2020-21 Contenders Optic Basketball Review

December 16, 2021

Contenders Optic returns for chromium versions of the iconic rookie ticket autographs. In the 2020-21 Contenders Optic Basketball Review, Cardlines will answer the big question: Is this a flip, rip, or pass?

What Is Contenders Optic Basketball 

Contenders Optic made its debut in 2017 as a football product. However, it saw its first basketball release in 2018-19.

Since then, it’s been a popular product. It brings chromium technology and prizm colors to the Contenders rookie ticket autographs, which are some of the most iconic rookie autos ever.

Contenders was the second “Optic” product coming from Panini in its move to bring opti-chrome tech to some of its most popular products.

For most collectors – including myself in every story I write on Cardlines – “Optic” is used to typically represent Donruss Optic, the first of the Optic products. Somehow, over time, we’ve dropped “Donruss” out of the name, but Donruss Optic is one of the hottest basketball releases every year, grouped in with Prizm and Select.

Contenders Optic hasn’t received quite the widespread enthusiasm from collectors, but it’s still a popular product. If anything is holding it back from mass acceptance from the hobby, it’s the small print run: boxes only have 6 cards each, on average, and often cost north of $500.

READ: Details of 2022-23 Contenders Optic Basketball

2020-21 Contenders Optic Basketball boxes are now available on eBay.

2020-21 Contenders Optic Basketball Review Of Release Formats

2021 Contenders Optic is a hobby-only release. So, if you want to get your hands on this product, there’s only one way to do it.

Hobby Box

  • 1 Pack Per Box
  • 6 Cards Per Pack
  • 4 Inserts or Parallels
  • 1 Autograph.

The price, upon writing, is currently $589.95. At almost $100/card, this is a significant risk.

2020-21 Contenders Optic Basketball Review Of The Checklist 

While risky, there is a lot of big-hit potential in Contenders Optic 2020-21 basketball. In particular, you have a chance of pulling a nice autograph or low-numbered parallel.

One of the flagship features of Contenders Optic is the on-card autographs. These cards can include Rookie Season Tickets, Rookie Variation Season Tickets, Veteran Tickets, and 1983 Tribute Autographs.

While the veteran tickets are all great players, it would still feel like a burn to open up a $600 box and only pull an Anfernee Hardaway veteran auto. Highlights of the set include Luka and reigning MVP Nikola Jokic.

Each box has 4 inserts or parallels. The inserts come in well-known sets such as Uniformity, Lottery Ticket, and Superstars. But they are accompanied by new insert sets, including Hoop Dreams, Team Tandems, Pick n Roll and Suite Shots.

One of the bright spots of the new additions to this year’s set is, ironically, a new SSP called the Black Pandora Parallel. Unfortunately, we have no official number, but they’re very, very rare.

From base cards to autographs, the parallels include:

  • Silver
  • Red
  • Blue – #/99
  • Orange – #/49
  • Green Pulsar – #/25
  • Black Pandora SSP
  • Gold – #/10
  • Gold Vinyl – 1/1

The base checklist is only 140 cards deep, with 100 veterans and 40 rookies.

Gold are 1/10 (look for more Lebron Contenders Tickets on eBay)

2020-21 Contenders Optic Basketball Review Of Value

Contenders Optic is releasing a quarter of the way into the 2021-22 season because of delays. However, there are is still potential to pull nice cards from last year’s rookie class.

But, at a price of almost $600, is this a rip, flip or pass?


Since the only form of the release is hobby boxes, it’s pretty easy to look at it as an investment.

2020-21 Sealed boxes have a current selling price of $600.

2018-19 boxes now sell for $1,500, and 2019-20 boxes are going for $700.

The most significant difference is the rookie class. 2018-19 has Luka, Trae, and many other stars. Meanwhile, the 2019-20 class is led by a currently-injured Ja Morant and Zion. So, of course, Williamson has more questions around him than perhaps any other NBA player.

The reputation of the rookies determines the value of the box (look for more Luka Contenders Optic tickets on eBay)

If you believe in the 2020-21 rookie class, this could be an excellent long-term wax hold. If not, don’t bother.


Full disclosure: I’m never opening a product that costs $600, has six cards and doesn’t guarantee a rookie autograph. That’s a HUGE risk for me.

That said, you may have a bit more disposable income. In that case, opening one of these could be a rush. There’s probably a 90% chance you won’t recoup the $600 you spend. However, if you do hit, it will be big.

One positive about the product is this: with such a small checklist, this product is in no danger of being overprinted. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the most prominent brands (Prizm, Optic, Select).

You may not hit, but if you do, it could be HUGE (look for James Wiseman autos on eBay).

The safest way to invest in 2020-21 Contenders Optic Basketball is to buy single cards. However, the downside is that they’re priced accordingly. As a result, there’s little risk/reward potential.

Still, if you’re a firm believer in a particular rookie, you may want to ride his expected growth as opposed to investing in the whole class. In that case, it’s not a bad idea.

First, find a raw auto on eBay of your favorite rookie. Then ask the seller about the condition and for more pictures. After that, buy, get the card graded, and reap long-term rewards.

Bottomline Of The 2020-21 Contenders Optic Basketball Review

Contenders Optic 2020-21 keeps the momentum rolling for the reasonably young NBA brand. However, it’s a mid-to-high-end product based on price, so it’s for a select crowd.

However, if you’re willing to take the risk, this could yield nicely. The innovation, variations, and fun parallels pumped into this product keep it on collector’s hotlists. So try to get your hands on some this season!

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