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  1. #1

    ARTICLE: Mike's guide to beginning collectors. (Mods: where does this go?)

    An FAQ to collecting
    by Mike (soxfan445)

    To mods: I wasn't quite sure where to put this. Feel free to move it if you think people will benefit more from a different location.

    To the general public: I've been on these boards for about a month now, and I've met some very knowlegeable people about sports collecting. However, I've also met some people who don't quite know how to get started on our favorite hobby. This guide is meant to be a "crash course" to the hobby, and is geared mostly to newbies. However, if you feel you want to contribute, send me a PM and I'll gladly put in your contribution and give you credit. When we're done, I would want this to be a sort of "required reading guide to collecting", so make sure to help out in any way you see fit.

    I'll begin.

    To everyone who is new to collecting: Welcome to the world's greatest hobby! If you're a sports fan, there is nothing more enjoyable than collecting cards of your favorite player.
    If you're not a sports fan, you will soon become one with this hobby. You may have been interested in card collecting when you read something on the web, or in a magazine. A friend, relative, or spouse may be collecting and has sparked your interest. Or maybe you drive past a hobby shop on your way to work or school every day and say "I wonder what is going on in there." Luckily, in your internet search, trying to find a way to get started, you have stumbled upon one of the most helpful and friendly message boards on the net. There are many helpful people here who are more than willing to answer your questions. Anyway, this guide will attempt to answer all of your questions and get you started on the enjoyable road to card collecting.
    In the guide, "card vocab" words will be in bold print.
    Enjoyment or Investment?
    You can begin a collection in many ways, but first you have to make an important decision. Are you making this collection for enjoyment, or are you making it for investment? You should decide upon this before making getting your first card. A collector collecting for enjoyment will collect cards he is interested in, and pay as much as he sees fit for them. A collector collecting as an investment collects cards he thinks will go up in value for a price that he can profit from. Each choice is OK, and you will probably find yourself having a enjoyment collection and an investment collection. This decision is important because it will control how you search and find cards.

    What are cards?
    A card is a piece of usually cardboard that can be collected and traded. Cards come in packs of 1 card to 15 cards. Common pack sizes are 5 cards and 8 cards. Packs are sold in boxes with usually 10-24 packs per box. Boxes are packaged in cases with 12 boxes commonly in a case. There are several types of cards. Base cards are the most common types of cards. When you buy a pack of cards, most of the cards in it will usually be base cards. These cards feature one or more players or events and are not valued for that much. Rookie cards are the first cards of a specific player in a specific set. True rookie cards are the first ever cards of a player. Inserts are special cards that are rarer than base cards. Some cards may be foil or have different designs. They are called inserts because at the factories, these special cards are inserted into packs at a specific ratio. For example, a certain card may have an insert ratio of 1:6, which means on average, you would get one of these with every 6 packs.
    Parallels are cards that look very similar to base cards but usually have one minor difference. These cards are usually inserts and are sometimes serial numbered or #'d
    Serial numbered cards, often called #'d cards or numbered cards, have been factory numbered out of a certain number. For example, if a card says 87/100 on the back or front, that means only 100 of this card exist, and this card is number 87. These cards are often very rare, as nowadays cards are numbered to as low as 50,25, or even 1, which means that there is only one card in existance. These are called 1 of 1s
    Within the last 5 years, companies have cought on to a craze of game used memorabilia cards. These cards are often called GU. Game used cards have a piece of jersey, bat, base, or other apparel or equipment that a player has worn in a game embedded in the card. These cards are often serial numbered. There is a special kind of GU card called patch cards, which are cut from the piece of the patches on the jersey and are rarer than regular GU cards.
    Autographed, or auto'd cards feature the players signature on the card, usually with a cutout, a sticker, or directly on a card. These are sometimes shortened to AU. These are the rarest of most cards and the most valuable.
    Here is some more vocab, contributed by darthtampon. Thank you, John!

    Beaters n. cards that have been so badly beaten up -- with lost corners, pen marks, pin holes -- that they have no real value on the market. "Mostly beaters are used to help fill up older, harder-to-get sets until acard in better condition comes along. Syn. Tipton Mints.

    Book: To sell for a certain price according to a price guide, the most popular being Beckett's. "That Frank Thomas books for $5."

    Card shark: Someone who rips you off. "Don't trade with Jerry; he's a card shark."

    Cherry picking: The practice of searching for inserts by first opening a few boxes of cards to see if any patterns emerge, then using your knowledge of that pattern to go to a shop and obtain all the inserts in a box while actually buying only a few of the packs. This practice is frowned on by most collectors and dealers, but happens with alarming regularity. [ED:i.e., Don't do it! Don't be lured by those eBay auctions. ~Mike] Syn. insert search.

    Common: A card of a player who is not a star and which therefore
    commands no special premium; usually available for next to nothing.

    Crack some wax: To open several packs (usually a whole box) of cards in one sitting. "Let's go over to Jimmy's house and crack some wax." Syn. busting wax. A pack of cards is called "wax" because until 1991 baseball cards were wrapped in waxed paper to keep the accompanying gum fresh.
    "The idea that wax packs could 'keep the gum fresh' apparently ignores the fact that the little pink slabs could be carbon-dated to the Mesozoic."

    Doc Jimmy; Dr. James Beckett, founder of the Beckett's guide, on which prices are based. Rel: Beckett: his magazine.

    First day: A card produced on the first day of the printing run; these cards have an extra stamp on them and are limited to 2,000. Available only in the Topps Stadium Club series, but the idea has been imitated by other companies, using names such as artist's proof, printer's proof, etc.

    Good pull: A good card. "That Michael Jordan autographed card was a good pull."
    insert n. a special card, not part of the regular set, that is attached
    to each main set. It is numbered independently and often preceded by a
    letter (for example, A1).

    loaded adj. refers to a set of cards that has a lot of nice-looking
    insert cards. "That new Leaf 95 set is loaded."

    mail in n. a card or set that can be had only by mailing in a certain
    number of wrappers or a special redemption card.

    Mint: A card in perfect condition.

    Pages: Special plastic pages that hold nine regular-sized cards, used for storage and protection.

    Penny sleeve: A soft plastic card holder, made of the same material as pages; usually a card is put in one of these before it goes into a top

    Rack pack: A very large package of cards, sold in some retail outlets, that are hung up instead of being displayed in boxes. [ED: Usually not done anymore, usually for older sets. ~Mike]

    Rookie card: A player's first card in a major league set.

    Short print: A card of which the company has purposely printed fewer, in order to drive up the value.

    Top loader: A hard plastic case, sealed on three sides, into which you drop a card from the top; used for storage and protection of more valuable

    That was a lot of vocab! Well, now you know what kind of cards there are, now you need to learn about the companies.

    Card Companies
    There are 4 major card companies across the 4 major sports. Donruss, Upper Deck, Topps, and Fleer. Some companies operate under different names. For example, Playoff and Score are both Donruss brands, Bowman is a Topps brand and SkyBox is a Fleer brand. Each year, companies put out many sets, or lines of product. It is always helpful to identify a set by its name and year, because many sets are produced in more than one year. I might say, "This card is from 2003 Fleer Platinum." You can visit each companies website to get more information about the different brands.
    Along with those major brands, there are many brands in other sports. In hockey, there is Pacific, which used to make baseball cards. NASCAR and football has Press Pass and Basketball and Football has SA-GE. Minor League baseball has Best, Just, and Royal Rookies.
    These brands are not valued as much as the brands above.

    Where can I get cards?
    So now you want to put a card into your hands. Well, you can get them in many ways. If you want single cards, probably the best place for them is eBay ( You can set how much you want to pay, and you will probably get better deals there than anywhere else. Another possible place is a card show. A card show is when dealers get together and show their wares to collectors. You can check online at to see where a show near you is. You can go to a card store, where there is usually a knowledgable dealer who can assist you in buying cards. You can even buy them at a local department store. If you are looking to buy boxes, one of the cheapest places is online at Dave and Adam's card world (

    Hobby v. Retail, and what is a graded card?
    There are 2 different kinds of packs of cards. Hobby packs can be bought at card stores and online. Retail packs can be purchased at department or toy stores. The cards will be the same, yet you will notice that retail is cheaper. Retail packs' insert odds are worse than hobby. That means you are more likely, but not guarenteed, to get a rarer card in a pack of hobby than a pack of retail.
    Also, browsing eBay or here at SCF, you may hear of graded cards. Graded cards are cards that are sent out by the owner to a grading company. 2 of the major ones are PSA(Pro Sports Authenticators), and BGS (Beckett Grading Services). These companies examine the cards and give them a number grade, usually from one to ten, on the quality of the card.
    These cards are generally worth more if they get a good grade.

    Book Value and Beckett
    The concept of book value, or BV, is discussed a lot. BV is generally used to determine a card's worth. The most trusted "book" is Beckett Magazine. This company puts out a pricing magazine every month that lists cards and their BVs. Most people talk about the "high" BVs, which is what someone would probably pay if they bought it in a card store. You should usually pay less than half of the BV if you can. Another magazine called Tuff Stuff also makes a price guide, but they are generally less trusted.

    Well, that's it! You now know everything you need to know to get started collecting. Have fun, and make sure to PM me if you have any questions.

    If you can think of any improvements, PM me also.

  2. Check out the deals at Bear Ridge Collectibles eBay Store
  3. #2
    Wow I was just reading this over and wanted to point out that this is one of the best posts I've ever read on this board and pretty much most of the Internet.

    Very good job.

    I'm looking for the best spot to put this but for now it can stay here. I'll sticky it and put it into a forum somewhere but still don't know where yet.
    Baseball Trade Page: Hidden Content
    4 Sport Trade Bucket: Hidden Content

  4. #3
    Thank you for posting this. I have always bought cards retail, and didn't know the difference between retail and hobby.
    My collecting habits are continually changing. Right now focusing on ABA basketball and TTM autos. Always looking for lots of 70's basketball cards.
    Hidden Content

  5. #4
    very nice, useful, informative post

    Thank you

    200 cc goes to you!!

  6. #5
    Thanks everyone for your praise and donations. I was hoping it would be useful.
    Thanks again,

  7. #6
    great job mike thanks for taking the time to inform future collectors as they are what will keep the hobby going,plus the more people to trade with the better.take care spuds
    Do something nice for someone everyday, it will pay off in the long run.

    Let us Pray.Hidden Content

  8. #7

  9. #8
    Wow Mike, awesome job!!!!! Thank you for taking your time to help those collectors who may not know about all those things. You even showed me something new, I did not know about

    If you could PM me with your mailing addy I would like to send you something for your hard work/time that you put into helping others :)

    Thanks again Mike, and I am very glad you are a part of this site, as well as a great asset to the collecting world :D

    ~COLLECTING specific Chris Brown autos & multi color patches
    ~Collecting Chris Brown, Hakeem Nicks, Stepfan Taylor, Geno Smith and Victor Cruz Auto's

    Hidden Content

  10. #9
    wow ykeep up the GREAT covered all the topics its very useful for the newcomers and the old veterans collectors like myself lol.
    I Collect Cleveland Browns/Boston REDSOX

  11. #10
    Very nice series of posts soxfan! I'm going to pile on behind Pod and add 1500 cc. ;)

    Thanks for taking the time!


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