Here we’ll offer our two cents on the best football cards to target this year with our Top Football Card Brands 2021 list. While the following collections are modern age heroes, there is a long and storied history when it comes to football cards. In order to get a full scope of it, we must go all the way back to the late 1800s. In fact, the first football player featured on a trading card came out in 1888. The lad who made history was a college football player from Yale University by the name of Henry W. Beecher. While you may not know the name, the card was distributed by an organization called Goodwin & Company.
That first football card came in a set that included other random sports. However, it wasn’t long after that the first collection of trading cards to consist entirely of football players was printed in 1894. It featured 35 college football players from the Ivy League. At that time, football cards were generally used to promote other items such as breakfast cereal, ice cream, and doughnuts. Not necessarily items anyone would associate with athletics and fitness in today’s world. At any rate, football cards would start gaining momentum after World War II. Brands such as Topps, Fleer, and Post Cereal were some of the first to produce cards featuring professional players.
Years later, an upstart new player emerged that any card collector should know quite well. Upper Deck would become the first company to be licensed by the NFL to produce trading cards. An honor they would hold for nearly two decades until its run ended in 2010. 5 years later, Panini would seize control of the industry by gaining exclusive rights to produce trading cards for the NFL. However, Panini’s run is now coming to an end as well after a bombshell announcement recently sent shockwaves through the industry. In a few years, Fanatics will become the exclusively licensed NFL card beginning in 2026. While the future looks bright for Fanatics, we are still in Panini’s hay day. As you can tell by the names featured in our Top Football Card Brands 2021 list!
Related Content: Best Panini Football Cards To Buy 2021
Top Football Card Brands 2021: Available Now
Best Available Overall: 2021 Panini Certified (Check Price)
The 2021 Panini Certified Football collections is our favorite set in the early going. Rookies in their new uniforms? Check. Rare parallels and stunning inserts? Check. Autographed and memorabilia cards? Check. Yes, there’s not really much not to like here. If you’re looking to go big seek out a Freshmen Fabric card of one of the top rookies such as Ja’Marr Chase or Mac Jones. Meanwhile, a more moderate play would be a base card parallels like the /75 Chase shown above. Either way, you’re getting a highly respected brand with plenty of valuable cards. There are some brands coming that will eventually knock certified off the top spot, but for now it remains king of the hill.
2021 Donruss Football (Check Price)
Donruss certainly has made a name for itself within the hobby and rightfully belongs on our Top Football Card Brands 2021 list. While the Donruss Optics line will be a more sought after brand, the regular Donruss collection definitely holds it owns. Look for the coveted Rated Rookie cards as well as a few Optic previews that can be found in the regular collection. And let’s not forget about those ever popular Downtown inserts such as the Mac jones card shown above.
Best Collegiate Brand: 2021 Panini Prizm Draft (Check Price)
Panini Prizm is a football brand that has withstood the test of time. It will continue to do so in 2021 and has already rolled out its collegiate collection known as Prizm “Draft”. The Prizm logo is displayed prominently in gray and Trevor Lawrence is featured in the center of the pack in his Clemson Tigers home jersey. There are 8 cards per pack and 5 packs in each box. Additionally, the Panini Prizm Draft has a Blaster Box. It has 30 cards inside. There are 6 packs per box with 5 cards in each box.
Best Value Brand: 2021 Pro Set (Check Price)
Pro Set is a trading card brand that revitalized its football collection after a 30-year hiatus. In 2021, the classic Pro Set trademark has been revitalized by Leaf Trading Cards. And boy are we happy about that. The cards have a vintage feel and stay true to where the brand left off decades ago. And what better player to lead the revival than 2021 first overall draft pick Trevor Lawrence! The card shown above put Pro Set back on the map and we for one are hoping it sticks around for a while.
Best High-End Brands: 2021 Panini Gold Standard (Check Price)
Our Top Football Card Brands 2021 list goes from the best value brand to the best high-end collection. So far. The set is incredibly exclusive with a limited checklist. Basically, it’s ALL killer and NO filler. You’ll pay a steep price to get your hands on a hobby box that only contains 7 cards. However, 5 of those 7 cards will either be autographed or include memorabilia so the price could very well be worth it. AND THEN SOME. The Trey Lance card shown above is one of the most sought-after items in the collection and we’d expect that continues well into 2022.
2021 Panini Black (Check Price)
With each unopened card costing more than $100, there’s no doubt Panini Black is a high-end collection. While that price may seem like a lot, it could very well be worth it considering how many valuable cards the set contains. Whether you’re looking for the league’s best veterans or an up-and-coming rookie, Panini Black has no shortage of short print cards that can hold tremendous value. Additionally, there are some fairly cheap options if you don’t want to break the bank. Just take a look at the beautiful Justin Fields Futuristic insert above. It has a print run of only 149 and is available for less than $50. A reasonable price to pay for a player with the talent to be one of the league stalwarts in the coming years.
Red Hot Rookie Alert: Mac Jones Rookie Card Buyer’s Guide
Top Football Card Brands 2021: Coming Soon
As we just made clear, Panini is the king of the hill when it comes to football cards. And the brand’s Top 2 collections are Panini Prizm and Panini Select. In that order. While Prizm is still the flagship set, Panini Select has been attempting a bit of a coupe de tet in recent years. The collection has a very distinguished logo that can be seen on its hobby boxes. As far as the hobby boxes go, you can expect to find 5 cards in each pack with a total of 12 packs per box. Meanwhile, the Panini Select Blaster has 6 packs per box and 4 cards in each pack. In addition, the Panini Select’s MEGA BOX option has 10 packs per box and 4 cards in each pack.
While Panini Select is on the move for the top spot in Panini card brand dominance, Prizm still reigns supreme. The flagship collection has been the innovative force in the industry for nearly a decade and is sure to continue that trend in 2021. We’re expecting MASSIVE amounts of interest when it’s finally released as 2021 is one of the most exciting NFL rookie classes in recent memory. Strike quickly if your local hobby shop has some in stock because they WILL move fast.