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Discussion: Game-Used/Event-used and Manufactured Cards

Updated on February 6, 2014

For New and Returning Collectors

This hub was written with the intent on teaching new collectors OR returning collectors about one of the more interesting innovations to hit the Card Collecting hobby in the last 20 years. Game or Event-used and Manufactured cards exist in nearly all sports card products but there are subtle differences between them. If you head to your local hobby shop or a local card show, you will find them on every table (except for Vintage Dealers).

It's important to know about them: what they are, what makes one better than another, which ones may be tougher to find. I've tried to outline the history of these cards, differences in the types of cards, important buying & selling points and other basic information taken from my experiences that span nearly 35 years of collecting baseball cards.

Mickey Mantle Game-Used Bat Card

Game/Event-used and Manufactured Cards

These cards typically have pieces of game-used or event-used memorabilia incorporated right onto the face of the card design. This memorabilia is usually player oriented (though it can also be location oriented). In the past, when a player tore a jersey sliding or broke a bat, typically that equipment would get thrown away. Now that equipment is sold to the card companies to be put into these cards.

Manufactured Cards are created by the card companies (at this point only Topps though Upper Deck did this in the past) and they include anything from commemorative patches to embroidered signatures, Uniform Numbers, even commemorative coins, rings and awards.

One Game-used per Pack at $20

A Short History Lesson

Game-Used cards were introduced to the mainstream collector base by Upper Deck in their 1997 products (there is a 1996-97 College Basketball product that has pieces of basketball incorporated into the design but it’s a fairly obscure set) Both football and baseball products that year had these cards seeded into packs at extremely difficult odds. Pulling one of these cards from a pack was not easy and that drove the prices off the charts. Several hundred dollars per card was not unusual (I pulled a Terrell Davis jersey card from 1997 Upper Deck Football and sold it on Yahoo Auctions for over $250).

Over time, every company began to manufacture these types of cards and put them into their products and it soon became much easier to pull these cards from packs. By 2001, several brands had been created that promised one game used card per pack but the packs typically cost in the $20 range at the time (like the SP Game Bat product shown at right). Upper Deck pioneered the manufactured card as well when they created embroidered cards in 2003. The difference at the time was important to collectors. Topps also changed the landscape with event-worn memorabilia cards. These are cards with pieces of memorabilia from an event and not an actual game. Topps holds a Rookie Photo-Shoot at the NFL Combine every year and started to use the jerseys the rookies wore for the shoot. They did the same thing in basketball as well. Today, game and event used cards are fairly common in all products except the base retail brand product from each company (Topps Opening Day).

If these cards are so common, you might ask, then what's the big deal?

Favorite Player Gift

The Allure of Game/Event-used Cards

To be honest, game-used/event-used/manufactured cards are still a really cool innovation. As a sports card dealer, I sell many of these cards though I tend to specialize in players from my regional sports teams (New York/New Jersey). Why do they sell so well, you may ask? They make great gifts, even for people who aren't necessarily into collecting sports cards. These kinds of cards can connect fans to a favorite player in a way a simple baseball card just can't do. While these cards make great gifts for non-sports card collectors, they often help convert those people into true sports card collectors once they have them.

Imagine giving a young Derek Jeter fan a card with a piece of his game-used jersey or bat in it. I've seen the thrilled faces of fans who get these as gifts and it never fails to impress.

Game-Used Messier Jersey Card

Event Used Wrestling Mat Card

Game-used vs. Event-used

When talking about the four major sports (Baseball, Football, Basketball and Hockey) game used and event used are two very different things. As mentioned earlier, event used items are not used in actual games. While this is an important difference for you to note, it does not currently affect prices as many collectors simply don't make any distinction between the terms. If it matters to you, the text on the back of the card should indicate if the item on the front of the card is from a game or an event.

Most of the other sports are actually event-driven like tennis, NASCAR racing, golf and wrestling. If you went out and bought a card with a piece of event used wrestling mat, that makes perfect sense (see the Summerslam Event-used wrestling May card with Big Show at right).

Multi-colored Patch Card

Important Difference Between Game-used/Event-used Cards

Collectors should be aware that not all game-used cards are created equal. In general, game-used cards that feature a plain white or gray swatch (another term for the piece of memorabilia on the card) are the most common and the least desirable. Cards that feature a pinstripe (especially a well-centered one) are far more desirable and will bring a premium price. You will find that some cards feature pinstripe swatches with the pinstripe either diagonal or horizontal. This doesn't usually affect price but it is visually inferior to a well mounted swatch with a vertical pinstripe.

Prices are affected by pinstripes as they are considered a second color. Jersey swatches that contain more than one color are generally more expensive than single color jersey cards. The same is generally true across the board - the more colors, the more expensive the card will be. The only place this does not seem to count is in Hockey cards as hockey jerseys are generally very colorful to begin with, having multiple colors on a hockey jersey card is not uncommon. In addition, game or event-used memorabilia cards often come serial numbered. Obviously, cards that have a low serial numbering usual carry a premium. What is considered low serial-numbering is a matter of opinion, but I use 25 as the benchmark, myself as the price guide generally doesn’t provide pricing for items that are serial-numbered below 25. Many game-used cards feature certified autographs as well. These cards are the cream of the crop and can cost serious money but they are usually well designed and fairly limited.

The example to the right is of baseball legend Ken Griffey Jr. This card contains a piece of multi-colored patch, an autograph and it's serial-numbered. It's a gorgeous card. Imagine giving that to a Griffey fan...

Race-used Sheet Metal Card

What's on the Card Makes a Difference As Well

In all sports, jersey swatches are the most common of game-used cards. In baseball cards, game-used bat cards rank a close second. Cards that carry a premium are those that feature odd pieces of equipment from the player. Baseball oddities are batting gloves, caps, fielding gloves and shoes. In football, shoes and facemask have been used. Basketball card oddities are limited to shoes and in hockey cards, goalie masks and stick cards can be found. One further note, hockey game used stick cards are decidedly not as common as baseball bat cards.

Event-used wrestling cards are limited to costume cards (for both the wrestlers and divas). Tennis and golf cards are limited to shirt cards though I guess they could use tennis shoes as well (I haven't seen that yet). Racing cards incorporate a wide range of equipment from both the driver (racing suit, gloves) and the car (tire, sheet metal) and they are equally desirable.

Note that cards that incorporate pieces of stadium seat (baseball), arena baseboards (hockey), parquet floor (basketball), or wrestling mat are not usually as desirable as player oriented game-used cards. In addition, ball (baseball and football) or base (baseball) cards are also not nearly as desirable as the player oriented cards. I think these cards are great and interesting but we usually attach to a player and not a place (though as a Mets fan, I do have a Shea Stadium seat card in my collection).

Cal Ripken Manufactured Trophy Card

Manufactured Cards

When looking for manufactured cards, the subject of the card matters most. Obviously this can be player driven. Babe Ruth manufactured cards are worth a lot more than Paul Molitor cards (nothing against Molitor, Ruth just has a much bigger fan base). As many of these cards are themed in some way, it is important to take that into account. Topps makes many different manufactured cards throughout the year and sometimes what’s on the card matters more than you think. If they do a 2013 All Star Game Patch on it, will an Allen Craig card showing the Citi Field All Star Game logo be more or less than a Matt Harvey Citi Field All Star Game logo card? When Topps did a Retired Numbers Uniform number patch card with Mantle and his number 7, all Mantle fans loved that card. Just keep in mind that both player and theme matter. The Ripken card shown at right is themed with an All-Star Rookie trophy for 1982 and it looks great.

Pre-war Players Are Tough to Find

One Last Important Point

Game-used cards of players from the 1950s and before are not common. No matter which player you are talking about, whether a common or superstar, game-used material is not plentiful for these players (any sport). Babe Ruth game used uniforms are not in great supply and neither is Hank Behrman (played for the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 40s and has a game used card in 2001 Upper Deck Legends of New York set shown at right). In those days, baseball players only owned there bats, not their jerseys. The jerseys were given back to the team to be used the next year (so there aren't many out there). If you are planning to invest in these types of cards, get the stars you can from this time period and sit on them for a while (this may prove expensive). If you can't afford the stars, then pick up the commons and minor stars as the same rule applies.

Where They Can Be Found

These cards are great fun and can really make the hobby very personal for anyone you buy them for. They are considered the big "Hits" when you buy boxes and can more easily be found in Hobby products than Retail products. That being said, one of the best products out there are the yearly Topps flagship "Blaster" boxes you can find in any Target, Wal-Mart and Toys R Us stores. These boxes typically sell for $19.99 ($27.99 in Toys R Us) and contains 10 packs plus one Manufactured Card in every box. The Game/Event used cards are usually one per Hobby box, sometimes more depending on the type of box you buy (Topps Jumbo boxes contain two or three usually).

Well I hope this guide has helped you figure out the this part of sports card market for yourself. Shop around at hobby stores and shows and you are bound to find the players you are looking for. Have fun and let us know what you find!!

Images of cards are © Copyright of Topps, Upper Deck and Press Pass


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