What Are The Most Valuable 1988 Topps Error Cards?
The 1988 Topps Baseball set is renowned for being one of Topps’ blandest sets of the era. However, it’s simple, “classic,” and straightforward design features a lot of great action photography.
Released at the dawn of the junk wax era, the 1988 Topps Baseball card set, like most sets of the time, was subject to several errors during printing. As a result, there’s a considerable number of 1988 Topps error cards.
These errors range from simple misprints, such as misspelling a player’s name or listing incorrect statistics, to more significant errors, such as cards printed with wrong player photographs.
This article shall take a close look at the 1988 Topps error cards, examining the notable cards, their value, and their significance to collectors.
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1988 Topps set
The 1988 Topps baseball card set consisted of 792 baseball cards. Its design was one of the company’s simplest. Large player photos have a thin-colored frame, which gives way to a white border. The player’s name is in block letters in a diagonal strip at the bottom-right of the card.
The team’s name stands out at the top of the card, hovering behind the player’s image. Card backs are orange and have complete player stats. Many cards also have a caption called “This Way to the Clubhouse,” which explains how the player came to join the pictured team.
Beyond the impressive lineup of players, the 1988 Topps Baseball card set features a few attractive subsets and inserts. These include:
- Record Breakers (1-7)
- All-Stars (386-407)
- Turn Back the Clock (661-665)
- Team Leaders (scattered throughout the set).
The manager cards also double as team checklists. Key rookies in the set included: Ellis Burks, Ken Caminiti, Tom Glavine, and Matt Williams.
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1988 Topps Baseball card errrors
Like most junk wax cards, the 1988 Topps set is notorious for containing a relatively high number of error cards. One reason for the high number of error cards in the 1988 Topps set is the sheer volume of cards produced.
This allowed mistakes to easily go unnoticed during the production process. This large production volume also led to a more hurried printing process, ultimately leading to even more errors.
The error cards in this set range from simple misprints, such as misspelling a player’s name to more significant errors, such as cards printed with wrong player photographs.
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Notable 1988 Topps error cards
1988 Topps Mark McGwire error card – #3 Record Breaker
Though his reputation has fallen off a bit today, Mark McGwire was undoubtedly one of the game’s most exciting players during his era. At first glance, one would miss the error on this card. However, early copies of card #3 have a white “triangle” next to Mark McGwire’s left foot and were quickly corrected.
McGwire’s trading cards command great demand even today. Hence, this card is one of this set’s most valuable cards. Depending on the card’s condition, its value ranges from $3 to $300.
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1988 Topps Bo Jackson #750
Bo Jackson was one of the most famous athletes in the world during the late 1980s. Famous for playing both football and baseball, this two-sport superstar is one of the most collected cards in the hobby. The Y in the Royals is streaked with white in most Bo Jackson 1988 Topps card.
This “error” is insignificant enough to be overlooked. However, this is one of those cases where the value of a baseball error card is primarily due to the player depicted rather than the error itself.
Bo’s reputation has ensured this card is worth quite a lot, with prices ranging from $1 to $15.
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1988 Topps Keith Comstock #778 with white Padres letters
Keith Comstock is more famous for his “a ball to the crotch” trading card than any exploit on the pitch. This error card is one of the most popular from the 1988 Topps set. In the most common version of this error card, Keith Comstock’s team name (PADRES) is shown in white lettering rather than blue.
There’s also a third variety with Keith’s name printed in yellow rather than white. The third variety is the rarest of the lot and can sell for impressive figures. The value of the White Padre variation ranges from $1 to $5.
1988 Topps Eddie Murray #4
Hall of Famer Steady Eddie had more runs batted in the 1980s than any other player. He was Baltimore Orioles’ first baseman and designated hitter. Murphy ranks fourth in team history in both games played and hits.
Early copies of his 1988 Topps card have a block of text on the front that’s missing on other Record Breakers subset cards. Topps quickly corrected this, increasing the value for copies with the caption in the box on the front.
1988 Topps Al Leiter #18
The Mets announcement that Al Leiter would be inducted into their Hall of Fame has boosted the value of his trading cards. Born into a baseball-oriented family, Leiter was drafted by New York Yankees in the 1984 MLB draft and made his MLB debut as the starting pitcher for the Yankees on September 15, 1987.
By the time his 1988 Topps card was released, fans familiar with how he looked were left surprised. Earlier copies of his 1988 Topps card had a photo of Steve George instead of Al Leiter.
Of course, Topps quickly issued a corrected version of the card. While this is quite a significant error, it is not valued much. The value of this card ranges from $1 to $5, depending on the card’s condition.
All 1988 Topps error cards
|1988 Topps #3 Mark McGwire||White area behind left foot|
|1988 Topps #4 Eddie Murray||Caption in a box on the front|
|1988 Topps #6 Nolan Ryan||Yellow, white, or no line where the hand meets the border|
|1988 Topps #18 Al Leiter||Wrong picture. The photo is actually Steve George|
|1988 Topps #34 Ricky Horton||A red line above “CARDINALS” on front|
|1988 Topps #37 Ed Romero||Yellow name|
|1988 Topps #5 Baltimore Orioles Team Leaders||Single-toned back|
|1988 Topps #179 Puleo Charlie||E in Braves incomplete was corrected|
|1988 Topps #190 Candy Maldonado||A white line at the lower left of the photo/border|
|1988 Topps #211 Dipino Frank||B in Cubs incomplete was corrected|
|1988 Topps #229 Jeff Musselman||Two different-sized white spots by trophy. There’s a variation with only one spot and one without any spot.|
|1988 Topps #230 Pat Tabler||Yellow or red dugout bench due to variations in printing|
|1988 Topps #231 Pittsburgh Pirates||Yellow spot on Bonilla’s cap. Was corrected|
|1988 Topps #260 Vince Coleman||Wrong date of birth. He was born in 1961, not 1960|
|1988 Topps #269 Ellis Burks||The name touches the trophy on the front, and the name moves away from the trophy|
|1988 Topps #295 Bert Blyleven||There’s a crack in the wall behind Bert. Earlier versions have the crack in black, while corrected versions have the crack airbrushed white.|
|1988 Topps #330 Ed Whitson||Green mark on thigh and mark airbrushed away|
|1988 Topps #338 Brian Holton||Wrong stats on the reverse side. ’87 ERA should be 3.89, not .389|
|1988 Topps #348 Jim Eisenreich||Large white scratch on his arm on the front. The line has been filled in with blue, red, green, or a combination of those colors. In total, there were six different versions of this card|
|1988 Topps #374 Doc Edwards||Pink, blue, or NO ink outside of the name triangle|
|1988 Topps #381 California Angels TL featuring Wally Joyner||1″ long vertical magenta slash down Joyner’s arm.|
|1988 Topps #405 Dwight Gooden All-Star||Missing blue ink at the top of R in STAR. The second variation is filled in with pale blue. The final version has solid blue and is the most common|
|1988 Topps #416 Keith Moreland||CUBS lettering at bat unfilled and filled-in blue|
|1988 Topps #444 Cal Sr||Two copyrights|
|1988 Topps #447 Jeff Montgomery||Two different-sized blotches over shoulder types|
|1988 Topps #492 Doyle Alexander||Wrong date of birth. September 4, not September 5|
|1988 Topps #493 Mike Greenwell||Rookie trophy printed over the lettering in his name or touching his name|
|1988 Topps #497 Kevin Mitchell||Gray, Green, and Blue colored jersey|
|1988 Topps #500 Dawson Andre||Unfilled “U” in CUBS on the front, Filled “U” in CUBS on front|
|1988 Topps #528 Checklist 397-528||455 Steve Carlton COR: 455 Shawn Hillegas|
|1988 Topps #544 Jim Traber||Bat tip in the top border|
|1988 Topps #571 Mark Williamson||Bottom of ORIOLES yellow at hat|
|1988 Topps #580 Mark McGwire||Dark green stripe in the top right border|
|1988 Topps #619 Mike Dunne||The black name on the front should be white|
|1988 Topps 628 Dave Henderson||Black mark on lip and mark airbrushed|
|1988 Topps #629 Kelly Downs||1984 Statline shows as “4.”|
|1988 Topps #637 Bell Jay||Purple on 2nd N in Indians is incomplete. Corrected. Many versions exist|
|1988 Topps #640 Garry Templeton||The green border should be brown. Topps Tiffany is yellow. Also, the birthplace should be Lockney, not Lockey|
|1988 Topps #658 Tim Conroy||The name is in white; it should be in black|
|1988 Topps #663 Ron Blomberg||Three versions. Line in the right border, line through the name on the front, and line through both areas.|
|1988 Topps #692 Mike Birkbeck||Wrong stats. Should be 0 saves in 84, rather than 2|
|1988 Topps #716 Lenn Sakata||Incorrect date of birth, Born in ’54, not ’53|
|1988 Topps #725 Boddicker Mike||Bottom of “R” in ORIOLES colored white or yellow|
|1988 Topps #739 Daryl Boston||A green line along the bat|
|1988 Topps #754 Mike Lacoss||1/4 pink circle in the upper right of the photo|
|1988 Topps #759 Athletics Leaders||UER double copyrights|
|1988 Topps #767 Jose Lind||Yellow, white, or blue “shadow” behind the Topps logo on the front or without any shadow at all|
|1988 Topps #778 Keith Comstock||“Padres” in white or blue|
|1988 Topps #786 Joe Price||Orange team name should be yellow|
|1988 Topps #792 John Tudor||The second A in “Cardinals” is incomplete|
|198 Topps #NNO Glossy All-Stars Offer Insert||May have “Cards not included”, black arrow, a black arrow with some “cards not included” showing, or nothing at all|
Value of 1988 Topps error cards
Even amongst junk wax era sets, the 1988 Topps baseball set is considered one of the more common and widely available. With millions of copies printed, even the rarest error card in this set is readily available in considerable amounts.
This has placed a very low ceiling on the value of 1988 Topps error cards. You won’t get any impressive return on interest investing in 1988 Topps error cards.
However, while 1988 Topps error cards aren’t particularly valuable, they remain a popular collectible set amongst collectors. One reason for this is the nostalgic factor that this set embodies.
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1988 Topps Tiffany
Between 1984 and 1991, Topps offered collectors a relatively limited number of factory sets with improved production values. The secondary values of these Topps Tiffany cards are much stronger than their regular Topps counterparts.
1988 Topps Tiffany has the same error cards as the base set. However, with its incredibly low print run (25,000) for the junk wax era, Tiffany error cards are priced higher than error cards from the base set.
Generally, those more limited cards sell for about 8 – 10 times more than their base counterparts. One way to identify Tiffany cards is through the glossy coating on the front.
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1988 Topps Blackless
Another variation of the 1988 Topps set is the 1988 Topps Blackless. We can find several cards from the 1988 Topps without the black ink on the reverse of the cards.
According to Junk Wax Gems, which explores error cards from the junk wax era.
“Several cards from 1988 Topps can be found without the black ink on the reverse of their cards, because of this, these are not “blank backs,” which are more common flaws. In my time collecting, I have only seen about 3-dozen examples pop up. A handful of stars (Clemens, etc.) but otherwise all commons.”
While not especially valuable, these cards are an interesting variation and of interest to several collectors.
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1988 Topps Cloth Card
The 1988 Topps Cloth set is a 121-card set that parallels the regular 1988 Topps set. According to experts, it was an experimental/test set produced by Topps and never intended to reach the market.
However, it was backdoored into the collectors’ market albeit in a limited way. The set features color player head photos printed on a thin gauze fabric which supposedly expands into a sponge when submerged in water. The backs of the 1988 Topps Cloth cards are blank.
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Cards from the 1988 Topps Cloth sets are especially valuable, with cards selling for roughly $15 to $20. Some of them, such as Mark McGwire, Tom Glavine, and Ozzie Smith, can go for over $50 and even $200.
1988 Topps Cloth card checklist
- Rick Aguilera
- Andy Allanson
- Tony Armas
- Keith Atherton
- Steve Balboni
- Bill Bean
- Steve Bedrosian
- George Bell
- Bruce Benedict
- Dave Bergman
- Mike Bielecki
- Tim Birtsas
- Bruce Bochy
- Wade Boggs
- Rod Booker
- Oil Can Boyd
- Tom Browning
- Carmen Castillo
- Rick Cerone
- Jack Clark
- Mark Clear
- Roger Clemens
- Pat Clements
- Keith Comstock
- Cecil Cooper
- Joey Cora
- Ed Correa
- Mark Davidson
- Mark Davis
- Jeff Dedmon
- Jim Dwyer
- Doc Edwards
- John Farrell
- Mike Felder
- Curt Ford
- Bob Forsch
- Damaso Garcia
- Tom Glavine
- Mark Grant
- Tony Gwynn
- Drew Hall
- Jeff Hamilton
- Mike Hart
- Andy Hawkins
- Ed Hearn
- Tom Henke
- Whitey Herzog
- Shawn Hillegas
- Kent Hrbek
- Charles Hudson
- Dave Johnson
- Ron Karkovice
- Pat Keedy
- Jimmy Key
- Steve Kiefer
- Bob Kipper
- Les Lancaster
- Ken Landreaux
- Craig Lefferts
- Jim Leyland
- Jose Lind
- Gary Lucas
- Frank Lucchesi
- Barry Lyons
- John Marzano
- Gary Matthews
- Don Mattingly
- Len Matuszek
- Kirk McCaskill
- Fred McGriff
- Mark McGwire
- Joey Meyer
- John Mitchell
- Jeff Montgomery
- Jack Morris
- John Moses
- Dale Murphy
- Tom Nieto
- Matt Nokes
- Charlie O’Brien
- Paul O’Neill
- Ed Olwine
- Steve Ontiveros
- Pat Pacillo
- Tom Pagnozzi
- Jim Pankovits
- Bill Pecota
- Geno Petralli
- Eric Plunk
- Gus Polidor
- Dennis Powell
- Terry Puhl
- Charlie Puleo
- Shane Rawley
- Rick Rodriguez
- Gary Roenicke
- Pete Rose
- Lenn Sakata
- Joe Sambito
- Juan Samuel
- Rafael Santana
- Dan Schatzeder
- Pat Sheridan
- Tommy Shields
- Nelson Simmons
- Doug Sisk
- Joel Skinner
- Ozzie Smith
- Chris Speier
- Jim Sundberg
- Don Sutton
- Chuck Tanner
- Mickey Tettleton
- Tim Teufel
- Gary Thurman
- Alex Trevino
- Mike Trujillo
- Tim Wallach
- Frank Williams
- Dave Winfield
- Butch Wynega
Bottomline of the 1988 Topps error cards
The 1988 Topps baseball card set is quite infamous among baseball collectors. While the bland design and massive print run have ensured its error cards are not as valuable as most sets, collectors still love several cards from the set.
Cards such as the Tom Glavine rookie card and cards from the Record Breakers subset are still valuable today. While its error cards might not be worth a premium, the 1988 Topps set is a significant part of baseball card collecting history. Some of these cards would make an excellent addition to any collector’s stash.