If you eagerly awaited the arrival of 1988 Fleer baseball cards, chances are you were disappointed.

There were a few reasons for that …

After an initial perceived shortage, it became clear 1988 Fleer was part of the burgeoning Junk Wax Era — these cards were pretty much everywhere.

The 1988 rookie card class was pretty weak, especially compared to the stellar 1987s.

The cards looked like Little Debbie Snack Cakes.

So, not all that inspiring.

Even so, as we sit here three-plus decades later, these cards are old and a few of them still hold a decent amount of collector appeal. (There was even a “glossy” version of this set that was much more limited but still pretty plentiful by today’s standards. Generally speaking, you might see a slight premium for the glossies, but it’s not all that dramatic.)

With that in mind, here are the most valuable 1988 Fleer baseball cards, using eBay sales for PSA 10 copies as our guide (note that raw copies of all these cards can generally be found for much MUCH less).

Let’s dig in …

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25) 1988 Fleer Matt Williams Rookie Card (#101)

1988 Fleer Matt Williams Rookie Card

There was a time when Matt Williams was just about the most feared slugger in the game and the odds-on favorite to lead the charge toward Roger Maris‘ single-season home run mark of 61.

Way back in 1994, Williams sat at 43 home runs through 112 games with the San Francisco Giants, and the press and hobby were gearing up for what promised to be a historic run.

Then diamond tragedy struck — The Strike.

Not only did the The Strike wipe out the rest of 1994 (including the playoffs and World Series) and the beginning of 1995, it stopped Williams’ march in its tracks.

He was a prime-time 28 years old in 1994 and never found quite the same power stroke after the game came back online in ’95.

Even so, Williams played until 2003 and amassed 378 home runs over his 17 year career.

That power and his subsequent stint as Washington Nationals manager in 2014-2015 have kept Williams from fading completely into obscurity.

Value: $15-20

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24) 1988 Fleer Mike Schmidt (#315)

1988 Fleer Mike Schmidt

After Schmidt won his third National League MVP award in 1986, he mustered a final power surge in 1987, smashing 35 home runs to join the vaunted 500-homer club.

A rotator cuff injury sapped his power in 1988, though, and he retired early in 1989 when he couldn’t get back on track, but his legend was sealed by then.

Today, all of Schmidt’s cards remain among the most popular 1970s and 1980s cardboard, and his dramatic 1988 Fleer is no exception.

Value: $15-25

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23) 1988 Fleer Reggie Jackson (#283)

1988 Fleer Reggie Jackson

After a storied career that produced more than 500 home runs and five World Series rings, Reggie Jackson returned “home” to the Oakland A’s for one last go-round in 1987.

But, even though Reggie was one of the most beloved (or at least talked-about) players of his generation, only Fleer produced a career-capper card for Mr. October in 1988.

Value: $15-25

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22) 1988 Fleer Dale Murphy (#544)

1988 Fleer Dale Murphy

After four straight seasons of hitting 36-plus home runs each summer, Dale Murphy dipped to “just” 29 in 1986 while also watching his batting average dip to .265.

Reports of his diamond demise were greatly exaggerated, though, as the Braves legend roared back to hit .295 with 44 dingers and drive in 105 runs in 1987. He also scored 115 times himself and even swiped 16 bases, his most since 1984.

It would be Murph’s last true superstar-level season, but it was enough to boost his cards yet again and further cement his status as a future Hall of Famer (though some of that surefire case crumbled away in subsequent years).

Value: $15-25

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21) 1988 Fleer Greg Maddux (#423)

1988 Fleer Greg Maddux

Greg Maddux made his Major League debut for the Chicago Cubs in 1986 but failed to win more than a third of his decisions or score an ERA below 5.50 in his first two go-rounds with the Wrigley denizens.

That all changed in 1988 when the 22-year-old put together an 18-8 record with a 3.18 ERA and garnered his first All-Star appearance. That performance was enough for collectors to start taking notice of Maddux’s 1987 rookie cards, especially his Donruss Rated Rookie.

Another few mostly successful seasons in Chicago had us thinking he was a solid rotation piece until Maddux reeled off a 20-11, 2.18 line in 1992 to cop his first National League Cy Young Award.

Fast forward a quarter century, and we can look back to see Maddux’s scorched earth — a free agent deal with the Atlanta Braves after that CYA campaign led to three more CYs in a row and a 23-year career that ended with an amazing 355-227 record, 3.16 ERA, and first-ballot election to Cooperstown in 2014.

Along the way, of course, Maddux also became a collector favorite, and his 1988 Fleer second-year card is no exception.

Value: $20-25

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20) 1988 Fleer Roger Clemens (#347)

1988 Fleer Roger Clemens

Clemens won his second consecutive American League Cy Young Award in 1987, proving that his amazing 1986 was no fluke and guaranteeing that his 1988 cards would be among the most popular in the hobby.

And, by the time Clemens hung up his spikes with seven Cy Youngs and more than 350 career victories, he was bona fide hobby royalty.

Of course, the passing years and PED stain have greatly diminished Rocket’s legacy, but there are still plenty of collectors who chase his cardboard even today.

Value: $20-30

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19) 1988 Fleer Gregg Jefferies Rookie Card (#137)

1988 Fleer Gregg Jefferies Rookie Card

While we all knew the 1988 cards would have trouble living up to the rookie-card swagger of 1987, we held out one hope for greatness: Gregg Jefferies.

All indications were that Jefferies was going to be a superstar who could hit for average, run well, and eventually develop Big League power.

And … well, he played for the New York Mets.

All that hype and the big spotlight sent Jefferies’ rookie cards soaring before the 20-year-old could ever get his feet under him. By the time he actually stuck in the Big Leagues, in 1989, we were already sort of disappointed that he hadn’t become Mickey Mantle.

The truth is, though, that Jefferies put together a star-level 14-year career that included two All-Star appearances for the St. Louis Cardinals, nearly 1600 hits, 126 home runs, and a solid .289 lifetime batting average.

I suspect it’s the memories of the hype, though, and the hobby’s “good old days” that keep his 1988 Fleer rookie card perking along today.

Value: $25-35

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18) 1988 Fleer Mark McGwire (#286)

1988 Fleer Mark McGwire

Mark McGwire obliterated the rookie home run record in 1987, crushing 49 long balls to far outdistance the 38 hit decades before by Frank Robinson and Wally Berger.

And, even though Aaron Judge and Pete Alonso have since passed Big Mac’s mark, neither one of them quite captured the magic that McGwire conjured up during that long-ago summer.

Suffice it to say, then, that McGwire’s cards were royalty when wax packs started hitting shelves in 1988, and they still maintain some hobby swagger all these years later, even after his run at Roger Maris’ record and the steroid scandal that followed.

Value: $25-35

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17) 1988 Fleer Mark McGwire Record Setter (#629)

1988 Fleer Mark McGwire Record Setter

McGwire surpassed the previous rookie record for home runs in August of 1987, leaving him more than a month to add to the total.

And boy, did he ever! By the end of the season, McGwire stood atop the Major League leaderboard with 49 long balls, 11 more than first-year mark that Wally Berger and Frank Robinson had shared for decades.

No way were card companies going to miss the opportunity to squeeze another Big Mac card into their 1988 sets, and no way were collectors going to pass on this record breaker, which still has plenty of fans even after all these years and all the scandal.

Value: $25-35

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16) 1988 Fleer Tony Gwynn (#585)

1988 Fleer Tony Gwynn

If anyone thought Tony Gwynn was “merely” a .320 hitter after a couple of seasons at that level, he more than set the record straight with his second National League batting title in 1987 … a .370 batting average is hard to ignore.

No surprise, then, that Gwynn’s cards were hot commodities once again in the spring of 1988 and pretty much remained that way as Mr. Padre marched toward 3000 hits and six more batting crowns.

Value: $25-35

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15) 1988 Fleer Wade Boggs (#345)

1988 Fleer Wade Boggs

After winning three batting titles in the four seasons leading up to 1987, Wade Boggs did it again – he won another crown in ‘87.

But he ALSO smacked 24 long balls in that summer of the home run.

So the question entering 1988 was, would Boggs continue his assault on Babe Ruth in the coming seasons?

And the answer came on quickly, in the form of five dingers in 1988. Boggs did do a pretty good Ty Cobb impression, though, hitting .366 to win his fifth and final batting title and cement his place in the hobby firmament.

Value: $25-35

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14) 1988 Fleer Mark Grace Rookie Card (#641)

1988 Fleer Mark Grace Rookie Card

Aside from Greg Jefferies, Mark Grace was about the best that 1988 Fleer had to offer us in terms of rookies in the moment.

Three decades on, Grace has been surpassed by a few others from this set — Glavine and Martinez, for example — but the fact remains that he turned in a stellar career: 2400+ hits, more than 500 doubles, a lifetime .303 batting average.

Had Grace been able to tack on another 100 home runs or so to his total of 173, he might have been a Hall of Fame lock.

As it is, Grace is popular with fans of the Chicago Cubs and Arizona Diamondbacks, and his best cards still enjoy nice collector interest in pockets.

This 1988 Fleer Major League Prospects card — which Grace shares with Darrin Jackson — has enjoyed the 2020s boom right along with most other cards.

Value: $30-35

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13) 1988 Fleer Cal Ripken Jr. (#570)

1988 Fleer Cal Ripken Jr.

The Baltimore Orioles were an all-time terrible team in 1988, eventually finishing with a 54-107 record.

Even great players like Cal Ripken, Jr., struggled that summer, with the Iron Man hitting just .264 with 23 home runs and 81 RBI.

But Cal was already a legend by that point, having copped the 1982 AL Rookie of the Year Award and the 1983 AL MVP while also building some buzz around his still-youthful streak.

These days, the Hall of Famer’s cards aren’t “hot,” exactly, but they’re always popular and collectible.

Value: $30-40

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12) 1988 Fleer Gary Carter and Mike Schmidt (#636)

1988 Fleer Gary Carter and Mike Schmidt

What do Mike Schmidt and Gary Carter have in common that would warrant their appearing on this 1988 Fleer card together?

Well, they were both the best at their positions during the 1980s (roughly).

And they were both, um, “tried & true sluggers.”

Really, though, we should just revel in the glory of this card and forget trying to impose any rhyme or reason.

Value: $30-40

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11) 1988 Fleer Rickey Henderson (#209)

1988 Fleer Rickey Henderson

After rounding out his game with a serious power stroke and big batting averages during his first few seasons with the Yankees, Rickey Henderson sort of went back to his baseball roots in 1988.

To wit, Rickey swiped 93 bases that summer, the first time he stole more than 90 since the 108 he posed for the A’s in 1983.

Fitting, then, that Henderson’s 1988 Fleer card shows him slinking toward yet another bit of larceny on the basepaths.

Value: $30-40

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10) 1988 Fleer Barry Bonds (#322)

1988 Fleer Barry Bonds

In 1988, Barry Bonds was still just a budding superstar with a world of potential — great speed, good batting eye, developing power, supreme family pedigree.

But collectors honestly weren’t all that excited by the complete package that Bonds offered up because the Pittsburgh Pirates weren’t winning anything, Bonds wasn’t hitting monster (or a lot of) home runs, and there were other players who were clubbing homers left and right.

It was hard to keep up with Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco, and the likes back then, and even Bonds’ teammate Bobby Bonilla was more highly regarded in some circles (see New York Mets, circa 1992).

Uh, yeah.

Love him or hate him, it’s hard to deny that Bonds developed into one of the absolute greatest players that game has ever seen.

Value: $25-50

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9) 1988 Fleer Nolan Ryan (#455)

1988 Fleer Nolan Ryan

In 1987, Nolan Ryan put together a rather remarkable pitching line — his 2.76 ERA and 270 strikeouts in just shy of 212 innings left him with an 8-16 record.

That, at 40 years of age and pitching for a Houston Astros team that had romped to a division title in 1986. Wow!

For his efforts, Ryan finished fifth in the NL Cy Young vote and then walked in free agency after the 1988 season … all the way to the Texas Rangers.

In Arlington, of course, Ryan cemented his legend and became something of a superhuman figure in the game, one whose cards always rise to the top of whatever issue they appear in.

In the case of his 1988 Fleer card, that amounts to enough to make this list.

Value: $35-40

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8) 1988 Fleer Tom Glavine Rookie Card (#539)

1988 Fleer Tom Glavine Rookie Card

While Maddux was finding his place in the Friendly Confines, Tom Glavine was taking his lumps with the awful Atlanta Braves teams of the late 1990s.

By the time Maddux joined him in 1993, Glavine was a two-time 20-game winner (with a third on the runway) and the 1991 Cy Young recipient.

Together with John Smoltz, Glavine and Maddux would form the backbone of an Atlanta pitching staff that would rack up division title after division title all through the 1990s.

Glavine’s 1988 Fleer rookie card is an understandably popular hunk of cardboard, even if it’s a the Hall of Fame cupcake issue.

Value: $30-45

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7) 1988 Fleer Kirby Puckett (#19)

1988 Fleer Kirby Puckett

By 1988, Kirby Puckett was well on his way to the Hall of Fame, having garnered two All-Star appearances, plenty of MVP votes, and Rookie of the Year consideration during his four-year career.

He was always a threat to win the batting title, won a Gold Glove in center field in 1986 and 1987, and had started to show some power, too.

Oh, and then there was that 1987 World Series he helped his Minnesota Twins win.

Yep, Kirby was a fan and collector favorite whose star hardly seemed to dim at all when his career was curtailed by health problems or even when domestic issues came to light after his untimely death in 2006.

Even in this mass-produced set, Kirby stands out, with PSA 10 copies of his 1988 Fleer hammering down for hefty sums.

Value: $30-50

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6) 1988 Fleer Edgar Martinez Rookie Card (#378)

1988 Fleer Edgar Martinez Rookie Card

Edgar Martinez got a late start on his Big League life — he didn’t debut for the Seattle Mariners until 1987, when he was nearly 25 years old, and he didn’t log his first full season in the Majors until 1990, when he was 27.

From that point on, Edgar spent more than a decade as one of the best hitters in the game, garnering two batting titles, two doubles titles, and one RBI crown.

In all, his 18 years in the Bigs yielded 2247 hits, 309 home runs, and a .312 batting average.

But … among the 2000+ games he played with Seattle, more than 1400 of them were logged as a designated hitter.

Will Martinez become the first — or second, if you count Frank Thomas — career DH to make the Cooperstown cut?

After being named on 70.4% of ballots in 2018, Martinez pushed through to Hall of Fame election in 2019.

And, as always, he’s a Seattle legend and hobby favorite whose 1988 Fleer rookie card continues to draw plenty of collector interest.

Value: $35-45

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5) 1988 Fleer Don Mattingly (#214)

1988 Fleer Don Mattingly

When this card was issued, Mattingly was coming off his fourth straight MVP-caliber season, but what we didn’t know then was that it would be his last truly standout campaign.

A bad back sapped his power in 1988, ,knocking nearly 100 points off his slugging percentage, and, though he rebounded slightly in 1989, the slippage marked the beginning of a downward spiral that would lead to Mattingly’s early retirement at age 34 in 1995.

Still, the magnitude of his impact on the hobby cannot be overstated, and a hefty dose of that afterglow remains even decades later.

Value: $45-`

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4) 1988 Fleer George Brett (#254)

1988 Fleer George Brett

After leading the Royals to their first World Series championship in 1985 on the back of an MVP-caliber season, Brett settled in as “merely” an uppercrust All-Star in 1986 and 1987.

Brett bumped his game up again in 1988, though, treating fans and collectors to a Silver Slugger season to accompany his sort of suspicious-looking Fleer base card.

Value: $35-40

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3) 1988 Fleer Ryne Sandberg (#431)

1988 Fleer Ryne Sandberg

Sandberg entered a bit of an offensive lull during the middle 1980s after winning the National League MVP award in 1984, but he remained a Gold Glove second baseman and more than capable with the bat … even if no longer Morganesque.

When Ryno turned on the power starting in 1989, though, all of his cards jumped forward again, including this nifty fielding shot.

Value: $35-40

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2) 1988 Fleer Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire (#624)

1988 Fleer Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire

After Canseco smashed 33 home runs to light up the baseball world in 1986, McGwire upstaged him with 49 of his own the next summer.

But, while there may have been a budding rivalry between the teammates, the real excitement was about to erupt on the field, as the Bash Brothers would lead the A’s to a string of World Series appearances over the next three seasons.

And, though the actual “bash” didn’t come about until the new season began, Fleer got the jump on everyone else by featuring the Bros on this dandy Super Star Special.

Value: $40-45

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1) 1988 Fleer Bo Jackson (#260)

1988 Fleer Bo Jackson

By the spring of 1988, Bo Jackson had long since captured collectors’ imaginations, thanks to his prowess on the football field and his growing adeptness on the diamond.

And, after smacking 22 home runs in 1987, Bo served notice that even better days lay ahead – he delivered on that promise with 25 dingers in 1988 and 32 in 1989, when he made it to his only All-Star Game.

Today, Bo Jackson cards are as popular as ever as the hobby continues to ponder what might have been had a hip injury suffered on the gridiron not (ultimately) ended his run in both sports.

Value: $40-45

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1988 Fleer Update

By 1988, Fleer Update had become an annual part of the hobby landscape, joining Topps Traded and, later Donruss The Rookies, as fodder to feed our collective rookie card craze.

This particular version featured a few standout cards right off the bat, and some that took awhile to warm up.

Here are the cream of the crop more than three decades later.

5) 1988 Fleer Update John Smoltz Rookie Card (#U-74)

1988 Fleer Update John Smoltz Rookie Card

Back in 1988 when this card was issued, Smoltz was sort of a sore spot for some Braves fans – after all, he had cost Atlanta Doyle Alexander, who went on to help the Tigers win a division title in 1987.

The good news was that Smoltz had made his big league debut by the time the Fleer Update set was issued.

The bad news was that he went 2-7 with a 5.48 ERA in Atlanta.

The perception began to turn around the next summer, though, when Smoltz made his first All-Star cut on the way to a Cy Young Award (1996), a World Series ring, and a Hall of Fame plaque.

Value: $75-125

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4) 1988 Fleer Update Craig Biggio Rookie Card (#U-89)

1988 Fleer Update Craig Biggio Rookie Card

Fleer was late to the Biggio show, as Donruss and Score had already scooped them on the Astros’ young catcher.

But at least they squeezed in a Bidge rookie card before the backstop broke out his first Silver Slugger performance in 1989 on his way to Cooperstown.

Value: $30-50

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3) 1988 Fleer Update Mark Grace Rookie Card (#U-77)

1988 Fleer Update Mark Grace Rookie Card

At 24, Grace was sort of old for a “prospect” in 1988, but he stepped into the Cubs lineup like a veteran, batting .295 and finishing second in voting for the National League Rookie of the Year award.

He bumped that average over .300 in 1989 as the Cubs won their second-ever division title, and he pretty much stayed there for the rest of a 16-year career that produced more than 2400 hits and a devoted swath of collectors who still chase his cards.

Value: $30-40

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2) 1988 Fleer Update Roberto Alomar Rookie Card (#U-122)

1988 Fleer Update Roberto Alomar Rookie Card

In some circles, Roberto Alomar suffered in comparisons with his brother, Sandy, whom many pundits pegged as a future Rookie-of-the-Year, MVP-type of player.

And, while Sandy did eventually cop ROY honors with the Indians, it was the younger Robbie who made his mark in the majors first, and who eventually made it all the way to Cooperstown.

Little wonder, then, that Alomar’s rookie cards (Roberto’s, that is) are among the most popular of all 1988s.

Value: $25-30

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1) 1988 Fleer Update Chris Sabo Rookie Card (#U-87)

1988 Fleer Update Chris Sabo Rookie Card

At age 26, Chris Sabo was a longshot – to say the least – to even make the Cincinnati Reds roster in 1988.

But thanks to his hustle and pluck, Sabo made a fan of manager Pete Rose and then took advantage of every opportunity he could find, scratching out a .271 batting average, 11 home runs, 44 RBI, 74 runs scored, and an impressive 46 stolen bases.

Along the way, Spuds gained legions of fans and copped 1988 NL ROY honors, helping his 1988 Fleer Update RC debut as one of the hottest cards of the fall.

Value: $25-30

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