(Cracks knuckles) OK, sorry, I know I've been doing a lot of complaining about Japanese card sets as of late but I have a bit more to do. We had some disappointment at our house this week which I'd like to talk about.
Over the course of this year's baseball season, I've been collecting the Calbee set one bag at a time with my two kids. Its been fun, though their enthusiasm sort of waned a bit as the season went on.
This week though I think it finally fell off a cliff.
One irritating thing about Calbee sets these days that I hadn't ever really paid much attention to before is that the "Lucky Cards" are insanely hard to pull. My son got one in June from a bag of Series 1 which made him very excited. I thought that was really cool, but we blew threw dozens and dozens of bags of Series 2 Chips without hitting one. The guys who rip open cases of them suggest that the Lucky Cards are seeded at a rate of about 1 per 150 bags. Which is kind of weird given that the prizes you get (like a crummy plastic album that only holds 48 cards) aren't exactly valuable.
My son however really wanted a Series 2 Lucky card because the promotion said it was redeemable for a special set of cards of the team of your choice and he wanted the Dragons one. Not having pulled one form a pack, I went on Yahoo Auctions and bought one from a re-seller for 1500 Yen. I then sort of surreptitiously slipped it into a pack that I pretended I was opening for my son, handed it to him and let him pull it out.
That was so great!
When you pull a Lucky Card, you have to cut out a little tab on them, glue it to a postcard and mail it to Calbee. Then they'll send you the prize. For Series 1 we got a crummy little album. But we were excited for the Series 2 prize since special cards were certain to be way better than that.
So we waited a whole month and finally they arrived on Wednesday!
My son opened the envelope and out plopped......a stack of cards that was mostly regular Dragons cards from the base set which are available in packs. There were 8 cards total, 6 were just the regular Dragons cards. Only 2 of them were from the Star Card subset with gold embossed signatures.
"I already have these" he said in disappointment, and just dumped them on the table and walked off.
This kind of laziness on the part of the makers of Japanese baseball card sets has really been pissing me off this month. Last week my son opened a box of 2022 Topps NPB that is so bad they more or less forgot to put anything on the card backs, and now this.
What particularly annoys me is that Calbee used to have really great Lucky Card promotions. The first time I tried putting a set together bag by bag was in 2004. The Lucky Cards were way easier to pull back then, I probably bought about 100 bags that year and I ended up getting 8 Lucky Cards, so it was about a 1:12 ratio rather than a 1:150 ratio like today and you could reasonably feel a bit of excitement that these were things you could expect to pull every once in a while (as opposed to almost never now).
And the prizes you could redeem them for were actually really awesome. This is what I got from the Series 2 Lucky Cards:
A whole boxed set of cards that were not available in packs! 24 cards in total.
Granted that to get these you had to send in three Lucky Card tabs rather than one, but given how much easier they were to find it was still way easier to get one of these than it is to get a 2022 team set of just 8 cards, most of which are just cards from the regular base set anyway. Also, bags of Calbee chips cost about 60 Yen each in 2004 but are about 100 Yen today.
I really think Calbee is shooting itself in the foot by cheaping out so badly on these Lucky Card promotions. My son was so excited when he pulled that first one back in June. If they'd have made that pay off by actually sending him something fun like a card set similar to what they did in 2004 he'd probably have kept that enthusiasm level up. But instead he's been burned twice with a lousy album that isn't even big enough to fit the set into, and now a pile of cards that are mostly worthless doubles to him. This crap isn't how you turn kids into lifelong collectors of your product, its how you encourage them to find other things to do. Which is probably for the best I guess.
With the season over (from the perspective of a last place Dragons fan anyway) we've got a few months off now. I'll give the 2023 Calbees a try when Series 1 comes out, but I'm not holding out much hope that the kids will be into it like they were this year. And I'm putting most of the blame for that on Calbee's shoulders.