Sunday, February 16, 2020

Saburo Miyatake Find

This is a really neat card.

It features Hall of Famer Saburo Miyatake, one of Japan's biggest stars of the 1930s.  He was a kind of early Shohei Ohtani, both a star on the mound and at the plate.  His most famous exploits came prior to the formation of the NPB so he is better known from his days at Keio University (who he is portrayed with here, hence the "K") than his pro career.

This card is one of the oldest and rarest Japanese baseball cards of an identified player ever made.  Engel catalogs the set as JRM 42 and dates it to either 1929 or 1930, its the first set listed in the catalog's round menko section.

What is really neat though is that until I found this card there were only three known copies of it out there.  Now there are four, and of those four there are three variations.

In 2016 a copy of the card was sold on Prestige Auctions.  According to the description there were only two known copies of the card at the time.  Note though that the version of the card in that auction had him wearing a red uniform rather than the yellow uniform he wears on my copy:

Then in 2018 another copy of it was auctioned off at Prestige. But this one featured him in a green uniform:

The description of that lot notes the earlier red uniform one and describes this as a variation.  Now I've found there is another, yellow uniform variation of the same card!

This is not super surprising, a lot of early menkos used different colors for the same card.  But it is kind of odd to have so many variations in a card with a population of four (the red uniform version is the only one with more than a single copy out there).

Anyway, I'm pretty psyched to add this to my collection.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Clutter and Collecting: The Immortal 10,000 Idea

I’ve been trying to figure out what the ideal size for my card collection is recently.  This is a more urgent question for card collectors in Japan than it is in the United States. American homes have garages and basements, Japanese ones don't.  Nuff said.

At the moment my collection is kind of spread out in boxes shoved into little spaces here and there, most of them in a “spare” bedroom that is soon going to become a “daughter’s” bedroom (ie no cards allowed in the one place where until now I’ve been able to keep them), so managing the physical size of my collection  is an issue that has been brought into acute focus recently.

I have this idea for a simple, guiding principle to govern my collection from here on out which I thought I’d throw out there for anyone similarly concerned about their collection size (not limited to Japan).  

Like most card collecting ideas, this one comes from the ancient Greek historian Herodotus.  

About half of Herodotus’ work is devoted to  a history of the Greco-Persian war of the 5th century BC.  The Persians in that war had this elite army unit which he calls the “immortal 10,000”.  Basically it was a unit that was always kept at a strength of exactly 10,000.  Whenever a solider died or was wounded he was immediately replaced by another soldier from the rest of the army, so this unit always had the same number, and they were always the best 10,000 the Persians had. One in, one out.  Simple. 

This struck me as a pretty good way of organizing a card collection too, at least if you’re concerned about keeping it a manageable size.  10,000 cards can fit into just two monster boxes, so its not too big.  At the same time, it’s a number that is big enough to allow you to still build an extensive collection – you could buy every Topps set from the 1970s and still have a few thousand more cards to go before reaching that limit.

The brilliance of applying that principle to a collection is the hard choices it forces you to make.  You can’t accumulate doubles.  Or junk wax stuff.  The guiding rule is when you hit that 10,000 card limit you can still buy cards, but for every new card you get you have to get rid of one.  This will, at least in theory, have a beneficial effect on a collection since you are constantly upgrading it, replacing cards at the lower end with cards you like better.  Over time your collection will become more a reflection of choices you’ve made about which card you specifically want in the collection rather than a reflection of how much random stuff you’ve bought over the years. 

I haven’t actually counted how many cards I have in my collection, but I suspect it’s a bit over 10,000 (likely not much over, I don’t think I have more than 15,000 at the most).  So I haven’t yet formally applied this principle to my collection, but I am already mentally allocating approximate card limits to each of my main collections.

10,000 keepers are:

5,000 cards for vintage Calbee, Yamakatsu, Nippon Ham sets I am working on.

2,000 vintage menko (all years)

1,500 Expos collection

1,000 remaining cards from my childhood MLB collection

500: Miscellaneous other stuff

Stuff to give up:

-All my remaining BBM stuff

-Going to stop collecting new Calbee sets each year

-All my doubles

-Some random MLB stuff I still have but don't want.

Stuff that I am tempted to try to use accounting shenanigans to allow me to keep them despite pushing me over 10,000:

-I have some partial Topps sets from the 60s and 70s which I haven’t worked on in years but can’t bear to let go of, yet can't fit them into the 10,000.  I may recategorize these as "collectible cardboard related products" or something.  

Anybody else like this idea and want to try it?  Lets see how far my willpower allows me to actually impliment this.  I suspect that a year from now I'll have decided to change it to an "Immortal 15,000" collection, but we'll see!

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Holy Rocket Robots!

 I am just two cards shy of completing the "Rocket Robots" set, which is undoubtedly one of the best named sets of baseball cards ever produced.

Its an 8 card menko set released in 1975 (JCM 165 in Engel).  The cards are quite small, a bit smaller than a tobacco card from the T206 set.

Engel seems to have named the set owing to the fact that the backs of most feature pictures of robots (or possibly aliens or Kamen Rider characters?) and the names of various types of rockets printed at the top (though not all, only 3 of the ones I have do, the others say things like "Captain", "M4 Tank" and "Red Cross", which is a bit eclectic).

Interestingly 3 of the 8 cards feature members of the Chunichi Dragons (Senichi Hoshino, Morimichi Takagi and Takamasa Suzuki), which sort of continues an odd theme of the Dragons being over-represented in menko sets of the mid to late 70s (contrasted with the Giants being way over represented in the conventional card sets like Calbee of the same era).

The Sadaharu Oh card from this set is one of his most striking (and that is saying something, he is on a LOT of cards from the 70s).  The background artwork makes it look like he has a halo.  Saint Oh, guardian angel of the long ball or something like that.  The others are a bit more subdued but still cool.  Koichi Tabuchi shares his card with Isao Harimoto in the background.

Its kind of a neat set and one thing I love about 8 card sets is that you can fit them almost perfectly into a single binder page (a 9 card set would, of course, fit absolutely perfectly but they are a bit harder to come by).  So I've got two pockets waiting for the two I need (Takagi and a Koji Yamamoto/Sadaharu Oh combo card)!

Monday, February 10, 2020

Some unopened 1977 Packs of Pepsi Sadaharu Ohs!

 Dave did a post about a pretty cool set the other day, the 1977 Pepsi Sadaharu Oh Bromides (JBR 149) which I thought I'd do a little follow up on since I have another piece of information about the set: how they were distributed.

Basically its an 8 card set featuring color photos of Sadaharu Oh with a facsimile signature.  The checklist is easy since the back of every card has a picture of all eight (and encourages everyone to go ahead and collect them):

Its a really great set with some amazing photography, released in the year that he hit #756. Pepsi seems to have used three of the photos in this set on their Round Menko set from the same year.

I picked up something interesting recently, which were a couple of unopened packs, still pristine from all the way back in 1977!  So now we can learn a bit more about how they were distributed.

In the below photo the blue pack on the left is a complete pack, which contains four of the grey packs like the one in the middle, which contains one card. So the blue packs have four cards in them.

Unfortunately that is about all that I have so far.  I'm a bit uncertain if these were given away with bottles of Pepsi (seems unlikely since they are quite big, larger than a postcard), or if they were a mail-in promo offer or something like that.  Most likely the blue packs weren't meant to be distributed to consumers but were simply how they came out of the factory to be distributed either to retailers or to the mail room at Pepsi or whatever, while the grey packs were what people actually got.

Anyway, its still kind of neat.  I have only the one opened pack which came already opened, potentially I have the entire set waiting for me (I have a couple of the four card blue packs) but I can't bring myself to open them since for all I know they might be the only ones left like that out there!

Sunday, February 9, 2020

More colors from the 70s to brighten up your day

Here are some cards from the 1976 menko set JCM 17 which Engel appropriately designates as "Multicolor".  The cards from this set rival the 1975 Pepsi Dragons set in terms of eye catching colorful design.

The fronts of the cards have the player names written in English, though (as Engel also notes) they are often misspelled.  Dragons pitcher Masakatsu Tsuchiya's name is misspelled "Tuciya" in the card on the lower left for example.

One cool thing about putting someone who doesn't know how to spell in charge of typesetting your card fronts though is what they'll do with Sadaharu Oh's name.  Just "O" with a little accent thing on top (not sure what that thing is called).

Using just the one letter for a name does make his card look a lot bolder than it would with the more conventional "Oh" spelling.

The four cards I have are all in about Ex-mt condition except for....O!  There is some kind of gunk stuck to the front which you can see and it really annoys me - three commons and the all time home run leader and of course its the all time home run leader's card who somebody decided to put gunk on.

The backs of the cards are a bit more subdued, with several games to play.  Junken (paper rock scissors), or a baseball play in the centre (O's appropriately is a home run) and playing cards in the lower right.

The cards are pretty hard to come by, Engel lists them as R3 (less than 100 copies of each) which seems about right, the four I have are the only four I've ever seen come up for sale.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Sadaharu Oh 1977 Pepsi

I've been focusing a bit on my 1970s Pepsi collection recently.

Ah, that's kind of a lie, I really haven't been focusing at all recently and just picking up random stuff as I find it and coincidentally a lot of that has been 1970s Pepsi stuff.  But I need to rationalize my purchases, so lets just say I've been focusing on 1970s Pepsi stuff recently.

In 1977 Pepsi released a couple of round menko sets (JRM 31 and JRM 40, very similar except one is larger than the other).  As with their previous sets these mainly featured players from the Chunichi Dragons, but unlike those sets Pepsi also landed Sadaharu Oh who is shown on 3 cards in each set.  My recent random pick ups include his three cards from the JRM 40 set.

These are some of the coolest Oh cards out there, the images on each of them are really well chosen and composed.  Each features a gold embossed signature and the 1970s Pepsi logo which looks pretty cool  The backs seem to have been printed in three colors judging from the three I have:
As the top of each indicates, these were in some way connected specifically with 300ml bottles of Pepsi, but otherwise I'm not sure how they were distributed.  Engel rates them R3 (less than 100 copies known to exist) which seems about right, they are pretty scarce, and makes me wonder if that is a result of them having been distributed in a really limited area or simply because everyone threw them out long ago.

An interesting thing to note is that these cards seem to have been issued at slightly different times during the 1977 season.  The one with the green back asks "Will he be the first to hit 756 home runs?" and then notes that as of July 14th he had 22 home runs (which would have given him 738 for his career at that point, he came into the season with 716).

But then the blue back one notes that this year he had been the first person to hit 750 home runs (presumably in NPB).  So it must have been released after the green backed one, but probably before the end of the season since he broke Aaron's record in September of that year and it would have been odd to not mention that.  Maybe it came out in August, after he hit #750 but before he hit #756?

Anyway, these are some of the cooler cards released in the year Oh broke the record.  They would release some more in the following couple of years as Oh extended his record.  I've picked up some of those recently too and will be doing a post on them in the near future.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Four cards, four Hall of Famers

This is a block of four uncut cards from the 1960 JCM 162 set I picked up recently.  There are only 8 cards in the whole set so this sheet has half of them, and its got a pretty impressive player selection, all four of these guys are Hall of Famers!

On the top left you've got Tatsuro Hirooka, the 1954 Central League Rookie of the Year.  His playing career was not particularly impressive for a Hall of Famer, but after retiring he had a lot of success as the manager of the dominant Lions teams of the early 80s. Next to him you've got Masaichi Kaneda, Japan's only 400 game winner.  Bottom left you have Tadashi Sugiura who in 1959 had possibly the most statistically impressive single season in baseball history, going 38-4 with a 1.40 ERA.  And next to him you have Yoshio Yoshida,  a very popular short stop and 9 time Best Nine award winner for the Tigers.

The backs of these cards are playing cards, which seem to be randomly assigned so the backs on mine aren't going to be the same as the backs on others with the same player.  Engel rates the set as R3, fewer than 100 copies of each card known, so its hard to find.  It wasn't really even on my radar until I found these and as usual the colorful backgrounds won me over!