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Sports Card Lingo: Condition

In business, there is a motto that says, the key to any business is location, location, location! The sports card lingo has a motto of its own that is equally important, condition, condition, condition!

Condition Is Very Important

Did I mention it’s all about the condition? Its importance should never be brushed off nor ignored.

When purchasing, selling, trading, or handling, conditions should always be at the forefront of our dealings.

Condition plays a big part in the grading/authentication process as well.

Since they go together I’ve merged both of them into this list. There are multiple grading companies but I will make mention of the primary three in the industry today:

  • BGS – Beckett Grading Service, is a sports card grading/authenticator. Popular for giving customers a report card of their findings.
  • PSA – Professional Sports Authenticators, founded in 199. PSA was the first widely accepted grading service and set the standard for the graded card market.
  • SGC – Sportscard Guaranty Corporation is another company that offers sports card grading/authentication. Popular for their beautiful black matted cardholders.
Griffey 89 Upper Deck 3 Slabs

The Lingo of Condition

Grade – the three-card companies referenced above all encapsulate your sports card or memorabilia and assign a “grade” to it, mainly on a scale of 1-10. The higher the grade the more desirable your card will be to collectors. The following is a list of sports card lingo that pertains to the condition.

  • Altered – this term is used when the paper stock is altered in one or more of the following ways: trimming, re-coloring, restoring, or enhancing the gloss.
  • Centering – is one of the most important factors in determining a card’s grade or condition. A card’s centering is found by measuring the distance between the photo and the edge of the card from opposite sides. A card-centered 50/50 top to bottom and 60/40 left to right is perfectly centered. 
  • Chipping – is a word that describes the condition of the edges of a card, it is most noticeable in sets with colored borders. Chipping may occur from aging, handling, or even dull blades at the production factory.
  • Counterfeit – is a bogus reproduction purposely manufactured to deceive buyers into believing they are purchasing the real thing. A fake or forgery.
  • Crease – a bend or fold in a  card. The mishandling of a card causes most creases. 
  • Ding – damage on the corner of a card. A ding is commonly caused by dropping or mishandling a card. 
  • Layering – is a grading term that describes the wearing and separating of the layers of cardboard stock on the corners of the card.
  • Marks – the card exhibits marks caused by pen, pencil or some other type of ink.
  • Miscut – is a card that has little or no border or even portions of another card.
  • Out of Focus – is a card that has a fuzzy picture or is poorly registered. This is a result of the misalignment of sheets while running through various colors of printing plates.
  • Print Defect – is when the card exhibits significant print flaws. The print can appear in the form of print dots, print snow, print lines, etc.
  • Snow – also called “print snow,” this word is slang for the white, flaky print defects that are frequently found on sportscards.
  • Stain – is residue or a mark left on the surface of a sports collectible, usually as a result of contact with a foreign substance.
  • Wax Stain – is a stain on a card caused by the wax on the card wrapper. Wax stains on a card front can be removed, due to the coating on the card surface, while wax stains on the card back are permanent.

Once again, I can not stress enough the importance of the condition. It affects eye appeal and value. However, there are many ways to protect your cards.

Protective hobby tools are penny sleeves, top loaders, plastic pages, magnetic one touches, and a host of custom cardboard storage boxes specifically designed for trading cards. I recommend taking advantage of those resources.

If you’d like to learn more hobby lingo you can check out Sports Card Lingo: The Basics.

Happy Collecting Collectors,

Learn. Collect. Enjoy.