Sunday, September 30, 2018

Collecting the 1986 Calbee Set

 I have been so obsessed over the past couple of years with trying to finish my 1987 Calbee set (92% of the way there!!) that it kind of escaped my attention that I am also closing in on that set's predecessor: 1986 Calbee.  So I thought I would do a little post on how that project is going since I have started to really get earnest about knocking this one off the wantlist and I might even complete it before I finish the 87s.

From the Calbee mini card era of the 1980s, the 1986 set is probably the easiest to complete (unless you count the 55 card first series of 1990 Calbee as a set on its own).  At 250 cards it is significantly smaller than the 1985 set (465 cards) or the 1987 set (382 cards) that flank it in the Calbee catalogue. It is also super helpful that, unlike those sets, the 1986 set does not have any short printed series, so all the cards are about equally as hard (or easy) to find.

Design wise the set is basically the same as all the others from the 80s and not much need be said about that.  The set is sort of notable for having one of the earliest hot rookie cards in the Japanese hobby, featuring the rookie card of Kazuhiro Kiyohara.  Sports Card Magazine identifies card 81 in the set as his official rookie, but he actually has several regular cards in the set, this one is #97:
 There is a really interesting parallel between the Kiyohara rookie and the other hot rookie card of 1986, Jose Canseco.  I remember when Canseco's 86 Donruss reached a high water mark of 100$ in Beckett and was probably the most popular card in the hobby around 1990 or so.  Kiyohara's rookie card reached a similar peak (8000 Yen).

Canseco of course had his career sidelined by injury and his well known use of performance enhancing drugs.  Despite putting up impressive career numbers (462 home runs, 1 ball bounced off of head to give opposing team home run) these kept him out of the hall of fame and he is basically an outcast in the baseball world today, a perennial weirdo who is probably just as well known for not being able to beat Danny Bonaduce in a celebrity boxing match as he is for being baseball's first 40/40 man.

Kiyohara is something close to a Japanese equivalent of Canseco.  Like Canseco Kiyohara was a power hitting superstar in the late 80s - 90s who had a mix of injuries and drug problems sideline him in the latter half of his career.  And despite finishing with even more impressive numbers than Canseco - being a member of both the 500 home run and 2000 hit clubs - he hasn't been inducted into the Japanese baseball hall of fame and may never be.  In 2016 he made headlines by being arrested and convicted of drug possession.  Since that he has basically been shunned by the baseball world, even having his high school bat removed from an exhibit covering the history of the Koshien tournament.

So the 1986 Calbee Kiyohara rookie is about as prized today as a 1986 Donruss Canseco - kind of a neat throwback card but not one anybody pays serious money for anymore.  Which is a big win for those of us putting this set together on a budget!!!

As with any set from the mid-late 80s, my favorite cards are always those of Randy Bass in one of those awesome 80s Tigers batting helmets!!!

My set is actually quite well along, I have 180 out of the 250 cards, which leaves me just 70 to go.  I added a few of those last week and am scouring Yahoo Auctions to get some more to scratch off my checklist!


  1. Wow - I somehow missed that Kiyohara's rookie card actually came out during his rookie season - that was pretty rare in the pre-BBM days. Generally it was felt that rookies hadn't earned the right to have a baseball card in their first year. This is why Hideo Nomo didn't have any cards in 1990.

    Kiyohara's high school teammate Masumi Kuwata who was just as heralded a draft pick as Kiyohara (if not more so since he was with Yomiuri) doesn't have a card until the 1987 set. He didn't have as successful a rookie season as Kiyohara though which may be the reason.

    I always liked Kiyohara and I was sad to hear about his drug arrest. My impression is that there was always an air of ill repute around him - I think it's unlikely he would have been elected to the Hall Of Fame even without the drug arrest. I think your comparison with Canseco is pretty apt although I think Kiyohara was a better ball player for a longer time than Canseco was.

  2. Yeah, it is a kind of rarity for an 80s rookie to have his first card in his rookie year, he may have been the first.

    That is true that Kiyohara had a much more impressive career than Canseco. I think Canseco without the PED scandals would probably have been a peripheral hall of famer who barely squeaked in towards the end of his period of eligibility (or he would have entered the debate about who the best guy not in the HOF is). Kiyohara on the other hand would have been a solid first round HOF pick as one of the best players of his generation.

    I think at their prime they were both about the same level of star though - Canseco from about 1986-1992 or so was arguably the most famous player in the majors, and Kiyohara was probably the same in NPB around that time too.

  3. The Japanese Jose Canseco? Nice. Learn something new every day.

  4. LOL, yeah! Or maybe Canseco is the American Kiyohara!

  5. Awesome write-up and good to learn something new...a different kind of pressure on the players with money and fame. When do you think you are going to complete both the 1986 and 1987 set? How hard/easy are they to find on YJA?

    1. Thanks! I have no idea when I'll be able to finish them. There are singles available on Yahoo Auctions but far from all of them are available, I've been trying to track down the last few I need for my 1987 set for years now and they just never pop up there. I'll probably have to go to some actual stores to see if I can get them (which will take time since I don't have any near home or work)!