Sports Cards Glossary and Terminology

May 9, 2022

The world of sports card collecting continues to evolve from product to product as well as from year to year. As the hobby continues to evolve the importance of sports card terminology and the need for a Sports Cards Glossary is key.

Once a hobby that involved opening a pack of cards from top companies like Topps or Donruss, while chasing a stick of gum now includes finding autograph cards from top stars as well as other high valuable cards to include cards featuring actual pieces of diamonds. With these changes and new products, the sports card glossary and terminology that corresponds with the sports card industry continues to grow. Sports card terminology could include terms such as artist proof, one-of-one cards, PSA or BGS as well other terms such as GEM MT or encapsulated sports cards.

While the novice and advance sports card collectors may know many if not all the lingo and terminology that may be featured within the sports card glossary, others who are new to the sports card industry or who may have taken time away may not be so up to date with them. Now with that said, here is our online glossary of sports card terms, definitions, and other helpful lingo to help you with your sports card collecting needs. In addition feel free to check out our Beginners Guide to Sports Card Collecting.

Sports Card Glossary of Sports Card Terms and Definitions

Sports Card Glossary (A-E)

Artist Proof – A sports card featuring either an authentic hand drawn card from a sports card artist or a reprint of artwork provided by an artist. Artist proof’s are inserts that are numbered.

Mike Trout Artist Proof

Mike Trout Artist Proof Topps 2020 Project

AU – Abbreviation for Autograph and relates to autograph cards or autograph memorabilia.

Authentication – Having a third-party expert examine and determine whether the autograph or card is real. Companies that perform this include PSA, JSA (James Spence Authentication) and Beckett to name a few.

Auto – Another slang term used for Autograph within the sports card hobby.

Base or Base Card – Refers to the standard card you will find within a pack that does not include a number variation, parallel, refractor, autograph or other insert found within sports card products. Base sets or base card sets are typically higher in quantity to make the complete set based on the product.

BCW – Major supplier and producer of sports card collecting supplies including nine pocket sleeves, hard cases and one touch magnet cases.

Beckett – One of the top information sources for the sports card landscape to include both online and print price guides as well as other services to include sports card grading, marketplace and even an online sports card collecting data base.

BGS – Beckett Grading Service is a product offered by Beckett to put a graded number on your autograph or sports card.

Blank Back – The back of a sports card that has no design or printing on the back of the cards, typically relating to error cards or short prints.

Blaster Box – Retail product that can be found in stores such as Walmart or Target that contains multiple packs of sports card (5-10 packs per box).

Blister Pack – Retail product that can be found in stores such as Walmart or Target that contains multiple packs of cards all in one plastic container (2-4 packs per blister pack).

BMWT – Bubble Mailer with Tracking is another word tossed around in sports card forums or marketplaces. In theory, this is a way to ship a sports card while adding safety and security to the buyer.

Book Card or Booklet Card – A newer insert within sports card products that open like a book that could contain autographs, memorabilia cards and multiple players featured.

Box Break – Refers to when a box of cards is opened. It also could indicate what you could expect from a box of cards if you purchased and opened it. Such as this box break includes 2 parallel cards and 1 autograph on average.

Box Topper – Insert card that is featured within a box of hobby trading cards that are oversized while also potentially containing autographs or memorabilia from top stars or teams.

BV – Book Value refers to what the printed price of a specific card is worth (typically within Beckett) but could also mean the online pricing from Beckett.

BVG – Beckett Vintage Grading is similar to BGS but is a product offered by Beckett that classifies with vintage trading cards.

Case Break or Case Breaker – Refers to when a case of cards is opened or to someone who might only open an entire case of cards (cases range from 2 boxes upwards of 20 depending on product).

Case Hit – Refers to a specific insert that is difficult to find in products that are exclusive to a specific case of cards. For example, Topps or Panini might offer one insert or parallel to one case of cards making it difficult to find since sports card cases contain multiple boxes per case.

COA – Certificate of Authenticity is a document that verify whether the product or autograph is real.

Chrome Card – Metallic shiny card produced by Topps.

COMC – Check Out My Cards is an online sports card marketplace for sports card collectors to sell and buy sports cards within the hobby.

Cut Signature – A insert product within a sports card product that features an autograph that is cut from another item such as a check signed by a famous individual that is inserted within the card. This is an insert that is popular to feature individuals who are no longer present to autograph cards or products.

Die-Cut – An insert that takes on a specific shape that varies based on the product and company that is producing the card.

Encapsulated Card – Process of having your card sealed within a hard plastic case that is tamper-resistant. These products are typically common once a card is graded or authenticated from companies such as Beckett or PSA.

Error Card – A card that contains an error that may have taken place during printing on accident or on purpose to create additional value and interest within the card.

Sports Card Glossary (F-I)

Facsimile Autograph or Facsimile Signature Card – Facsimile Autograph or Facsimile Signature is a product that features an autograph that is a replication of the actual autograph of a specific person.

Game Used – Equipment or product that was used during a game or sporting event that is a type of memorabilia that is collected and, in some cases embedded within sports cards such NFL pylons or equipment such as bats, footballs or even hockey pucks.

Game-Worn – Product that was worn by a professional sports star within a live sporting event. These products could include jerseys, pants, batting gloves, receiver gloves, cleats and even hats that are used to insert within sports cards.

Gem Insert – A gem insert card or Gem card relates to a sports card that features a real gem embedded within the card such as a diamond or other jewel to increase the value of the card.

Gem Mint or GEM-MT – Refers to a card that contains the highest grade from a third-party grading company. These cards frame from a BGS 9.5 to a PSA 10.

Gem Rate – Online data base showing various sports card grading trends to include PSA while also showing population data reports, player data and top cards all-time.

Graded Card – Sports card that was giving a specific number grade from a grading card company such as Beckett or PSA.

Group Break – A break that takes place where individuals purchase specific teams or players from a product that will be opened to help offset the cost while rewarding the owners of the teams or players with any cards pulled within the product.

Hit Card – Refers to a card that is pulled from a product that is harder to obtain and typically worth a higher value compared to base cards or other inserts.

Hobby Box – Product that is distributed and can only be purchased from a retailer that is approved to purchase these products (now can be found online being sold by individuals who purchased the product from an approved retailer).

Hot Box or Hot Pack – Refers to a pack or box that may contain additional autographs or inserts or even just guaranteed to include an autograph or memorabilia card.

Insert card – Insert cards are inserted randomly in select packs of cards and are harder to obtain then typical base cards. Insert sets contain fewer card within the set and have a higher card value.

Sports Card Glossary (J-M)

Jersey Card – A card that features a piece of a player’s jersey.

JSA – James Spence Authentication is a third-party authentication service that provides verification on whether an autograph or product is authentic.

Jumbo Pack – A pack of cards that is from a product such as Topps or Bowman Jumbo that contains a higher quantity of cards such as 50 or 60 cards per pack.

LOA – Letter of Authenticity is similar to COA but often refers to a letter to accompany the product verifying the authenticity of the product or autograph.

Licensed – Licensed products are products that are official and produced with the consent from the top sports leagues such as the MLS, NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL.

Lot – Refers to a group of cards that are sold together. Lots could include individual player lots or team lots as well as insert lots.

Manufactured Relic – One specific insert card that is manufactured from the company producing the card to create a one-of-a-kind card. Manufactured relics include coins, charms, pins, rings, and other items that are embedded within the sports card.

Memorabilia Card – Another type of sports card insert card to contain a piece of equipment or another item from a specific player.

Sports Card Glossary (N-P)

Numbered Cards – A card that has a specific print run to a specific numbered quantity. Numbered cards are higher in value and often are harder to obtain. Numbered cards could come in variations to include 1 of 1 (1/1) while also having runs to include numbered out of three, five, 10, 25, 50, 100 or another set number that is set and advertised by the sports card companies.

On-Card Autograph – Is an autograph that is obtained and autographed onto the card (not an autograph signed on a sticker and then placed onto the sports card).

One-of-One or 1/1 – A specific card that only contains one card and is typically high sought after within the sports card industry.

Penny Sleeve – Is a soft thin single pocket sleeve to protect cards prior to inserting the card within a hard top load sleeve.

PC – Personal Collection refers to a collector’s personal collection and/or a player that the collector collects.

Population Report – Population reports are available giving collectors access to a registry of all the cards graded from a specific company. Here are the Beckett Pop Report and PSA Pop Report.

Printing Plate – An insert that features an actual printing plate used to print the various cards within a product. Printing plates are typically one-of-ones and come in color variations such as Black, Magenta, Cyan and Yellow.

Prism – A metallic shiny card that is similar to a chrome card that is featured in specific products such as Panini Prizm.

Prospect Card – A card that features a player prior to joining a major league team. Prospect cards are very common within baseball cards to feature players within the minor league organization. Bowman baseball cards are a very popular product to contain prospect cards.

PSA – Professional Sports Authenticator is a company that is used to deliver numbered grades to cards that are submitted. The cards are then encapsulated during the process to include the specific corresponding grade. PSA is one of major players within the sports card grading industry.

Michael Jordan RC

Michael Jordan RC PSA GEM MT 10

Sports Card Glossary (R-Z)

Rainbow – One of the most popular inserts to collect today referring to the various color parallel of an individual card. Rainbow colors range based on the manufacturer and product to include colors such as blue, green, camo and pink. Rainbow parallels are typically numbered.

Raw Card – A card that has yet to be graded or encapsulated by a grading card company.

Redemption Card – Common in today’s product is a card that must be redeemed from the manufacturer due to the card or product not being available when the product is printed and packaged.

Refractor – A specific insert common to Topps that could contain various colors or design.

Release Date – The date a product is set to be released to the public.

Retail Box – Sports card product that is available in retail establishments such as Walmart or Target that could include retail boxes, rack packs and blaster boxes.

RC Card – Is the players rookie card during their rookie year within the professional organization.

RPA – Rookie Patch Autographs are inserts of a rookie to feature autographed patches such as number or letter embedded. RPA of top rookies are popular and heavily collected within the sports card industry.

SGC – One of the leaders in the authentication and grading of sports cards while also being very popular grading card service for vintage cards.

SP Card – Is a base card that may contain a variation of the original base card that is produced in a smaller print run. Short Print cards help increase the value of the product while creating a buzz within the product line.

Slabbed Card – Refers to a card that has been encapsulated within a case that is tamper resistance from companies such as SGC, Beckett and PSA.

SSP – Super Short Print are inserts that are even harder to obtain then SP cards and are typically numbered to less than 10 within the print run.

Sticker Autograph – An autograph that is obtained on a sticker that is later applied to a sports card product.

Variation Card – An insert of a specific base card that contains a variation of that card. For example, a player who normally bats right may be seen batting left. These also sometimes contain a background to include a famous person who might not actually appear within the card.

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