The Best Rookie Cards Of Japanese Two-Way Sensation Shohei Ohtani

December 17, 2022

He came from Japan, he pitches, he hits for power. Shohei Ohtani is nothing short of a sensation. But who is Ohtani? What are his rookie cards? And are his cards a bgood investment? Let’s explore!

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Who is Shohei Ohtani?

Shohei Ohtani was a star in Japan despite being only 22 in his final NPB season. In his time in Japan, he hit .284/.356/.498, good for an OPS of .854. On the mound, he was 42-15 with a 2.52 ERA.

Ohtani decided he wanted to play in the big leagues, and after being posted, signed with the Los Angeles Angels going into the 2018 season.

Since then, despite missing some time on the mound due to injury, he’s been nothing short of spectacular. Ohtani won the Rookie of the Year award, an MVP award, and finished 2nd in the MVP voting a second time. He’s been an All-Star twice, won a Silver Slugger award, and finished 4th in the Cy Young voting.

Ohtani has put up a batting line of .267/.354/.532 line, for an OPS of .886 and OPS+ of 139. He’s hit 127 home runs in 566 games. On the mound, he’s 28-14 with a 2.96 ERA. He’s been worth 24.8 WAR in his time in the major leagues.

Ohtani is amazing in that he’s not only the only two-way player in the majors, but he’s also one of the best hitters and best pitchers in the league. He’s a joy to watch and if you love baseball, make sure you watch him play…you’re seeing something unique and historic.

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Shohei Ohtani and Babe Ruth

In just about any conversation about Ohtani, the expression “since Babe Ruth” is usually uttered before too long. In some ways, this is unfair to Ohtani, as nobody is Babe Ruth. It was a different time, and Ruth was a unique talent who racked up stats that by today’s standards look like video game stats.

I’d like to add, though, that the comparisons are also a little unfair for another reason. Ruth started out a pitcher (and a good one), but then became mostly a hitter…pretty quickly in his career. In fact, after Ruth moved to the Yankees after his age 24 season, he pitched only five times, including complete game starts on the last day of the season when he was 35 and 38(!) years old.

Ruth has two seasons (1918 and 1919) in which he pitched and hit a significant amount in the same season. I defined that by pitching 130 innings or more and also 350+ plate appearances as a hitter. Ruth was pretty awesome in both seasons.

Ohtani was a two-way star in Japan, and came to the states with the intention of pitching and hitting. After pitching 10 games in his rookie season, Ohtani had surgery that kept him off the mound for most of the next two seasons.

Since then, Ohtani has put up two monster seasons as a two-way player, winning the 2021 MVP award and finishing second in 2022. If it wasn’t for Aaron Judge’s home run barrage, it’s likely Ohtani would be coming off back-to-back MVP awards. In other words, Ohtani was pretty awesome in those two seasons.

So, if Ohtani can have another strong season on the mound and at the plate, he’ll have surpassed Ruth’s “two-way” seasons. Of course, there will never be another Ruth, but until there is, we can now start saying there may never be another Ohtani.

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The best Shohei Ohtani rookie cards

According to the Trading Card Database (TCDB), Shohei Ohtani appears on a shocking 2,810 cards in 2018, his rookie season here in the United States. Clearly, this article will not be exhaustive. With the number of parallels and the like, we’ll hit some key base cards. Just know that if you’re looking for something a bit rarer, there’s a rainbow of parallels to choose from.

The 2018 Bowman Chrome Shohei Ohtani #1 is the most valuable of Ohtani’s base rookie cards, with PSA 10s selling in the $300-400 range.

Most of Ohtani’s other base rookie cards sell for $75 to $150 range in PSA 10 slabs. These prices are very reasonable considering what a big star Ohtani is on both sides of the Pacific.

The reason behind this is likely twofold. One is that most (but not all) of these cards have rather large PSA populations. They are not rare. In addition, of those cards graded by PSA, a large percentage are graded PSA 10, in some cases making PSA 10s the most common grade for these cards.

For example, the 2018 Topps Chrome Shohei Ohtani #150 has been graded 7,208 times by PSA. Of those, a shocking 6,509 (90%) are in PSA 10 slabs.

The good news? All of these cards are fairly affordable, so you can potentially buy a number of them. If you’re picking just one, I’d suggest letting the PSA population be your guide – lower pop likely will help prices long term.

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CardTotal PSA PopRecent Sale PopRecent Sale Price
2018 Bowman Shohei Ohtani #4910,174PSA 10 = 5,509PSA 10 = $80-100
2018 Bowman Chrome Shohei Ohtani #14,007PSA 10 = 2,516PSA 10 = $300-400
2018 Bowman's Best Shohei Ohtani #1926PSA 10 = 824PSA 10 = $75-125
2018 Finest Shohei Ohtani #1001,087PSA 10 = 755PSA 10 = $100-150
2018 Stadium Club Shohei Ohtani #138417PSA 10 = 245PSA 10 = $80-100
2018 Topps Shohei Ohtani #7007,382PSA 10 = 4,642PSA 10 = $80-90
2018 Topps Chrome Shohei Ohtani #1507,208PSA 10 = 6,509PSA 10 = $100-120
2018 Topps Archives Shohei Ohtani #501,037PSA 10 = 754PSA 10 = $75-80

The best autographed Shohei Ohtani rookie cards

Ohtani appeared on a wide number of autographed offerings in his rookie year of 2018 (and beyond). There are a lot of options. Below we highlight a few of the most expensive options, but non-graded versions of some of the “no logo” sets start at as little as a couple of hundred dollars raw.

An Ohtani autograph in any form is a great collectible. If your collecting budget allows you to add one, it’s a great pickup despite the large total quantity of autos out there.

Check out prices on autographed Shohei Ohtani rookie cards on eBay

CardTotal PSA PopRecent Sale PopRecent Sale Price
2018 Bowman Rookie Autographs Chrome Shohei Ohtani #SO172PSA 10 = 47PSA 10 = $7,200
2018 Topps Chrome Gold Wave Refractor Shohei Ohtani #RA-SO17PSA 10 = 14PSA 10 = $8,000-8,500
2018 Topps Chrome Rookie Autograph Shohei Ohtani # RA-SO62PSA 10 = 38PSA 10 = $4,000
2018 Topps Heritage Shohei Ohtani Real Ones #SO45PSA 10 = 23PSA 10 = $8,000

Early Japanese Shohei Ohtani baseball cards

Before coming to the United States, Ohtani was a star in Japan. From 2013-2018, he appeared on a number of cards in Japan, many produced by BBM, Japan’s biggest card company.

In 2013 alone, his Japanese rookie card year, he appeared on 39 different cards, according to TCDB. In total, he appeared on over 360 Japanese cards.

This gives collectors a lot of choices, but please be careful. Understand what you’re buying, PSA populations, and what recent comp prices are.

Generally speaking, you’ll find low PSA populations. A Japanese-issue Ohtani card could be a really interesting addition to your Ohtani collection.

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CardTotal PSA PopRecent Sale PopRecent Sale Price
2013 BBM Icons Hope Shohei Ohtani #1472PSA 10 = 64PSA 10 = $300
2014 BBM Shohei Ohtani #13725PSA 10 = 13PSA 10 = $150
2014 BBM 1st Version Art of Auto #WB132PSA 9 = 9PSA 9 = $600
2015 BBM 1st Version Shohei Ohtani #568PSA 10 = 8PSA 10 = $200-250
2016 BBM Nippon Ham Fighters Shohei Ohtani #F027PSA 10 = 6PSA 10 = $160

Investing in Shohei Ohtani

Not surprisingly, Ohtani is an incredibly popular player with collectors and fans. Because of this, his cards are in high demand and are strong sellers.

Ohtani is coming off two great seasons, so his cards are unlikely to be a great value at this point, although with a few more great seasons we may look back and consider today’s prices to be deals.

How long can he keep it up? Nobody can say for sure. What I will say is that Ohtani is a unique and exciting player, and if you want one of his rookie cards or early career cards, get one that fits your budget.

Even if Ohtani drops off, his uniqueness is likely to make his cards popular for years to come, perhaps beyond whatever his final career numbers end up being. Think something similar to Bo Jackson.

Of course, I think we all hope Ohtani can keep putting up big numbers on both sides of the ball. Seeing him as the first two-way Hall of Famer (since Babe Ruth…there it is again) would be amazing.

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Final thoughts on the best Shohei Ohtani rookie cards

Shohei Ohtani is a baseball sensation, a one-of-a-kind, first of his kind, first since Babe Ruth sensation. There are an absurd number of Ohtani and early career cards to choose from, which can make it difficult to pick a favorite. The good news is that there’s an Ohtani card for anyone’s budget and preference.

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