20 Most Valuable 1988 Topps Football Cards

Most Valuable 1988 Topps Football Cards

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During an era of mass hysteria and excitement in the sports card collecting hobby, football card collectors welcomed the 1988 Topps football card set with open arms.

Fleer, Pro Set, Score and Upper Deck had not yet joined in on making any mainstream sets, so the Topps set was really the only option in town.

And collectors couldn't wait to get their hands on the rookie card of one of the hottest names in the set...

With Bo Jackson officially launching his two-sport career with the Los Angeles Raiders in 1987, many in the hobby couldn't wait to rip through packs of 1988 Topps for a chance to land his rookie card.

Though his football career may have come to an abrupt and disappointing end, his rookie card is still highly desirable.

But that doesn't mean his is the only card in this set worth having.

And in this guide, we'll take a look at the 20 most valuable in the checklist.

Let's jump right in!

Let's be clear: most of the cards from these sets do not have any value these days.

Like the 1987 and 1989 Topps sets, large print runs saturated the market with these cards, driving down their values.

So, for the cards on this list to be worth much, they'll have to be graded by PSA to be in perfect, gem mint condition.

That means the card needs to be flawless.

Now that we got that out of the way, let's take a look at the list:

1988 Topps #327 Bo Jackson Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $1,000

During his time at Auburn University, Bo Jackson starred on both the football and baseball fields and piqued the interest of both NFL and MLB teams alike.

One of those football teams, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, was so interested in Jackson playing for them that they flew him to visit their facilities one month before the 1986 NFL Draft.

However, the Buccaneers never cleared the visit with either the NCAA or the SEC, despite telling Jackson they had.

As a result, Jackson became ineligible to finish the rest of the Auburn baseball season.

Seemingly with no shame, the Buccaneers decided to draft Jackson with the number one overall pick of the 1986 NFL draft anyway.

But, Jackson was so upset and betrayed by them that he vowed never to play for them, ultimately turning down a five-year $7.6 million deal with them in favor of a three-year $1.07 million contract to play baseball for the Kansas City Royals.

Before the 1987 NFL Draft, the Buccaneers forfeited their rights to Jackson, and his NFL career seemed doomed at that point.

However, Al Davis and the Los Angeles Raiders came knocking and selected him in the seventh round of the 1987 NFL Draft with the 183rd pick, promising to work around his schedule with the Royals.

Despite his initial hesitancy to play in the NFL, the Raiders' generous commitment to support his NFL and MLB careers set the wheels in motion for one of the most storied two-sport careers in history.

1988 Topps #327 Bo Jackson Rookie Card

1988 Topps #43 Jerry Rice

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $175

In 1987, Jerry Rice destroyed Mark Clayton's previous single-season touchdown receptions record of 18 by hauling in 22 of his own, which would stand until Randy Moss caught 23 touchdown passes in 2007.

Incredibly, it took Rice only 12 games and 65 catches to score those 22 touchdowns as he missed four full games because of an NFL Players Association strike.

With eyebrows raised, the world was ready for an encore heading into the 1988 season.

However, with opposing defenses also on high alert, Rice caught only nine touchdown passes.

One of those was a 96-yard bomb, the longest touchdown catch in the NFL that year and of Rice's career during Week 13 in a 48-10 blowout win against the San Diego Chargers.

With his third-straight Pro Bowl selection and first-team All-Pro nomination sealed, the superstar wide receiver turned his eyes toward the playoffs.

And it was then that he added even more to his legend.

During Super Bowl XXIII, Rice played brilliantly, bringing in eleven receptions for 215 yards and a score as the 49ers narrowly defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 20-16.

And after the game, Rice became just the third wide receiver to win Super Bowl MVP.

1988 Topps #43 Jerry Rice Football Card

1988 Topps #144 Brian Bosworth Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $150

When the Seattle Seahawks drafted Brian Bosworth during the 1987 NFL supplemental draft, there was plenty of hype surrounding him, but many didn't know quite what to expect.

On the one hand, Bosworth was one of the top college linebackers of his era as he won the Dick Butkus Award twice during his time at Oklahoma, where he built a reputation as an incredible tackler.

On the other hand, he was seen as a wild card after testing positive for steroids, making plenty of controversial statements, and displaying wild antics both on and off the field.

Still, the Seahawks would sign him to a ten-year deal worth $11 million, making it the largest contract in Seahawks history and the biggest rookie deal at the time.

Unfortunately, Seattle never got their money's worth, as Bosworth played parts of only three seasons, gaining a reputation for talking the talk but not walking the walk.

Perhaps the most glaring example of this came during the 1987 season when he famously announced he would stop Bo Jackson leading up to a game against the Raiders.

The exact opposite occurred as Jackson tore up Bosworth and the Seattle defense for 215 rushing yards and three touchdowns to lead Los Angeles to a 37-14 blowout.

Regardless of the letdown, his rookie card has always been a quirky must-have from this set.

1988 Topps #144 Brian Bosworth Rookie Card

1988 Topps #38 Joe Montana

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $125

Before the 1987 season, the 49ers acquired Steve Young from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers via trade, and the future Hall of Famer would start three games, appear in eight, and finish with a 120.8 passer rating in his first year in San Francisco.

Young's performance in 1987 was enough to surprisingly put Joe Montana in the hot seat of sorts leading up to the 1988 regular season.

It was surprising because Montana was a First-Team All-Pro in 1987 after leading the NFL in completion percentage (66.8%), touchdown passes (31), and passer rating (102.1) while finishing third in the MVP race.

Regardless, the quarterback duo again shared time in 1988, with Montana starting thirteen games and Young three, just like the year before.

For Montana, it was one of his worst regular seasons as his 59.9% completion percentage was the only time outside his rookie debut in 1979 where he failed to cross the 60% mark.

Nor did he lead the league in any major statistical category.

Fortunately, he would right the ship in the second half of the season to help lead San Francisco to a first-place finish in the NFC West before eventually defeating Cincinnati in Super Bowl XXIII for this third ring.

1988 Topps #38 Joe Montana Football Card

1988 Topps #23 John Elway

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $100

Coming off the only MVP campaign of his career in 1987 but also a heartbreaking 42-10 blowout Super Bowl loss to the Washington Redskins, John Elway looked to get back on track in 1988.

However, he and the Broncos couldn't get things together and struggled to a disappointing second-place finish in the AFC West with an 8-8 record.

After boasting the fourth-best offense and seventh-best defense in 1987, both sides of the ball slipped into mediocrity during the 1988 season.

The season was far from Elway's finest, as he threw for 3309 yards while tossing 17 touchdowns against 19 receptions.

His 71.4 passer rating was the third-lowest of his Hall of Fame career and he would fail to make the Pro Bowl.

Unshaken, Elway eventually did get things back on course the following year in 1989 as he led Denver to an 11-5 record, a first-place finish in the AFC West, and an appearance in Super Bowl XXIV.

Unfortunately, the San Francisco 49ers slammed the door on Elway's hopes for a Super Bowl ring as they destroyed the Broncos 55-10.

Still, Elway would eventually get his day in the sun, winning back-to-back titles in 1997 and 1998.

1988 Topps #23 John Elway Football Card

1988 Topps #261 Herschel Walker

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $100

After three All-American seasons at the University of George and winning the 1982 Heisman Trophy, Herschel Walker left college early before his senior season to play in the USFL in 1983.

Walker would play three seasons for the New Jersey Generals, leading the league in rushing in 1983 (1,812 yards) and 1985 (2,411 yards).

However, the Dallas Cowboys had always known Walker was interested in playing for them and even though they had Tony Dorsett in their backfield, they drafted him in the fifth round of the 1985 NFL Draft.

Once the USFL fell apart, Walker signed a five-year, $5 million deal with the Cowboys and joined Dorsett, a former Heisman winner himself, in the backfield beginning in the 1986 season.

Despite having such a dynamic due in their backfield, the Cowboys endured a growing rift between the two stars.

The Cowboys traded Dorsett to the Denver Broncos ahead of the 1988 season, clearing the way for Walker to be the primary ball carrier in Dallas.

Walker took full advantage of the opportunity, setting an NFL career-high with 1,514 rushing yards and becoming the tenth player in league history to combine for more than 2,000 rushing and receiving yards (2,019).

1988 Topps #261 Herschel Walker Football Card

1988 Topps #6 Jerry Rice Record Breaker

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $75

To commemorate Jerry Rice's incredible record-breaking 1987 campaign, Topps included him in their "Record Breakers" subset that spanned cards #1 -7 in the checklist.

Again, it's incredible that Rice caught 22 touchdown passes in just twelve games that season, but that's how awesome he was.

Randy Moss may have snapped that record with his 23 touchdown passes in 2007 but Rice's other streak mentioned on the reverse of the card, thirteen straight games with a receiving touchdown, still stands.

There's a good chance that it may never be broken either.

1988 Topps #6 Jerry Rice Record Breaker Football Card
1988 Topps #6 Jerry Rice Record Breaker Football Card Reverse Side

1988 Topps #190 Dan Marino

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $75

How Dan Marino didn't make it six straight Pro Bowls to start his career in 1988 is beyond me.

For the fourth time, Marino led the NFL in completions (354), attempts (606), passing yards (4,434), and passing yards per game (277.1) to go along with 28 touchdown passes.

At the time, that made him the only quarterback to ever surpass the 4,000 passing yards mark four times in his career.

Quarterbacks reach that mark regularly these days, but back then, 4,000+ passing yards was a huge deal.

Marino would finish fourth in the vote for Offensive Player of the Year for his efforts but was shockingly left off the AFC Pro Bowl roster.

Boomer Esiason, Jim Kelly, Warren Moon, and Dave Krieg instead represented the AFC at the quarterback position.

None of their stat lines were anywhere close as impressive as Marino's, but their teams did have winning records.

And maybe that's why Marino was left off the AFC roster because the Dolphins were one of the worst teams in the league that year, finishing last in the AFC East with a lousy 6-10 record.

1988 Topps #190 Dan Marino Football Card

1988 Topps #230 Cornelius Bennet Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $75

With the second pick of the 1987 NFL Draft, the Indianapolis Colts selected Cornelius Bennet after an outstanding collegiate career at Alabama, where he was a three-time All-American.

After finishing in last place in the AFC East during the 1986 season, thanks to having one of the worst defenses in the NFL, the Colts were counting on Bennet to help shore things up at the linebacker position.

However, it wasn't meant to be.

Neither the Colts nor Bennet could agree to contract terms, so the team sent him to the Buffalo Bills as part of the infamous three-team trade that brought Hall of Fame running back Eric Dickerson to Indianapolis from the Los Angeles Rams.

The trade occurred right before the trade deadline and allowed Bennet to appear in eight games for the Bills in 1987 and finish with 69 tackles, five forced fumbles and eight and a half sacks.

Bennet carried that strong momentum into the 1988 season and finished with 103 tackles, three forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and nine and a half sacks to earn Pro Bowl and First-Team All-Pro honors.

Bennet would later become a key cog in the four Buffalo Bills Super Bowl teams of the early 90s though he unfortunately never got a ring.

1988 Topps #230 Cornelius Bennet Rookie Card

1988 Topps #234 Randall Cunningham

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $75

The 1988 season saw Randall Cunningham break out into superstar status as he produced massive numbers both through the air and on the ground.

His 3,808 passing yards and 24 touchdowns were impressive by themselves, but in addition, Cunningham tacked on 624 rushing yards and six touchdowns.

With all of that scrambling and running around came certain drawbacks, too, as he led the league in fumbles (12), the number of times sacked (57) and yards lost due to sacks (442).

Still, given the positives that Cunningham brought to the Eagles, they were more than happy with some of the hiccups that came with the total package.

For his efforts, Cunningham made his first Pro Bowl, and not only was he the NFC's starter for the game, he finished as the MVP as well.

The explosive quarterback also earned Second-Team All-Pro honors, finished second in the regular season MVP vote, and took third place in the Offensive Player of the Year vote.

Nicknamed the "Ultimate Weapon," Cunningham finished his incredible career with a legacy as one of the greatest dual-threat quarterbacks in NFL history.

1988 Topps #234 Randall Cunningham Football Card

1988 Topps #285 Lawrence Taylor

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $75

As elusive as Randall Cunningham was, one guy on the division rival New York Giants was always up for the challenge to track him down: Lawrence Taylor.

During the 1986 season, when the Philadelphia Eagles set the record for most sacks allowed in a season (104), Taylor sacked Cunningham and their other quarterback, Ron Jaworski, an incredible seven times across two games.

Taylor had a rougher go at things against the Eagles in 1988, though, as he brought down Cunningham 1.5 times across their two losses to Philadelphia in Week 2 and 12 that year.

Still, Lawrence Taylor was Lawrence Taylor, the guy who routinely struck the fear of God into the hearts and minds of opposing offenses like no other defensive player in history.

In his eighth season with the Giants in 1988, Taylor finished with 15.5 sacks and a fumble recovery to earn his eighth-straight trip to the Pro Bowl and seventh First-Team All-Pro selection.

With a 10-6 record, the Giants finished in second place in the NFC East to miss out on the playoffs but Taylor would soon find Super Bowl glory again just two years later.

1988 Topps #285 Lawrence Taylor Football Card

1988 Topps #300 Kevin Greene Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $75

After his collegiate career at Auburn University, both the USFL's Birmingham Stallions and the NFL's Los Angeles Rams drafted him in 1985.

Greene opted to play for the Rams and would serve primarily as a defensive end for his first three seasons from 1985 to 1987.

In 1988, the Rams' defensive coordinator, Fritz Shurmur, moved Greene over to the left outside linebacker position, and that's when Greene's reputation as one of the biggest quarterback sack threats began.

In addition to hauling in one interception and forcing two fumbles, Greene racked up 16.5 sacks to finish second in the league behind Philadelphia's Reggie White (18).

From then until his retirement after the 1999 season, Greene routinely finished with double-digit sacks and led the NFL in sacks twice, once with the Steelers in 1994 (14) and again with the Panthers in 1996 (14.5).

A five-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro, Greene entered the Hall of Fame in 2016, having accumulated the third-most sacks of all time with an eye-popping 160.

1988 Topps #300 Kevin Greene Rookie Card

1988 Topps #325 Raiders Team Leaders

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $75

Despite not leading the Los Angeles Raiders in any significant statistical category during the 1987 season, Bo Jackson appeared as the face of the organization on their "Team Leaders" card.

He did establish an NFL-best that season for the longest rushing touchdown when he broke off a 91-yard score against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 12 when he famously roasted them for 221 rushing yards and two scores.

Marcus Allen may have led the team with 754 rushing yards in 1987, but Bo Jackson was quickly establishing himself as an elite runner with 554 rushing yards of his own.

However, Jackson did that in just seven games while Allen played in twelve games.

Allen was a Pro Bowler that year and one of the greatest rushers in the sport's history, but Jackson's 6.8 yards per carry were more than twice Allen's 3.8 yards per carry that year.

1988 Topps #325 Bo Jackson Raiders Team Leaders Football Card
1988 Topps #325 Los Angeles Raiders Team Leaders Football Card Reverse Side

1988 Topps #363 Christian Okoye Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $75

When the Kansas City Chiefs drafted Christian Okoye in the second round of the 1987 NFL Draft, they were banking on his incredible combination of speed and power to bring a boost to their ground game.

And the "Nigerian Nightmare" did not disappoint.

In twelve games that season, Okoye carried the ball 157 times for 660 yards and three scores as he solidified himself as a bruising runner.

In 1988, Okoye suffered a thumb injury during his sophomore campaign that allowed him to appear in only nine games and limited his production to just 473 rushing yards and three scores.

However, Okoye would bounce back in 1989 to produce a career year when he led the league in rushing attempts (370), rushing yards (1,480) and rushing yards per game (98.7) to capture First-Team All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors.

When Okoye entered the league in 1987, he was already 26 years old, so the clock was ticking rapidly on his ability to play at a high level for much longer.

After six seasons in the NFL, Okoye retired as the Chiefs' all-time leading rusher with 4,897 yards, among other team records, all of which were later broken by guys like Marcus Allen, Priest Holmes and Larry Johnson.

1988 Topps #363 Christian Okoye Rookie Card

1988 Topps #4 Joe Montana Record Breaker

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $60

Joe Montana was highly accurate during the 1987 season and would finish the year with the highest completion percentage of his career at that point at 66.8%.

During the year, Montana showed off his incredible accuracy by establishing the record for most consecutive pass completions with 22 over the course of a two-game span.

That mark has since been surpassed as Ryan Tannehill, Nick Foles and Philip Rivers each share the current record at 25.

But, at the time, 22 straight completions served as a reminder of just how incredible Joe Montana was and how opposing defenses had to throw everything at him to try and stop him.

1988 Topps #4 Joe Montana Record Breaker Football Card
1988 Topps #4 Joe Montana Record Breaker Football Card Reverse Side

1988 Topps #5 Walter Payton Record Breaker

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $60

Walter Payton finished the 1986 season tied with Jim Brown for the all-time lead in rushing touchdowns with 106 scores on the ground.

And during the first quarter of a Week 2 home game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Payton took a one-yard rush across the goal line to move into sole possession of first place with his 107th rushing touchdown.

The fans at Solider Field went wild as their hero continued to carve out his place in the history books as one of the greatest rushers anyone has ever seen on the gridiron.

By the season's end, Payton would add three more rushing scores to finish his Hall of Fame career with an incredible 110 touchdowns.

1988 Topps #5 Walter Payton Record Breaker Football Card
1988 Topps #5 Walter Payton Record Breaker Football Card Reverse Side

1988 Topps #39 Steve Young

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $60

When Joe Montana went down to injury in the 1987 season, Steve Young filled in as the starter for three games and performed admirably, finishing with a 120.8 passer rating.

And later, during the team's divisional playoff game against the Minnesota Vikings, Young replaced Montana in the second half to try and reverse the course of the game.

Despite running for a five-yard score and throwing a 16-yard touchdown, Young and the 49ers still came up short in a tough 36-24 loss.

After Young's performance, Bill Walsh had a surprising decision to make heading into the 1988 season.

Montana would begin the season as the starter, but Young did get a chance at three starts though he wasn't quite as effective as the year before.

Eventually, the team stuck with Montana down the stretch, which would pay off big-time as he would later lead the 49ers to Super Bowl victory over the Cincinnati Bengals that year.

Still, years later, Young would eventually get his chance to be the 49ers' sole starting quarterback and become a two-time MVP, seven-time Pro Bowler, three-time All-Pro, and Super Bowl XXIX MVP.

1988 Topps #39 Steve Young Football Card

1988 Topps #157 Chris Doleman Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $60

After the Minnesota Vikings finished the 1984 season with the worst defense in the league, the team used the fourth pick of the 1985 NFL Draft to select Chirs Doleman out of the University of Pittsburgh.

In sixteen games during his 1985 rookie campaign, Doleman turned in 113 tackles and forced three fumbles as an outside linebacker to help drastically improve the Vikings' defense.

By 1987, Minnesota changed their 3-4 defense in favor of a 4-3, forcing Doleman to switch to the right defensive end position.

The change worked wonders for Doleman's career as he earned Second-Team All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors during his first year at his new position.

And, by 1988, Doleman settled in to lead the league's top-ranked defense, finishing the year with 58 tackles, eight sacks, and 2 forced fumbles to earn his second-straight trip to the Pro Bowl.

Until he retired after the 1999 season, Doleman consistently ranked among the best defensive ends in the league, frequently earning All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors.

A member of the 2012 Hall of Fame class, Doleman finished his career with 150.5 sacks, placing him at number five on the all-time leaderboard.

1988 Topps #157 Chris Doleman Rookie Card

1988 Topps #352 Vinny Testaverde Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $60

By 1987, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' patience with starting quarterback Steve Young had worn thin.

So, they traded him to the San Francisco 49ers and drafted Vinny Testaverde with the first pick of the 1987 NFL Draft to be their new starter.

After a standout career at the University of Miami and a 1986 Heisman Trophy win, the Buccaneers' hopes for Testaverde could not have been any higher.

Unfortunately, during his sophomore season in 1988, Testaverde finished with 13 touchdowns against a horrendous 35 interceptions, the second-most in a season behind George Blanda's 42 during the 1962 season.

Testaverde didn't fare much better than Steve Young in his six seasons with Tampa and never had a winning season with the Buccaneers.

In fact, during the 21 seasons he played in the NFL across seven different teams, Testaverde managed a winning record in only four of those years, once in Cleveland and three times with the New York Jets.

With a 90-123-1 record, Testaverde finished his career with the most losses of any starting quarterback in NFL history.

However, there were some bright spots, as noted by his Pro Bowl campaigns in 1996 and 1998 while making the playoffs three times.

1988 Topps #352 Vinny Testaverde Rookie Card

1988 Topps #241 Reggie White

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $50

As a thirteen-time Pro Bowler, eight-time First-Team All-Pro, and two-time Defensive Player of the Year, Reggie White is widely considered the greatest defensive lineman who ever played.

With quickness, power and agility that were otherwordly for a lineman, Reggie White frequently fought through double-teams throughout his Hall of Fame career.

During the 1987 season, White led the NFL in sacks with an eye-popping 21 takedowns to win Defensive Player of the Year, Pro Bowl and First-Team All-Pro honors.

As an encore, White again led the league in sacks in 1988 with 18 but missed out on another Defensive Player of the Year award to the Chicago Bears' Mike Singletary.

The Eagles finished first in the NFC East with a 10-6 record in 1988 but were unfortunately knocked out of the playoffs in the divisional round by Singletary and the Bears.

After eight years with the Philadelphia Eagles, six with the Green Bay Packers, and one final year with the Carolina Panthers, White retired as a surefire Hall of Famer after the 2000 season.

1988 Topps #241 Reggie White Football Card

1988 Topps Football Cards In Review

Clocking in with 396 cards total in the checklist, the 1988 Topps football set packs some great names overall, leaving collectors of that era plenty to enjoy.

And, of course, the Bo Jackson rookie card remains a favorite among many hobbyists regardless of whether they like this set or not.

Many consider the design a bit basic, but it packs just the right amount of imagery and design elements (I really like the team helmets along the bottom) to keep things straightforward.

Unopened Box of 1988 Topps Football Cards

There wasn't much room for a lot of subsets, but the two that did make it into the set include:

  • Record Breakers (#1 - 7)
  • League Leaders (#215 - 219)

If you collected during the late 1980s and early 1990s during the hobby boom and bust days, you'll likely find that this set brings back plenty of nostalgia.

It may not be one of the most highly-regarded sets of the 1980s, but look through the checklist and you'll find there's quite a bit to like about this set.

Ross Uitts
 

Ross is the founder of Old Sports Cards and has been collecting sports cards for over 30 years. He also loves to write about the hobby and has written for Beckett, Topps, SABR and of course, this website. Need help buying or selling cards or have a general question about the hobby? Contact him at [email protected]

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