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How the World Baseball Classic Changed Shohei Ohtani’s Trading Card Market

After a scintillating championship performance at the World Baseball Classic, let’s take a closer look at whether a WBC bump truly altered the Shohei Ohtani card market.

Has Shohei Ohtani become the undisputed face of the baseball card hobby? Sure, he may have been already — but his case is even more powerful now.

The 2023 World Baseball Classic final lived up to the hype and concluded with a 3-2 victory for Japan over Team USA. While Ohtani didn’t go yard in the final, he got arguably the most important relief appearance of his career, striking out Los Angeles Angels teammate Mike Trout to end the game. Enhancing a WBC star turn that saw him boast a .435 BA with eight RBI over eight games, he also finished with three pitching appearances that included two wins, a 1.86 ERA, 11 strikeouts, and that all-important championship save.

The dual-threat Halos star has proven to be the undisputed face of not only Major League Baseball and on the international stage. Which has led to increased interest in owning his baseball cards. Over the past week alone, over 1,000 individual Shohei Ohtani card sales have been completed.

How did we get here?

The 2023 WBC was the most-viewed in the event’s history. According to Major League Baseball, three of the top four most-watched WBC games were in 2023, and all four include Japan. The quarterfinal between Japan and Italy rated a 48.7 in Japan, making it the most-watched individual game in WBC history. The final between USA and Japan attracted 42.4% of households in Japan, plus 6.5 million viewers in the US.

And that’s before you include the increased viewership in Taiwan (+150% over its previous record) and Mexico (+100%).

That means more eyes around the world were on ShoTime — a player who has famously never played in the MLB Playoffs — than ever before.

With a whole new level of attention on the world’s best player, interest likewise grew elevated across the Halos star’s wide world of licensed merchandise and collectibles.

With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at how the WBC bump has affected the overall Shohei Ohtani card market.

Which Ohtani cards should I buy?

Ohtani’s MLB rookie year was 2018, with his most popular base cards from that season from the typical sets like Bowman, Topps Chrome, and Topps Chrome Update — and all three have seen increased value over the last three months:

  • Ohtani’s 2018 Bowman PSA 10 was selling for $80 back in late December. These days, it’s been selling for $130.
  • His Topps Chrome and Topps Chrome Update crads were both selling for under $100 to start the year, but have seen recent highs of $190 and $160 respectively.

In a time where base cards are seen as all but dead as stored value assets. OhtaniMania has brought new life into collecting base cards, too.

If you’re looking for higher-end fare, you’ll want to go after his rookie autograph singles from 2018 Topps Chrome and Bowman Chrome: On March 21, three parallels of Ohtani’s Topps Chrome autograph cards sold for upwards of $4,500:

  • His base Topps Chrome Auto PSA 10 sold for $4600, Purple Refractor Auto /250 PSA 10 sold for $5500, and Orange /25 PSA 10 sold for $21,000.
  • A 2018 Bowman Chrome Autograph PSA 9 sold for $4250 on March 25.

And while all of these cards have the same style of signature, the player actually has three different on-card signatures that collectors can hunt for, a further intriguing wrinkle in the conversation.

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What are the different types of Shohei Ohtani autographs?

Shohei Ohtani cards have featured three distinct signatures to date: in the traditional Japanese Kanji script, another in a long-form “scribble” as noted above, and the newest one, which is simpler and shorter-form by comparison and can be found in more recent baseball trading card sets.

The Kanji signature is the rarest of the three, with unlicensed cards from brands like Onyx featuring the special script going for four-figures a pop ($4,750 on October 10, 2022). Over the last year, only a few have shown up on eBay at all, the most recent being a 2019 Topps Five Star offering with two Ohtani signatures on the card (!) going for $4,500 back in January.

The newest, simplest signature can be seen in sets 2022 or later. Unless, they feature sticker autos signed by Ohtani from previous years. The jury is still out on whether collectors like the new signature, but plenty of them have sold for hundreds of dollars. His 2022 Topps Black Chrome sold for $650 on March 25, which is rather affordable compared to the previous signature-style sales.

Ohtani’s 2022 Topps Chrome Black Auto featuring his newer, simpler signature

What will the 2023 MLB season bring for Ohtani card values?

This season will be a mighty interesting one across the hobby. The WBC brought excitement to baseball that Major League Baseball has been lacking for quite some time. There are rule changes in play that will certainly affect Ohtani on the mound and at the plate — most noticeably the new MLB pitch clock — but if Ohtani is able to hit plenty of home runs and keep pitching at an All-Star level, he may graduate in due time from hobby MVP to modern-era hobby GOAT.

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