2021 Donruss Elite Football Review

August 5, 2021

Donruss Elite has been around for twenty years, and this year it’s back and looking as sharp as ever. But at the current price for a hobby box, is this product a rip, hold or pass? Let’s find out with the 2021 Donruss Elite Football review.

Pricing and Contents

Donruss Elite hobby boxes are running around $350-$400, depending on where you shop. Blowout Cards lists them at $399.95, but StockX is one of the best prices at $325.

With that price, you’ll get 100 total cards broken down into 20 packs of 5 cards. In that, expect:

  • 2 Autos
  • 1 Memorabilia
  • 3 Rookies
  • 6 Parallels
  • 11 Inserts

As noted by the product highlights from Panini, this set keeps many of the classic inserts and features while also trying to innovate new ways to build excitement for collecting.

Most notably, the Pen Pals set is a chance to “chase some of the first Rookie Cards with updated NFL marks and photography from future stars like Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, DeVonta Smith, and many more!” In other words, the Pen Pals autographs are the NFL-jersey debuts for rookies this year.

The product features hobby exclusive sets including Rookie Elitist, Elite Deck, Elite Company, Rookie on Deck, and it introduces a new insert in 2021 called Ascension!

This year, there’s also a Case Hit called “Playmakers,” which depicts the player on a stage with red curtains pulled to the sides of the card. These cards can sell for a lot, like this Brady that went for $300. However, the value is throttled somewhat without rookies in the set. When the highest-selling case hit sells for less than a hobby box, that’s a red flag.

The Playmakers series has produced some valuable cards in the past (picture taken from Panini).

Also, the 2021 set introduces rookie variations, which seems like a good thing, but I’d argue otherwise. One of the smartest things Elite does is limit rookie cards, making them all sequentially numbered and more scarce. Now, thanks to “Rookie Variations,” there are twice as many rookie cards of the top players on the market. More supply, less demand.

Check out the 2022 Donruss Elite Football checklist

2021 Donruss Elite Football Review: Checklist Information

The base cards are eye-catching foil cards building out a set of 100 veterans and 75 rookie cards. As mentioned previously, 25 of these rookies have “Rookie Variations.”

NOTE: all rookies are in their college uniforms other than Pen Pals autographs. This fact does not favor their long-term value.


Here are the different parallels from the levels of inserts:

  • Red – /399
  • Purple – /99
  • Orange – /49
  • Teal – /25
  • Aspirations Die-Cut – /24
  • Status Die-Cut – /24
  • Blue – /10
  • Black – 1/1

There are also Razzle Dazzle parallels cards. These are not numbered, but Panini claims they are “extremely rare.”

Black parallels are 1/1 (get Elite 1/1 cards on eBay).

Autos, Inserts, and Jerseys

The Aspirations and Status parallels are numbered to less than 99, but it depends on the card. They also include Moxie, a 2021 debut with a jersey or patch and a bright, colorful design.

The classic insert is Pen Pals, a coveted autograph set of the top rookie talent. Panini also issues Pen Pals co-signer cards, pairing up college teammates, NFL teammates, or top-level talent.

There are also 2001 Elite, which flashback to the 2001 Elite design. Fun Fact: Tom Brady’s been around for both (but didn’t earn a card in 2001).

Other inserts include Star Status and the hobby-only inserts mentioned earlier: Rookie Elitist, Elite Deck, Elite Company, Rookie on Deck, and Playmakers.

2021 Donruss Elite Football Review: Value

The big question: is 2021 Elite worth the box price? We will examine both singles and unopened wax to give you the ultimate answer.

Wax Value

The big question: is 2021 Elite worth the box price?

Let’s assume you buy the box at $350, which seems to be the average going rate on eBay. How much are you likely to get for it if you hold? We looked at recent sales of hobby boxes from recent years.

2018 Hobby Box $301
2019 Hobby Box $249
2020 Hobby Box $390

As you can see, most years, hobby boxes resell for lower than the selling price. The one minor exception being 2020 because of the presence of Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert.

What about blasters? They are currently available on eBay for $48 with a Buy Now.

2018 Blaster $109
2019 Blaster $31
2020 Blaster $36

So again, not the best scope for flipping. After a few years, the value of blasters goes up, but there are more people hoarding wax now than ever before. So, it may take a while. On the other hand, you can probably find a better use for your closet space than holding these boxes.

There are better investments out there than unopened Elite football (look for Elite wax on eBay).

Singles Value

If you’re ripping the box, most of the value will be in rookie cards and autographs. While most rookies are numbered to /999, let’s say you’re somehow lucky enough to pull a /399 version of the top three quarterbacks. Here is what a PSA 10 of those cards is currently worth:

Joe Burrow $322
Justin Herbert $299
Tua Tagovailoa $74

Moral of the story? Ouch. After all, this was one hell of a rookie class.

The 2020 rookie class is high-valued, but singles are not going for as much as expected (get Elite RC’s on eBay).

Unless you pull a monster low-numbered rookie, you won’t be making much money back on rookie cards. That means your autographs will most likely have to be the moneymaker, and they can be—the Lawrence Pen Pals sells for $500-$600—but I wouldn’t count on getting a top talent autograph if I’m deciding whether to buy the box.

The cards don’t age well, either. Here’s a /49 Herbert Orange Rookie from last year that recently sold for $61. The same card on Zach Wilson in 2021 sells for around $40-70, and Wilson hasn’t won ROY.

Finally, if you’re buying to hold, consider this. A Hobby box from 2020 comps at around $350, with some buy-it-now, sells going for $390, and some auctions recently ended under $300. So, at $350/box, the 2021 edition is not worth buying to hold.

Bottomline Of The 2021 Donruss Elite Football Review

If you’re interested in making money, stay away from Elite Football 2021. Opening boxes have a very poor chance of generating a return on investment unless you are very fortunate with autos and rookies.

You could pull a star rookie and an autograph of a first-rounder… and still, lose $200+. Can’t say I love the odds.

But, if you like the design and aren’t hoping to make a profit, the box could be a fun rip. Or, better yet, buy the singles of the cards you like. As this article shows, that will be cheaper!