Sports cards have gone beyond the early days of just regular base cards that feature an image and name of a player.
Relic/memorabilia cards have become commonplace in the modern hobby, and are often chase cards in sports card products from various card manufacturers.
If you’re new to the hobby, you might be wondering, what is a relic sports card? The post below goes through everything you need to know about them.
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Relic Sports Cards (Or Memorabilia 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 – We’ll cover the different types of relic cards below.
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:
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.
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.
Ball Relic Cards:
Ball relic cards contain a small piece of material from a ball used in a game by a specific player.
Shoe Relic Cards:
Shoe relic cards feature a portion of a player’s game-worn shoe.
Bat Relic Cards:
Bat relic cards feature a piece of a baseball player’s game-used bat, typically in baseball card sets.
Glove Relic Cards:
Glove relic cards include a piece of material from a player’s glove, typically in baseball card and F1 card sets.
Hat Relic Cards:
Hat relic cards include a piece of a player’s game-worn cap, typically in baseball card sets.
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?
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
2003-04 Upper Deck Exquisite Rookie Patch Autograph Gold LeBron James #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
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?
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.
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.
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.