An Overview of What to Look for When Buying Trading Cards

Posted by Andres Gonzalez on

Whether you’re buying sports trading cards, non-sport trading cards, or otherwise, you need to take great care when making your choices. Failure to do so could result in wasted money and a sub-par trading card collection. 

So that begs the question: what do you look for when buying trading cards? We’re going to dive into that question below, helping you find the perfect cards for your collection. Let’s get started!

The Type

First and foremost, you need to consider the type of card that you’re looking at. Sports cards come in a wide variety of types, some of which are more valuable than others. Let’s discuss the different types of cards below.


Base cards are essentially standard cards. They feature few frills and generally include the most popular players from the previous season. These cards will comprise the bulk of your trading card collection. 

Most trading card sets feature hundreds of base cards. Note, though, that the exact number varies from set to set. 


Short-print cards are essentially base cards that have been printed in smaller quantities. They often possess special features, such as players wearing alternate jerseys, for example.

Because not as many of them exist, they tend to be more valuable than base cards. You can identify a short-print card by looking for an "SP" on the back of the card. 


A super-short-print card is even rarer than a short-print card. Only a small number of these cards exist in a base set. As such, they're difficult to find. You can identify a super-short-print card by looking for "SSP" on the back of the card. 


Rookie cards are cards featuring athletes in their first year of play. For example, a Ken Griffey Jr. rookie card would be from 1989, as this was his first full season in the Major Leagues. 

These cards tend to be some of the more valuable trading cards. This is particularly true if they feature legendary players. 


Prospect cards feature players who have not yet made it to the big leagues of their respective sports. These are players with big potential who have the possibility of one day being a star. They're most commonly found in baseball card sets, as baseball has the most prominent minor leagues of all sports.

Generally speaking, prospect cards featuring now-stars will be highly valuable. For instance, if you have a prospect card featuring Mike Trout, it's probably worth a good amount of money. 


Parallel cards are base cards with slight alterations. For instance, they might feature holographic backgrounds. Or they might feature different colored lettering. These are generally more valuable than base cards. 


Subset cards include certain subsets of players. For example, one subset might include the best running backs in football. Another subset might include the best batting averages in baseball. 


Insert cards are extremely rare cards that are randomly put in packs and boxes of cards. Few card collectors are able to get their hands on them, making them extremely valuable. 


Relic cards are cards containing pieces of game-used memorabilia. For instance, one card might feature a piece of the player's jersey. Another card might contain a piece of a ball. 

These are generally quite valuable. 


Autograph cards contain legitimate autographs from the players they feature. As you might expect, these cards are usually more valuable than base cards. 

The Brand

Not only do you need to consider trading card type but trading card brand as well. Some brands are more popular than others, as they have long histories. The top three sports card manufacturers are Topps Trading Cards, Panini, and Upper Deck. 

But that doesn't mean those are the only brands you should pursue. There are other solid brands out there, though their cards don't tend to be as valuable. These brands range from Score to Leaf to Futera to TRISTAR to Donruss and more. 

The Condition

Generally speaking, the better condition a card is in, the more valuable it will be. There are exceptions, especially with old and rare cards. However, generally speaking, a mint card is going to be worth more than a tattered card. 

When buying cards individually, you should check to make sure that their corners are sharp and angular. If they're rounded at all, the card is in less-than-perfect condition and will likely possess less value than it otherwise would. 

You should also look for lifting on the edges. If the edge of the card is spread at all, it's suffered some wear and tear that is bound to reduce its value. 

Whether the Card Fits Your Collection

There is no one-size-fits-all rule to building a trading card collection. You could just include any card that comes your way. On the other hand, you could break it down into niches. 

For instance, you might want to build a collection including only Charles Barkley cards. Or you might want to build a collection of cards that ran only between the years 1975 and 1985. You might even want to create a collection of non-sport trading cards. 

Regardless of what your sport or non-sport trading cards collection entails, it's important that, when buying trading cards, you buy the ones that have the best chance of fitting your collection. 

Looking for Valuable Sport or Non-Sport Trading Cards? 

Are you interested in buying trading cards? Looking for baseball cards or football cards, in particular? If so, we here at Sports Integrity have you covered.

We offer a wide variety of valuable trading cards, from baseball cards to football cards to non-sport trading cards to Topps trading cards and more. Not only do we sell cards in packs but individually as well. 

Check out our selection of sports trading cards now! 

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