Monday, January 21, 2019

Taking a Chance on a Big Vintage Calbee Lot

 I'm not a gambling man.  I went to a casino once in my early 20s, lost 30$, failed to see the fun in it and have never set place in one since.  I've also lasted almost 2 decades in Japan without once having partaken in its peculiar and ubiquitous form of legalized gambling: Pachinko.

But I do have one area where I like to dabble in risk:  Buying big lots of vintage Calbee cards off of Yahoo Auctions.  When they come up they can be a really great way of getting started on a set or just familiarizing yourself with cards you've never encountered before.

They generally come in two kinds. In one kind the seller puts up pictures of every card in the lot, back and front, so you know exactly what you are bidding on and there are no surprises.  The other kind though are lots in which the bidder just puts up a picture of a pile of cards and tells you how many there are, but you have no idea what most of the cards are. These are the risky ones.

Back in Canada I would never in a million years buy a pile of cards without knowing what I was getting because of the obvious potential for being ripped off.  But in Japan.....I don't wish to perpetuate cultural stereotypes but Japanese people in general have a reputation for honesty for good reason.  When a seller puts up a lot of vintage Calbees without photos of every card in 99% of cases its not because they are trying to sucker you into buying a bunch of crap, its more likely that they are busy and just don't want to bother photographing everything.  These lots are usually worth taking a chance on.

I came across one lot from a seller (this guy) who I had never bought from before. The description just said "60 Calbee cards from the 1980s" and nothing else. It had a photo in which you could see about 7 or 8 random ones, the rest being underneath.  I did the math and put a bid on.  And won.  My winning bid was 2700 Yen, which with shipping came in just under 3000 Yen, or about 50 Yen per card.  That is a pretty good per-card price for 1980s Calbee, but of course that would depend on what the cards were.

They arrived yesterday and I broke open the Smart Letter pack to reveal these babies:
 There were a few things I was concerned about before opening them.  Were there a lot of duplicates?  Were there a lot of beaters?  Were they all commons with no stars?  Were they all 1987 Calbees that I already had?

Happily the answer to all of these questions was negative.  I got a pretty interesting and well rounded lot when I broke it open, with cards from eight different years between 1980 and 1989.  Here they are sorted into piles by year:
 Most of the cards were from the 1983 set (18 cards), 1984 set (9 cards) and 1985 set (16 cards) which was great because those are sets that are a bit harder to find that the ones from the later 80s (except 1989) and ones that I still need most of them (especially the 83 set).  Most of those cards were ones that I needed.  There were only 2 from the 1987 set (both ones I already had) and 1 from the 1988 set (also a double).

The lot also had two cards from the 1980 Calbee set, which were the first cards from that set I have ever gotten.  The 1980 set is kind of interesting in that they are the same size as other cards from the 1980s, but still have the captioning of the series in the set that all cards from the 70s have, which is kind of neat.  One of the cards I got was 15 time all star Masahiro Doi, which was great:
 In the 1985s I found this card of Hall of Famer Hiromitsu Kadota which I found striking, I like that "ABIN 85" sign in the background.
 The 1984s had some pretty good stars among them too:
 Condition wise the lot was pretty good.  About half the cards (basically all the ones post 1985) were about Ex-mint, while the earlier ones were a bit more mixed with some corner fuzz and the occasional ding.  Out of the 60 cards though there was only one true beater, this 1983 card of Mitsuo Tatsukawa which looks like it has been to hell and back:
 Within the lot there were only two duplicates (both in the 1983s) so I got 58 different cards.  Looking through my checklists 34 of those were ones I needed, which was pretty satisfying.
All in all I am pretty happy with this lot.  My gamble paid off!


  1. Very cool. Glad the gamble paid off.

  2. I love picking up lots like this. I going to have to look for those cards of Doi and Kadota. I don't think I'd ever seen a photo of Doi with a beard before.

    One thing about the 1980 set - it was actually issued in two sizes. The first part of the set was issued at the same size as the cards from the 1970's while the second part was the smaller size. Calbee did something similar in 1990 - the first 96 cards I think were the same size as the cards from the 80's while the remaining cards were phone card sized. Luckily they didn't do this in 2000 or 2010...

    1. Yes, I love these lots too, its like opening wax packs!

      I was taken by the photo of Doi with a beard too!

      And thanks for pointing that out about the 1980 set, I didn't know it was issued in two sizes (these are the first I have, and are both "little"). In 1990 it was the first 55 cards that were released in the little sized ones.

      I actually hope they do something like that next year in the 2020 set :)

  3. Congrats and awesome pick up! Sometimes it pays to be lucky rather than good.