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The Ultimate Panini Refractor Guide

1993 was a big year for the hobby. Sure, most of the cards from 1993 fall into the Junk Wax Era. However, it also marked the birth of an innovation that would revolutionize the hobby. The refractor. And to celebrate its role in our hobby, we give you the ultimate Panini refractor guide.

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It first appeared in the release of the 1993 Topps Finest Baseball set. At the time, a refractor wasn’t even denoted differently from the base cards.

Fast forward nearly three decades and refractors are among the most sought-after cards in the hobby. For many collectors, they have even eclipsed autos.

Given the demand, we’ll look at Panini refractors and answer the most burning questions. These include, what are refractors, what are the different types, and why you should invest in them.

panini refractors

What are refractors?

Refractors are covered in a thin foil that refracts light in a variety of colors. Their refracting property is, of course, what gives them their name.

And, here’s a bit of history: The Topps Company, Inc. registered a trademark for their brainchild to prevent other companies from copycatting what they were doing.

Of course, other companies still mimicked the rainbow-foil, but they couldn’t legally call them refractors. Therefore, Panini started calling them “prizm” cards.

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YouTube video

Panini Prizms

And with that in mind, note that technically even this article’s title is wrong since Panini doesn’t make refractors.  But that doesn’t stop collectors from labeling them as such.

On top of that, Panini calling its refractors “prizms” adds confusion since Prizm is its most popular brand, and Prizm prizms are called “silver prizms.”

If you need to re-read that paragraph three more times, I don’t blame you one bit. The point is, Panini’s refractors are called prizms, and everybody wants them.

Oh, unless we’re talking about Panini Optic. Then the refractors are called “holos.” Yes, we know it makes no sense.

optic holo luka doncic

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The role of refractors in the hobby

Not only do refractors look great, but they function to add scarcity to collecting. How so? Well, Panini doesn’t make life any easier by failing to disclose its odds or print run.  Therefore, we will have to use some hypothetical numbers.

Just from ripping Prizm, it is clear that prizms are relatively scarce. For example, if you open an 80 card box of Prizm, you may only get two silver prizms. So from that alone, we can understand the impact on the price.

Imagine, for the sake of illustration, there are 100,000 base Ja Morant Prizm cards printed. In that case, there may be about 1,000 silver prizms cards printed. The limited number creates scarcity and makes the silver prizms sell for significantly more.

Then, compare the 1,000 silver prizms to, say, a /199 blue prizm. The blue prizm would be 5x more rare than the silver, meaning it will sell for even more.

And Panini knows what it’s doing as it continues to add different colors and designs of refractor/prizm cards to create even more scarcity within sets. As a result, building out a rainbow of all the prizms for your favorite player becomes more difficult every single season.

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How to recognize refractors 

Identifying a refractor is easy. For the silver prizms, the card will reflect light with a rainbow-foil look, so all you need is a comfortable amount of light. With the colored prizms, it’s even easier to tell: the card’s border changes colors based on the set, so you’ll never make that mistake.

If you ever have any doubt, the Panini refractors are labeled prizm on the back. This fact can be beneficial when you’re looking through one of those eBay listings with an awful picture.

Panini prizm
When in doubt, check the back

The Cardlines Panini Refractor Guide

Panini’s list of refractors grows every year. Some colors have become staples, while others come and go. For example, here’s a list of the different types of prizms in Prizm 2020-21 basketball:

  • Silver
  • Blue Wave
  • Gold Wave
  • Green, Green Ice
  • Hyper
  • Orange Ice
  • Pink Ice
  • Purple Wave
  • Red Ice
  • Red/White/Blue
  • Ruby Wave
  • White Sparkle
With numbered prizms, you know how scarce they are (picture taken from eBay).

Panini numbered Prizm Guide

Some of the non-numbered prizms seem to have a print run in the thousands. Others in the hundreds. The great advantage of numbered prizms is that we know precisely how common they are. Generally speaking, numbered prizms are less common.

While originally, there were only 3 colored Prizm refractors, here’s a list of the refractors in hobby boxes of 2022 Prizm Football.

  • Black and Red Checker Prizms
  • Black and White Checker Prizms
  • Blue Prizms
  • Green Prizms
  • Green Ice Prizms
  • Light Blue Prizms
  • No Huddle Prizms
  • Orange Ice Prizms
  • Red Prizms
  • Red Sparkle Prizms
  • Red White and Blue Prizms
  • Silver Prizms
  • Snakeskin Prizms
  • White Sparkle Prizms
  • Pandora Prizms – #/400
  • Orange Prizms – #/249
  • Purple Ice Prizms – #/225
  • Blue Wave Prizms – #/199
  • Hyper Prizms – #/175
  • Red Wave Prizms – #/149
  • Purple Prizms – #/125
  • Blue Ice Prizms – #/99
  • Blue Sparkle Prizms – #/96
  • No Huddle Blue Prizms – #/79
  • Green Scope Prizms – #/75
  • Orange Wave Prizms – #/60
  • No Huddle Red Prizms – #/50
  • Purple Power Prizms – #/49
  • Red and Yellow Prizms – #/44
  • No Huddle Purple Prizms – #/35
  • Red Shimmer Prizms – #/35
  • Blue Shimmer Prizms – #/25
  • Navy Camo Prizms – #/25
  • Gold Sparkle Prizms – #/24
  • Forest Camo Prizms – #/15
  • No Huddle Pink Prizms – #/15
  • Gold Prizms – #/10
  • Gold Shimmer Prizms – #/10
  • Green Sparkle Prizms – #/8
  • Gold Vinyl Prizms – #/5
  • Green Shimmer Prizms – #/5
  • No Huddle Neon Green Prizms – #/5
  • Black Finite Prizms – 1/1
  • Black Shimmer Prizms – 1/1
  • Black Stars Prizms – 1/1

Pretty crazy, right? And that’s not to say this many is a good thing, either. You can have enough rainbow-colored cards that even the rare ones feel less special, and Panini is fliring with crossing that line.

Special Panini Prizms Guide

And, if you didn’t think those 31 different Prizms were enough, that’s not counting the Choice Prizms (featuring Nebula, Tiger Stripe, and more).

With this many options, how do you design what to invest in?

Your budget, for one, should be the best indicator of what you should buy, but if you can afford to go all-in, the lower-numbered (serial-numbered print runs, that is) cards are always more valuable.

Or, if you are one to care about eye-appeal, buy a prizm that matches the uniform of your favorite player. A green pulsar of a Boston Celtic, for example, might visually pop.

Guide to Panini Prizm value

Refractors are worth more than the base cards, but how much more precisely? It depends on the scarcity, and to illustrate just how much that matters, we’ve put together a table for Anthony Edwards Prizm Rookies (PSA 10).

Remember, the market has been moving up and down a lot recently, but this table should still give you a feel for value (prices are from October 2023).

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CARDEBAY COMP PRICE
Base$80
Silver$625
Green$230
Orange Ice$310
Purple Wave$400
Blue /175$1,500
Blue Shimmer /35$4,400

Final thoughts on Panini Refractors

From the numbers in this Panini refractor Guide, we learn two things:

For one—and this comes as no surprise—but the numbered cards sold for the most, and for a young star like Anthony Edwards, the lowest-numbered cards sell for thousands of dollars.

What is surprising, however, is the strength of the silver prizm. While there’s no print run posted, it’s easy to assume the silver prizm is the most common of any of the colors, and yet it outsells every other unnumbered parallel on the table.

Why?

Best guess: it has a classic feel and a timeless appeal.

It might not make sense from a supply and demand perspective, but if silver prizms are the way to go if you’re looking to get the most investment bang for your buck.

Now that you’re a practiced refractor expert get out there and start shopping, ripping packs, or buying into your next break.

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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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