Trading Card Terminology: The Glossary of Sports Card Terms


Do you know the difference between a base card and a chase card? Are you familiar with what sets a hobby box apart from a retail box? Can you see what separates an on-card autograph from a sticker autograph? If you’re trying to hustle in this industry or even collect as a fun hobby, it is important to know the different trading card terminology

Here are some of the most important sports card terms along with a few trading card abbreviations you should be aware of.

Chase Cards

Chase cards are typically the rarest cards in a specific set of sports cards, which makes them the most desirable cards to collectors. Every new sports card release will include a certain number of chase cards, like autographed cards, memorabilia cards, parallel cards, and other random inserts. Some collectors will try to track down chase cards for their value, while others want them for their personal collection (or PC), which is one of the most commonly used trading card abbreviations.


Grading takes place when collectors send their sports cards to third-party services to have them inspect their condition and provide them with a grade. These services will assign each sports card they grade a number between 1 and 10 based on the shape it’s in. The higher a card’s grade is, the more valuable it will be.

Hobby Box

A hobby box is a sealed sports card box that can only be purchased through a specialty dealer or distributor (like us!), in most cases. Hobby boxes are different from regular retail boxes found in big-box stores in that they tend to include more chase cards overall. They’re also usually more expensive than retail boxes.

On-Card Autograph

An on-card autograph is an autograph that appears directly on a sports card. It differs from a sticker autograph, which is an autograph that is put on a sticker by a professional athlete before it’s eventually transferred to one of their sports cards later.

Parallel Card

A parallel card is a kind of sports card that is more limited than a base card found in a set of sports cards. There will be a certain number of base cards that make up a set of cards. There will then be a much smaller number of parallel cards that exist outside of the main set of cards. In trading card terminology, they are called parallel cards because they run “parallel” to base sets.

Redemption Card

A redemption card is a type of card that a sports card collector can send into a sports card maker in order to “redeem” it for an autographed card, a rare rookie card (or RC, which is another one of the common trading card abbreviations), etc.

Know Your Trading Card Terminology

Part of the fun of collecting sports cards is learning about the latest trading card terminology and making sure you understand all the sports card terms you’ll hear. It’ll make you a part of a whole new world and enable you to have better conversations with your fellow sports card collectors.

Giant Sports Cards can both teach you trading card terminology and allow you to use it when you purchase sports cards from us—either online or at the Ultimate Collector’s Cave™, our sports card shop in the Atlanta, GA area. Enjoy all the hottest releases at competitive prices, and get access to bonuses like speedy, same-business-day shipping and GOAT-level customer service when you shop at our sports card store.