ohtani-best-rookie-cards

Shohei Ohtani: Top 10 Rookie Cards

Despite some nagging injuries, Ohtani's rookie cards have been a great investment. What does the future hold?

Updated Sep 29, 2023

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Shohei Ohtani has captivated major league baseball since his 2018 debut.

He has excelled as a hitter AND a pitcher, making him the only active MLB player to achieve such a distinction.

In 2021, Ohtani clinched the AL MVP title, and based on his outstanding 2023 performance, he's poised to claim it once more.

To no surprise, the value of Shohei Ohtani's rookie cards have soared in recent years.

In this piece, we'll delve into the top 10 most sought-after and valuable Shohei Ohtani rookie cards

Not all of these Ohtani rookie cards are not the most expensive, but they are the most popular in the sports card community.

More...

#1 - 2018 Bowman Chrome Rookie Autographs RC 

chrome-orange-auto

Chrome Rookie Ohtani Ohtani in Orange Refractor /25

Ohtani’s first Bowman Chrome Auto appeared in the 2018 Bowman set when he made his MLB debut with the Los Angeles Angels. Ohtani was the main chase card in the box.

This fervor for Ohtani catalyzed a novel trend: sports card bounties.

Card companies started offering a predetermined cash reward (or "bounty") for specific cards if baseball card collectors managed to pull and sell them for the stipulated amount.

Ohtani's Superfractor rookie card (of which only one copy was produced) was pulled a few months later and subsequently received a BGS 9.5 grading with a 10 for the auto.

The Shohei Ohtani Superfractor card was pulled from a $125 hobby Bowman Box.

bowman-chrome-rookie-ohtani-superfractor

Bowman Chrome Auto Ohtani Superfractor - courtesy Goodwin & Co Auction

But, the timing wasn't impeccable for the individual who pulled the card.

When it was put up for auction near the close of the 2018 baseball season, Ohtani had undergone Tommy John surgery.

Despite this setback, the card still fetched an impressive $184,000 at auction.

There's a consensus today that should this card reappear in an auction, its value might soar to several million dollars. 

Notably a less rare Orange refractor copy sold for $145K at auction in 2021

The base signed version is valued at around 15k-18k in high-grade examples.

Ohtani’s first Bowman Chrome Autos are easily regarded as his most popular and sought-after Rookie Auto.

#2 - 2018 Topps Heritage Red Ink Auto Real-One Red Ink /69 #SO

ohtani-red-ink

The 2018 Topps Heritage set was designed after the ever popular 1969 Topps Baseball set.  

The Ohtani 'Red Ink' autograph insert from the set is graced with an on card signature in striking red ink and is a prized possession for collectors. 

Arguably, it stands as one of the most illustrious cards in the Topps Heritage collection, with production limited to just 69 cards.

Recent auction average sales have been around $16,000. This is becoming a much harder and much more expensive card to find. 

#3 - 2018 Topps Chrome Rookie Autograph #RA-SO

topps-chrome-ohtani-auto

Another standout among Ohtani's Rookie Auto cards is the 2018 Topps Chrome Rookie Autograph. This card boasts an on card autograph and is a limited print.

As with all other Chrome releases the card also has many different refractor parallels. 

Ungraded versions of the base auto card command around $5,800, while those that have received a PSA 10 grade can garner close to $10K at auction.

Out of only 70 copies that have been graded, only 42 have achieved the prestigious gem mint (PSA 10) designation.

This makes it an exceptionally challenging card to find, with few surfacing for sale.

This card is recognized as one of the more premium base rookie autograph examples featuring Shohei Ohtani.

#4 - 2018 Topps Heritage Black Refractor /69 #600

ohtani-black-refractor

The Topps Heritage Black Refractor Shohei Ohtani rookie card is both a rarity and a collector's treasure.

With a limited run of just 69 copies, its value has climbed significantly, with Gem-Mint (PSA 10) copies selling at over $9K in recent eBay auctions.

Only 18 of the 69 cards have achieved the esteemed PSA 10 (Gem-Mint) grade.

This card stands out as one of Ohtani's most coveted base serial numbered rookie cards.

As time progresses, it's becoming increasingly challenging to find at auction.

#5 - 2013-14 BBM Historic Collection Brilliant Teens Pink Facsimile Auto /50 #108

ohtani-pink

One of Ohtani's most exceptional BBM Japanese cards depicts him as a young teenage pitching sensation.

Limited to just 50 copies, its rarity is unquestionable. 

A PSA 10-graded example of this card fetched a substantial $6,075 in a late June 2023 auction.

Amplifying its exclusivity, only two of these cards have ever been honored with the coveted PSA 10 grade

This elusive piece is a prized possession for any Ohtani aficionado, especially those with a penchant for collecting rare BBM cards.

#6 - 2013 BBM 1st Version #183

bbm-ohtani-1st

Shohei Ohtani's most renowned Japanese BBM rookie card is the 1st Version, denoted as card number 183. 

BBM rookie cards hold a special allure for fans of Japanese baseball superstars like Ohtani, and this particular card made its debut in 2013.

Latest auction sales on eBay peg the value of a PSA 10 (Gem Mint) copy at $2,350. 

With a limited 152 cards having achieved the esteemed PSA 10 grade, this card serves as a significant memento of Ohtani's baseball origins in Japan.

#7 - 2017 Bowman Mega Box Chrome Prospects WBC #BCP31

ohtani-mega-box-prospects

Shohei Ohtani's inaugural Bowman Chrome card was introduced during his stint at the 2017 WBC Tournament.

The 2017 Bowman Mega Box cards were a retail exclusive, issued at the likes of Target and Walmart.

The cards have four refractor parallels in addition to the base card: Purple (#'d to 250), Green (#'d to 99), Orange (#'d to 25) and Black (1/1).

otani-wbc-purple

A Purple Refractor of 'Otani' from the 2017 Bowman Mega Box Chrome Prospects set.

It also is an uncorrected error, with Ohtani's name mispelled as 'Otani' on the front of the card. 

This card was the toast of the collecting community throughout 2017, seeing a pronounced surge in interest when Ohtani publicized his signing with the Angels in late November.

Apart from his BBC Japan cards, this was the sole mainstream Shohei Ohtani rookie card available to fans. 

The value of Ohtani's Bowman Mega Box WBC Chrome Prospects card dropped as the 2018 season ushered in a new array of Ohtani rookie cards. It was not until 2021 that the card witnessed a robust resurgence in its value and appeal.

It's a hot commodity in the card market, with PSA 10 examples fetching upwards of $2,000 at auction.

This is significant appreciation, especially considering there was a time when the card, in its ungraded form, barely surpassed the $100 mark.

This 2017 Bowman Chrome WBC card will always hold a distinguished position as the first Ohtani card to be released in the USA. 

Albeit, most purists would call this one a 'pre-rookie', but nevertheless, still a highly collectible Shohei Ohtani rookie card.

#8 - 2018 Bowman Chrome Batting Rookie #1

ohtani-chrome-batting

The Bowman Chrome Shohei Ohtani rookie card stands out due to its depiction of him as a batter and as the inaugural Bowman Chrome Ohtani rookie card.

In early 2023, PSA 10 copies were selling for $500. However, recent transactions on eBay have witnessed this card fetch values exceeding $1k.

This card has a relatively limited quantity, with only 3,258 PSA 10 graded copies. This starkly contrasts Ohtani's other base Chrome cards, which boast a 3-4 times higher figure on the POP report.

An even more coveted variant of this card is its Refractor version, which is numbered to 499 copies. There are also rarer parallels, as follows:

  • Purple Refractor (#/250)
  • Blue Refractor (#/150)
  • Green Refractor (#/99)
  • Gold Refractor (#/50)
  • Orange Refractor (#/25)
  • Red Refractor (#/5)
  • SuperFractor (#1/1)
red-refractor-ohtani

A rare Red Refractor parallel of the 2018 Bowman Ohtani Batting #1 rookie card, numbered to only 5 copies.

Recent transactions of the Refractor variant (#'d to 499), if graded as a Perfect, Gem Mint PSA 10, have soared to over $5K!  Rarer parallels are worth even more.

#9 - 2018 Topps Chrome Pitching Rookie #150

ohtani-pitching

Shohei Ohtani's most popular base rookie card is the 2018 Topps Chrome Pitching edition #1. 

This card holds a special place in the hearts of collectors, as it's recognized as his PSA Registry rookie card from the year he clinched the AL Rookie of the Year award in 2018. 

If Ohtani's career trajectory does lead him to the Hall of Fame – and all signs suggest he's on that path – then this card is poised to be celebrated as his PSA Rookie Hall of Fame (HOF) RC card.

Currently, the base version of this card, when graded as a PSA 10, is fetching between $275-$350 on eBay. For context, just in December 2022, the same card was available for approximately $100.

There are a LOT of different parallels for this card, which can get very confusing. Ones with unknown (higher production run) are as follows: Refractor, X-Fractor (Mega Box), Prism, Sepia (Blaster), Pink (Value Packs), Negative.  The following are the rarer parallels's with known production runs.

  • Purple (#/299)
  • Blue (#/150)
  • Green (#/99)
  • Green Wave (#/99) (Hobby/Jumbo)
  • Blue Wave (#/75) (Hobby/Jumbo)
  • Gold (#/50)
  • Gold Wave (#/50) (Hobby/Jumbo)
  • Orange (#/25 (Hobby)
  • Red #/5
  • Red Wave #/5 (Hobby/Jumbo)
  • SuperFractor (#1/1)
  • Printing Plates (#1/1)

The Refractor variant of this card, in a PSA 10 grade, has seen even more significant appreciation, commanding over $1k in recent auctions. 

This is notable given that these refractor cards were trading for $500 to $600 at the start of the 2023 baseball season.

However, over 1700 Refractor Ohtani copies are PSA graded, with over 1200 copies earning a perfect PSA 10 grade.

#10 - 2018 Topps Update Rookie #US1

ohtani-topps-update

Ohtani’s most popular Topps base rookie card is his 2018 Topps Update card, which features him pitching in a red uniform with the Los Angeles Angels.

Initially, this card was the most sought-after base Shohei Ohtani rookie card.

However, during the pandemic, there was a noticeable shift in the collecting community, with many pivoting towards the allure of the Topps Chrome rookie card.

PSA 10 copies of Ohtani’s Topps Update rookie card sell for $175-$200 at auction. This card was valued at around $100 at the beginning of the season. 

Despite the increase in value, it remains one of the most popular and affordable rookie cards for Ohtani collectors.

What Is The Rarest Shohei Ohtani Rookie Card?

Ohtani has many different parallel issues from the Bowman and Topps sets which are 1/1 Superfractor inserts, including the 2018 Bowman Chrome Rookie Autographs Superfractor. Thus, since there are a multitude of 1/1 Superfractor Ohtani rookie cards, there isn't one particular card that stands out as the rarest. 

Should I Invest In Shohei Ohtani Cards?

Ohtani made a remarkable recovery from his Tommy John surgery in 2018. But this also gave us an example of how fragile a card investment can be in a player early in his career.

All it takes is one significant injury to impact card values. Ohtani has shown no lingering effects from his injury, but there is always a chance that he gets hurt again and can't return

At this point, Ohtani is on his way to establishing himself as one of the best ever to play the game. But we must recognize the risk when buying his rookie cards.

Like any investment, you need to diversify your bets. So, don't put all your chips on Ohtani rookie cards, but a small percentage of your card portfolio might be a good idea. 

What Is The Most Valuable Shohei Ohtani Card?

The most valuable Shohei Ohtani rookie card is one of his ultra rare Bowman Chrome or Topps Autograph Superfractor cards. 

It's hard to pinpoint an exact value given that each is a 1/1 issue. But the estimated value for any of the following cards as an example (in today's market) would easily be in the 7 figures.

2018 Shohei Ohtani Bowman Chrome Rookie Auto Superfractor 

2018 Shohei Ohtani Bowman Auto Refractor RC #SO

2018 Shohei Ohtani Topps Chrome Rookie Autographs Refractor RC #RASO

Final Thoughts On Shohei Ohtani Rookie Cards

Shohei Ohtani is poised to add another MVP accolade to his illustrious resume. A third MVP award would cement his place as a future Hall of Famer.

With his impending free agency, there's anticipation of a groundbreaking contract on the horizon. 

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Shohei Ohtani, Angels star pitcher and batter, source Wiki Commons

While one could argue that his cards have reached peak valuations, Ohtani's unique dual capabilities as both a hitter and pitcher — and the consistency at which he excels at both — sets him apart from any other baseball player in history. 

Given these unprecedented achievements over multiple seasons, there's substantial potential for Ohtani's cards, especially those highlighted on this list, to further appreciate in value.

Buy Shohei Ohtani Rookie Cards On eBay

Vinnie Rullo

About the author

Vinnie Rullo is a passionate sports fan, with a hardcore loyalty to the Yankees, NY Giants and New York Knicks. An avid sports card collector, Vinnie has also worked a collectibles specialist for one of the bigger online auction houses.

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