PSA Glossary

Sports Lingo

Like all collectibles, the sports memorabilia market has its own terms and slang. The following is a brief definition and explanation of the most frequently used sports collecting terms.

Note:This is a work in progress and we would love to hear your comments and suggestions. Send your thoughts to [email protected].

3-D card
A card that appears to be three-dimensional as it is moved. Usually used to describe Kellog's and Sportflics issues made by this process.
500 Home Run Club
A group of baseball players who have hit 500 career home runs. 500 home runs is a magic number, of sorts, that not only separates the great home run hitters, but also more or less ensures induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Short for American Basketball Association.
Acronym for the American Card Catalog. This catalog, written by Jefferson Burdick and published in 1960 by Nostalgia Press, uses numerical and alphabetical designations for identifying and cataloging card sets.
Action Packed
A sports card manufacturer that is well known for its unique style of embossed sports cards.
Abbreviation for the American Football League
An artistic way of touching up a photo. This is common practice on sports cards that feature players who have changed teams. Hats and uniforms will be airbrushed to depict their new team.
Short for baseball's American League.
all-star card
A sports card that features a member of any given sport’s all-star team. The first all-star card was in the 1958 Topps baseball set.
all-star game
An annual sporting event by any given league that highlights the top stars in the league. All four major sports have an all-star game, although the NFL refers to theirs as the Pro Bowl.
Altered Stock
This term is used when the paper stock is altered in one or more of the following ways: trimming, recoloring, restoring, or enhancing the gloss.
A group or lot of cards that includes duplicates of one or more cards. For example, "A lot of 100 assorted cards".
An offering of sports collectibles where the buyer must bid against other potential buyers, as opposed to ordering an item from a catalog, price list, or advertisement at a set price.
auction catalog
A catalog which lists all of the items being offered for sale at a specific auction. Auction catalogs usually contain a description of the items being offered, often including statements about the condition (grade), rarity, and importance of the items. Most sports auction catalogs include “opening” or “minimum” bid amounts along with numerous photos.
Verifying the originality or genuineness of a sports collectibles item. For sports cards, the largest and most respected third party authentication (and grading) is Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA).  For sports autographs, the most well known authentication service is PSA/DNA.  For other sports memorabilia items you must depend on the selling dealer's knowledge and integrity.
authorized issue
An issue or set of cards that has the consent of the given league or player’s association.
A person’s signature. Autographs are a very significant part of the sports memorabilia market. Frequently autographed items include photos, cards, and equipment (balls, bats, uniforms, hockey pucks, gloves, etc.).
autographed card
A sports card that has been autographed, almost always by the player depicted on the card. Autographed cards have a smaller market but are still quite valid as a sports collectible. Autographs can sometimes be a negative lowering the value of a card, as would be the case for a great condition rarity card that wasn’t of an all-time great player. Sometimes the autograph can raise the value of a card, as would be the case of a lower condition card of an all-time great whose autograph was rare and valuable.
baseball cap
A hat worn by a baseball player. Game used caps are very collectible, as are signed ones.
baseball card
A sports card that pictures a baseball player. Baseball cards are the heart of the sports collectibles market. A vibrant national market for baseball cards emerged in the late 1970's. The first baseball card was issued in 1886.
Baseball Hall of Fame
Located in Cooperstown, New York, the Baseball Hall of Fame features thousands of timeless treasures that tell the history of baseball. More importantly, it features bronze plaques of 200+ members of whom have been enshrined. In collecting terms, a player who is a member of the Hall of Fame is most likely of highest demand.
basketball card
A card that features a basketball player or team. Bowman first issued basketball cards in 1948. The issue was not successful, and basketball cards were not produced again for another 10 years, when Topps gave it a shot. Their line of basketball cards was also unsuccessful. In 1961, Fleer gave it a try, but to no avail. Topps again produced cards from 1969 to 1981, only to give up production that never reached the levels of the ever-popular baseball card series’ that made the company a success. Cards were not issued for another five years, when Fleer produced the now-famous 1986 Fleer set, which includes the rookie card of Michael Jordan. Fleer’s 1986 set was the start of a successful rise in popularity of basketball cards. Today, basketball cards of all years are thriving and very collectible.
Baseball bats are very collectible. The most valuable bats are those that are used in games by professional players. Autograph collectors may also use bats that are not game used for athletes to sign.
Batter Up
Obviously, a well-used term by baseball umpires. More importantly, it is the name of the popular set that was issued from 1934 to 1936. The set consists of 192 blank-backed, die-cut cards, which were issued in two different series, the latter being the more difficult. These cards were printed in either black and white or several different color tints.
A bubble gum-making subsidiary of Topps which made baseball cards from 1959-71 and again in 1988-1991.
A well-known publisher of sports card price guides. The first Beckett price guide was published in 1979. This guide is widely credited for ushering in the modern sports card collectibles market.
Black Sox
A nickname for the members of the 1919 Chicago White Sox team that threw the World Series. Among the members of the Black Sox was Joe Jackson, one of the greatest stars the game ever knew. “Eight Men Out” is a well-known movie that tells the story of this infamous event.
blank back
A card that has no printing on the reverse side. A handful of sets were designed to have no printing on the backs, while others were a result of the manufacturing error. Blank backs that are manufacturing errors usually carry a premium.
An early 20th-century collectible consisting of a square piece of felt or other fabric which came wrapped around a package of cigarettes, so-called because they were sometimes sewn together to form a blanket. Baseball players were one of the several subjects found on blankets. Most popular are the 5 1/4" X 5 1/4" B18 blankets from 1914.
blue back
A card with a blue back. This term is usually connected to the 1951 Topps Blue Back set.
The part of a card that surrounds the photo. Traditionally, most cards were printed with white borders, while many modern cards have colored borders or even no borders whatsoever (full bleed). A card's centering is based on how well these borders are aligned
A well-known card manufacturer that began production in 1948 with baseball, football, and basketball cards. Their basketball production was halted that same year, while baseball and football cards were produced through 1955. The following year, Topps purchased the company and ended their rivalry in the sports card market. In 1989, Topps once again began production of cards with the Bowman name. Cards with this brand name are prominent in the modern sports card market.
boxing card
A card that pictures a boxer. The most well known are the 1948 Leaf and the 1951 Topps Ringside.
Slang for “open”. You may hear a collector say, “I am going to break some wax.” This means that he or she is going to open packs of cards.
cabinet card
An oversized card that was issued by tobacco manufacturers. They were commonly produced on a thick cardboard stock and available as premiums in the 19th and early 20th century. Curio cabinets were very common in this era, and a favorite place for collectors to display these treasures, thus the name cabinet card.
card collection
A group of sports cards accumulated by a card collector.
card collector
A person who collects sports cards.
Card Saver I
The recommended card protectors that PSA accepts. They measure 3 3/8” x 4 7/8” and are made for standard sized cards.
Card Saver IV
The recommended card protector for oversized cards. They measure 4 ½” x 7 1/8”.
card show
See Also: Show
card stock
What a sports card is printed on. Traditionally, manufacturers used heavy paper or cardboard. Today, cardboard is still the norm, although some manufactures have tried materials such as metal, leather, plastic, and wood.
Carte de Visite
The first widely available and affordable form of photography, "calling card" prints became highly popular in the latter half of the 19th century. The photos are usually black-and-white or sepia-toned, and mounted on cards that measure 2.5" by 4". Some CDV prints of 19th-century players and teams can be found today.
A listing of cards for sale, usually sent through the mail in magazine-like form.
See Also -- Carte de Visite
cello box
A box that contains cello packs. These boxes were distributed to retailers for individual pack sales. Most cello boxes contain 24 packs.
cello case
A number of cello boxes (usually 16) packaged for wholesale purposes.
cello pack
A form of card packaging. These packs usually contain more cards than the standard wax packs. These packs are wrapped in a transparent packaging, much like cellophane. Cello packs that have a star visible, especially on the front, are collectable and carry a premium over that of the price of the single card.
One of the most important factors in determining a card’s grade or condition. A card’s centering is found by measuring the distance between the photo and the edge of the card from opposite sides. A card centered “50/50 top to bottom and 60/40 left to right” is perfectly centered on the top and bottom borders and shifted to the left with 60% of the border to the left of the photo and 40% to the right. Perfectly centered cards are most valuable, while cards with no borders on any one edge are considered “miscut” and have very little value.
cereal box
A box of cereal that includes a sports image. Some boxes contain actual cards (like Post and Wheaties), while others are collected for their attractive sports images on the front of the box (Wheaties). These boxes are very collectible, and in many cases, very valuable.
certificate of authenticity
A statement of the genuineness of an item (often an autograph), printed on a piece of paper, thin cardboard, or plastic, that is furnished to the buyer by the seller.  Certificates of authenticity can be issued by the seller or a third party authentication service.  The validity of the certificate of authenticity depends upon the integrity and knowledge of the seller or authentication service.
See Also: PSA/DNA
Certification Number
PSA gives every graded card a certification number.  It can be found on the PSA label.  This number can be verified through our Online Cert Verification.
A list of cards in any one set or series. Checklists can be found in books and price guides, although the term is more commonly used for checklist cards, which are often included in sports card sets. These are intended as aids for collectors and commonly include small boxes that can be checked when the card is obtained. For this reason, many vintage checklists are of great value if found free of markings.
A word that describes the condition of the edges of a card. Chipping is most noticeable in sets with colored borders, due to the contrast of the borders and the lighter cardboard stock below the thin layer of ink. Chipping may occur from aging, handling, or even dull blades at the productions factory.
Cleats refer to shoes worn by either baseball or football players. Game used cleats are a small part of the memorabilia market, and can carry a large price tag if they are game worn by a famous athlete.
clubhouse signature
A signature that is not signed by the intended athlete. Most clubhouse signatures were done by bat boys, equipment managers, and other available clubhouse workers.
coach’s card
A card that features a coach or group of coaches.
A metal, plastic, or cardboard disc that pictures an athlete or related sports topic. A handful of silver coins do exist in the hobby and commonly picture well-publicized sporting events.
Putting cards in order, most commonly by number. Sets may come factory collated or hand collated. Collation is a dreaded word among those who break wax.
See Also: break
Used as a noun to describe all items that are wanted by collectors (as in, Autographs are a collectible) or all items within a specific collectible market (as in, sports collectibles).  Used as an adjective to describe any item within a specific collectible market that is wanted by collectors.  For example, photos of Babe Ruth are all collectible sports photos whereas your sons Little League photo, unless he grows up to be the next Mark McGwire, is not a collectible sports photo.
See Also: sports collectible
A group of sports cards and/or sports memorabilia accumulated by a sports collector.
A person who accumulates a specific group of items for fun, education, pride of ownership, and/or, sometimes, profitable purposes.
collector issue
A set of cards produced primarily to be sold to collectors and not issued as a premium to be given away or sold with a commercial product.  Collector issues fall into two categories: authorized (meaning the issue was made with the approval of professional sports and the players' association) or unauthorized (meaning the issue was made without approval).
See Also: authorized issueunauthorized issue
combination card
A single card which depicts two or more players, but is not a team card.
A term used to describe a card that is not a rookie, semi-star, or star card. These are usually the least expensive cards in a set. “Singles” has also become a widely acceptable term for commons.
See Also: common
complete set
A complete run of cards from a given issue. A set includes one card of each number or each player that was produced.
The state of preservation of a sports card or memorabilia item.  Condition is a big component of value in most collectibles fields, and it is especially critical for sports cards and many sports memorabilia items.  The better the condition, the more desirable an item is, and thus, the more valuable it is.
See Also: grade
A bogus reproduction purposely manufactured to deceive buyers into believing they are purchasing the real thing. A fake or forgery.
A term used in bat collecting. A game used bat that has been cracked is of lesser value than one that is not. This term may also be used to refer to the act of opening a box or case of unopened cards (“I just cracked a case of 1986 Fleer wax”).
Cracker Jack
This term refers to the 1914 and 1915 Cracker Jack set that was issued as an insert in Cracker Jack boxes. The 1915 set is both desirable and valuable. The 1914 set is even rarer than the 1915, although this scarcity turns off most set collectors.
A bend or fold in a card. The mishandling of a card causes most creases. Creases are a key factor in determining a card's grade and value. A crease can drop a card one to five grades.
PSA will review cards, graded by other grading services, for crossover. PSA graders will evaluate your card inside the current holder. If they deem that the card is worthy to cross over into the equivalent PSA grade or specified grade on the PSA submission form (for instance, you may choose to have the card crossed into a lower grade), then the card will be cracked out of the current holder and placed into a PSA holder.
Cy Young Award
An award given out at the end of each baseball season to the best pitcher in each league. Voting for the award is done by members of the Baseball Writers Association. The award is named after Cy Young, whose 511 wins are still the most ever by a pitcher.
A person who buys and sells collectibles professionally for a profit. Sports cards and sports memorabilia dealers are usually very knowledgeable about their specialty, and talking with them is a valuable experience for collectors.
Declared Value
PSA requires that you estimate a value for each item you submit based on its condition.  This declared value is used to determine your service level and return shipping fees.  If you are not sure of the value, you may use the SMR price guide or check other trade publications, auction results, or contact a PSA Authorized Dealer.
Diamond Star
A set of cards that was produced from 1934 to 1936 by National Chicle. The set consists of 108 color cards that feature artwork done from original photos. The set is one of the more popular pre-war issues.
A card that has been cut or perforated by the manufacturer. Many modern cards come die-cut in a variety of shapes and sizes. A handful of vintage sets were also die-cut (the most well known are the 1934-36 Batter-Up and the 1964 Topps Stand Ups sets), usually around the player's picture, so the card could be folded in half, and the player’s photo could stand-up.
Damage on the corner of a card. A ding is commonly caused by dropping or mishandling a card. A card with a ding (or dinged corner) is greatly devalued.
A sports card manufacturer that began production in 1981 with a baseball set and a golf set.
Double Header
A unique set that was issued by Topps in 1955. The cards are larger than standard and feature colored art drawings of baseball players. When the card is folded in half, another player’s body matches up with the shared feet and legs of the card.
Double Play
Issued by Gum Inc. in 1941. This set features 75 black and white cards, each depicting two different players.
double print
A card that has twice the print run of the rest of the cards in the set. This is due to the fact that, occasionally, two of the same cards will appear on a sheet (usually 132 cards per), which is later cut into individual cards.
See Also: Holdered
Any item used for participation in sports. Equipment includes things such as uniforms, helmets, balls, and bats. Game-used equipment is very desirable among collectors.
error card
A card that contains a mistake. An error card may have an incorrect photo, a misspelled name or incorrect statistical information. An error card that has no corrected version usually has no additional value. Error cards that have a corrected version are usually more valuable.
Short for Excellent.
Short for Excellent - Mint
Excellent (EX 5)
A grading term. A card that is in excellent condition may have light rounding of the corners, very light creasing, minor wear on the surface, and centering of no worse than 85/15.
Excellent-Mint (EX-MT 6)
A card that has minor wear on the corners, 80/20 or better centering, and no major flaws.
exhibit card
A larger-type card that is roughly the size of a postcard. Exhibit cards were commonly sold in arcades and were produced from the 1920s to the 1960s.
extended set
See Also: traded set
facsimile autograph
A reproduction of an autograph. Many sports cards are manufactured with a facsimile autograph of the player pictured. Many sports photos and other sports memorabilia items also have facsimile autographs.
factory set
An entire set of cards that was packaged by the manufacturer for sale to the public. These sets usually include a distinct box with a security seal or inner-packing to secure the cards. Sets from the factory generally carry a premium over hand-made sets.
factory set case
A sealed case from the manufacturer that contains a given number of complete, factory-collated sets.
Not genuine. A forgery or counterfeit.
A term used to describe the discovery of a valuable group of cards.
A jersey made of a cotton or wool material. Most flannels were discontinued and replaced by knit jerseys in the early 1970's.
A manufacturer of sports cards. The company produced baseball cards from 1959 to 1963, as well as several football sets and a single basketball set in this same era. In 1981, the company once again began production and is a leading manufacturer in today’s market. Fleer is now owned by Rite Aid, the well-known Pharmacy.
foil box
A box of cards that contains foil packs. Boxes commonly contain 36 packs.
foil case
A wholesale packaging of foil boxes.
foil packs
A group of cards that are packaged by the manufacturer for retail sale. These packs are so named for their metallic packaging.
food set
A set of cards either inserted in packages of food (hot dogs, cereal, popcorn, potato chips, candy, cookies, etc.) or offered as a send-in-offer by a food company. Examples of food sets include Kahn's Wieners, Mother's Cookies, Kraft, and Kellog's.
football card
A card that pictures a football player or team. The first football card was printed in 1886. The first major set was issued by National Chicle in 1935, and is one of the mostly highly collected football sets today. There were no other major football issues again until 1948, when Bowman and Leaf both entered the market.
Football Hall of Fame
Located in Canton, Ohio.
A bogus reproduction purposely manufactured to deceive buyers into believing they are purchasing the real thing. A fake or counterfeit.
Full Bleed
This is the term used when a card has no border. The image on the card goes up to the edge of the cardboard.
game used
A piece of equipment that has been used by an athlete during a game.
Game Used Cards
A card that has a piece of game used memorabilia embedded into the card. These are often thicker than regular issue cards.
Gem Mint
A card that is virtually perfect. Corners must be razor sharp, centering must be no worse than 55-45, and the cards color and gloss must be original.
Gem MT
Short for Gem Mint.
The shine on the surface of a card. Most cards were originally printed with a gloss. The amount that still remains plays an important role in the condition of the card.
glossy set
A set of cards that have a more-glossy-than-normal front. These are generally rarer versions of an established set. Fleer and Score have both issued glossy sets, as has Topps, although it is referred to as a “Tiffany” set.
A grading term used to describe a card’s condition. A card in good condition may have rounded corners, multiple creases, and major flaws. Values of cards in this grade are somewhat diminished.
An extremely popular card manufacturer that produced cards from 1933 to 1941. The 1933 Goudey set is their most popular, and arguably the most popular pre-war set produced. The art drawing set features numerous Hall of Famers, including two cards of Lou Gehrig and four cards of Babe Ruth.
A description of the condition of a sports card or sports memorabilia item.  Grade is always a big component of price.  The higher the grade, the more desirable, and consequently, the more valuable the item.  Nowadays nearly all valuable sports cards are graded using the 10 Point Grading Scale established by Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA) in 1991.  See PSA 10 Point Grading Scale.
See Also: condition
The hard, brittle pink stuff that is supposedly used for chewing. Topps is most well known for its coupling of gum and cards in packs. Actually, cards were intended as an insert in packs of gum. Currently, packs are gum-free, as sports cards are much more desirable than a stick of gum.
gum card
A term used to describe a card issued with gum, most commonly, Topps.
gum stain
A stain on a card that is caused by gum. When gum was inserted in packs, it was placed on top of the pack, between the wrapper and the card. Over time, the gum would stain the card. Cards with gum stains are worth only a fraction of those without.
Hall of Famer
A player that is a member of the Hall of Fame. These player’s cards are almost always the most desirable cards in a set.
Hand-cut Cards
These cards usually need to be removed from a panel, box, etc. and were intended to be cut by the consumer. As a general rule, PSA will not grade cards hand-cut from uncut sheets if the cards were distributed in pre-cut form and released to the public as individual cards.
A Wisconsin-based company that produced statues (Hartland statues) in the 1950s and 1960s. The most notable of these are the 18 professional baseball player models, which have become very collectible. Modern day reproductions are also available.
Heisman Trophy
An award given out to the best college football player at the end of each season.
Used to refer to either a baseball batting helmet or a football helmet. Helmets are most commonly used for autograph purposes.
high numbers
A description of the last, or near the last series in a sports card set. Traditionally, manufacturers would produce cards in several series. As the season would wind down, so would public interest and production. This lower print run resulted in more limited supply and later, more valuable cards.
high series
Also known as a high number series or high number, a high series contains cards from the last series distributed for a set in a given year. Many of these older high series cards are of great value, as they were often released after the baseball season, when interest for baseball was waning. Therefore, these cards were often printed or distributed in smaller amounts than those of the preceding series. The most well known high series is from the 1952 Topps set (#311-407), which includes Mickey Mantle’s first Topps card (#311).
hockey card
A card that features a hockey player or team. The first hockey card was also the first card issued for any major sport. It was issued in 1879. Unlike football and basketball cards, hockey cards were widely produced prior to World War II. These vintage cards, as well as modern day issues, are very popular in Canada, while they remain only the fourth most collected sports cards in America.
hockey puck
Hockey pucks are very common item to have signed.
hockey stick
Hockey sticks are commonly used for signatures, especially of entire teams. Game used hockey sticks are also very collectible, and can be of great value.
Short for Hall of Fame
The term used for when a card is encapsulated in plastic by a grading service.
The name of a basketball card manufacturer. Also common objects found in Dennis Rodman’s nose.
In action
An action shot of an athlete that is commonly a secondary card in a set.
A word that describes cards that were added to a regular pack to help increase sales. The first inserts were around the turn of the century, when tobacco companies used cardboard to keep packs of cigarettes from getting smashed. Eventually, pictures were included on the small pieces of cardboard. Over time, these premiums became collectible and a key element of different cigarette sales. Throughout the years, manufacturers have used many kinds of inserts. Inserts have evolved to the point where almost every new issue available contains at least one type of insert. These modern inserts are far rarer than regular issue cards.
Jersey Cards
See Also: Game Used Cards
The well-known cereal company that is famous for its 3-D cards, which were included in cereal boxes in the 1970s and 1980s.
key cards
The most expensive, desirable, or important cards in a set.
A grading term that describes the wearing and separating of the layers of cardboard stock on the corners of the card.
Well known for its production of its modern day sets, Leaf is also well known for several sets produced right after World War II. In 1948 and 1949, they produced crude sets of baseball, football, and boxing stars. Over time, these issues have become very popular, especially tough-to-find, high-grade examples.
league championship
A series of games that are played to determine the champion of a league.
A poster-like print that is produced by using a special, high-quality printing process.
The meaning of “lot” is two-fold in the sports collectibles market. The first meaning simply describes a group of cards. One might say, “I have a lot of 100 Ken Griffey cards.” The other meaning is short for “auction lot.” Bidders in an auction bid by lot numbers, rather than by the name of the item that they desire.
low series
Low series or low number cards are from the first series distributed for a set in a given year. Production and distribution of these cards was generally greater as they were the first run of cards available to the public for that baseball season. However, there are exceptions. For instance, the 1933 Goudey low series or low numbers are worth considerably more than their higher numbered counterparts.
manager card
A card that pictures the manger of a team; Tommy Lasorda has a regular card in the 1954 Topps set, while he has a manager card in the 1978 Topps set.
The last name of the great Mickey Mantle. As a kid from Oklahoma, Mantle played the game as well as anyone. He was a hero to millions in a time when Americans needed one. Baseball has had many great players, but only a handful of them were bigger than baseball, and the Mick was one of them. Mantle’s first Topps card is the king of post-war issues and sells for well over $100,000 in Gem Mint condition.
MC (miscut)
Type of qualifier. A card that has little or no border, or even portions of another card.  Cards with a factory miscut, such as a diamond cut, or when another card's image is on the original card will be designated MC.
See Also: Qualifier
Mementos from a sports event or belonging to or used by an athlete or sports figure. Examples of sports memorabilia include autographs, photos, programs, team yearbooks, trophies, game tickets, equipment, balls, uniforms, books, and magazines. The market for collectible sports memorabilia is huge. In fact, it is one of the largest of all collectibles markets.
A smaller version of a regular card. The most notable is the 1975 Topps mini set.
A smaller version of a major league baseball batter’s helmet. These are most commonly used for autographs.
Minimum Size Requirement
When a card is significantly undersized according to factory specifications.
minor league card
A card that features players from the minor leagues. Minor league cards are a small, but important part of the market. Most minor league cards have low print runs and are difficult to locate.
Mint (MINT 9)
A grading term for an item that is in its original, like-new state. A card in mint condition will have sharp corners, no major flaws, and must be centered no worse than 60/40.
MK (Marks)
Type of qualifier. The card exhibits marks caused by pen, pencil, or some other type of ink and the presence of the mark or marks causes the card to fall below the minimum standard for the grade.
See Also: Qualifier
Short for Mint.
Abbreviation for Most Valuable Player.
MVP trophy
The trophy given to the winner of the Most Valuable Player Award.
name tag
The tag which is placed on the inside of the uniform, and usually states the player’s name and uniform measurements.
The National Sports Collectors Convention is by far the largest and most attended show of the year. The first national took place in 1980 in Los Angeles, California.
National Chicle
A one-time manufacturer of sports cards. They are most well known for their 1935 football issue. They also manufactured the well-known Diamond Stars set.
Abbreviation for the National Basketball Association.
Near Mint (NM 7)
A card that has very few flaws. The corners may show some light wear, centering may be no worse than 75/25, and no major flaws should be apparent.
Near Mint-Mint (NM-MT 8)
A card in this condition may appear to be mint at first glance, but may have slight wear on the corners. Centering may be no worse than 70/30.
Nineteenth Century
Memorabilia that dates back to the 1800's.
Short for Near Mint.
Short for Near Mint – Mint.
no hitter
A game in which a pitcher completes the game without allowing a hit. Nolan Ryan has seven and is the record-holder to date.
Short for “non-sport card.”
non-sport card
A card that pictures a topic other than sports. Entertainers, movies, and TV shows are among the more popular.
A card-grading term used to describe indentations along the edge of a card, sometimes caused by a rubber band. Notching decreases a card's value.
Topps’ Canadian counterpart that manufactures baseball and hockey cards.
The front of the card displaying the picture.
OC (off-center)
Type of qualifier.  The card exhibits centering that falls below the minimum standard for the grade.  For example, a card that meets the standard for Mint 9, but has 65.35 centering would be designated Mint 9oc.
See Also: Qualifier
OF (out of focus)
Type of qualifier.  The card exhibits poor focus that causes the card to fall below the minimum standard for the grade.  This usually occurs in the form of a blurred image on the front.
See Also: Qualifier
A card that has uneven borders.
Old Judge
A brand of cigarettes which was popular in the late 1800's. Also the name given to the huge set of baseball cards issued as a premium with that brand of cigarettes. The cards, issued from 1887-90, carried advertisements for Old Judge cigarettes.
out of focus
A card that has a fuzzy picture or is poorly registered. This is a result of misalignment of sheets while running through various colors of printing plates.
A group of cards that are sealed by the manufacturer for retail sale.
A hockey card manufacturer based in Canada. Originally, the company produced cards from 1951 through 1964 and later again in the 1990's.
PD (Print Defect)
Type of qualifier. The card exhibits significant print flaws causing the card to fall below the minimum standard for the grade.  The print can appear in the form of print dots, print "snow" (white patches), print lines, etc.
See Also: Qualifier
Certain special cards may be able to receive a pedigree from PSA. A pedigree allows collectors to personalize their PSA labels with something like “John Doe Collection”.
perfect game
A game in which a pitcher completes a game without allowing a base runner. The most famous perfect game was in game five of the 1956 World Series, in which Don Larsen of the Yankees pitched a perfect game to defeat the Brooklyn Dodger, 2-0. It was also the first no-hitter in series history.
A term that describes a special note, next to a signature, such as: "Dear…", "To my pal…" or "Best wishes…" In autograph collecting circles this is also known as an "inscription".
Philadelphia Gum Co.
A major manufacturer of football cards in the 1960's.
pine tar
a sticky substance used on baseball bats to aid a batter’s grip. Originally, pine tar was an actual product of pine trees, while today, a synthetic version is also used.
Play Ball
A very popular pre-war baseball card manufacturer that produced sets from 1939 to 1941. Also, the phrase used by an umpire to signal the start of a baseball game.
Police Set
A small set of cards issued regionally by various police departments (and sometimes fire departments). These cards were given to kids and usually carry a safety tip.
Pop Report
Short for PSA Population Report. This is the publication that reports the graded population or census of any particular PSA graded card.
Cards that were issued by the Post Cereal Company on the back of cereal boxes. The most well known issues are from the early 1960's and featured either baseball or football players. The company also inserted cards into the boxes in the 1990's.
A collectible that dates after World War II.
From a time before a player’s accident. This term is most often linked with Roy Campanella, who was paralyzed in an auto accident in January of 1958. Later, through the aid of a modern medicinal tool, he did several signings before his death in 1993. Pre-accident autographs are worth significantly more.
A collectible that is from a time before the start of World War II.
An item issued as an advertising extra. In most cases, collectors have had to send away to the companies or manufacturers to receive a "premium".
The amount of money a sports card or sports memorabilia item sells for at auction, through a set sale, or in individual transactions. At auction the price is determined by competition among bidders. For set sales in catalogs, price lists, and advertisements, the price represents the asking price of the seller. In individual sales, the price is negotiated between the buyer and seller.
price guide
A list of estimated values for sports cards and/or sports memorabilia. The first major sports collectibles price guide was The Sport Americana Baseball Card Price Guide issued by Dr. Jim Beckett in 1979. Today, there are dozens of price guides.  Some are good, some aren't so good.  The best online price guide is the Sports Market Report Online Price Guide (OK, so we're prejudiced).  The best hard copy price guide (and the one most often referred to by both collectors and dealers) is the Sports Market Report.
private signing
When an athlete signs for an individual or company, as opposed to a public signing, where all comers are welcome. Many wholesalers pay for the services of top athletes, usually by the hour. These companies then offer these signed items for sale to the public.
Pro Set
A sports card manufacturer that produced cards in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Professional Sports Authenticator
See Also: PSA
A magazine-like publication issued by a team that includes information about the team. Programs can be purchased at stadiums for a few bucks. The most desirable programs are vintage World Series programs, some sell for as much as $30,000.
Short for promotional card
promotional card
A card produced by a manufacturer to promote upcoming issues. Generally, these cards are more limited than the regular issues.
Short for Professional Sports Authenticator.  These are three of the most recognizable letters in the sports card market. Founded in 1991, PSA set the standard for the graded card market.  These letters are usually used by collectors in conjunction with a number from the PSA 10-point grading scale as in PSA 8, PSA 9, or the ultimate grade, PSA 10.
A third party authentication service that focuses on sports and music autographs.   PSA/DNA uses synthetic DNA that is only visible with the aid of a laser to mark the item being authenticated.  PSA/DNA also affixes a small sticker, which has a unique certification number, onto the item.  This unique certification number matches a PSA/DNA certificate of authentication that is issued with the item at the time of the authentication.
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 the standard in one area. For example, a card which exhibits all the qualities of a NM-MT 8, but is 90/10 centered left to right, will receive a grade of NM-MT 8oc. The "OC" stands for off-center. Here is a brief list of qualifiers: OC (Off-center), ST (stain), PD (Print Defect), OF (Out of Focus), and MK (Marks).
Questionable Authenticity
This is another term for counterfeit.
rack box
A box containing rack packs.
rack case
A wholesale unit that includes three or six rack boxes.
rack pack
Packs designed for retail sale. These clear packs usually contain three panels of cards, which are designed to hang from store displays. Rack packs with stars showing are collectible, much like they are with cello packs, although they are not quite as valuable.
The supply side of the supply/demand equation.  The fewer examples available of a sports collectible, the rarer the item, and, the harder it is to find that sports collectible item.  Also used to describe a truly rare record as in, thats a rarity.  Rarity is a major component of value in the sports collectibles market.  There are many rarities, but a sports collectible must also have collector demand to be really valuable.
Abbreviation/short for rookie card. Notes a player's rookie card.
The art of fraudulently recoloring the surface of a sports card to hide wear or physical damage.
red back
A card with a red back. This term is most commonly used with the 1951 Topps red back set.
Red Heart
Red Heart refers to the 33 card set from 1954 that was issued by the Red Heart Dog Food Co. The set was issued in three series of 11 cards each that had different colored backgrounds behind the player: Red, green, and blue. The red background series is considered to be the scarcest. This issue was redeemable by mail from the manufacturer and was reportedly available as late as the early 70’s.
A card that has chrome reflective devices. These cards often come with a thin removable protective layer. The card loses some value if this plastic layer is removed.
regional set
A set issued only in a specific geographic area. These sets are usually smaller and feature one or several teams from the issued area.
A card that is a reproduction of an original, usually more expensive card or set.
A card that has been doctored from its original state. The most common act of restoration is the rebuilding of a card's corners. Restored cards have very little value.
The backside of a card.
A player in his first season. Also short for rookie card.
rookie card
A players first year of cards, whether or not it is his rookie season. Players may have one or dozens of rookie cards, depending on how highly touted he was as a youngster and in which year his rookie card was issued.
Short for Sports Collectors Digest.
A sports card manufacturer which first started production in 1988.
A publication available at sporting events used by fans to chronicle the outcome of the game.
A scorecard that has been marked up or filled in by a sports fan.
second-year card
The second card of a player issued in the major sets. Usually, a second-year card is the second most expensive card of a player, following to the rookie card.
An autograph of a celebrity that is actually done by his or her secretary or other assistant. Sports celebrities are bombarded by requests for autographs. Most don’t have the time to answer all of the requests, so some have their secretaries do the signatures.
A group of cards that are a part of a larger set. Until the 1970s, many card manufacturers, especially Topps, issued cards in several series, which were released throughout the season.
An entire run of cards from a given issue, including all card numbers that were produced.
set case
See Also: factory set case
short print
A card that is printed in lesser numbers than the other cards in the same set. Generally, short prints have a print run of half that of the other cards.
A commercial trade show gathering of sports collectors and dealers.  Sports Collectibles shows, often referred to as card shows, began in the early 1970s.  Today, there are dozens and dozens of card shows being held every weekend all over the United States.  Shows are of basically two types: Smaller regional shows attended by local dealers and collectors, and national shows attended by dealers and collectors from all over the United States.  The largest, and most important, sports collectibles show is the annual National Sports Collectors Show, held once a year in July or August, each year in a different major city.
See Also: National
An autograph that was signed in the presence of the seller or a representative of a third party authentication service. The validity of the signed-in-the-presence status of an autograph is dependent upon the integrity and reputation of the seller or authentication service. The largest and most respected signed-in-the-presence authentication service is PSA/DNA.
single signed ball
This term is for baseballs that have been autographed by only one player. Balls that are single signed are worth more than ones that have multiple signatures.
See Also: common
A sports card manufacturer that started production in the 1990's.
A term used to describe a professionally graded card. You may hear a collector say: “boy, that is a nice card, why don’t you get it slabbed?”
Also called "print snow," this word is slang for the white, flaky print defects that are frequently found on sportscards.
Abbreviation for short print. Also, a high quality set produced by Upper Deck.
Another name for baseball shoes or cleats.
A manufacturer of baseball cards in the 80’s and 90’s, best known for their 3D style cards.
Sporting Life
Sporting Life was a major publication in the early part of the century. They issued numerous sports card sets, the most popular of which was the 1911 M116. Offered as a premium to subscribers, these cards were issued in 24 different 12-card series.
sports card
A card that pictures an athlete or an athletic team.
sports collectible
All items that are wanted by sports collectors.  For example, photos of Babe Ruth are all sports collectibles whereas your sons Little League photo, unless he grows up to be the next Mark McGwire, is not a sports collectible.
See Also: collectible
Sports Collectors Digest
A popular weekly publication featuring advertisements placed by sports collectible dealers.
Sports Kings
A popular issue from 1933 that featured the top athletes from that period. The issue was produced by Goudey Gum Inc., who also released another set that same year. Both of these sets are among the most popular pre-war issues ever produced.
Sports Market Report (SMR)
The leading price guide for professionally graded sports cards.
sports memorabilia
Memorabilia (mementos) with a specific connection to a sport, sports event, and/or sports athlete.
See Also: memorabilia
ST (Stain)
Type of qualifier. The card exhibits staining which falls below the minimum standard for the grade.  This could be a gum, wax, water or other type of stain.
See Also: Qualifier
Residue or a mark left on the surface of a sports collectible, usually as a result of contact with a foreign substance.
Refers to a type of card that was die cut around the player’s picture. The background section then could be folded in half, so the card could stand up by itself while the player’s picture stood alone. The most well known stand-up issues are the 1964 Topps Stand Ups and the 1934-36 Batter Up set. The cards can be difficult to obtain in high grade, as many of them were folded, thus compromising their condition.
standard size card
A card which measures 2 1/2" X 3 1/2" tall. In 1957, Topps baseball cards were produced in the 2 1/2" X 3 1/2" size, which set the standard for modern baseball cards.
A player that stands out above the rest. The cream-of-the-crop.
star card
A card featuring a star player. In vintage material, a star card is usually a Hall of Fame member, while in modern material it is the players who dominate sports media and national advertising campaigns.
starter set
A group of cards that are sold and intended to be a base for a collector to build a set upon.
Starting Lineup
Toy action figures that depict sports athletes. These are made of plastic and commonly come in a sealed package with a baseball card. These figures are very collectable and are most valuable when in their original packages.
A card with an adhesive back. There are some 80s sticker sets that are smaller than regular cards. These carry little value. The most well known are the Fleer basketball stickers that were one per pack inserts in the mid to late 80s.
See Also: card stock
This refers to a ticket that has been used and is now a stub. The two different kinds are audit stubs and fan stubs.
Submission Form
The PSA form that you fill out when you submit cards for grading. There is a carbon-copy version and an online version that is printable.
superstar card
A card picturing a player of Hall of Fame (current or future) caliber.
A classic set of over 500 small tobacco premium cards issued in various brands of cigarettes from 1909-1912. This set contains dozens of cards depicting Hall-Of-Fame players of the day. Widely recognized as one of the three most important sports card sets ever produced.
A portion of a card, usually perforated, which can be removed from the card without damaging the central part of the card.
Transferable images that depict a player or a team logo. These are not highly collectable and carry little value. Also, commonly found on Dennis Rodman’s body.
team ball
A ball autographed by the majority of the members of a particular team.
team card
A card that pictures an entire sports team.
team set
A complete run of players from a given team from a larger set.
telephone auction
An auction where bidding is conducted over the phone. Most telephone auctions are held over a one or two day period and end either at a specific time or “after the phone doesn’t ring for 15 minutes.” Those telephone auctions that end at a specific time usually are followed by a “call back” session where bidders who are still interested in a specific item can battle it out, one on one, over the phone. Telephone auctions are extremely popular in the sports collectibles market.
test issue
A set or sampling of cards that is issued by a manufacturer in limited supply, in order to test its marketability.
A small piece of paper enabling the possessor to attend an event.
Tiffany set
A high end set of cards, issued by Topps. These sets were identical to the regular issue set, except for the higher quality white cardboard stock and the addition of a protective UV coating.
tobacco card
A card that was issued in a tobacco product as a premium. The most well known issue is the T-206 set, which includes the Honus Wagner card, the most expensive card in the industry. A majority of the cards were produced around the turn of the century, although there were Red Man tobacco sets issued in the 1950s.
The most recognized sports card manufacturer. They are most well known for the 1952 Topps set, the king of post-war issues. Today, Topps still dominates the market, with Topps Chrome, Topps Finest, and Bowman Chrome issues.
trade paper
A periodical, usually in newspaper form, that specializes in a specific collectible. The main trade paper for the sports collectibles market is Sports Collectors Digest (SCD), begun in 1981 and is now published weekly by Krause Publications. Beckett Publications publishes a family of sports card price guides and Landmark Publications publishes the monthly "Tuff Stuff."
traded set
A set of cards, usually factory packaged, that features players who switched teams during the season, as well as those who made their debuts. Topps, who started this trend in 1981, is most well known for traded sets. Other companies also produce traded sets, although they refer to them by different names such as “Update” (Fleer) and “Rookie/Traded” (Score) sets.
A card that has been altered by cutting or shaving the edges. The most obvious reason for this is to improve the condition of corners, by removing the worn areas. Cards are also trimmed to correct centering problems. Cards that have been trimmed have very little value.
Triple Crown
A term that is most commonly used for a baseball player who leads his league in batting average, home runs, and RBIs. It may also be used for pitchers who lead the league in ERA, wins, and strikeouts.
Triple Folder
An important set of cards, widely praised for their tremendous artistic design, issued in 1912.
unauthorized issue
An issue or set of cards that does not have the consent of the given league or player’s association. The cards are both illegal and of little value.
uncut sheet
A sheet of cards that has not been cut by the factory into individual cards. Most uncut sheets contain 132 cards
Universal Rarity Scale
A collectibles rarity information scale developed in 1998 by 21 major collectibles experts in order to both define rarity within their individual markets and allow collectors and dealers from different collectibles markets to more easily communicate with one another. The Universal Rarity Scale is a 10-point scale. The least rare collectible items are those where more than 10,000 examples are estimated to exist. These items are designated “URI” and are described as “readily available.” The rarest items are those where only one example is known to exist. These rarities are designated “UR10” and are described as “unique.”
A program that has not been filled in by a sports fan.
update set
See Also: traded set
Upper Deck
A major sports card manufacturer that started in 1989 with a premium issue. The 1989 Upper Deck set is very well known for its inclusion of the extremely popular Ken Griffey rookie card. The company produces sets for all sports, as well as other lines of cards such as SP, SPX, SP Authentic, UD3, and Collector’s Choice.
A card that is different, usually subtly, from its more common counterpart in any set. Some variations are error cards that were corrected by the manufacturers, while other variations might be as simple as a color change in the background of the card. Many variations are extremely rare, as they were corrections made early on in the press run, and therefore, have considerable value.
vending box
A box of cards (usually 500) that was originally issued by the manufacturer for use in vending machines. Later, these were more often used by dealers who would collate the boxes into sets for sale to the public.
vending case
A wholesale unit of cards, which contains vending boxes. Almost all vending cases contain 24 vending boxes, or 12,000 cards.
vending set
A set that was made by sorting cards from a vending box. Vending sets are usually in better condition than a set built from wax, as cards from vending are usually sharper and always free of staining.
very good (VG 3)
According to PSA grading standards, a VG 3 card reveals some, though not extreme, rounding of the corners. Some surface wear will be apparent, along with possible light scuffing or light scratches. Focus may be somewhat off-register and edges may exhibit noticeable wear. Much, but not all, of the card’s original gloss will be lost. Borders may be somewhat yellowed and/or discolored. A crease may be visible. Printing defects are possible. Slight stain may show on obverse and wax staining on reverse may be more prominent. Centering must be 90/10 or better on the front and back.
very good to excellent (VG-EX 4)
According to PSA grading standards, a VG-EX 4 card’s corners may be slightly rounded. Surface wear is noticeable but modest. May have light scuffing or light scratches. Some original gloss will be retained. Borders may be slightly off-white. A light crease may be visible. Centering must be 85/15 or better on the front and 90/10 or better on the back.
Short for Very Good.
Short for Very Good to Excellent.
A term usually intended to indicate an item was issued or produced quite some time ago. For example, a "vintage" baseball card versus a "modern" baseball card.
want list
A collector's or dealer's list of items he is wishing to buy. Often, a collector will send a dealer a "want list," and the dealer will try to locate the items on the list.
A loose term that describes unopened packs of cards.
wax box
A box containing individual wax packs (usually 36).
wax case
A wholesale unit that contains wax boxes (usually 20)
wax dealer
A card dealer that specializes in unopened material.
wax pack
An unopened pack of cards, named for its traditional form of packaging: wax-coated paper that is sealed shut at the factory by simply applying heat. Wax packs may contain anywhere from one to 15 cards.
wax stain
A stain on a card caused by the wax on the card wrapper. Wax stains on a card front can be removed, due to the coating on the card surface, while wax stains on the card reverse are permanent.
Usually paper, wax, or cellophane used to cover and encase a group of trading cards.
An annual publication put out by sports teams chronicling the past season's results and reporting on their prospects for the upcoming year.