Monday, May 14, 2018

Interesting Thing: How Calbee cards were distributed in the 80s

 There is an interesting thing up for auction on Yahoo Auctions right now.  A pile of about 25 unopened Calbee packs from a 1980s set (which year is unclear) sealed in a little plastic bag.

I had put a bid in on it when it went up a few days ago, but with bidding having exceeded 15,000 Yen it has long since gone over my max so I am resigned to not winning it.  I wanted to do a post about it though because it is quite interesting.

I wasn't here in the 80s so I never saw how Calbee cards were distributed back then.  My first time seeing a Calbee bag of chips was in 2000 and the cards packs were attached to the outsides of the chips bags (as they are today) and I had just assumed they had always come like that.

This item however proves that assumption wrong.  The interesting thing about it is not the packs of cards, but that little piece of paper that comes with it, which says:

"Dear Store owners, we are afraid to trouble you but please distribute one of these per bag to customers who wish to purchase the product."

So in other words, in the 80s Calbee cards were given out by store clerks who (presumably) kept a little pile of them behind the counter. Attaching them to the chip bags presumably came later.
 I though that was kind of an interesting piece of trivia to put out there so I took a few photos of the listing (hence the grainy image quality, I can't save images from Yahoo Auctions listings for some reason).  It looks like about 25 or so packs (or possibly 24 which I think is how many chips bags come per case).

I'm not sure how much this will go for but its extremely rare to find the packs still in an unopened bag like this!


  1. Wow, that is interesting. None of my Calbee sumo cards have any glue or residue marks on them so I always assumed that they came in some sort of pack on the chips. It appears that maybe during the craze, people would steal the cards and not buy the chips so they had to resort to handing them out from behind the counter. Very interesting. I see these packs pop up all the time on Yahoo auctions, but they always appear to be baseball. There are even sumo cards at auction now with a baseball wrapper. Interesting mystery/discovery!

    1. Yes, I think they have always been contained in packs rather than loose.

      And I actually have seen instances of people doing that (stealing the cards and leaving the chips on the shelf). Well, I haven't actually witnessed someone doing it directly, but I have seen bags of chips on grocery stores that have had their cards removed by someone with sticky fingers. Its rare but does happen!

      That is interesting about sumo cards with baseball wrappers, I guess they were a bit lazy and decided to re-use the same design for the packs? Must have been confusing to customers though.

  2. From the early '90s until 2005 I owned a card shop in Tokyo . . . I bought cases of Calbee chips, everytime a new card series was released, from a food wholesaler. I contacted Calbee directly but they refused to sell me the cards without the chips! I sure they sometimes had producton problems where the had to supply the retailers cards not attached to the bas chips and this is how the unopened packs found their way into the market place . . . biggest problem I had was giving away all the bags of chips! herb (arrowtokyo)

    1. Oh wow, that is really interesting, thanks for the comment. I would be very interested in hearing more about what it was like to run a card shop in Tokyo!

      I can't imagine what it must have been like trying to get rid of that many chips :)