On a seemingly normal day last November, tens of thousands of collectors perused Facebook groups, Twitter feeds and eBay listings, or visited their LCS, with many hoping to land an autograph (or even just a base RC) of the NFL seasons breakout rookie QB: Deshaun Watson. Then, almost in unison, everyone’s phones began alerting.
Then everything changed.
“Deshaun Watson done for the season after tearing ACL in practice” flashed upon screens across the country. Thousands of sports fans and collectors were in total shock. It’s like the Hobby Gods were playing a sick joke on collectors.
Almost instantaneously, the players cards that the collective hobby world had been gushing over and trying desperately to find for weeks, were being lined in rooms, listed on ebay, and those “NFS/NFT” cards instantly had a price tag. What were at one time THE cards to have, lost their luster. His cards took a dip, and while other rookies stole the show, Deshaun Watson became a mere afterthought of an incredible NFL season and rookie class. But this offseason, his cards began their resurgence as Watson prepares to return to the field in a few months with his surgically repaired knee. His place near the top of the “Hobby “Royalty” yet again established, without taking a single meaningful snap.
The previous sentence is what Shohei Ohtani collectors and investors need to remember, as it seems the Hobby Gods have been up to their old tricks yet again, even taking it up a notch with this latest “saga”.
“Ohtani-mania”, as it was collectively dubbed, has taken the hobby world by storm in 2018. Despite an insanely impressive rookie class, the two-way phenom from Japan was THE chase player. The Aaron Judge of 2018. Like Judge, Ohtani backed up his insane hype, showing the potential to be a future star on the mound AND at the plate. The hobby world doubled down.
With seemingly every K thrown and every HR hit, his cards began to soar. Autographs were in the $1000’s right out of the gate. The international market, particularly Japan (where his legend is already solidified), combined with an American market that was now “all-in” on the rookie, took his cards to unprecedented heights.
Then 2018 Bowman Baseball was released.
Up until that point, collectors had nice Ohtani autograph options, with Heritage and Gypsy Queen, but this is BOWMAN and the Bowman Chrome SUPERFRACTOR. In baseball, save for the Topps Chrome Superfractor Auto, the Bowman Superfractor Auto is THE ULTIMATE RC for a player.
Immediately upon release, the chase was on. In fact, BEFORE the product had even hit shelves, multiple different companies, such as Blowout Cards, made public offers of $50,000+ for the Ohtani Superfractor Auto, provided it graded a Gem Mt. 9.5/10 from Beckett Grading Services. Everyone was ripping Bowman. Non-baseball collectors were buying up the retail shelves at their local Wal-Marts & Targets, hoping for one of the 99 Ohtani retail autographs. Base autos going for thousands, #’d parallels for $10k+, Ohtani-mania was in full gear.
Months went by, thousands of packs ripped, and still no Ohtani Superfractor Autograph. The “bounty” for the card had reached $100,000. Other products began releasing, but everyone was still chasing “the unicorn.” Then on June 6th, the day that 2018 Topps Finest was released, the Finest Ohtani Superfractor Autograph gets pulled! The same day the product is released!
While not the Bowman, its an absolutely gorgeous card, and the biggest Ohtani autograph pulled to date. The card held that title for less than 48 hours. Less than two days later, it happened: collector John Muheim, busting a personal box he bought a week or two before and “forgot about”, ripped open one of the packs and BOOM! The unicorn discovered. Muheim had pulled the Bowman Chrome Ohtani Superfractor! Collectors phones blew up, with every Facebook Group, Twitter Feed, IG Post related to the hobby engrossed in what they were seeing. Were both the Finest and Bowman supers really pulled? Were the pictures photoshopped? Was the chase truly over?
Before collectors could even get their answers (both were pulled, the pictures weren’t photoshopped), collectors phones once again started blowing up with alerts.
“Shohei Ohtani to the DL, to be re-evaluated in 3 weeks”.
Wow. Talk about the aforementioned Hobby Gods throwing an absolute gut shot. Within three days, the two biggest Ohtani autographed cards were both pulled, and then it’s announced he is going on the DL. Well, you can’t say the Hobby Gods don’t have a sense of humor (albeit a twisted one).
And the hobby, just like with Watson, went into “crazy overreaction mode.” Thousands of “collectors” looking to unload their Ohtani’s. Laughing at the high prices of his autographs that they themselves were a contributor of. Devaluing (in their mind) any card or statistic they saw because of an injury. Some were absolutely embarrassing to read. Did anyone actually COLLECT Ohtani, or simply view him as an investment? It has been interesting to say the least.
But just like Watson and the many before him (Wentz, OBJ, Trout, Har…..you get it), Ohtani’s cards will take a small dip, level off at “top tier RC” prices, and then collectors will see a large and rapid rise in pricing in anticipation of his return, once announced. There’s no need to dump all of your Ohtani RCs. No need to call him a “bust” or put down his accomplishments. He will be back. The hype will return.
And the Hobby Gods will continue to keep us on our toes.
Editors note: The reports of the severity of his injury vary from 3 weeks to Tommy John surgery and a return in 2020. As of this writing, nothing has been confirmed. We will update with any news as soon as it becomes available.