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2021 Panini Spectra Football Review

2021 Spectra kicks off the Opti-chrome releases for the 2021 season. But, in a $1,000 box with only 16 cards, you’re also rolling the dice. With that in mind, is Spectra football a rip, flip, hold or pass? To answer all your questions, we have crafted the 2021 Panini Spectra Football review.

Looking for 2022 Panini Spectra? Click here.

Panini Spectra Football Product Introduction

Spectra is closing in on ten years as a football product. Since its 2013 release, the product has remained consistent in its delivery. It includes many cards but with many hits at a high price. As a point of comparison, Spectra boxes are often priced similarly to Prizm but contain a quarter as many cards.

This year, Spectra attempts to carry the torch while updating the product. All-in-all, Panini succeeds at achieving this goal. A few new inserts help the product feel updated without straying too far away from what makes the Spectra brand.

Spectra contains massive hits, especially the RPAs. Look for other Spectra RPAs on eBay.

The 2021 Panini Spectra Football Review Of What To Expect

2022 Spectra averages 8 hits per box. Each box only contains 16 cards so that you can do the math. It provides a higher proportion of hits than most products.

The structure is the same as usual: four packs of four cards each. The top two cards in each pack are base cards, followed by memorabilia. Finally, it has the coveted autograph in the back (I still don’t understand why Panini put the autos on the back instead of sandwiching the hits between the base cards, but they didn’t ask me.)

Every card in Spectra is numbered. The highest-numbered card you’ll pull from the product is /149, and there are many lower-numbered parallels. Each box also contains one RPA, but I’ve seen a few breaks where 2 are pulled.

The cards are artful, and all the parallels use dazzling prizm or mosaic effects to deliver beautiful results. They look better than Prizm, in my opinion. But of course, aesthetic tastes are subjective.

2021 Panini Spectra Football Review Of Formats

Spectra is a hobby-only release, and the box breaks down like this:

Hobby Box

  • 4 cards per pack.
  • 4 packs per box.
  • 1 Insert
  • 4 Autographs (includes 1 RPA)
  • 4 Memorabilia
  • 7 Base/Parallels/Variation
  • Selling for around $930-950 on eBay

2021 Panini Spectra Football Review Of The Checklist

The Spectra lineup looks very familiar to last year’s boxes, even at the hobby level, but a few new inserts and Spectra colors add flare.

Here’s a look at this year’s hobby colors:

  • Celestial – /99
  • Hyper – /75
  • Blue Neon – /60
  • Blue Neon Die-Cut – /50
  • Green Neon – /35
  • Green Neon Die-Cut – /30
  • Meta – /25
  • Pink Neon – /25
  • Pink Neon Die-Cut – /20
  • Orange Neon – /15
  • Orange Neon Die-Cut – /10
  • Wave – /10 (one per 1st Off the Line box)
  • Neon Splatter – /8
  • Psychedelic – /5
  • Neon Marble – /4
  • Nebula – /2
  • Gold – 1/1

The Neon Marble are /4. Look for them on eBay.

The Celestial, Meta, and Neon Splatter parallels are new additions for 2021, and new inserts include RetroSpect, Mesmerizing, Neon Nights, and Retro Spectacle.

The autograph lineup remains pretty consistent with what we’ve come to expect. It blends rookies, veterans, and Hall of Famers. The sets include Champion Signatures, Illustrious Legends, Sky High Signatures, Vested Veterans Autographs, and RetroSpect.

It’s a product in which you could pull a Justin Fields auto or a Peyton Manning auto out of the same box. There is a lot to be said for a great lineup of legendary autographs.

2021 Panini Spectra Football Review Of Value

If you’re hoping to invest in Spectra 2020-21, the first question to answer is if you should buy singles or wax.

Wax Value

At the time of writing, this year’s Spectra has a price tag of $974.95 at Blowout Cards. Rewind just one year to 2020, and Spectra 2020 has a price of $1,799. While Blowout doesn’t have any 2019 Spectra Hobby, they can be found on eBay for as low as $1,250. The 2018 boxes, however, sell for close to $2,000 if you can find them.

Spectra 2018 Hobby Box $1,995
Spectra 2019 Hobby Box $1,300
Spectra 2020 Hobby Box $1,800

As usual, variance is based on the rookies. The 2019 class is not nearly as exciting as the 2020 class, led by Burrow and Herbert, so these boxes sell for less than 2020. On the other hand, the 2018 boxes containing Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson sell for even more – also in part because they’re a bit older and harder to find.

The Spectra 2018 Hobby Box can be hard to find. See if they have any on eBay.

How much the 2021 boxes ultimately sell for depends on how well the 2021 rookie class performs, but the current price tag of sub-$1,000 indicates to me that this could be a perfect buy if you’re looking to hold some sealed product long-term.

We’ve seen flashes of brilliance from many of the rookies: Mac Jones, Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Davis Mills, and Ja’Marr Chase, to name a few. But, unfortunately, we’ve also seen a lot of question marks around them. The players in question won’t all pan out in the long term. However, some will and all it takes is one or two standout stars to propel the value of this box to new highs.


If you’re going to invest in Spectra singles, the RPAs are the standout option from Spectra. Unfortunately, they’re typically numbered to /99, so they’re limited enough to be hard to find. However, they are also populous enough to be a logical chase.

And they’re also thick cards, which means a PSA 10 is very, very unlikely. So while I’d encourage you to chase PSA 10 on Prizm and Optic cards, a PSA 9 (or even an 8) is A-OK when it comes to Spectra.

Here’s a look at some recent PSA/BGS 9 Spectra RPA sales over the years.

2018 Josh Allen $650
2019 Kyler Murray $580
2020 Justin Herbert $1,220

The Herbert is an outlier here (not sure it should be worth twice as much as Josh Allen). Still, the biggest takeaway from this list is that none of these highly-desired RPAs sell for the price of the box. And frankly, when the “chase card” can’t offset the price tag, I strongly recommend against ripping.

Josh Allen was the biggest hit in 2018 Spectra. Look for this and other examples of his cards on eBay.

Here’s what I’d recommend instead.

Bottomline Of The 2021 Panini Spectra Football Review

2021 Spectra Football is far from a pass, but you need to manage your playbook well to turn it into a profit. So, what should you do with it?

RIP: Don’t rip this product if you’re trying to profit. Even if you hit a nice RPA, you’re still down. You need at least two rock-solid cards.

FLIP: Since this was a hobby-only release, there are no solid short-term flip options. If you buy this box sealed, you’ll have to wait.

HOLD: Yes. The numbers make this very clear. If you had bought any of the last three years of Spectra’s hobby boxes at the current price tag, you’d be profitable. Depending on which year you bought it, it has the potential to be very profitable. There’s a future where this box might be worth $2,000 in 5 years – it’s not too hard to imagine.

PASS: Do what makes sense based on your budget, but at this price, Spectra isn’t a clear “pass.”

Jesse Haynes

Jesse Haynes

Jesse Haynes is the co-founder of Solaro Shades, an Amazon #1 Bestselling novelist, and a lifelong sports card collector. His nonfiction work has been featured in Forbes, Inc., MarketWatch and more. At CardLines, Jesse’s specialties are basketball and football cards, not to mention making informative video and Instagram content.
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