By the time 1998 Topps baseball cards made their way into collectors’ hands, they had already created plenty of buzz around the hobby.

Part of that was simply because they were the Topps set for a brand new season, of course — The Real One has always carried a big stick with collectors.

And part of it was the advance press around Topps’ extensive tribute to Roberto Clemente 25 years after his death.

But there was also the little matter of bringing together the Big Three of the new-guard shortstops in one set for the first time. Derek Jeter had been a Topps staple for a few years by that point, but Nomar Garciaparra was coming off a Rookie-of-the-Year performance, and Alex Rodriguez had been conspicuously abent from Topps issues throughout his five-year cardboard run to that point.

Thanks, Scott Boras!

But they were all together in 1998 Topps, and collectors took notice.

Today, for all their warts, those three gents still command plenty of hobby attention. And 1998 Topps baseball cards, with their gold-brown borders, present some condition challenges not normally encountered with issues from that era.

Add it all together, and you’re likely to find some fairly hefty prices.

What follows, then, is a rundown of the most valuable 1998 Topps baseball cards, with a focus on the base issue (and not the copious inserts and chase cards). Values and rankings are based on recent sales for PSA 10 copies, beginning with the least expensive of this top tier and working our way up from their.

(Note: The following sections contain affiliate links to eBay and Amazon listings for the cards being discussed.)

1998 Topps Paul Molitor (#291)

1998 Topps Paul Molitor

Paul Molitor found the fountain of youth in the form of becoming a dedicated designated hitter later in his career, and he took that show home to the Minnesota Twins in 1996.

That season, at age 39, Molitor hit .341 and paced the American League with 225 hits, which included the 3000th of his career on September 16, 1996.

He slipped a bit at age 40 in 1997, with his average dropping all the way to .305, but he was still an above-average producer at the plate. And, of course, his cards were still picking up steam as a Hall of Fame plaque became a certainty.

This card showing Molitor slashing his way out of the batter’s box greeted collectors throughout the next season, which turned out to be his last as a player. Though his production slipped even further that summer (1998), The Ignitor still banged out another 141 hits, bringing his lifetime total to 3319 and cementing his Cooperstown cred.

Value: $25-35

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1998 Topps Roberto Clemente (#21)

1998 Topps Roberto Clemente

A quarter century after his death, Topps went into full-on Roberto Clemente tribute mode, peppering their packs with at least five insert sets related to the Pittsburgh Pirates great.

Among those were reprints of Clemente’s base Topps cards from his career, Finest versions of those reprints, Refractor versions of those Finest cards, a dedicated Tribute set, and a Memorabilia Madness run that amounted to a fairly complicated exchange program.

More basic than all of those, though, and more germain to our discussion here, was this Clemente card that Topps slotted at #21 (his uniform number) in their base set.

It was popular and accessible right out of the pack, and it remains a collector favorite all these years later.

Value: $25-45

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1998 Topps Jeff Bagwell (#35)

1998 Topps Jeff Bagwell

Bagwell topped 40 home runs for the first time in his career in 1997, joining the majors’ burgeoning power brigade. He also drove in 135 runs, smacked 40 doubles, and stole 31 bases to help the Astros win the old National League Central.

That was good for a third-place finish in N.L. MVP voting and helped further solidify Bagwell’s standing as one of the game’s upper-echelon superstars.

It also helped Baggy’s cards continue a strong hobby trajectory and made his 1998 Topps a popular pull right out of the pack.

Today, with a Cooperstown plaque under his belt, Bagwell and his cards maintain a strong grip on collectors across the land.

Value: $40-45

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1998 Topps Alex Rodriguez (#504)

1998 Topps Alex Rodriguez

Rodriguez took a big step backwards offensively in 1997 after his breakout 1996, falling from .358/36 HR/123 RBI/54 doubles to .300/23/84/40 in his second full season.

Collectors cooled just a bit on his cards after that downturn, generally slotting A-Rod cards behind those of his teammate, Ken Griffey, Jr.

Still, Rodriguez was entering his age-22 season as 1998 dawned, and he already had two amazing (by mortal standards) campaigns under his belt, so this 1998 Topps card, featuring a classic fielding shot, drew its fair share of attention.

Of course, within a few seasons, A-Rod was winning MVP awards and marching straight toward Cooperstown and the record books … until PED scandal(s) derailed him.

Today, Rodriguez is in the public eye as much as ever, working to rehabilitate his image as an MLB analyst while his Hall of Fame candidacy plays out. He may yet get the call to the Hall, but even if he doesn’t, A-Rod has enough fans to keep his cards near the top of lists like this one.

This card carries extra weight, too, because it was the *first* Topps card of the young superstar.

Value: $35-50

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1998 Topps Nomar Garciaparra (#335)

1998 Topps Nomar Garciaparra

With Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter establishing themselves as stars in 1996, baseball needed just one more young shortstop to step forward so they could trumpet the coming of a middle-infield triumvirate for the ages.

Nomar Garciaparra was more than up to the task, stepping into the Boston Red Sox’ starting lineup and putting up an incredible .306/30 HR/98 RBI in 1997 line to cop American League Rookie of the Year honors.

Needless to say, he became an immediate hobby hit, and much of that glow remains today, even though the Nomar Hall of Fame plaque we all envisioned for years won’t come to pass.

Value: $40-50

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1998 Topps Vladimir Guerrero (#5)

1998 Topps Vladimir Guerrero

If you ever thought of your favorite baseball players as larger-than-life cartoon heroes of the diamond, then this Vladimir Guerrero baseball card probably plucks a few heartstrings.

Here we have the Expos young phenom lying in the outfield grass, grinning at the camera, perfect blue sky and Hundred Acre Woods as a backdrop, all tied together by that impossibly huge and cartoonish leather glove.

It’s an amazing shot of a guy on the verge of a breakout that would include a .325/38 HR/109 RBI/108 run line in 1998, establishing him as a superstar, a hobby favorite, and an early-stage traveler on the road to Cooperstown.

Value: $50-65

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1998 Topps Derek Jeter (#160)

1998 Topps Derek Jeter

Jeter followed up his 1996 Rookie of the Year season with a strikingly similar offensive campaign in 1997 (101 OPS+ in the former, 103 in the latter) while upping his defensive play at shortstop.

That garnered him his first MVP votes (he’d finish 24th) and also helped the Yankees to their third straight playoff appearance (though they lost their American League Division Series to the Indians).

Then, of course, while this action-packed Jeter card was delighting collectors, the 1998 Yankees were ramping up a whole new level of success – 114-48 record en route to their second World Series title in three seasons.

Jeter hit .324 and scored an American League-high 127 runs, finishing third in MVP voting and cementing his status as a hobby favorite.

Value: $60-90

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1998 Topps Ken Griffey Jr (#321)

1998 Topps Ken Griffey Jr

In 1997, Griffey finally broke out the big power stick that many had predicted he’d develop since he was a teenage phenom with the Mariners. Indeed, he led the American League 56 home runs and the majors with 147 RBI.

Junior also led the Junior Circuit with 125 runs and 393 total bases, leading Seattle to their first division title and picking up his first (and only) MVP award in the process.

So, yeah, this dramatic 1998 Topps Griffey card was a big pull the next spring, and now, just like every other Junior card.

Value: $70-80

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1998 Topps Cal Ripken Jr (#320)

1998 Topps Cal Ripken Jr

For more than three full seasons after Cal Ripken passed Lou Gehrig as baseball’s all-time ironman, the Orioles’ shortstop/third baseman just kept trotting out there to the infield.

That carried him all the way through the 1997 season and deep, deep into 1998.

Then, just when we thought Ripken would just chug along forever, when this card had become old hat and we were ready for the next iteration of Cal’s gray hair progression, he did the unthinkable – he pulled himself from the O’s lineup on September 20, 1998.

Suddenly, this card became a piece of hobby – and baseball – history, marking the year Ripken put a final number to diamond durability: 2632 consecutive games played.

That mystique and a low population of PSA 10s carries over to the market today, as evidenced by Ripken’s lofty position here among 1998 Topps baseball cards.

Value: $80-90

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1998 Topps Chipper Jones (#305)

1998 Topps Chipper Jones

After cranking up his second-year home run total to an even 30 in 1996, Jones dropped back down to 21 in 1997 even as the rest of the majors geared up for an unprecedented homer barrage.

Didn’t matter much to the Braves, though, as their young third baseman chipped (!) in 41 doubles, 111 RBI, 100 runs scored, and 20 stolen bases and as Atlanta won yet another National League East division title.

Collectors were pretty fine with Chipper, too, and his cards kept climbing the value chart, and his 1998 Topps featured a powerful swing that maybe portended the homer ramp he’d travel over the next four seasons (34, 45, 36, 38 dingers).

Today, Jones stands at the top of this set valuewise for PSA 10 copies due to a combination of his star power and a low population at the pinnacle of grading.

Value: $150-200

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Do your favorites appear among this list of the most valuable 1998 Topps baseball cards? If not, which ones are missing? I’d love to hear your picks!

And, hey, if you like 1998 Topps baseball cards, you might also enjoy our article about the most valuable 1999 Topps baseball cards — you’ll find plenty of design similarities between the two sets, no doubt.