CnC Guide to Collecting Hockey Cards

How to Collect Hockey Cards

by Cloutsnchara

Detailed A to Z guide for Collecting Hockey Cards.

Jump to:

Why Collect? | Common Questions

Getting Started | Card Condition | Card Value | Get Connected

Popular Trading Card Brands

Selling, Trading, and Insurance | Contact Us

Collecting Terms

Why Collect?

Collecting has been a pastime and hobby for many people, even as far back as Ancient Egyptian times!

When it comes to collecting hockey cards, hockey cards first started appearing in cigarette packs in the early 1900’s and grew over the decades to what it is now. From several companies having the license to develop NHL cards to just Upper Deck being able to design and develop NHL licensed hockey cards.

Whether you are collecting with your kid(s) or collecting on your own, there is always that thrill of opening a big card, your favourite player or a card that you can checks off your wantlist. The sports card industry has flourished over the years into what it is now and the products that are out now make the industry very exciting.

Did You Know?

The standard size of hockey cards in North America is 2.5 by 3.5 inches (6.35 cm by 8.89 cm).

There have been other sizes made also, like tobacco cards and tallboys.

Common Questions

  • Hobby products are made for hobby shops and include everything that the company states in the checklist available to hit.
  • Retail products are available for hobby shops and big-box stores and don’t include everything produced in the product as stated in the checklist. Sometimes specific insert sets are made specifically for that retail product.
  • An Example would be Series 1 Hobby vs Retail – Hobby includes everything they make for the product but Retail does not include things like exclusive cards, high gloss cards, patch cards, Easter egg subsets, and more.

Cards come in various sizes so sometimes it’s hard to know the exact size of top loader that you need. Download our Thickness Gauge here!

A true rookie card is essentially part of the base set. This means it has the same type of card numbering as the base set does, like Young Guns for Series 1 and 2. There are other rookie cards that are true rookie cards even though they are not part of the base set like Premier Rookie Patch Autos. The reason for that is because set collectors include those as a true rookie.

Getting Started

There are many different ways to collect, but a good way to start is to focus on your favorite teams or players.

You can also search through our Youtube channel to see the designs of some Upper Deck sets they bring out each year. It’s always fun to collect with friends or family so you can trade and collect amongst yourselves.

There is no specific year you should start at but there are some really good rookie years that are always nice to have in your collection. Some of them are 15-16 (McDavid, Eichel) and 16-17 (Matthews, Marner, Nylander, Laine). It’s harder to find the sealed products but you can find singles at your local shop, online FaceBook trading groups or trade shows.

Your Collection Focus

Today’s trading cards offer something for everyone. A pack of cards can range anywhere from $1 – $1000 where the higher the price, the more content and inserts there will be which can be rookie cards, autographed cards, jersey cards & more!

A set that we usually recommend collecting the first time is Upper Deck Series 1 and Series 2. Series 1 comes out in November and includes the first rookie cards for some players that debuted that year. Series 2 comes out in February and includes the remaining rookies that debuted that year.

Those sets are one of the most collected every year with many collectors building the complete set. Another set that is popular is SP Authentic as it has hard signed autographs for rookies. It’s a very popular set due to the collectors making sets of the Future Watch rookie cards.

Keeping Your Cards in Good Condition

Once you have started your collection, you will want to make sure you take good care of your cards. Like most things, the better the condition, the more appealing and valuable they will be. The same is true of trading cards. Cards that have bent corners or other issues that prevent them from being in “mint condition” will have less value. The best way to keep your collection safe is to store them in top loaders or 1 touch case.

Ways to Keep Your Cards in Mint Condition:

  • Storing in quality binders, cases, sleeves, top loaders…
  • Not sure what size of cards you have? Click Here for a FREE Thickness Gauge!
  • Stick with reputable supply companies like Ultra Pro and BCW to make sure you get the best supplies on the market.
  • Storing valuable cards in safes
  • Protect from extreme temperatures (heat, cold)
  • Get them graded which entails them getting slabbed and having an overall grade for the card (We use MNT Grading)

Card Value

The value of a trading card is based on several factors, including a player’s popularity, the rarity of the card, the brand, the condition of the card, and the overall demand from other collectors.

Today, the most valuable cards are typically tied to an athlete’s rookie year, or have autographs or jersey swatches embedded in the cards.

One way to find out the value of your card(s) is to search on eBay to see what similar ones have sold for.

Get Connected!

Some of the best ways to connect with other collectors is through Traders Days, Trade Shows, and Facebook Trading Groups

Traders Day – Through our monthly Traders Day, we get anywhere from 10 to 30 local collectors coming out to our shop and trading, buying or selling their cards with fellow collectors. The best way to be prepared is to only bring what you don’t mind trading/selling away and knowing the basic value of your cards. We are always there to help with trades, offering our input for both sides to make it fair for both parties.

Trade Shows – There are several trade shows throughout North America including the Sports Cards Expo which happens in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada.

Facebook Trading Group – We have a trading group through Facebook that you can join and talk to fellow collectors from around the world. You can buy, sell and trade through the group or just talk about the hockey in general. We can be contacted by email in regard to input on a trade but it is up to both parties to get feedback from other collectors in regard to both parties positive feedback in the industry.

Selling & Trading Your Collection

Selling or trading your cards can be overwhelming but doesn’t have to be if you do your homework. Search online to see what your cards are worth before you start to offer them for trade or sale. Know what you are looking for in return or have an idea for the type of cards you want in return if you are trading. If you are selling, figure out a price (based on previous sales if possible) that you are comfortable and happy to sell at.

CloutsnChara Trading Group


Large or expensive collections should be insured under your home insurance policy. Contact your insurance provider to find out the steps you have to take to insure your collection.

Popular Trading Card Brands


The first set of the new collecting year offers plenty of inserts, parallels, and short prints. This product is geared towards set collectors and collectors on a budget.


For seasoned collectors, Artifacts is a household name. This product serves as an excellent mid-range product for puck fans, especially those who love premium memorabilia cards. Artifacts offers a good value for collectors that are looking for quality rookies, dazzling memorabilia and early season autograph cards.

Collecting Terms

Collecting Glossary


A numbered card that is the only one in existence. These can be the most valuable cards, but not necessarily the most expensive. [UD]


A hypoallergenic, plant-based plastic commonly used in the trading card industry to seal, hold, and/or store cards.

Acetate Card

A special type of card printed on translucent stock, similar to plexiglass.[UD]


Having a company go through your collection of items and giving an estimate value of your collection.


Abbreviation for ‘autographed rookie patch’.

Artificial Scarcity

Artificial scarcity is when an item’s scarcity is dramatically increased due to a select few buyers purchasing large quantities of the item, thus preventing other buyers from purchasing the product. This is often done by ‘scalpers/flippers’ as a way to increase the item’s value.

Artist Proof

A type of parallel card. They were originally produced by Pinnacle Brands Inc. in 1994 and continued with other companies like Upper Deck

Auction House

A company that auctions off items and is the main business for them.

Authorized Retailer

A retail hobby store that has been recognised by a trading card company for adhering to their set quality, sales, and other standards. Criteria between trading card companies varies.

CloutsnChara is an Upper Deck Authorized Retailer.

Auto / AU

Abbreviation for ‘autograph’.


The signature of a player.

Autograph(ed) Card

A card that has been signed by a particular player.


A card that looks like it’s autographed but the autograph has been printed on the card

Base Card

A common card that is part of a product’s main set. These cards are usually numbered 1-XXX in accordance with the number of subjects in a set. [UD]

Blaster Box

A retail product made for different products like Series 1 and Series 2. Normally has around 10 -12 packs.

Book Price / Value

The perceived value of an item according to a price guide published by a third party company. [UD]

Booklet Card

A 2+ panel card that opens up like a book, and can feature multiple players and/or signatures. [UD]


A pre-determined number of packs, packaged together in a sealed container. A box will be sealed by the manufacturer, and will contain advertised content. There can be anywhere from 1-36 packs in a box on average. Be sure to check packaging before purchase to know exactly what you are getting. [UD]

Break, Box Break

A collector opening a box of cards. Breaks are often recorded for the enjoyment of others.

For a box break involving multiple people, see ‘Group Breaks.’

Buy Price

A price you are willing to pay for something you are looking for

C&C / CnC / C+C

Abbreviation for ‘CloutsnChara’.

Card Stock

Thickness of the trading card


A pre-determined number of boxes packaged together in a sealed container. Can contain anywhere from 1-18 boxes on average. [UD]


It is the percentage of the border on each side (e.g left side vs. right side). For example a 60/40 card could be 60% of the border on the top and 40% of the border on the bottom


A complete list of cards contained in a particular set. Collectors use checklists to help keep track of and complete sets. [UD]


The edge of the card has minor damage

Collating / Collation

How trading card companies insert/distribute the cards into the product during the packing process.


The quality of a card based on if there are any creases, marks, stains, notches, white edges etc. The better the condition of a card, the more value it has.


A fake card or item that is intentionally created and designed to look like the real, licensed item its based off. Counterfeit cards and items are usually made to trick unsuspecting buyers into thinking they’re buying the real item.

Cut Autograph / Cut

A card featuring an autograph that is not signed directly onto the card, but is instead cut from another source (such as a check). Most cut autograph cards feature subjects who are deceased. [UD]


Trading card store or individual that sets up at a trade show.

Certified Diamond Dealer

Stores that are authorized by Upper Deck to sell their products.


Part of a trading card cut out to make it a different shape.


The corner of a trading card has damage to it and is bent.


A company that wholesales to trading card stores across the country.

DNA Card

A card featuring an imbedded biological link to the subject on the front. Most of the time, these cards have hair or similar pieces from important historical spots figures, politicians, or celebrities. [UD]

Ebay / ‘The Bay’’s card auctions. [UD]

Error Card

***A error or misprint card is a card with severe, noticeable mistake that occurred during its manufacturing. Some errors include name and spelling mistakes, misaligned foil areas, wrong team and stats, two cards cut together, and missing backs.

Misprints were more common in the 90s as hockey card manufacturers rushed to compete with each other and the technology was evolving. Today, misprints are fairly uncommon, but still do happen.

The value of error cards varies, as some collectors consider it devalued due to the mistakes. Others collect misprints as a novelty.

Event Used

A jersey used by a player in a special event, and was not worn in a game.

Exclusive Spokesperson

Refers to athletes whose autographs, jerseys, and memorabillia will not be available in other brands. Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Wayne Gretzky, Tiger Woods. [UD]

Factory Sealed

Trading card box that still has the original wrapping from the manufacturer.

Factory Set

The complete base set of a specific product and boxed in it’s own box.


Trading card company that produced trading cards back in the 80’s and 90’s.


See ‘scalper’.


Acronym for Future Watch Autograph from Upper Deck SP Authentic


An embedded jersey (or other item) that was used during a game. Typically embedded into a card.

Game-Used Jersey Card

A card containing a piece of embedded jersey worn by a player during a game. [UD]


Abbreviation for ‘Global Authentication Inc’.


The number given to a trading card by a Grading company for the condition of the card. Grade will be between 1 – 10.


A company that specializes in checking the condition of a trading card and giving it a grade between 1 – 10.


The process of giving a trading card a number for it’s condition.

Graded (Card)

A card that has been appraised by a third-party company and given a numerical value based on its condition. The card is then sealed in plastic with the corresponding number related to its condition.

Grading Card Scale

A numerical scale (typically 1-10) developed by a grading company that corresponds with its condition. Terms vary depending on the company. Common terms include: pristine, gem mint.

Grading Company

A company that specialises in appraising and grading trading card, that is not associated with a trading card manufacturer or company.

CloutsnChara uses MNT Grading.

Group Break

When a group of people split the cost of a box and divide the cards, determined by criteria set before the break. Breaks can take place online or in person, though online is more common.

CloutsnChara is the leader in Group Breaks. For more information on our breaks and the different types, click here.


Abbreviation for ‘Game-Used’ (see above).


An autograph signed directly onto the card’s surface. [UD]


Special, non-base cards that are part of limited subsets. [UD]

Most boxes you can buy have stated number of jersey or autograph cards per unit you can buy. The cards like this are called ‘hits’ because they are considered to be the best in the box. So if you hear someone referring to the ‘hits of the box’, it means they are talking about the rarest seeded cards one can pull in each pack or box. [UD]

Hobby Box / Products

Products created exclusively for hobby stores that contain more content, packs, and inserts than products at retail stores. [UD]


Abbreviation for ‘Hall of Fame’.

Hot Box

A trading card box containing only hit cards and/or special content.


These are usually cards that come at a higher odds ratio. Instead of being part of the normal base set, however, they are part of a ‘subset’, or set within the set. They look different than the common cards, and usually have different names. [UD]

Jersey Card

A card that contains a piece of an embedded jersey. [UD]

Label Autographed Card

See ‘Sticker Autographed Card.’

Letter of Authenticity

A letter stating an item is autographed/game used by the player and not a fake.

Letterman Card

A card featuring a cut letter patch from a player’s jersey. [UD]

Licensed Cards

Trading cards must be licensed by the league and player’s association. Upper Deck hockey brands are the only hockey cards officially licensed by the NHL and the NHL Player’s Association. [UD]

Limited Edition

An item limited to a specific number.

Logo Patch

A card featuring a team or league logo patch from a jersey. These are usually the most valuable of the 1-of-1’s that exist. [UD]


Term for a card that features an entire league logo patch. [UD]


A number of trading cards usually offered at a discount.

Manufactured Patch

A piece embedded into a card replicating the particular player’s jersey. (?)

Market Value

What the card is going for currently on the market (eBay)


A piece of equipment used during a professional game and inserted into a trading card.


A grading score given by a card grading company. Depending on the company, this can represent a score of 8-10. Usually accompanied by a number in the card’s official grading (eg. Mint 8, Mint 10 etc.).

Mint Condition

An unofficial term for an item or memorabilia that’s considered to be in like-new or new condition. This score is usually set by the seller and not by an official grading company.


See ‘error card’.

MNT Grading

A Canadian based card grading company and the industry’s new premier grading company. CloutsnChara is an official dropoff centre for MNT Grading. To learn more about MNT Grading, please click here.


1. Acronym for ‘Most Valuable Player’ (?)

2. A line of hockey cards by Upper Deck (?)

New in Box

‘New in Box.’ A card or cards that are in the original manufactured packaging and have not been opened or tampered with. Can also be used to describe memorabilia, collectables, etc.


Abbreviation for The National Hockey League, the North American professional ice hockey league.


Abbreviation for ‘new in box’ (see above).

Non-Sport (Card)

Trading card that is not a sport, can be a TV show, Movie, etc.


A company that manufactured trading cards for several year in the 1900’s. Upper Deck currently owns the rights to the name.


Abbreviation for ‘Or Best Offer’.


1. Abbreviation for ‘Off-Center’ (see below).

2. Abbreviation for ‘Original Content’ (?)


Abbreviation for Upper Deck’s O-Pee-Chee line of hockey cards.


Other than single cards, the lowest denomination of product you can buy. This contains 1-60 cards depending on the product (look for information on the wrapping). [UD]

Pack Searcher / Searching

A person who goes through all the packs in a retail box in an attempt to find special or hit cards. Pack searchers will often use scales to weigh the packs and find the ones that seem different or out of place (as they likely contain hit cards). Other techniques include using magnets, and/or bending and manipulating the cards (this creates a potential for damage). Some trading card manufacturers, such as Upper Deck, have taken steps to deter pack searchers (such as inserting stiff cardboard or dummy cards). While not illegal, pack searching is considered to be in poor taste in the trading card hobby.


A serial numbered version of another card. Parallels typically have the same design and photo, but offer different higher-end colour schemes with limited numbering. [UD]


Company that manufactured trading cards in the 1900’s. Upper Deck currently owns the rights to the name.

Patch Card

Card that features a cut patch from a player’s jersey. Common patches include jersey numbers, team names, team logos, and league logos. [UD]


Abbreviation for ‘personal collection’ (see below).

Personal Collection (PC)

A collector’s favourite cards: these cards are usually the centrepieces of a collection and are not up for trade or sale. [UD]


The autographed item has the owners name on it written by the signer.


An image that has been digitally altered using Adobe’s Photoshop software or other similar image editing software.

In terms of collecting, it refers to a card being digitally altered from its original state, either to make a card appear geniune, or just for fun.

Player Collector

A collector who focuses on specific players. [UD]

Print Defect

Defect on the card caused during the printing process of the card.

Printing Plate

A plate that was used to print trading cards. These ‘cards’ are considered to be one of a kind, and come in the four printing colours: black, cyan, magenta, and yellow. [UD]


1. The term for getting a card out of its package, box, or case. Usually referred for valuable cards.
2. A valuable card. See also ‘hit’.


Abbreviation for ‘rookie card’ (see below).


Insert cards used as placeholders for cards that were not ready at the time of printing, usually an autograph card. Collectors redeem these cards online. Manufacturers then send the cards out as soon as they become available. [UD]

Retail Box / Products

Products sold in large retail stores such as Wal-Mart and Target. Typically have fewer cards, packs, and/or inserts than hobby boxes / products.

Rookie Card

A card from a player’s first year in the league. These cards are highly collectable. [UD]


Abbreviation for ‘Rookie Patch Auto’.


A slang term to describe a person who buys high-demand items (usually in bulk), and sells them for a much more inflated price on sites such as eBay. Can be used as a verb as well (eg. scalping). May also be called a ‘flipper.’ Scalping is often frowned upon and considered unethical in many collectables communities as it creates an artificial scarcity.

Sell Value

The value based on recent actual sales of an item, or a perceived value based on how much a person will pay for the card. [UD]

Serial / Crash Numbered

A card that is short printed and stamped with a print run number on the card. For example, 01/25. [UD]


A completed series of numbered regular cards, inserts, or hits from a particular product. [UD]

Set Collector

Someone who builds sets from each product, rather than someone who collects a certain player or team. [UD]

Short Print (SP)

Cards that have a lower print run than other cards in a set, making them more rare and challenging to collect. [UD]


Abbreviation for Upper Deck’s SP Authentic line of hockey cards.


Abbreviation for Upper Deck’s SP Game-Used line of hockey cards.

Sticker / Label Autographed Card

An autographed card featuring a certified signature on a clear label, which is applied to the card’s surface during production. [UD]

Super Collector

Someone who tries to collect every single card produced for a certain team, player, or set. [UD]

Team Collector

A collector who focuses on specific teams. [UD]


Abbreviation for Upper Deck (see below).

Ultra PRO (Company)

An American, California based company specializing in sports and gaming accessories. They are best known for their line of protective sleeves and protectors, and considered the standard in protection and storage in the trading card industry.

Upper Deck (Company)

An American sports card manufacturer, and one of the major brands in North America and worldwide.

Young Gun

Upper Deck’s popular rookie card that comes out in Upper Deck Series 1 and Series 2. It is the first rookie card (Series 1) for the rookies each year.

General Group Break Terms

Note: Breaking policies and styles may vary between different distributors.

For more information on our Group Breaks please click here.

Team Select

Instead of a fixed price for the break, each team will have their own price. (eg. Pitts=$70, Tor =$30 etc.)

Team Random

This type is where every person in the break is randomly assigned a team (CloutsnChara uses Then throughout the break every card pulled of each team will go to the person that they belong to (eg. if you draw Toronto Maple Leafs, all cards opened of them are yours.)

Team Draft

Similar to Team Select except for the selection process.

Breakers gather in the chat to prepare for the draft. In the draft, the picking order is randomised. Breakers are able to choose the team they want so long as its still available.

At CloutsnChara, we will go in order from 1-28 based on the random. Whichever 2 Teams do not get picked will be randomized to 2 people in the break before the break starts.

Switch Break

See ‘Team Draft’ – Difference is that the break will be split in two and the draft order will flipped for the second part.

Example: Dan has first pick in the first part of the break, he will have the last pick in the second part of the break.

Draft Style

This is done in a very similar fashion to pro-sports entry drafts, only snake style. Once the break is full, the boxes are broken and immediately following the draft order is determined via Whoever lands on top, gets first pick of whichever card they would like from the break, 2nd gets to pick from what’s left, so on and so forth until there are no cards remaining. Snake style means whoever has last pick in the first round, gets first pick in the second round of drafting.

Division Style

See ‘Team Style’ – One difference is that it is broken down by NHL division not team. Central, Atlantic etc.

HIT Style

Primarily used for ITG case GB’s (I.e. H&P, BTP etc…)

1) Number of spots varies
2) Hits are determined by labelling everyone’s name onto a decoy or business card and shuffling them prior to the break. As the break is happening whoever has their name on top of the stack will be getting the next Game Used or Auto card pulled and all inserts leading up to it. Once the hit is pulled, their name and cards are moved to the side and the next person on top gets the next hit and all inserts leading up to it.
3) If there are more hits than spots, the ‘extra’ hits will be given away individually via
4) This is a simple list to categorise every C&C Mixed Box Group Break. Each price point will have a different label applied to it to help people choose which Group Breaks they would like to join.

CloutsnChara Specific Terms

Micro Mini

Any Break $19 or less


Any Break $20-$29

Mega Mini

Any Break $30-$39


Any Break $40-$69

Mini Monster

Any Break $70-$99


Any Break $100-$149

Mega Monster

Any Break $150 & Up