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Holiday shopping guide: Gifts for sports card collectors in 2020

As crazy as it may seem after the hectic year that the COVID-19 pandemic has created, the 2020 holiday season has officially arrived.

While the holidays themselves may be different from years past due to social distancing, impacted travel plans, and everything in between, there is no doubt that the usual shopping frenzy in the months of November and December will continue.

And, in a year full of change, it makes sense for people to see a shift in what they’re looking for as they build up their holiday shopping lists.

One thing that has certainly piqued the interest of sports fans around the world comes in an industry that has experienced arguably the biggest bump in 2020: sports cards.

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What used to be a world full of boxes of cards at stores like Target and Walmart has evolved into empty shelves and increased prices online. Along the same lines, prices for singular cards have shot up, with stars like Patrick Mahomes, Zion Williamson and Mike Trout captivating fans across a multitude of sports.

With such a drastic spike in the card market, it’s understandable to be overwhelmed when trying to buy the perfect gift for the card collector in your life. Whether it’s a child, a friend, a significant other, or a parent, there are various factors to consider when trying to pick out the right box.

To help you out, we’ve built the ultimate holiday gift guide as it relates to card collecting in 2020, whether you’re buying for a fan of baseball, basketball, football or hockey.

We’ve organized it all in three different “tiers,” spanning a wide range of price points. There’s something for everyone, whether you’re looking for the cheapest, most basic product for a young collector, or a higher-end product for someone with more experience in the hobby.

Before getting into it all, we want to start things off with a simple notes and tips.

  • Prices for these products are based on resale values from sites like eBay, StockX and local card shops. If you are able to find products on shelves at Target, Walmart or other stores for retail prices, that is undoubtedly your best bet when shopping for younger collectors.
  • For some cheaper, smaller gifts, supplies are always a nice option. It may not seem as fun or exciting as buying someone a hobby box or a specific card, but items like card sleeves and toploaders are items that every good collector needs in their arsenal as they open up packs.

Now, without further ado, let’s get into our extensive, in-depth holiday shopping guide for card collectors in 2020.

Tier One: Under $100

Baseball:

Between Topps’ chrome cards and Panini’s optichrome or “Prizm” cards, collectors love themselves some shine when evaluating their favorite products. While everyone spends hundreds of dollars on Panini’s Optic products for basketball and football, baseball fans luck out with the cheaper prices for Topps Chrome cards.

A blaster box (which generally runs for $20 in stores for any sport/product) shouldn’t be more than $40 online as of this writing, and is worth the money for the baseball card collector in your life.

For those that don’t fancy the…well…fanciness of Topps Chrome, the company’s Series One and Series Two products provide the perfect, basic alternative. If you’re looking to get more for less with a purchase, this product is your best bet.

While Topps’ Series One and Series Two blaster boxes are the company’s foundation and pave the way for a product like Topps Chrome, a box of Gypsy Queen is a nice, old-school looking change of pace for baseball fans. If your gift recipient needs something new in their collection, this is a good solution.

The benefit of collecting sports cards? The fresh faces that show up in each sport every year. If your card collector isn’t a fan of the MLB’s 2020 rookie class, or simply appreciates the 2019 draft class a bit more, the 2019 Topps Update Blaster Box is a solid product to roll with.

Basketball:

The 2019-2020 NBA draft class created absolute madness in the card collecting community, with rookies like Zion Williamson, Ja Morant, Tyler Herro and more looking like some of the league’s future superstars.

As a result, prices skyrocketed as it relates to basketball cards, and it’s tough to find products in our “Tier One” range. One that definitely falls under $100 and is perfect for fans of this year’s rookie class is 2019-2020 Panini Chronicles.

A blaster box runs around $50-$55, which is more than double the usual retail value, but it gives a great chance at multiple rookie cards for Williamson, Morant and all of the league’s elite youngsters.

Our second choice for our “Tier One” basketball products is 2019-2020 Panini Illusions, one of the last retail products to come out for the league’s most recent season.

It gives off a nice shine without being too “in your face,” and has a nice variety of both rookies and veterans that a product like Chronicles may not be able to provide. For the $40-or-less price point you can find it at on eBay and StockX, it’s a solid investment for a holiday gift.

Football:

Mosaic has turned into one of Panini’s hottest products in 2020, with its basketball variety taking the world by storm and its football version benefitting from all of the hype.

While a hobby box of 2020 Mosaic Football is at a high, potentially unreasonable price for even experienced collectors, its retail formats are attainable for any level of collector. A blaster box will run right around $50 if you can’t find it in stores, but it would probably still be worth it in many fans’ minds even if it was at $60 or $70 with how the 2020 NFL Draft class is playing.

The “mega box” format makes its first appearance on this year’s holiday gift guide, and will show up a lot for football products across each tier. It provides more cards and generally a higher chance at autographs or memorabilia cards, albeit at a higher price.

Donruss Football is Panini’s staple football product, and is the perfect choice for any new card collector in your life. You can get either a blaster box or mega box for under $100 at this point, but the mega box is likely the top choice if you’re looking for autographs and other special inserts.

While Donruss Football is the bread and butter for both retail and hobby boxes, Panini’s Absolute Football is another fun rip for collectors who are unable to drop hundreds of dollars on a hobby box.

While the 2020 version of the product is solid, the lack of a “Rookie Premiere” event due to COVID-19 impacts the photo selection for a lot of players, leading to a lot of photoshopped images. The 2019 installment gives the chance for rookies like Kyler Murray, D.K. Metcalf and more, all with real photos from their own “Rookie Premiere” event in 2020.

Much like Absolute, Panini’s Elite Football gives off some nice shine, and some beautiful looking autographs when you land them. And again, for those who may be more invested in players like Kyler Murray, Drew Lock and more, this is an “elite” option to consider this holiday season.

Hockey:

For the hockey products on this list, we’ll turn things over to William Seward from Raccoon Alliance Breaks.

“These products can be found find at Target, Walmart, etc., run anywhere from $15-$30 depending on the size, and you are guaranteed a certain amount of rookies,” Seward said. “It’s a cheap way to have a rookie card of a big star currently, or a big star in a year or two.”

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“For about $35-$45, this product has low numbered parallels, printing plates, an occasional rare auto, and 2019 #1 Draft Pick Redemptions randomly placed in them,” Seward said. “They are hobby boxes with lots of cards for a new collector who isn’t necessarily going after that Wayne Gretzky 1/1!”

Tier Two: $100 to $200

Baseball:

Both nostalgic and new collectors will appreciate a 2020 Topps Archives Hobby Box. This product costs right around $100 on RbiCru7’s website (one of the better hobby shops in the country), gives 192 cards with designs from 1955, 1974 and 2002, and boasts two on-card autographs, which are turning into a rare commodity in the hobby. There is a ton of variety in this one, and it’s truly a product for all ages.

Looking for a mesh of shine and volume for a baseball fan? A 2020 Topps Chrome Hobby Box houses 96 cards with an average of two autographs per box, and rings in just below the limit for our second price tier. Considering the amount of packs per box, this is a great product to dive in on if you want to split it up between children, or treat someone on their own.

Unfortunately, 2020 Topps Inception Hobby Boxes are a bit tougher to find than the company’s Chrome and Archives products. But, despite the fact that boxes only come with seven cards, it’s worth the price (and risk) for sports fans who appreciate more artistic card designs. With a canvas feel and a splattered-paint look, Inception is one of the most underrated releases of the year.

While Inception is great for fans of the artsy card style, 2020 Topps Stadium Club is perfect for fans of photography. A bit similar to Panini’s Luminance cards, Topps Stadium Club is very minimalistic, and provides some great images of your favorite baseball players. With two autographs per box and a $100-$110 price point, this is another solid option for collectors who aren’t into the flash and shine.

Basketball:

If you’re a fan of Mosaic Basketball’s retail options, but want to spice things up a bit and move up from Tier One to Tier Two, the mega box is the gift for you. With 80 cards per box, the volume is well worth the $140 price point that you can find them for on StockX.

Add in the restock that has been going on at Walmart’s around the country, and there are lots of opportunities to pick up this product ahead of the holidays.

On a similar note as Mosaic Basketball, the mega box format for Panini Chronicles is an excellent opportunity to pick up some of the best rookie cards the collecting community has to offer.

There are 100 cards in a single box, which is perfect for a younger collector focused on how many cards they can get in one day, or an older collector looking for the best odds at some nice Zion Williamson or Ja Morant variations. If you’re not willing to pay $140 for 80 Mosaic cards, you can find this box for the same price on StockX.

Somehow making its first appearance on this list, Panini’s Optic products are among the best of the best in card collecting. With the flash that comes with the optichrome cards and the simplicity of the design, Optic is one of the most anticipated releases in each sport’s release calendar.

The Walmart version is about $100 cheaper than the Target version, and provides exclusive “Hyper Pink” parallels. It may seem like a lot for 42 cards, but it’s well worth it if the collector in your life has mentioned the word “Optic” before.

Unfortunately for basketball collectors, hobby boxes aren’t exactly cheap in 2020. But, one choice comes in the form of a product that new collectors may not be familiar with: Panini Status Basketball.

A hobby box from the 2017-2018 season runs for right around $150 dollars, with an average of one autograph per box. With 60 cards per box and a draft class that includes studs like Jayson Tatum, Donovan Mitchell and De’Aaron Fox, what’s not to like?

Football:

There aren’t many football hobby boxes that you can find for under $200 in 2020, but Panini Legacy Football always seems to get the job done for those looking to enjoy the hobby on a budget.

While there are lots of cards featuring players in their collegiate uniforms, Legacy’s 128-card boxes are a great starter option for younger collectors who have never opened a hobby box. You’ll find an average of two autographs per box, with some unique “mini” cards and some optichrome variations, as well, making this a hit for you to consider this holiday season.

Whether you get the Target version (featuring 10 packs of four cards) or the Walmart version (featuring two “mini boxes”), this mega box will give you 40 good-looking cards with lots of different colors and shine to them. If you were looking for a bit more than a blaster box, but like what Mosaic has to offer, this is the clear-cut choice.

The pricing on this box has gone up quite a bit in even the last three or four months, but the 2019 Panini Optic Football Collector’s Box is a worthwhile middle-ground between a hobby box and a mega box you’d find at a retail store.

Available on eBay for under $200, this box comes with a bronze autograph, a memorabilia card and an exclusive “Orange Scope” parallel per box, on average. Given the amount of rookies per box, there is a lot of potential to land some big-time name from the 2019 NFL Draft class in the midst of a fun rip.

Topps no longer produces football cards due to Panini’s exclusive rights deal with the NFL, but that doesn’t take away from the enjoyment that an old hobby box of 2014 Topps Chrome Football provides.

One of the cheaper football hobby boxes that you can find in 2020, the 2014 installment of Topps Chrome Football packs a loaded draft class and tons of cards, giving plenty of chances to collect rookie cards for Odell Beckham Jr., Khalil Mack, Jimmy Garoppolo and more.

For around $130 dollars, this is perfect for collectors who have watched these players progress into stars in the NFL over the last six years.

Hockey:

“As far as products this year, Upper Deck came out with one that really stands out and it is Stature,” Raccoon Alliance Breaks‘ William Seward said. “Stature sells for $125 and is like O-Pee-Chee Platinum on crack! The cards are like mirrors; and are filled with color parallels, patches, and autos. If you are looking for an OPC-Platinum type card and have more to spend, I’d recommend Stature.”

Tier Three: $200 and more

Baseball:

Baseball hobby boxes are going to be arguably your best bet for the holidays in 2020, given the plethora of products available and the pricing of each.

To start us off, we’ll roll with a 2020 Topps Museum Collection Hobby Box, which will cost around $265 for the 20 cards in the box. Considering the amount of autographs and relic cards in the boxes, it’s worth the price. You can also pick up a “mini box,” the equivalent of a hobby pack, for right around $75, as well.

If you’re looking for cheaper options, a hobby box of 2020 Topps Finest Baseball is a good deal to take advantage of. Clocking in right at the bottom of our “Tier Three” requirements, this $200 hobby box packs 60 cards and two chrome autographs per master box. Similar to the Museum Collection box, you can pick up a “mini box,” albeit for around $105.

Lastly, if you’re looking for a boatload of cards for a younger collector, any of the jumbo hobby boxes from 2020 are going to be the item to look for. In this case, a jumbo hobby box of 2020 Topps Series 1 Baseball cards will be right around $250, with more than 400 cards per box.

It’s a great product to buy and split up between children, or to give someone if you want to keep them busy throughout the holidays.

Basketball:

Like I previously mentioned, there aren’t going to be many cheap hobby boxes for basketball card collectors in 2020. So, some of these products are going to be a bit pricey, and may fall out of range from a gifting perspective.

For some sheer volume, however, it makes sense to start with a 2019-2020 Panini Hoops Basketball hobby box, which goes for right around $300. At less than $2 per card out of the 192 in the box, all while featuring an average of two autographs, you definitely won’t get shorted with this purchase.

If you’re focused on products with autographs, you can skip right past this one. But, Panini Revolution Basketball does give collectors the chance at some shiny basketball cards for a relatively-decent price point, even without the guarantee for a big hit.

If you’re willing to fork over around $335 for this box of 40 cards, it’s a solid pickup for the holiday season.

With the rise of the WNBA in 2020, you know we had to include some of their cards from Panini in this holiday gift guide. Prizm is arguably the biggest product of the year across any sport, and you can pick up the WNBA version for around $275.

For 144 cards with loads of talent across the board, this is a nice purchase to consider for any WNBA fan.

Football:

The 2020 NFL Draft class is on fire as of this writing, and prices are skyrocketing as a result. But, while you could have picked up a box of 2020 Panini Phoenix Football for right around $230 around its release date, it’s still worthwhile at its new price around $270-$280.

With a ton of color and unique inserts and parallels, buying either a box or a few hobby packs at your local card shop is a great idea for the holidays.

If your card collector is a fan of multi-colored “patches” on memorabilia cards or some nice rookie autographs, especially as it relates to the 2020 rookie class, then a hobby box of 2020 Panini Certified Football is the pick for you.

And, ringing in at right around $225 with 50 cards, it’s actually considered a cheaper product when looking at other hobby boxes.

Unfortunately, there aren’t retail formats for 2019 Panini Chronicles Football like there were for basketball. But, if you’re looking for a fun box for the football fan in your life, the $235-or-lower hobby version is an excellent idea.

With two autographs, one memorabilia card and a ton of updated variations of some of the season’s earlier products, this hobby box is ideal for fans looking to collect some of last year’s rookies from their favorite squads.

Hockey:

“If you are looking for a higher-end box, I’d recommend Buybacks,” Raccoon Alliance Breaks’ William Seward said. “They are HOT. The market has fluctuated on them as people seem to have bought them all up, and now there is demand. Buyback comes in at $259 and is only two cards. One base parallel and one “Buyback” which is a low-numbered, autographed card. These boxes seem to either produce absolute FIRE of today’s hottest stars or Hall of Famers or are duds. It’s truly a gamble it seems, but if you get a hit, you’re going to love it.”

Like this guide? Have any suggestions? Let us know by following @SOTSports on Twitter or by liking our Facebook page!

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