What Is A Relic Sports Card?

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Relic Sports Cards

A relic card is the umbrella term used to describe a sports card that goes beyond the traditional base trading card format and contains a piece of embedded memorabilia, which is related to the player that’s featured on the card.

Relic cards are often referred to as simply “relics” or “memorabilia cards”.

There are many different types of memorabilia sports cards, which can include material from a player’s jersey or uniform, or their bat, for example; I’ve covered all the different types, and everything you need to know, below.

Table of Contents

The History Of Relic Cards

When Did Relic Cards First Come Out?

Relic sports cards were first released in 1996; They were first issued, in that year, by multiple card manufacturers, including Upper Deck, Press Pass and Pinnacle.

The Evolution Of Relics

At first, memorabilia cards consisted of a card embedded with a piece of game-used material, and they were an innovative and revolutionary product in the sports card collecting hobby.

These days, regular relic cards are not such a big deal like they were when they first came out.

They’ve evolved since the 90s, and there’s many different types of relic cards; The most valuable often include the player’s signature, and a serial-number, with a very limited print-run, alongside the memorabilia piece.

The Upper Deck Exquisite Collection sets of the early 2000s revolutionized memorabilia cards, with their popular patch autographs – They were super high-end cards that featured material pieces alongside player autographs and limited print runs.

Since then, we’ve seen many popular products, like National Treasures from Panini, and Dynasty from Topps follow suit.

Now, the most desirable and sought-after relics are parallels, which are often 1-of-1, that include, for example, the NBA logo patch (Logoman) from a player’s jersey in basketball cards, or the NFL shield from a player’s jersey in football cards – Some of these are the most valuable sports cards of all-time.

The Different Types Of Relic Cards

As I mentioned before, memorabilia cards have come a long way since their inception, and sports card collectors have the choice of many different types; Here are the key options:

Jersey Cards:

Probably the most common type of relic card, Jersey cards include a swatch of material from a player’s jersey, usually game-used or player-worn.

Ken Griffey Jr Jersey Card

Patch Cards:

Patch cards are a type of jersey card, but contain a portion of a player’s jersey patch that features team logos, numbers, or league emblems (like the NFL shield or NBA logoman). They’re often combined with autographs, but not always – Some of the most popular and valuable memorabilia cards are Rookie Patch Autograph (RPA) cards.

Lamelo Ball Patch Card

Ball Relic Cards:

Ball relic cards contain a small piece of material from a ball used in a game by a specific player.

Chris Paddack Ball Relic Card

Shoe Relic Cards:

Shoe relic cards feature a portion of a player’s game-worn shoe.

Joe Burrow Shoe Relic Card

Bat Relic Cards:

Bat relic cards feature a piece of a baseball player’s game-used bat, typically in baseball card sets.

Jim Thome Bat Relic Card

Glove Relic Cards:

Glove relic cards include a piece of material from a player’s glove, typically in baseball card and F1 card sets.

Max Verstappen Glove Relic Card

Hat Relic Cards:

Hat relic cards include a piece of a player’s game-worn cap, typically in baseball card sets.

Tim Hudson Hat Relic Card

Multi-Relic Cards:

Some memorabilia cards combine multiple types of relic on a single card, for example a piece of jersey material alongside a piece of bat.

Are Relic Sports Cards Valuable?

Certain types of memorabilia sports cards are very valuable, in fact many make up the top 10 most expensive sports cards ever sold.

The regular one-color, and non-serial numbered relic cards, that were so well-received in the 1990s, don’t hold much value in the hobby these days.

Collectors want rare, and very premium relics, like low-serial numbered and multicolored material or patches (again, think Logomans, for example) – The desirability and scarcity of these cards makes them so highly-valued.

The most valuable memorabilia sports cards have sold for multiple millions of dollars.

Valuable Memorabilia Sports Card Examples

Here are a few examples of the most valuable relic sports cards:

2009-10 Playoff National Treasures Rookie Logoman Autograph Stephen Curry #206

2009-10 Playoff National Treasures Rookie Logoman Autograph Stephen Curry Sports Card #206

A 1-of-1 Logoman parallel for the Steph Curry Rookie Patch Autograph card from the 2009-10 Playoff National Treasures set, which sold for $5.9 million in the past.

2003-04 Upper Deck Exquisite Rookie Patch Autograph Gold LeBron James #78

2003-04 Upper Deck Exquisite Rookie Patch Autograph Gold LeBron James Rookie Sports Card #78

A card from one of basketball’s most iconic sets, the LeBron James Rookie Patch Autograph card from 2003-04 Upper Deck Exquisite collection had a base version that is serial numbered to 99 copies, and a few parallels, including the more valuable Gold parallel, which is limited to just 23 numbered copies.

The gold version has sold for as much as $5.2 million before.

2017 Panini National Treasures Rookie Platinum NFL Shield Autograph Patrick Mahomes II #161

2017 Panini National Treasures Rookie Platinum NFL Shield Autograph Patrick Mahomes Rookie Sports Card #161

A 1-of-1 Platinum NFL Shield parallel version of the 2017 National Treasures Patrick Mahomes II RPA card has sold for $4.3 million in the past.

Why Are Memorabilia Cards So Coveted?

Relics hold a special place in the hearts of sports card collectors for several compelling reasons:

Tangible Connection to Sports History

These cards hold a piece of sports history.

Whether it’s a fragment of a game-worn jersey from a legendary athlete or a snippet of a championship baseball, relic cards offer a tangible connection to iconic sports moments and a chance for collectors to hold them in their hands.

Limited Availability

They aren’t mass-produced like traditional trading cards.

These days, they’re often produced in limited quantities, with each card featuring a unique relic piece. The scarcity of these cards makes them highly desirable among collectors, driving up their market value.

Autographed Relics

Material pieces are often combined with an athlete’s autograph on a single card. These autographed memorabilia sports cards are even more desirable to hobbyists.

I personally prefer them to non-autographed relic cards, and most collectors agree.

Variety of Sports and Players

Relic cards are not limited to a single sport or player.

Collectors can find relic cards featuring athletes from various sports, including baseball, football, basketball, soccer, hockey, and more. They can also feature multiple players, with multiple relics, on a single card.

Tom Flint

Tom Flint

A long-time collector of sports cards, Tom mainly collects soccer World Cup Prizm cards these days. As a kid, he enjoyed collecting baseball cards. He's a huge sports fan, with lots experience and passion for sports card collecting.
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