Masahiro Tanaka cards were heating up even before he signed with the New York Yankees. Don't look for that to slow down soon now that the Japanese pitching sensation has joined baseball's biggest team.
With the Rakuten Eagles in 2013, Tanaka went a perfect 24-0. He struck out 183 batters in 221 innings of work with a 1.27 ERA.
Collectors have plenty of Masahiro Tanaka cards to choose from already. They date back to 2007 when he made his debut. Since then, BBM and Calbee have released dozens of different Tanaka cards. These aren't his only cards, though.
Topps included a handful of different Masahiro Tanaka cards in 2009 products thanks to his participation in the World Baseball Classic. These include Topps Chrome and Bowman Chrome. Tanaka also appeared on some memorabilia cards.
Masahiro Tanaka cards have been on the rise for several months as word came out of his desire to leave Japan to play in the MLB. Whether he becomes the hobby's next Yu Darvish or Daisuke Matsuzaka or somewhere in between remains to be seen. In the meantime, expect plenty of hype and excitement.
Here's a look at several of the key Masahiro Tanaka cards already available. For his 2009 Topps and Bowman cards, these won't be considered official rookie cards as they're inserts. However, that doesn't mean they won't bring a lot of interest. His rookie cards are in 2014 products.
Early Masahiro Tanaka Cards Highlights
Japanese card maker BBM released several Masahiro Tanaka cards in 2007. This one comes from a set titled 1st Version. According to Japanese Baseball Cards, it actually came out a couple of months after the Rookie Edition set. It has a simple design highlighted by a full-bleed design. Expect to pay $25-30 for one online. The card also has a foil version and promo version.
This is the first Masahiro Tanaka card released by BBM. Featuring a simple posed shot, it usually sells for a little more than his 1st Edition card but the two are comparable.
Masahiro Tanaka has a couple of different memorabilia cards from 2007. However, numbered to 200, this one appears to be the most plentiful. Others have under 100 copies each. That said, this Rookie Edition Premium jersey card
BBM isn't the only company in Japan making baseball cards. Calbee, a snack foods company, does as well but on a seemingly more limited basis. The 2007 Calbee Masahiro Tanaka is a very simple card with a full-bleed action photo on the front and not much else.
The World Baseball Classic didn't happen until 2009. To get the ball rolling on a wave of WBC-themed cards, Topps inserted mystery redemptions in 2008 Bowman Sterling that would go unfulfilled for several months. Limited to 65 copies, these patch cards don't show up very often.
One of several Topps sets to include World Baseball Classic cards, the 2009 Bowman Chrome WBC Prospects Masahiro Tanaka closely resembles the base design. As you'd expect, there are several Refractor parallels, most of which are numbered.
2009 Topps Chrome Baseball also came with WBC inserts, albeit with a different design. Like Bowman Chrome, Refractor parallels command significant premiums.
Topps got a little more creative for the WBC cards found in 2009 Topps Ticket to Stardom. Not only does it come with a game-used memorabilia swatch, but a ticket piece from the championship game between Japan and Korea. Tanaka didn't pitch, but it's still an interesting card.
2009 Topps Updates and Highlights WBC Stitches Triple Masahiro Tanaka #FTA with Kosuke Fukudome and Norichika Aoki #/25
A rare find in 2009 Topps Update Baseball, this card has a trifecta of swatches from Tanaka, Kosuke Fukudome and Norichika Aoki. Limited to 25 copies, they don't show up often.
The number of WBC cards was cut drastically for the tournament's second go-round. Tanaka has a base card in the high-end 2013 Topps Tribute World Baseball Classic, which also includes Jose Abreu, another international standout poised to make a splash in 2014. The card has Gold (#/25), Red (#/5) and Purple (1/1) parallels.
Related Topics: Baseball Cards: Prospecting