Regular sets and cards (also called base sets and cards) are the foundation of each
trading card set, as they are the most commonly found cards within packs. This is
why they are also sometimes called “commons.” Each regular card has a unique and
fixed number on the back that makes it a part of the complete set.
Some products (usually higher price point products) have fewer cards in the set,
which ensures that only the top players are featured within packs, while some products
(generally speaking, with lower price points) have more cards in the set, which
appeals to some younger collectors, collectors looking to find role players from
their favorite team(s), and set collectors.
Set collectors are those who crave the challenge of putting together an entire set
from card #1 all the way through the last numbered card in the set. Sets can be
anywhere from around 45 to 50 cards all the way up to 1,000 cards. Now, that is
a serious challenge for even the most die-hard set collectors out there.
Cards that are also numbered a part of the set, but not considered a regular card
within the set, are called subset cards. (For more information on subset cards,
please see What is a subset card?).
There are also cards found in packs that are more rare and these are known as insert
cards. (For more information on insert cards, please see
What is an insert card?).
Subsets offer collectors the opportunity to see their favorite players in a different
card design and theme from the regular set. This allows for more variety in the
cards that most collectors will find most, because they are generally among the
most common in packs.
Despite their different designs from the regular base set, these cards, however,
are numbered as a part of the regular set, which is what separates them from insert
sets, which also have unique designs with more technology added to them (see
What is an insert set?).
As products become more complex (and expensive by the pack), then subsets are sometimes
short-printed and possibly even sequentially crash numbered (see
What is crash numbering?) to make them more rare and difficult for collectors
Short printing is generally done to the Rookie Cards of first year players (or players
being featured for the first time in an official, League licensed product), as it
brings more value to the Rookies Cards, which are generally considered the most
desirable of every player’s cards. For more information on Rookie Cards, please
see What are Rookie Cards?.
Insert sets are planned short prints within a production run that generally have
more technology and excitement surrounding them. Inserts can have ratios anywhere
from 1 card from an insert set found per pack all the way up to a "1 of 1," which
means just one of those cards exist.
Ratios indicate how often cards from insert sets are scheduled to fall in a given
pack of cards (generally printed on the pack or box) with numbers like "1:28," which
would mean 1 card of the insert set listed would fall in every 28 packs.
The total number of insert cards within a given insert set also help dictate how
random and difficult it will be for collectors to find. Therefore, if a 10-card
insert set is going to be inserted 1:28, then it would take a collector on average
280 packs (10 multiplied by the insert ratio 28) to find a specific card from that
insert set or to complete the entire insert set. How much harder is it to complete
an insert set of 20 cards at the same 1:28 ratio? If you answered “twice as hard,”
then you’ve got it.
Several different insert sets generally exist within each trading card product,
and they are set up to offer different levels of challenge for collectors. Some
collectors only focus on the more rare inserts while others try to complete the
There are a great variety of insert cards being produced by trading card manufacturers
today. Everything from game worn items being cut up into pieces and put onto the
cards (See What are Game Worn Jersey
Cards?) and cards with the actual signature (or signatures if more than
one player signs the card) on them to cards with wood engraving and highly decorated
For the most part, the higher the price of the pack, then the more insert content
the product should strive to deliver.
Any time the general card design and photo of a player is re-used with a significant
shift in technology on the front, the set is known as a parallel set. This means
that it parallels or mirrors the look of the regular set, but it is being enhanced.
Parallel sets are generally done through various printing technology, different
paper stock, additional layers of foil or other items that make the cards look more
These cards can also be crash numbered (Please see
What is Crash Numbering? section) to add even more value for collectors.
Card companies create multiple series within a given season or year to capture all
of the latest rookies and traded players within the overall set. While there are
many ways to collect, some collectors only choose a couple of brands each year and
try to complete an entire set. Those collectors demand a card of the latest rookie
player or they want to see the first card of their favorite player in his new uniform
should that player get traded within the context of the brand they traditionally
collect. Therefore, products such as Upper Deck Baseball are broken down into two
series: series one that is on shelves very early in the year and series two which
follows up and captures many of the exciting changes that take place before the
middle of the season. Sometimes, update sets are issued at the very end of the season
to capture even more changes and late emerging rookies.
Fans and collectors have long coveted getting their sports cards signed by the players
depicted on the cards.
In 1990, The Upper Deck Company became the first company to officially get trading
cards signed and inserted into packs of cards. This trend continues through to today
with most card companies getting in on the act and offering trading cards signed
by athletes in packs of cards.
Make sure that the card contains copy on the back that certifies that the card was,
in fact, signed by the player on the card.
It's just another way that card companies are bringing collectors closer to their
In the mid 1990’s, Upper Deck began going back out into the marketplace to "buy
back" our own cards for use in current products. Then these cards generally get
autographed by the athlete on them and they are inserted into another product. These
buy back autographed cards are affixed with a serialized Upper Deck Authenticated
hologram and have separate certificates of authenticity included with them in the
pack, so that collectors know the autographed card is real.
As a general rule, collectors want what they can’t get (within reason of course).
The more rare and limited a card or set of cards, then the more valuable and cherished
it can be to collectors. When a card has sequential crash numbering placed on it
by the manufacturer, then it indicates that the card is limited to the amount “crash
numbered” by machine in foil or ink onto the card.
Crash numbering is done in sequence to a group or set of cards in which each individual
card has it’s own number. For example, the first card would be crash numbered “1
/ 100.” The second card would then be crash numbered "2 / 100," and so on up to
the number 100. Many collectors appreciate knowing exactly how many cards were produced
of a set and what number they have of that set.
As a collecting tip, look for crash numbered cards that are significant in the player’s
career (like jersey number, career home runs hit, etc.) or numbers that are also
coveted by collectors (like the first or last card of the run).
Crash numbering of some highly collectible autographed cards (usually cards numbered
to very low quantities or to the player’s jersey number) can also be done by hand
with a pen. This is also sometimes true when replacement cards are returned by the
customer service departments of trading card manufacturers to collectors, who send
in damaged versions of cards originally crash numbered by machine.
Unfortunately, there are sometimes aspects of the trading card industry that make
it seem far from being a hobby for kids. Considering that some cards randomly inserted
into packs are very rare or contain highly desirable elements on them (like Game
Worn Jerseys or Authentic Autographs), there are some people out there who want
to cheat the system and guarantee that the packs they purchase have such cards in
These people conduct what is known as pack searching. They feel the contents of
packs through the foil wrapper, use scales to weigh the packs for the slightest
weight disparities, and use a number of dishonest tricks to cheat unknowing collectors
and consumers by unfairly taking away the chances of finding the highly sought after
While the methods of cheaters are constantly changing with the times, the trading
card manufacturers must now resort to adding decoy cards into packs that trick the
dishonest from searching packs, as either every pack or several packs within the
box contain a card that feels like it could be a special card worth searching a
Unique to Upper Deck is the e|card. e|card is a sports trading card with a virtual
twist. Each one features a unique serial number that empowers the card with greater
Collectors are given an online portfolio where they may enter that unique serial
number from their cards in order to create a digital collection of them. You may
build up as many cards as you like in your digital portfolio. As you enter them,
they will also appear in thumbnail version at the bottom of the screen for you to
scroll through quickly.
When scrolling through your collection you may, at any time, select one of your
cards to see a full size version in the middle of the screen. As a bonus, there
is a possibility of that card "e|volving" into an upgraded card. Simply choose one
of your cards and click on the "e|Volve" button to see if your card evolves into
an upgraded card.
If it does not evolve into an upgraded card, it will evolve into a bonus image of
the athlete. The card will remain in your digital online portfolio and the possibility
of future upgrades remains
e|cards may evolve into, among other things, an autograph card, a game-used jersey
card, or an autographed game-used jersey card, depending on the series. When a card
evolves into an upgraded card, a new window will open and the collector simply fills
out their information and the upgraded card will be mailed promptly to their address!
For a demo of e|cards, click here.
Click here to view a collection of different Game-Used
A game-used (game-worn, match-worn) memorabilia card contains a cut "swatch" of
an authentic game-used jersey worn or used in an official sports game or match.
Jerseys, shirts, warm-ups, balls, shoes, and even the floor from basketball arenas
(among many other items) have been cut up and put onto trading cards.
Collectors have also taken to this concept since most cannot afford to purchase
a full actual game-worn jersey themselves, as they either do not have access to
the athletes or that much money to purchase them (most start at $2,000 and can run
all the way over $100,000 at auction depending on the athlete).
Items are purchased directly from the player, agent, team, league, or from credible
secondary market sources (such as auctions) and are thus authentic, used materials.
Usually, card manufacturers will cut the jersey into 1" x 1" swatches and then "sandwich"
them between 2 pieces of cardboard. Autographed versions, versions with multiple
colors of fabric, and versions with the jersey patches add more variety for those
who want to take their collections to the next level.
The bottom line is that these cards bring collectors and fans closer to the game
and allow them to own a piece of history.
How do I know that the piece is authentic?
Here at Upper Deck, we have a strict policy in purchasing game used equipment. Our
sources for purchasing these items will either be directly from the player, directly
from the team or from secondary market vendor that has a reputation for having authentic
game used equipment. Each game used item that we purchase from these sources comes
with a Certificate of Authenticity to ensure 100% authenticity for that item.
Most items used are game worn, while some are from practice or from league sponsored
photo shoots. The authentication copy printed on the back of the card should indicate
the nature of the item used on the front.
Sometimes inside packs of trading cards, the manufacturer will place a redemption
or trade card in the place of the intended item. This card can be mailed in to the
company for the item printed on the card.
Also called trade cards, they can be redeemed for items too big to fit into packs
like autographed memorabilia (ever try to get an autographed basketball into a small
pack of cards?), rookie player cards that are not yet drafted or determined at the
time of production, or also in the unfortunate event that a player could not get
their autographed back to the company in time for the product pack out.
Another form of redemption card can also drive collectors to the company website
to see what their card is good for and the item is automatically mailed to them.
This is the wave of the future, as it saves collectors the trouble of having to
physically mail their card in. Upper Deck was the first company to offer such an
online redemption program. To check it out and learn more about the conveniences
of this program visit the online redemption site click here.
Since most companies cannot always keep stock of the item offered on the redemption
card, there are printed expiration dates generally included in the copy on the card.
If you find an expired redemption card in an old pack of cards, it is still worth
calling the customer service department of company that produced the cards and asking
them if the offer still stands or if a suitable replacement card can be offered.
A rookie card is defined as a debut card of an athlete in a set that is licensed
by the governing body of both the actual league and its player's association.
The Rookie Card concept is one of the major reasons why people collect trading cards
for investment purposes. Publications such as Tuff Stuff and the Canadian Sports
Collector are resources that people use to find out the values of rookie cards.
Over the past few years, products such as SP Authentic and SPX have been collector's
favorites as the top rookie cards to collect for their respective sports. The regular
issue Upper Deck brand products have also provided a great looking rookie card for
most collectors in our industry.
Any time a card or group of cards are not run with the frequency of a majority of
the cards found within a pack-out for a product, then it is a short printed card.
Sometimes, short prints are not planned by the company and are due to production
errors, however on most occasions, short printed cards are inserted at more infrequent
intervals than the regular cards with a purpose. Collectors love the challenge of
finding cards that are more rare. For some, the more rare, the better.
There are two types of planned short print cards: subsets, which are numbered a
part of the regular set, and inserts, which are generally higher technology cards
of only the best and brightest stars in the game. (Please see sections
What are subset cards? and What are insert
cards? for more information).
Short printed cards, like subsets and inserts, are generally announced on product
packaging with an insertion ratio attached to it or with sequential crash numbering
(See What is crash numbering? section).
Basically, these cards are more rare than others in the set and they are thus considered
"short" or short printed.