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Few things on earth can rival the thrill of opening a pack of 1989 Upper Deck baseball cards and seeing a Ken Griffey Jr. rookie card smiling right back at you.

Greatest Boxes

Out of the twenty-five 1989 Upper Deck boxes we opened, we pulled 12 Ken Griffey Jr. rookie cards. Some boxes contained zero, and some contained more than one (one box we opened produced a mind-blowing 4 Ken Griffey Jr. RC).

#1. 1989 Upper Deck Baseball Hobby Box

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best baseball card boxes 1989 upper deck

One of the more critical collections from the hobby, 1989 Upper Deck Baseball, made the addition of high-quality card stock and anti-counterfeiting holograms to combat forgeries. Upper Deck also raised the price to $1 per pack, marketing it as a premium option for hobbyists. In hindsight, they were undoubtedly correct. 

Ken Griffey Jr. leads the charge as the RC you want to see smiling back at you when opening packs. The iconic card is found in the Star Rookies subset. You’ll find 36 packs per box.

Related: Best Sports Card To Invest In Now and Long Term | 10 Rookie Cards That Could Double in a Year

Of course, there’s an element of risk when opening any hobby box, but it’s tempered by the chance of owning a pack-fresh copy of one of the most outstanding sports cards in the hobby. Here’s a massive rundown containing the best hobby/blaster boxes for some of the biggest sports in the world.

 

#2. 2018 Prizm Basketball Hobby Box

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The 2018 Prizm Basketball Box makes a list as it potentially has one of the hottest cards inside the hobby. If you didn’t know, the undisputed king of the hits has to be the Luka Doncic RC (#280). Its design has a unique Prizm background and layout, focusing on a crisp image of Luka as he leaps up to shoot.

As with most modern cards, parallels are plentiful and cause the price to rise rapidly depending on the print run and overall grade. You’ll find two autographs and 22 Prizm parallels per box.

  • 2018 Panini FB Prizms: Base, Blue /175 | Red /125 | Purple /75 | Pink /50 | Bronze /20 | Neon Green /5 | Blue/Yellow/Green | Tiger Stripe | Red /88 | Green /8 | Nebula 1/1)
  • 2018 Panini Prizm Parallels: Silver | Green | Hyper | Pink Ice | Purple Wave | Red Ice | Red/White/Blue | Ruby Wave | White Sparkle, Red /299 | Blue /199 | Purple Ice /149 | Blue Ice /99 | Purple /75 | Orange (/49), Pink Pulsar (/42), Purple Pulsar /35 | Green Pulsar /25 | Mojo /25 | Gold /10| Black Gold /5 | Black /1
  • 2018 Panini Shimmer Prizms: Blue Shimmer /7 | Light Blue Shimmer /7 | Red Shimmer /7

 

#3. 2011 Topps Update Baseball Hobby Box

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1996 topps baseball box for sale

Next up is the 2011 Topps Update set, famed for containing a Mike Trout RC (#US175), which won’t stop going up in value. The base version might lack an auto, patch, or serial number, but it’s still an iconic card with a potential GOAT candidate. You’ll find one autograph/relic card per hobby box, up to one auto, and two relic cards per jumbo box. 

Over a decade from the original release date, the Trout RC still seems like it could keep climbing in price as he heads toward retirement age. Various parallel versions are also listed below, upping the value significantly. A 2011 Trout parallel is worth big bucks, even if upgraded. 

  • Standard Parallels: Gold (/2011), Black (/60), Silk Collection (/50), Printing Plates, Platinum (1/1)
  • Diamond Parallels: Platinum Diamond (1:4), Cognac Diamond, Hope Diamond (/60), Canary Diamond (1/1)

 

#4. 2003 Topps Chrome Basketball Hobby Box

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basketball card boxes

LeBron James’ basketball cards hit the headlines in 2020 after a gem mint copy of his 2003-04 Topps Chrome, which features James mid-jump while taking a shot during his rookie season with the Cavs, sold for $57,100 at auction.

We’ve always been advocates for collecting any RC featuring ‘The King’, and the same goes for the 2003 Topps Chrome set.  You’ll find at least 25 RCs per box, while there are also base Refractors, Black Refractors (/500), and X-Fractors (/500) to look out for. X-Fractors are one per box, while coveted Gold Refractors are always valuable. 

 

#5. 1992 Topps Basketball Series 2 Box

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We’re heading back to 1992 for the Topps Series 2 release. Why? It’s the best place to find a pack-fresh Shaquille O’Neal rookie card. The set makes a list despite his RCs being more affordable than other greats of his generation (i.e., Michael Jordan, Kobe Byrant).

There are 36 packs per box, 15 cards per pack, and each pack has either a Gold parallel or a Beam Team insert.  You can find a base Shaq RC, the gold parallel, or even the Beam Team version featuring the player in his Orlando jersey.

 

#6. 1993 Upper Deck SP Baseball Box

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1993 Upper Deck SP Foil Baseball Factory Sealed Unopened Box

1993 SP Baseball. A foray into premium cards by the company, the final 20 make up the Premier Prospects subset. The subset features several rookies, including a Derek Jeter RC, which could quickly sell for five figures at higher grades. 

Along with featuring a legendary Hall of Famer, the price is due to the card being one of the most condition-sensitive ever to be released. The foil finish found with the Premier Prospects will flake away at the slightest touch, and it’s not unheard of to find a Jeter SP foil that has already been half-ruined when opening a pack for the first time. 

It’s another high-risk, high-reward option.

 

#7. 1996 Topps Chrome Basketball Box

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1996 Topps Chrome Basketball Box

1996-97 Topps Chrome Basketball is a special release made famous due to the Kobe Bryant RC that could be contained within.  Kobe is just one of many RCs in the set, with other hits including Allen Iverson, Steve Nash, and Ray Allen

Boxes contain 20 four-card packs, while you’ll hope to find one of the refractor versions (1:12 packs) inside. Each card is wrapped in chrome, making for one of the most distinctive sets in recent memory. Initially turned down by hobby dealers who weren’t sure what to make of the chrome finish, the set was a retail-only product that quickly became one of the most expensive options ever. 

#8. 2001 Bowman Chrome Baseball Box

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The 2001 Bowman Chrome Baseball set was the first to feature X-Fractors and colored gold refractors, with an Albert Pujols RC auto and an Ichiro Suzuki RC sharing top billing. The latter even has a Japanese version of his card, exclusive via redemption from Topps Baseball… The same is true for his base card and Pujols’ RC. However, the redemption cards have long since expired, which is a potential reason why prices are so low today.

 

#9. 2020 Panini Prizm Football Hobby Box

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2020 football prizm panini hobby box

A box that potentially has rookie cards for Justin Herbert and Joe Burrow, you’ll find 12 variations for the former and 14 for the latter in the premium 2020 Prizm Football collection. They’re included in subsets such as Illumination, Instant Impact, and the ever-popular Color Blast. Then there’s the ridiculous number of parallel versions for their base RCs listed below. 

Either of the QBs has to be seen as a great investment option in the here and now, even if there’s a high entry price for the box itself.

  • 2020 Prizm Football Base Parallels: Prizm, Disco, Lazer, Black & White Checker, Blue, Green, Light Blue, Neon Green Pulsar, Orange Ice, Pink, Purple Pulsar, Red, Red Ice, Red/White/Blue, Snakeskin, White Sparkle, Orange (/249), Blue Wave (/199), Hyper (/175), Red Wave (/149), Purple (/125), Blue Ice (/99), Green Scope (/75), Purple Power (/49), Red & Yellow (base) (/49), Red Shimmer FOTL (/35), Blue Shimmer FOTL (/25), Camo (/25), Gold (/10), Red & Yellow (rookies) (/8), Gold Vinyl (/5), Green Shimmer FOTL (/5), Black Finite (1/1)
  • No Huddle Prizms: Base, Blue (/79), Red (/50), Purple (/35), Pink (/15), Neon Green (/5)

 

#10. 2017 Panini Prizm Football Blaster Box

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2017 is another great year for NFL cards, with the Panini Prizm blaster box making the list thanks to a couple of great rookie options. Patrick Mahomes and Christian McCaffrey are the RCs to look out for this time, with 17 different Prizm parallels to search for when including retail exclusives.  

2017 Panini Prizm Football hobby boxes come with three signed cards and 9 Prizm parallels. There are 12 cards per pack, 12 packs per box, and 12 boxes per case. 

  • 2017 NFL Prizm Parallels: Blue, Bronze Stars, Disco, Green, Pink, Red, Red, White and Blue, White Sparkle, Orange (/275), Light Blue (/199), Blue Wave (/149), Green Scope (/99), Purple Crystals (/75), Red Power (/49), Camo (/25), Gold (/10), Gold Vinyl (/5), Black Finite (1/1)

 

#11. 1986 Topps Football Hobby Box

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The Jerry Rice RC is the hit found in 1986 Topps Football, which features a layout with green borders and white stripes. It’s supposed to resemble a football field, which it does to some degree of success. The design also makes the set more recognizable from the era. 

The checklist includes cards from former USFL players who moved to the NFL after the 1986 season was canceled. As such, Steve Young and Reggie White have their first NFL rookie cards in the 1986 Topps collection. Inserts come from Four Box Bottoms, which had to be cut from the side rather than the bottom of the box, and 1000 Yard Club cards, which celebrated the best rushers. 

 

#12. 1989 Score Football Wax Box

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Look no further than the Barry Sanders rookie card if you’re looking for hits from 1989 Score Football. As with the set above, it features a robust design with colorful borders that vary depending on the team. (For example, Sanders’ RC has a green background.)

A more affordable option on the resale market, boxes have 36 packs of 15 cards. Troy Aikman (#270) is another good RC to look out for in the set, along with Deion Sanders (#246). As a junk wax-era box, the print run is sure to be ridiculously high, but that hasn’t stopped prices from steadily increasing over 30 years since its original release—only $4,000, which is why the set is so tempting for box breakers.

 

#13. 1981 Topps Football Wax Box

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buy 1989 score hobby box

Joe Montana’s rookie card is the main reason the 1981 Topps Football box manages to make a list. It’s the first football set to feature a Topps logo on the front of the card and helped boost a collection lacking star names. 

If you’re looking at the late-1970s/early1980s football sets, there’s nothing better. As with many older cards, prices drop significantly when looking below gem mint grades.  However, a PSA 9 copy sells for a lower amount.

 

#14. 1991 O-Pee-Chee Premier Hockey Box

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1990-91 o-pee-chee premier hockey box

Hockey cards aren’t collected with enthusiasm seen with baseball and basketball (hot: 1991 Topps Baseball Set), but they benefit from many Canadian collectors and those found in the U.S. 

Is there any set that contains as many hits as the 1991 OPC Premier Hockey Box?  As well as Jaromir Jagr, and Mats Sundin, the box also contains rookie cards for Curtis Joseph, Jeremy Roenick, Sergei Fedorov, and Mike ModanoJunk wax-era boxes tend to be some of the most popular in the present, especially as they’re cheaper to buy compared to the premium sets of today. 

It’s somewhat ironic, as 1990-91 O-Pee-Chee Premier Hockey was produced as a response to premium sets released by competitors at the time. OPC cards always carry a premium; the same applies to graded RCs from this set.

 

#15. 2015 Upper Deck Series 1 Hockey Box

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2015 Upper Deck Series 1 Hockey Box

There’s a chance to bag the 2015 first-overall draft pick in the Upper Deck Series 1 box. Connor McDavid is found in the ever-popular Young Guns subset and the 2015 NHL Draft SP’s Set, with an auto that can be found in the latter. 

McDavid is also featured in the Parkhurst Rookies Set, which comes with red and blue versions. One minor flaw with the set is that the number of memorabilia cards was lowered from two down to a single one per hobby box in the 2015-16 Upper Deck Series 1 Hockey. 

 

#16. 2005 SP Authentic Hockey Box

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2005 SP Authentic Hockey Box

Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin are the two RCs to look out for in the 2005 SP Authentic Hockey box. It comes with five cards per pack and has 24 packs per box. 

There are also two autos per box, including the Future Watch Rookie Autographs, which feature Crosby and Ovechkin. The rookie autos are serial-numbered to 999 copies. They represent the best hits from the set.

 

#17. 1990 Score Hockey Box

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1990-91 SCORE HOCKEY UNSEALED WAX BOX

You get a lot of bang for your dollar with the 1990 Score box.

The box is next, representing another pick released midway through the junk wax era. It’s a colorful set that is often disregarded due to the lack of value in the past, but prices continue to creep up each year. Jaromir Jagr, Eric Lindros, and Martin Brodeur are three interesting RCs that could be contained within. Of course, ideally, the card would need to be flawless to achieve a PSA 10 grade. 

 

#18. 2001 Upper Deck PGA Golf Hobby Box

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sportscard hobby box

When it comes to golf, one set consistently gets the most attention and the highest prices. Beloved worldwide, golf is another sport that is seeing additional interest in hobby options. 

The 2001 Upper Deck PGA Golf set is where you’ll find a variety of Tiger Woods’ best cards, back when he was just a young phenom with his career ahead of him. This includes multiple signed RCs, which are exceptionally expensive on the resale market.  The 2001 UD set is perfect to diversify with some of the best golf cards. 

 

#19. 2017 Bowman Chrome Baseball Hobby Box

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This hobby box is LOADED and not on beer or wine. Acuna Jr, Judge, and a sick Ohtani card are enough reasons to buy this box and get to ripping.

 

#20. 2020 Panini Contenders Football Box

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Another Herbert and Burrow rookie card box. We feel these two are destined to be Hall of Fame QBs and winners of more than one Superbowl—a solid investment to let it sit and open 20 years later.

 

Hobby Box or Blaster Box

Typically, the best hobby/blaster boxes allow you to find an RC containing one of the GOATS of the sport. An alternative is a box that offers a good risk/reward ratio and isn’t too overpriced compared to what it originally sold for.  We’ve sorted all the boxes by sport and will start with basketball.

Note: Many older cards only have one box, as Boomer didn’t have the blaster box option (they also ate rocks for lunch)

One notable absence is the ‘86 Fleer set, where you would find the coveted Michael Jordan rookie. (They’re currently overpriced, with a sealed case of 1986 Fleer basketball cards owned by Jeremy Fritsch selling for $1.8 million in August 2020. The sale amounted to around $149,000 per box or roughly $4,000 per pack.) There are still a variety of great options that make a list below, featuring some of the biggest names in the game.

 

Summary

Most collectors are already fans of a sport, team, or even a specific player.  However, boxes are a great entry point into the hobby, and there’s potential for profit if you pack a Hall of Famer we’ve listed above.

Expect significant mark-ups for the most popular sets, many initially retailing for under $100.  Put it this way. You’re unlikely to find one of the best hobby boxes of all-time selling on the cheap. (Unless the redemptions have run out already.)

Have we missed out on a great hobby box? Let us know if you’ve opened one of the boxes found above in the comments below.