Could he not just be as good as advertised… but maybe better?
The fascinating arrival of a big league unicorn from Japan who has led baseball historians to the record books has spearheaded a stampede of collectors and dealers searching for Shohei Ohtani baseball cards.
If it seemed impossible for any player to put the market on his shoulders as well as Aaron Judge did in 2017 but if he continues, Ohtani may make that season look like a warm-up act. His dual abilities as a pitcher and hitter are simply something no living fan of Major League baseball has witnessed. Ohtani is giving us a chance to experience what fans who watched Babe Ruth were seeing a century ago.
Dual Threat on Display
The list of “firsts” and eye-popping stats from Ohtani’s arrival is endless. A few highlights:
- The first first player in 99 years to win two games and hit three homers in the first ten games of a season.
- The first player to earn a win in one game, then homer in a start as a non-pitcher in his next game since Ruth in 1921.
- The third American League pitcher ever to strike out 12 in one of his first two career starts.
- Pitched 6 1/3 perfect innings in his second pitching start
Ohtani Rookie Cards
Ohtani didn’t appear in Topps Series 1 (he’ll be in Series 2), but he does have plenty of cards for collectors to chase in Topps, Panini and Leaf products, including autographs (although his “signature” is more of a scribble).
There has been no shortage of buyers.
During a seven-day period that ended Sunday, April 8, nearly $500,000 worth of Ohtani cards sold on eBay. Twenty-six of those sales were for $3,000 or more. Over 80% of listed items were sold during that time frame. Among the most popular? The Topps Living set cards, purchased by dealers and collectors in quantity on Topps’ website and then flipped on eBay for profit. Topps Heritage Red Ink autographed cards were also among the big sellers, with pricing tripling in a week to over $4,500. The Red Ink auto numbered 1 of 69 was pulled by collector/Phillies relief pitcher Pat Neshek. It sold for $6,101 on Sunday. The short-printed non-autographed cards, only available in hobby boxes, are other popular issue.
The Topps Angels factory team sets, which contain a flagshi-style card, have also been selling well, with hundreds changing hands.
Since the start of the calendar year, the numbers show over $1 million of Ohtani cards sold.
Ohtani’s first American issue was the 2017 Bowman Chrome, which depicted him as a member of Japan’s team in the World Baseball Classic and was only available in Mega Boxes. The highest-priced Ohtani card on eBay during the first three months of 2018 was the 1/1 Black Refractor from that issue. Graded BGS 9.5, it sold for $12,995.95. The 1/1 autographed Topps NOW card printed to commemorate his first MLB homer and carrying an inscription sold for $9,500.
Even base cards from the recently-released 2018 Topps Gypsy Queen set have driven box prices much higher than normal.
So which is the best Ohtani rookie card? It’s a tough (and often subjective) call. The 2017 Bowman Chrome and its various parallels got Ohtani-mania off the ground in US collecting circles but the best answer–at least right now–seems to be all of them.
You can monitor the most watched Shohei Ohtani baseball cards on eBay throughout the season via the real-time list below.