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How to Decode Sports Collectibles Terminology

by Craig Blake

Signed basketball in a plexiglass case

Compiling sets of sports collectibles can be an adventure -- but before you can embark on your sports collectibles journey, you have to be able to understand the terminology. Experienced collectors of sports memorabilia have a unique lingo to describe different types of collectibles. If you want to join their ranks, you have to speak their language. To get started, here are a few bits of lingo you might come across in your collection efforts.

Sports Collectibles Lingo:

  1. Base cards: These are the sports cards included in the numbered run of sports cards, sometimes used interchangeably with the term "commons." Although not as valuable as some other trading cards, base cards will make up a complete set, which can be an entertaining thing to collect.

  2. Error card: A trading card with a mistake on it, such as a misspelled name or a picture of the wrong athlete is called an error card. Some error cards might be more valuable because of the mistake.

  3. Event-used: This refers to a sports jersey, baseball bat, autographed baseball or other item that was worn or used during a promotional event or photo shoot.

  4. Game-issued: A game-issued collectible is a sports jersey, baseball bat, ball or other item that was issued to be used during a game, but was never used.

  5. Game-used: A sports jersey, baseball bat, ball or other item that was used or worn during game play becomes a game-used collectible.

  6. Inserts: These are the limited-edition sports cards randomly included in packs. You never know if you will find inserts or what they might be. Collecting inserts is more difficult, but their scarcity often makes them valuable.

  7. Officially licensed product: This sports collectible uses official logos, team names and trademarks with permission from a professional athletic association.

  8. Parallels: Trading cards with different versions are known as parallels; the differences are usually no more than a different color on one part of the sports card.

  9. Rookie card: The first trading card where a player appears in a major set is called his rookie card; there may be rookie cards from different brands. Rookie cards are often more valuable than other sports cards.

  10. SP: This is an abbreviation for short print, which refers to trading cards that are printed in a small batch. Some companies will let collectors know that cards are part of a short print, while others may leave it up to the collectors to discover on their own.

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