Saturday, May 31, 2014

An Ivory-Billed Woodpecker

The 1968 Jintan Gum Giants Trump set (JGA 137) is a very rare set.  When I say "very rare", what I mean is that Engel gives it a scarcity factor of "R5" which means that there are only 3 or fewer known copies of most cards in the set.  In fact, this particular set is so rare that Engel mentions that only one complete set had been seen of it.

Until earlier this month, when another set showed up on Ebay (I am assuming that this is not the single complete set that Engel mentioned but that may not be the case).

What makes the set interesting is that there are very few known cards sets between 1964 (which was essentially the end of the menko era) and 1973 (the birth of Calbee).  This is one of the few that were produced in that void.

There were 54 cards in the set which basically is a standard deck of cards (with two jokers) with the picture in the middle of the card.  All the cards show either Giants players or coaches (plus a card of Korakuen Stadium).  All of the King cards are Shigeo Nagashima, all of the Queen cards are Sadaharu Oh and all of the Jack cards are Isao Shidata.  Other significant people in the set are Tetsuharu Kawakami, Masahiko (Masaaki) Mori and Masaichi Kaneda.  Obscure Hall Of Famer Shigeru Makino has one of his few cards in this set - it's the only one that shows him as a Giants coach, which is the role that he became a Hall Of Famer because of.

I swiped the images from the auction to show here:

It is unfortunate that the corners of the cards were cut off.  I've seen this a lot with older Japanese cards, especially menko.  I wonder why that is.

Engel lists the set at $4,000.  It sold on Ebay for $100.  Even with the corners cut off, that's a hell of deal for someone.

2014 BBM 1st Version

2014 BBM 1st Version Set Summary

Size: 409 cards number 1-408 with two versions of card #137
Cards Per Team:  28 (team card, manager + 26 players)
Team Card Theme:  Mascots
Number Of Leader Cards:  N/A
Checklists:  None
Subsets:  Genuine Ace (12), Big Slugger (12), Limitless Hope (12), Spirit Of The Team (12), Gods Of Defense (12), Last Guardian (12)
Inserts:  Great Hit Makers, Wonder Rookie, Lightning
Memorabilia Cards:  Jersey cards for Sho Nakata and Wladimir Balentien (as well as a combination card with both of them).  There are 19 "Art Of Auto" autographed cards with print runs that vary between 10 and 25.
Parallels:  108 cards have four different parallel versions - silver, gold (numbered to 100), "Holographic" (numbered to 50) and red (numbered to 25).  I believe that the 76 rookie cards have a serially numbered (to 100) parallel.  There's are parallel versions of the subset cards and the Great Hit Maker and Wonder Rookie inserts.  There is a patch version of the solo jersey cards that are serially numbered to 20.
Notable Rookies: Yuki Matsui, Daichi Ohsera, Seiya "Aja" Inoue

As always, don't take those "Notable Rookies" too seriously - in five year there's likely to be a completely different list.

This post is going to be a bit repetitive of Ryan's post on this set a few months back but I'll do my standard post and hopefully add a little more information to what he's already written.  But he's got examples of inserts and parallels there that I'm not going to cover here.

The biggest change with this year's edition of the 1st Version set is that BBM decided not to do the "Leader" subset that would commemorate the statistical leaders and award winners from the 2013 season.  BBM had done this subset in every "flagship" set since their first set in 1991.  They also have dropped the Best 9 and Golden Glove subsets which had been in every 1st Version set as subsets since 2011.  Previously they had been insert sets included in every flagship set since 1997 for the Best 9 cards and 2000 for the Golden Glove cards.

In place of those subsets, BBM added six 12 card subsets.  As you can probably guess from the size of the subsets, each one contains one player from each team.  The first subset is "Genuine Aces" and features one of the better starting pitchers for each team:

"Big Sluggers" features...ummm...big sluggers from each team:

The "Limitless Hope" subset contains what are probably the most promising young player for each team.  Only two of these are actually rookies this season - the others have anywhere from one to three years of NPB experience.  This guy is one of the rookies:

The "Spirit Of Team" subset highlights the other end of the experience spectrum.  Each player included in the subset is one of the older players for their team.

Even without the Golden Glove subset defense is not ignored in this set - the "Gods Of Defense" subset features what I assume are great defensive players for each team:

Closing out the subsets is (appropriately) the "Last Guardian" subset that includes the pitchers who looked to be the closers for their teams before the season started:

For the fifth time since 2009 (or every year since 2009 except 2012) the team checklists feature the team mascots.  To me personally, this got old three years ago, especially now that BBM has been doing an annual mascot set.

As I've mentioned previously, I'm not real happy with the choices that BBM made with this set.  I've always liked the Leader subset and I've never particularly liked subsets for the sake of subsets.

Luckily, however, the saving grace of the set are the regular cards.  This is what BBM does best, beautiful photos on a simple minimalist design (although not as minimalist as Calbee):





Back of #147 (Sho Nakata)

I was curious to see how BBM would handle Motonobu Tanishige this year.  When Atsuya Furuta was player-manager for the Swallows back in 2006-07 (the only other time there's been a player-manager since BBM started doing cards), BBM did two separate cards for him - one as a player and one as a manager.  What BBM did this time is to only have one card for Tanishige that has a position of "MGR/C" (and appears in the checklist at the appropriate spot for the Dragons manager).  Since this set is much smaller than the 2006 and 2007 1st Version sets, I think this is the right decision - this allows the set to contain one more Dragon than it would have otherwise.

There are two things I want to note about the Fighter cards in the set.  The first is that there are two different versions of Shohei Ohtani's card (#137) but this does not come at the expense of another Fighters card.  There are actually 28 Fighters cards (plus the team card).  I don't think either card is a short print and I think that each are as numerous as any other card in the set.  The second is that for the first time since he was drafted in 2011, Yuki Saitoh does not appear in the set.

UPDATE - forgot to add that as usual all the cards can be seen at Jambalaya.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Sports Card Magazine #105

Sports Card Magazine #105 hit the news stands in Japan on Tuesday of this week.  I got mine yesterday via Amazon Japan.  As always it is of limited use to me as a non-Japanese reader, but there are a number of fun things in it (besides the 12 promo baseball cards).

This issue features a three page cover story on the just released 80th Anniversary Pitchers Version set - all three pages are in full color and show off a number of cards from the set as well as some other cards of pitchers who for whatever reason are not in the set - I think the article is highlighting some career statistical pitching leaders and a couple of guys on the leader boards (Hideo Nomo for instance) aren't in the new set.

There's also full page color ads for several of BBM's new releases - the afore mentioned 80th Anniversary Pitchers Version set; team sets for the Lions, Fighters, Baystars, Eagles, Marines andTigers; and the Dancing Heroine Hana set (for team cheerleaders and dance squads).  There's also a page with half page ads for the Speed & Smart and Pitchers Spirit Of Carp (what I called the "Totomashi" set the other day) box sets.  I will point out that the ads for BBM's sets show more information than what their corresponding web pages show.  There are also full page color ads for a couple of new J-League sets and Calbee Series Two.

There's a section in every issue called "SCM Headline" that lists a "Best Card Of This Month", "Best Item Of This Month" and two "Hot Card Lists" - one for rookie cards and one for autograph & memorabilia.  It will probably not come as a huge shock that the top items always seem to be BBM items, although in fairness, I don't know how the items are chosen.  The "Best Card Of This Month" (which is an odd title considering SCM comes out every two months) is an autographed Shigeo Nagashima card from BBM's "The National Honor" set, which happens to be the "Best Item Of This Month".  Seven of the hot rookie cards are from the 2014 BBM 1st Version set - Daichi Ohsera (#1 on the list), Yuki Matsui (#2), Allen Kuri (#3), Daiki Tohmei (#4), Tomoya Mori (#8), Seiji Kobayashi (#9) and Shota Suzuki (#10).  Two of the others are from this year's Calbee Series One set - Ohsera (#6) and Matsui (#7).  The remaining card is the only one not from this year - Masahiro Tanaka's 2007 1st Version card (#5 of the list).  The top autograph and memorabilia card is the Shigeo Nagashima card mentioned before.  The other cards (all autograph cards) include two cards of Masahiro Tanaka (2007 BBM Eagles and 2013 Genesis), two cards of Saichi Ohsera (2014 BBM Carp and 2014 Front Runner Trading Cards Carp Rookie And Young Stars), a 2014 BBM 1st Version Shohei Ohtani, a 2014 BBM Eagles 10th Anniversary Katsuya Nomura and "The National Honor" card of Sadaharu Oh.  The other two cards are for a J-League player (Keisuke Honda) and a boxer (Joichiro Tatsuyoshi).

BBM rotates what checklists it includes in each magazine.  This issue has the complete J-League card listings starting in 1993.  They also have checklists for most of the new and upcoming BBM issues as well as most of the recent BBM, Calbee and Epoch/OB club releases (no Front Runner Trading Card sets though).

There is more included in the magazine but this was the stuff that was most helpful/interesting to me.

There were 12 promo cards included in the magazine.  Six of them were the latest Cosmic Cross cards and the other six were promos for new BBM sets.  I'll going to show the promos here because it'll be one of the few times I can show a card for a set before Ryan does (actually he's already done a post on the Speed & Smart set).

The first four cards I'm going to show are pretty much run-of-the-mill BBM promo cards.  Other than a change in the color of the graphics, the cards are identical to the corresponding card in the set (I'm making an assumption in the case of the Dancing Heroine Hana card since it's not out yet):

SCM #254 

SCM #255

SCM #256

SCM #259
The other two are a little more fun.  First, there's this card for the BBM Tigers set:

SCM #257
Kind of a cool picture but what makes it fun is that it is not the picture used in the actual set.  According to BBM's website for the set, the real card will look like this:

The final card is for a late signing Fighters player.  Anthony Carter joined the Fighters in late April after starting the season with the El Paso Chihuahuas, the AAA team of the Padres.  He signed too late to make BBM's Fighters team set so they made up a card for him that extends the set.  It actually is numbered #F91 as well as having the SCM card number:

SCM #258

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

New BBM Releases

BBM announced a couple sets in the last week or so:

- There's a box set dedicated to the Carp's pitchers both old and new that is being released today (or yesterday in Japan).  It's called something like Carp "Totomashi" and contains 27 base set cards plus one premium card - not entirely sure what all the premium cards are but I think there are both autograph and memorabilia cards available.  The base cards are split between 18 OB pitchers (including Hiroki Kuroda, Yutaka Ohno and Manabu Kittabeppu) and 9 active pitchers (including Kenta Maeda, Daichi Ohsera and Yosuke Nomura).

- BBM is releasing three more team sets in the next few weeks - the Tigers, the Eagles and the Marines.  The Tigers base set is the largest at 111, the Eagles set will have 99 cards and the Marines set will have 93.  Each set will have nine insert cards and a variety of autograph/memorabilia cards.  The Tigers set will be out in early June while the other two will be out towards the end of the month.

Monday, May 26, 2014

2014 Calbee Series One

I am under no illusion that any card company in Japan pays any attention to what I write.  But I am happy that my main complaint about last year's Calbee Series One set was addressed in this year's Series One set, even if it had nothing to do with my complaint.  I would expect that there are ways in Japan for collectors to indicate their feelings about a set to the card companies and I would be surprised if I were the only one making this complaint (on the other hand, I can be really picky so maybe not...).

Last year I complained that Series One contained no rookie cards and players who switched teams in the offseason - the implication was that there were no pictures used in the set that were taken during Spring Training.  This year, while the bulk of the photographs were probably taken last year, there's a handful that were taken this spring.  There are a couple veterans with new teams - Hideaki Wakui (Lions to Marines in the off season) and Hirokazu Ibata (Dragons to Giants).  There are also several rookies - Yuki Matsui of the Eagles, Daichi Ohsera of the Carp, and Tomoya Mori of the Lions.

The set itself has 100 cards in the base set - 84 player cards and 16 cards in assorted subsets (or non-premium insert sets).  The 84 player cards are split evenly between all 12 teams so there are seven per team.  The player cards use essentially the same design that Calbee has been using since 1997 - full bleed photo on the front with the player's surname, team name and logo and uniform number.  As always, Calbee's photography is exceptional.  Here's a couple examples:





The remaining 16 cards are split into five subsets/non premium insert sets.*

* OK, I always call them subsets but I may be using the terminology incorrectly because they are not numbered in sequence with the player cards.  So I guess they should be considered insert cards but for sale purposes, these are considered part of the base set, as opposed to the Star inserts which are a premium insert set and not considered part of the base set.  Confused?  That's why I prefer to call them subsets, even if they technically aren't.

The subsets all show events from last season.  There's a three card Legend subset that features the retirement ceremonies for Shinjiro Hiyama, Tomonori Maeda and Shinya Miyamoto:

There's a two card subset celebrating the two league champions from last year, the Giants and the Eagles.  Just as a reminder, in NPB the league champion is the team that finished first during the regular season, not the team that wins the Climax Series and represents the league in the Nippon Series.  As it happens, both league champions made it to the Series last year so the distinction is moot this time:

There's a four card subset for the Climax Series - one card for each stage in each league:


There's a three card subset for the Nippon Series. The first card shows the Eagles celebrating (surrounding Masahiro Tanaka) while the other two cards are for Series MVP Manabu Mima and "Fighting Spirit" award winner Hisayoshi Chono.  I'm very happy to see this subset given that BBM didn't do anything to commemorate the Eagles' Series win.


The final subset is the four card checklist subset.  Here's another thing Calbee fixed with this set.  Last year Calbee decided to use pictures of the team mascots on the checklist cards rather than the candid/action shots they had been using for years.  They have returned to those kind of pictures this year.  The four cards show Wladimir Balentien celebrating his 60th home run last September, Chihiro Kaneko pitching a three hit shutout of the Marines on September 4, Norihiro Nakamura doing something on August 20 (I think), and Sho Nakata and Shohei Ohtani of the Fighters celebrating after a win in Obihiro on August 17:


All the cards can be seen either at Jambalaya or the posts that Ryan has done as he attempts to build the set via packs.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Card Of The Week May 25

Korakuen Stadium, former home of the Yomiuri Giants (among others) opened in 1937.  As you might expect, the stadium originally had natural grass.  Artificial turf was installed at the stadium in time for the 1976 season.  I think it was the first ballpark in Japan to have artificial turf but I don't know that for sure.

One of the series in the monster 1975/76 Calbee set (#397-#464) appears to be devoted to league leaders and award winners for the 1975 season.  Mixed in these cards are at least two cards showing diagrams related to the artificial turf.  The first one (#408) appears to show the difference between how a ball would bounce on natural grass and how the ball would bounce on artificial turf:

The second one (#422) shows a cross section of what I think is the drainage system for the stadium (I don't have this card but I got the images from Yahoo! Japan Auctions):

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Yomiuri Giants In Vero Beach

In March of 1975, the Yomiuri Giants traveled to Vero Beach, Florida for two weeks of training at the Los Angeles Dodgers spring training camp.  This would be neither the first of the last time that the Giants would go to Dodgertown, but this particular trip is significant for one reason - photographs from the Giants visit were used in Calbee cards that year.

1974/75 Calbee #693
The set that the cards appear in is the 1974/75 set - obviously the cards are in a series that was released in 1975.  It looks to me like the cards in question start at #693 and run to #715 or #716 - according to the Calbee checklist in SCM #100, all of those cards are of Giants players.

I only have a couple other cards from this subset:

1974/75 Calbee #702 Sadaharu Oh

1974/75 Calbee #710 Kazumasa Kohno

I've been trying to figure out what coach wore uniform #75 for the Dodgers in 1975 but I've not been able to so far.

I've seen one other card from this subset that shows a Giants pitcher pitching to a Montreal Expo batter.  I'll be keeping an eye out to see what the other cards show.

UPDATE: Sean asked about the card I mentioned above.  I knew about the card because I had been outbid on it a few months back on Ebay.  I took a look and was able to find the listing again, so here are the images from it - it's card #703 (Kazumi Takahashi):