Do you know your collectible card terms? 101 explained 

Hey there! This post contains affiliate links, which means we may get a commission at no extra cost to you. It helps to support the site, and has no impact on the cards we recommend or discuss. I greatly appreciate your support!

The collectible card hobby is packed full of confusing terminology and acronyms, so we’ve put together a glossary with 101 entries that explain everything you could possibly need to know to get started. 

If you don’t know your XRCs from your PSAs, you’ve come to the right place! Here’s a roundup with 101 collectible card terms explained.  

Collectible card terms: glossary 

We’ve listed the terms in alphabetical order, so it’s easier to find what you’re looking for:



  1. 1st Edition – The first ever release of a set. Famous examples include the 1999 Pokémon base set. Tends to sell for a premium compared to later prints. 
  2. 1st Bowman – Topps introduced ‘1st Bowman’ logos in 1996, and brought them back in 2003. They’re used for the first ever card featuring a player. 


  1. Ace Grading – Up-and-coming grading service based in the UK, decent resale prices for Pokémon cards. 
  2. Action shot – Regarding card images, is the player shown in action? 
  3. Auto – An autograph, tends to make a card significantly more valuable. Can be on-card, or stickered.

An example of a stickered auto. 

  1. Auction – A typical way of buying and selling cards online. 
  2. Authentic altered – A grade offered by PSA, indicating that the card is real, but shows evidence of being altered to some extent.
  3. Authenticate – Authentication ensures that a collectible is real, and that it has been signed by the person in question. 


  1. Base set – A base set tends to be the original selection of cards found in a set, without counting autographs or inserts. 
  2. BGS – Beckett Grading Services, popular company for sending off cards and collectibles for authentication. 
  1. Booster – Typically used to describe a pack of cards. 
  2. Borders – Does the card have a thick white border? Is it full-bleed, which means the design goes all the way to the edges? 
  3. Bowman – Brand acquired by Topps in the 1940s. Lots of historic sets and designs. 
  4. Brady, Tom – Arguably the greatest quarterback of all-time. 
  5. Blaster box – A smaller box of cards that contains fewer packs. Often used as a cheaper alternative to hobby boxes. 
  6. Box breaking – A sealed box will be divided up by collectors, who pay for a selection of cards contained within. For example, you might buy any cards from a specific team, or featuring a specific player. 


  1. Card Review Club – Us! The home of card news, reviews, tips, and advice.
  2. Case hit – Boxes come in cases, often with 12 altogether. A case hit is an insert found in one of the boxes within a case. 
  3. Centering – Grading criteria, looking at how well the card fits the stock. 
  4. Checklist – A checklist notes the cards you’ll find in a specific set. Lots of great resources online. 
  5. Chrome – Cards are sometimes wrapped in a shiny chrome finish. 
  6. CGC – CGC is a popular TCG grading company, based in the United States.
  7. Corners – The four corners of a card. Used as grading criteria. 
  8. COMC – Check Out My Collectibles is a large marketplace for buying and selling cards. 


  1. Declared value – Used for PSA grading, it describes the price you’d expect to sell the card for after being slabbed.


  1. Edges – Grading criteria, used to determine the overall quality of the edges of the card. 
  2. eBay – Popular auction site for buying and selling everything, including collectible cards. 


  1. Fanatics – Sports card and memorabilia giant, acquired Topps in 2022. Expected to be major players in the industry. 


  1. Gem Mint – The perfect grade you can receive from PSA, a 10 out of 10.
  2. Grading – A card can be graded, to ascertain the quality and the overall condition. 
  3. Gretzky, Wayne – The NHL GOAT. 
  4. Goldin Auctions – High-end auction house for valuable cards and collectibles. 


  1. Heritage – Heritage Auctions is another massive auction house, based in the US. 
  2. Hobby box – A box of cards that you’ll only be able to purchase from hobby shops, or online. In other words, it doesn’t have a retail release. 
  3. HoF – If a player gets into the Hall of Fame, it’s likely to have a major impact on the value of their top rookie cards. 
  4. Holy Grail – Religious terminology, used to describe the most valuable/important cards within the hobby.



  1. Insert – An insert is often added to a pack of cards, hence the name. Not included as part of the base set. 


  1. Job lot – Used to describe a large collection of cards for sale. 
  2. Jordan, Michael – The undisputed GOAT if you’re looking at basketball rookie cards. 
  3. Junk wax era – An era in which cards were overproduced, hence the name ‘junk wax’. 




  1. Mantle, Mickey – The Mick. Subject of a Holy Grail rookie card (1952 Topps.)
  2. Marks – Grading criteria, looking for any marks on the card. (This solely concerns ink or writing.)
  3. MGCMajesty Grading Company (MGC) is a smaller grading service based in the UK. 
  1. Messi, Lionel Lionel Messi is the current soccer GOAT contender. 
  2. Miscut – Cards that have been cut incorrectly by the manufacturer. 
  3. MTG – Acronym for Magic: the Gathering. Famous TCG. 



  1. OC (Off-Center) – Grading criteria. Describes a card that is skewed in any direction. 
  2. One-of-one – A rare card with only one copy produced. 
  3. One touch – Magnetic cases used to provide additional protection to ungraded cards. 
  4. Out of focus – Grading criteria, describing images that aren’t focused properly. More abundant with older cards. 
  5. Oversized – A collectible card that is bigger than the standard size. 


  1. Panini – Panini is one of the more popular modern card producers. 
  2. Parallel – A parallel is a different version of a card contained within a set. For example, parallels are often numbered, and may change the background color or the border design. 
  3. Penny sleeve – Cheap, thin sleeves used to protect cards from dust. 
  4. Pele – Soccer GOAT. 
  5. Printing plate – Printing plates are used to produce a card. You’ll often find four in a set. 
  6. Print run – The print run determines how many copies of a card there are. For example, a print run of 500 means that there are 500 copies altogether. 
  7. Print defect – A print defect (PD) is a flaw that happened during the printing process. 
  8. Pristine – A pristine card is flawless. Designation given by BGS. 
  9. Prizm – A Prizm is a special version of a base card. Usually comes with a label on the reverse. 
  10. Promo – A promotional card that was given away, rather than being sold via retail.  
  11. Profile shot – A profile shot shows the subject in a posed image.
  12. Pokémon – One of the more popular TCGs ever produced. 
  13. Pop report – A record of all cards graded by a company. Popularized by PSA. 
  14. PSA – The most famous card grading company in the world. 




  1. Rainbow – A term given to the numerous colored parallel cards you’ll find with modern sets. 
  2. RC/Rookie Card – A rookie card is released during a player’s first season. Sometimes comes with an RC logo. Sells for a premium compared to later sets. 

An example of an RC logo.

  1. Redemption – A redemption is a card that needs to be sent off, likely because the player hasn’t signed it yet! Offered by Topps and Panini. 
  2. Refractor – Cards given a reflective coating, showing a rainbow when held at the right angle. 
  3. Restoration – A card that has been altered to try and improve the condition.
  4. Replica – A copy of the original, meant to look and feel the same. 
  5. Reprint – A reprint is a card that has been recreated to resemble the original set.
  6. Rookie – A player in their first ever professional season. Tends to be accompanied with an RC logo. 
  7. RPA – A Rookie Patch Auto. In other words, it’s an RC, with a player patch, and an autograph. Tend to be some of the most valuable options overall. 


  1. Sealed – Sealed products are unopened, and tend to sell for a premium. Is also used to describe boxes and packs. 
  2. SGCSGC is a US-based grading company that became more popular during lockdown. 
  1. Slab – the plastic cases used for grading. 
  2. Shadowless – Term used to describe older Pokémon cards which lack a shadow next to the artwork. 
  3. Subgrade – Some companies like BGS offer further sub grades, aiming to give you a better idea of the overall condition. These are usually found below the main grade. 
  4. Surface – Grading criteria, judging the surface of the card, looking out for any imperfections. 
  5. Signature – Another word for autograph. 
  6. Singles – Term used to describe a single card. 
  7. Staining – Is the card stained? PSA takes any staining into account when grading. 
  8. Stickers – Stickers are popular in Europe, especially with soccer stars. 
  9. Stock – Stock tends to refer to what the card has been printed on. For example, is it paper or cardboard? 


  1. Tall boy – One of the more obscure collectible card terms. Cards that are larger than traditional options. Examples include 1965 Topps Football. 
  2. Topps – One of the more famous producers of collectible cards. Acquired by Fanatics in 2022. 
  3. Toploader – Plastic shell used to keep a card safe and secure, used in tandem with a penny sleeve. (Don’t use a toploader without a sleeve, as it’ll damage your cards.)
  1. True rookie – A true rookie is a player’s first ever release. 
  2. Trimming – A trimmed card will have the edges or corners cut, in an attempt to remove damage and make the card look better. However, trimming a card will devalue it massively. 
  3. TCG – Abbreviation for Trading Card Game. 
  4. Trout, Mike – Arguably the most famous modern baseball player. 


  1. Upper Deck – Upper Deck has produced trading cards since the late 1980s, and has owned the O-Pee-Chee brand since 2007.
  2. Ungraded – A card that hasn’t been graded. 
  3. Ungradable – Sometimes, a card can’t be graded. It might have been altered, or it could be a fake or reproduction. 



  1. Wax – Sealed packs used to be sealed with wax. 
  2. WotCWizards of the Coast. Now defunct card manufacturer produced many older sets, including classic Pokémon cards


  1. X-Fractor – A type of Refractor parallel, earning the name due to a grid pattern. Often produced by Topps.
  2. XRC – Typically, an XRC (eXtended Rookie Card) is released before a player’s rookie season. 


  1. Young Guns – Famous subset, generally focused on hockey rookie cards. First seen in 1990-91 Upper Deck Hockey.


  1. ‘ZardCharizard, possibly the most popular Pokémon card of all time. 

Collectible card terms: final thoughts 

The collectible card hobby is easy to get into, but the terms don’t make it easily accessible for new users. If you know about everything listed above, you’ll be set to start your own collection. Let us know if we’ve missed any important collectible card terms.

Published by James Milin-Ashmore

Journalism gradate, freelance writer. Sports, tech, online security, collectibles.