From an early age, Shohei Ohtani aspired to contend on baseball's most prominent stages, accomplishing something not seen since Babe Ruth in the early 1900s, competing as a two-way player.
In high school, Shohei Ohtani played for Hanamaki Higashi High School, vying as a hitter and a pitcher. Ohtani's ability to excel in all facets of the game created a wave around the baseball landscape. As a result, numerous front offices in the major leagues wanted Ohtani while he was still in high school. Ohtani desired to display his two-way ability in the big leagues straight out of high school. However, he elected to polish his game in the Nippon Professional Baseball league.
Shohei Ohtani made his professional baseball debut on the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters at 18 years old. Ohtani earned a spot on the NPB Pacific League All-Star Game in his rookie campaign. The following season, Ohtani achieved his second NPB All-Star Game selection. In 2015, Ohtani was honored to the NPB Best Nine as a hitter and pitcher while being the Pacific League's ERA leader. In 2016, Ohtani progressed even more, becoming the Pacific League's Most Valuable Player. Ohtani's performance in the NPB proved to MLB front offices that Ohtani could play baseball at the highest level as a two-way player.
After the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters posted Ohtani, he signed with the Los Angeles Angels. Ohtani struggled with injuries early in his MLB career, limiting his ability to serve as a two-way player. Even so, Ohtani attained the 2018 Rookie of the Year honors. While Tommy John surgery diverted Ohtani, he persisted and battled back to find a way back on the mound.
While skeptics doubted Ohtani's ability to be a two-way player, Ohtani and the Los Angeles Angels remained optimistic. If there's evidence that Ohtani can be a two-way player, look no further than his 2021 MLB season. Ohtani's display in the 2021 MLB season is ranked among the greatest single seasons in the history of sports, as Ohtani, or "ShoTime," defied all odds while capturing the 2021 American League Most Valuable Player award.
Ohtani is quickly becoming the face of Major League Baseball, and as baseball card collectors admire his talents, the value of his rookie cards has soared. Without further ado, let's disclose the top 13 best Shohei Ohtani rookie cards.
2018 Topps High Tek Shohei Ohtani Black and White Image Variation Autographs RC #HT-SO #'d/40
Recent sale: $4,850
We commence the list of the top 13 best Shohei Ohtani rookie cards featuring his rookie card from 2018 Topps High Tek, issued on October 31, 2018, just days after the Boston Red Sox defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series. 2018 Topps High Tek showcases Ohtani on the exterior of the set's hobby box, comprising 40 cards in each box. Ohtani's rookie card arises from the Black and White Image Variation subset, serial-numbered to 40 copies. Ohtani's rookie card is illustrated by a black and white hue and a blue-penned on-card autograph, bearing Ohtani's unprecedented pitcher/designated hitter distinction. Since its release, 26 of the 40 copies have been graded by PSA and BGS, and 31% have warranted a PSA or BGS 10. Ohtani's rookie card is graded a PSA 10, signifying only one card is graded higher, which carries the ultimate BGS 10 Black Label recognition.
Inspired by future Hall of Famer Ichiro Suzuki, Shohei Ohtani's vision was to play Major League Baseball. At Hanamaki Higashi High School in Oshu, Iwate, Japan, Ohtani yearned to do the unthinkable, competing as a two-way player. At the age of 17, Ohtani hurled a pitched clocked at 160 km/h, or 99 mph, the fastest pitch thrown as a high school player at the National High School Baseball Championship, referred to as Summer Koshien. As a result of his ability to pitch and hit, Ohtani was a rare commodity and was highly desired by teams in the Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) and the MLB.
Ohtani was drafted as the number one overall pick in the 2012 NPB Draft by the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters. However, he initially elected to forgo playing in Japan and go straight to the major leagues. Ohtani eventually backtracked and competed in the NPB for several years before making the transition. Ohtani's ability to hit and pitch is unprecedented, which garners collectors' attention. As such, Ohtani's Black and White Image Variation Autographs rookie card from 2018 Topps High Tek commands four figures, despite being the least valuable card on the list.
2018 Topps Chrome Update Edition Shohei Ohtani Autographs Orange Refractor RC #HMT1 #'d/25
Recent sale: $5,000
Next up, we have Shohei Ohtani's Autographs Orange Refractor rookie card from the 2018 Topps Chrome Update set. 2018 Topps Chrome Update set was allocated in a mega box on October 1, 2018, as a Target exclusive product. Ohtani's Autographs Orange Refractor rookie card emphasizes ShoTime on the mound illustrating a bold blue signature. Ohtani's Autographs Orange Refractor rookie card is serial-numbered to 25 and one of his most condition-sensitive rookie cards on the list. Of the 11 cards graded by PSA and BGS, only one card earned a PSA or BGS 10.
Shohei Ohtani represented the Japan national baseball team serval times throughout his career. His first appearance for Japan was at the U-18 2012 World Baseball Softball Confederation, registering a .323 batting average and 16 strikeouts over 10.1 innings pitched while holding batters to a minuscule .152 batting average. Ohtani also played for the Japan national baseball team at the Premier12 WBSC in 2015. At the Premier12 WBSC, Ohtani exclusively focused on pitching, recording 21 strikeouts over 13 innings while allowing zero runs, three hits, and two walks. The most recent time Ohtani played for Japan's national baseball team was at the 2017 World Baseball Classic, though injuries deterred him from participating.
Ohtani is arguably the greatest player to make the leap from the NPB to MLB, and his popularity attests to that fact. Topps circulated seven packs of four cards in each 2018 Topps Chrome Update mega box carrying an MSRP of $19.99. Should you wish to acquire a 2018 Topps Chrome Update mega box today to pursue Ohtani's Autographs Orange Refractor rookie card, it will command around $500.
2018 Topps Transcendent Collection Japan Edition Shohei Ohtani Through The Years Autographs RC #SO-2008 #'d1/1
Recent sale: $5,980
2018 Topps Transcendent Collection Japan Edition centers around two of the most renowned Japanese baseball players of all time, in Shohei Ohtani and the soon-to-be Hall of Famer Ichiro Suzuki. The most limited Shohei Ohtani rookie card is his illustrious Through The Years Autographs card from the 2018 Topps Transcendent Collection Japan Edition, serial-numbered 1-of-1. The 2018 Topps Transcendent Collection Japan Edition is also one of the scarcest releases in recent memory, as Topps only issued 50 boxes, comprising 61 cards in each. Ohtani's Through The Years Autographs rookie card is graded a PSA 9 and one of his most coveted cards of the set. When it was released, one of the biggest perks of the set highlighted a VIP invitation in Los Angeles to a meet and greet with Shohei Ohtani.
Ohtani began his professional baseball career debut on March 29, 2013, as a member of the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters. Through 86 games as a hitter, Ohtani recorded three home runs, 20 RBIs, and 12 doubles while batting .231. Through 18 games, including 11 starts, Ohtani compiled a 4.02 ERA and a 1.46 WHIP while striking out 68 over 80.2 innings. Ohtani was selected to the Nippon Professional Baseball 2013 All-Star Series for his efforts, where he pitched, hit, and played the field, effortlessly becoming the vanguard of the NPB.
While the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, and Los Angeles Dodgers pursued Ohtani, he elected to compete in the NPB to perfect his game. His 2013 NPB rookie season proved his ability to both pitch and hit at Japan's highest level of competition. As his most limited rookie card in existence, Ohtani's Through The Years Autographs rookie card from the 2018 Topps Transcendent Collection Japan Edition has unparalleled value.
2018 Topps Brooklyn Collection Design 2 Shohei Ohtani Purple RC #BC2-SO #'d/5
Recent sale: $6,300
When the 2018 Topps Brooklyn Collection was first released on December 7, 2018, it was only available to members of the Topps 582 Montgomery Club. On top of harboring a membership, collectors also needed to yield $1,000 for each hobby box of the exclusive set. The 2018 Topps Brooklyn Collection set is configured in one pack of five cards, featuring two designs, as Shohei Ohtani's rookie card emerged from Design 2. Ohtani's Purple autographed rookie card showcases Ohtani at the plate, limited to only five copies. Ohtani's Purple autographed rookie card from the 2018 Topps Brooklyn Collection has a total population of three, including two PSA 10's and one PSA 9 in existence.
In Ohtani's 2014 NPB season as a batter, he recorded 10 home runs, 31 RBIs, 17 doubles, and a .274 batting average over 87 games. Ohtani went 11-4 as a pitcher with a slight 2.61 ERA and 179 strikeouts over 155.1 innings pitched. Ohtani also registered two shutouts and three completed games, en route to being selected to his second consecutive All-Star Game. In the 2014 NPB All-Star Game, Ohtani recorded a 101 mph fastball, the fastest pitch thrown by a Japanese-born player. Ohtani also contended on the Japan national baseball team in the 2014 season.
Shohei Ohtani's unique ability to not just compete as a two-way player but excel in both aspects of the game made him the face of the NPB. As a result of his ability to do it all, his Purple autographed rookie card from the 2018 Topps Brooklyn Collection is one of the top Shohei Ohtani rookie cards to collect.
2018 Topps Chrome Shohei Ohtani Rookie Autographs Green Refractor RC #RA-SO #'d/99
Recent sale: $6,500
On August 1, 2018, the 2018 Topps Chrome set was issued in hobby, jumbo, and retail boxes. A hobby box consists of 24 packs of four cards featuring two autographed cards, a jumbo box allocates 12 packs of 13 cards, including five autographed cards and 12 refractor parallels, and blaster boxes feature eight packs of four cards, offering the coveted Rookie Autographs Green Refractor. With that said, Ohtani's next most valuable rookie card is his Rookie Autographs Green Refractor card, serial-numbered to 99 copies. Depicting a PSA and BGS population of 45, only eight cards accepted a PSA or BGS 10.
Ohtani's 2015 season on the mound as a member of the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters was nothing less than extraordinary. Through 22 starts, Ohtani went 15-5 with an unreal 2.21 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, and amassed 199 strikeouts over 162.2 innings pitched. Ohtani led the Pacific League in ERA, wins, and home runs allowed. As a result, Ohtani was nominated as the Pacific League's best pitcher and finished third in the NPB MVP award voting.
Shohei Ohtani persisted in being the most prevalent player of the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters and the Nippon Professional Baseball league, ensuring the 2015 WBSC Player of the Year award. Due to Ohtani's ability to excel both on the mound and in the batter's box, the price of Ohtani's Rookie Autographs Green Refractor card continues to ascend.
2018 Leaf Metal Draft Shohei Ohtani Red Wave RC #BA-SO1 #'d/2
Recent sale: $7,000
Collectors positively yearn 2018 Leaf Metal Draft for being an all-autograph release, which assigned one pack of six cards in each hobby box. Ohtani's rookie card emerged from the Autographs Wave set as a Red Wave parallel, featuring him on the mound with a striking blue signature. Ohtani's Red Wave parallel rookie card is limited to only two copies, making this the second most limited rookie card on the list. Both copies of Ohtani's Red Wave rookie cards have been graded by Beckett, attaining a BGS 9.5 and a BGS 10.
While Ohtani's offensive statistics took a step back in the 2015 season, the same could not be said about his 2016 season. In Ohtani's 2016 season on the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters, he belted 22 home runs, 67 RBIs, and posted a .322 batting average. On the mound, Ohtani recorded a microscopic 2.12 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, and amassed 174 strikeouts over 140 innings, posting a career-high 11.2 strikeouts per nine innings.
Shohei Ohtani's 2016 season in the NPB showcased his unparalleled ability to flourish as a two-way player. Ohtani earned the Best Nine award as a pitcher and a hitter, the first player in the NPB to attain this remarkable feat. Ohtani unquestionably captured the Pacific League MVP award, accepting 253 of 254 possible votes. Ohtani's excellence and unprecedented ability to be a two-way player created ripples across the baseball landscape. For this reason, his 2018 Leaf Metal Draft Red Wave parallel rookie card is one of the best Shohei Ohtani cards to feature in your collection.
2018 Bowman's Best Shohei Ohtani Best of 2018 Autographs Atomic RC #B18-SO #'d/25
Recent sale: $7,480
Shohei Ohtani's Best of 2018 Autographs Atomic rookie card from 2018 Bowman's Best is one of the most coveted cards of the set, limited to 25 copies. Ohtani's Atomic rookie card is one of 87 players depicted in the Best of 2018 Autographs checklist. 2018 Bowman's Best was issued as a hobby-only release, supplying collectors two mini boxes in each hobby master box. Since its release, collectors have submitted four cards to PSA, all earning a PSA 10, and 16 cards to Beckett, none of which warranted higher than a BGS 9.5.
The 2017 NPB season marks the final season for Shohei Ohtani in Japan. Through 66 games, Ohtani registered eight home runs, 31 RBIs, and a .332 batting average. Through five starts, Ohtani went 3-2, with a 3.42 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, and 31 strikeouts over 26.1 innings. Despite the diminished statistics, Ohtani was posted at the conclusion of the 2017 NPB season, finally equipped to make the jump to the MLB.
Ohtani's five seasons as a member of the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters were improbable. In Ohtani's NPB career as a DH, he recorded 48 home runs, 166 RBIs, and a .284 batting average. As a pitcher, Ohtani went 42-15, registered a 2.52 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, and 624 strikeouts over 543 innings, a remarkable 10.3 strikeouts per nine innings. ShoTime accomplished feats few other players can relate to as a two-way player, solidifying the value of Shohei Ohtani's baseball cards, particularly his Best of 2018 Autographs Atomic rookie card from 2018 Bowman's Best.
2018 Topps Transcendent Collection Japan Edition Shohei Ohtani Autographs Gold RC #TA-SO18 #'d/5
Recent sale: $8,000
Shohei Ohtani's Autographs Gold rookie card from the 2018 Topps Transcendent Collection Japan Edition is his most valuable card from the set. Ohtani's Autographed Gold rookie card showcasing him and Ichiro Suzuki sharing a handshake, two of the greatest Japanese baseball players of all time, is a thing of beauty, serial-numbered to only five copies. Graded a PSA 9 for condition, and a PSA 10 for Ohtani's blue-penned autograph, Shohei Ohtani's Autographs Gold rookie card from 2018 Topps Transcendent Collection Japan Edition is one of the finest Shohei Ohtani rookie cards to acquire.
After narrowing down the list of teams he was interested in playing for, Shohei Ohtani ultimately signed with the Los Angeles Angels on December 8, 2017, for a $545,000 base salary, including a $2,315,000 signing bonus. Less than a week later, Angels' team doctors discovered that Ohtani had a first-degree sprain in his right elbow that required platelet-rich plasma. Ohtani's injury was alarming to the franchise and concerned about his ability to compete as a two-way player, though they expected Ohtani to make a full recovery.
While Shohei Ohtani declared his desire to play in the MLB, forgoing a career in the NPB, he played in the NPB for five seasons to ensure he was equipped for the big leagues. While the UCL sprain was a concern, it ended up being just a hiccup or the two-way phenom. Still yet to play an MLB game up to this point, his Major League Baseball debut was one of the most highly anticipated debuts in recent memory. As a result, collectors took notice, cementing the value of his Autographed Gold rookie card from the 2018 Topps Transcendent Collection Japan Edition.
2018 Topps Chome Sapphire Edition Shohei Ohtani RC #700
Recent sale: $9,000
2018 Topps Chrome Sapphire Edition was printed on October 25, 2018, as collectors chased the highly desirable Shohei Ohtani's rookie cards. Shohei Ohtani's rookie card from the 2018 Topps Chrome Sapphire Edition is easily his most populous rookie card on the list and the least condition-sensitive, yet the card's worth continues to rise. Collectors have submitted 105 cards to PSA, 94 of which earned a PSA 10. As for Beckett, 60 of Ohtani's rookie cards from 2018 Topps Chrome Sapphire Edition have been graded, including 14 receiving a BGS 10 and four cards meriting a BGS 10 Black label.
As the Los Angeles Angels designated hitter, Shohei Ohtani made his highly anticipated MLB debut on March 29, 2018, singling in his first at-bat. Then on April 1, 2018, Ohtani made his major league debut as a pitcher, registering six strikeouts across six innings, including three earned runs. Due to a recurring UCL injury, Ohtani was limited on the mound in his rookie season, accumulating only 10 starts. Through those 10 games as a starter, Ohtani posted a 3.31 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, and struck out 63 batters across 51.2 innings. However, Ohtani excelled as the Angels designated hitter, registering 22 home runs, 61 RBIs, 10 stolen bases, and a .285 batting average, en route to being named the 2018 MLB Rookie of the Year.
Ohtani's rookie season in the major leagues was remarkable, and fans wanted to see more of ShoTime. Sadly, Ohtani received notice that his UCL injury had worsened at the season's end. Shortly after, Ohtani required Tommy John surgery on his pitching elbow, limiting his ability to pitch in the 2019 season. Still, Ohtani's rookie season as a two-way player put him on the map and proved his ability to perform at baseball's highest level. As such, Ohtani's rookie card from the 2018 Topps Chrome Sapphire Edition remains one of his most coveted rookie cards, despite being his least scarce card on the list.
2018 Bowman Shohei Ohtani Chrome Rookie Autographs Green RC #CRA-SO #'d/99
Recent sale: $13,100
Released on April 25, 2018, the 2018 Bowman set issued hobby boxes configured in 24 packs of 10 cards and jumbo hobby boxes in 12 packs of 32 cards. Shohei Ohtani's rookie card from the set appears in the Chrome Rookie Autographs checklist, showcasing the 17 most promising MLB rookies. Ohtani's Green refractor parallel rookie card illustrates the two-way star on the mound, limited to 99 copies. Ohtani's Green refractor parallel rookie card 2018 Bowman is one of his most condition-sensitive rookie cards, as only 11% obtained a PSA or BGS 10. Graded a PSA 10, this copy depicts one of Shohei Ohtani's most desirable rookie cards in existence.
While Ohtani was shut down in terms of pitching in the 2019 MLB season, he competed as the Angels designated hitter. Through 106 games, Ohtani belted 18 home runs, amassed 62 RBIs, swiped 12 bases, and recorded a .286 batting average. Ohtani missed the season's final three weeks due to a bipartite patella, a rare kneecap condition that required surgery.
As one of the most condition sensitive Shohei Ohtani rookie cards on the list, it's no surprise that collectors pay a premium for his Green refractor parallel rookie card from 2018 Bowman. Through two major league seasons, Ohtani succumbed to multiple injuries that hindered his ability to stay on the field. Yet, Ohtani remained resilient and began his preparation to compete as a two-way player in the 2020 MLB season.
2018 Bowman Chrome Shohei Ohtani Chrome Rookie Autographs Atomic Refractor RC #BCRA-SO #'d/100
Recent sale: $14,000
2018 Bowman Chrome was released to collectors on September 26, 2018, in hobby master boxes and HTA choice boxes. Hobby boxes contain 12 packs of five cards, while HTZ choice boxes comprise one pack of three cards, each with an on-card autograph. Ohtani's rookie card from 2018 Bowman Chrome arises in the Chrome Rookie Autographs checklist, limited to 100 copies. Other than Ohtani's Through The Years Autographs rookie card, this is the only other card on the list that doesn't feature a PSA or BGS 10. In fact, the population report from PSA depicts collectors have yet to submit Ohtani's card for grading, while 79 cards have been graded by Beckett, and 34 cards meriting a BGS 9.5.
In the pandemic-shortened 2020 MLB season, Ohtani recorded seven home runs, 24 RBIs, seven stolen bases, and a lowly .190 batting average across 44 games. Ohtani also made his first start in more than a year, though it didn't go as planned, as he threw 30 pitches and allowed three hits, three walks, five runs without recording a single out. After his second start of the 2020 MLB season, the Angels shut down Ohtani as a pitcher for the remainder of the season. To say Ohtani's 2020 MLB season was a disappointment is an understatement, and critics believed his ability to compete as a two-way player was in jeopardy.
Despite a poor showing in the pandemic-shortened 2020 MLB season, collectors who expressed faith in Ohtani to rebound would soon be rewarded, particularly those who acquired his Chrome Rookie Autographs Atomic Refractor rookie card from 2018 Bowman Chrome.
2018 Upper Deck Goodwin Champions Shohei Ohtani Exquisite Rookie Autograph RC #09T-SO #'d/99
Recent sale: $34,567
2018 Upper Deck Goodwin Champions is a multi-sport release showcasing the top athletes of all time, both past and present. Shohei Ohtani's Exquisite Rookie Autographs card is one of the set's highlights, limited to 99 copies. Ohtani's second most valuable rookie card highlights an on-card autograph, showcasing his signature in Kanji. Ohtani's Exquisite Rookie Autographs card is one of his most sought-after rookie cards and one of the most condition-sensitive, as just one card merited a PSA or BGS 10. Graded a BGS 9.5, this distinctive rookie card is one of the best representations of Ohtani's rookie card, which regularly fetches five figures.
If you lost faith in Shohei Ohtani, his 2021 season proved you wrong. Shohei Ohtani amassed 46 home runs, 100 RBIs, 26 stolen bases, 26 doubles, and eight triples (which led the league). Ohtani posted a 9-2 record on the mound, with a 3.18 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, and 156 strikeouts over 130.1 innings. Ohtani was the most electric player in the 2021 MLB season, earning his first MLB All-Star Game appearance, and unanimously captured the American League MVP award.
Shohei Ohtani's 2021 MLB season goes down in history as one of the most incredible performances in the history of sports, as the two-way phenom showcased his ability to do it all. As a result, the inherent worth of his Exquisite Rookie Autographs from 2018 Upper Deck Goodwin Champions is one of his most coveted rookie cards of all time.
2018 Topps Chome Sapphire Edition Shohei Ohtani Rookie Autographs Red RC #AC-SO #'d/10
Recent sale: $36,817
Shohei Ohtani's most valuable rookie card of all time is none other than his Rookie Autographs Red card from the 2018 Topps Chrome Sapphire Edition. Ohtani's rookie card is serial-numbered to just 25 copies, and only four cards have ever surfaced. Graded a PSA 10, this particular Shohei Ohtani rookie card is the finest example of his Rookie Autographs Red card and the only card to merit a PSA or BGS 10.
After posting one of the most remarkable seasons in baseball history and sports in general, how could Ohtani conceivably follow up his 2021 season? With just weeks away from the 2022 MLB season, Ohtani is currently the favorite to win the AL MVP award at +300. Ohtani is also ranked in the top 15 to capture the AL Cy Young award at +2000.
While Ohtani's odds to capture the most prestigious individual accolades are lofty, Ohtani's primary focus is to make a deep run in the postseason. As it stands, the Los Angeles Angels are projected to win 88.7 games in the 2022 season. If Shohei Ohtani competes at his 2021 level, and the Los Angeles Angels reach the playoffs, followed by a resounding postseason performance, and even capture the World Series, Shohei Ohtani's rookie cards will go through the roof, none more than his Rookie Autographs Red card from the 2018 Topps Chrome Sapphire Edition.
At merely 27 years old, Shohei Ohtani has already accumulated nine professional baseball seasons under his belt, five in the NPB and four in the MLB. Ohtani is one of the most decorated Japanese baseball players of all time and quickly becoming the face of the major leagues, where he was recently named to the cover of MLB the Show 2022. Ohtani's accomplishments are so remarkable that he's put himself into his own category and carved a niche that few others even dare to accomplish. While Shohei Ohtani's individual accomplishments speak for themselves, should Ohtani and the Los Angeles Angels contend for the pennant and seize a World Series title, the value of his rookie cards will achieve unprecedented heights.