12 Most Valuable 1998 Topps Baseball Cards

Most Valuable 1998 Topps Baseball Cards


Though many collectors may not have a strong desire for it, the 1998 Topps baseball card set still offers plenty to enjoy if you look closely.

And, remember, this set came about during one of the most exciting modern era seasons when Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa had their home run duel...

Aside from that historical connection to the game, David Ortiz, Roy Halladay, Adrian Beltre, and Alex Rodriguez made their Topps debuts in this set.

Those first three names appear in the "Prospects" subset, but Rodriguez appears on a standard base card after being left out of previous flagship Topps sets for years due to contract conflicts.

However, despite the welcome appearance of those four stars, Rickey Henderson was glaringly absent from the checklist.

The design and color scheme produces many great-looking cards with solid eye appeal.

And in this guide, we'll look at the 12 most valuable.

Let's jump right in!

Ross Uitts

Ross Uitts - Owner

Love sports cards?

Get my weekly newsletter with the latest hobby updates delivered straight to your inbox!

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

Like the 1998 Donruss 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:

1998 Topps #257 David Ortiz Prospects

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $150

After a 15-game cup of coffee in '97, 22-year-old Minnesota Twins first baseman David Ortiz was primed to make a splash in his rookie campaign in '98.

Despite a rocky relationship with manager Tom Kelly, Ortiz was a force in the season's first five weeks, posting a batting average over .300 with 20 RBIs and the team's second-best slugging percentage.

On May 9th, however, Ortiz's fortunes took a turn.

The first-year slugger broke his right wrist in an 8-1 romp over the New York Yankees.

The injury eventually cost him two months, although he somehow stayed in the game and homered while in considerable pain.

After an up-and-down six weeks following his return in mid-July, Ortiz locked in during the team's September stretch, batting a blistering .360 on the month to raise his overall batting average to .277 for the year.

Ortiz finished the season with 44 RBIs in just 86 games played for a mostly punchless 70-win Twins squad.

And while his relationship with Kelly remained tenuous at best, the Dominican Republic native established himself as a legit offensive threat, as long as he could stay healthy.

Ortiz had rookie cards in both the 1997 Fleer and 1997 Fleer Ultra sets but made his Topps debut on this card, which was part of the "Prospects" subset, alongside Richie Sexson and Daryle Ward.

1998 Topps #257 David Ortiz, Richie Sexson and Daryle Ward Prospects Baseball Card

1998 Topps #160 Derek Jeter

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $100

Following an abrupt end to the 1997 playoffs at the hands of the Cleveland Indians in the AL Division Series, the Yankees began building one of the most complete championship squads in MLB history.

New acquisitions in third baseman Scott Brosius and second baseman Chuck Knoblauch gave the Yankees a star-studded infield to go along with Jeter and first baseman Tino Martinez.

The Yankees stumbled initially, losing four of their first five but then hit the gas to race away from the AL East and all of baseball, surging to an MLB-best (and franchise-best) 114-48 record.

The 24-year-old Jeter emerged as a leader beyond his years, slashing .324/.384/.481 with 19 home runs, 84 RBIs, and an AL-best 127 runs scored.

While the limelight was often blinding as his relationship with legendary singer Mariah Carey became tabloid fodder, Jeter remained at his best between the lines and in the clubhouse.

He struggled in the first two rounds of the playoffs against Texas and Cleveland but hit .353 against San Diego in a World Series sweep.

It was a fitting end to a season of redemption for Jeter and the Bronx Bombers.

And it was also a crucial turning point for yet another Yankee dynasty.

1998 Topps #160 Derek Jeter Baseball Card

1998 Topps #254 Adrian Beltre Prospects

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $85

At just 19 years of age, top Los Angeles Dodgers prospect Adrian Beltre made his Major League debut on June 24th, 1998, against the Anaheim Angels, becoming the youngest player in the National League.

He'd made his baseball card debut a year earlier in the 1997 Bowman, Bowman's Best and Bowman Chrome sets, but this would be his first mainstream Topps card.

Beltre opened his big-league career with a bang, lacing a game-tying RBI double off Angels ace Chuck Finley in his first MLB at-bat.

Just six days later, Beltre crushed his first MLB home run off of Texas Rangers hurler Rick Helling.

As Beltre delivered during his debut week, there was plenty of reason for optimism from Dodgers fans.

However, his youth and inexperience would announce themselves over the season's final three months.

Beltre struggled to adjust to big-league pitching, hitting just .215 with an underwhelming .648 OPS, seven home runs, and 22 RBIs in parts of 77 games played.

He also was a liability at third base, committing 13 errors en route to a career-worst .925 fielding percentage.

The 83-win Dodgers missed the playoffs for the second-straight year as Beltre took his lumps, a drought that would end up spanning most of Beltre's time with the franchise.

1998 Topps #254 Adrian Beltre, Aaron Boone, and Ryan Minor Prospects Baseball Card

1998 Topps #264 Roy Halladay Prospects

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $85

Selected 17th overall by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 1995 MLB Amateur Draft, lanky 6-foot-6 right-hander Roy Halladay made his highly-anticipated debut for the big club on September 20th, 1998.

Halladay had a strong year for Triple-A Syracuse, finishing 9-5 with a 3.79 ERA.

He also overcame a strained right shoulder that sidelined him for over a month, showcasing a level of grit that would become one of his trademarks during his Hall-of-Fame career.

Halladay was solid enough in his first big-league start against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, giving up eight hits and three runs (two earned) while striking out five and walking two.

The 21-year-old left the game with a 5-3 lead but was denied a decision in the team's 12-inning, 7-5 win.

His second and final start of '98 was a much different spectacle.

The young righty was dominant against the Detroit Tigers, carrying a no-hitter into the ninth inning.

His brush with history was dashed by Bobby Higginson's pinch-hit, two-out solo home run.

But, Halladay still sealed the deal, securing the final out for a complete-game triumph and his first MLB win.

It was a tantalizing taste of what Halladay was capable of and a precursor to even greater things to come.

1998 Topps #264 Roy Halladay, Brian Fuentes, and Matt Clement Prospects Baseball Card

1998 Topps #320 Cal Ripken Jr.

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $80

For all the disappointment felt by Baltimore Orioles fans as the team stumbled from division winners in '97 to a mediocre 79-win squad in '98, the real story was the impending end of The Streak.

At 37 years old, Cal Ripken Jr. remained a quality starting third baseman (if not an elite one), slashing .271/.331/.389 with 14 home runs and 61 RBIs in 659 plate appearances (601 at-bats).

However, his consecutive games record had become more of a talking point than a necessity.

When would Ripken finally take a day off?

Would his streak take precedence over the team's ability to win games?

Come Baltimore's final home contest of the season on September 20th. 1998, Ripken Jr. put all the speculation to rest.

In a private sitdown with manager Ray Miller, Ripken asked to be removed from the lineup for the first time since 1982.

Just like that, Ripken's 2,632-game, 17-season streak was over.

And as had been the case throughout his Hall-of-Fame career thus far, he did it on his terms.

After missing just one of Baltimore's games from 1982-98, Ripken sat out just under half of the team's regular-season slate over the next two seasons.

1998 Topps #320 Cal Ripken Jr. Baseball Card

1998 Topps #321 Ken Griffey Jr.

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $80

The story of Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa’s pursuit of Roger Maris’ single-season home-run record captivated the baseball world in 1998.

Yet, reigning AL MVP Ken Griffey Jr.’s superb follow-up campaign was a subplot worth paying attention to.

For the second-straight season, the Seattle Mariners centerfielder led the American League with 56 home runs.

And while he couldn’t keep pace with the McGwire/Sosa pairing as they rewrote the history books, back-to-back 56-dinger seasons were a heck of a consolation.

Griffey finished the year with a .284/.365/.611 slash line, 120 runs scored, and 146 RBIs.

He earned his ninth-straight Gold Glove and All-Star appearances, a Home Run Derby victory, and a fourth-place finish in a stacked AL MVP race.

Yet, all was not well from a team perspective.

The Mariners followed up an AL West championship in ‘97 with a 76-win dud in ‘98.

And after fading out of postseason contention heading into the Trade Deadline, Seattle’s front office unloaded staff ace and Hall-of-Famer Randy Johnson to Houston for a package of prospects.

By 2000, Griffey would also be gone, closing the book on the most successful and beloved era of Seattle Mariners baseball to date.

1998 Topps #321 Ken Griffey Jr. Baseball Card

1998 Topps #300 Roger Clemens

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $70

In the final season of a brief two-year stint with the Toronto Blue Jays, 35-year-old superstar Roger Clemens continued to orchestrate a remarkable late-career renaissance.

After four uneven years from 1993-96 to finish his time with the Boston Red Sox, many critics wondered if the writing was on the wall for the three-time Cy Young winner and 1986 AL MVP.

And while PED accusations have since clouded Clemens’ mid-30s bounceback, his 24 months north of the border were still nothing short of spectacular.

The Blue Jays ace captured the AL pitching triple crown in both ‘97 and ‘98, leading the league in wins, ERA, and strikeouts.

Two years, two All-Star appearances, two Cy Young Awards (the 4th and 5th of his career), and two strong finishes on the league’s MVP ballot (10th and 11th) were enough to raise Clemens’ stock to its highest point since his 1986-91 heyday.

The 88-win Blue Jays finished four games behind Boston for a Wild Card spot in ‘98.

But, they were still must-see TV with Clemens on the mound.

He finished the campaign with a sterling 20-6 record, pitching to a 2.65 ERA with 271 strikeouts in 234.2 innings pitched.

1998 Topps #300 Roger Clemens

1998 Topps #317 Barry Bonds

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $70

If there was ever a distinct turning point in Barry Bonds's career, 1998 might have been it.

The three-time MVP was predictably great in the heart of the San Francisco Giants order, slashing .303/.438/.609 with 37 home runs, 44 doubles, 120 runs scored, and 122 RBIs.

He also provided his customary first-tier defense in left, earning his eighth Gold Glove in nine years.

The Arizona Diamondbacks even intentionally walked him with the bases loaded on May 28th, becoming the first team to issue an intentional free pass in such a situation since 1944.

However, it was still a frustrating year for Bonds.

The 89-win Giants failed to capitalize on a Game-163 Wild Card tiebreaker, losing 5-3 at Wrigley Field to the Cubs.

And Bonds' greatness was relegated to the background in favor of media darlings Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa.

According to multiple reports, this was the last straw for the mercurial star.

Bonds doubled down in the offseason and allegedly began a PED regimen in the winter under the guidance of controversial trainer Greg Anderson.

The muscle gain was quick, overt, and astounding.

Bonds was transforming, and a new phase of his polarizing, unparalleled career was about to begin. 

1998 Topps #317 Barry Bonds Baseball Card

1998 Topps #1 Tony Gwynn

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $60

Fourteen years after his first World Series appearance in 1984, San Diego Padres legend Tony Gwynn got one more chance to shine on baseball's biggest stage.

While he finished ninth in the NL with a .321 batting average, injuries and mileage were catching up to him.

Gwynn's WAR dipped from 4.3 in '97 to just 1.5 in '98, and there were moments where the wear and tear of 17 MLB seasons were painfully apparent.

Regardless, it was a storybook year for the heart of the Padres, as their 98 wins put them 9.5 games clear of San Francisco for the franchise's second NL West title in three years.

After getting swept out of the 96' NLDS by the St. Louis Cardinals, the 98' incarnation wasn't about to go quietly into the October night.

The Padres eliminated Houston in four games and Atlanta in six to reach just their second Fall Classic in franchise history.

Unfortunately, the Padres didn't stand a chance against the juggernaut Yankees in the World Series.

Gwynn went down swinging, though, notching eight hits in 16 at-bats as New York swept San Diego.

It was a valiant, bittersweet ending to Gwynn's third-and-last postseason appearance.

1998 Topps #1 Tony Gwynn Baseball Card

1998 Topps #305 Chipper Jones

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $60

As the Yankees ran roughshod through the American League in 1998, a 1996 Fall Classic rematch with the Atlanta Braves appeared predestined.

After all, Atlanta secured home-field advantage with the best record in the NL.

And their balance of elite pitching and young, homegrown hitting talent made them prohibitive favorites to outlast the rest of the National League.

Atlanta had four 30-home run hitters in 1998 in Andres Galarraga (44), Andruw Jones (31), Javy Lopez (34), and Chipper Jones (34).

And the latter of that fearsome foursome continued to emerge in ‘98 as the team’s unquestioned clubhouse leader as he slashed .313/.404/.547 with 188 hits, 123 runs scored, nearly 100 walks (96), and 107 RBIs.

After finishing with a sterling 106-56 record, the Braves were hungry for postseason glory.

Atlanta started well by sweeping the upstart Chicago Cubs in the NLDS.

However, it all came to a screeching halt in the NLCS against San Diego.

Chipper was a non-factor, hitting just .208 with a meager .571 OPS, providing little help to an inconsistent Braves offense.

The underdog Padres staked themselves to a commanding 3-0 series lead and closed out the favorites in Game 6, 5-0 in Atlanta.

1998 Topps #305 Chipper Jones Baseball Card

1998 Topps #20 Frank Thomas

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $50

The White Sox finished with 80 wins for the second-straight year in 1998, marking their third losing season in four years since the '94 strike.

And for once, Chicago's Southside doldrums seemed to carry over to the face of the franchise, "The Big Hurt" Frank Thomas.

After a torrid seven-year stretch from 1991-97 in which he won two MVP awards and finished no worse than 8th in balloting in any season, Thomas regressed in '98.

His .265 batting average marked the first time in his career that he'd hit under .308.

And his .861 OPS was the worst of his career at that point by over 110 points (1992, .975).

The raw numbers were still pretty good, as Thomas bashed 29 home runs with 109 runs scored, 110 walks, and 109 RBIs.

Yet he failed to make the All-Star team and didn't even register a vote in the league's MVP race.

So, what was the deal with Thomas in '98?

It may have been the shift from a primary first-base role to a primary designated hitter slot as the slugger was open with reporters that playing in the field helped sharpen his focus in the batter's box.

1998 Topps #20 Frank Thomas Baseball Card

1998 Topps #504 Alex Rodriguez

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $50

Finally, for the first time in his career, Alex Rodriguez made his Topps debut with this card when the two sides could finally come to a contract agreement.

As far as the 1998 season went, the Mariners buckled under the weight of expectations, but 22-year-old shortstop Alex Rodriguez was not at fault.

Two years earlier, Rodriguez set MLB records for a shortstop in hits, extra-base hits, and runs scored at just 20 years of age.

In 1998, A-Rod again took center stage, becoming just the third player in baseball history to record at least 40 home runs (42) and 40 stolen bases (46) in a single season.

Rodriguez finished the year slashing .310/.360/.560 with an AL-best 213 hits, 123 runs scored, 35 doubles, and 124 RBIs.

The two-time Silver Slugger and All-Star was also remarkably durable, playing all 162 of the team’s games and leading the Majors in plate appearances (748) and at-bats (686).

With Rodriguez and Griffey as the lineup’s cornerstones, the Mariners finished fifth in the Majors with 5.34 runs scored per game.

The pitching staff, however, let the offense down.

Seattle finished near the bottom of the league in nearly every major pitching category, blowing leads regularly and costing the Mariners a legit chance at defending their ‘97 AL West championship.

1998 Topps #504 Alex Rodriguez Baseball Card

1998 Topps Baseball Cards In Review

One of my favorite features of this set is the design itself.

The gold borders, foil name plates and large player images work well together to produce an aesthetically pleasing design.

Within the 503-card checklist, you'll find plenty of big-name stars and Hall of Famers (though Rickey Henderson is glaringly absent) but there aren't many key rookie cards to be found.

Prospect cards of David Ortiz, Roy Halladay and Adrian Beltre aren't bad consolation prizes, though.

Unopened Box of 1998 Topps Baseball Cards

As far as the inserts are concerned, the Roberto Clemente reprints of each of his nineteen Topps cards from 1955 to 1973 offer an excellent tribute to one of the hobby's biggest names.

To top it all off, there were several subsets as well:

  • Draft Picks (#245 - 249; #484 - 488)
  • Interleague Previews (#270 - 274; #479 - 483)
  • Prospects (#250 - 259; #484 - 495; #498 - 501)
  • Season Highlights (#265 - 269; #474 - 478)
  • World Series Highlights (#277 - 283)

This set had the misfortune of being released shortly after the hobby bubble had popped in the early 1990s, so it flew under the radar for years.

Looking back on it now, though, there is plenty to enjoy in this set and it brings back memories of the 1998 season itself, which, for better or worse, was one of the most exciting of the modern 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]

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 0 comments