Your eyes aren’t deceiving you – we’re pleased to dig into another popular product today with the 2020-21 Panini Illusions Review. The team at Cardlines wanted to dig into the product and give it a review, much like we recently did for Donruss Optic Basketball and Select Basketball, 2020-21.
Not only will we look at the updates for this year’s round of Illusion, but we’ll also answer the ultimate question: is it a rip, hold, or pass?
Let’s take a look.
Illusions made its inaugural basketball appearance on the back-end of the 2019-202 season. Unfortunately, the product felt like an afterthought. The release was not as well-received as many peer brands, whether that is fair or not.
Remember the days when people were pitching tents outside of Walmart or Target to buy sports cards? Yeah, even then, Illusions boxes remained on the shelves.
Of course, that was the blaster version, but the hobby box was never a big seller either. Even now, a year later, the sealed 2019-20 hobby boxes are selling for $450 at the hobby level. Since release, they’ve dropped in price from an initial price of $700.
But is this year’s product any better, or is it just an illusion?
For both years of its release, Illusions has been one of the cheapest basketball boxes. Unfortunately, it’s a sport that garners a premium. Therefore, having a low-cost hobby option is nice for collectors on a smaller budget.
This year’s release has a better autograph checklist too. You can hope to pull autos of Luka, Shaq, Jayson Tatum, Durant, Trae Young, and more.
One of the main reasons people passed on Illusions – particularly at a blaster level – was a lack of emphasis on rookies. They were tough to pull and not worth much if you did pull a rookie (case and point: a Zion recently sold for $6.)
The hits are also rare, with only one auto per hobby box. Therefore, it can feel like you’re paying good money for many common cards.
This year’s rainbow of Illusions hopes to improve the ripping experience a bit, with “trophy collecting parallels” in several different tiers. They include:
Illusions will be released in several formats. Here’s a breakdown:
The Illusions lineup looks very similar to the previous year’s release.
Panini advertises the chance to find eight inserts or insert parallels in each box, including hobby-exclusive inserts:
Also, according to Panini, each hobby box contains five Acetate cards or Acetate parallels, including Shining Stars, Clear Shots, Living Legends, Mystique, and Amazing. Stained glass is back and better than ever, too.
If you’re hoping to invest in Illusions 2020-21, the first question to answer is if you should buy singles or wax.
As mentioned, last year’s Illusions have dropped in price since their release. But, of course, a lot of that probably has to do with Zion and the current slew of questions surrounding him and his long-term future in the NBA (all of which are health/fitness related).
This year’s boxes appear to be released at a very pedestrian price of $350 – about half of last year’s release. So the barriers to entry are much lower, but that doesn’t guarantee it’s a great long-term hold. Especially with production volume increasing, too.
Illusions are not like Optic, Prizm, or even Select: you’re probably not going to get any base rookie cards (or parallels) that are going to be big money-makers.
Your best chance of a significant pull is the rookie autographs, and even those don’t sell for as much as you’d expect. For example, a Ja Morant PSA 9 goes for about $600. The same card in other brands could go for 2 or 3x as much.
To decision to rip, hold or pass ultimately comes down to how much you believe in Anthony Edwards, LaMelo Ball, James Wiseman, and the other star rookies of 2020-21. If you think some superstars are in that lot, a $350 box might not be a bad investment. But if not, pass.
As for ripping goes, $350 for a box is about as cheap as NBA Hobby will come, so if you’re more about the thrill of the excitement than making a big profit, this might be your chance to rip boxes on a budget.
If not, I’d stay an arm’s-length away from Illusions before your eyes fool you into thinking it’s a bargain.