The Angels’ Shohei Ohtani was in a neck-and-neck home run race with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. through the end of May, trailing the Blue Jays’ slugger by one (16 to 15). Then … Ohtani went wild, hitting 13 homers in June and five more the first week in July.

Suddenly, baseball’s brightest star had 33 home runs — before the All-Star break. (Guerrero fell a little behind, but not much, hitting 28 in that span.)

The amazing thing about Ohtani is that he’s been pitching like an ace, too, compiling a 3-1 record with 87 strikeouts in 67 innings. But it’s his hitting that’s lighting up the baseball world. We see the lefty slugger launching Ruthian shots almost every night, it seems.

As you’d expect, he’s a hobby hero as well. His prime rookie cards, from 2018, are soaring into five-figure prices. A prime example just missed our Top 10 list (see “On The Outside Looking In,” below): a 2018 Bowman Chrome autographed Red Refractor (graded BGS 9.5) that sold on eBay in June for $56,716.

A 2018 Bowman Chrome Shohei Ohtani rookie refractor autograph card.

Shohei Ohtani Red Refractor 

More: Shohei Ohtani MLB's new Babe Ruth, and a hero in his homeland 

Here’s a list of other Ohtani prizes that have changed hands on eBay during recent weeks, each of them bearing an autograph:

• $27,158 on 29 bids: 2018 Bowman Chrome Orange Refractor, pitching photo (#5/25, graded BGS 9.5)

• $26,917 on 82 bids: 2018 Bowman Chrome Gold Refractor, pitching photo (#7/50, graded PSA 10)

A 2018 Bowman Shohei Ohtani Gold Refractor.

Shohei Ohtani Gold Refractor 

• $23,700 on 69 bids: 2018 Bowman Chrome Orange Refractor, hitting photo (#22/25, graded BGS 9.5)

• $22,500 on 61 bids: 2018 Bowman’s Best Atomic Refractor, pitching photo (#8/25, graded BGS 9.5)

• $20,299 on 81 bids: 2018 Topps Chrome Red Refractor, hitting photo (#4/5, graded BGS 9.5)

• $18,989 on 41 bids: 2018 Bowman Chrome Orange Refractor, hitting photo (#10/25, graded BGS 9.5)

• $15,100 on 106 bids: 2018 Topps Chrome Gold Wave Refractor, hitting photo (#1/50, BGS 10)

• $15,189 on 57 bids: 2018 Bowman Chrome Gold Refractor, pitching photo (#27/50, graded BGS 9.5)

• $12,928 on 37 bids: 2018 Panini Flawless, pitching photo (#1/1, ungraded)

A Panini Flawless Shohei Ohtani auto patch card.

Shohei Ohtani Flawless card

More: Shohei Superfractor sells for $287K

If you’re wondering about his signature, it’s like so many other current athletes’ autographs: an indiscernible scribble — albeit an artistic one.

Indeed, Ohtani-signed baseballs are great-looking items. Over the past three months, we’ve seen authenticated examples sell for prices between $200 and $600. Examples within that range include one baseball authenticated by Topps ($595 on one bid), another by Beckett ($338 on 21 bids) and another by JSA ($255 on 66 bids).

A Shohei Ohtani-signed baseball.

Shohei Ohtani-signed baseball card. 

More: Babe Ruth card sells for $4.2M in $21.5M Newman Collection 

WANDER-BALL

Speaking of signatures, what about Wander Franco? Right now, Franco-signed baseballs are fetching $200 to $400 on eBay. If you’re buying, take a close look at authentication accompanying any ball, and make sure you study up by closely examining legit Franco sigs.

The obvious question: Where do you find legit Franco sigs? Considering what’s at stake for trading card manufacturers, we put a lot of stock into the autographed cards they issue. Pictured here is an example from Topps of the signature of the young Tampa Rays star (who, by the way, was born in 2001— not to make you feel old!).

2019 Bowman Wander Franco auto card.

Wander Franco auto card. 

GEMS CAN BE FOUND AT THE NATIONAL

If you’ll be in Chicago to attend the National Sports Collectors Convention July 28-Aug. 1, good luck! We hope you find some true gems. Yes, eBay gives us a nonstop selection of sports memorabilia, but there’s nothing like being at the nation’s biggest show and seeing, touching and browsing treasures in person.

More: National Ballpark Museum a treasure for baseball fans 

Attendees, of course, look forward to specially produced cards issued for distribution at the National. We often see them pop up in eBay listings. Here’s a trio of recent examples:

• An autographed Tiger Woods Upper Deck promo card from the 2013 National sold for $1,300 on one bid.

• A Topps promo of Pete Alonso from the 2019 National, marked #43/50, sold for $156 on 23 bids.

A 2019 Topps National Convention card distributed at the 2019 National.

Pete Alonso

• A Bowman Chrome promo of Shohei Ohtani distributed at the 2018 National sold for $141 on 16 bids.

ALL-STAR ‘DOUBLEHEADER’

Did you know that 60 years ago this summer, in 1961, Major League Baseball held two All-Star games? It was a practice that happened every season for the ever-so-brief span of 1959-1962.

For that 1961 season, the first All-Star Game happened at Candlestick Park in San Francisco on July 11. The National League won in 10 innings; Stu Miller of the hometown Giants was the winning pitcher. The second All-Star Game was at Fenway Park in Boston on July 31. That one went nine innings and, because of rain, ended in a 1-1 tie — the first All-Star Game to do so.

A vintage program from either or both 1961 All-Star games can be had for $30 to $300, depending on condition. One eBay bidder recently paid $350 for a 1961 Fenway program, but it was accompanied by a used ticket stub from the game. Both items looked to be in fair condition.

Program from the July 11, 1961 MLB All-Star Game.

July 11, 1961 All-Star Game program. 

1961 All-Star Game program.

Program from 1961 All-Star Game at Fenway Park. 

A-RODG AGAIN

It’s been a strange summer for Aaron Rodgers, the quarterback (maybe) of the Green Bay Packers. We’ve heard all the talk of a potential breakup with the only NFL team for whom he’s ever played, and we’ve heard rumors the future Hall of Famer will take a year off, and we read he was “working on his mental health” while skipping out on team summer activities.

But … now there are reports noting he declined to opt out of the 2021 season — even though he’d have received most of his compensation. Given that information, he appears open to sticking around.

So, barring a trade, Rodgers could be in green and gold again when the Packers kick off in New Orleans on Sept. 12. Meanwhile, we’d classify Rodgers as an enticing target for collectors. One sweet piece that sold on eBay in July for a hefty price was a 2005 Playoff Contenders autographed Rookie Ticket card. Graded PSA 10, it fetched $25,100 on 41 bids.

2005 Playoff Contender Aaron Rodgers autograph card.

Aaron Rodgers 

PEYTON PORTRAITURE

The holy grails among Peyton Manning items are his 1998 Topps Chrome Refractor, Upper Deck SP Authentic and Playoff Contenders cards. Here’s another that stands out for its rarity and aesthetics: Manning’s 1988 Fleer Ultra Masterpiece.

Peyton Manning rookie portraiture.

Peyton Manning 

This 1-of-1 issue features a striking black-and-white portrait pose of the future Hall of Famer as a baby-faced Colts rookie. Offered on eBay in March, it sold for $32,655 on 56 bids. It had been graded 9 by BGS.