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If there’s one physical characteristic that defines 1997 Topps baseball cards, it’s color.

Indeed, after a subdued 1996 design that brought to mind the simple and elegant 1957 Topps baseball cards, Topps fairly lit up the hobby with a bright field of transparent color around each player photo for their 1997 cards.

Whether collectors loved, hated, or were indifferent to the design is another question, but there’s no denying that this set features some historically signicant cards or that some of the pasteboards can bring decent prices today when they sell in top grade.

What follows, then, is a rundown of the most valuable 1997 Topps baseball cards by measure of recent selling prices for copies in PSA 10 condition. We’ll start with the lower-valued cards of this top tier and climb our way up from there to the absolute pinnacle.

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

1997 Topps Tony Gwynn (#410)

1997 Topps Tony Gwynn

Ho hum, another year older, another National League batting title for Tony Gwynn.

In 1996, at age 36, he hit .353.

In 1997, when this card was “live” and delighting collectors like all the other Gwynn cardboard that came before, Mr. Padre hit a silly .372 at age 37.

That would end up being his last of eight hitting crowns, but Gwynn would play at least parts of four more seasons, and he’d never hit below .321 in any of them.

Value: $20-30

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1997 Topps Ryne Sandberg (#167)

1997 Topps Ryne Sandberg

Sandberg retired abruptly after playing just 57 games during the 1994 season, putting a cap on what was a sort of borderline Hall of Fame career.

Then, after the ugly players’ strike that wiped out the end of the season and the World Series, and after a 1995 season snipped on the front end by the same strike, Sandberg shocked the baseball world again: he came back!

Not surprisingly, collectors flocked to stock up on his baseball cards, just as we had when he first broke out as an MVP in 1984.

Though he wasn’t at the top of his game after nearly two years away and heading into his late 30s, Ryno still had enough left to pop 25 home runs in 1996 and another 12 in 1997 before walking away again … this time for good.

This 1997 Topps card stands as a dramatic reminder of that feel-good retirement tour that all but guaranteed the Cubs legend his plaque in Cooperstown.

Value: $25-50

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1997 Topps Mariano Rivera (#256)

1997 Topps Mariano Rivera

The 1996 Yankees won a World Series thanks, at least in part, to a lockdown backend of their bullpen.

Closer John Wetteland rightly scooped up a large share of the glory courtesy of his 43 saves and 2.83 ERA, but he couldn’t have done his job without the workhorses around him: Jeff Nelson, Bob Wickman, and Mariano Rivera all put up more than 70 relief innings.

They were all vital to the team’s success, but it was Rivera who really shone and eventually made Wetteland expendable. With 130 strikeouts in 107 ⅔ innings out of the pen for those ‘96 champions, Rivera recorded a stingy 2.09 ERA and finished third in American League Cy Young voting.

Of course, it was just the beginning for the future Hall of Famer, who most regard as the greatest relief pitcher of all time.

It took awhile for collectors to warm up to Mo’s baseball cards – as it does with all relievers – but he’s nothing less than hobby royalty these days.

His 1997 Topps card stands as a cardboard time capsule, capturing Rivera just as he prepared to ascend to the fireman throne.

Value: $40-50

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1997 Topps Cal Ripken Jr (#400)

1997 Topps Cal Ripken Jr

After sailing past Lou Gehrig in 1995 to become the record holder with 2131 consecutive games played, Cal Ripken followed up by … well, by continuing to play every game for the Baltimore Orioles.

He even stepped things up a bit in 1996, nudging his offensive production back above league average (by measure of OPS+) after slipping below in 1995. He also surpassed 20 home runs (26) and 100 RBI (102) for the last time in his storied career.

Heck, Ripken even thumbed his nose at those who insisted he needed some time off by playing in 163 games instead of the standard 162.

The next spring, Topps gave collectors one last shot of Cal at shortstop before he moved to third base beginning that season (1997).

Value: $40-55

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1997 Topps Chipper Jones (#276)

1997 Topps Chipper Jones

After narrowly losing out on the 1995 National League Rookie of the Year Award to Hideo Nomo and helping the Braves win a World Series, Chipper Jones clicked his game up another notch in 1996.

Batting .309, Larry connected on 30 home runs, drove in 110 runs, scored 114 times, and even stole 14 bases while being caught just once. It all added up to his first All-Star appearance and his first MVP votes (he’d finish fourth).

And, of course, to even greater interest in Jones’ baseball cards, making his 1997 Topps issue a favorite pull.

Value: $50-45

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1997 Topps Barry Bonds (#1)

1997 Topps Barry Bonds

Ten years after Barry Bonds debuted with the Pittsburgh Pirates, he was busy doing really bad things to baseballs in the San Francisco Bay.

That summer – 1996 – Bonds hit .308 with 42 home runs and 129 RBI while also scoring 122 times himself. Oh yeah – he stole 40 bases, too, joining Jose Canseco in the 40-40 club.

Bonds would surely have put up even gaudier numbers if not for one obscene number – 151.

That’s how many times he walked, though of course that total would look relatively pedestrian by the standards Bonds himself put forth just a few short seasons later.

For his efforts, Bonds somehow ended up fifth in voting for the 1996 National League Most Valuable Player Award, but he at least finished first among 1997 Topps baseball cards the next spring.

Value: $50-60

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1997 Topps Derek Jeter (#13)

1997 Topps Derek Jeter

Three years after his rookie cards hit the hobby, Derek Jeter finally recorded his official rookie season in 1996.

And what a first go-round it was!

With a .314 batting average, 10 home runs, and 78 RBI, the Yankees’ new shortstop lit a fire under those 1993 RCs en route to winning American League Rookie of the Year honors.

Of course, before he picked up his new hardware, Jeter and the Yanks won the World Series, the Bombers first since 1978.

Jeter never looked back on his way to Cooperstown, and neither did his baseball cards.

Value: $60-70

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1997 Topps Ken Griffey Jr (#300)

1997 Topps Ken Griffey Jr

Had Griffey stayed on the field just a bit more in 1996, chances are pretty good he would have recorded his first 50-homer season. After all, he ended up with 49 dingers and 140 RBI in just 140 games played.

That all served to ramp up Junior’s already prodigious hobby profile to even loftier heights.

Then, while collectors were pulling this 1997 Topps card featuring the classic Griffey bat drop at the end of his swing, the Mariners’ legend put it all together – .304 batting average, 56 home runs, 147 RBI, 125 runs scored.

It all led to Junior’s only American League MVP award, making this card a snapshot of baseball history.

Value: $70-95

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1997 Topps Rickey Henderson (#96)

1997 Topps Rickey Henderson

When his 78th tour of Oakland concluded following the 1995 season, Rickey headed to the National League to ply his trade for the San Diego Padres in 1996.

During that first foray into Senior Circuit waters, Rickey did what Rickey always did: got on base (.410 OBP), stole bases (37), and scored runs (110).

By then, of course, Henderson was a hobby superstar, and it was always a good day when you pulled a Rickey card. This one, in particular, treated us to a rare sight – the all-time spark plug working to get on base with the Wrigley Field bricks in the background.

Value: $100-135

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1997 Topps Vladimir Guerrero (#433)

1997 Topps Vladimir Guerrero

Guerrero debuted with the Expos late in 1996 to plenty of fanfare, courtesy of a promising minor league run during which he showcased a strong outfield arm, good speed, and burgeoning power.

He hit just .185 in nine games that September, but it was enough to get him his first solo Topps card in 1997 after debuting in 1995 Bowman and showing up with Andruw Jones on a four-player 1996 rookie card.

Collectors were plenty happy to pull this Vlad card, even as the young slugger drew criticism for his free-swinging ways. He connected often enough, after all, to smack 11 home runs in 90 games, which landed him sixth in National League Rookie of the Year voting that fall.

Finishing ahead of him?

Scott Rolen, Livan Hernandez, Matt Morris, Rich Loiselle, and the aforementioned Jones.

Vlad got the first-last laugh, as he’s the only one of the sextet to have been elected to the Hall of Fame through 2022 (with Rolen and Jones up for election again in 2023).

Value: $100-150

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1997 Topps Baseball - Pick A Card

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1997 Topps Baseball Card Checklist #495

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