An In-Depth Report On 1988 Topps Errors and Variations

An In-Depth Report On 1988 Topps Errors and Variations

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 front1988 Topps #6 Nolan RyanYellow, white, or no line where the hand meets the border1988 Topps #18 Al Leiter  Wrong picture. The photo is actually Steve George 1988 Topps #34 Ricky HortonA red line above “CARDINALS” on front1988 Topps #37 Ed RomeroYellow name1988 Topps #5 Baltimore Orioles Team LeadersSingle-toned back1988 Topps #179 Puleo CharlieE in Braves incomplete was corrected1988 Topps #190 Candy MaldonadoA white line at the lower left of the photo/border1988 Topps #211 Dipino FrankB in Cubs incomplete was corrected1988 Topps #229 Jeff MusselmanTwo different-sized white spots by trophy. There’s a variation with only one spot and one without any spot.1988 Topps #230 Pat TablerYellow or red dugout bench due to variations in printing1988 Topps #231 Pittsburgh PiratesYellow spot on Bonilla’s cap. Was corrected1988 Topps #260 Vince ColemanWrong date of birth. He was born in 1961, not 19601988 Topps #269 Ellis BurksThe name touches the trophy on the front, and the name moves away from the trophy1988 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 WhitsonGreen mark on thigh and mark airbrushed away1988 Topps #338 Brian HoltonWrong stats on the reverse side. ’87 ERA should be 3.89, not .3891988 Topps #348 Jim EisenreichLarge 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 card1988 Topps #374 Doc EdwardsPink, blue, or NO ink outside of the name triangle1988 Topps #381 California Angels TL featuring Wally Joyner1″ long vertical magenta slash down   Joyner’s arm.1988 Topps #405 Dwight Gooden All-StarMissing 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 common1988 Topps #416 Keith MorelandCUBS lettering at bat unfilled and filled-in blue1988 Topps #444 Cal Sr  Two copyrights1988 Topps #447 Jeff MontgomeryTwo different-sized blotches over shoulder types1988 Topps #492 Doyle AlexanderWrong date of birth. September 4, not September 51988 Topps #493 Mike GreenwellRookie trophy printed over the lettering in his name or touching his name1988 Topps #497 Kevin MitchellGray, Green, and Blue colored jersey1988 Topps #500 Dawson AndreUnfilled “U” in CUBS on the front, Filled “U” in CUBS on front1988 Topps #528 Checklist 397-528 455 Steve Carlton COR: 455 Shawn Hillegas1988 Topps #544 Jim TraberBat tip in the top border1988 Topps #571 Mark WilliamsonBottom of ORIOLES yellow at hat1988 Topps #580 Mark McGwireDark green stripe in the top right border1988 Topps #619 Mike Dunne  The black name on the front should be white1988 Topps 628 Dave HendersonBlack mark on lip and mark airbrushed1988 Topps #629 Kelly Downs1984 Statline shows as “4.”1988 Topps #637 Bell JayPurple on 2nd N in Indians is incomplete. Corrected. Many versions exist1988 Topps #640 Garry TempletonThe green border should be brown. Topps Tiffany is yellow. Also, the birthplace should be Lockney, not Lockey1988 Topps #658 Tim ConroyThe name is in white; it should be in black1988 Topps #663 Ron BlombergThree versions. Line in the right border, line through the name on the front, and line through both areas.1988 Topps #692 Mike BirkbeckWrong stats. Should be 0 saves in 84, rather than 21988 Topps #716 Lenn Sakata Incorrect date of birth, Born in ’54, not ’531988 Topps #725 Boddicker MikeBottom of “R” in ORIOLES colored white or yellow1988 Topps #739 Daryl BostonA green line along the bat1988 Topps #754 Mike Lacoss1/4 pink circle in the upper right of the photo1988 Topps #759 Athletics LeadersUER double copyrights1988 Topps #767 Jose LindYellow, white, or blue “shadow” behind the Topps logo on the front or without any shadow at all1988 Topps #778 Keith Comstock“Padres” in white or blue1988 Topps #786 Joe PriceOrange team name should be yellow1988 Topps #792 John TudorThe second A in “Cardinals” is incomplete198 Topps #NNO Glossy All-Stars Offer InsertMay have “Cards not included”, black arrow, a black arrow with some “cards not included” showing, or nothing at allSpecial thanks to the YouTube channel HungryMan97 for compiling quite a comprehensive list of the 1988 Topps error cards.

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.

Shop for 1988 Topps Cloth cards on eBay.

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.

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Author: Thomas Baker