Inside the Pack: Difference Between Insert Cards, Subsets, and Short Prints

Modern sports card products are full of insert cards, subsets, and short prints. Despite being slightly similar, these terms are quite different and describe different types of cards. This week, I will be examining and differentiating between these three types of cards.

Insert cards are special cards contained within a particular set. Insert cards are not part of the regular set, and often follow some kind of unifying theme. Insert cards may or may not be numbered, but always follow a different numbering pattern than the main set.

Some insert sets may have just a few cards, and others could be quite large. For example, the “35th Anniversary” insert sets in each year’s Topps flagship sets are typically 100 cards large in Series 1!

Subsets differ from insert sets in that they are actually part of the main set. That means that they follow the numbering of the main set as well. However, subsets may have a slightly different design or have a unifying theme. For example, the All-Star cards in the annual Topps Update release is a subset, because all of the cards feature an All-Star Game logo and photos of players in the midsummer classic.

Short prints come in many different types, but since I’ve previously talked about the photo variation type, we’ll talk instead about cards that are part of the main set and would comprise a complete set. Short prints follow the numbering of the set, but are produced at a lower rate than the rest of the cards in the set and are therefore tougher to pull. For example, card numbers 301 through 350 in Topps Allen & Ginter each year are short prints, with one card in that range falling 1 in every 4 packs, on average.

Now that you know the difference between these terms, have fun collecting your favorite set!

Leave a Reply