15 Most Valuable 1997 Topps Baseball Cards

Most Valuable 1997 Topps Baseball Cards


When you ask collectors in this hobby what their favorite baseball set from the 1990s is, it's unlikely that many would pick the 1997 Topps baseball cards set.

For many hobbyists, this set isn't that exciting...

The biggest issue is that it lacks any big-name rookie cards.

It's also one of the sets that soon followed the MLB strike in 1994 and the hobby bubble burst that occurred around the same time.

There just weren't the same number of eyes on this set back then as there are with other sets nowadays.

Despite those drawbacks, some desirable inserts and base cards can fetch decent prices in top condition in today's market.

And in this guide, we'll take a look at the 15 most valuable.

Let's jump right in!

Ross Uitts

Ross Uitts - Owner

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

Like the 1997 Bowman, Donruss, Fleer, Leaf, Score and Upper Deck 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:

1997 Topps #13 Derek Jeter

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $75

Expectations were sky-high for Derek Jeter and the Bronx Bombers heading into the 1997 campaign.

Jeter's Rookie-of-the-Year season in 1996 was a catalyst for New York's return to the top of the baseball mountain, the Yankees' first World Series title in 18 years.

Anything less than a repeat wouldn't do.

So, what followed is still a sore spot for many Yankees fans and players.

New York caught fire after the All-Star break in 1997 but fell two games short of a division title (to Baltimore) at 96-66.

Jeter hit just .291 on the campaign, one of his worst full-season batting averages until his 2014 swan song at age 40.

While Jeter's peripheral numbers were good to great, his 125 strikeouts marked the highest single-season total of his 20-year career.

Come October, though, Jeter was exemplary, slashing .333/.417/.667 with two homers, three walks, six runs scored, and two RBIs against Cleveland in a best-of-five ALDS matchup.

However, it wasn't enough.

New York blew a 2-1 series lead, digging a 4-0 hole in the decisive Game 5 that was too deep to crawl out of.

Cleveland won, 4-3, en route to their second AL pennant in three years.

For Jeter and a budding Yankee dynasty, 1997 was a rare sour note.

1997 Topps #13 Derek Jeter Baseball Card

1997 Topps #96 Rickey Henderson

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $75

While his production had slipped considerably from his prime nearly a decade earlier, the Rickey Henderson MLB tour continued unabated in 1997.

The 38-year-old outfielder started the year in San Diego and ended about 100 miles north in Anaheim by the season's end.

With the Padres, Henderson got off to a good start, hitting .274 with 29 stolen bases and a more-than-competent .797 OPS.

This performance upped Rickey's trade value considerably and enticed the Anaheim Angels to add him for the stretch run.

It didn't work out.

Henderson struggled in 31 games with the Halos, hitting just .183 with 16 stolen bases and a paltry .604 OPS.

Anaheim lost 28 of their last 46 games, falling behind Seattle in the AL West race to stay and missing the playoffs by six games.

That was the end of Henderson's brief time in an Angels uniform.

He'd wear six more jerseys in total before calling it quits in 2003 at the tender age of 44.

1997 Topps #96 Rickey Henderson Baseball Card

1997 Topps #300 Ken Griffey Jr.

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $75

Over 3 million fans poured into the Kingdome in 1997 to watch one of the most beloved players in Seattle Mariners' history tear it up in 1997.

The star-studded Mariners won the AL West for the second time in three years thanks to big-name contributions from Alex Rodriguez, Edgar Martinez, and Cy Young runner-up Randy Johnson.

As for Griffey, he was at the peak of his baseball powers.

The Kid put together a historic hot streak in April, setting a new record for the season's first month with 13 home runs.

He finished the year hitting .304 and leading all of the American League in homers (56), runs scored (125), slugging percentage (.646), and total bases (393).

And he was the Majors' best run producer with 147 RBIs on the campaign.

Griffey was a cut above in a season full of fantastic individual-hitting performances, becoming just the ninth-ever unanimous AL MVP.

He also added his fifth Silver Slugger, eighth All-Star nod, and eighth Gold Glove Award.

However, the good vibes didn't carry over to the postseason.

Griffey was kept off-balance all series long in the ALDS against the Baltimore Orioles, hitting just .133 in a 3-1 series loss.

1997 Topps #300 Ken Griffey Jr. Baseball Card

1997 Topps #108 Frank Thomas

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $65

From 1991-97, Chicago White Sox legend Frank Thomas was arguably the game's most dangerous hitter.

Part first baseman, part designated hitter extraordinaire, "The Big Hurt" finished no worse than eighth in the AL's MVP balloting in each of those seasons, including back-to-back MVP awards in 1993 and 1994.

And although Thomas finished third in 1997 behind Ken Griffey Jr. and Tino Martinez, his 1997 season stacks up nicely against his award-winning campaigns.

With Albert Belle protecting him in the middle of the order, Thomas ripped through AL pitching all year long, winning his first and only batting title with a .347 average.

The 29-year-old slugger also paced the Majors in on-base percentage (.456) and led the AL in both OPS+ (181) and OPS (1.067).

Add 35 home runs and 125 RBIs, and you have the recipe for yet another marquee year for the Georgia native.

The 80-win White Sox lacked the pitching to make a legitimate run, but Thomas' mere presence in the batter's box made them appointment viewing from April through September.

1997 Topps #108 Frank Thomas Baseball Card

1997 Topps #433 Vladimir Guerrero

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $65

As Baseball America's #2 prospect heading into the 1997 season (behind Atlanta's Andruw Jones), Montreal Expos right fielder Vladimir Guerrero was the cornerstone of yet another rebuilding project for the beleaguered franchise.

Guerrero earned a starting job after four years in the team's farm system, putting his incredible raw athleticism to good use.

A bit of bad luck, though, delayed Guerrero's regular-season debut by over a month.

The 22-year-old future Hall-of-Famer fouled a ball off his left foot in late March, breaking a bone.

He entered the Expos lineup for the first time on May 3rd, going hitless in two at-bats against the San Diego Padres.

One day later, Guerrero crushed his first MLB home run off San Diego's Sterling Hitchcock in a 9-3 Montreal win.

It was an impressive yet frustrating rookie year for one of the generation's most talented sluggers.

A second trip to the disabled list in the middle of the year tanked Guerrero's Rookie of the Year considerations, dropping him to sixth in the NL vote.

He finished the year slashing .302/.350/.483 with 11 home runs and 40 RBIs in 90 games for a 78-84 Expos squad that finished fourth in the NL East.

1997 Topps #433 Vladimir Guerrero Baseball Card

1997 Topps #276 Chipper Jones

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $50

The “Crazy Train” left the station in 1997, and it was a big hit in Atlanta’s new digs.

To coincide with the opening of Turner Field, the Atlanta Braves allowed their players to pick their walk-up songs for each at-bat.

Chipper Jones chose the aforementioned Ozzy Osborne classic, which became synonymous with him from then on.

In the offseason, Atlanta made waves with a blockbuster trade that sent clubhouse leaders Marquis Grissom and David Justice to Cleveland for Kenny Lofton and Alan Embree.

With his mentors now out of town, Jones took on the mantles of mentor and captain.

And he excelled with his new responsibilities, leading Atlanta to an MLB-best 101 wins and yet another NL East title.

In the NLDS against Houston, Chipper was even better, going 4-for-8 with a homer, three runs scored, three walks, two RBIs, and a stolen base in a 3-0 sweep of the Astros.

The NLCS wasn’t so kind.

Jones did all he could, hitting .292 with two home runs, five runs scored, four RBIs, two walks, and a .929 OPS.

However, the Marlins took his best punches and delivered the knockout blow, breaking a 2-2 series tie with back-to-back wins to close the series out in six.

1997 Topps #276 Chipper Jones Baseball Card

1997 Topps #400 Cal Ripken Jr.

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $50

With the acquisition of Mike Bordick in the offseason, Baltimore Orioles legend Cal Ripken Jr. officially moved from shortstop to third base.

It worked wonders for the O’s as Baltimore raced ahead in the AL East early, winning 42 of their first 60 games.

Ripken played all 162 yet again, slashing .270/.331/.402 with 17 home runs, 30 doubles, and 84 RBIs in 686 plate appearances (615 at-bats).

With Ripken in fine form and balanced production throughout the roster, the 98-win Orioles kept their grip on the AL East and won their first division title since their World Series run in 1983.

In the playoffs, the 36-year-old Ripken turned back the clock in an epic fashion, hitting .438 with two doubles, two walks, and an RBI to pace the club in a three-games-to-one ALDS triumph over the Seattle Mariners.

Ripken followed that up by hitting .348 with a homer, two doubles, four walks, and three RBIs in the ALCS against the Indians.

Cleveland was still too much for the upstart Orioles, ousting Baltimore and ending their dream season in six.

1997 Topps #400 Cal Ripken Jr. Baseball Card

1997 Topps #410 Tony Gwynn

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $50

After winning the NL West and making the postseason for the first time in twelve years in 1996, the San Diego Padres crashed back to Earth in 1997.

Now expected to contend, the Padres laid an egg.

San Diego stumbled hard out of the gate and never recovered, losing 30 of their first 50 games and ending the year in the division cellar at 76-86.

San Diego’s lack of consistency doomed them in the end in 1997.

Tony Gwynn’s consistency, however, was never in question.

Using the entire field as always, Gwynn won his fourth-straight NL batting title with a sterling .372 average.

He led all of baseball in total hits (220) for the third time in four years and posted career-highs in home runs (17), RBIs (119), doubles (49), total bases (324), and sacrifice flies (an NL-best 12).

At 37 years of age, Gwynn was still at the very top of his game, earning his 13th All-Star selection, seventh Silver Slugger Award, and a sixth-place finish in the National League’s MVP race.

1997 Topps #410 Tony Gwynn Baseball Card

1997 Topps #1 Barry Bonds

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $45

Four years into his stay by the Bay, Barry Bonds finally got his first taste of October baseball in a San Francisco Giants uniform.

After back-to-back years in the NL West cellar, the Giants broke through in 1997, holding off the Los Angeles Dodgers to capture the franchise’s first division title (and playoff berth) since winning the NL pennant in 1989.

And Bonds was the catalyst for San Francisco’s storybook postseason return.

In 690 plate appearances (532 at-bats), the 32-year-old superstar slashed .291/.446/.585 with 40 home runs, 123 runs scored, and 101 RBIs.

He was just as patient as ever, working deep into counts and leading the Majors in walks (145) and intentional walks (34) yet again.

When the dust settled, Bonds had earned his seventh All-Star selection, seventh Silver Slugger Award, seventh Gold Glove and a fifth-place finish in the NL MVP race for his efforts.

And then the playoffs happened.

The Giants ran into a buzzsaw in the NL Wild Card Florida Marlins, losing back-to-back one-run games to start the best-of-5 NLDS before falling 6-2 at home in Game 3 to complete the sweep.

Bonds was a non-factor in his first playoff trip with the Giants, hitting .250 with two doubles, no walks, three strikeouts, and an uncharacteristic .647 OPS, nearly 400 points lower than his regular-season mark.

1997 Topps #1 Barry Bonds Baseball Card

1997 Topps #8 Wade Boggs

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $45

At 39 years old, Hall of Fame third baseman Wade Boggs suited up for the New York Yankees for the fifth and final season after helping the Bronx Bombers to a World Series the year before.

He was also coming off a streak of twelve-straight All-Star appearances.

But with age finally creeping up on Boggs in his sixteenth season, he began to share time at the hot corner with Charlie Hayes and saw an uptick in usage as a DH.

In 103 games, Boggs slashed .292/.373/.397 with four home runs, 55 runs scored and 28 RBIs.

For a guy with five batting titles to his name who was used to hitting well above .300, it was unusual to see his average dip below the .300 mark for just the second time in his career.

Still, Boggs was very much an integral part of a Yankees team that finished second in the AL East at 96-66 but ultimately lost a heartbreaking ALCS in five games to the Cleveland Indians.

After the season, the Yankees traded Kenny Rogers to the Oakland Athletics for third baseman Scott Brosius.

Boggs' time in New York was up, but he would soon head south to the west coast of Florida by signing with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

1997 Topps #8 Wade Boggs Baseball Card

1997 Topps #167 Ryne Sandberg

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $45

After retiring from the game for nearly two seasons to get his personal life in order, Chicago Cubs icon Ryne Sandberg returned with a bang in 1996, hitting .244 with 25 home runs and 92 RBIs in a triumphant return.

Sandberg re-signed in 1997 with hopes of continuing his late-career resurgence.

It started promisingly enough, including Sandberg's record-breaking 267th home run on April 26th, a bomb that vaulted the 37-year-old ahead of Joe Morgan for the most career homers by a second baseman.

Soon after, Sandberg started to slump and things snapped into focus.

On August 2nd, Sandberg announced that he would retire for good at the end of the 1997 campaign.

On September 19th, a day after his 38th birthday, Sandberg launched his 282nd and final MLB home run.

A day later, the Cubs star was honored with his own day at Wrigley Field.

"I truly lived my field of dreams right here at Wrigley," he told a raucous sellout crowd during the Ryne Sandberg Day pregame festivities.

Once a Cub and always a Cub, the ten-time All-Star, nine-time Gold Glover, and no-doubt Hall of Famer stayed in the organization for nine more years as a Spring Training instructor.

1997 Topps #167 Ryne Sandberg Baseball Card

1997 Topps #256 Mariano Rivera

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $45

With the departure of closer John Wetteland in free agency, the Mariano Rivera era officially began in the Bronx in 1997.

The initial results were shaky at best.

Of his first six save chances, the 27-year-old righty blew three.

After a chat with manager Joe Torre in which Torre pushed Rivera to loosen up, the young closer turned it around.

Rivera converted his next 12 saves and landed his first All-Star Game appearance, a contest in which he recorded yet another save.

Rivera finished the year with a 6-4 record and a stellar 1.88 ERA in 71.2 innings pitched (66 appearances).

His 43 saves were the second-most in the Majors, two behind Randy Myers of the division-rival Orioles.

In the ALDS against Cleveland, Rivera was oddly human.

After giving up just one run in his first 18.2 postseason innings, he gave up a run in just two innings against the Indians.

It was a massive run, a game-tying opposite-field solo shot by Sandy Alomar Jr. in Game 4 that set the stage for a season-saving Cleveland win.

Rivera would not give up another run in the postseason over his next 23 appearances and 34.1 innings pitched, an MLB record to this day.

1997 Topps #256 Mariano Rivera Baseball Card

1997 Topps #42 Jackie Robinson

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $40

When Jackie Robinson stepped onto the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947, it marked a turning point for Major League Baseball and the entire country.

Fifty years later, it was time to honor his legacy with a special cardboard salute.

To pay tribute to Robinson and his remarkable contribution, Topps included this card and gave it the #42, the same as the jersey number he wore for ten seasons with the Dodgers.

Fittingly, Topps included an action sequence of Robinson stealing home against the New York Yankees in the 1955 World Series, one of the most iconic moments of his career.

1997 Topps #42 Jackie Robinson Baseball Card

1997 Topps #333 Eddie Murray

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $40

Eddie Murray's Hall of Fame playing career came to a full-circle close in 1997, making this his last of many Topps base cards.

At 41 years of age and in his 21st and final MLB season, the Los Angeles native went home to Southern California in free agency, signing a one-year deal with the Anaheim Angels.

The Angels used Murray in a part-time DH role, hoping for a bevy of clutch hits from baseball's all-time leader in RBIs by a switch hitter.

It didn't pan out.

Murray hit just .219 with a .591 OPS, three home runs, and 15 RBIs in 176 plate appearances (160 at-bats).

His 504th and last home run came in an Angels uni off Minnesota Twins hurler Bob Tewksbury on May 30th, 1997.

Sadly, that was one of only a few noteworthy moments in Anaheim for one of the previous generation's best and brightest hitting stars.

After he was released by Anaheim later in the year, Murray signed on with the Dodgers for one last hurrah.

He made just nine plate appearances as a pinch hitter for Los Angeles, going 2-for-7 with a couple of walks.

And just like that, Murray's playing career was over.

1997 Topps #333 Eddie Murray Baseball Card

1997 Topps #158 Pedro Martinez

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $40

In the early days of Pedro Martinez's Hall of Fame career, it wasn't so clear that he had the size or control that would allow him to develop into the dominant force he would eventually become.

And that's why the Los Angeles Dodgers, especially manager Tommy Lasorda, were willing to trade Martinez to the Montreal Expos for Delino DeShields to solve a short-term gap at second base.

Yet, by 1996, Martinez began to show the world he could be one of the best starting pitchers in the game when he earned his first of eight career trips to the All-Star Game.

At that point, if it wasn't clear to the Dodgers that they'd made a huge mistake, it was immediately clear the following season in 1997.

Martinez was brilliant in one of the best breakout seasons for a pitcher in modern history, going 17-8 for the 78-84 Expos with an MLB-best 1.90 ERA and 0.932 WHIP.

He also led the Majors with 13 complete games and worked a career-high 241.1 innings as the Expos took everything he could give them.

In addition to winning his first Cy Young, Martinez became the first right-hander since Walter Johnson in 1912 to throw more than 300 strikeouts (305) with a sub-2.00 ERA (1.90).

1997 Topps #158 Pedro Martinez Baseball Card

1997 Topps Baseball Cards In Review

The 1997 Topps checklist wasn't nearly as extensive as some of the sets of the early 1990s, as it contained 495 cards printed across two series.

Regarding rookie cards, this set turned out to be a dud.

Yet, as you can see, there are still plenty of big-name stars and Hall of Famers of the era to be found inside.

Reprints of Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays cards of yesteryear offered a bit of variety, especially the limited number of Mays reprints he autographed.

Unopened Box of 1997 Topps Baseball Cards

Speaking of autographs, the most significant thing this set is notorious for is the Derek Jeter commemorative Rookie of the Year autograph that collectors could chase in series two packs.

At the time, Jeter had a long way to go toward becoming one of the most famous Yankees legends of all time.

Fortunately for hobbyists lucky enough to find one of those cards, Jeter exceeded expectations and became a baseball icon.

Overall, this set doesn't get much attention due to its lack of big-name rookie cards but there's still plenty to like when it comes to nostalgia for that era.

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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