Tanaka Remains Perfect; Plenty of Cards for Japanese Sensation

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Like all rookie phenoms, the hottest Masahiro Tanaka cards are generating a lot of demand. Unlike most rookie phenoms, there are a lot of Tanaka cards out there already.

Masahiro Tanaka rookie cardThe Yankees’ most recent free agent acquisition arrived in New York with much fanfare – as big ticket free agents arriving in New York typically do – but despite all the hype that comes along with absolutely dominating Japanese baseball in 2013 (24-0, 1.27 ERA) Tanaka has been up to the task.

He hasn’t lost in 40 regular season starts after jumping out to a 5-0 start in New York. He has a 2.57 ERA, 58 strikeouts and just seven walks.

2009 Bowman Chrome Tanaka WBC

Because he became a pro in 2007, and because of his participation in the World Baseball Classic, Tanaka cards are as plentiful as Tanaka strikeouts, although many of them originate in the Far East.  Japanese trading card company BBM, which according to the website Japanese Baseball Cards produced an unbelievable 50 sets in 2013, have issued a litany of different Tanaka cards since ’07 – many of which can be had for anywhere from just a few dollars to $50. You can see examples of those here, here and here.

Tanaka has yet to sign an autograph deal with an American manufacturer, however, which tends to keep prices somewhat in check for what’s out there.

BBM Tanaka 2007 rookie cardAmong the many 2007 options, there are a couple of key rookie cards that are more expensive but still not likely to break the bank. Ungraded examples of BBM’s 1st Version and BBM’s Rookie Edition cards will run anywhere from $15-$60. Higher-end autographed rookies will cost considerably more. A signed 2007 BBM Rookie Edition numbered to 70 currently on eBay has a $9,995 asking price.   BBM also issued a Tanaka jersey card in its Rookie Edition issue in relatively plentiful numbers, although none are listed for sale or auction currently online.

Another company, Calbee, primarily sells potato chips and shrimp crackers but also dabbles in baseball cards. Tanaka’s 2007 Calbee rookie sells for right around $10. By the way, who else misses finding baseball cards in cereal boxes and on the back of macaroni here in the states? Me too.

Tektonics TanakaTanaka’s first American issue came in 2008 Bowman Sterling and it’s a tough redemption card that was numbered to just 65. There’s a live issue of this good looking WBC jersey patch card on eBay right now that carries a $900 asking price. Best offers have been accepted on three other examples of this card in recent months ranging from $400-$1,000.

Tanaka’s first affordable American issue was released the following year. 2009 Bowman Chrome’s WBC Prospects set can be yours depending on how much you’re willing to dole out on low-numbered parallels. They run anywhere from $5 to $610 for a red refractor numbered to 5.

Cards of Tanaka rocking the Red and Gold of the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles or WBC garb are plentiful, cards of him in pinstripes are tougher to come by.

Tanaka reverse negative Gypsy QueenThere are several versions of Tanaka’s 2014 Gypsy Queen, including a reversed negative card, one of which recently sold for $80. Gypsy Queen also contains the requisite printing plates, minis, and other parallels of all prices.

The same can be said for Tanaka’s 2014 Bowman issue, which has numerous parallels, somelike this 1-of-1 mini super Purple Ice Tanakarefractor didn’t get the $10 grand the seller was looking for.This Red Ice parallel numbered to 25 fetched $1,000 while this Purple Ice numbered to 10 brought $800.

The only other mainstream Tanaka issue out there so far in 2014 comes from Donruss. In order to receive the card, however, collectors must send in 24 empty 2014 Donruss packs to receive a three-card pack that will contain Tanaka, Jose Abreu and Royals rookie pitcher Yordano Ventura. Or, if you prefer, you can buy the card on eBay for $8-$12. There is also a variation of this card which has Japanese script. That card appears to be considerably rarer. One recently sold for just over $60.

Topps Series 2 hits shelves in June while Allen & Ginter is released in July and as Tanaka continues to mow down hitters, it stands to reason that he’ll be featured prominently in these and other upcoming Topps issues.  He’ll have memorabilia cards in these products:

Tier One

Allen & Ginter

Bowman Platinum

Triple Threads

Topps Updates

Five Star

Check out the ‘most watched’ Tanaka cards on eBay below.

2015 Topps Museum Collection Masahiro Tanaka QUAD JERSEY PATCH 01/25 Yankees
4 bids - Price: $5.60 - Watchers: 10
Item # 371401141800
2015 Topps Heritage Color Swap SSP Masahiro Tanaka SSP Yankees
1 bids - Price: $1.50 - Watchers: 7
Item # 221843598987
Topps 2015 Masahiro Tanaka Coin Stamp Birth Year Relic 36/50 - Yankees
6 bids - Price: $13.50 - Watchers: 4
Item # 221840543905
MASAHIRO TANAKA 2015 Gypsy Queen Autograph! New York Yankees!
1 bids - Price: $9.99 - Watchers: 4
Item # 111734138777
Masahiro Tanaka Jumbo Relic #'d 19/99 YANKEES 2014 National Treasures NON-AUTO
1 bids - Price: $9.99 - Watchers: 4
Item # 171878413416
Masahiro Tanaka 2014 Topps Finest Warriors Die-Cut Parallel Yankees To /25
1 bids - Price: $0.97 - Watchers: 4
Item # 161783933726
2015 ELITE MASAHIRO TANAKA NEW YORK YANKEES PINSTRIPE ELITE SERIES JERSEY 11/25
4 bids - Price: $3.80 - Watchers: 3
Item # 371401528458
2015 Diamond Kings Yankees Masahiro Tanaka Dual Jersey Relic w/ Pinstripe 22/25!
10 bids - Price: $6.08 - Watchers: 3
Item # 181818041900
2014 Donruss #201 Masahiro Tanaka PSA 9 RC Japanese Wrapper Redemption
1 bids - Price: $0.99 - Watchers: 3
Item # 361352902133
About Aaron Wasser

Aaron Wasser is a former sports writer and current communications director at the Washington State Senate. He is a lifelong enthusiast of our national pastime and is fascinated by baseball ephemera of all eras. His wife and young daughter tolerate his pursuits.