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Friday 10th of September 2021 03:29:11 AM

Trading Card Glossary

With the trading card market skyrocketing PriceGuide.Cards welcomes all newcomers to the hobby. We have put together a comprehensive glossary to help you navigate the world of trading cards. There might even be a few terms long time collectors are not familiar with. If you can spot any terminology we have missed out please get in touch via the contact form.


1 of 1’ cards

A ‘1 of 1’ means that it is the only one in existence. Due to their rarity, these can be the most valuable cards in a collection, but not necessarily so.



Autograph card

This is a card which features the signature of the featured player. However, some publishers may get a player to sign sheets of 'sticker autographs' and then apply a signed sticker onto or into a card in order to class it as an 'Autograph card' in a collection of their choice. Some publishers may use 'printed' signatures (digital representation of a player’ signature) which are not signed on-card by the player..

An ‘on-card autograph’ means the player has actually signed on the card, a ‘sticker autograph’ is where the player has signed a sticker/sheet of sticker which are later stuck onto the card by the publisher. A few publishers give details on the card such as the date and location of where the player actually signed the card, but this is rare.

Autograph cards are normally individually-numbered which will let the collector know how rare they are.



Base Card

This is a card from a collection's main set (Base set). Base, or regular, cards normally have a number in accordance with the set's checklist. Checklists may list players in alphabetical order with a corresponding sequential card number, but this isn't always the case. Base cards tend not to be individually numbered in relation to their print run as the base set is generally produced in large quantity, but if the base set is from a Limited Edition release, it's possible that there could also be an individual number printed or foil-stamped onto the card showing how many were produced. Although not generally considered of great value in comparison with the inserts/ 'chase cards' within a collection, collectors like to collect and sell complete base sets.

Blank back

This is a card that has no printing on the card’s back. This may be intentional by the publisher, or as the result of a printing error. If a printing error, they may be deemed more sought-after as a collector’s item.

Box break

This can mean the process of opening a box of trading cards, or the content expected from a particular box of cards.


A free card or item included in a box of trading cards.



Cabinet card

From the 19th/early 20th century, oversized trading cards (5” x 7” and 8” x 10”) were commonly produced on thick board and available through mail-order. Display cabinets became popular pieces of furniture where a family would set out favourite items such as framed photos, ornaments, as well as displaying their trading cards, thus the term ‘Cabinet card’ evolved.

Card number

This is the number given to a card to show its order in its respective set.


This is a list of cards making up the collection which is published by the Trading Card Publisher. It lists the card numbers that have been printed on the featured players’ cards in line with the sets they appear in, and collectors use the checklist to guide them towards building and completing a set or collection.

Commemorative card

Commemorative cards are created to celebrate specific sporting achievements or events relating to the player, club/team or other special celebration. These cards are often limited edition, individually-numbered and presented in sets.

Cut signature

This term generally refers to a signature on a small piece of paper which had been ‘cut’ from a larger document or item. Although in earlier times a cut autograph may have commanded less value than a signature written directly onto a printed card, if it is released as a ‘1 of 1’ card (one of its kind), its potential value may be considerable.

Case hit

Some publishers guarantee a particular high-value or rare card in every case. These cards are referred to as “case hits”.

Card stock

The material a trading card is made of.


Metallic-type material providing a shiny finish.


The process of mixing and inserting cards across a collection according to their published insert ratios.


These would be the most common cards, i.e. the least rare and normally the least valuable cards in a set.

Completist: a collector who aims to source every example of a particular type of card or set.

Cut case: During the mid-1970s to early 1980s, Topps liquidated surplus cards by cutting up printed sheets to single cards and boxing them. The boxes had no printing or marking. A cut case would comprise around 8,500 cards. Unopened cut cases would be very rare.



Death bump

A spike (usually temporary) in a trading card’s value following the death of the featured player/athlete/celebrity.



Embossed/Debossed card

A finishing process which presses a design or text into the board creating either a raised or recessed relief area. This embossed/debossed feature may foiled, printed or ‘blind’ (plain, no colour).


This is where a card has been sealed in a tamper-resistant, permanent plastic case. This is commonly done following a card’s authentication or grading by an independent organization. In recent times, some card publishers are now packing their high-end cards already-graded and encapsulated into their collections.

Error card

Generally an error card has some misprint such as the wrong name, wrong stats, wrong image or some incorrect information. Finding an error card would be quite rare and consequently an error card can be considered quite a sought-after collectible.

Extended Rookie card (XRC)

A term which evolved through Price Guide publications to describe a player’s card which had been released during his rookie year, but which was not part of a Base set. There has been, and still can be, some controversy as to whether or not a particular player’s card is their true ‘Rookie’ card.



Facsimile Signature

This is a player’s autograph applied to a trading card using a stamp or printed as part of the artwork. It is not a card signed by the player.


Metallic type material used to add interest to a trading card, for example the card’s title or main feature may be foiled. Different colored foils can be applied to cards to represent their rarity, such as differentiating rarity between Parallel sets – orange, red, green, etc.). High-end, rare cards are often individually foil-numbered. Foil is generally applied to trading cards using a hot foil stamping process, although with more modern production techniques, digital foiling can be applied during the production processes before or after the CMYK image is printed on the card.


A term describing a card which has no border.



Game used/Game worn

Memorabilia may not necessarily have been worn or used by the player in an actual game, and collectors should be aware that some publishers may ask a player to put on and take off a jersey so that the card can state that the jersey was 'player-worn'. However, a few publishers do provide details on the card such as which game/date the item was actually worn or used in, but this is rare.

Game jersey: in some sports several jerseys may be issued to a particular player for a specific game where, following the game, it may not be possible to identify if the jersey had been worn or used by the player in the actual game, for example the player may have worn a jersey but been on the bench for the duration of the game.

Game worn: a piece of memorabilia or jersey that the player has worn in an actual game.

Player worn: a piece of memorabilia or jersey that the player has worn, but not necessarily in a game. This may be a jersey worn in a photo-shoot, in which case it may also be termed ‘Photo shoot Worn’.

Event Worn – a non-specific game, event, or season may mean that the jersey/item could possibly have been worn at a signing session or other event.

Game used: the player would have worn/used the item in an actual game.

Training worn/Training used: an item of clothing worn or used by the player during training.

Gem card

Over recent years some trading card publishers have released cards featuring a gem (or several gems) embedded or affixed to the card. These are also known as ‘Jewel Cards’.

Graded card

A graded card is a card which has had its condition graded by an independent third-party service. A Grading Company will carry out a full-scale check and rank a card usually on a numerical scale of 1-10.  Factors which may affect or contribute to a card’s grade include: Marks (MK), Miscut (MC), Offcentre (OC), Staining (ST), Print Defect (PD), Out of Focus (OF). The card is authenticated and graded, catalogued in the Grader’s database, and returned to the collector encapsulated in a plastic ‘slab’ The collector pays a fee for the service with fee levels varying between the Grading companies and depending how many cards you submit and how quickly you want the service turned around. Just because the card is in a plastic slab with a numerical grade does not automatically increase its value.  

Some popular Grading companies are PSA (Professional Sports Authenticators), BGS (Beckett Grading Services) and SGC (Sportscard Guaranty).

Group break

A group of collectors contribute to the cost of a box or case of cards and choose how the cards from the ‘break’ will be allocated amongst them.

Gum stain

Chewing gum used to be inserted into packs between the wrapper and the front or back card. If left for some time, the gum might stain through onto the card resulting in devaluing the card.




This refers to cards with a higher perceived value than other cards, for example a card of a shorter production run than the Base set – e.g. a relic/memorabilia card or autographed card.


A 3D-effect technology used to create either a special effect on a card or used for security printing/authentication such as a company logo which makes it difficult to copy.

Hot box

A box containing bonus cards not available from a normal box, or only high-end special cards.



Inscribed or inscription cards

In addition to the player signing their name, he/she may add a message or special notation.

Insert Cards

Insert Sets add 'chase' elements to a collection where collectors hunt for these special cards which are inserted across a collection in line with their published insert ratios. Insert sets usually have different set titles and are normally much rarer than the collection's Base set. Insert cards are considered a 'special' card in some way generally through their design or special finishing treatment, and rarity. An Insert card may be produced with some special material such as chrome or refractor board, or be embossed or die-cut. An Insert set may feature relic/memorabilia or autograph cards. Insert cards are usually individually numbered to let the collector know how rare they are.



Jumbo card

An oversized piece of jersey/memorabilia taking up a large area of the card.

Junk Wax

Between the late 1980s and early 1990s there was an over-production of cards in the hobby and consequently cards from this era may have tended to have a lower monetary value. However, this may not continue to be the case as the hobby is experiencing a developing trading card boom, generating interest from a broader and younger demographic where historic trends and values are not necessarily representative of what is happening now or could happen in the future.







A 3D-effect where the image appears to have depth and movement when viewed at different angles.

Letterman card

These are cards featuring a complete letter from a player’s jersey, most commonly from the player’s name. If from a jersey nameplate, they may also be referred to as ‘Nameplate cards’.


Cards produced under official licence to a Club, League, sports body or other Licensor.

Limited Edition

Cards produced to a specific quantity where the value of the card would normally have a relationship to the number of cards or sets released of its kind.



Master Set

A complete run of cards from a collection including all base cards, parallels and inserts/special cards.




The practice of holding cards together by a rubber band can cause indentations on the card’s edges.

Numbered card

Serial/individual numbering is normally printed or foil stamped on a card represented in the format xx/xxx. The first digits indicate the card’s serial number and the latter numbers indicate the set’s print run – the total number of cards of that type printed. Some collectors swap and trade in order to complete their set with cards of the same serial number.





A ‘Patch Card’ 

Most commonly identified as a jersey or relic card that features a swatch made from a patch (badge) on a team or player’s jersey. Common patches feature a jersey piece taken from a player’s number, name, team name, team/ league logo and are generally more valuable than a card featuring a piece taken from the main area of a jersey. A ‘1 of 1’ patch (team/league badge/logo) would generally be the most valuable card from a Relic/Memorabilia set.

Parallel Card

A parallel card is normally a serial numbered version of another card, or produced in some way to be similar but different from their base partner card. For instance, a base card may be unnumbered, but a parallel of that base card would likely have a serial number. Parallels normally have the same design and player image as the base set card, but may have a different colour scheme or special finishing treatment, such as a different foil colour, or made from different materials or have some added element to distinguish them from the base card. Parallel cards are normally produced in lower quantity and are more rare than their Base card partner.

Publishers have been producing more and more versions of Parallel Cards from their Base Set distinguishing them by colour - e.g. red, blue, orange, green, etc. The print run of a Parallel Set may be printed on the card, however, some Publishers may not individually number their Parallel Cards. A Parallel card that is individually numbered would tend to be more valuable than a non-individually numbered Parallel card.

Personal Collection (PC) 

This term normally describes a collector’s favourite cards which the player may be unwilling to sell or trade as he/she may want to keep it in their personal collection.

Player Collector 

A collector who likes to collect cards of specific players.

Printing Plate card

For most large print runs, cards are produced using ‘offset’ printing. Offset printers generally require printing plates for four colours - cyan, magenta, yellow and black (CMYK) which, when mixed as the sheets are fed through, print the coloured artwork onto the card. The individual printing plates for each of the four colours can then individually be cut to card size and released as, or made into printing plate cards.

Puzzle card

A card consisting of part of a larger picture which, when placed together with other puzzle cards, makes up the complete picture.





Raw card

This is a card which has not been encapsulated by a grading company or authenticator.

Redemption card

A method whereby a substitute or claim card is placed in a pack giving the person finding that card the right to redeem it for the card it represents which is generally a high-value card such as an autograph, relic/memorabilia or other special card. This is a method used by publishers where either the actual card may be too thick or heavy to place into the collection without it being noticeable (and therefore easily found by ‘pack searchers’), or where the card which was supposed to have been packed may not be available until a later time, such as an autographed card where a player may not have been available to sign in time prior to the collection being packed.


A rainbow or prism-type effect produced by a special printing process.

Relic/Memorabilia Cards

The term ‘relic’ applies to a card which contains a piece of embedded jersey or other item worn or used by the featured player. Relic cards may also be referred to as ‘Memorabilia cards’ ‘Jersey cards’, ‘Swatch cards’ or ‘Patch cards’ depending on the sport or the terminology used by collectors in different countries.

The following points of difference may apply, although not necessarily, depending on the sport and country/terminology:-

Jersey or Swatch - a basic piece from a jersey. This commonly means a single colour piece, but it may depend on the sport where a jersey may be fully multi-colour/multi-patterned.

Relic - same as jersey (US football), but could be something like a piece from a helmet, shoes, bat…

Patch - normally this means a multi-colour piece with the defining characteristics of a patch (such as part of a Club/Team badge/logo), but in any case the material would have a different look than a piece from the main area of a jersey.

Relic/memorabilia cards are normally individually-numbered which will let the collector know how rare they are.

Rookie card

There is some controversy around the interpretation of a 'Rookie card. Although a 'rookie' may simply be a term for 'a young player', a ‘rookie card’ would more likely fit into one of the following categories:

  • be the professional player’s first appearance on a card;
  • a card from a player's first year in the League, or the player's base or first card from a collection released during the player's first year.
  • manufactured by a company with a licence to print cards for the Club/League that the player plays for.
  • the card would be part of a base set, unless the only card released was part of a special set – e.g. if the player featured in the base set as well as in two other subsets/Insert sets in the same collection, the base set card would be considered the player’s rookie card.



Serial numbering

This is a number either printed, or more usually foil-stamped onto a card indicating the print-run (how many were produced of that card). Serial numbering is generally used on parallels and insert/special cards which enables collectors to know how rare they are.

Set Collector 

A collector who builds sets.

Sketch Cards

Sketch cards are one-of-a-kind cards made from an artist’s original artwork where the work has been commissioned by a trading card publisher. They are also known as ACEOs (Artist Cards, Editions and Originals). The cards are normally standard trading card size (2.5” x 3.5”) and can be created in any medium – pencil drawing, ink, acrylic or other materials, even etched into metal. Sketch cards as an insert for card collections started appearing from 1993 and have enjoyed increased popularity particularly in recent years. An ‘Artist Proof’ or ‘Artist Returns’ (AR/Aps) means a sketch card which has been given to the Artist for them to keep or sell following the commission.

Soft Sleeves

  1. Penny sleeves (standard size 2.5” x 3.5”) are used for most trading cards and would fit most cards up to 120 point thickness.
  2. Protective sleeves must be acid-free.
  3. Easy-grade card sleeves have an angled corner
  4. Graded card sleeves are larger than normal and fit inside 1/4'” screw-down holders and the slabs used by Grading Companies.
  5. Vintage sleeves are slightly bigger than standard size being 2 ¾ x 3 15/16’ and are used for cards dating from the early 1950s before a universal standard was adopted.
  6. Tall sleeves would be used for cards from the late-vintage era which were known as ‘Tall Boys’ and measure 2 5/8 x 4 13/16”.

Sticker or Label Autographed Card

A card featuring a player’s signature on a clear label, which is applied to the card’s surface during production.



Team card

A sports card showing a picture of the whole team.

Team Collector

A collector who collects cards of specific teams.

The National

An annual sports card and memorabilia event which commenced in 1989 and is the largest of its kind in relation to attendees and exhibitors.


Trading card thicknesses are normally measured in ‘points’ or shown as ‘pt’. 1 point = 0.001 inch or 0.025 millimetres. Cards are normally placed in a penny sleeve before it goes into a toploader.

With publishers in the high-end sector creating cards with more substantial materials and content, particularly for relic/memorabilia cards, the appropriate thickness of toploader could be influenced by a specific publisher’s production specificiation.

55 Point:  Mostly used for thick base cards

20-35 Point: Used for most base cards (‘regular card holder’)

70-75 Point: Commonly used for relic/memorabilia cards (‘extra thick holder’)

80 Point: These tend to be the least-used magnet case size as cards are likely to be too small or too big for these.

100-130 Point: Used for standard to thick relic/memorabilia cards. 

135 Point: This is the most common size for relic/memorabilia cards.

180 Point:  Likely to hold the thickest relic/memorabilia cards, for example if the card contains a piece of embroidered multi-layered badge (a ‘patch’) (‘super-thick’)

260+ Point: Often used to hold multiple base cards

Popular card accessories suppliers are Ultra Pro and BCW

Traded Set

A card set which is released late in the season, or after the end of a season featuring players who were traded to/or signed by another Club/Team.

Trading Card Publisher/Manufacturer

A term used for a company that publishes/releases trading cards.



Uncut Sheet

A sheet of trading cards which has not been cut into single cards.



Variation (VAR)

This is a card from a Set with some feature being different from other cards in the same set such as a name spelling error, different colour of background or text colour or font.


Some collectors refer to a card as being ‘vintage’ if it’s anything more than 20 years old, others wouldn’t consider a card vintage unless it’s between 50 to 100 years old, so it is generally regarded as a subjective term.



Wardrobe/Costume Card

These are terms used for memorabilia cards from an entertainment title which feature a piece of an actor’s/actress’ worn costume or used prop from a TV or film set.


This means either a single pack or box trading cards. Trading cards used to be wrapped in coloured wax paper (Wax Packs).


A hobby shop’s top customer in relation to how much is spent on trading cards and/or other items in the shop on a regular basis.

White whale card

This is a cardthat a collector particularly wants in order to complete a set or because it’s on his/her want list but which the collector is unable to source, trade or buy.




Normally a card issued during a player’s rookie year which is not part of a Base set.






Written by Tom
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