Football Card Terms
Sports Cards and Memorabilia Terms
Football card terms can be confusing to new collectors. We here at Football Babble have tried to collect a complete list of card collecting terms. Our list covers terms you’ll hear not only when collecting football cards, but other kinds of sports cards and sports memorabilia.
Sports Card and Sports Memorabilia Collecting Terms
If you’re thinking about starting a sports card or sports memorabilia collection, there are many terms and phrases which you should be aware of. Not only will this terminology allow you to increase your overall knowledge the hobby, but you’ll also be able to better converse with veteran collectors and dealers.
3-D Card – As this card is moved, it takes on a three-dimensional appearance.
500 Home Run Club – Baseball players who have hit over 500 home runs in their career, practically guaranteeing their induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
ABA – Stands for the American Basketball Association. This league was founded in 1967 and eventually merged with the NBA.
ACC – The American Card Catalog. Published in 1960, this catalog identifies and catalogs various card sets.
Action Packed – Sports card manufacturer known for their embossed sports cards.
AFL – The American Football League. Rivals of the NFL, the two leagues officially merged prior to the 1970 season.
Airbrushing – Method used to touch up a photo. It is also used on sports cards depicting players who have changed teams (thus changing their old jersey to the new one).
AL – The American League of Major League Baseball.
All-Star Card – A card which features an all-star team from a given sport. The first of these was produced in 1958 by Topps.
Altered Stock – Paper stock which has been altered by restoring, recoloring, trimming or enhancing the gloss.
Assorted – A collection of cards which includes duplicates of one or more cards. This term is often used for some of the auctions found on eBay.
Auction – Instead of ordering from a catalog, the collector must bid on merchandise against other collectors. This would include online auctions such as eBay.
Auction Catalog – A catalog which lists all items available at a specific auction, plus their condition and minimum bids.
Authentication – The act of verifying the authenticity of a piece of sports memorabilia. The most respected authenticators and graders include Professional Sports Authenticator (sports cards) and PSA/DNA (sports autographs). In the case of other sports memorabilia, the buyer may have to rely solely on the reputation of the seller.
Authorized Issue – A set of cards which have been authorized by the respective sports’ player’s association.
Baseball Card – The first card was issued in 1886. Since that time, the baseball card industry has become a thriving market.
Basketball Card – These cards were first issued by Bowman in 1948. While basketball cards are now sought after by collectors, they struggled to find popularity for several decades.
Batter Up – A set of baseball cards issued from 1934 until 1936. The set consists of 192 different cards.
Bazooka – A subsidiary of Topps, they made baseball cards from 1959 to 1971 and again from 1988 until 1991.
Beckett – Their first price guide was published in 1979. Still active, they are credited with helping to bring about the modern sportscard craze.
Blank Back – A card with no printing on the back side. This can be intentional or due to a manufacturing error.
Blanket – A sports collectible from the early 20th century. They took the form of square pieces of felt or fabric and came wrapped around a package of cigarettes. They were sometimes sewn together by collectors to form a blanket, and baseball players were among the images found on the squares.
Blue Back – A card featuring a blue back. This is most closely tied with the 1951 Topps Blue Back set.
Border – The part of a sports card surrounding the photo. While older cards had white borders, many modern cards feature colored or no borders.
Bowman – Card manufacturer which started production in 1948. Topps purchased the company in 1956, but once again began production under the Bowman name in 1989.
Boxing Card – Sports cards featuring boxers. The most collected are the 1951 Topps Ringside and 1948 Leaf.
Break – Another word for “open.” As in “to break open a pack of cards.”
Cabinet Card – Oversized cards released by tobacco companies. Produced on thick cardboard stock, these cards were available in the 19th and early 20th centuries and frequently displayed in curio cabinets.
Card Collector – An individual who collects sports cards.
Card Saver I – Card protectors recommended and accepted by PSA.
Card Saver IV – Card protectors for oversized cards recommended and accepted by PSA.
Card Stock – The material which sports cards are printed on. Heavy paper or cardboard are most often used. Materials such as plastic, wood, leather and metal have also been experimented with.
Carte de Visite – Popular in the late 19th-century, this was the first widely available form of photography. Also known as CDV, some players and teams from the 19th-century can be found on these cards.
Catalog – Usually sent through the mail, catalogs include a list of all sports cards available for purchase.
Cello Pack – These packs usually contain more cards than the standard wax pack. Wrapped in packaging which looks much like cellophane. Packs with a visible star are especially valuable.
Cello Box – A box containing cello packs. Most boxes contain 24 packs of cards.
Cello Case – Usually 16 cello boxes packaged for wholesale purposes.
Centering – Found by measuring the distance between the photo and the edge of the card from opposite sides. Cards which are perfectly centered are most valuable. One of the most important factors in determining a card’s condition or grade.
Cereal Box – Post and Wheaties have included a number of sports figures on their boxes over the years, and these are highly valued by collectors.
Certificate of Authenticity – States that a card or piece of sports memorabilia is genuine.
Checklist – A list of cards in one set or series. Most sets of cards include a checklist card. Vintage cards free of markings can be quite valuable.
Chipping – The condition of the edges of a card. If the edges are chipped, it may have resulted from handling, age or dull blades at the factory. Most noticeable on colored cards, chipping will reduce the value of a card.
Cleats – Game-used cleats are part of the sports memorabilia market.
Clubhouse Signature – A signature not done by the intended athlete. In many cases, signatures for athletes will be performed by bat boys and equipment managers. This is still a common practice.
Coach’s Card – A card which features a coach or group of coaches.
Coin – A disc which pictures an athlete or famous sporting event. These discs may be made from cardboard, metal or plastic.
Collation – Cards put in order by number. This may be done at the factory, and the practice is dreaded by collectors, as it reduces their chance for getting the most valuable cards in a pack.
Collection – The cards or memorabilia put together by a collector.
Collector – A person who puts together cards or sports memorabilia into a collection.
Collector Issue – Cards manufactured primarily to be sold to collectors and not given away or sold with a commercial product.
Combination Card – A card which shows two or more players but is not a team card.
Common – Also known as “singles,” these cards are the most common cards in a set and the least expensive. Players on common cards are not stars or rookies.
Complete Set – A complete set includes one of each card from a particular set.
Condition – The better the condition of a card or piece of sports memorabilia, the higher the value.
Counterfeit – A fake card or piece of memorabilia.
Cracked – A term often used by collectors who acquire baseball bats. A cracked bat is of less value than one which is not. It may also be used to refer to opening a box of previously unopened cards.
Cracker Jack – In 1914 and 1915, cards were inserted in Cracker Jack boxes. The 1914 set is more rare than the 1915 version, although both are considered extremely valuable.
Crease – Bends or folds in a card. Plays a large factor in determining a card’s grade.
Crossover – PSA will grade cards previously rated by other grading services for crossover. In this case, the card will be taken from its current holder and placed into a PSA card holder.
Dealer – A person who buys and sells cards professionally for a living.
Declared Value – Found on PSA submission forms, this is where you write down the value of your cards before they are graded.
Diamond Star – Cards produced from 1934 to 1936 by National Chicle. One of the most popular pre-war issue items, each set comes with 108 color cards.
Die-Cut - Cards which have been perforated or cut by the manufacturer.
Ding – Damage on the corner of a sports trading card. A ding causes the value of the card to drop.
Donruss – Card manufacturer which went into business in 1981. Their first cards were devoted to golf and baseball.
Double Header – Colored drawings of baseball players issued by Topps in 1955. Cards could be folded in half, and the upper body of each player would match the lower body of another player.
Double Play – A set of 75 cards issued by Gum Inc. in 1941. Each card was black and white and showed two different players.
Double Print – A sports card that has twice the print run of other cards in the set.
Error Card – A card which has a mistake printed on it. These can often be more valuable than the corrected card.
EX – Stands for “excellent condition.”
EX-MT – Stands for “excellent-mint condition.”
Excellent - Cards in this condition will have minor wear, light creasing or light rounding of the corners.
Excellent-Mint – A card in this condition has minor wear on the corners and no major blemishes.
Exhibit Card – The size of a postcard, these cards were usually sold in arcades and produced from the 1920s until the 1960s.
Facsimile Autograph – Reproduction of an autograph. Many sports cards contain a facsimile autograph.
Factory Set – A set of cards packaged by the manufacturer for retail sale. More valuable than hand-made sets, as many of the premium cards may have been removed by the dealer.
Factory Set Case – A sealed case from the manufacturer. Contains a number of complete sets.
Find – Used to describe the act of finding a valuable set of cards. “It’s a real find.”
Fleer – A leading sports card manufacturer. Originally produced football, basketball and baseball cards. Owned by Rite Aid, the company resumed business in 1981 after years of inactivity.
Foil Box – A box of cards containing foil packs.
Foil Case – Wholesale packaging of foil boxes for retail sale.
Foil Packs – Cards that are packaged for retail sale. The name comes from their metallic packaging.
Food Set – Sets of cards found inserted into food packages. This might include products such as cookies, popcorn or hot dogs.
Football Card – The first football card was printed in 1886, and the first major set was issued by National Chicle in 1935.
Forgery – Fake or counterfeit.
Full Bleed – A card that has no border.
Game Used – Equipment that has been used by an athlete during a game.
Game Used Cards – A sports card which has a piece of game-used memorabilia embedded in it.
Gem Mint – A card in perfect condition.
Gem MT – Short for “gem mint condition.”
Gloss – The shiny surface of the card. The amount of remaining gloss factors into the value of the card.
Glossy Set – The font on these cards has a glossier than usual font.
Good – Cards in this condition have multiple creases, rounded corners and other flaws.
Goudey – Card manufacturer from 1933 until 1941. Their most popular set was the 1933 version, which is one of the most sought after pre-war sets.
Grade – The condition of a sports card. Grade directly relates to the price of the card. Cards are graded on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best.
Gum Card – A card which comes with a stick of gum.
Gum Stain – With gum cards, the piece of gum can actually stain the card. This reduces the value of the card.
Hall of Famer – A player who is a member of their sport’s Hall of Fame.
Hand-cut Cards – Cards intended to be cut by the consumer.
Hartland – Company which manufactured sports statues throughout the 1950s and 1960s.
Heisman Trophy – Yearly award given to the best college football player.
High Numbers – The last, or near the last, in a series of sports card sets.
High Series – Contains cards from the last series for a set in a certain year. These can often be more valuable, as a smaller amount of the cards were often released for purchase.
Hockey Card – The first hockey card, issued in 1879, was the first sports card issued for a major sport. These cards were widely produced prior to World War II.
HOF – Stands for “Hall of Fame.”
Holdered – When a grading service encloses a card in plastic.
Hoops – A company which makes basketball cards.
In Action – Usually a secondary card in a set, these feature an athlete in action.
Insert – Cards added to a regular pack in order to increase sales.
Kellogg’s – Cereal company which included 3-D cards in boxes during the 1970s and 1980s.
Key Cards – The most important cards in a set.
Layering – This grading term concerns the wearing of the layers of cardboard on the corners of the card.
Leaf – A modern-day card manufacturer, Leaf was also well-known for the sets released just after WWII.
Lithograph – A print that looks like a poster.
Lot – A group of cards. “I have a lot of 212 Barry Bonds baseball cards.”
Low Series – The first series of cards distributed in a certain year. Since production was greater at the beginning of the year, these cards are generally worth less than higher series.
Manager Card – A sports card featuring the manager of a team.
MC – Short for “miscut,” this card has little border or even part of another card.
Mini – A smaller version of a standard card. The 1975 Topps mini set is considered the most valuable.
Mini-helmet – Smaller versions of a normal helmet. Often used for autograph purposes.
Minor League Card – Often with low print runs, these cards can be difficult to find.
Mint – Mint cards have no major flaws and sharp corners.
MK – Short for “marks.” This means the card has been marked on by a pen, pencil or other type of ink.
MT – Stands for “mint condition.”
MVP – Stands for “most valuable player.”
Name Tag – Usually found on the inside of a uniform, it states the player’s measurements and name.
National – First taking place in Los Angeles in 1980, this yearly convention is the largest for sports memorabilia collectors. Also known as the National Sports Collectors Convention.
National Chicle – A former sports card manufacturer. Their most famous set was released in 1935.
Near Mint – A card that’s near mint has few flaws, although light wear may be present.
Near Mint-Mint – Slight wear on the corners, but the card is otherwise in mint condition.
NM – Stands for “near mint condition.”
NM-MT – Stands for “near mint-mint.”
Non-sport Card – Trading cards other than sports cards. These include movies, television shows and comic book characters.
Notching – This term means there are indentations around the edge of the card. Notching will decrease the value of a card.
O-Pee-Chee – A Canadian counterpart of Topps. They make hockey and baseball cards.
Obverse – The front of a sports card which has the picture.
Out of Focus – The image on the front of the card is blurred.
Off-center – A card with uneven borders.
Old Judge – Popular cigarette brand in the late 19th century. Baseball cards were also released during that time featuring advertisements for Old Judge cigarettes.
Pack – Cards which are sealed by the manufacturer for sale to the public.
Parkhurst – A Canadian-based hockey card manufacturer. They made cards from 1951 until 1964 and then again in the 90s.
Personalized – An autograph which includes a note such as “Best wishes,” or “To my friend.” These are also known as inscriptions to autograph collectors.
Philadelphia Gum Co. – Manufactured football cards in the 1960s.
Play Ball – Manufactured baseball cards from 1939 until 1941.
Police Set – Cards featuring sports figures and handed out by members of local police or fire departments.
Post – Cards issued on the back of cereal boxes by the Post Cereal Company. The cards issued in the 1960s are the most popular.
Post-War – Memorabilia or cards dating after World War II.
Pre-Accident – A card released or signed prior to a player’s accident.
Pre-War – Memorabilia or cards dating before World War II.
Premium – Issued as an advertising extra. Usually, collectors have to send away to receive premiums in the mail.
Price – The amount of money a card or piece of memorabilia is worth.
Price Guide – A publication which lists the value of sports cards and memorabilia. Dr. Jim Beckett released the first price guide in 1979.
Private Signing – When an athlete signs autographs for a company or individual, as opposed to the general public. In many cases, the company will then resale the items to the public.
Pro Set – Card manufacturer active in the 1980s and 90s.
Program – Includes information about a particular sports team. Programs can be bought at a sports stadium, and the most valuable are World Series programs.
Promotional Card – Cards produced to promote an upcoming issue.
PSA – Short for Professional Sports Authenticator. They are the most respected sports card graders.
PSA/DNA – An authentication service which specializes in music and sports autographs.
Questionable Authenticity – Fake or counterfeit items.
Rack Box – A box of sports cards containing rack packs.
Rack Case – Includes three to six rack boxes.
Rack Pack – Usually containing three panels of cards, these packs are designed for sale to the public. They hang from store displays, and those with a star showing are especially collectible.
Rarity – How rare a sports card or piece of memorabilia is.
RC – Stands for “rookie card.”
Recolored – Recoloring the surface of a card to hide wear or damage.
Red Back – A collectible sports card with a red back.
Red Heart – Issued by the Red Heart Dog Food Company in 1954, this 33-card set was available as late as the 1970s. Very collectable.
Refractor – A card featuring a chrome reflective device.
Regional Set – Set issued only in a certain part of the country.
Reprint – Reproduction of a card.
Restored – A card which has been altered from its original state. Cards which have been restored have little value.
Reverse – The back of a sports card.
Rookie – An athlete in his/her first professional season.
Rookie Card – The first year a player’s cards were made available, whether it was his/her rookie season or not.
Score – Sports card manufacturer which debuted in 1988.
Scorecard – Used by fans at baseball games to record the progress and outcome of the game.
Scored – A scorecard which has been marked on or completely filled in.
Second-Year Card – The second card issued for a player in a major set of sports cards.
Secretarial – Celebrity autograph done by their secretary or assistant.
Series – Group of cards which are part of a larger set. Until the 1970s, cards were often issued in several series and released throughout the year.
Set – An entire collection of cards from a given set.
Short Print – A card printed in lesser numbers that other cards in the set. Usually half the print run of other cards.
Show – A show is a gathering of sports card collectors and dealers. These are held all over the country on a weekly basis, but the largest is the annual National Sports Collectors Show.
Signed-in-the-Presence – An autograph signed in the presence of a dealer or third-party authenticator.
Single Signed Ball – A ball signed by only one player. These are worth more than balls with multiple signatures.
Skybox – Manufacturer which started making sports cards in the 1990s.
Slabbed – Another name for a professionally graded card.
Snow – Slang for white defects sometimes found on sports cards.
SP – A set of cards manufactured by Upper Deck. Also stands for “short print.”
Sportflics – Company which made baseball cards in the 80s and 90s. Known for their 3D cards.
Sporting Life – A sports publication in the early part of the 20th century. They also issued sports cards, with the 1911 M116 set being the most valuable.
Sports Kings – Issue from 1933 which featured top athletes. It is one of the most popular pre-war issues produced.
Sports Market Report – Price guide for graded sports cards. Considered an industry leader.
Stain – Residue or blemish on the surface of the card.
Stand-Ups – Cards which could be folded in half so that the player’s picture could stand up. Sets from 1934 through 1936 were especially popular, although the folded nature of the cards makes it difficult to find them is quality condition.
Standard Size Card – A card which measures 2 ½” x 3 ½”.
Star Card – A sports card which features a star player.
Starter Set – A set of cards intended for collectors to build around.
Starting Lineup – A line of sports action figures.
Sticker – Trading cards with adhesive backs.
Stub – A ticket that has been used. There are both fan stubs and audit stubs.
Superstar Card – A card featuring one of the sport’s top stars.
T-206 – Premium cards issued with tobacco products from 1909 until 1912. One of the three most important card sets ever produced.
Tab – A portion of a card which can be removed without damaging the rest of the card.
Team Ball – A ball autographed by the members of a team.
Team Card – An entire sports team is pictured on this type of card.
Team Set – A complete run of players from a given team. Part of a larger set.
Telephone Auction – Popular in the sports collectible market, a telephone auction requires collectors to phone in their bids for an item.
Test Issue – Set of cards issued in limited supply to test their marketability.
Ticket – A piece of paper allowing the holder to gain admission to a sporting event.
Tiffany Set – Issued by Topps, these cards are considered high end. The cardboard stock is of higher quality, and a protective UV coating has been added.
Tobacco Card – Cards issued as a premium with tobacco products around the beginning of the 20th century. The most valuable, the T-206 set, includes a Honus Wagner card. This card is the most valuable baseball card in existence.
Topps – A sports card maker known for their post-war success. They are currently the most popular brand in the industry.
Trade Paper – A periodical which specializes in the certain type of sports memorabilia.
Traded Set – Cards which feature players who have switched teams during the season or made their debuts. Topps is well-known for their traded sets.
Trimmed – Cards altered by the process of cutting or shaving the edges. This greatly lowers the value of the card.
Triple Folder – Issued in 1912, this set of cards was praised for its artistic design.
Unauthorized Issue – Cards released without the permission of the league or player’s association.
Uncut Sheet – Sheet of cards which hasn’t been cut by the factory. Usually contains 132 cards.
Universal Rarity Scale – A scale created by collectible experts to measure how rare an item is.
Unscored – Score cards which have not been filled in.
Upper Deck – Major sports card maker which started in 1989. The company currently releases cards for all major sports.
Variation – A card which is slightly different from its more common counterpart. This may be as common as a color change in the background. Some of these variations are very rare.
Vending Box – A box of cards originally intended for sale in a vending machine. Also applies to boxes collated by dealers for sale to the public.
Vending Case – Most vending cases contain 24 vending boxes or 12,000 cards.
Vending Set – A set created by sorting cards from a vending box.
Very Good – Cards in this condition have light scuffing or scratches, slight rounding of the corners and slight wear on the edges.
Very Good to Excellent – Cards in this condition have surface wear, light scuffing, but still retain some of their original gloss.
VG – Stands for “very good condition.”
VG-EX – Stands for “very good to excellent condition.”
Vintage – Generally means that the item is older. Vintage cards are much older than modern cards.
Wish List – A list of items that a collector or dealer wishes to purchase.
Wax – An unopened pack of cards.
Wax Box – Box which contains 36 wax packs.
Wax Case – Contains 20 wax boxes.
Wax Dealer – Card dealer who specializes in unopened material.
Wax Pack – Unopened pack of cards (usually between 1 and 15).
Wax Stain – Wax on the card wrapper can leave stains on a card. Stains on the front can be removed, while stains on the back of the card are permanent.
Wrapper – The material used to cover a pack of cards.
Yearbook – Annual publication released by a sporting team. It shows the results of the previous season and discusses the coming season in detail.