1988 Topps Baseball: Important, Rare and Interesting Errors & Variations

13 Dec

Not the most spectacular Topps set, not even a top contender for best Topps set of the 1980’s due to it’s drab design and lack of a strong rookie crop. But it is loaded with variations of all types. Many, many minor ones that have only recently been discovered, well-known errors as well as several early-corrected cards that have proven to be difficult to locate today. As with all unlisted variations, a market price cannot be established until we start seeing them for sale, so while I can’t pinpoint a dollar value for these cards, I can share what I know and how it backs their rarity.

Let’s take a look at some of the toughest 1988 Topps cards to pull:

1. #51 Baltimore Orioles Team Leaders featuring Cal Ripken Jr and Eddie Murray. The error on this toughie is the single-toned back. All the Team Leader cards have a 2-tone orange colored back. A handful of the O’s card received just a solid, darker orange color. At one point, these used to sell for $20-30 but I can’t say I’ve seen one offered for sale in at least 4 years now. Not a single one among my 50+ copies!

(sorry, it’s the best scan I got)

2. #381 California Angels Team Leaders featuring Wally Joyner. The first version of this card had a 1″ long vertical magenta slash down Joyner’s right arm. This glaring printing error was swiftly corrected as only a few copies have shown up for sale in the last 4-5 years. While in pursuit of our next card, I have probably torn through at least 500,000 (that may be conservative) 1988 Topps baseball cards and have only found one of the “red slash” errors! Subsequent printings of the card show varying degrees of Topps’ signature airbrushing or “whiteout” technique on Joyner’s sleeve.

(Sorry, no pic available for this next error)

3. #778 Keith Comstock with YELLOW NAME. Most collectors are already familiar with the Comstock error in this set that shows his team name (PADRES) in white lettering. But a third variety also exists and is one of the rarer Topps error cards out there: some versions of the corrected or “blue team” version can be found with Keith’s name printed in yellow, instead of white! This is one of those few variations that I have only seen/owned a single copy in all my years of hunting, and hunt I did. This is another junk era card that tops (heh) most variation collector’s want lists. Unfortunately, at the time of this post, I could not provide a picture. Keith’s name will be in yellow, instead of white on the 3rd and rarest variety.

4. #NNO Glossy All-Stars Offer Insert with Silver Arrow or ‘Cards Not Included’ on front. These are the cards that everyone tossed in the trash that were either at the back or the middle of the packs. They were advertisments for more Topps stuff. They offered some of the ugliest clothing at the time (that I would love to own today, of course) and served a second purpose as an entry form into the “Spring Fever” sweepstakes. Originally, this card was printed with the words “cards not included” next to Jack Clark’s image. This was a huge gaffe since it was an order form to buy a set of cards from Topps, the Glossy All-Star set specifically, so you’d think Topps would at least include the cards that you were purchasing! This was corrected very quickly. Topps first decided to place arrows over the erroneous statement in an attempt to literally cover up their mistake. These arrows come in various shapes and sizes but are most often found in black ink, sometimes with part of the statement peeking out at the far right. The rarest type of arrow is the one that’s printed in what looks like silverish ink, or better, it looks like that silver ink that they use for scratcher tickets, it doesn’t scan well, but it’s very apparent in person. I have personally seen just 2 of these in all my years of hunting them and since so many were trashed back then, they are very difficult to locate today. Even their black counterparts seemed to have dried up over the last few years in comparison to the very common version where Topps removed the statement and the arrow altogether from the card fronts. And for the completist, a blank-backed version can be found in some packs of Topps BIG cards that year, that is also missing the “sweepstakes” statement underneath Clark’s photo. In a later blog, I will dive deeper into the multitude of errors and variations that exist on Topps’ insert/offer/advertisement cards of the 80’s and 90’s.

Some other 1988 Topps variations to watch for:

#21 Bert Blyleven. Apparently Topps didn’t like seeing a player of Bert’s caliber sitting in such a shabby dugout, so it appears that they enlisted their trusty airbrushers to spackle the cracks in the wall (visible over Bert’s shoulder).

#348 Jim Eisenreich. The first version shows a large white scratch on his arm on front. Some correction attempts have the line filled-in with blue, red, green or a combination of those colors. At last count, there were 6 different versions of this card.

#405 Dwight Gooden All-Star. Did Topps run out of blue ink when filling in the words ‘All-Star’ on Doc’s card? The first version is missing the blue ink at the top of the R in STAR, the second has it filled-in with pale blue ink and the final, common type has it solid blue.

#493 Mike Greenwell. First printing shows the All-Star rookie trophy printed over the lettering in his name or touching his name. Later editions have his name spaced away from the trophy.

#767 Jose Lind. This card can be found with a yellow, white or blue “shadow” behind the Topps logo on front or without any shadow at all.

1988 Topps has far too many variations to list so the above is just a sampling. Odds are, there’re more to be discovered still. The first four listed above are pretty much the rarest of the batch with the Comstock Yellow name and ‘Cards not included’ offer card likely tied for the top spot. Anyone finds a copy, send in a scan!

36 Responses to “1988 Topps Baseball: Important, Rare and Interesting Errors & Variations”

  1. Brendan O December 13, 2009 at 5:45 pm #

    Great post! Keep ’em coming!

  2. mike February 10, 2010 at 6:11 pm #

    Sweepstakes card with arrow didnt get a starting bid. Fifteen minutes of fame is over for it.

  3. RichTree February 23, 2010 at 11:06 am #

    Awesome finds !!!

  4. Russ July 20, 2010 at 9:21 pm #

    I have a scan of the Joyner card if you need it.

    • JD April 6, 2011 at 3:54 pm #

      I have Dwight Gooden with missing blue on R

  5. Nickie April 21, 2011 at 9:40 pm #

    I have a very strange card…wondering if anyone knows anything about it!!!
    1988 Topps with Bill Kenney on te front and upside down on the back Eric something ( the name is cut off) and on the bottom of the card is Andre Tippett…its almost like part of 2 cards the back but a normal card on the front.

  6. Ken May 18, 2011 at 3:10 pm #

    I have found a Blyleven card with what appears to be a printing mistake above his right shoulder along the border. It looks like a scribble next to the border of the card, is had blue and red colors in it. It is not the cracks in the wall as in other cards. Does anyone know about this card?

  7. richtree September 14, 2011 at 11:37 am #

    I have an extra copy of the Angles team leaders w/ the slash on Wally’s sleeve.

    I would like to trade if anyone has interest — email me

  8. Bruce M September 19, 2011 at 9:11 am #

    I have a 1988 Leaf(Donruss) card.just opened today.
    Tony Fernandez Diamond King on the front,but the back of Al Leiter Rookie Rated on the back,weird eh!

  9. Kevin January 12, 2013 at 12:48 pm #

    Opened a box today, all 36 packs had the Glossy All Star offer with the silver ink arrow. Portions of the phrase “cards not included” are slightly visible on some cards.

    • Dylan January 12, 2013 at 12:59 pm #

      Congrats, great box break!

      Feel free to send my copy to:

      10722 3/4 Camarillo St Toluca Lake CA 91602 🙂

  10. Tim March 13, 2013 at 5:31 pm #

    I have the Eddie Murray # 495 with the blank FRONT. It is slabbed and graded 10. I have not been able to find and info on it.

  11. richtree November 2, 2013 at 4:14 pm #

    I have 2 of these and attached a scan below — I obviously want to sell one — please take a look if your interested.


  12. richtree November 2, 2013 at 4:17 pm #

  13. john July 9, 2016 at 10:39 am #

    I remember laughing @ the #4 cards not include back in the day. Then the different size arrows. Wasn’t the silver a box and not an arrow? I recall scratching the box to reveal cards not inincluded ….help with prices of these…cl

  14. Kelly Harris February 26, 2017 at 1:54 am #

    I have come across a 88 topps Tiffany Robin Ventura miscut I’m not sure what the value would be or if any, could anyone help please.

  15. Bryce viole June 2, 2017 at 9:42 pm #

    I have a 1988 card#381 California Angels team leaders card with Wally joined and he has the magenta stripe down his right sleeve. Wondering if you knew what it was worth??

    I also have a Jim eisenreich card #348 error car with the white slash on his right arm filled in with green ink. Also wondering the value on that??
    Thank you.

  16. Troy Manley July 22, 2018 at 9:45 am #

    I was going through my 1988 Topps baseball cards, and came across the Wally Joyner Angels leaders card. I can see parts of the magenta slash you had mentioned. It looks like it has been attempted to cover, but I can still see parts of it.

    • Dylan August 17, 2018 at 4:51 pm #

      There are a handful of variations to the coverup. I think a couple of them are tougher to find than the full slash version.

  17. Brady December 19, 2018 at 10:38 am #

    I have a 88 topps Roger Clemens that the back of the card was not printed. It is just blank cardboard. Anyone seen one like it? Will try to scan.

    • Dylan December 24, 2018 at 5:38 pm #

      Common wrong back card. Very plentiful but worth a few bucks to Clemens collectors.

  18. Thomas V Engfer March 3, 2020 at 8:04 pm #

    I didn’t see this Topps 1988 Error card listed. I have a card #658 Tim Conroy statistics on the back but the front of the card is #734 Graig Lefferts of the Giants with the blackness left foot printing error. I found this card in a sealed Topps 1988 complete 792 card set I purchased in December of 2019 in an antique store. This set has a lot of the error cards listed and ofcourse many of the popular star players. Just curious if this card is truly one of a kind. Thanks

    • Dylan March 9, 2020 at 1:56 pm #

      This is not listed because it is a fairly common print error, often obtained by dumpster diving outside of the printing facilities. While some like yours *may* have potentially been packed out by Topps, these are generally agreed to fit outside of the master set.

      • Rick H September 7, 2020 at 12:28 pm #

        I have The Topps card # 381 with the red stripe is it worth anything

      • Dylan February 24, 2021 at 8:43 am #

        Only $10-12K now, sorry.

  19. Elioreyes May 4, 2020 at 4:47 am #

    Somebody help me! I have a 1993- 94 fleer Ultra basketball Error card of Micheal Jordan with No Name on front. Card # 30. Jordan is jumping over Charles Barkley to score. There also is no fleer – Ultra logo stamp over the basketball. I have had it for over 30 years. When I see frank thomas no name on front going for big $. There are multiple one’s also. Mine is 1 of 1 till i see another. Please Advise! Elio

    • Dylan May 4, 2020 at 7:40 am #

      This is what is known as a foiling or print error. The card missed the step where they stamp the foil on. Very common from early 90s on through today. Not considered a true error card but plenty of collectors like them. And since everything Jordan is hot right now, it’s the time to list on eBay and let it run.

  20. Lester Turner August 22, 2020 at 9:40 am #

    I hope I just got LUCKY, 1988 TOPPS BOX OF CARDS FOUND , HAS ALL THE Error CARDS and exspeally. The card Jose where the trade mark is an A instead of an R also the Cubs. Card that’s worth 400 , ALL of record breakers , also the future STAR’S , Mark Mcquire, No Jackson,Ken Griffey , love to find the right buyer

    • Dylan August 22, 2020 at 10:59 am #

      Sounds amazing! What are you talking about?

  21. Charles F March 18, 2021 at 10:32 am #

    I’ve come across the Angel’s Leaders red dotting down the shoulder of Joyner. Was wondering if there is value in it. Thanks in advance.


    • Dylan March 27, 2021 at 7:54 pm #

      Nice find but this blog isn’t a price guide, sorry.

  22. Soleded April 25, 2021 at 10:00 pm #

    Great write up! Do you have any info on which version of the Al Leiter is rarer? — the Steve George pic or the corrected Leiter pic? Thanks!

    • Dylan June 7, 2021 at 6:36 pm #

      Neither. Both are very common.

  23. Richard John DelMonico November 1, 2021 at 7:56 am #

    Also the Al Leiter…awesome post man

  24. Johnny G December 23, 2021 at 3:55 pm #

    1988 tops glossy all stars card error. It’s cut off at the left side with a white right side. Looks like it was printed off center on both front and back.

    • Dylan January 26, 2022 at 10:08 am #

      Not an error or variation card, not something most collectors catalog, just a common miscut

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