If you don’t hang out with a lot of serious collectors, you might not know the lingo… the slang that’s used to refer to the things we collect, or the people that collect them. This article is a collection of commonly used words in the world of baseball card collecting.
I was a “pack ripper” when I first started collecting cards. I didn’t know what a “pack ripper” was… but I figured it had something to do with me buying and opening a lot of packs! Card collectors and dealers use specific words to describe their cards. I’ve compiled a list of common words or phrases every collector should know. If I’m missing one, make a comment at the bottom of the page and I’ll add it to the list.
Autograph Cards – Cards that are signed by the player. When they’re distributed by the manufacturer in packs, they’re called “Certified Autographed Inserts.” These are considered authentic because they’re coming directly from the manufacturer. There are also “autographed cards” that may or may not have documentation. An autographed card that hasn’t been authenticated isn’t worth much in my book, but some people will value them in hopes of sending them in and coming back authentic.
Base Set – The complete set for a given year and make, e.g. 1989 Topps. When someone talks about a “Set Collector” they’re referring to someone who collects base sets.
Blaster Box – A sealed retail box of card packs that’s sold at by the box. It’s shrink wrapped and un-tampered with. If you’re buying a lot of packs from a retail store, save your money and just buy an opened blaster box. If the box is broken packs can be handled, and people will feel the packs for valuable inserts and cherry pick the best packs… I’m serious.
Book Value – The price that’s printed in a price guide.
Break – When someone opens a pack of factory sealed cards or a box they call it a “break”. You’ll hear people say, “we’re going to break some wax!”… meaning we’re going to open some packs.
COA – Certificate of Authenticity. Documentation provided by a recognized certifying company stating that the object is authentic based on their examination. Not all COA’s carry the same weight in the collecting community. A COA from an unknown or dubious source will not attract the same respect and therefor price, as would a COA from a major industry authenticator. For baseball cards, the most recognized and respected grading and authenticating companies are PSA – Professional Sports Authenticator, BGS – Beckett Grading Service, and SCG – Sports Cards Guaranty.
Common Cards – Cards that aren’t special (not a rookie card, star player, insert, memorabilia card, etc.) These are worth the least amount of money, but may be valuable to someone completing a set. Common cards are also called “Singles”.
Error Cards – Cards that have a mistake but got printed anyway. If a small quantity of cards are printed before the mistake is caught, they could therefor be rare and valuable. “Blank Backs” are a type of error card where the manufacturer forgot to print the back of the card.
Factory Set – An entire base set sold by the manufacturer.
Foil Box and Foil Packs– A box of cards that contains packs of cards meant for retail sale. These packs are called “foil packs” because they often have metallic foil-like wrapping.
Grade – A number based on a common scale that describes a cards condition. “Graded Cards” are cards that have been submitted and reviewed by a professional grading company.
Hobby Box – Cards that are sold through hobby stores. These packs have a higher ratio of insert cards.
Inserts – Special cards that are not part of the base set.
Memorabilia Cards – Cards that include a piece of something from the player, like a piece of jersey, bat, or hat.
Modern Cards – Anything from the 1970’s to present day cards are considered “modern”. Some consider the cut-off between vintage and modern cards to be closer to 1980.
PSA – Professional Sports Authenticator (psacard.com) One of the first and most recognized sports authenticators and graders.
Reprint – A reproduction of an original card. Often you have to look at the print date on the back of the card to tell the difference between a reprint and the original.
Retail Box – A box of card packs destined for major retail outlets and chains. Retail boxes are opened and cards are sold by the pack. Retail boxes contain packs with a lower ratio of insert cards than packs from “hobby boxes”.
Rookie Cards – The first year a player has a card in base set. Rookie cards are often short printed, making them rarer than common cards.
Serial Numbered Cards – Cards that have a unique print number, e.g. 261 of 1,000.
Short Print – A card that was printed less than the other cards in the set is considered a “short print”. Often times rookie cards are short printed.
Slabbed – A card that has been graded and encapsulated by a professional grading company. The “slab” refers to tamper-proof protective case that the grading company seals the card in.
Subset – Cards from the base set that make up their own mini-set.
Vintage Cards – Collectors usually refer to any cards made before 1970 as “vintage”. It’s not a hard and fast rule. Some collectors consider anything pre-1980 as vintage, and as time goes on the vintage cut-off shifts forward… but most people consider the 1970’s as the transition between vintage and modern cards.
Wax – This means unopened packs or boxes of cards. If a pack or box is in the original packaging it is said to be “wax”.