

Ephemera:  Rerm used to describe any paper collectible such as trading cards, pictures, post cards, programs, year books, line-ups, etc.

1990 NNOF Frank ThomasError Card: A trading card that contains a mistake. Some of the more common errors include misspelled names, inaccurate statistical information or the wrong photograph. Often times, the error is caught before the entire print run has been completed. If the card with the mistake is corrected this is referred to as a Corrected Error Card. Depending on which card was printed in the smaller quantity determines which of the two cards may have any premium in value.

  • Related Term – No Name On Front (NNOF): Frank Thomas’ 1990 Topps baseball card originally contained a printing error that excluded his name. The error was quickly corrected but some of those Uncorrected Error Cards made their way into distribution and to this day carry a significant premium of the corrected version.

eTopps: An online trading card programed, created by Topps, designed to capitalize on the growing popularity of the Internet. They were first introduced to collectors in 2000. These cards were sold exclusively online through “IPOs” called an”Initial Player Offering”. These cards were only available for  a week and Topps only physically manufactured the number of cards purchased during the IPO period.

Exhibit Card: An over-sized trading card about the size of a postcard. They were produced and distributed by the Exhibit Card Company during the 1920s through 1960s.

Extended Rookie Card (XRC): A term manufactured by price guide publications to designate a player’s card that was issued his rookie year but not as part of a standard base set. The use of the term was typically applied to cards originating from limited edition traded or update sets that were popular in the hobby during the 1980s and early 1990s.


Facsimile Signature: An autograph that has been applied to a trading card using a stamp, or as part of the overall printing process. It is, in fact, a replica signature of the subject but was not applied to the card’s surface by the subject themselves.

Factory Set: A complete set of trading cards packaged by the manufacturer.  Factory sets typically carry a premium over hand-collated sets.

Factory Set

Flat: Used to describe memorabilia items to be autographed that are “flat” in nature. Examples include: posters, pennants, photographs, books and magazines, to name a few.

  • Related Term – Premium Item: An item to be autographed that is not a flat. Examples include: balls, jerseys and helmets.

Fleer: A now defunct, New Jersey based trading card company whose intellectual property is now owned by Upper Deck.

Foil: Shiny, metallic-like accents added to a trading card. Foil is added through an additional step in the printing process.

Foil Pack/Wrapper: Most modern trading cards are packaged in a metallic foil wrapper as opposed to wax wrappers used up until the early 1990s. The use of foil wrappers was first introduced by Upper Deck in 1989.

Food Issue: A trading card that was distributed as a premium with food products. Examples include Holsum Bread, Hostess and Post Cereal.

Forum: An online community designed for collectors to discuss the hobby, make trades, find information and have questions answered by peers.

  • Related Term(s) – Board or Message Board: Synonymous with forum.
    • Moderator: An individual who regulates a forum for abusive language, spam and other violations of the forum’s user policies.
    • Popular Message Boards: Sports Card Forum, Card Board Connection, Beckett, Freedom Cardboard, NET54, Traders Central, Blowout Cards

Full Bleed: A printing term used to describe a trading card that contains no border. The printing on the card (typically the photograph) extends in all four directions to the very edge of the cardboard.


Game-Used: A piece of memorabilia that has been used in a professional sporting event. These items can include, but are not limited to: bats, fielding gloves, batting gloves, bases, football pylons, hockey sticks, basketball nets, etc.

Game-Worn: A piece of memorabilia that has been worn by a player in an actual game. These items can include, but are not limited to: jerseys, hats, shoes, pads, etc.

  • Related Terms
    • Player-Worn: A piece of clothing or memorabilia that has been worn by a player but not in a game. This may be their draft day jersey, a jersey used in a photo shoot or an item held while taking a photo.
    • Photo shoot Worn: A piece of clothing or memorabilia worn/used, specifically and only, during a photo shoot. This typically occurs during a player’s draft day and rookie debut events.
    • Event Used: A memorabilia piece that has been worn or used at a specific event like a player’s draft day and rookie debut events.

Gavel Price: The final realized amount an item sells for at auction, not including the buyer’s premium (see above).

Gem Card: In recent years, some trading card manufacturers have begun to embed or affix actual genuine gemstones on certain trading cards including Panini’s Flawless brand of cards and Upper Deck’s Black Diamond Hockey. They can also be referred to as Jewel Cards.

2007 Topps Derek Jeter Bush variationGimmick Card: A derogatory term used by collectors to describe a card created by a trading card manufacturer that has little true collectability and was simply created to garner mainstream media attention or hype a new trading card set. The example show to the left, features a variation of Derek Jeter’s 2007 Topps card. If you look closely you can see a Photo-shopped (see below) image of President George W. Bush in the stands.

Gloss/Glossy: A card with a shiny luster. This is part of the printing process and typically is the result of applying an ultra-violet (UV) coating to the card.

Graded Card: A trading card that has been examined by a third-party service (see below) grading specialist for condition and assigned a specific numerical grade, that corresponds with the card’s physical condition.

Grading Company: An independent, third-party service  (see below) that specializes in examining cards for physical condition and assigning the card a corresponding numerical grade for the card. Today, the trading card market recognizes the following companies as industry leaders: Professional Sports Authenticators (PSA), Beckett Grading Services (BGS) and Sports Card Guaranty (SGC). Other reputable companies that collectors will encounter include Global Authentication Inc. (GAI) and International Sports Authentication (ISA).

Graded/Grading Card Scale: Each individual grading company bases their card grades on a numerical scale. All but one company uses a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest grade. SGC (see above) uses a 10 to 100 numerical scale. Each number on the grading scale corresponds to a card’s physical condition on the Condition Scale (See above.)

  • Related Term(s) –
    • Pristine: A term used by BGS to describe the highest possible grade, a 10
    • Gem Mint: A term used by PSA to describe the highest possible grade, a 10
      • Please refer to each company’s specific grading scale for more information.
  • Specific Graded Card Terms –
    • Qualifier: Condition issues that would otherwise render a card with a specific grade on its own merit.
      • Off-Center (OC): When the centering of a card falls below the minimum standard for that grade it is designated as “OC”.
      • Stained/Staining (ST): Cards with staining below the minimum standard for the grade are designated “ST”.
      • Print Defect (PD): Cards with significant printing defects are designated “PD”.
      • Out of Focus (OF): Cards with the focus of the photograph below the minimum standard are designated “OF”.
      • Marks (MK): Cards with writing, ink or pencil marks, or evidence of an impression left from having been written on are designated “MK”.
      • Miscut (MC): Cards that are cut in any manner in that they do not meet the standard dimension for that particular set will be considered to be “MC”.

Gravity Feed: A retail packaging method where individual packs are accessed through an opening at the bottom of the box. The boxes are tall and rectangular in nature and sealed at the top. They contain retail packs and hold 48, 72 or 96 packs.

Group Break: An opportunity for a “group” of collectors to come together online and split the cost of a box or case of cards and then divide the pulled cards amongst themselves in a manner which was previously agreed upon before the break begins.

  • Related Term(s) – Types of Group Breaks
    • Random Break: All teams are given a spot, for example in the NFL there are 32 teams, so for a NFL Random Team Break there would be 32 spots. Each spot purchased equals one NFL team. Once all 32 spots are filled, a list of all 32 NFL teams and a list of all 32 participants are randomized. The resulting lists are then paired so that each numbered team and participant are matched.
    • Pre-Priced Team: There is a pre-determined price for each team in the break. For example, the Chicago Bears may be priced at $99 but the Houston Texans priced at $25. Prices are based on the number of potential “hits” or high-value cards in the set along with the potential of the product’s checklist having a high number of HOF’ers, Stars, and Rookies.
    • Hit Draft: Some sports card products contain no base or insert cards and are comprised totally of just “hits”. So if there a total of 20 cards in a case, there can only be a maximum of 20 participants. As in the Random Break ( see above) a randomizer is used to set the draft order. Whomever is in the first position after the randomization process will get to pick first from the 20 cards that have been opened, with 2nd, 3rd, and so on picking in numerical order until the 20th pick gets the last remaining card.
    • Live Auction: All teams start at a minimum price and an auction is conducted in the break room by the host. Once all teams are auctioned off, the break will begin with participants receiving the cards of the team or teams they have won (and purchased) just as in a Random Team or Pre-Priced Team break.
    • Divisional: All divisions for the sport of the product being broken are included. This type of break can be done as either a random or draft style. Both styles would be conducted in the exact same manner as a traditional Random or Draft Break. Participants get ownership of all teams in that division for that break.
    • Team Draft: The draft order is determined using a randomizer. Whomever finishes in the number one spot gets the first pick in the draft. Once a participant is “on the clock” you simply pick a team from those teams remaining. Once you make the selection that is your team for that particular break.
    • Razz: A  group break where more team slots are allocated than actual teams. The legality of this type of break has been brought into question and many sites have abandoned the practice.

Gum StainGum Stain: A stain on a card caused by chewing gum. When gum was inserted in packs, it was placed between the wrapper and either the top or bottom card. If the packs remained unopened, over time, the gum would form a residual stain on the card significantly devaluing the card.



Hall of Fame Inductee: A player who has been inducted into their respective sport’s Hall of Fame.

  • Related Term(s) –  HOF’er, HOF: Hall of Fame player, Hall of Fame

Hanger Box: In recent years, hanger boxes have started to replace blaster boxes (see above) in many big box retailer store to conserve shelf space. Like blasters, they contain an assorted number of unopened packs and hang from a store display.

High Numbers: A term mostly associated with vintage cards printed before 1973, to describe the last, or near the last cards in a trading card set. These cards originate from the last print run and distribution of cards printed and released by series.

High Series:  Also known as a high number series or high number, a high series contains trading cards from the last series of cards printed and distributed for a set in a given year.

  • Further Explanation – For years, trading card manufacturers produced cards in several print runs and were distributed in what were referred to as “series”. As the result of waning interest towards the end of a particular sport’s season, later series were often printed in smaller quantities. As time continues to go by, cards originating from the last series, being more limited in supply, are often more valuable than other cards from the set.

Hit or Hit Card: A modern hobby term referring to higher-valued cards or those perceived to be of having a higher value than other cards pulled from a box of trading cards. These cards are typically those that are autographed, contain a piece of memorabilia or are significantly short-printed.

Hobby Box: A box of trading cards, exclusively packaged for distribution through approved online retailers and traditional card shops.

  • Related Term – Retail Box: Packaged for sale and distribution at large retail outlets and chains like Wal-Mart and Target. The contents of the two types of boxes often varies, with Hobby Boxes, typically, having better insert odds and sometimes different content altogether. In recent years, the buying power of these establishments has generated demand for Retail Only products or those with exclusive content.

Hobby Only/Exclusive: The terms are interchangeable and refers to a product, product content or packaging configuration designed exclusively for distribution through hobby channels.

Hologram CardHologram: A printing technology that creates a reflective, 3D-like effect. It can also refer to a specific hologram used in the authentication process. First introduced to the hobby in 1989 by Upper Deck as an anti-counterfeiting measure, other trading card and memorabilia companies also use holograms including Panini Authentic, Tristar Production and Onyx Authenticated to name a few.

Related Term – Hologram Card: A trading card consisting of entirely, or including a holographic image. The card pictured is a 1996 Pinnacle hologram card. It was produced for a promotion with the restaurant chain Denny’s and continue to be very popular with collectors to this day.

Home Team Advantage (HTA): A promotional program introduced by Topps in the late 1990s, usually involving specific pack types and products exclusively available at participating Hobby stores. It was one of the first programs to help support brick-and-mortar stores at a time when big box retailers started carrying trading cards.

Hot Box: A modern era trading card term that describes a box that contains either nothing but high-end, “hit” cards or additional, bonus content.

Hot Pack: This term has two different meanings depending on the era in which the pack was manufactured. 1) During the mid-1990s, the Fleer company would often include a pack that contained only inserts and no base cards. 2) In the present day hobby, a “hot pack” of trading cards is one that is guaranteed to contain either an autograph or memorabilia card. These packs are usually offered on eBay. How these packs can be guaranteed to contain such a card without first having been opened is subject for debate.

Hot Pack Listing


Industry Summit: An annually held tradeshow for the trading card industry. This B2B event evolved out of what used to be called The Hawaii Trade Conference. The event is used by manufactures to communicate upcoming releases and marketing initiatives and create dialogue with distributors and hobby shop owners.

Ink Analysis: An autograph authentication (see above) term used to describe the process of examining the ink used in a signature for authenticity to a specific time period. The ink used in writing instruments has obviously changed throughout the years. High-end autographed documents are examined for several factors including ink analysis. This is done to determine that the ink in the signature is one that would have been available when the item was alleged to be signed.

Inscribed/Inscription: A term used in autograph collecting where the subject, in addition to signing their name includes a specialized notation, such as a statistical achievement, nickname Hall of Fame induction year or personalization.

Pete Rose Autograph Inscription

Insert Card: In general, can be used to describe all non-base and non-parallel cards in a trading card set. These cards typically have their own themes, names, designs and numbering.

Insert Odds: Stated in terms of how many insert cards per the number of packs in which they are inserted, such as 1:4, 1:12, 1:24 – meaning one in four packs, one in twelve packs, one in twenty-four packs, etc.

Pack Odds

Issue: Used in reference to a trading card set and usually in conjunction with a manufacturer, as in “the 1975 Topps Mini issue”.


Jersey (JSY): The upper-body portion of a player’s uniform.

Jersey Card: A trading card that contains a piece of jersey material, often referred to as a swatch.

Joe DiMaggio Game Used Jersey Card


2102-13-Panini-Flawless-Damian-Lillard-RC-98-DiamondJewel Card: In recent years, some trading card manufacturers have begun to embed or affix actual genuine gemstones on certain trading cards including Panini’s Flawless brand of cards and Upper Deck’s Black Diamond Hockey. The can also be referred to as Gem Cards. To the left is Damian Lillard’s 2012-13 Panini Flawless Rookie Card. Only 20 of each base card were produced and each, contains a genuine diamond, located to the left of the card’s serial numbering (see below).


Jumbo Pack: A hobby exclusive trading card pack-out configuration that consists of substantially more cards than regular hobby or retail versions. The most common brands this configuration is used in are Topps and Bowman Baseball. These packs often contain 50-60 sports cards.

Junk Wax: A term used in reference to the majority of trading cards manufactured between the late 1980s and early 1990s. This was an era of over-production in the trading card industry, the likes of which the hobby had not seen up until that time or since. The cards from this era have little, if any, monetary value.

Just Minors: A now defunct baseball trading card manufacturer that specifically printed trading cards sets consisting of minor league teams and their players.


Key: A term used to designate the most important cards in a set, players on a checklist or rookies in a draft class year.

Krause: An longtime hobby publisher, Krause produces the annual ‘Standard Catalogs’ of sports cards along with memorabilia price guides and weekly issues of Sports Collector’s Digest (SCD). The Krause company is now a subsidiary of F+W Media.


Leaf: A trading card manufacturer whose origins dates back to the 1930s. The company was bought out in the 1980s and changed hands several times eventually becoming part of Panini America’s stable of brands in 2009. Panini let the Leaf trademark lapse and it was quickly picked up by upstart Razor Entertainment. The company now operates as Leaf Trading Cards.

Lenticular: A printing technology which causes a 3D-like effect allowing the image or images to have the appearance of movement when viewed at different angles. To create this effect, a small, ribbed, plastic lens is used to produce images that give the illusion of having depth.

Licensed: A trading card that carries with it the official endorsement and authorized usage rights from a respective sports licensing body like the NBA, NFL, NHL or MLB.

Limited Edition: A term often used by trading card manufactures and memorabilia companies in an attempt to imply scarcity of an item. The value of a limited edition item is commiserate with the exact number produced. If the supply of the item exceeds demand, the card or item will result in having little or sometimes no value.

Limited Production Run: A term often used by a trading card manufacturer to describe a product’s total print run when it is considerably smaller than that of the company’s other trading card products.

Live Ink: A term used to describe real ink that has been applied to an item and not from a stamp or photocopy.

LoupeLoupe: Also called a jewelers loupe. A small, high- powered magnifying tool that can be used to examine autographs, jersey stitching, printing patterns on trading cards and other printed items. Some premium loupes contain an ultra-violet light that can be used to uncover the presence of card doctoring (see above).


Lot: An auction term typically used to describe a number of items up for bid, like trading cards. The cards, or other items, may be the same type or they may be an assorted variety.

Low Series: Low series or low number cards originate from the first print run of cards distributed for a set in a given year. Production and distribution of these cards was generally greater than later series as they were the first run of cards available to the public for that sports season when demand was the highest.


Manufacturer: A company that produces trading cards or memorabilia in the sports and entertainment collectibles market.

  • Related Term(s) – Companies both past and present.
    • Current Companies: Leaf Trading Cards, Onyx Authenticed, Panini America, Tristar, Topps, Upper Deck
    • Past Companies (Post-War): Bowman, Donruss, Fleer, In the Game, O-Pee-Chee, Parkhurst, Pinnacle, Playoff, Score, Scoreboard, Skybox
    • Past Companies (Pre-War): American Tobacco Company, Old Judge, Allen & Ginter, Exhibit, Sporting Life (to name a few)

ManurelicManufactured Relic: A non-game used or player worn item that is physically manufactured by the producing company and included as a premium or insert in a trading card product. In recent years, these have included pins, coins, plaques, rings and charms, all of which are embedded in the trading card and are limited in nature.

  • Related Terms – Manufactured Patch: A manufactured relic that consists of a fabric related material, often embroidered to commemorate an event, player, team, year, etc.

Master Set: An entire print run of cards from a product including all base, parallel and insert cards including autographs and memorabilia.

  • Related Term – Mini-Master Set: An entire print run of cards from a product including all base, parallel and insert cards but excluding autographs and memorabilia. (Many collectors also use the term excluding the parallels as well.)

Minimum Advertised Pricing Program (MAPP): A pricing enforcement policy instituted by trading card manufacturers to prohibit the “dumping” of product at or below direct dealer or wholesale cost. This program sets the lowest price an authorized reseller can sell a product for during a specific period of time.

McFarlane Sportspicks


McFarlane Sportspicks: A line of sports action figures manufactured by McFarlane Toys. The company produces figures for all four major sports (NBA, NFL, NHL, MLB), popular entertainment properties and formerly NASCAR as well.


Memorabilia Authentication: The market and demand for genuine, game-used and game worn (see above) uniforms, jerseys, bats, balls, helmets and other memorabilia has exploded in recent years. Special services examine such items to determine that they are in fact genuine and authentic.

Memorabilia Card: A card that contains a piece of player related equipment, DNA, venue item or other authentic items in some way related to the player or subject depicted on the card. The item is actually embedded in the card. They are also referred to as Relic Cards.

  • Related Term(s) –
    • See Also: Game-Used, Game-Worn and Event Used
    • Bat Card: A memorabilia or relic card containing a piece of a baseball bat. The piece is sometimes referred to as a bat “chip”.
    • Bat Barrel Card: A memorabilia or relic card displaying a section of the bat’s barrel. This is typically the section where the player’s name or bat model is printed.
    • Bat Knob Card: A rare memorabilia or relic card that contains the knob of a baseball bat’s handle section.
    • Coin Card: A memorabilia card containing an actual piece of currency in coin form.
    • Jersey Card: A trading card that contains a piece of jersey material, often referred to as a swatch.
    • Jersey Swatch: Typically used in reference to a single color section of jersey material or non-patch section of a player’s jersey.
    • Jumbo: An over-sized jersey swatch or patch that typically takes up the majority of the trading card’s landscape.
    • Nameplate Card: A card containing a letter from the player’s actual jersey nameplate from the back of their uniform.
    • Patch Card: A jersey card containing a section of a multi-color portion of a player’s jersey. These are often from logos, numerals, name plates or other sections of the jersey.
    • Prime: A piece of memorabilia usually containing the most limited pieces of a jersey such as laundry and advertiser tags.
    • Stamp Card: A memorabilia card that contains an actual postage stamp.

Metal/Metallic: A card that is printed with a technology that mimics or actually consists of a metal finish.

Mini: A non traditional card size. The most popular of these are from the 1975 Topps test issue (see below). The concept has been used in recent years to create mini-parallels to traditional sized cards within a set and even entire mini-sized sets.

Mini-Bat: A small scale replica baseball bat often used for the purpose of having autographed.

Mini Bat Autographed Joe Mauer

Mini-Helmet: A small scale replica football helmet often used for the purpose of having autographed.

Mini Helmet Autographed Peyton Manning
Minor League Card:
Cards that depict players still in the minor leagues. This typically applies to baseball cards only.

  • Related Term – Prospect Card: A card of a player who has not yet made a major league roster but instead plays in the organization’s minor league system.

Mint On Card (MOC): A term used to describe the packaging of a sports or entertainment related action figure like Starting Lineups (see below) or McFalane Sportspicks (see above).

Multi-Media Cards: In recent years trading card manufactures have experimented with incorporating digital media with traditional trading cards.

  • Related Term(s) –
    • Video Card or Video Trading Card: Produced by both Panini (HRX) and Upper Deck (Evolution) in 2012, the “cards” consist of a tiny monitor that plays a video highlight corresponding to the subject of the card.
    • Power Deck: A CD-ROM designed to be played on a PC that shows the subjects statistics, biography and video highlights.

Multiplier: A price guide term used to express a card’s given value against a more common type of card. This is done to save space in the publication. An example would be: 1965 Semi-Stars 2x, meaning they are twice the value of a common base card (see above).


National (The): The National Sports Collectors Convention is an annual sports card and memorabilia show that began in 1989. It is the largest show of its kind in terms of size of the venue, number of exhibitors, corporate partners and attendees. In recent years the show has rotated between Chicago, Cleveland, Baltimore and Atlantic City.

New In Box (NIB): Used to describe any type of memorabilia, toy, or novelty item whose original packaging consists of a box.

Notching: Indentions on the edge of a trading card often caused by a group of cards being held together by a rubber band. (See condition issues above).

Non-Sport Update Magazine


Non-Sport Update (NSU): A bi-monthly hobby publication and price guide (see below) that focuses on non-sports trading cards or entertainment trading cards (see above).


No Purchase Necessary (NPN): An offer made to consumers to have the same odds of receiving an insert card contained in a trading card product without having to physically purchase the product. These offers came into existence to adhere to various laws regarding sweepstakes as any product containing “odds” falls into a category where sweepstakes terms are applicable. Each manufacturer prints the terms of their own NPN program on trading card wrappers.


Numbering: The card number affixed to the back of a trading card indicating its order in its respective set.

  • Related Term – Serial Numbering: Usually stamped in foil on the card indicating its exact print run and represented as xx/xxx, with the first set of numbers indicating the exact card’s serial number and the second set of numbers showing the total number of cards of that type printed. Serial numbering is most commonly used on parallels and insert cards.

Serial number


Oddball: A non-traditional sports or entertainment collectible that doesn’t fall into a typical category like normal cards, or other commonly collected items. Examples include, but are not limited to: beer or soda cans, food related items, product premiums and other unique collectible. A small sampling of examples is pictured below.

On-Card: A term used to describe an autographed card whose signature is directly on the card and not on a sticker label affixed to the card.

  • Related Term(s) –
    • Hard-Signed: Another term synonymous with On-Card.
    • Sticker Auto, Sticker Autograph: An autographed trading card that has a sticker or label signed by the card subject affixed to the card as compared to being signed “on-card” or hard-signed”
    • Below, the card on the left has an on-card autograph and the card on the right a sticker autograph.

One-of-One: A one-of-a-kind trading card, typically serial numbered as such with the designation 1/1, meaning that there is only one of that exact trading card in existence.

Online Retailer:  A trading card and memorabilia reseller that sells almost exclusively online through their own website or a secondary market like eBay. In some cases they may also have a physical retail store as well.

  • Related Term(s) – Major Online Retailers: Atlanta Sports Cards, Blowout Cards, Dave and Adams Card World (DACW), Steel City Collectibles


Pack: A group of cards packaged for sale by a manufacturer.

Pack SearcherPack Searcher: A person who physically handles all of the packs in a retail box trying to locate the pack containing the “hit card”. This typically happens at big box retailers and is a practice that is generally frowned upon as it removes the fun of the chase for other collectors. Trading card manufacturer Upper Deck has taken steps to help educate big box retailers about the practice and ways in which it can be discouraged.


Paper Analysis: Much like ink analysis (see above) paper analysis can be another important step in document authentication. Paper is a very individualized medium with distinct characteristics. Professional examiners can determine if a particular paper is from an era when the item is alleged to have been signed.

Parallel: A card that is similar in design to its counterpart from a base set but offers a distinguishing quality. This can be in the former of border color, texture, card material, printing technology employed among other characteristics.

Penny SleevesPenny Sleeve: A thin plastic pocket used as the first level of card protection. They can also be inserted into a top loader (see below) for further protection. Penny sleeves are inexpensive and come in quantities of 100 to a package.


Personal Collection (PC): A term used in the modern hobby to describe cards that a collector is typically not willing to sell or trade. These cards belong to the focus of a person’s collection.

Photo-matching: A process used in authenticating memorabilia where the item is compared to photographs taken at the time of the items alleged use. Authenticators look for matching wear and tear, lettering and logo placement and other criteria in helping to determine if a piece is in fact authentic. Photo-matching was used to help authenticate this Payton Manning jersey to a game played on October 9th, 2005.

Panning Jersey

Photo-shopped: A term used to describe the process of altering a digital image using Adobe’s Photoshop software. As this relates to the hobby, the process is sometimes used to create images used on a trading card that aren’t at all genuine.

Pocket PagesPocket Sheets/Pages: A protective sheet that holds trading cards. These sheets are archival quality with no acids or PVCs and provide ultra-violet protection. They come in dimensions to fit in a standard three ring binder and can be purchased in configurations to hold standard cards, exhibit cards, tobacco cards, 8×10 photographs and other additional sized ephemera (see above). They are designated as 9-pocket sheets for standard cards.

Population Report: The number of cards that have been graded by a specific grading company. It is also used in expressing the number of cards receiving a specific grade. Below is a sampling of the PSA Population Report for Michael Jordan’s legendary 1986 Fleer RC.

PSA Population Report

Premium: Can mean an additional item included with a box of trading cards like a box-topper (see above). It can also mean an increased value placed on a card or item from a set due to various influencing factors including rarity, condition issues (see above) etc.

Pre-War/Post-War: World War II serves as the dividing line for many collectibles and are often referred to with one of these designations.

Standard CatalogPrice Guides: Third party publications, either in print or online that provide collectors with an estimated value of a trading card according to the current market. Prices are accumulated on an ongoing basis from online marketplaces and traditional hobby shops. These card values are often referred to as book value (see above).

Related Term – OPG: Stands for Online Price Guide. A more extensive offering of card values than are printed in monthly hard copies.

Printing Plates


Printing Plate(s): In recent years the actual plates used in the printing process have become collectibles in and of themselves. Each trading card in a set is made using four (4) individual plates in the following colors: Black, Cyan, Magenta & Yellow. These plates are often inserted into packs and are serial numbered 1/1. Pictured here are the four printing plates used to print Jose Reyes’ 2007 Topps Moments & Milestones, card #66.


Prism: A card that displays a metallic like quality with a bright and shiny design that creates an appearance that refractors or disperses light.

Prismatic: A Prism card (above) manufactured by the modern Leaf Trading Cards company.

Prizm: A term used by Panini America to describe their own type of specific parallel cards. They also use it as its own brand name. The cards display a metallic like quality with a bright and shiny design that creates an appearance that refractors or disperses light.

mars-attacks-invasion-mars-attacks-invasion-promo-cardPromotional Card: A card produced by a manufacturer and distributed free to collectors through various methods to promote an upcoming trading card release. Their smaller print runs often result in them carrying a premium (see above). The practice used to be employed by sports cards manufacturers on a regular basis but are now more often produced by entertainment trading card manufactures. Also referred to as a Promo Card.

Prop Card or Prop Relic: A type of memorabilia card found in entertainment trading card products containing a piece of a prop from a movie or TV show.

Prop Card

Prospect Card: A card of a player who has not yet made a major league roster but instead plays in the organization’s minor league system. (Also see Minor League Card.)

Puzzle Card: A card with a back that consists of a part of a picture which when joined with other puzzle cards reveals a complete picture. These were first utilized by Donruss after a court ruled that only Topps had the right to distribute trading cards with gum. Pictured below is the 1981 Babe Ruth Great Moments completed puzzle and puzzle card.


Qualifier: In some cases, a card will be designated with a qualifier. A “qualified” card is a card that meets all the criteria for a particular grade, but fails to meet that standard in one specific area. As an example, a card which has all the qualities of a NM-MT 8, but is centered 90/10 left to right, will receive a grade of NM-MT 8 (OC). The (OC) is the qualifier.

  • See also Grading Scale and Specific Grading Card Terms


Rack Pack: A trading card packaging configuration generally distributed for sale through retail channels. Rack packs hang from a store display and look similar to three single packs of cards all attached together. The quantity of the cards contained in a rack pack varies by sport and manufacturer but always contains more than a single pack of cards.

Rainbow: The complete series of all the possible parallel colors of a player’s specific card.

Randy Moss Chrome Rainbow Parallels

Rare: A card or series of cards of very limited availability making them hard to obtain.  The term is very subjective and today is used all too liberally to hype a card’s value.  It should be noted that when using the term in reference to vintage trading cards, “rare” cards are harder to obtain than scarce (see below) cards.

Rated Rookie


Rated Rookie: A baseball card term originally used by the Donruss company to designate a top tier rookie player. Rated Rookie remains in the hobby lexicon as part of the Donruss brand of baseball cards now owned by Panini America.


Raw: A card that has not been encapsulated by a grading or authentication company.

Raw Card ReviewRaw Card Review: A service provided by Beckett Grading Services, onsite at sports card shows. The card is examined and a label with a number grade is applied sealing the card in a top loader. The card is not considered to be graded until it is encapsulated but provides the collector with an idea of what the grade would be if graded. The price of the Raw Card Review service is less than that for having the card fully graded.


Re-colored/Re-Coloring: The practice of fraudulently re-coloring the surface of a trading card to hide wear or physical damage.

Redemption CardRedemption: A program established by multiple card manufacturers that temporarily substitutes a card that should be in the product for the right to redeem that card when it is available from the manufacturer. The practice became necessary in the 2000s as the demand for autographed cards increased. Often times, manufacturers are left to the mercy of athletes to return their contracted autographs and must wait to fulfill those redemptions until the cards are returned. However, the manufacturers cannot wait an indefinite time to release the product in which the cards are supposed to be contained, resulting in the practice of including a redemption card.

Refractor: Similar to a Prism Card (see above). A card that utilizes a printing technology that produces a visual effect that refracts and disperses light in a manner that produces a prism or rainbow-like effect. The process has become very popular with modern trading card manufactures as a result of increased demand for these types of cards from collectors. Topps was the first trading card company to utilize this dynamic printing process.

  • Related Terms – Refractor Types: In the wake of the continued popularity of Refractor Cards, several different types exist and are usually incorporated into the creation of a trading card set with varying degrees of rarity.
    • X-Fractor: The next most common type of Refractor after the regular version.
    • SuperFractor: An ultra-rare, one-of-a-kind card, serial numbered 1/1 and often times extremely valuable.
      • In addition to those listed above, there are several other versions that vary by product.
        • Below are different Refractors from Topps Chrome


Release Date: A term used by trading card manufacturers to denote when a new trading card product is scheduled to be available to the public. These dates are often fluid as a result of unforeseen circumstance in the manufacturing process.

  • Related Term – Street Date: As in the date a product “hits the street” or is available in stores.

Repackaged Seller: During the second decade of the 2000s, several companies sprung up in response to the growing popularity of group case breaking (see above). The increase in collector demand for “hits” or higher-value trading cards coincided with the group break phenomenon. Responding to these market conditions, companies began to purchase high-end cards on the secondary market (see below) and repackaging them in all new products. The most popular and successful of these companies is Super Products and their line of Super Break products. The company is an offshoot of South Bay Cards a California based hobby shop.

Reprint: A card that has been purposely reproduced of an original, usually more expensive, card or set.

Retail Box: Packaged for sale and distribution at large retail outlets and chains like Wal-Mart and Target. The contents of the two types of boxes often varies, with Hobby Boxes, typically, having better insert odds and sometimes different content altogether. In recent years, the buying power of these establishments has generated demand for Retail Only products or those with exclusive content.

  • Related Term – Hobby Box: A box of trading cards, exclusively packaged for distribution through approved online retailers and traditional card shops.

Retail Only/Exclusive: The terms are interchangeable and refers to a product, product content or packaging configuration designed exclusively for distribution through retail channels.

Rookie Card (RC): Designates a player’s first officially licensed trading card after making the roster for one of the four major sports professional teams at the major league level MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL.

Rookie Premier/Rookie Showcase: An event hosted by the sport’s specific player’s association for the purpose of introducing newly drafted players to the media and trading card manufacturers.

  • Related Term(s) –
    • RPA: Rookie Premier Autograph
    • RPS: Rookie Premier Signature
    • RPM: Rookie Premier Materials


SASE: Stands for Self-Addressed Stamp Envelope, a term used in collecting autographs Through the Mail or TTM (see below).

Scarce: A card or series of cards with limited availability .  The term is very subjective and today is used all too liberally to hype a card’s value.  It should be noted that when using the term in reference to vintage trading cards, “scarce” cards are easier to obtain than “rare” (see above) cards.

Secondary Market: Usually referring to an online marketplace like eBay or Check Out My Cards (see above).

Semi-High: A card from the next-to-last series of a numbered and issued set.  It has more value than an average card and generally less value than a high-number.  A card can only be called semi-high if the series in which it exists has a corresponding premium (see above) attached to it.

Serial numberSerial Number: A card produced in a specific quantity and numbered with the notation XX/XXX indicating that the cards is number XX of a total of XXX that were produced. Serial numbering used to apply specifically to parallel cards but now many “hit” cards and even base cards are often accompanied by the designation. The card pictured is serial numbered in the upper left-hand corner, 4/5.


Series: A group of cards that are a part of a larger set and released together at a specified time. Up until 1974, Topps issued cards in several series, which were released throughout the sport’s regular season.

  • Related Term(s) – See also High-Series, High-Number and Semi-High

Set: Usually referred to synonymously with Base Set (see above).

Shill-bidding: An illegal practice where a seller bids on his own item, or an item consigned to him, in order to increase the sale price. This can also be done by a proxy on behalf of the owner or consigner.

Short-Print (SP): A base-set card that is printed in lesser quantity than other cards in the set. Once occurring because of necessity, given the number of cards on a printing sheet and the total number of cards in a set, manufactures now do this to spur additional sales as collectors purse completion of the set.

Skip-Number: A major sports card or trading card set that consists of many un-issued cards numbered between the lowest number in the set and the highest number in the set. This can happen for several reasons both intentional and unintentional on the part of the trading card manufacturer.

Slabbing/Slabbed: The process of encapsulating a card for protection and tamper resistance after it has been graded and/or authenticated.

Sports Card Album: A popular website that allows collectors to upload images of their collection and list them to eBay.

Sports Collector’s Digest: A weekly hobby publication originally published by Krause (see above) but now run by F+W Media.



Sports Marketing Report (SMR): A monthly hobby publication published by Professional Sports Authenticators (PSA). It contains updates to the population reports (see above) for key cards (see above).




Stand-Ups:  A type of card that was die-cut allowing the player’s picture to be separated from the background section. The card can then be folded in half, so the card could “stand up”. The example on the left is a 1964 Topps Stand-up of Chicago Cubs Hall of Famer, Ernie Banks.


Star Rookie: A term used by Upper Deck to describe a potential young star and their first Upper Deck card. The term is used in their line of baseball, basketball and football cards.

Starting Lineup (SLU): A series of plastic action figures depicting sports athletes manufactured by Kenner and then Hasbro, between 1988 and 2001.

Sticker Autograph: An autograph signature applied to a sticker or label which is then applied to a trading card. (See also On-Card above.)

Sticker Dump: A term used by collectors to describe a product whose purpose appears to be to liquidate a trading card company’s inventory of surplus autograph stickers.

Subset: Can be used to refer to a themed number of trading cards within a product’s base set or to be used synonymously with insert set (see above).

  • Related Term – Topical Subset: Synonymous with subset.


T.C.G.: An acronym for Topps Gum Company which is often seen on older sports cards and non-sports cards.

Team Bag: A small plastic bag with a sealed strip used to store trading cards. The can safely fit about 25 cards, thus the term “team bag”.

Team Card: A sports card depicting a picture of an entire team.

Team Set: All the cards from a sports card set consisting of players from a specific team.



Test Issue: A small print or manufacturing run of trading cards or other collectible that are released for sale in a small market on a trial basis. The practice was used for several years by Topps to test product demand before releasing the product nationally. One of the most famous Topps test issues is the 1975 Topps minis. They are highly sought after by collectors, even to this day. The example on the left is a 1967 Topps Disc. They were only released in Maryland.


Third Party Services: These are businesses in the sports card and sports memorabilia industry that provide support services to collectors, dealers and retailers. These services include card grading, autograph authentication, image hosting, pricing information and memorabilia authentication (see above). An online marketplace where sports cards are traded like stock.

Tiffany Set: A premium factory set of Topps, Topps Traded and Bowman sets produced between 1984-1991. These sets were printed in much smaller quantities than traditional sets. The cards were printed on a premium white card stock with a glossy UV coating.

Topps Tiffany and Regular

Tobacco Card: A card that was issued with packs of cigarettes. It’s purpose was two-fold. It was used as a marketing tool but also had the physical benefit of serving as a stabilizer within the pack, which would help prevent the cigarettes from being crushed.

Top-Loader: A hard plastic holder for storing single trading cards. They are available in rigid and semi-rigid varieties and a multitude of thicknesses.

Traded Set: A trading card set released late into or after the regular season containing players who were traded to another team during the season and players called up from the minors in September. They were typically issued in factory form.

  • Related Term(s) – Update Sets, Updates & Highlights: In recent years the term “Traded Set” was replaced in exchange for a term that was more all encompassing of these late season sets. The addition of cards depicting postseason highlights, statistical standout performances and record breaking achievements made the name change necessary from a marketing perspective.

1989 Topps Traded Set

Trading Card Game (TCG): A trading card product designed for use in playing a game.

  • Related Term – Collectible Card Game: Synonymous with TCG.


Tuff Stuff Magazine


Tuff Stuff: An out-of-print magazine formerly published by Krause (see above) that contained information about all sports and entertainment trading cards. It was published at a time when the company’s main competitor, Beckett, was publishing sports specific magazines, requiring collectors to purchase multiple titles to get information about every sports card category.



Ultra-Pro: A manufacturer of trading card and collectibles storage supplies and items used to display such items.

Uncut Sheet: A printed sheet of trading cards that has not been cut into individual cards by the manufacturer.

UV Coating: A protective layer applied to the surface of trading cards to prevent them from color fading as a result of ultra-violet rays from the sun.


Variation (VAR):  A card that is, in someway, subtly different from the same cards in any set. These variations can include, but are not limited to characteristics such as: a different color background or lettering, a corrected error, a name misspelling or photo variation. Below is an example of a color variation in Mickey Mantle’s 1969 Topps baseball card. Notice the letters of his name are in white on the card on the left, which is the more rare, variation, and the regular yellow letters on the right.



Vending Box

Vending Box: A box of  trading cards that were packaged by the manufacturer for distribution to be used in vending machines. Later, these were more often used by dealers who would collate (see above) the boxes into sets for sale to the public. Vending boxes usually contain around 500 trading cards.

Related Term – Vending Case:  Packaged for wholesale distribution, vending cases contain 24 Vending Boxes which equates to  12,000 cards.


Vintage: A subjective term used to describe older sports cards and entertainment trading cards. Some people refer to anything printed before 1973 as vintage. This was the last year that Topps issued cards in more than just a couple of series. Other people consider anything produced prior to 1970 to be vintage.


Wardrobe Card: A memorabilia card from a modern entertainment trading card set that contains a piece of a costume worn on the set of a TV show or movie by an actor or actress.

  • Related Term – Costume Card: Synonymous with Wardrobe Card.

Want List: A list kept by a collector designating cards he or she “wants” for their personal collection (see above).

Wax Pack

Wax: A general term used to describe trading cards either as a single pack or a box full of packs. Even though manufactures today use different packaging types, the generic term “wax” has remained part of the hobby vernacular.

Wax Pack: The original packaging used to seal trading cards in was colored wax paper.


Wax Stain: Overtime, unopened wax packs would often cause the top and/or bottom cards of the pack to pickup a wax residue that would seep into the paper of the trading card causing a stain.

Whale: A term used to describe a hobby shop’s top customer(s) in terms of dollars spent on sports cards, entertainment trading cards, memorabilia or other inventory on a regular and ongoing basis. These customers often represent a significant percentage of a stores overall sales revenue.

White-Whale: A collector created term used to describe an always elusive card on their personal want list (see above). The card is often very rare or very expensive.


XRC: A term manufactured by price guide publications to designate a player’s card that was issued his rookie year but not as part of a standard base set. The use of the term was typically applied to cards originating from limited edition traded or update sets that were popular in the hobby during the 1980s and early 1990s.




Young Guns: A term used by Upper Deck to describe a hockey player’s rookie card (see above). Young Guns are short-printed (see above) and have proven to hold there value very well despite not being serial numbered or autographed. This is a rare occurrence in the modern hobby.


Acronyms & Abbreviations

Acronyms & Abbreviations

In addition to the sports card collecting terms and definitions outlined, additional trading card abbreviations and acronyms are also frequently seen in price guides, message boards, books and magazine articles. To insure collectors have a proper understanding of what these may refer to, we have provided a listing below. Many of these will specifically apply to Topps baseball card inserts or monikers still used by old-school dealers and collectors when referencing specific sets, cards and insert types.


AL: American League.
ALCS: American League Championship Series
AS: All-Star card
ATG: All-Time Greats
ATL: All-Time Leaders
AW: Award Winner


BC: Bonus Card
BF: Bright Futures
BL: Blue Letters


C: Canadian Tobacco cards designation as in C46 or C55
CC: Curtain Call
CG: Cornerstones of the Game
CL: Checklist card
CO: Coach
COMM: Commissioner
COOP: Cooperstown
COR: Corrected Card
CP: Changing Places
CT: Cooperstown
CY: Cy Young Award


DD: Decade of Dominance
DK: Diamond Kings. A popular insert card originally produced by Donruss using the art of legendary artist Dick Perez.
DL: Division Leaders
DP: Double Print
DT: Dream Team


ERR: Error card


FC: Fan Club
FDC: First Donruss Card
FDP: First or First-Round Draft Pick
FF: Future Foundation
FF: Fleer Future
FP: Franchise Player
FR: Franchise
FS: Father/son card
FS: Future Star
FTC: First Topps Card
FY: First Year


GG: Gold Glove Award
GG: Griffey Gallery (Upper Deck)
GL: Green Letters
GM: Golden Moments
GOTG: Greats of the Game


HG: Heroes of the Game
HH: Hometown Heroes
HL: Highlight card
HOR: A trading card that has a horizontal orientation as compared to the more common vertical orientation
HRD: Home Run Derby


IA: In Action card. A popular Topps insert card from the 1970s and early 1980s.
IF: Infielder


LL: League Leaders
LUM: Lumberjack


MB: Master Blasters
MEM: Memorial card
MG: Manager
MI: Maximum Impact
ML: Major League
MLP: Major League Prospects
MM: Memorable Moments or  Magic Moments
MOG: Measure of Greatness


NAU: No autograph on card
NG: Next Game
NH: No-Hitter
NL: National League
NLCS: National League Championship Series
NNOF: No name on front
NOF: Name on Front
NT: Now and Then


OF: Outfield or Outfielder
OJ Cards: Old Judge Cards
OLY: Olympics Card
OPC: O-Pee-Chee


P: Pitcher or pitching pose
P1: First Printing
P2: Second Printing
P3: Third Printing
PF: Profiles
PG: Postseason Glory
PP: Power Passion, Power Play
PR: Printed name on back
PRES: President
PROS: Prospects
PS: Pace Setters
PT: Power tools
PV: Pro Visions
PVC: Polyvinyl chloride. A substance used to make inferior trading card protection products.


RB: Record Breaker
PSH: Post Season Highlights
RT: Round Trippers
ROY: Rookie of the Year
RP: Relief Pitcher
RR: Rated Rookies (Donruss, Panini)
RTC: Rookie True Colors


SA: Super Action card
SB: Stolen Bases
SCR: Script name on back
SF: Starflics
SG: Spirit of the Game
SH: Season Highlights
STP: Star Power


TBC: Turn Back The Clock
TC: Team Checklist
TL: Team Leaders
TP: Triple Print A card printed in 3x the quantity than those of other card inn the same set.
TR: Trade reference on card
TR: Prefix associated with the card number on Topps Traded sets
TS: Team Stars


UER: Uncorrected Error
UH: Prefix associated with the card number on Topps Update and Highlights baseball card sets.
UMP: Umpire
USA: Team USA trading card
UWS: United We Stand


WC: What’s the Call?
WL: White Letters on front
WS: World Series card
WS: World Stage (Upper Deck)


YL: Yellow letters
YR: Year of the Record (Upper Deck)
YT: Yellow team name







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