Sports Card Glossary
Just about every hobby has its own lingo or language. For those of you that may be new to the hobby I have listed some terms and phrases that you may be unfamiliar with. Let me know if you have any terms you would like to see added to the list. You can email me here with the request.
Airbrushing - Sometimes card manufactures touch up photos before the cards are printed. They do this to show the players with the correct uniform or to erase logos that are not licensed.
Blank Back - A card that made it into circulation without the copy that was supposed to be on the back of the card. Topps had several blank backs from the eighties and nineties make it into circulation.
Border - This is the part of the card that surrounds the photo or text on the front or back of the card. The color of the border sometimes plays a part in the condition of the card as black or dark colored borders tend to show damage.
Cello - This is a pack of cards that has a clear plastic wrapper. Most of the time you can see the top and bottom card. Cello packs contain more cards that regular wax packs.
Centering - In relation to the border this describes how well the card lines up. If all sides of the border are exactly the same size the card is considered to be perfectly centered. If however one or more borders are different the card is off center. There are degrees associated with this condition. Many people will describe it as "off center left to right or top to bottom" as an example. You can also describe it with a number by measuring how much of the border is viewable on the offending edge. Example: off center top to bottom 85/15. This means there is 85% of the top border showing and only 15% of the bottom border showing.
Certificate of Authenticity - Some collectibles will come with one of these pieces of paper or a seal directly on it. Basically the certificate states that the item is legitimate. However, many dishonest people issue there own certificates in an effort to sell an item for more money. I suggest researching the issuer of the Certificate before you buy
Checklists - A checklist card is a card that lists each card issued in a particular set or subset. If you are collecting these you would prefer to have one that is not marked. Many checklist cards from pre 1980 are marked as to which cards the holder had.
Chipping - If a card shows some flaking, or the base of the card stock shows around the edges it is considered to be chipped. Dark bordered cards are really prone to this. If the border is chipped on a black border card you can see the different color of the card stock on the edges.
Collation - I think most collectors use this term when describing the distribution of cards in boxes. A card issue that is collated well will have fewer duplicates in each box. This term also can be used to describe the act of grouping cards together in any fashion like number, teams, players ect.
Common - These are cards that are part of the issues base set and are not short printed. Another use of the term is to describe a card that has very little value.
Complete Set - You can put a set together yourself or purchase a factory issue complete set. There a two types of sets also. You can compete a base set or put together each of the base cards and all of the short print or special cards.
Crease - Many cards were actually played with or mishandled. If the card has a wrinkle in the stock it is considered to be creased. A crease is a serious flaw in a card. Many people will not collect any card that is creased.
Die Cut - These cards are different from the base card because of the way they are cut. The manufacturer cuts the card into a different shape. It could have an oval top, or rounded corners or even have the shape of a crown.
Error Card - If a card shows the wrong player photo, name, team name, stats or any other item that should be there it can be considered and Error Card. Personally I only consider a card an Error Card if the manufacturer corrected and re-issued the card in its corrected form. There are many cards that are inaccurate but were never corrected.
Extended Set - This is a set of cards that were issued after the original cards were produced. These sets are normally used for players that changed teams during the season or did not have a card in the original set. These sets are also called traded, update, rookie or highlights.
Facsimile Autograph - Many cards are printed with a copy of the players autograph on the front. These are not real autographs.
Factory Set - A complete set of cards issued by the manufacturer in a complete and sealed package. In today's market these factory sets can also contain a group of cards that are not part of the original issue.
Graded Card - Any card that has been inspected for condition and authenticity by a firm specializing in this service. These cards are placed in special holders and assigned a grade. Most grading companies use a ten point scale. The two most popular card grading companies are PSA and Beckett.
Gum Stain - Cards produced by Topps until the late 90's were packaged with a stick of gum. The cards that happened to be next to the gum sometimes stuck to the gum causing a residue to be left on the card.
High Numbers - Vintage cards (pre 1970) were typically issued in groups. Such as cards 1-300 first then other groupings at a later time. The cards in the last series were typically printed in shorter quantities and are considered more valuable because of this.
Inserts or Chase Cards - These are cards that are different from the base issues. They are printed in fewer quantities than the regular cards. They might be numbered, or have a special finish or cut that makes them different. They are normally issued around a theme. Today cards are manufactured with pieces of game used equipment right in the card. These cards are packaged at a rate selected by the manufacturer. The higher the ratio the tougher they are to find. When shopping for insert cards you will see there pack insertion rate sometimes, this is normally posted like (inserted 1:24 packs).
Promo Card - These cards are normally issued at events by the manufacturers to promote upcoming card sets. They usually identified with the word promo stamped on them.
Rack Pack - Packaged in clear plastic wrappers they have three sections of cards. It's like getting three wax packs at once. The rack packs were designed with grocery and department stores in mind. Much like cello packs you can see some of the cards included in the package.
Reprint - Cards that are re-issued of past productions are said to be reprints. Topps has used this a lot with Mickey Mantle. In several issues you can find inserts of reprints of his vintage cards.
Series - Cards that have been released at a set time by the manufacturer. Many times they will issue series one followed later by series two.
Tobacco Card - These cards were issued in the late 1800's into the early 1900's. The cards were packaged with tobacco products.
Trimmed Card - A card that has been slightly cut or trimmed in an effort to hide imperfections like chipping or soft corners.
Vending Box - These cards are distributed by the manufacture in a box without being in packs. The normally come in a box of 500 cards.
Vintage Cards - Many collectors consider any cards issued before 1974 to be vintage. Some collectors consider up to 1979 and some only consider before 1970 as vintage.
Wax Pack - In the early days cards were packaged in wax paper for distribution. Now packs may be wrapped in foil, plastic or another type of material. We still call them wax packs though.
Wax Box - Considered to be sealed packs of cards still in their original box.