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Holiday shopping guide: Gifts for sports card collectors in 2021

It’s never too early to start your holiday shopping, especially if it’s for the sports card collector in your life.

While the holidays themselves may feel different these days 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 since the pandemic began: sports cards.

>>RELATED: Sports card collectors adjust to COVID-19 challenges as some begin to feel priced out of the hobby

With such a drastic spike in the card market, it’s understandable to be overwhelmed when trying to buy the perfect gift for a card collector, no matter if they’re new to the hobby or a season veteran.

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 built the ultimate holiday gift guide as it relates to card collecting in 2021, complete with options for fans of baseball, basketball, or football.

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 card sleeves and toploaders are items that every good collector needs in their arsenal as they open up packs.

>>RELATED: Pick-Six: Best football card releases from the 2020 NFL season

Now, without further ado, let’s get into our extensive, in-depth holiday shopping guide for card collectors in 2021.

Tier One: Under $100


If you’re into sports photography, Stadium Club is the product for you. With beautiful pictures and no messy borders, these could likely be considered the purest kind of sports card out there today. Add in the cheap price tag, and this is a solid idea for any level of collector.

Panini’s baseball products don’t feature any team names or logos, which knocks them down a few pegs in comparison to their Topps counterparts. But, Diamond Kings opts for more of an artistic, canvas-y-type feel, and makes up for the lack of a true MLB affiliation with its creativity.

Plus, $80 for a hobby box is unheard of these days.


So much focus was put on NBA cards when the hobby took off in 2020, but don’t sleep on WNBA cards. There aren’t as many varieties out there to choose from, but 2021 Panini WNBA Prizm blasters are a great idea for the female basketball fan in your life.

Considering the delays in products for the 2021 NBA Draft class, Panini’s Optic set for its 2020-2021 season is probably the best bet for a gift at this point.

Optic just came out recently, and with so much product out there, you have a plethora options to choose from depending on your price point. The blaster box is its most basic form, and is much cheaper than those of years past.

The premier set in Panini’s release calendar at this point, Prizm is the gold standard from a card collector’s perspective. The 2020 NBA Draft class has much less hype than the 2019 NBA Draft’s rookies, so prices aren’t as insane as the 2021 holiday season gets going.


Panini Chronicles Football took a hit for the 2020 NFL season due to the introduction of retail formats and a seemingly-high print run. But, this is the perfect product for younger collectors and those who aren’t as fascinated by a single type of product.

Chronicles takes a variety of card sets and mashes them into one product, so you’ll get tons of different types of rookie cards here. It’s a fun rip, and one of the cheapest options out there for football fans.

If your favorite card collector prefers the 2021 NFL Draft class, then Panini Absolute Football is the best bet.

The rookie cards have some shine, and there are plenty of cool designs and inserts to work with here. It’s a newer release, so it may be harder to find, but the price tag isn’t too crazy in comparison to sets that come out later in the season.

>>RELATED: eBay report showcases growth of sports card industry during pandemic

Tier Two: $100 to $200


If you like the Stadium Club idea from the first tier, but want to spend a little more money on it and get more guarantees, then a hobby box is the right choice.

It guarantees two autographs and a lot more cards in each box, and will certainly provide some nice variety for the holiday season.

Topps’ Gypsy Queen cards are hit-or-miss in some collectors’ eyes, depending on what they prefer.

If they’re into sleeker, more modern designs, then Stadium Club or the generic Topps set is the right play. If they like classic designs with a different texture for the cards themselves, then Gypsy Queen is a fun alternative.

Similar to Stadium Club, this one guarantees two autographs and clocks in at a similar price point. You can pick your poison with this tier’s options.

If your baseball card collector prefers some shine, then look no further than Topps Chrome.

Topps’ version of Panini’s Optic set, this product takes the regular Topps design and puts it onto some optichrome cardstock to make it pop. The autographs look beautiful, the parallel options are great, and it feels like a higher-end product for a reasonable price.


For fans of Ja Morant, Zion Williamson, Tyler Herro, and company, the 2019-2020 Panini Chronicles Basketball Mega Box is a great way to kick off the second tier for basketball cards.

This box packs 100 cards with plenty of fun inserts and a litany of rookies, meaning you would have a great chance at landing some version of a Morant or Williamson rookie card. It’s a retail product, so autographs are highly unlikely, but it’s still a great option to consider.

It’s pricey, and could be considered a Tier Three product depending on where you look, but the 2020-2021 Donruss Optic Basketball Retail Box is a near-perfect gift for this holiday season.

The “retail box” format differs from cello packs, blaster boxes, and mega boxes, and even comes in the same type of packaging that a hobby box would use. Instead of housing autographs, however, it carries loads of fun parallels and inserts on that shiny, optichrome cardstock.

With 80 cards and a ton of rookies, this is the best way to get a young basketball card collector the equivalent of a hobby box for a much cheaper price.


The 2020 NFL Draft class was loaded if you’re a fan of quarterbacks, giving card collectors the chance to pull Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert, and Tua Tagovailoa.

As Optic continues to emerge as one of Panini’s biggest products, the 2020 Optic Football blaster boxes became hot commodities towards the tail-end of the 2020 NFL season.

They’re pricey, and they don’t provide a ton of cards (24 in comparison to Absolute Football blaster boxes with 64), but this is worth the price for any football fans.

You won’t be finding 2021 Panini Origins International Football blaster boxes in your local Target, Walmart, or Barnes & Noble. But, that doesn’t mean they aren’t available for you to buy in the United States.

Loads of hobby shops around the country got boxes of these “international” blaster boxes, which provide a retail alternative to what is usually one of Panini’s more exclusive hobby boxes.

It’s a pricey box at $150, but with 14 rookies (at least) guaranteed and loads of talent in the 2021 NFL Draft class, this is a strong choice for the holiday season.

>>RELATED: What do Fanatics’ deals with MLB, NBA, and NFLPA mean for sports card collectors?

Tier Three: $200 and more


Baseball cards don’t get printed on optichrome cardstock a lot these days, and Topps Chrome is the company’s premier product on that front. But, Topps Finest is a good, middle-of-the-pack opportunity for those who prefer that shine.

This one likely won’t cut it for fans of true photos, as the cards are just the players’ silhouettes on a colorful design. But, with 60 cards, two chrome autographs, and some exclusive die-cuts, this is a good option for those looking to splurge on a hobby box.

I know, I know. $345 for just 20 cards seems crazy. But, if you’ve got the money to spend and want to use it on high-end baseball cards, then 2021 Topps Museum Collection is the answer.

You get one autographed relic card, one on-card autograph, one quad relic card, and one other relic card in each hobby box, and the cards look great. Add in the potential for booklets and some crazy patches from game-used uniforms, and it’s a perfect way to cap off our Tier Three options.


After the drastic rises in prices for the 2019-2020 season’s rookies, anything from 2020-2021 seems like a steal.

Panini Revolution Basketball hobby boxes won’t do the trick for everyone, as they could be considered a little too flashy and over-the-top. They also don’t guarantee any autographs, which is a downer in comparison to baseball and football products.

But, the parallels and inserts are great, and it’s a fancy option for younger card collectors who want something special for the holidays.

In my book, Panini Certified hobby boxes are some of the best things in the hobby, no matter which sport you collect.

The basketball option isn’t as glamorous as its football counterpart, as it only guarantees two hits in its 50 cards. But, the Certified RPA (rookie patch autograph) is one of the most beautiful cards in the hobby, and usually boasts a beautiful, multi-colored patch, as well.

Even the base cards look great, which makes this a perfect option for those willing to drop more than $300 on a box of cards.


Football hobby box prices have gotten insane over the years as fans pursue rookie cards for some of the league’s rising quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers.

In fact, Panini’s Donruss Football hobby boxes, which used to go for right around $80-$90 in 2019, are going for right around $400 two years later.

These Tier Three options aren’t for everyone. But, if you’re willing to drop some dough, or if you’re looking for a box to split amongst two or three children, then the 2021 Donruss Football hobby box packs a lot of punch. If it’s too expensive, then there are plenty of retail formats from $20 to $100 to consider, as well.

End on a make, right?

Arguably one of the best releases since the hobby’s rapid rise began in 2020, this year’s edition of Panini Certified Football was picture-perfect.

With two autographs and two memorabilia cards, Panini spreads four hits across 10 packs, making this a great option if you just want to pick up a few hobby packs to gift, or if you want to spend big on a full hobby box.

If you’re looking to risk it for a great Mac Jones, Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, or Trey Lance rookie card, then look no further than 2021 Panini Certified Football hobby boxes.

>>RELATED: ‘Day with the Lespy’: Sports card collectors create own version of NHL’s Stanley Cup tradition

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

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