Thursday, May 30, 2024

Star Cards without the Sparkles


Sparkles are missing!

There is an interesting notice that was posted on Calbee's website about a month ago which I only just noticed. As usual they issued a 24 card "Star Card" subset with Series 1 this year.  Those are commonly called "Kira kira" cards in Japanese since they have a sparkly finish on them which will reflect a pattern when you hold them up to the light.  They've been adding that to the Star Cards for many years now, but this year some of the Star Cards were accidentally distributed without the glittery finish on them (as illustrated in the above image.  No sparkles on the cards on the left, cards on the left are sparkly as intended).

According to the notice, anyone who received a Star Card without the sparkles can send in their sparkle-less Star Card and have it replaced with a Sparkly Star Card.

This got me excited and I scoured my collection to see if I had pulled any of those sparkle-free Star Cards.  Much to my delight I discovered that I had!  My copy of Go-Matsumoto's Star Card (S-23) is distinctively lacking in sparkles!  Here it is next to a Daiki Sekine card that has sparkles for comparison:

These sparkle-free Star Cards seem to be legit rarities.  The Matsumoto is the only one I have out of more than a dozen Star Cards I've pulled.  I perused the Yahoo Auctions listings for 2024 Star Cards and of the many available I wasn't able to discern any that didn't have sparkles on them (though its hard to tell from a lot of the photos).  

This is a big difference from the regular card of Hiromi Ito that erroneously listed him as 176 metres in height.  For a couple of weeks there those were getting bid up like crazy on Yahoo Auctions.  Since that initial hype-induced boom interest in those has evaporated and of the many available on Yahoo Auctions right now not a single one has a bid on it.  I just pulled one from a newly released pack (its possible to discern from the expiry dates on the bags of chips they come with how recently a pack of Calbee cards was released) which this late in Series 1's run means they probably won't correct it.  In other words, its basically just a common card of a fairly average pitcher.    

Its the absence of sellers flogging these no-sparkle cards on Yahoo Auctions after they made such a huge deal about the Ito card that makes me think these are quite rare.  Otherwise you'd expect them to be hyped up like crazy by everyone who had one and wanted to pull a quick buck.  

Anyway, word to wise to anyone who finds one of these: You probably shouldn't take Calbee up on their offer to replace it with a corrected one!

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Randy Bass's "True" Rookie Card


I picked this 1983 Calbee Randy Bass card up the other day.  He has five cards in that set (217, 330, 355, 478 and 561) which was his rookie year in NPB.  Back in the 80s Calbee sets would routinely contain more than one regular card of players.  Actually they did that in the 90s too (when I have time I need to try to figure out which year it was that they stopped doing that).  Anyway I already have some of the other ones, but this one had eluded me for several years. 

This one is his first card in the set (#217) which I think counts as his true NPB rookie card among the five in my book (though since he played in MLB and had several American cards before that and it doesn't seem to be recognized as a rookie card among Japanese collectors).  

I'm actively collecting the 1983 set and outside of the hyper rare short printed series I have more than half of it complete so this is a nice addition.  

Its also a nice addition to my "cards with bat boys/girls in bizarre uniforms visible in the background" collection.  The horizontal red/white/blue stripes on them are pretty cool.  NPB teams in the 70s and 80s had some very eye-catching uniforms for them, including some bright yellow ones noticable on a few cards from the 70s.  These days they are a lot more toned down, and the way Calbee crops their photos you can't really see anything in the background anyway.  But in the 70s and 80s these were a nice detail that showed up on a few cards.

Monday, May 27, 2024

Opening a box of 1979 Yamakatsu


A few weeks ago I made a pretty good score on Yahoo Auctions: an unopened box of 1979 Yamakatsu packs.

The 1979 Yamakatsu set is, according to the Engel guide, one of the rarest Yamakatsu sets and was one I didn’t have many cards from until picking this up. Its one of the two mini sized card sets alongside the 1980 set.

Judging from previous auctions on Prestige these boxes seem to go for 300 to 400 bucks when they come up for sale, but this one flew under the radar (something that almost never happens these days) so I lucked out and got it for way less than that (about 80 bucks including shipping). Having it fall into my lap like that I decided what the hell, lets open it up. The box has 50 three card packs so I figured this would get me a decent way to the full set of 128 cards.

When you open the box up there are three albums that come with it. 

These are neat and contain a checklist of the set, but are kind of useless since they were designed to have the cards pasted in them which I am definitely not doing.

Under that are the packs! 

Each individual pack is stapled shut.  These would have been extremely easy to search had there been any valuable chase cards in them as all you have to do is pry the staple open, look at the cards, then bend the staples back.  I don't think anyone bothered doing that to these, but word to the wise if you ever see individual packs of these for sale online.

I had two opening options: rip the paper or gently remove the staples and preserve the pack.  I opted for the latter.

Lovely cards! Here is Isao Harimoto!

And Sadaharu Oh:

And.....oh yeah, this happened with two of the packs. Very frustrating to get doubles in a pack with so few cards.  Fortunately I didn't get any with triples, though that might have been neat.

Three of the packs came in a little plastic baggy.  These ones had winner cards (regular cards with a stamp on the back) which could be redeemed for one of the three albums. Otherwise they are just normal packs.

It was a lot of fun opening the packs though I didn't get quite as close to completing the set as I would have liked.  I got 76 different cards out of 128 total, so I am still 52 shy of completing the set.

The cards I still need to complete the set are:

3, 4, 9, 10, 14, 22, 23, 27, 28, 29, 35, 38, 40, 45, 46, 49, 53, 56, 57, 62, 67, 68, 69, 71, 72, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 80, 84, 88, 89, 92, 93, 94, 97, 99, 101, 102, 106, 108, 110, 116, 118, 121, 122, 124, 126, 127

Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Error Bag Has been Corrected


As detailed in my previous post error card mania has hit Japan due to Hiromi Ito's Calbee card listing him at 176 metres in height (roughly half the height of the Empire State Building for American readers still using the ancient imperial measurement system).  

A bit less attention has been paid to Calbee's other error, which was on its bags of chips.  On the back it explains the Lucky Card promotion in a green box on the upper left corner.  They made a mistake in the spelling of "Lucky" in katakana.  It should say ラッキー but instead they wrote ラッキ.  

They corrected the error on the bags and since about a week ago bags with the correct spelling started showing up on store shelves.  In the above photo I've put both versions (with the error circled in blue, the bag in the foreground is the corrected version).

What I'm curious about is if the corrected bags also contain corrected copies of the Ito card or not.  Frustratingly I've only been able to buy a few bags of the new ones since they have been selling pretty well and most stores sell out shortly after getting them in. I haven't pulled an Ito card from the new bags so I'm not sure.  Looking at Yahoo Auctions listings there are a huge number of the error cards still listed for ridiculous prices (one would think the sheer number of them available would be a signal to collectors that these are not particularly rare, yet they seem to still be attracting bids) but no sign of any corrected version yet.  This might however just be because nobody has bothered to put copies of the corrected versions up since presumably they are just common cards though.  I'm not sure.

Anyway, I've decided to keep a single error bag in unopened condition (cards and chips both included) just as a memento!

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Error Card Mania hits Japan


As Dave recently noted, the regular card of Fighters pitcher Hiromi Ito in this year's Calbee set contains an error.  On the back of the card it lists his height as 176 metres rather than 176 centimetres.

I pulled a copy of the card a few days ago but hadn't noticed the error until seeing Dave's post.  My kids thought it was pretty cool.

Japanese collectors have taken note (Calbee itself put an announcement on its website about the error, promising to replace them with corrected versions).  Yahoo Auctions is now full of Hiromi Ito Error cards with asking prices much much higher than a 2024 Calbee regular card of a pitcher with a 27-28 career record would normally command.

These aren't just sitting there either, a lot of them have bids.  This one for example is up to 1900 Yen (about 13$ US) with 63 watchers. 

This reminds me a lot of the late 80s/early 90s error mania in the US, when 1989 Fleer Billy Ripkens or 1990 Upper Deck Ben McDonalds were the hottest cards on the planet for a brief period. 

The problem for anyone paying real money for an Ito error card is that it doesn't seem like its even remotely rare - there are dozens of copies of it available on Yahoo Auctions right now.  According to Calbee they will start distributing corrected versions of the card from May, so it stands to reason that all of the cards they've issued in April will be the error card, likely a significant number of total production.  It'll probably end up being harder to find than your average Calbee card, but I don't see it being a major valuable card in the future.

Nonetheless, its kind of cool to see some buzz around a card.  Brings me back 35 years......

Thursday, April 18, 2024

Checklist time!


I printed off a checklist for the 2024 Calbee set yesterday and last night after work my daughter and I sat down with the pile of cards we've accumulated so far, opened a couple of bags of the chips, and she got to work checking off the ones we have. We have 35 different cards now and are making good progress.  She also pulled a Lucky Card which was her first (the past two years her big brother had pulled them but she hadn't) so she was extremely excited about that.

A lot of the cards now have salt and chip grease marks on them from being handled by hands that were simultaneously being used to eat potato chips.  And they also have some dinged corners from being dropped.  But its moments like this that guarantees that if I'm still around 40 years from now some banged up Calbee cards from the early-mid 2020s are probably going to be the only thing in my collection that will put a genuine smile on my face.  

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Minor 2024 Calbee Complaint


As I've mentioned in my most recent posts, I've been enjoying  collecting the 2024 Calbee set so far this year.  

But for the sake of throwing some rain on my own parade I thought I'd raise one complaint I have with the set.  Too many damn Title Holder cards.

For many years Calbee has been fairly consistent with how it structures its sets.  With each series you get the regular base set, plus several subsets.  The subsets usually consist of:

1) a 24 card "Star Card" set that is a bit harder to find than the regular cards (as noted in my previous post these have a parralel version that are the main "chase" cards in the set).

2) A checklist subset that is usually 4 cards per series.  These are usually my favorite since they tend to feature the best photography.

3) Some kind of throwback subset, often featuring reprints of older Calbee cards.  Numbers in these sets have varied.  These are pretty cool.

4) Some "other set".  Depending on the Series they throw in another kind of random set with some sort of theme - Title Holders, Opening Day, Exciting Scenes, Draft Picks, All Stars, etc etc. These usually have between 18 and 24 cards, though it varies by year and series.

With these "other sets" the quality is pretty hit and miss.  Last year Series 2 for example had a First Victory set that I liked since it featured cool photography from each team's first win of the season that broke with the usually boring Calbee photo selection/framing.  Other sets though often have really dreary designs and when they do its always a let down to find one in a pack.

This year the "other" set is a 2023 Title Holder subset which features league leaders in various categories.  Its got the worst design possible - the player is superimposed on an extremely generic background of out-of-focus lights of some sort, with "2023 Title Holder" in big white letters.  Every card  in the set has the exact same background which means that they all look exactly the same.  Its almost as though the folks at Calbee were challenging themselves to design a subset of cards which would make the regular cards with their predictable, standardized photography look thrilling in comparison.

The really super annoying thing I've noticed this year, which is prompting my complaint,  is that due to Calbee's reduction of the regular base set to 60 cards from 72 the ratio at which you pull these awful Title Holder cards is a lot higher than it previously was.  Over the past 6 packs my kids and I have opened we've pulled 7 regular cards and 5 Title Holder cards.  

These things are truly miserable.