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Each year, sports card manufacturers release hundreds of unique sets. Of those sets, a few stand out from the competition.
Whether because of high-priced individual cards, strong overall value, a great variety of parallels and inserts, or other reasons, we’ve identified the 10 best football card sets and packs to buy in 2021.
Our Top Pick?: 2021 Donruss Football Pack
10 Best Football Card Packs to Buy in 2021
Every collector has unique tastes and budgets, but the market has spoken. These are some of the most coveted packs and boxes from the 2021 football card release calendar.
2021 Panini Prizm Draft Picks Football White Sparkle
Release date: August 4, 2021
2021 Panini Prizms are always in high demand, and the White Sparkle parallel can command lofty prices when conditions are right.
Those who purchase the White Sparkle pack generally hope for a rookie autograph. These rookie autograph cards are numbered 1.
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The Draft Picks set features current NFL players in their college days.
The White Sparkle parallel gives each card a holographic sheen similar to pointillism art. The effect, as you might guess, is a white sparkle.
White Sparkle Rookie Autos for prominent draft picks like Trey Lance has commanded significant sales prices.
Even White Sparkle Auto RCs for players with unclear NFL futures, like Feleipe Franks, have sold for four figures.
Non-autographed rookie cards can also make back the purchase price of a single pack, and then some, so long as you find the right rookie.
2021 Panini Chronicles Draft Picks Football Card Packs
Release date: July 2, 2021
The 2021 Panini Chronicles Draft Picks football packs to include 8 cards per pack, 6 packs per box, and 16 boxes per case.
The set averages 3 autographs, 1 relic, 1 base Cracked Ice parallel, and 12 Optichrome cards per box.
Breakers will keep a keen eye out for Limited Rookie Patch Autographs, Origins Rookie Jumbo Patch Autographs, and One Quad Patch Autographs, which have proven to be strong assets on secondhand markets.
The design of the One Quad patch auto cards is especially noteworthy. The player patch lies beneath a four-paneled design. To the left of a patch is a player image, with the player’s collegiate team colors in the background.
Even though the base set design is considerably less exciting than the top-tier parallels, you’re guaranteed to receive rookie cards when you open a pack of 2021 Panini Chronicles Draft Picks—this alone is appealing.
The chance that you will hit on a coveted auto or patch auto only adds to the allure of this specific pack.
2021 NFL Donruss Elite Football Pack
Release date: June 18, 2021
Panini is, based on our list, the most in-demand name in collecting right now. The 2021 Panini Mosaic Draft Picks packs entered the marketplace as an online-only release.
The first set of its kind, the Mosaic Draft Picks line expanded Panini’s stable of Draft Pick-centric offerings. You get 15 cards per pack and two packs per box.
Buyers expect to receive two autographs and eight parallels per box (one autograph and four parallels per pack, for you Liberal Arts majors). Of the parallels, two are generally Silver parallels while the remaining six are Mosaic parallels.
As always, autographs are the crown jewel of the 2021 Panini Mosaic Draft Picks crop. Two iterations of autograph cards—Mosaic Autographs and Scripts—contain rookie signatures.
The Mosiac Autos and Scripts cards both contain Gold and Black parallels, numbered to 10 and 1, respectively. Collectors hope to obtain a Black Mosaic Auto or Scripts auto with a name like Ja’Marr Chase, Trevor Lawrance, Devonta Smith, or Zach Wilson on it.
Even Black and Gold parallels without autographs have commanded strong prices. The Mosaic design, with radiant, kaleidoscopic color schemes and quality player images, likely has something to do with strong demand.
The opportunity to break into a rare rookie auto or a nice-looking numbered parallel with one rip of the foil makes this set too good to exclude.
2021 Panini Black Football Card Pack
Release date: September 3, 2021
One of the more literally named sets you’ll find, 2021 Panini Black Football packs offer the opportunity to find some rare, valuable, and visually appealing cards.
In the style of other premium products, each Panini Black Football box contains only five cards. Each box averages two autographs and one relic card, including one rookie patch auto.
Variety is a defining feature of this set. Capstone, Spotlight Signatures, Smoke Show Signatures, Jet Black Materials, Futuristic, and Rookie Influx are all unique card iterations that you may pull from this set.
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Rookie patch autographs remain the gold standard of this set (and most others). In particular, 2021 Panini Black Football RPAs featuring Mac Jones have fetched impressive prices.
The Rookie Patch Auto designs feature oversized patches, an eye-catching feature that adds to this set’s premium feel. Another notable card, the Josh Allen Spotlight Signatures (/1), features a stunning dark design and a contrasting gold-ink signature.
Each insert and subset within this release has something to offer. We included it, though, because of the potential for you to pull a rookie patch autograph, a rare Jet Black materials parallel featuring a superstar NFL veteran, and other similarly rare and valuable cards.
2021 Panini Certified Football Card Packs
Release date: August 25, 2021
2021 Panini Certified packs contain five cards per, and each box contains 10 packs per. Cases contain 16 hobby boxes.
Base rookie cards are limited to 399 copies. Black (/1), Green (/5), and Purple (/10) parallels are a welcome sight to anyone cracking a pack.
The Freshman Fabric Mirror Signatures are one of this set’s greatest assets. The Black and Black Etch parallels are 1 of 1s, while the Green, Purple, and Gold (including Etch) parallels are limited to 5, 10, and 25, respectively.
Printed on reflective “Mirror” stock, these cards feature a player image on the card’s right side. An oversized patch (some of which are stunning pieces of uniform) dominates the card’s right side. A blue signature occupies a silver plate beneath the player patch.
The Gold Team Mirror Signatures Black Etch cards are each numbered to 1 and include some of the collectors’ best friends like Tom Brady, Justin Herbert, and Kyler Murray.
The potential of finding a coveted rookie patch auto or limited-run superstar autograph makes this a pack worth gambling on.
2021 Donruss Football Card Packs
Release date: September 8, 2021
Those who purchase a 2021 Donruss Football hobby box receive 10 cards in a pack, 18 packs in a box, and 18 boxes in a case.
On average, each box contains an autograph, a relic card, 18 rookie cards, 12 parallels, and 42 inserts.
The base set has a simple, classic Donruss look. Captivating player images are surrounded by two-tone, team-colored borders in a pinched rectangular shape.
The base cards alone are reason to consider this set, but they are not the pull factor that most collectors seek.
Some of the most alluring cards are Rated Rookie parallels, with Black Die-Cut (/1), Black (/10), Gold Die-Cut (/25), and Gold (/50) parallels being the cream of the crop.
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Other noteworthy cards include Rated Rookie Autographs, Rated Rookie Portrait Autographs (/49), Rookie Phenom Jersey Autographs, and The Champ Is Here Autographs, which features players from the Bucs’ championship squad.
This set offers a massive spectrum of variety. This is a positive in one sense, as there are many unique parallels, subsets, and rookie cards that you could pull. On the other hand, a massive checklist presents some risks.
Still, 2021 Donruss Football packs offer unrivaled excitement in that you could unveil any number of exciting autographs, patches, and rookie parallels.
2021 Panini Contenders Draft Picks
Release date: May 28, 2021
Each box has six packs has an average of six autographs (one per pack), six parallels (one per pack), and an additional 36 cards that are either inserts or parallels.
Base cards are in a “College Ticket” format. A high-definition player image is a primary focus. Beneath the image is a “College Ticket” insignia, with “Seat”, “Row”, and “Section” markers in the style of an actual game ticket.
Game Day Ticket Signatures, Rookie Premier Signatures, and Collegiate Connections Signatures provide the desirable on-card autograph.
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The best Game Day Ticket Signatures parallels are Draft (/1), Bowl Championship (/10 or /5), and Cracked Ice (/23). Finding a Draft (/1) or Bowl Championship (either /10 or /5) Collegiate Connections Signatures parallel is also a boon for pack breakers.
In-demand parallels of Rookie Premier Signatures include Gold Vinyl (/1) and Gold (/10). Parallels offer unique design features like a perforated upper border and gold trim.
This set deserves a spot on this list because it’s a comparatively affordable option. Hobbyists may stumble upon a high-value rookie autograph with minimal upfront investment.
Autographed parallels featuring Trey Lance, Zach Wilson, and Trevor Lawrence have been popular among buyers.
2021 Panini Prizm Draft Picks Cello Packs
Release date: June 11, 2021
If you don’t already know, “cello” packs refer to the transparent cellophane wrapping that encases each bundle of cards. These packs generally contain more cards than a standard pack.
2021 Panini Prizm Draft Picks Cello packs contain 15 cards each. Of the 15, there is a “bonus” three-card pack featuring red, white, and blue Prizm cards.
As previously discussed, you’re looking for autographs and rare parallels when you’re opening a pack of Panini Prizm Draft Picks, including a cello pack.
The Draft Picks Autographs to include rare parallels such as White Sparkle (/1) (and previously discussed as its own pack), Black (/1), Black Gold (/5), and Neon Green Circles (/10).
The sheer variety of autographed parallels makes the 2021 Panini Prizm Draft Picks cello pack an exciting one to open. Many of the parallels feature an array of fractured, stained glass-style color schemes.
Finding any rare autographed parallel, or a valuable insert like the Justin Fields Colorblast, could be a W for those who purchase a Prizm Draft Picks cello pack.
2021 Panini Prestige Football Packs
Release date: July 9, 2021
2021 Panini Prestige Football was initially available only through Panini Direct shops. The set was released in a Hybrid Box format with 10 cards per pack, 10 packs per box, and 20 boxes per case.
A box averages 20 rookie cards, 10 numbered parallels, 10 Galaxy parallels, and 20 inserts. The variety of rookie cards and valuable parallels and inserts makes this a set worth acquiring.
As always, numbered rookie signatures are hot commodities. In particular, the Rookies Xtra Points Signatures Premium Black, Rookies Xtra Points Signatures Premium Platinum, and Rookies Xtra Points Signatures Premium Pink contain autographs and limited print runs (of /1, /10, and /25, respectively).
Draft Day Signatures and NFL Passport Signatures featuring even mid-tier first-round rookies like Jaylen Waddle, Mac Jones, and Kadarius Toney (among others) may be a welcomed sight for those who open a 2021 Panini Prestige pack.
Many of the most intriguing parallels in this set feature unique designs, from comic book-style lettering to state flags denoting players’ colleges.
Tom Brady autographs are crown jewels within the 2021 Panini Prestige Football set. Whether it is a Heroes Xtra Point Autograph or Base Xtra Point Signature Premium Red, the TB12 auto cards have realized significant sales prices.
Finding a TB12 autograph in the form of a rare parallel is one of the greatest outcomes that a breaker can hope for. There is plenty of upside in this set, which is why we included it on this list.
2021 Panini Prizm Draft Picks Football Packs
Release date: June 11, 2021
The 2021 Panini Prizm Draft picks set comes in packs of 8 cards. There are five packs per box and 16 boxes in a case.
You can see the previous description of the Panini Prizm cello pack for more details, but you’re looking for rare parallel autographs of Trevor Lawrence and other first-round rookies when you buy a pack o Prizm Draft Picks.
The Panini Prizm brand named combined with massive returns for rookie autos from this set make it one of the most valuable football packs in this year’s class of releases.
What are the best football card packs to get?
The best football card packs to get year in year out are Panini Prizm football cards and in particular the Prizm rookie cards (base or parrelles).
What brand of football cards are worth the most?
The brand of football cards worth the most are Panini Prizm football cards as they dominate the football card market like no other.
What are the best football cards to invest in?
The best football cards to invest in are Panini Prizm base rookie cards of HoF or active HoF possible players (i.e. Justin Herbert, Joe Burrow).