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What does ‘RPA’ mean – Definition – The Sports Card Glossary

RPA stands for “Rookie – Patch – Auto” and are arguably the most coveted class of modern sports cards in production today.

But what exactly are RPA sports cards? RPA’s are rookie cards that also include a patch of a player’s jersey and their autograph. By themselves, rookie cards are already desirable. As are patch memorabilia cards. Same with autographed cards. But combine all 3 into a single card and you’ve got the makings for a grail.

Rookie Patch Auto (RPA) sports cards are rookie cards that also contain a patch of jersey and the player’s autograph.

Most RPA’s will include the RC shield, but in hockey for instance where the RC shield isn’t used, the manufacturer will frequently include some language on the card to indicate it’s a rookie card.

Hockey RPAs don’t use the rookie shield icon common in football, baseball and basketball cards. Pictured is a Connor McDavid RPA from 2015-16 Upper Deck The Cup where ‘Rookie’ is woven into the design of the card to denote that this is a rookie card.

A more recent term that’s found popularity is ‘True RPA’. How is a True RPA different from a regular RPA? In a set like National Treasures, a player can have multiple RPA’s. But one of them is the True RPA and that card is typically part of the base set (eg. not an insert) and the first instance of that player in that set. In National Treasures, these are the RPA’s numbered out of /99.

Rory Hansen

Rory Hansen is a San Diego-based sports card collector and social media influencer. Considered an expert in the process of grading sports cards, he regularly advises other collectors on how to assess, prepare and submit cards for grading. Originally from Canada and now living in the US, Rory collects both hockey cards and baseball cards. His personal collection focuses on Shohei Ohtani, Ichiro Suzuki, Yu Darvish, Pavel Bure, Daniel and Henrik Sedin and Roberto Luongo.