Interest in Shohei Ohtani memorabilia on rise

The sports memorabilia world is buzzing over Angels pitcher and slugger Shohei Ohtani.

On Monday night, his autographed Topps rookie card sold for $6,725.

"It's a truly foreign market that is buying his memorabilia," said Rick Probstein, whose company sold the card on eBay. " Aaron Judge and some of the other baseball stars we have seen on the rise, have been boosted by a U.S. market alone."

A year after Judge got compared to Babe Ruth due to his larger-than-life stature and frequency of home runs, Ohtani is also compared to the "Bambino," not only hitting blasts but striking out batters.

"The fact that he is excelling at both hitting and pitching has created somewhat of a frenzy," Probstein said.

The red ink autographed card, from the 2018 Topps Heritage set, could have been bought in the $1,500 to $2,000 range toward the end of spring training when fans were questioning if the hype was real over Ohtani, who the Angels acquired by paying a $20 million posting fee to the Nippon-Ham Fighters, his Japanese team.

But the 23-year-old Ohtani has more than matched expectations early in the regular season, going 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA after taking a perfect game into the seventh inning in his last start. In his at-bats, he has gotten seven hits, including three home runs and seven RBI.

"His autographed cards have tripled or quadrupled in the last two to three weeks," Probstein said.

Topps, which signed Ohtani to an exclusive autograph and memorabilia deal in January, said Tuesday it has sold 102,501 on-demand cards of Ohtani on its website in the last 32 hours.

Topps priced one autographed card at $4,000. It sold immediately.

Phillies reliever Pat Neshek, a noted card collector, pulled a Topps Heritage signed Ohtani, number 1 out of 69, out of a pack last week. He sold the card on eBay for $6,101 on Sunday.

"When Major League Baseball players are flipping a card for a profit, you know it's big," said Clay Luraschi, vice president of product development for Topps, who has been with the company for 18 years.

"We've seen things that look like this -- Ichiro and Pujols in 2001 and obviously what we saw with Aaron Judge last year," Luraschi said. "But nothing I've seen in the past has matched what we've seen the last couple weeks with Ohtani."