Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Michio Nishizawa: The Original Shohei Ohtani

I picked up the above card a few months ago as part of a lot of post-war bromides.  They used to sit in the showcase of Caps, one of Nagoya's big four baseball card stores, but it closed down earlier this year and I got the chance to pick over some stuff like this while they liquidated their remaining stock on Yahoo Auctions (I also picked up my Pepsi Menko during the same sale, sadly even their account on Yahoo Auctions is now inactive so the business is truly gone).

This card, which is from the set Engel catalogues as the JBR 9 1950 Marutoku Narrow B&W, was one of the main ones in the lot I was interested in.  It came in a topholder which still had a 2000 Yen price tag on it, though I paid about 5000 Yen or so for the whole lot, which had a few other good post-war bromides in it so the pro-rata cost of this card was probably just a few hundred yen to me.

It depicts Michio Nishizawa, who is one of the more interesting players in Japanese history.  He broke into professional ball early - at 16 years and 4 months when he made his debut he set the record (which still stands) for the youngest player in Japanese history.  He played right here in Nagoya from 1937 to 1958 and, like Shohei Ohtani (and, of course, Babe Ruth), was one of the exceptionally rare players who was a star both as a pitcher and as a batter.  As a pitcher his best season was 1940, when he posted a 20-9 record and a 1.92 ERA.  In one game in 1942 he performed the remarkable feat of pitching a 28 inning complete game (which ended in a tie!)

In 1943 he was called up for military service and missed the rest of the war years.  When he came back in the 1946 season, a shoulder injury put an end to his career as a pitcher, as he put up a lackluster 5-8 record with a 4.52 ERA.  The next season he came back as a first baseman and never pitched another game except for a single appearance in 1947.  He developed into one of the Central League's top hitters, his best campaign coming in 1950 when he clobbered 46 home runs, knocked in 135 RBI and batted .311.

Since his career was split effectively into two he didn't reach any of the big statistical milestones later associated with the Meikyukai (2,000 hits, 200 wins as a pitcher), but he was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1977.  Sadly he died of heart failure later the same year at the relatively young age of 56.

I really love the photo of him on this card.  Unlike the US, in the 1950s the concept of a "baseball card" hadn't fully appeared yet in Japan and instead you had either bromides like this one, game cards of various sorts (like Karuta) or Menko to choose from.  Menko are a lot flashier and more colorful, which attracts me to them, but they also have the disadvantage of mostly featuring hand drawn caricatures of players rather than photos (at least with the ones issued in the early 50s or earlier).  So collecting both kind of makes sense: menko for the colorful artwork, and bromides for the real photos.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Yamakatsu: The Most Remarkable Card Maker You've Probably Never Heard of

 In addition to Calbee cards from the 70s and 80s, recently I've been focusing my collecting efforts on Yamakatsu cards from the 70s.  They are a nice compliment to a Calbee collection since they are so.....unpredictable.  Yamakatsu only produced baseball cards for a six year stretch between 1975 and 1981 and in that time period they produced 19 sets (according to Engel).  Do you know how many of those 19 sets are standard sized baseball cards?  One! The JY 6 set issued in 1978 is their only set made up of cards with anything close to standard card dimensions, an occurrence so unusual for Yamakatsu that Engel actually makes note of it in his description of the set.

The other 18 sets?  Well you've got:

Huge postcard size sets like this one.

Even Bigger card sets the size of 8 by 10 photos like these beauties.

Yet bigger still  sets whose card size is comparable to the landmass of some of the mid-sized 19th century pre-unification German principalities, like these which are probably the biggest regular baseball cards ever made.

Cards with metal badges in them like this baby that my scanner had a bit of trouble handling but I can assure you is totally awesome:
Then you've also got the tiny cards like the 1979 and 1980 sets where they made the unusual choice of going from making the largest cards in history to the smallest almost overnight.

There really is no parallel for a card maker experimenting with such a wide range of card sizes and designs in such a short period (or over a long period for that matter).

This also gives anyone collecting Yamakatsu an interesting point to brag about: These are the most difficult cards in the world to collect by far.

That isn't to say that they are the rarest or most expensive: they aren't.  But they are the most difficult in terms of the one thing card collectors fret more about than any other: how to store them!

Its so cute to see American card collectors constantly struggling to figure out how to store their pre-1957 cards because they are a fraction of an inch larger than post-1957 cards.  Ha!  The Yamakatsu collector has to worry about how to store cards so widely varied in size that the largest is about 40 times bigger than the smallest, and many sets fall somewhere between those.  Also some of them have jagged metal badges protruding from them which will damage any cards placed next to them in a stack or box.

Its the perfect collector's storage nightmare really.  Which is why I haven't jumped into Yamakatsu collecting with both feet yet.  In terms of set collecting I'm focused on the "Post card sized or smaller" end of things, with a smattering of the larger stuff as part of a type collection.

I just picked up the card at the top of this post, which is a 1978 Choji Murata from the set Engel catalogues as JY10.  Its postcard sized and I've decided to start working on this set because its actually quite beautiful - there are some really great photos in it and the bigger size and glossy surface of them gives them a striking appearance that my beloved Calbees of the same era don't quite match.

The fact that it is Choji Murata is also significant.  He was a popular pitcher (inducted to the Hall of Fame in 2005) who famously was the first Japanese player to have Tommy John surgery.  The story is recounted in Robert Whiting's excellent book You Gotta Have Wa.  From a card collector's perspective though its important because Murata played for the Lotte Orions.  Calbee refused to feature players from the Orions in its sets in the 1970s and early 1980s because their owners, Lotte, were a competitor with Calbee in the food and snack industry.  Murata, who debuted in 1968, thus didn' t have his Calbee rookie card until 1985!  So if you want cards of Murata and other Orions players from the 70s, you have to turn to Yamakatsu or some of the other short term makers of the era like Nippon Ham.

The backs of the cards from this set are also kind of cool.  They feature a little write up about the player and the bottom half is then some sort of a baseball lesson, Murata's demonstrating the difference between pitching over arm, side arm and under arm.

For more info on Yamakatsu sets you can check out Dave's excellent overview post on his blog here.  I'm going to try doing some more posts on my recent Yamakatsu pick ups in the near future.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

PSA's Japan Problem

If you've been following certain baseball card forums like Net54 recently, you'll be familiar with the current round of PSA related scandals.   Some of these revolve around sloppiness, like grading reprints as the real deal, while others involve inadvertently  grading high value trimmed cards as though they were unaltered.  The latter in particular is a serious problem as the apparent flaws in PSA's grading process that let trimmed cards skate through created the perfect environment for a cottage industry of fraudsters to spring up. The result is that lots of people have spent money on trimmed cards, particularly through PWCC auctions, which are only worth a fraction of what they paid for them.

This has obviously strained the trustworthiness of the PSA brand with some collectors.  And from a Japanese perspective these scandals probably couldn't come at a worse time since just last November they opened an office in Tokyo and started to offer their services in Japanese.  This expansion makes sense from PSA's perspective as Japan is probably the world's #2 market for sports cards and, as I've talked about before, PSA and other graders until now have had almost no presence in this country, where the hobby is significantly less obsessed with minor differences in condition compared to the US. So the Japanese market represented a pretty sizeable piece of unpicked fruit for PSA and its not surprising they've come ashore here to try to convince the Japanese collecting world of the value of a PSA holder.

The scandals themselves are probably not going to dent PSA's expansion into Japan since almost nobody here  follows Net54 or other US forums.  But they do bring up something which might be way more problematic for PSA, which is that the quality control issues which the current scandals have raised in the US also apply to their grading of Japanese cards.  And one of these might be too big for the Japanese hobby to ignore.

The problem is that even though PSA only recently opened an office here in Japan, they've been grading Japanese cards for years.  And while I'm sure they made the best use of the expertise on Japanese cards available in the US while they did so, that expertise wasn't always deep enough to get stuff right.  And the mistakes they made are in some ways more embarrassing than the ones that have landed them in hot water among American collectors recently.

A prominent example of this is the 1929 Shonen Kurabu Babe Ruth.  This is a well known card among Babe Ruth collectors since its actually one of the more affordable cards issued during his playing days out there.  Its probably more famous outside of Japan than it is in.

PSA used to grade that card as a "1928 Shonen Kulubu."  They got just about everything about that card wrong. I did a post about it 3 years ago and made a list of the things PSA screwed up on it:

"Year: PSA says 1928, actual year is 1929;
Name: PSA says Shonen Kulubu, actual is either Shonen Club or Shonen Kurabu;
Set: PSA says it was a "multi-sport premium", actual set was not sport specific and contained a variety of other subjects.
Photo: PSA says without qualification that it is Babe Ruth hitting his first home run of the 1926 season, Old Cardboard notes that while this is what it is commonly described as it has not been confirmed.  Not sure which is correct but given how error-riddled the PSA entry is and how accurate everything else in the Old Cardboard one is I give greater weight to the latter until evidence confirming it surfaces.
Organization: PSA seems to imply that this was the magazine of an organization called "Youth Club".  "Youth Club" is an accurate English translation of "Shonen Kurabu", but as far as I can tell that is just the title of a magazine and not necessarily the name of an actual club."

While they now get the information correct, there are still copies of this card floating around in older PSA holders with all of these basic mistakes - wrong year, wrong name of set - right on the holder like this:

That mis-step could probably be overlooked though, since that card is very much on the perhiphery of the Japanese collecting world's radar.  Also, as I mentioned in my earlier post on it, even here many collectors aren't certain about the details like the year it was printed  (though the incorrect name is immediately recognizable).

The much more serious miscue for PSA is that they stepped on a huge landmine with the 1994 Calbee Ichiros.  In 1994 Calbee issued their first ever cards of Ichiro - three of them in (#37 to 39) in a rare set only distributed in the Hokkaido, Kyushu and Sanyo regions.  While all the cards from that set are hard to come by, the Ichiros are even harder, they seem to have been added to the set late in its print run and are short printed cards in a set that was rare to begin with. There probably aren't more than a few hundred of each of them out there.

These three cards are among the most famous and sought after in the Japanese hobby.  Technically they aren't his rookie card (BBM issued a card of him the previous year) but they are his earliest and rarest Calbee cards of (arguably) the most famous player in Japanese history.  Its hard to come up with an analogous card from the US hobby that would evoke the same recognition, but imagine a cross between a 1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr (recognizable iconic card of superstar from same generation) and a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle (most coveted and valuable "modern" card).  Now imagine if only a few hundred copies of that card existed.  That is roughly where the 1994 Ichiros exist in the Japanese hobby:  cards that are instantly recognizable to all serious collectors.
Unfortunately for PSA, back in the 1990s a forger flooded the market with fake 1994 Ichiros.  The fakes are really convincing, I even got suckered on one myself a while back.  And so did PSA.  There are a huge number of fake 1994 Ichiro Calbees in PSA holders out there available for sale.  As with the Ruth, PSA has learned from that mistake.  They no longer slab fake Ichiros, so one in a recent holder is likely the real deal.  But the damage is already done.  Go on Yahoo Auctions, the Japanese equivalent of Ebay, and you'll find several copies of these cards in PSA 9 or 10 slabs.  All fake (identifiable from the coloration on the backs, see this guide here) .  This is a fake in a PSA 10 slab available right now.
This is a huge issue for PSA since the existence of these slabbed fake Ichiros is hard to ignore.  It'd be like if in their early days in the US they had slabbed a bunch of fake 1952 Topps Mickey Mantles which were still floating around on Ebay, easily identifiable as fakes by anyone who knew what to look for.  How would any serious collector trust a grader that could make such a basic mistake on such a key card?  This is super serious in an industry like grading, where consumer trust in the brand is absolutely paramount.

I should note that these two examples are not alone, PSA has improved a lot in their knowledge of Japanese cards in recent years but there are other examples of older PSA slabs containing incorrect information on Japanese cards (though I should also note that as far as I know the Ichiros are the only examples of outright fakes finding their way into PSA holders).

I'm not sure if this is necessarily fatal to PSA's success in Japan, but it means that they are going to be swimming upstream against a legacy of grading Japanese cards based on less than perfect information which might significantly complicate their efforts to gain acceptance here.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

The Oddest Key card in a set: Doug Decinces Edition

Ever wonder what the weirdest card to be considered the "key" card to a regular set is?

For most regular sets in the US, at least until the 90s, it was either a big rookie, or a Mickey Mantle or some other star.

In Japan, with Calbee sets, its almost never a big rookie or even a star.  As I mentioned in a previous post, sometimes its just a boring card of a stadium.  Rarity of certain cards always trumps star or rookie power in determining the key card in older Japanese sets.

The 1988 Calbee set is an example of a set with an odd key card.  I'm about 70% of the way to completing that set, but the remaining 30% are all short prints which are really expensive and hard to find.

Probably the hardest and most expensive to find is this one: Doug Decinces (card #110).  Its from one of the hardest to find short printed series in the set AND its one of the only cards of Decinces' brief time in Japan with the Yakult Swallows (he also appears on card #74 in the set, but that was not short printed and is much easier to come across).  Combined these make it expensive, a copy of it (from which I cribbed the above photo) is currently being auctioned on Yahoo Auctions with the bidding now at 5250 Yen and counting.  And they don't show up for sale that often. There are a couple of other cards from the same series which probably sell for about the same (notably Choji Murata) but I think at the very least this DeCinces card is tied for first spot in this set.

The card is also notable for almost certainly being one of the infamous 1988 Calbees with a picture that was taken by a guy literally just pointing a camera at the TV during the broadcast of a game.  Legend has it that for some reason that year Calbee didn't have photos of a lot of players and, instead of just sending a photographer to the stadium, they took a shortcut by just taking pictures of a TV during games.  There are some legendarily bad photos that came out of that experiment (Bill Gullickson's is a favorite of mine), you can always spot them by how grainy the picture looks and Decinces' card is no exception.  There are a few cards in the 1987 set that look suspiciously like they may also have photos taken by the same method, but otherwise this wasn't a normal way for Calbee to get pictures (thank god).

Decinces is an interesting and kind of overlooked member of that class of really good (but not HOF caliber) MLB player who came over to Japan in the twilight of their careers.  He only played part of the 1988 season, missing the last half due to a back injury which led to his retirement.  He did however parlay his experience with the Swallows into getting hired as a consultant on every Japanese baseball fan's favorite movie: Mr. Baseball.

At the moment he is  waiting to see if he will be spending most of the rest of his life behind bars.  He was convicted a little while ago on multiple charges related to insider trading that had been brought by the SEC and is currently awaiting sentencing.  I'm hoping he doesn't spend too much time behind bars partly because insider trading is mostly a victimless crime which doesn't really warrant the lengthy prison sentences that can accompany it under American law and partly because its just too much of a bummer to think that is how the Doug DeCinces story is going to end.

Friday, August 9, 2019

The Damn Guides are Messing Up a Lot

I'm getting a little frustrated with the two guides I have to Japanese baseball cards: Engel and Sports Card Magazine (SCM).

These both have their upsides and are useful resources, but as someone collecting vintage Calbee I can say they are both quite a bit off on a few things.  I already noted in an earlier post that they often get prices wrong, but in this post I'd like to note how they don't accurately reflect the scarcity of some cards either.

I've been documenting on this blog my ongoing attempt to put together the entire 1975-76-77 Calbee "monster" set of 1472 cards.  I am over 70% of the way there, with more than 1,000 of them in my collection.

I recently took a bit of time to review my checklist (pictured above, I use my copy of SCM to keep track of what I have.  Analogue, baby).  In doing so I've become aware of some patterns in the cards I am missing that seem to coincide with scarcities rather than just random chance.  Some of these are reflected in both guides, some are reflected in neither.

The set was issued in 40 series.  According to the guides, 4 of these series are short printed (I'll refer to them as the "known scarce series"). These are:

Chunichi Dragons Defending the Lead Series (#37 to 72, issued only in Nagoya area)
Hiroshima Carp Defending the Lead Series (#145 to 180, issued only in Hiroshima area)
Hiroshima Red Helmet Series (#609 to 644, issued only in Hiroshima area)
High numbered final series (#1400 to 1436, not regionally issued but harder to find and more expensive)

So I've been paying more money for cards from those known scarce series and still have quite a ways to go on completing them (about half way there overall with these 4 series, but the Red Helmet Series in particular I need a lot of and they are the most expensive).

This leaves 36 other series which both guides view as "common" and don't note any distinction in price or rarity with respect to.

At this stage after years of collecting and scouring auctions for anything and everything I could lay my hands on, the remaining holes in my collection should therefore be more or less randomly scattered throughout these remaining 36 series.

But they aren't.

With 33 out of the 36 remaining "common" series I can describe my collection of them as almost complete, with just a few stragglers that I have yet to round up.  These 33 series I feel confident in saying are the easiest to find (relatively at least) and I am at least 80% complete on all of them, with many exceeding the 90% complete level.

But that leaves 3 outliers which I have noticeably fewer cards of. Instead of having 80% or more like I am with all the other series except the four known scarce series, with these three I only have between 30 and 40% of the cards.  They are:

Series 14: 76 Pennant Race Opening Game Series  (#465 to 500, I have just 11 out of 35)
Series 23: Sadaharu Oh 700th Home Run Series (#789 to 824, I have just 14 out of 35)
Series 27: Defending the Lead Series (#933 to 968, I have just 10 out of 35)

Looking around Yahoo Auctions, the pickings for these three series are extremely limited compared to common series and they seem a lot closer to the 4 known rare series.  Prices reflect this: these cards sell for more.

Looking at the guides, the only one of these series which are priced higher are the Sadaharu Oh 700 Home Run ones, and that is because the cards feature Sadaharu Oh (both guides list his cards at the same premium in this series as they do for his cards in others).

With Series 14 and 27 I'm fairly confident that they are short printed and quite a bit harder to find than the others (maybe the same ballpark as the 4 known scarce series).  With the Sadaharu Oh 700 home run series its possible that they are simply more popular because of Oh, which would explain why they are harder to find and more expensive, though I'm not sure I buy that  (the number I have are suspiciously similar to the other two, and Oh's cards in other series aren't particularly hard to find despite his personal popularity, which leans towards these being short printed too).

So there is another problem with the guides:  relying on them you would only think there were four expensive, rarer series in this set when in fact there are seven.

While frustrating, its actually also kind of fun to discover this sort of stuff on my own.  On the downside though I now realize that I'll have to shell out more money on those other three series if I am to have any chance at completing this thing!

Monday, August 5, 2019

An Album Full of 70s Goodies

 One unique thing about collecting Calbee cards is that sometimes they show up in Calbee albums.

In most (perhaps all?  Not sure) of the 46 years since Calbee started selling cards, they've also produced albums which were usually given away as mail-in redemptions.  So in addition to all the vintage cards floating around there are also a lot of old albums.  I don't collect the albums themselves, but sometimes a non-card dealer, usually antique dealers, will come across old collections stored in them and put them up for sale.  These are so awesome when you can find them.

And recently I did find one.  Or more accurately I found ten of them up for sale individually by the same seller.  Each album was from the 1970s and was stuffed full with 1970s Calbee cards from various years.  You can cram 72 cards into one of these albums if you put two cards per pocket, which is what these contained.
 My recent post lamenting the fact that auctions almost always end exactly as I am in the middle of putting my kids to sleep was partly inspired by these.  I put bids in on all ten of them.  I didn't expect to win all ten (in fact, couldn't afford to really) but was hoping to win three or four.  But while I was happily telling them the story of an epic battle between Pokémon and dinosaurs (I let them decide the topic of each night's story), the auctions ended and I was outbid on all but one of them.  When I looked at the final prices the ones I got outbid on went for I kicked myself since I definitely would have bid higher on a few of them had I been there to do so.

But I was also happy that I did win one!  And it was a great one.  The albums were sorted by team and mine contained cards of Hiroshima Carp and Hanshin Tigers players from Calbee sets issued between 1973 and 1979.  I paid around 7000 Yen total with shipping, so the cards cost  me about 100 Yen each, which is a good deal, especially for what I got.
 Look at those beauties!

There were quite a few cards from the 1975-76-77 Calbee set that I am working on, but most of them turned out to be doubles unfortunately (though expected).  The real highlights for me were the cards from the 1973 and 1974 sets, which I have way fewer of.

The Hiroshima Carp cards are especially distinct in the 1973 set since they still had their blue helmets and hats back then.  This makes it super easy to distinguish cards from the 1973 set from later ones after they switched to their red and white only uniforms. There were some really great Hiroshima Carp cards of Sachio Kinugasa and Yoshiro Sotokoba:

 Some cool action shots too:
 This card here though was the highlight.  Yutaka Enatsu (See Dave's great write up about his cards here and a great write up of his career here on Eye of the Tiger) is one of the most interesting players in modern Japanese history.  He holds the record for most strikeouts in a season (401!) and had a resume that should have made him a no-brainer as a hall of famer.  But he was involved in one of the most famous gambling scandals in Japanese history (the black mist scandal, kind of Japan's version of the Black Sox) early in his career, and then arrested for drug use after he retired, so he's been left on the outside looking in.

I have a few cards of him, but this one is now my favorite.  Its from the 1973 Calbee set and its one of those great 1970s Calbee cards that shows you a wonderful glimpse of stands full of spectators and colorful advertising billboards.
 I was surprised to find it in there because this is one of his most expensive cards.  SCM lists it at 20,000 Yen and it rarely shows up on Yahoo Auctions.  Its a bit lower grade (there is a crease to the right of his head) but this card alone made the purchase price worthwhile.

There were a lot of other beauties in there which were fun to flip through.

I'm not sure if these cards were actually put in this album a long time ago by their original owner, which would be neat, or if the seller just shoved them in there for the purposes of selling them.  Either way, except for the smattering of 75-76-77 Calbee singles I needed for my set, I've decided to keep these as they are in the album.  Its kind of neat to flip through them the way they were intended to be back in the day.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Which is the Most Valuable Card from the Monster?

 Behold!  Hiroshima Municipal Stadium at Night, as depicted on card #157 from the Monster 1975-76-77 Calbee set!

I just picked this up and am quite excited about it because the card has a very dubious claim to being the most valuable from the set, and thus the key card to my years long quest to finish this 1472 card monster.

Why is the card's claim dubious?  Lets review the merits of the case.

Basically the claim lies with its value in my copy of SCM from 2010 (admittedly out of date but its the most recent I have).  It lists this card, which was from one of the two rare Hiroshima regionally issued series in the set, at 15,000 Yen. That puts it in a tie with the Senichi Hoshino cards from the Nagoya regionally issued series, also rare.  So perhaps its better to describe its claim as being tied for first place rather than solely occupying the position.

But the tie isn't what makes its claim dubious.  Engel lists it at $150, about the same as SCM, but it lists several other cards at $200 which is obviously higher.  The cards Engel lists are mostly those of foreign players (like Richie Schienblum's card #155 from the same series) or big stars (like Sachio Kinugasa's card in the same series).  So according to Engel, this is one of the higher priced cards, but not #1 in the set.

But even that isn't what makes the claim dubious.  I like the Engel guide and admire the work that went into it, but the prices for Calbee cards from the 1970s listed in it are completely out of whack with what the market for these cards is.  No way is the Schienblum card worth more than this one, at auction this one will easily fetch 2-3 times more than Scheinblum (or even Kinugasa), which is considered a common in the series (worth a lot by virtue of being in the rare series, but not the key card in the series).  So I prefer SCM to Engel on that point. reality neither of these is right.  The real most valuable card is, ironically, a different card featuring Hiroshima Municipal Stadium that has a photo almost identical to this one.  It is card #630 in the set, from the other rare Hiroshima regional issue (the "Red Helmet" series).

You wouldn't know this by looking at either guide.  Engel lists #630 at just $40, while my old SCM lists it at just 5,000 Yen, so both seem to agree that it is worth just about 1/3 of what #157 is.  But both are way wrong on that point.

Having followed Yahoo Auctions sale prices on the big cards in this set for a few years now, the big trend I've noticed is that the Red Helmet series that card #630 is in  is considered by far the most valuable of the entire set (which is comprised of 40 series).  Cards from it almost never sell for less than 3,000-5,000 Yen each, compared to cards in the other Hiroshima regional series which #157 is in, which usually sell in 1,000-2,000 range.  This is the reverse of SCM and Engel, which price the Red Helmet series much lower.

I'm not sure why the market is working like this, just looking at availability there usually are about the same number of cards from both Hiroshima series available (which is to say not many of either, I don't think one is noticeably rarer than the other), but the Red Helmet ones are definitely hotter and sell for higher prices. This is reflected in my own collection, I've been having more difficulty and am paying more money for the cards in the Red Helmet series than for any other.

So whatever the reason, the Red Helmet series are definitely now the most valuable series in the entire set, and #630 is considered the key card from that series, which likely makes it the key card of the entire set.  I'm still looking for it and expect it will be the card I have to shell out the most for in the entire set.

 But anyway, back to the card I actually do have.  While #157 isn't the key card to the set, it is the key card to what is probably the second hardest to complete series in the set, which means it still has a place in the pantheon of major cards in the set.
Its a bit of an odd one, it is dedicated not to the game depicted on it but rather to the general topic of stadium manners.  The back says:

Baseball Stadium Manners

When Rooting for you team, throwing objects or jumping down onto the field of play is not right.  Even when a player from an opposing team makes a fine play we should all clap.

I'm not sure that Japanese fans need to be admonished like this given that their stadium etiquette is legendary around the world, but there you have it.  Come to think of it, perhaps their etiquette is so legendary because they get reminded to be polite so often that they even dedicate baseball cards to it.  So maybe all those nicely-tidied-up-after-the-game-in-which-a-Japanese-team-played World Cup and Olympic Stadiums over the years have this card to thank for that.  

I got a pretty decent bargain on this, I only paid about $20 with shipping for it.  The cheap price is explained by the back, which has a little pen mark if you look closely.  Otherwise it probably would have sold for quite a bit more.  

This also demonstrates why the 1975-76-77 set is do-able despite its size.  You will never find the key cards from the other Calbee sets from the 1970s for $20 no matter how hard you look.  The key cards from those sets will run you into the hundreds or thousands of dollars even in lower grade condition.  But the 75-76-77 set are still kind of obtainable!