Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Collecting Cards in Japanese: A Guide to the Language

During my visit to Mint Ponyland with Dave last week I noticed there was a bit of an odd language gap between Dave and the owner.  It isn't odd that they spoke different languages of course, but rather that the card collecting nomenclature in English and Japanese don't match up, despite the fact that much of the Japanese is based on English loan words.

Dave wanted to know if they sold complete sets of a certain BBM set and he used the term "complete set" in English, which the storeowner didn't understand.  I then jumped in and asked in Japanese if he had it "furu conpu" and he immediately comprehended.

The weird thing is that the words "complete" and "set" are known to Japanese collectors and used in Japan, but not in the same way they are in English (and not together like that as one phrase), hence the confusion.

The phrase I used - furu conpu - is the Japanese term for "complete set" and its actually English - furu is the closest the Japanese language comes to replicating "full" and "conpu" is an abbreviated form of "complete" - so I was saying "full complete".

Its very hard to understand the way in which the Japanese vocabulary around card collecting has developed.  The English phrase "full complete"  is understandable, but its not a phrase any North American card collector would use to describe a complete set (the two words together create a redundancy that would annoy us - if it is "full" it is by definition "complete" and vice versa).  How the Japanese collecting world decided to put these two together is a bit of a mystery to me!

Anyway, in this post I thought it might be useful to create a little vocabulary guide for any English speakers out there wanting to know how to use the jargon of card collecting in Japanese correctly.  I've set out some of the terms that get used a lot below, organized into three categories based on their relationship to English: 1) words that are borrowed directly from English and have the same meaning, 2) words that are borrowed from English but have a different meaning in Japanese, and 3) purely Japanese words (or mixed Japanese-English words).

1) Words or phrases that are borrowed from English (just the pronunciation is different) and have the same meaning in both.

カード (Ka-do) = Card.

ボックス (Bokkusu) = Box.

パック (Pakku) = Pack.

シリーズ (Shirizu) = Series.   Basically means a series in a set (High series, etc)

パラレル (Parareru) = Parrallel.   A parallel series

2) Words or phrases that are borrowed from English but have a different meaning in Japanese

レアブロック (Rea burokku) = Short Print.  Based on the English words "rare block".

フルコンプ (Furu conpu ) = Complete set.  Based on the English words "Full Complete".

セミコンプ (Semi conpu) = Near complete set.  Based on the English words "Semi Complete".

サインカード (Sain Ka-do) = Facsimile Autograph card.  Based on the English words "Sign Card".  

3) Words or phrases that are purely Japanese (or mixed Japanese and English)

おまけカード (Omake Ka-do): Basically means a bonus card of some sort.  Can be used to describe either something a seller is throwing in for free in a deal (as in "I'll toss this in as a bonus") or something that was originally distributed as a bonus (Calbee cards are sometimes described like this since they were a "bonus" given away with bags of chips).

直筆サインカード (Jikihitsu sain Ka-do): autographed card (not a facsimile but a real autograph).  Putting the Japanese word "Jikihitsu", which means "directly written" in front of "sain ka-do" distinguishes it as a real autograph.

未開封 (Mikaifu): Unopened (as in "unopened pack" or "unopened box"). 

美品 (bihin): Mint condition (literally "beautiful product").  This doesn't convey the same exactness as "mint" does in English since the hobby here isn't as nitpicky about condition, and is maybe more accurately translated as "high grade", cards that could be about EXMT or better would probably be described this way.

限定版 (Genteiban): Limited Edition.   

地方限定版  (Chiho Genteiban): Regional limited edition.  This term describes the rare Calbee series that were distributed only in certain regions.  
第3弾 (Dai san dan): Third Series (second series, etc).  Even though "Series" is used as a loan word directly from English, they use this phase to describe a specifically numbered series. 

10枚 (Juu Mai): 10 cards (9 cards, 8 cards, etc).  "Mai" is a counter for flat objects, so if you want to buy for example 10 cards you would describe them as juu (ten) mai (cards in this case).  

This is by no means an exhaustive list, its more or less what I thought of off the top of my head while composing this post.  I'll try to add to it as I think of more (and maybe if anyone has some suggestions please post them in the comments)!


  1. Great guide. Yeah, you have to be careful sometimes on auctions where they will show an unopened box of BBM cards, but the title is フルコンプ. It is interesting how they adopted that one. 枚 is great to search for as well as sometime there are auctions that only come up with 枚 and not カード.

    1. yeah, I've had that happen too when they put a picture of the box up but the description says it is a set! Gotta watch out for that!

  2. Maybe it's because you don't hang around the more Topps/Bowman/modern collectors but an observation I've made includes...

    マグホ (mag-ho)
    Short for magnet holder. Because that's technically not an inaccurate way to describe them. Meanwhile in the states everyone calls them One Touches because that's the name UltraPro gave them.

    Short for group break. This is the same in Japanese and English. I don't know if you know it, but there are a lot of collectors in Japan who like to take advantage of online group breaks. Firehand in particular is really popular.

    Literally what my Japanese collecting friends call Kris Bryant.

    ボウクロ (BoChro)
    Literally what my Japanese collecting friends call Bowman Chrome cards. I've since adopted it myself because I am lazy.

    I have a feeling I'm missing a few notable examples of the definitely Japanese four-katakana shorthand used to describe other things, but I'm sure I'll encounter them again anyway.

    1. Hey, good additions to the list! Yes, I'm basically just drawing on my knowledge as a mainly vintage Calbee collector, so I don't know a lot of the terms used for modern stuff ( I don't even know what a magnet holder is for example)!.

      I like the Bo-Chro term, Japanese are awesome at finding abbreviations for stuff like that.