Wednesday, May 15, 2019

The Japanese Baseball Card Lawsuit You Never Heard About

Here is an interesting fact you probably didn't know about Japanese baseball cards.

In the mid 2000s a renegade group of NPB stars sued their teams (10 teams in total, all except for the Hawks and Eagles) for allowing Calbee and BBM to use their images on baseball cards (and also for allowing video game makers to use it in their games).  It was the probably the most significant baseball card lawsuit since the major ones in the US in the 1950s and 60s, but nobody has written anything about it in English (or much in Japanese either), so I thought I would remedy that deficiency with this post.

A group of 34 players joined the lawsuit including some of the biggest names in NPB at the time: Koji Uehara, Takahashi Yoshinobu, Shinnosuke Abe, Shinya Miyamoto, Kosuke Fukudome, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Michio Ogasawara were among the named plaintiffs.

The litigation would actually span several years and two courts, the Tokyo District Court (Decision of 1 August 2006 1265 Hanrei Taimuzu 212) and, on appeal, the Intellectual Property High Court (Decision of 25 February 2008 2008WLJPCA02259001) which would both issue lengthy judgments.  In this post I'll focus on the first one issued by the Tokyo District Court in 2006 and perhaps in a future one I'll focus on the 2008 case which was an appeal of the first (spoiler alert: the outcome was the same in both).

The first decision is worth looking at in the context of this blog not so much for the legal doctrines the court applies (which I'll cover nonetheless, but I'll keep it brief) but because they contain a treasure trove of hitherto unknown information, both historical and contemporary, about how the business of baseball cards is carried out in Japan and how the complex relationship that exists between players, teams, the league and the card makers is organized.  It tells us everything from why Calbee photographs are so crappy (hint: Calbee doesn't have any photographers) to why "no logo" sets like recent Donruss and Panini ones have never existed in Japan to how players get paid (if at all) for appearing on cards.

So lets get started.

1. The Basis of the Lawsuit

The lawsuit turned on the player contract that each player signs with their teams.  Though each player signs an individual contract with their team, the terms of their contract are dictated by an NPB Agreement which assures that all players sign the same contract with just their salary and term differing depending on the player.  Article 16 of the standard player contract was mostly copied directly from s. 3(c) of Major League Baseball's Uniform Players Agreement (translated into Japanese of course)  which states:

3.(c) The Player agrees that his picture may be taken for still photographs, motion pictures or television at such times as the Club may designate and agrees that all rights in such pictures shall belong to the Club and may be used by the Club for publicity purposes in any manner it desires. The Player further agrees that during the playing season he will not make public appearances, participate in radio or television programs or permit his picture to be taken or write or sponsor newspaper or magazine articles or sponsor commercial products without the written consent of the Club, which shall not be withheld except in the reasonable interests of the Club or professional baseball.

There are two significant differences in the NPB agreement from the above.  The first is that the NPB agreement adds a clause stating that the teams agree to share any proceeds in an "appropriate amount" they receive from the use of player images with the players.  The second is that the second part of the provision in which the player agrees not to make public appearances, etc without consent of the team is more restrictive on the player in Japan.  The MLB one is limited to "during the playing season", while the NPB one is year-round.  Also the MLB one states that the Club won't withhold consent except when it is in the interests of the Club or MLB, while the NPB one contains no words to that effect which limit the Club's ability to refuse consent.

At the heart of the case was a basic question: Whether or not NPB teams could use this provision to sell player images to card makers.  The provision, after all, only gave them the right to use their images for "publicity purposes" and its not really clear if selling it to baseball card (or video game) makers falls under that.

2. The Facts and What the Case Tells us about Japanese Baseball Card Contracts

Based on the above provision the teams entered into agreements with both Calbee (from 1973) and BBM (from 1991) in which they gave them the rights to use the images of players on their cards.  Neither Calbee nor BBM received individual consent from any of the players directly.  This, it should be noted, is significantly different from MLB practice in two respects.  The First is that NPB is not itself a party to these contracts - the card companies contract directly with the teams (who retain the rights to their logos, unlike the US where the teams do this all through MLB).  Second is that the teams hold the rights to use the images of players rather than the Player's Association which is the case in the US. Despite the fact that the Japanese provision is based on the MLB one, in America it is interpreted narrowly and the provision has never been viewed as giving the teams the right to sell rights to use player images/names to card companies.  Historically in the US players negotiated individually with the card companies until the 1960s (hence the awkward differences in player selection between Topps and Bowman sets in the early 50s) and since the 1960s the Players' Association has negotiated on their behalf.  This means that in Japan, unlike the US, the teams hold all the cards (pardon the pun) and explains why you never see Japanese cards that  feature players but no team logos, like a lot of  sets in the US do since some makers only contract with the Players' Association and not MLB.

The terms of the contracts that the teams negotiated were, interestingly, different for Calbee and BBM.  With Calbee the original agreements they had with some (but not all) teams beginning in 1973 did not actually oblige Calbee to pay anything for the rights. These teams viewed the cards as a way of promoting the team and increasing the popularity of certain players, and thus they made what may have been a rational business decision to literally gave the rights to Calbee for free (which also means that the players received nothing).  The decision also notes that under special agreements Calbee would produce cards of a specific team during pennant races to be distributed exclusively at their stadiums (which I think is a reference to the Chunichi and Hiroshima regional issues, but its not clear) which the teams also gave Calbee the rights to for free.

At various points  Calbee and the teams entered new contracts which moved away from this "free" model and began requiring Calbee pay for rights. The current contracts (at least in 2006) required Calbee to pay each team a set amount based on the number of cards from that team which it produced.  Thus the amount each team receives depends on how many Calbee cards of its players Calbee produces.

 BBM on the other hand never received the right to produce cards for free.  Since it entered the card market in 1991 it has had a standard contract that it enters with each team which, interestingly, only varies according to its length.  For some teams they have 5 year contracts, others 3 year contracts and other still 1 year contracts.

BBM has to pay each team 6% of total sales for the right to produce cards which it is obliged to pay in April, July and December (I believe this is calculated pro-rata per team, not each team getting 6% of all sales, which would take up almost everything).  For "special" sets (its a bit unclear what this means, but I guess this refers to the team sets BBM is always putting out) they have to pay each team a flat rate of 20,000 Yen per card. As with Calbee, the teams distribute the money they receive from BBM according to different methods that they decide on themselves.

The first contract Calbee signed was, of course, with the Giants on 14 November 1972.  The Giants were among the teams that charged Calbee a fee from the beginning and they were (and continue to be) among the more generous teams in terms of how much of the revenue they share with players.  Originally they gave the players 75% of the money received (to all except Shigeo Nagashima, who got more) and kept 25% as their fee for the use of the Giants logo on the cards.  More recently they have bumped the player's cut up to 80%.  Additionally they require the card companies to provide samples of the cards they will produce which the team distributes to players for their approval (ie if a player doesn't like the photo used on a card, they have an opportunity to complain about it before it is released).

The Yakult Swallows on the other hand, didn't enter a contract that required Calbee to pay until 1981 and may not have begun paying players until as recently as 1994 (when Atsuya Furuta, also a plaintiff in the lawsuit, played for them).  They are also a bit stingier than the Giants, only giving players a 70% cut of the money they receive from Calbee, and evenly splitting the money the receive from BBM. They don't seem to provide players with the ability to preview cards either.

The Baystars are an interesting example.  They have contracted with Calbee since 1973 and received money from Calbee, but until 2004 they didn't pass any of it on to their players.  Instead each year they paid cards!  Players were entitled to 30 copies of whatever card they appeared on as compensation (excluding limited number ones), which from the perspective of wealthy ballplayers must have been a joke. After 2004 they started sharing actual cash with their players, but on an extremely stingy basis - only passing on 20% of their take.  The Baystars also require Calbee to use photos taken by the Baystars own cameraman (who mainly takes pictures for the team's own magazine).  This is another interesting point that comes out in the decision - Calbee (and BBM) are at the mercy of the teams in terms of choosing cameramen.  For some they have to use the team's own cameraman or a cameraman employed by a company related to the team, for others they use newspaper cameramen.  They don't actually employ their own photographers, which may explain the crap photo selection in recent years!

The other teams had policies that fell in between these, with some paying a flat fee instead of a percentage and varying in some other details that aren't worth reciting in full here.

As an aside, an interesting historical nugget that the decision provides is that the Court reviews the practice before the Players agreement came into effect in 1951.  Prior to that the teams and NPB (or its predecessor organization) obtained permission from the players directly in order to give the rights to produce:

Between 1946 and 1950 Bromides featuring Takehiko Besho and other Giants players;
In 1948 a Gensokupan Insatsu Sha Karuta set featuring Michinori Tsuboichi and 44 other players;
Between 1948 and 1950 a Menko set featuring Takahiko Besho and other players.

Anyway, back to the lawsuit at hand.

3. The Player's Arguments and the Court's Decision

The players who launched the lawsuit were dissatisfied with this state of affairs and specifically the fact that Art. 16 of the players' agreements was interpreted by the teams as giving the teams the right to contract with card makers to sell their images on the one hand while also preventing the players from individually doing that on their own.  They advanced three main legal arguments against the practice.

The first centred around the definition of "for publicity purposes" contained in Art. 16.  The players argued that selling their images to baseball card makers (and video game makers) went beyond "publicity purposes" and was a purely commercial use of their image.  They drew a specific analogy with how the identical term in the MLB player agreement was not viewed in the US as giving the teams the ability to do so and argued it should be interpreted narrowly.  They also drew similar comparisons with J-League Soccer and Korean Baseball.

The second argument they made was that the provision, by completely denying them the right to their own image, was grossly unfair and unreasonable and thus ran counter to public policy.  This was based on Art. 90 of the Civil Code which states that "a juristic act which is against public policy is void" - a general catch-all provision that Japanese courts sometimes rely on to void contractual provisions which are unreasonable.

Finally they put forward an argument based on Article 19 of the Anti-Monopoly Act, which bars unfair trade practices (basically arguing that it was a vertical contract that, by preventing them from selling their image on their own, was an unfair restraint on trade).

Unfortunately for the players the Court ruled against them on all three of their arguments.  With respect to the first, the Court noted the different business models of Japanese teams and their histories and held that the narrow interpretation of "for publicity purposes" used elsewhere was innapropriate in the Japanese context.  Thus the phrase was interpreted broadly enough to allow teams to sell player images to card makers.

The second argument was also rejected based largely on a broader analysis of the player's contractual situation.  Citing among other things the high salaries players were earning since the introduction of free agency, and the fact that teams shared the revenue with players and that the system was reasonable within the broader business model employed by teams, it refused to find the practice to be unreasonable or unfair to the extent necessary to be counter to public policy.

Finally on the Anti-Monopoly Act argument they lost mostly on a technicality - they were not considered "enterprises" and thus couldn't fit themselves within the rule in the Act they were relying on.

4. Conclusion

Court documents and judicial decisions are a pretty useful way of finding information that otherwise isn't publicly available, since the parties to a lawsuit have to produce evidence they normally wouldn't present publicly.  I could probably write a dozen post exploring the significance of individual bits of trivia the case reveals to peculiar aspects of the hobby (and I may yet do so).  But for now its worth recalling that the decision contains a lot of interesting information about the contractual relationships between the main actors in the production of baseball cards in Japan: the players, the teams, the League and the card makers.

In contrast to the United States, we learn that players in Japan are in a really weak position with respect to the use of their images on cards (and anything else for that matter).  The ability to license player images has been a huge source of income for the MLB Players Association since the 1960s and helps to explain why it became such a powerful organization after that decade, which probably played a role in introducing free agency and turning journeymen middle infielders into multimillionaires.  In Japan, the player's union has no such source of independent finance and remains extremely weak, as do the players in general.

We also learn, interestingly, that what a player makes from his appearance on a card is highly dependent on what team he plays for (or at  least it was at the time of this decision).  Giants players were given wads of cash while Baystars players got paid in their own cards.

Whether this is a good system, and whether the outcome of the decision is beneficial, is another question altogether and would really require a consideration of a bunch of stuff outside the baseball card hobby.  Having teams themselves being the locus of all contractual negotiations might bring some benefits (it prevents the division of rights in the US that leads to no-logo sets) for example but also its drawbacks (the teams might benefit from giving the rights to the League, which would be in a stronger position to bargain with card makers.  Probably the Giants stand in the way of this).

Anyway, I'll try to do a post about the follow up appeal case at the Intellectual Property High Court at some point.  That might take a while.  The decision I reviewed here was 64 pages long, while the appeal decision was 123 and it takes a lot of time for me to plug through these things in Japanese!

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Neat Ichiro Find, I think.

 After writing my last post about the fake 1994 Calbee Hokkaido/Kyushu/Sanyo Ichiros I flipped through my pile of "vintage" Calbee Ichiros from the mid-90s.  I had some paranoid thoughts running through my head about whether they might be fake too, though I've never heard of any of his other Calbees being counterfeited.

In that frame of mind I had a bit of a collector heart attack when I noticed something amiss with my 1995 Calbee Choco Snack Ichiros.  As I mentioned in a post in February, I bought that entire set complete in their original transparent packs.  I love that set. It has two Ichiro cards, numbered C-4 and C-32.

As I also mentioned in that post, purchasing the entire set gave me a double of one card, one of the Ichiros which I had purchased individually about a year ago (highlighted in this post here).

I put the Ichiros I have doubles of in the above photo.  Exactly the same, right?  But this is what the backs of those two cards look like:
Somebody in this picture doesn't belong here!!!  The one on the left (which is the one I purchased as a single last year) is number C-32, while the one on the right (that came with the set) is number C-4!  But they are the same card on the front.

The one on the left is the odd man out here, C-32 has a different picture.  This is what it looks like here, the card on the right, which is a totally different picture (these are the two Ichiros I got in the complete set):

At first I thought this might be an extraordinarily unlikely wrong back, but the likelihood of a wrong back which coincidentally had the same player on it was way too low to be realistic.  I also considered the possibility that it might be a fake, but also discounted that: if someone was going to go to the trouble of making a perfect fake that looks identical to the real one and even somehow get it into an identical sealed pack, they'd probably not have made such an obvious mistake as putting the wrong back on the card!  Also this is the black letter version which isn't really valuable enough to make it worth a counterfeiter's while like the 94 Calbees are.

Finally after frantically scouring the internet I hit upon what seems to be the correct explanation for the discrepancy.  According to the Collecitng Ichiro website, there was a Chiba Lotte Marines Stadium promotional giveaway in 1995 in which a specially made Ichiro card featuring the front design and photo of C-4 from the regular set, and the back design (and number) of C-32 on the back was used.  

So the card that I bought as a single last year would seem to have been from that promotion and not from the regular set, even though except for the switched photo it looks exactly like a regular 1995 Calbee Choco Snack card.  

Looking around the Japanese internet and auction listings the variation seems to be a lot harder to find than the regular card, which I guess makes sense.  Kind of a neat find, I had no idea this existed even though I've owned one for a year now, it can be fun to discover random things in your collection like this you never knew existed.

(Also, excuse the lousy photo quality.  My scanner (which ironically I placed these on top of to photograph) no longer works and I lost my camera during my trip to Canada last month so for the time being all my pics are with a semi-functional old iPad that I have!)

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Fake 1994 Calbee Ichiro Cards really are Everywhere

A board member over on Net54 just drew my attention to the latest Prestige Collectibles Auction which has a really useful listing that I think is worth drawing everyone's attention to.  They have a 1994 Calbee Ichiro, card C-37 which is one of three Ichiros in the set, all of which are his first Calbee cards and all of which were regionally issued and are quite rare.

The reason I wanted to draw the listing to everyone's attention is that it includes by far the best explanation of the differences between real and fake 1994 Ichiros that I've seen anywhere on the internet.

Fakes of these three cards are everywhere, I even have one (the one pictured at the top of this post, C-39 from the set).  They are extremely hard to distinguish from legit copies because they are almost perfect, made on the same cardboard and particularly on the front they are identical.  The only way to distinguish them is to look on the backs, the color of ink used by the fakes is not a perfect match and Ichiro's face has a bit of a purplish hue to it on the fakes (and the orange boxes with his biographical details are a bit darker).  Go to the Prestige auction to see what I'm talking about because me just explaining it in words doesn't help much, they have side by side photos that lay it out so its super easy to spot, something which didn't exist on the internet until they put it up (at least as far as I'm aware).

Another intriguing detail mentioned in the auction description was that the grading companies weren't aware of the fakes and graded a bunch of them, meaning that even a PSA holder isn't a guarantee that they are legit.  I was curious how much of a problem that was here in Japan so I looked up the Yahoo Auctions listings since I remembered these are one of the few cards out there that routinely appear in PSA slabs here.  Sure enough, looking through the auctions I couldn't find a single legit one among all the ones which had photos of the backs.  Like this one here, a PSA 10 for 30,000 Yen but which has all the telltale signs of being a fake on it.  And here is an ungraded fake with a starting bid of just 1,000 Yen that will be interesting to see how much it goes for.

The Prestige auction says that 99.9% of the 1994 Ichiros out there are fakes and that it would be virtually impossible for anyone to assemble all three.  I would quibble with both of those assertions - I don't disagree that a majority of the Ichiros out there seem to be fakes but I doubt its 99.9% (just doing the math if we conservatively estimate there are just 100 copies of each Ichiro, there would have to be 300,000 fakes to account for 99.9% of the total, and I don't think there are anywhere near that many).  Also while difficult I have no doubt that there are collectors out there who have put together all three of the legit ones (sadly, not including me).  But those are minor points of disagreement as the main point they make is absolutely correct: fakes of these cards are everywhere and its buyer beware.

Actually I might add another minor point of contention.  They and everyone else calls these the "Hokkaido" Calbee set, but it wasn't just issued in Hokkaido, it was also issued in the Kyushu and Sanyo (around Hiroshima) regions as well. Its pretty rare nonetheless!

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Puzzle: Why are Yamakatsu cards always minty while Calbee ones are always destroyed?

I am currently trying to put together the 1978 Yamakatsu set (along with the 1979 and 1980 ones).  Jay, a member on Net54 who I have a trading relationship with (I send him Japanese cards, he sends me American ones, mostly Expos), kind of got me started on them a couple of years ago when he was putting his set together and asked me to find some.  Looking for cards for him got me into them as well and now I sit here exactly one card short of finishing the set.

If you ever work on that set, the last card you will need to get is of Isao Shibata.  That was the last card Jay needed too and it took him forever to find one.  Now its my white whale, I guess it was short printed as they are quite hard to come by.

The thing I want to talk about in this post though is an odd detail I've noticed as I collect both Yamakatsu and Calbee cards from the late 70s.  When buying Calbee cards from that era the vast majority of the ones you find are in low to mid grade condition.  They are almost all "well loved", with rounded corners, creases and sometimes even kid's names written on them.  I'm not a condition sensitive collector so this doesn't bother me much, all my pre-1990s Calbee sets probably average between vg and ex on the condition scale.  If you were the PSA registered set builder type though you'd probably go mad trying to put together a vintage Calbee set - even the ones with sharp corners usually have some discoloration on the back (the result of existing in an extremely humid country!)  The surviving cards are probably similar in condition to the population of surviving American cards of the 1950s.

Yamakatsu cards on the other hand are the exact opposite.  Almost all of my Yamakatsu cards are in the ex-mt to near mint or even mint range.  This isn't because I've been picky about buying them, its just because almost all of the Yamakatsu cards I've come across are still in pretty pristine condition compared to the Calbee cards I've found.  Without risk of exaggeration I think I could describe my 1978 Yamakatsu set (minus 1 card) as being in near mint condition, with nothing below exmt.

I find this to be kind of mystery.  My Yamakatsu and Calbee cards come from the same era and depict the same subject matter, yet they were obviously not collected by the same people back in the day.  Calbee cards got a lot of love back then from kids, while Yamakatsu cards seem to have been treated much like adult collectors treat their cards today - in a way that preserves their condition.  Which itself is odd since the modern hobby didn't exist in Japan (and barely existed in the US) back then.

With Calbee cards, it isn't until the late 1990s that you notice an uptic in the number of cards that have been treated with care, and even with more recent cards from the 2000s its not unusual to buy a lot and find that half of them have obviously spent some time in someone's pocket getting their corners rounded.  But even in the 1970s Yamakatsu collectors weren't doing that.

I haven't come up with a convincing theory as to why that is.  Yamakatsu cards were definitely marketed towards kids and not to adult collectors back in the day.  The main difference between them is simply that Calbee cards came with bags of chips while Yamakatsu cards were sold as a stand alone product not attached to anything else.  But that doesn't get us very far in explaining why they have survived so well in comparison to their Calbee contemporaries.  Another thing is that some of the Yamakatsu cards on the market today are probably the remains of "dead stock" packs that nobody bought back in the day and thus they survived well.  Some Calbee card packs also survived that way but probably in much smaller proportions than Yamakatsu ones.  That is probably a partial explanation for why there are a lot of minty Yamakatsu cards around, but it doesn't tell us why there are almost no low grade ones, surely somebody bought some of these cards and played around with them back in the day?  So where are those cards?

Anybody have any clues as to what is going on here?

Sunday, April 14, 2019

1946(?) Menko Uncut Sheet!

 Another cool thing I picked up on Yahoo Auctions recently arrived in the mail yesterday, an uncut sheet of baseball menko!

I love these cards, the caricatures are quite amusing and colorful (very similar to these cards I picked up a few years ago, but not the same set).

Does anybody out there have any info on these?  They depict players from NPB teams rather than college players, they have the team names on the back:
The teams are:
Tigers (Tora Gun)
Giants (Kyoujin Gun)
Gold Stars (Kinboshi Gun)
Taihei (Taiheiyou?)

I am tentatively dating this to 1946 since the card on the upper right side is the "Gold Stars" team (Kinboshi), because the Daiei Stars went by that name in the 1946 season only. Also the one in the lower right is using the kanji that were (I think!) briefly used as a nickname for the Nishitetsu Senators (this is a tentative conclusion I am not 100% sure I'm right about this).  The other team names are easier to figure out and square with what they were called in 1946 (and the late 40s in general).

I'm curious about the caricatures on the front, they all have distinctive faces and I am curious if they are modelled after actual players.  They are quite similar to this similar set here which did feature caricatures of players who were identified by name on the back.  This set though doesn't list any names and it doesn't have any of players like Betto who are instantly recognizable so I'm not sure but hope to look into it more.

Anyway, this is a kind of cool find (and I actually got more than one of these as it was a "dead stock" purchase!  So if anyone wants to trade let me know!)

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Nippon Ham Sausage Set: Where are the Nippon Ham Fighters at?

The 1975-76 Nippon Ham Sausage set is one of the hardest vintage Japanese sets to track down singles for out there.  In 5 years of collecting them I only have 11 (the nine pictured above and these two here).  You can read some of the basic information on the set over on Dave's site which has an excellent write up here.  Despite having way fewer cards, this set is probably harder to complete than the much larger monster 1975-76 Calbee set that I am also working on (1472 cards in the latter, 351 in the former).

There is a really odd mystery about this set which is unconnected to its scarcity which I thought I'd use this post to draw everyone's attention to.  Its related to the fact that Nippon Ham, in addition to making this set, also owned (and still owns) an NPB team: the Nippon Ham Fighters.

Now look at the cards I have - no Fighters.  This isn't a coincidence, the set doesn't actually seem to have many Fighters cards in it and the few that do exist are much more expensive than the average cards, suggesting they were short printed (this absolutely beautiful card of Toshizo Sakamoto for example has a starting bid of 20,000 Yen right now for a mid grade copy).

I don't have a checklist of the set handy, but do know that when you scroll through auction listings you will find a lot of cards of Giants players, and a fair number of Carp, Dragons and Tigers players.  Players from other teams, including the Fighters, are way less common.

This is not unique to this set, the Calbee sets from the 1970s are also dominated by Giants players and to lesser extents those other Central league teams which were popular at the time (and now).  But Calbee didn't own its own baseball team, Nippon Ham did!

So my question is why Nippon Ham didn't bother to put more emphasis on its own players in the set.  I don't even mean over-representing them, but simply putting as many Fighters cards as they did Giants or Carp cards.  It makes no sense.  This is especially the case since in Japan the whole purpose of owning a baseball team is to promote the parent company, so logically you would think the same thinking would apply to producing a baseball card set.  But it didn't, at least in this case.

This is made all the more puzzling since Nippon Ham in recent years has rekindled its baseball card sets (in collaboration with BBM) and these sets ONLY feature Fighters players!

This remains one of those minor things that irritate my logical brain when I look at them.  I do love this set, I think its quite beautiful.  But I really want to know why they didn't put many players from their own team in it!  Possible explanations are:

1) Division rivalries within the company.  Maybe the guys in charge of the cards didn't like the guys in charge of the team.

2) Utter incompetence.  Maybe the guys in charge of the cards didn't even think to put more cards of the company team in. Or maybe the people in charge of the team didn't even know the company was making a set and thus couldn't suggest the idea of putting more Fighters players in.

3) Closet Giants fans rearing their ugly heads again.  So many people in the business world are Giants fans that its entirely possible this included the Nippon Ham employees in charge of the set who made the deliberate decision to flood it with Giants players despite the obvious conflict of interest at work.

Not sure if there might be other explanations but any of these seems about equally plausible to me!

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

1975-76 Calbee Red Helmet Fight and Defend Series?

I reached another major milestone with my 1975-76 Calbee set today with the addition of the above card, #636 featuring a gaggle of Hiroshima Carp players and their manager on the mound.

This card is a milestone for me since its the first card from the 赤ヘル攻防シリーズ series which runs from cards 609 to 644 and was only issued in Hiroshima. I'm not sure how to translate the title of the series as it provides the perfect demonstration of why when you read English that has been translated directly from Japanese it often sounds very awkward.  The first part of the title can be cleanly translated as "Red helmets" and the last part as "series", but the middle 攻防 translates into "offence and defence" or maybe "fight and defend" which as you can see can be written with just two characters in Japanese but requires several words in English.  "Red Helmet Fight and Defend Series" doesn't exactly roll off the tongue in English but I guess it will have to do.

 I have had some luck in getting cards from the other two regional issues in the set (one from Hiroshima, the other Nagoya), but these ones have been quite a bit more elusive. I have come to the conclusion based on my experience that these are probably in fact the hardest to find of all the cards in the entire set.  

This is contrary to what my copy of Sports Card Magazine (which is a few years old now) suggests as it lists these as the cheapest of the three regionals (commons at 5,000 Yen each, compared to 7,000 and 8,000 for the other two series).  While all of the regional issues are hard to find, singles from this series seem to pop up about half as often on Yahoo Auctions and get higher prices than from the other two. I paid 2000 Yen for this one, which is the cheapest I've seen a card from this series go for, while I've been able to get cards from the other two (commons at least) in the 1,000 to 1500 Yen range.  The 40th series in the set (cards 1400 and up) are also hard to find despite not being regional issues, but I've been getting singles for them in the 500 to 1000 Yen range so they are a bit cheaper.

Anyway, it looks like cards from this series are likely going to be among the last I find for the set, which is coming along nicely.  I've added a few dozen singles from the easier to find series so far this year and I think I must be at around 1,000 cards out of 1472 so far, though I haven't counted!