This time though it doesn't seem to matter, at least from my perspective. My kids had a lot more fun opening the Epoch packs that I got so when I brought these ones home, they showed no interest in opening them with me. I ended up just throwing them in the snack drawer for later. Looks like we won't be collecting Calbee Series 2 in my house this year.
I did open one bag though, got a couple of regular cards from the miniscule 60 card base set. While reading the bag as I did so I realized there is a major change with this Series - no Lucky Cards!
As I've written about before, Lucky Cards are a promotional thing Calbee does. Pull one of them and you can send it in to the company for a prize of some sort. The prizes have varied considerably over the years. When I collected the 2004 set (the first time I tried to put one together bag by bag), they had a really fantastic Star Card set that you could get by sending in three Lucky card tabs. More recently they have been less exciting albums, but they were a fun thing to pull nonetheless.
As far as I can tell, this is possibly the first time in its entire 50 years of making cards that it hasn't included Lucky Cards (or an equivalent, they were known as Home Run cards back in the 70s). I've seen Lucky cards or their equivalent (ie something you could pull from packs that was redeemable for a prize) for every Calbee set going back to the 90s, and I've also seen them from most of the sets from the 70s. The only time period I'm not certain about is the 80s. I've never seen a mini-card sized Lucky card from those years, and they didn't do Home Run Cards like they did in the 70s during that decade either. But at the same time, I've seen albums (which are often the prizes you would get) for most of the sets from the 80s, so they likely had some way of being won similar to a Lucky Card, but I'm not sure how it worked.
Anyway, history aside I'm not sure if this is just a temporary change related to the supply problems they've been having this year, or if its a permanent one. If its the latter, its unfortunately just another reason for me to not buy new Calbee cards each year, which is a shame. This is just speculation on my part, but abandoning the Lucky Cards might simply be a cost cutting measure unrelated to their current problems. Inflation in Japan - which has been non-existent during the 20 plus years I've lived here - suddenly appeared last year and drove the prices of most things you find on supermarket shelves up. This has led all food companies to either raise prices or engage in shrinkflation. The price of bags of Calbee chips this year is the same as last (98 Yen), which makes me suspect the loss of the Lucky Cards is Calbee's way of keeping it that way. Personally I would prefer to pay a bit more per bag for a decent set (more than 60 cards) and with some bells and whistles that my kids could chase, which the Lucky cards were great for (or would have been if they were a bit more generous like they were back in 2004). I'm curious what they'll do in 2024, but not sure if I'll be collecting the set anymore by then!