top of page

Overall Panini Basketball Rank and Tier (Tier 3):

Updated: Oct 1, 2021

Tier 3 Cards

( Encased, One and One, Select, Spectra, Prizm, Contenders Optic, Contenders, Optic )


Tier three cards are the best option for striking a nice balance in between affordability and collectability. These cards seldom feature patch autos and patches they do feature, are usually one or two colored. The autographs also consist of mainly stickers with some sets using more on-card. This is also the first tier that primarily features cards that are not numbered.

8. Encased

I believe that Panini Encased is currently one of the sets offering the most value to buyers on numbered autographs and patch-autographs. This set features cards with a clean white surface and words etched in different colors depending on the parallel. While the patch windows on Encased cards are medium sized with decent patches, the autographs on these cards are often some of the best you can buy of a young player/prospect. Inserts in Encased like "Scripted Signatures", "Rookie Endorsements", and "Notable Signatures" feature autographs that players often times inscribe with a more unique autograph variation than what you would normally see. Some players choose to add just their jersey number, while others go as far as writing out a team mantra or nickname! In addition, the base card of these autographed inserts are numbered out of 99 and features only 4 additional parallels. These unique attributes combined with the set's comparatively low price to others are the main reasons why I chose to make Encased the top set to target from in Tier 3.

Recommended Card to Buy-

Encased Insert With a Unique Inscription or Team Color Parallel-

I don’t prefer one of the inserts over the others, but I would search for one of that is unique in some way so that the card you get is ultra-rare. By this I mean looking for a card that has a parallel that matches the team’s color or an autograph that features a unique inscription. If that’s not possible, getting a base autograph of one of those inserts for a low price is another great option.

9. One and One:

Panini One and One is a first-year basketball set that was previously only in football. This set is the last mid-tier set that predominantly features numbered and patch-auto cards(some sticker autos, some on card). The patch windows are modest in size, but frequently feature unique patches as well as dual-patch windows on some cards. The cards design is unique, with the “One and One” logo in the top right corner with the patch resting just left of it, as well as a thick blue autograph. This set is also known for its super short-printed “Downtown” inserts featuring illustrations of the city that the player plays in in the background of the card. This set is overall a unique and collectible product especially considering it is the first year of it in basketball, but due to its lack of history in the hobby, it may not be viewed as one of the essential sets to own. It also is an expensive set to break open. Overall, the One and One set represent an opportunity to collect a fresh and unique product that will in all likelihood retain collectible value, but also will cost more than some of the more traditional top performers in the hobby.

Recommended Cards to Buy-

Base or Gold Patch Autograph /99 and /10 or Downton Super-Short Print Insert-

The base patch autographs from this set have a similar feel to Impeccable, but with larger patch windows. My one recommendation again would be to focus on at least 2 color patches. The downtown inserts are also interesting pieces to add to personal collections because of the rarity and attachment to the player’s team that they possess.

10. Select:

The Select basketball product is the first set yet that highlights non-numbered cards and fewer autos and patch-autos. Select is one of the most interesting sets composed of non-numbered cards and this is due to the fact that there are different tiers of cards within the set. The following tiers are (from Common to Rare): Concourse, Premier, Courtside. Courtside cards represent only 1 out of every 30 cards pulled making them incredibly short printed, albeit not numbered besides the rarer parallel versions. The set also features on card autograph cards as well as patch auto cards with sticker autos. In addition, the in-flight inserts from this set represent a collectible on-card auto of some of the basketball’s brightest stars. Select offers more affordability than any set mentioned yet, but still comes at a relatively expensive price compared to others in lower tiers. Select sets itself from the others in tier 3 with the different rarity levels used for non-patch-auto cards and by featuring clean on-card autograph cards in their autograph inserts. Select is a very collectible set while maintaining a more affordable price for the box and per card ($33 based on numbers in July 2021) than any mentioned yet, but many of the non-numbered cards may not retain hobby interest long term.

Recommended Cards to Buy-

Panini Select Autograph (Silver /149, Tye-Dye /25, Gold /10) or the In-Flight Insert Auto -

The Select Signatures insert is a good choice when looking at a collectible piece to pick up of a player. All the autographs (in-flight or SS) are on card and numbered. They also lack the wide array of parallels that other sets employ. In addition, the In-Flight insert depicts an awesome in-action picture of the player in the air making the base or other parallels of it interesting pieces to add to any collection.

11. Spectra:

Spectra is another basketball product that features mid-tier patch auto cards with on-card autos. It also features non-numbered base and silver cards. On their patch autograph cards, the patch windows are average sized and can possess one-color or two-color patches more than often. Spectra also boasts some of the most unique parallels when compared to other 2019 sets (Interstellar, Celestial, Metal and Marble). Overall, Spectra is an incredibly fun and collectible set, but due to its much higher price point while still giving off a similar feel and look to Select, it is one notch below. I still believe cards from this set can possess long term hobby interest and collectability as long as the more rare and unique ones are the ones being selected.

Recommended Cards to Buy-

Base Patch Autograph (/99 or /149)–

For the Spectra patch autographs, I would be most interested in finding the cards that possess unique patches that are at least 2 or more colors. I do not really mind the overall look of Spectra’s unique parallels as secondary options to collect as well as looking at the gold patch autograph /10 for a more premium card from this set.

12. Prizm:

Prizm Basketball is by far the most popular set of any 2019 basketball product in the hobby. The base rookie cards from Prizm are used in the hobby as a measuring stick for a player’s current value and value over time. This is because there are sales on these cards nearly every day due to the large quantity of graded cards from this set, specifically base. The set, in my opinion, lacks any uniqueness or innovation due to uninteresting inserts (Emergence, Championship Cards), 30 or so parallels with some colors repeating twice(with different texture or designs in the color), and non-numbered sticker autos, representing the majority of the autographed hits. In addition, this set features no patch auto cards, just patches, or autographs separately. In my opinion, the price for a box of Prizm is not justifiable given the lack of innovation and lack of pizzaz in the cards actually obtained from a hobby box. Currently, many basketball card collectors disagree with this sentiment, but I believe money is better spent on the rarer Select cards or another unique insert that cost a similar price or less. If you just enjoy collecting the set, raw base cards are fairly easy to obtain at reasonable prices.

Recommended Cards to Buy-

Panini Prizm Rookie Signatures (Silver or Rarer)-

If I were to pick a card to put my money into from Prizm, I would most likely choose this insert because it possesses a slightly different and more pleasing design than the other autographed inserts. The bordering is unique to the other cards from this set, but it still features a sticker auto, which I am not a big fan of.

13. Contenders Optic

Contenders Optic is a popular set in the hobby that is anchored by their Rookie Season Ticket Autographs and represents an upgrade from the Contenders set. The set has no patch cards but features on card autos from both rookies and veterans. In my opinion, this set’s non-numbered base cards are not worthy of much hobby interest long term but may be an interesting collectible option. The auto cards from this set are by far the nicest hits in any of the remaining products. What keeps this set from being ranked higher is the price point when compared to other sets. In my opinion, it is a little overpriced. I still believe rookie ticket autos can retain hobby interest over time.

Recommended Cards to Buy-

Optic Rookie Ticket Autograph (Silver, Gold, or Team Color)-

These are the go-to cards from this set and represent a popular option for collectors in the hobby. The silvers are not numbered so I would advise to focus on higher graded copies of this parallel, but team colors and gold are another popular avenue to explore with Rookie Ticket Autographs.

14. Contenders

Contenders delivers a similar product to Contenders Optic, but with a less premium feel and more levels of cards. The basis for this product is the rookie ticket on-card autographs and, unlike Contenders Optic, has the Playoff, Semifinals, Finals, and Championship parallels for those tickets. The set is also home to the License/Permit to Dominate insert that is short-printed and designed to look like a driver’s license. The non-numbered cards from this set, much like Contenders Optic, are not worth hobby interest, but are still cool cards to collect. In my opinion, Contenders offers a more diverse and unique product than Contenders Optic, but given the cards are designed by the manufacturer to be less premium, it causes me to lean more towards the Optic set.

Recommended Cards to Buy-

Playoff Ticket Autograph /99-

The Playoff ticket is the most affordable numbered card you can obtain from this set. The card, as stated previously, is an on-card autograph and holds a high level of popularity in the hobby. I would stay away from non-numbered examples, but other parallels may be good choices to collect as well.

15. Optic

Donruss Optic represents the premium version of the Donruss Basketball Set. Optic is a set similar to Prizm and Select but is viewed and priced as a slightly less premium set. The cards feature a clean square border and don the “Rated Rookie” emblem that Donruss used to put on their baseball products in the 80’s and 90’s. The set is home to on-card autographs, as well as various parallels and inserts. Overall, I think that Optic offers a lot of unique cards at an affordable price, but I have a hard time putting a lot of money into any card from the set knowing it rests firmly behind brands like Prizm and Select that also have similar card options to what Optic offers.

Recommended Cards to Buy- Rated Rookie Signatures (On-Card, Not Sticker)-

Given this set is similar to Prizm, my recommendation for this set is a similar card to the one I recommended. Rated Rookie Signatures are sometimes on-card and sometimes sticker, so my advice would be to focus on a graded or raw copy that is on-card.

1,027 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


Post: Blog2 Post
bottom of page