12 Most Valuable 2001 Topps Baseball Cards
When looking at the 2001 Topps baseball cards set, two things immediately stand out:
1) the green borders
2) the lack of an Albert Pujols rookie card
One of those things is kind of cool, but the other one turned out to be a huge letdown...
The green borders gave the cards a unique look and continued a multi-year stretch that Topps went with a non-white border for its design.
But omitting an Albert Pujols rookie card is one of the biggest hobby disappointments of that period.
At least Topps didn't leave out the Ichiro rookie from the 790-card checklist.
It turned out to be the key card in this set, headlining a group of cards that can be quite pricey in high grade.
And in this guide, we'll take a look at the 12 most valuable.
Let's jump right in!
Let's be clear: most of the cards from this set do not have any value these days.
Like the 2001 Bowman, Finest, Stadium Club 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:
2001 Topps #726 Ichiro Rookie Card
Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $1,250
In 2001, after winning a record seven consecutive batting titles and three MVP awards in his native Japan, Ichiro Suzuki became Nippon Professional Baseball's first position player to transition to the Major Leagues.
Signing a three-year, $14 million deal with the Seattle Mariners, Ichiro slotted in immediately as Seattle's starting right fielder.
Doubts lingered about whether the "Human Batting Machine" could translate his previous success to the MLB game.
Those doubts were eventually put to rest by Ichiro's unparalleled bat control.
Ichiro finished the year with his first of two AL batting titles (.350) and led all of baseball in plate appearances (738), at-bats (692), hits (242), and stolen bases (56).
As Ichiro went, so did a Mariners team gunning for the franchise's first World Series appearance.
Sadly, it wasn't to be.
After a thrilling five-game ALDS win over the Cleveland Indians, the Mariners were outgunned in a five-game ALCS loss to the Yankees.
Ichiro hit a blazing .600 against Cleveland but cooled to just .222 against the three-time defending World Series champs.
It was a rough ending to a storybook debut year for Ichiro, one that ended with him becoming just the second player in MLB history to win both a league's Rookie-of-the-Year and MVP award in the same season (Fred Lynn, 1975).
2001 Topps #593 Ken Griffey Jr.
Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $750
2001 was the year that everything seemed to change for Ken Griffey Jr.
His second season with his hometown Cincinnati Reds started ominously when he missed Opening Day for the first time with a hamstring injury.
The future Hall of Famer had been durable in his first twelve seasons, only missing significant time to injury in 1995.
However, 2001 was the year that Griffey became a favorite target of the dreaded injury bug.
Griffey was placed on the disabled list at the end of April and missed 51 games in 2001.
In a career-low 361 at-bats, Junior hit .286 with 22 home runs, 20 doubles, and 65 RBIs.
He also stole just two bases after posting double-digit steal totals in ten of his first eleven years.
The Reds nosedived from 85-77 in 2000 to a dismal 66-96 in 2001.
The hope was that Griffey would be healthy again and lead the Reds back to contention in 2002.
It was nothing more than wishful thinking.
2001 Topps #100 Derek Jeter
Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $500
After three consecutive World Series wins, Derek Jeter was on top of the world in 2001.
The New York Yankees shortstop was named to his fourth-straight All-Star team in 2001, finishing in the top ten of the AL's MVP race for the fourth-straight year after his first 20/20 season.
However, the real story for Jeter was always about the playoffs.
In New York's five-game ALDS win over the Oakland A's, Jeter was on a different level, hitting .444 and reaching base in 10 of 21 plate appearances.
The real highlight, though, came on defense in Game 3.
After the Yankees lost the first two of the best-of-five series at home, New York needed a spark.
Up 1-0 in Game 3 on the road, Jeter provided it.
With Jeremy Giambi on first, A's outfielder Terrance Long raked a double down the right-field line.
Giambi read it and scurried toward home plate.
Yankees right fielder Shane Spencer threw the ball wildly off-line, but Jeter saved the day, getting to the ball and backhanding it to catcher Jorge Posada for a bang-bang tag on a bewildered Giambi.
The Yankees won the game and the series with three-straight elimination-game triumphs.
Jeter struggled over the next two rounds, going just 6-for-44 (.136) in twelve games against the Seattle Mariners and Arizona Diamondbacks.
Yet, one of those hits was a Game 4 World Series walk-off minutes into November after the strike of midnight, a swing that earned Jeter the moniker, "Mr. November."
The Yankees missed a fourth-straight World Series title, though, thanks to Arizona outfielder Luis Gonzalez's Game 7 walk-off single, a bitter pill for Jeter (and an entire Yankees dynasty) to swallow.
2001 Topps #1 Cal Ripken Jr.
Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $400
Less than three years after volunteering to end his MLB-record consecutive games played streak at 2,632, 40-year-old Baltimore Orioles third baseman Cal Ripken Jr. saw the writing on the wall.
He'd missed nearly half of the 1999 and 2000 seasons to injury, and the toll of an unprecedented 21-year MLB career was adding up.
In June 2001, baseball's Ironman announced he'd call it a day at the end of the 2001 campaign.
The baseball world came out to show their appreciation for Ripken on his farewell tour.
Alex Rodriguez even switched positions with Ripken at the 2001 All-Star Game, allowing him to start one final game at his natural position of shortstop, a game in which he promptly homered and earned MVP honors.
Ripken finished the 2001 season hitting just .239 with a .637 OPS, 14 home runs, and 68 RBIs in 516 plate appearances (477 at-bats).
But Ripken's struggles at the plate and 63-win Baltimore's struggles, on the whole, were minimized by the magnitude of his departure.
At his retirement ceremony on October 7th, the Camden Yards faithful packed the place to say goodbye to a true icon.
The 19-time All-Star revolutionized the shortstop position with his size and bat, winning eight Silver Sluggers, two Gold Gloves, two MVP awards, and a World Series ring, among other accomplishments.
2001 Topps #220 Tony Gwynn
Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $400
One of the most beloved baseball figures of all time, Tony Gwynn received a fitting sendoff in 2001.
Injuries limited Gwynn to a pinch-hitting role in his age-41 season.
He was effective in that reduced role, though, posting a .324 batting average and .845 OPS in 112 plate appearances (102 at-bats.)
However, 2001 was less about Gwynn’s production and more about celebrating one of the best pure hitters to ever step into a batter’s box.
That celebration reached its emotional crescendo at the 2001 MLB All-Star Game in Seattle.
Before the game, Gwynn and fellow retiree-to-be Cal Ripken Jr. both received standing ovations during an emotional farewell ceremony.
Two of the greatest players of the 1980s and 1990s said their goodbyes to a worldwide audience, effectively putting a bow on an entire generation.
They’d both be voted in as first-ballot Hall of Famers just five years later.
A devoted family man and community service star, Gwynn remains synonymous with the City of San Diego.
Two years after his untimely passing from salivary gland cancer in 2014, the NL batting crown was renamed in his honor at the 2016 All-Star Game, a crown that Gwynn earned a league-record eight times in his career.
2001 Topps #105 Rickey Henderson
Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $400
Speaking of Tony Gwynn, his last MLB game received an added layer of historical weight courtesy of the great Rickey Henderson.
Henderson returned to the Padres for a second stint before the 2001 season and set out to rewrite the game's record books.
On April 25th, 2001, he drew a ninth-inning walk off of Philadelphia Phillies closer Jose Mesa.
It was the 2,063rd walk of his Hall of Fame career, vaulting him past Babe Ruth for the most in MLB history.
And on October 4th, 2001, Henderson clubbed a third-inning home run off of Los Angeles Dodgers hurler Luke Prokopec to pass Ty Cobb with his record 2,246th run scored.
To punctuate things, Henderson slid into home plate with a trademark flourish.
Just three days later on the season's final day, Henderson doubled off of Colorado Rockies pitcher John Thomson for his 3,000th hit, adding another blurb to his Hall of Fame plaque on Tony Gwynn's big day.
Henderson finished the year hitting just .227 with eight home runs and 42 RBIs in 465 plate appearances (379 at-bats).
However, his 2001 season was more about its big-picture significance than his actual on-field production
2001 Topps #240 Frank Thomas
Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $350
The 2001 MLB season was the most trying moment of Frank Thomas' Hall of Fame career.
After placing in the top ten of the American League's MVP race every year from 1991-97 (with two MVP awards), wear and tear forced Thomas to transition from first base to a primary DH role in 1998.
Two uneven years later, The Big Hurt roared back in 2000, crushing 43 home runs and driving in 143 en route to the AL's Comeback Player of the Year award and a second-place MVP finish.
Then 2001 happened.
Just a few weeks into the campaign, Thomas' father passed away.
That same week, Thomas revealed that he'd suffered a triceps tear in his right arm and underwent season-ending surgery after just 20 games.
"This is the worst week of my life," Thomas said. "First, I lose my father, then come back and find out I'm lost for the season."
Thomas hit just .221 with four home runs and ten RBIs in 79 plate appearances (68 at-bats).
And while he'd return to play most of the 2002 season, 2001 was undoubtedly a turning point for the suddenly injury-prone 6-foot-5 slugger.
2001 Topps #2 Chipper Jones
Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $250
Two years after winning National League MVP honors, Chipper Jones turned in another spectacular season for the Atlanta Braves in 2001.
As usual, the switch-hitting Jones was a steady force in the heart of the order on offense.
His slash line of .330/.427/.605 was one of the best of his Hall of Fame career, as he belted 38 home runs while driving in 102 runs and scoring 113.
It all added up to his fifth trip to the All-Star Game and an eighth-place finish in the NL MVP vote at season's end.
And by finishing 88-74, the Braves captured the NL East crown for the seventh time in a row since Jones' rookie campaign in 1995.
Unlike 1995, though, there would be no World Series in store for Atlanta.
After blowing past the Houston Astros in three games in the NL Division Series, the eventual 2001 World Series champion defeated the Braves 4-1 in the NLCS.
In 19 at-bats, Jones slashed .263/.364/.316 with two RBIs and six strikeouts.
As disappointing as those stats were, Jones faired much better than most of his teammates against the two-headed pitching monster of Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling.
2001 Topps #136 David Ortiz
Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $250
From 2003-07, David Ortiz slugged his way to five straight top-five finishes in the AL’s MVP race in his first five seasons with the Boston Red Sox.
Suddenly, the former Minnesota Twins slugger was a household name.
Before that, things were a bit different.
In 2001, Ortiz was penciled into the middle of the order for a Twins team with the lowest payroll in the Majors.
The Twins outperformed their bottom line, winning 85 games and finishing second behind Cleveland in the AL Central.
Yet, they did it for a large chunk of the season without Ortiz.
Injury-prone in the half-decade preceding this, Ortiz suffered the second wrist fracture of his career in 2001.
He missed 2.5 months with the injury and played in just 89 games altogether, hitting just .234 with 18 home runs and 48 RBIs in a primary DH role.
Ortiz appeared to be at a crossroads.
Could he stay healthy?
Could he find a consistent swing?
Was he good enough to be a true heart of a lineup?
Just two years later, Ortiz’s rise to superstardom in Beantown made those questions seem silly in retrospect.
2001 Topps #170 Roger Clemens
Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $200
Roger Clemens was absolutely brilliant during his third season in New York Yankee pinstripes in 2001, becoming the first pitcher in MLB history to start a season at 20-1.
At the end of the regular season, Clemens' record stood at 20-3, giving him his sixth and final 20-win season and the highest winning percentage (.870) of his storied career.
And though other pitchers like Oakland's Mark Mulder and Seattle's Freddy Garcia received multiple first-place votes for the AL Cy Young, Clemens won it for the sixth time with 87% of the vote share.
In the NLDS against the Oakland Athletics, Clemens struggled in two starts, taking the loss in Game 1 before allowing three runs in 4.1 innings during the Yankees' critical Game 5 win.
During his only start of the ALCS against the Seattle Mariners in Game 4, Clemens was much more himself, striking out seven and allowing only one hit.
And when the Yankees needed him the most, looking to win their fourth-straight World Series, Clemens was lights out in Games 3 and 7 versus the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Unfortunately for Clemens and the Yankees, a game-winning Luis Gonzalez single off Mariano Rivera in the bottom of the ninth brought their hopes of a four-peat to a dramatic halt.
2001 Topps #497 Barry Bonds
Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $150
Major League Baseball may never see another player be as dominant as Barry Bonds was from 2001 to 2004.
And his 2001 season stands out as not only his personal best of that stretch but was arguably the greatest single season for any hitter in MLB history.
When the season came to a close, Bonds stood atop the league in home runs (73), walks (177), OBP (.515), slugging percentage (0.863), OPS (1.379), and OPS+ (259).
His .328 was one of the highest of his career to date, while his 129 runs scored and 137 RBI would turn out to be personal bests during his 22 years in the Majors.
Simply put, Bonds was a complete nightmare for pitchers in 2001.
All season long, he ripped the cover off the ball.
And his 73 home runs and 0.863 would become MLB single-season records.
Bonds was a no-brainer for his fourth MVP and ninth Silver Slugger, as he played the role of a one-man wrecking crew all season.
Years later, many of Bonds' achievements would come under heavy scrutiny as details of his links to PED usage came to light.
Though his home run total and slugging percentage remain MLB records, there are many who question them.
2001 Topps #60 Pedro Martinez
Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $125
While Bonds was incredible those four years at the plate, Pedro Martinez was just as dominant on the mound during a four-year stretch of his own from 1997-2000.
During that time, Martinez won three Cy Young awards and finished second behind Roger Clemens, then with the Toronto Blue Jays, in 1998.
While they were all fantastic seasons, his 2000 campaign was the best of the four-year stretch and the greatest of his Hall of Fame career overall.
In 29 starts and 217 innings pitched, Martinez led all of baseball in ERA (1.74), shutouts (4), ERA+ (291), FIP (217), WHIP (0.7370), hits per nine innings (5.3), and strikeout-to-walk ratio (8.88).
All but his 217 FIP were career highs and his 1.74 ERA was the lowest since Ron Guidry turned in a 1.74 ERA for the Yankees in 1978.
However, the most eye-popping stat of all was his record-setting 0.7370 ERA, breaking Guy Hecker's 0.7692 mark that he set for the Louisville Eclipse in 1882.
In 2001, Martinez continued his pitching brilliance, sporting an eye-popping 1.66 ERA and 1.24 FIP through June 4.
Unfortunately, his rotator cuff soon forced him to spend July and most of August and September on the disabled list.
In 116 innings pitched, Martinez finished the disappointing 2001 season at 7-3 with a 2.39 ERA and 163 strikeouts.
2001 Topps Baseball Cards In Review
For its 50th anniversary, Topps did a great job by including several different exciting features with its 2001 flagship release.
The green borders give the cards unique eye appeal, though they can be a nightmare when trying to land a top grade from one of the grading companies.
Many collectors liked to see the return of Manager, dual-prospect and season highlight (2000) cards.
And the omission of card #7 to honor Mickey Mantle was a nice touch, too.
The lack of an Albert Pujols rookie card, but the Ichiro rookie card is the clear highlight of a rookie class that also included big names of the day like Jake Peavy and Travis Hafner.
The aforementioned Managers and Season Highlights cards rounded out a solid group of subsets that also included Draft Picks, Prospects, Golden Moments, League Leaders, Postseason Highlights and Team cards.
Overall, I think Topps did a great job with this set to help celebrate fifty years of making baseball cards.