Back in March, I had a kind of difficult decision to make. I love the World Baseball Classic and I always try to get all the baseball cards associated with it. But for both the 2017 and 2023 tournaments, Topps has issued a bunch of WBC cards as on demand Topps Now cards that are on sale for one day only for $9.99.
For the 2017 set I wasn't sure I wanted to buy them when they first came out and it was only after the fact that I decided to get the complete set. This turned out to be a long and somewhat expensive process. While I was able to get a great many of the cards for less than the original $9.99 cost, several of them ended up costing me somewhat more. It took me until February of this year to find the final card I needed, #W-32 of Didi Gregorious, and I ended up spending $80 on it.
I faced the same decision this time around and decided that while it would be expensive in the short term to get all the cards as they came out, it would end up cheaper in the long run. Now when I say "get all the cards as they came out", I don't mean spend $9.99 on each one directly from Topps. It was much cheaper to buy them on Ebay from someone buying them in bulk - I paid somewhere between $4 and $5 for each card. Still that's not exactly cheap for 73 cards. I knew up front that there were two downsides of doing it this way - no chance to get parallel versions of the cards and there would be a delay in my receiving the cards as they would have to get to the Ebay sellers first before they got forwarded to me. But being able to save over half the price on the cards outweighed these downsides. I just didn't realize how long it was going to take to receive all the cards - I finally got the last one this past Friday, over two months after the tournament ended.
Let's talk about the cards themselves. As I briefly mentioned above, there are 73 cards in the set (nine more than the 2017 set). Each of the twenty teams in the tournament has at least one card in the set with the exception of China. Japan has the most cards in the set with 18, almost twice as many as the team with the second most, the US with 10. Japan has two cards for each of their first round games and their quarterfinal game, three cards for their semi-final game against Mexico and five cards for the final game against the US. Those 18 cards only feature eight separate players though - there are five cards of Shohei Ohtani, two cards each of Munetaka Murakami, Kazuma Okamoto and Masataka Yoshida and one card each of Yu Darvish, Lars Nootbaar, Roki Sasaki and Yoshinobu Yamamoto. There are also three cards that feature "Team Japan" rather than an individual player. Here are all 18 cards (along with the back of the card celebrating Munetaka Murakami's walkoff double in the semifinal game against Mexico):
A couple quick additional comments - the card of Ohtani striking out Mike Trout had the highest print run of any card in the set - 42,273 (for comparison's sake, the highest print run of any of the 2017 cards was 1736 for the card of Adam Jones robbing Manny Machado of a home run. The lowest print run for anuy of the 2023 cards was 265 for the card of Reynaldo Rodriguez & Guillermo Zuniga of Colombia). The front of card #WBC-69 is incorrect - Murakami did not hit home runs in back-to-back games.
Despite Korea's third consecutive disappointing WBC finish, they had three cards in the set (two more than they had in 2017). There's one card for their defeat of the Czech Republic and two cards for their 22-2 battering of China:
Despite there being around 28 former or current NPB players on various team's WBC rosters, only
onetwo of these players made it onto a card. Wu Nien-Ting of the Lions hit the first home run of the tournament for Taiwan and had his feat commemorated:
UPDATE - I somehow missed that Joey Meneses of Mexico (and former Orix Buffalo) had a card for his two home run day against Team USA. Like Murakami's card above, this card was one of handful that had a photo on both the front and back:
In addition to the "regular" Topps Now WBC cards, Topps also issued two 12 card sets that were available for $49.99 each for a week after the tournament ended. The first one of these was the All Tournament team. There were two Samurai Japan players on this team although one of them - Shohei Ohtani - has two cards since he made the team as both pitcher and DH:
The other set was a partial set for the WBC Champion Samurai Japan team. In addition to the eight players who had been featured on the "regular" Topps Now WBC cards, this set included Sosuke Genda, Shota Imanaga, Kosuke Kondoh and Shugo Maki. I'll only show two of these cards - if you want to see all of them, Zippy Zappy has you covered:
In addition to the Topps Now cards, Topps has also issued a 50 card "Global Stars" set via boxes of 20 cards that you could only order online. These have just started shipping in the last week or so - I'm anticipating getting mine tomorrow. There will also be a 60 card insert set in the Topps Series Two set which will be released in the next few weeks. The Topps Series Two set will also include autographed parallels of the WBC inserts. I don't know if any of the later sets this year will feature memorabilia cards the way a lot of the later 2017 issues did.