Cheap Wax Wednesday Box Breaks: 1998 SP Top Prospects Baseball


Upper Deck debuted SP Top Prospects in 1995. It wouldn’t surprise me if at least part of the decision was to take advantage of Michael Jordan’s 1994 season playing minor league baseball for the Birmingham Barons. MJ was featured in the promo set advertising the product. When the set came out Jordan wasn’t in the base set, he does have his own four-card insert set. He also signed autographs for the product.

After 1995, however, SP Top Prospects disappeared. The product made a return in 1998 and had a four-year run, retiring for good after the 2001 release.

1998 SP Top Prospects was considered a super premium set by Upper Deck. The price on release day? Over $4 per pack.

The base set looks very similar to the box cover and features foil accents. The top of the base cards are black, causing them to be very condition sensitive. The first ten cards in the 126-card base set highlight the best youngsters at the time in a subset titled Top 10 Prospects. Each player also has a regular base card.

In addition to the base set the product also features two insert sets, Small Town Heroes and Destination: The Show. There’s also a 27-card autograph set. Though there were many notable names in the autograph set, the highlight would have be sure-fire Hall of Famer Adrian Beltre.

Each card, base and insert, has an extremely tough to pull President’s Edition parallel card, limited to just ten copies.

Fun Facts are provided by Bleacher Report National MLB Columnist Joel Reuter. You can follow Joel on Twitter (@JoelReuterBR) and check out his work at Bleacher Report.

1998 Upper Deck SP Top Prospects Baseball Box Break

Cards per pack: 8
Packs per box: 28
Price paid: $23

Shop for 1998 SP Top Prospects Baseball boxes on eBay.

Pack 1 highlights:

Sidney Ponson & Kevin Witt Small Town Heroes (1 in every 5 packs)

Pack 1 fun fact: Kevin Witt hit 269 home runs in 12 minor league seasons, including a pair of 36-homer campaigns at the Triple-A level.

Pack 2:

Matt Clement & Jeremy Giambi

Pack 3:

Jarrod Washburn & Ben Grieve

Pack 3 fun fact: Ben Grieve won AL Rookie of the Year in 1998 and earned a spot on the AL All-Star team. He was one of a whopping 23 first-time All-Stars that year.

Pack 4:

Octavio Dotel, Roy Halladay & Warren Morris Autograph (1:16 packs)

Pack 5:

Roy Halladay & Aramis Ramirez

Pack 5 fun fact: Roy Halladay had a brutal 10.64 ERA in 67.2 innings as a 23-year-old with the Blue Jays in 2000. Two years later he was an All-Star, and three years later he won his first Cy Young.

Pack 6:

Carl Pavano, Russell Branyon & Justin Towle Small Town Heroes (1:5 packs)

Pack 7:

David Ortiz & Dave Borkowski Small Town Heroes (1:5 packs)

Pack 7 fun fact: David Ortiz actually began his career in the Mariners organization before he was traded to the Twins in exchange for veteran third baseman Dave Hollins on Aug. 29, 1996.

Pack 8:

Alex Cora & Travis Lee Destination: The Show (1:90 packs)

Pack 9:

Aramis Ramirez

Pack 9 fun fact: Aramis Ramirez ranks in the top 10 all-time among third basemen in home runs (386, 7th) and RBI (1,417, 6th).

Pack 10:

Adrian Beltre & Miguel Tejada

Pack 11:

Juan Encarnacion & Brent Butler Autograph (1:16 packs)

Pack 11 fun fact: Juan Encarnacion was one of the top prospects in baseball during his time in the Tigers farm system. He checked in at No. 15 on the Baseball America Top 100 list prior to the 1998 season.

Pack 12:

Richard Hidalgo, Jackson Melian & Derrick Gibson Small Town Heroes (1:5 packs)

Pack 13:

Carlos Lee & A.J. Hinch

Pack 13 fun fact: A.J. Hinch was traded from Oakland to Kansas City as part of the three-team, seven-player deal that sent Johnny Damon to the Athletics prior to the 2002 season.

Pack 14:

Preston Wilson & Gary Matthews Jr.

Pack 15:

Paul Konerko & Kerry Wood

Pack 15 fun fact: Paul Konerko hit .300/.361/.592 with 20 home runs and 59 RBI in 75 games against the crosstown Cubs in his career.

Pack 16:

Ben Davis

Bonus fun fact: Ben Davis laid down a bunt single to break up Curt Schilling’s perfect game in the eighth inning in 2001. It remains hotly debated whether that was an okay move in a 2-0 game.

Pack 17:

Carlos Lee & Alex Sanchez x2

Pack 17 fun fact: Alex Sanchez stole 89 bases over his first two full seasons in the majors and 122 total in his five-year career. He was also caught stealing 58 times for a 67.8 percent success rate.

Pack 18:

Miguel Tejada

Pack 19:

Travis Lee

Pack 19 fun fact: Travis Lee, once a hot commodity in the card-collecting world, was part of the four-player package the Diamondbacks sent to the Phillies to acquire Curt Schilling.

Pack 20:

Kerry Wood

Pack 21:

Richie Sexson, Alex Gonzalez, Javier Vazquez, Paul Konerko & Ben Davis Small Town Heroes (1:5 packs)

Pack 21 fun fact: Richie Sexson ranks 140th on the all-time list with 306 home runs in his 12-year career.

Pack 22:

Ryan Minor (had to show this card off), Eric Chavez, Ben Grieve & Travis Lee

Pack 23:

Twelve-year Major League veteran Braden Looper

Pack 23: Braden Looper spent his first nine seasons pitching exclusively in relief before averaging 32 starts and 190 innings over the final three years of his career. Not a career progression you see very often.

Pack 24:

Jarrod Washburn & Eric Milton

Pack 25:

Ben Grieve & Richie Sexson

Pack 25 fun fact: Ben Grieve was also a part of the three-team, seven-player deal mentioned earlier in reference to A.J. Hinch. AL Rookie of the Year winner Angel Berroa and longtime Oakland second baseman Mark Ellis were involved as well.

Pack 26:

Octavio Dotel

Pack 27:

Carl Pavano, Roy Halladay & Aramis Ramirez

Pack 27 fun fact: Carl Pavano is shown here in a Red Sox uniform, but he was actually traded to the Expos prior to the 1998 season. That deal brought back a decent starter named Pedro Martinez.

Pack 28:

Russell Branyan

Lastly, the Roy Halladay card back.

I really like the look of this base set. They’re really sharp looking cards. As you know, I always enjoy adding cards of players pictured in their minor league duds, so this product is right up my alley.

Pulling a couple of autographs from a $23 box is always a plus. Do I wish my two autos were Adrian Beltre and Kerry Wood? Of course, but luck wasn’t with me today.

Another great addition to this set is the Destination: The Show insert set. The combination of attractive acetate inserts and Travis Lee would’ve been big back in 1998.

Be sure to check back next week for another minor league featured product!

Shop for 1998 SP Top Prospects Baseball on:

Want more installments of Shane Salmonson’s Cheap Wax Wednesday? Check out his other breaks in the archives.


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  1. Randy Johnson 13 May, 2020 at 14:11

    That Travis Lee insert at 1:90 packs would have been a huge hit back in the day!

    I think I still have the Kerry Wood base card from this set.

  2. Gary Hurd 13 May, 2020 at 17:21

    Another Travis Lee “fun fact” He is hated by most Twins fans for not signing with the team after being drafted. Apparently they were not good enough for him. Would have been a nice addition in the late 90’s to build around with Hunter, Doug, AJ, Koskie, ect…

  3. Nazarene Robinson 16 February, 2021 at 10:11

    I’ve collecting baseball cards since the 60’s through 2000 .
    When my younger son passed in 2007, I just gave it up.
    However , I often search the internet to see which card is worth something and those that don’t. I takes out my cards found a lot of cards thst are very valuable. I just have tried to have them checked. Mostly because I don’t know where in NY to take them to be appraised.
    I saw some of your collection and they great looking cards.
    I have a few of the that I can remember, but I have so much that I need to look through. I have a question can you tell me where I can find baseball card leaves to place the cards in? I have so much cards I ran out of them.
    Thanks For Taking The Time To Read My Comments:

    Nazarene Robinson


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