Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Catching the Calbee Pack Breakers: New Rite of Spring (and mid-late summer too)

Its barely mid April and I have already completed the first series of this year's Calbee regular cards!

Well, at least I have all the cards in the first series,  it might be unfair to claim that I completed it.

In recent years something which I have mixed feelings about has emerged in the Calbee card collecting world: guys who buy Calbee cases in bulk, bust open all the packs and re-sell them on Yahoo Auctions.

These guys are both a godsend and a curse.  They are a godsend for set collectors like me because the regular cards are not central to their business model.  They just put those together in big lots, sometimes as complete sets, and sell them for peanuts - I paid about 700 Yen including shipping for the entire first series, which would have cost me hundreds of dollars if I had tried to do it by buying bags of chips like I used to.  So there are huge economic efficiencies to be realized by sourcing your Calbee cards from guys like this.

I bought mine from a seller called mri_11k13, you can see his listings here.   As you can see from his listings, which are almost entirely 2018 Calbees, the real money they make are from selling the gold signature parallels, which they sell for about 1000-2000 Yen each.  The regular cards are loss leaders which they just want to get rid of and are priced accordingly.  For a base set-collecting guy like me who has zero interest in the inserts and parallels, this is sort of wonderful.

But it also sort of isn't, which is why I say they are also a curse.  Now that I have all the cards, I have no incentive to go out and try to track down bags of chips in convenience stores like I used to.  Putting the set together is really the main fun part of collecting, simply having the set is actually kind of boring.

This is of course exactly the same complaints that I remember hearing as a young collector in the 1980s from older guys who bemoaned the existence of factory sets as spoiling the fun.  They were right.  Another one of the things I love about Calbee is the lack of factory sets!  But now there exists a de facto equivalent thanks to these wonderful, horrible, great, terrible re-sellers.

Ah, first world problems.

Anyway, I started putting my Calbee sets together primarily through buying from guys like this on Yahoo Auctions about 3 years ago simply because the bargains are too good to resist.  In the past I've generally preferred to buy semi-complete lots rather than full sets like this one so that I at least had a bit of actual collecting to do. This one was more of an impulse purchase that I almost regret, maybe I could send ten random cards back to the guy or something so that I can have an excuse to go buy a few bags of chips and then feel happy when I get one of the cards I gave back.

If you are interested in getting Calbee sets on the cheap from these guys it is worth noting that you have to strike while the iron is hot.  They only do this when a new series comes out and when they sell out (of the cheap regular set lots) they basically disappear from Yahoo Auctions altogether.  So if you want a first Series set of 2018 Calbee now is the time to get it.  You can't find such deals on 2017 or 2016 sets anymore (I just checked!) So waiting for these guys to put the Calbee cards in big lots on Yahoo Auctions has become a new rite for me along with spotting the first Calbee cards on store shelves.  When Series 2 comes out I'll be waiting for both.

Oh and the cards this year, as I mentioned in an earlier post, are pretty awesome. I love the kanji on the card fronts!  Flipping through the cards I noticed that three of them picture players holding up signs commemorating career achievements - Nobuhiro Matsuda of the Hawks (nickname is pachi-pachi because he has this eye twitch) for hitting his 200th home run and Shinnosuke Abe and Masahiro Araki for their 2,000th career hits.

Monday, April 16, 2018

JMC 1 Mr. Baseball NST Cards

I just picked up a lot of cards from the 1975 NST Mr. Baseball set.  This is another one of my forays into oddball sets from the 70s, which I absolutely love.

According to Dave these were part of a 288 card set in honor of Shigeo Nagashima, who had retired a couple years earlier.  I got 14 of the cards, all pictured above.  The cards are about the same size (though a bit narrower) as Calbee cards of the era.  The backs are blank so they are basically just little photo cards with white borders.  They aren't as appealing as the Calbees of the era, at least to me, but they are still kind of neat.  Being blank backed a full set must be a real chore to put together so I think I'll avoid trying that monster for now!

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

These little Yamakatsu cards are just too cute to resist

 I have a long distance card trading relationship with a collector in the US named Jay.  He sends me Expos cards from the 1970s and I send him Japanese cards for sets he is working on.  I love doing this since its quite fun to get envelopes full of Expos cards from time to time and I also learn a bit more about Japanese cards that he is interested in but I hadn't been working on.  I recently picked up some 1980 Yamakatsu cards that he needed and I was quite taken by them.  The 1979 and 1980 Yamakatsu sets are pretty neat - they are about the same size as Calbee cards from the 1980s and basically everything that draws me to vintage Calbee cards draws me to these Yamakatsu ones too - simple design and colorful photos featuring in game action on the front, simple backs with a brief write up on the back.  What is not to like?

So I decided to jump into the fray and bought a few cards from the 1979 set (and one from the 1980 set which Jay didn't need).  All I can say is that I love these little things!

These aren't the first Yamakatsu cards I've bought, I actually already have a 1978 set on the go, but those are larger cards (also awesome, I have to do a post about them too sometime), and I also have a couple of the post card sized ones including my only Japanese card of Willie Davis.

As is always the case, Dave has done a great overview of the Yamakatsu cards on his blog so I won't go into the details.  The 1979 set has 128 cards and the 1980 set has 64 and I don't think there are any hyper rare short prints, so compared to Calbee sets of similar vintage collecting both should be a manageable goal, and I've already got bids in on some other ones on Yahoo Auctions.  So this is my new collecting project of 2018!

Sports Market Report does Japanese Baseball Cards

As Dave over at Japanese Baseball Cards recently posted, the current Sports Market Report (PSA's magazine) is almost entirely devoted to Japanese cards, which is really cool to see.  Kevin Glew wrote most of the articles and interviewed me (and some other much more established people in the hobby, including Dave) for this one that is mainly about Calbee cards which has a few quotes of mine sprinkled in it.

Its great to see the Japanese card hobby getting this kind of exposure and the articles do a good job of outlining the basics of the hobby and comparing it to that in the US.  There is also a great article by Mark Holt about the 1967 Kabaya Leaf set which had a lot of tidbits of information I didn't know about it (I have 2 cards from the set, so pretty early in putting that one together).

As a Calbee collector I have my biases which I've elaborated on here before.  I wonder if this might spur some mutual recognition between PSA and Calbee collectors.  Their Population Reports indicate that almost nobody gets Calbee cards graded - the iconic 1973 set which is mentioned in the article for example has only had 46 cards graded according to their listing, and they only identify cards which have been graded so they don't even seem to have a complete checklist of the set (other sets are similar, the only exception seeming to be some Ichiro and Nomo Calbees from the early 90s for obvious reasons).  I'm not a collector of graded cards, but I do use PSAs website as a useful resource and it would be nice to see the Japanese side tidied up a bit!

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

2018 Calbee are here!

 The first series of 2018 Calbee cards hit store shelves the other day and I picked up my first 88 Yen bag of them at my local grocery store yesterday!

I love the "first bag of Calbee Yakyu chips" day, each year its timing roughly coincides with the start of spring, the cherry blossom season, 20 degree days, the end of the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament (Kakuryu won) and of course opening day.

In a shocking and unexpected twist both the bags of chips and the cards themselves look basically exactly the same as they have every year since I bought my first bag 18 years ago!

Well, there is one cool change that I like, they brought back having the player's name written in Japanese script on the card fronts!  They did that with the 2016 set too and I was super excited about it at the time, but then the 2017 set reverted to having the names in Roman letters, which I didn't really like.  Maybe they are going to do this with even numbered years from now on or something?  I'm not sure why they've been flip flopping but I'm happy to see that element of the design back for this year regardless.

Anyway, my first bag netted me a checklist C-1 featuring the Hawks celebrating their championship (which reminds me how much I miss living in Fukuoka) and the regular card of the Baystars' Joe Willard (54)..  

The card backs are pretty much the same as they ever were:

So that is one event in the 2018 calender ticked off.  I'll probably try to find a cheap starter set on Yahoo Auctions and work from there on completing this years', its a lot cheaper and involves way less crumbs than doing it bag by bag (though I'll pick up a few more here and there as the season progresses!)

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Full set of 1975-76 Calbee Cards Available!

There is a really interesting item up for bid over on Yahoo Auctions right now.  A complete set of 1975-76 Calbee cards:


I love writing about that set on here because its one of my favorites and also probably one of the most difficult sets in the world to put together owing to its sheer size.  The cards are numbered 1 to 1436, and for #s 289 to 324 there are two version of each (one is a boyhood photos of the stars subset, the other is a Hiroshima Carp subset called the "red helmet" series, which is a bit harder of the two to find), so the master set is 1472 cards.

It is extremely rare for a complete vintage (pre 1990) Calbee set to come up for auction, let alone the biggest.  I have never seen a complete set and while I am passively working away on one myself, I only have about 600 different cards.  Any other set and that would mean I was almost there, but with this monster I'm not even halfway!

I wouldn't necessarily recommend getting your wallets out for this one, the starting bid is 1,280,0000 Yen (about $11,000 US) with a BIN price option at 1,800,000 (about $16,0000 US or so I think). To be honest I have no idea if that is a fair price for it since this is the first time I've ever seen a full set and there just aren't many out there, but at almost $10 per card (for the starting bid price) it feels a bit high.  There are some short printed rare series that were only regionally issued (one of Chunichi in Nagoya, another in Hiroshima) but I don't think they quite add enough to explain the price since most of the commons can be had for 100-300 Yen each in auctions.

Regardless of the price though its a pretty impressive sight!  Bidding ends in 2 days.

On a side note, this is my first post in a few months.  My wife gave birth to a little girl in December so I've been a bit too busy for blogging since then, but will try to update here a bit more often!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

The 1973 Calbee Sadaharu Oh Full Run!

The 1973 Calbee set is pretty awesome.  I don't think I can ever collect it due to the cost, but I did just make a major purchase - the full Sadaharu Oh run from the set.

The set famously begins with card #1 of smiley face Shigeo Nagashima, and in fact the first 6 cards of the set all feature Nagashima.  This is followed by the next 6 cards (7 to 12) which all feature Sadaharu Oh, which I just purchased en masse via Yahoo Auctions.  I've always preferred Oh to Nagashima so its sort of natural that I would get his cards first, but Nagashima's are also on my want list.

The cards are all pretty epic, but card #7 in particular is quite striking, with Oh taking a swing against an all blue sky backdrop (upper right card in the above photo).  The card is (on the back) titled "Monster"and notes that he is often called 怪物 (monster) as a player. The photo is strikingly similar to the one on Nagashima's first card, also against an all blue backdrop, and this is probably not a coincidence.

Card #10 (lower right in the above photo) is the only one that I already have, though this new copy is a bump up in terms of grade. Its interesting to note that card #11 (next to it in the photo) was taken at the exact same time, which is evidenced by the same fans sitting in the same locations in the stands in the background.  The photographer must have just caught him, gave him a bat and said "Pose with this", then tossed him a glove and said "OK, now this." Card #12 (lower left corner) looks like it was also taken at the same time, but since its at a different angle the stands in the background are different.

Anyway, I'm pretty happy to have these in my collection now!

Also, this is my first post in about 5 months.  Work has been busy, but this absence is mostly explained by the fact that my wife and I are expecting a second child (girl this time!) and so my life has gotten much busier.  I might not be posting to this blog (or collecting baseball cards) as much as I used to for a while but will try to clock in whenever I have something interesting to write about and the time to do it!