Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Sadaharu Oh's 756 Home Run Ceremony Card

 


I picked this card up the other day. It is card #50 from a 1977 Calbee set dedicated to Sadaharu Oh in commemoration of his 756th home run.  I've written about this set before, its pretty scarce so I only had a couple of cards from it before adding this one.  I was pretty happy to win this one for a reasonable price given the apparent explosion in the price of some 1970s Calbee cards recently.

I liked the photo on the front of the card which according to the text on it is from the post-game ceremony held after he hit #756.  When I say "like" I don't necessarily mean that it is a great photo, but its an interesting one.  The player depicted, Oh, is dwarfed by the backs of four old guys in suits, who I assume to be Yomiuri executives.  Not many cards feature such an odd composition.  

The highlight though is the cool shot of that scoreboard with the message "Congratulations player Oh for #756" and a crude rendition of his head next to it.  There are a few Calbee cards from the 70s which prominently feature that scoreboard in the background commemorating some major milestone, usually of either Oh or Shigeo Nagashima, which would make for an interesting collecting sub-set.

The back of the card is kind of interesting.  It shows the 15 pitchers who Oh hit the most of his 756 home runs off of.  The most were 23 he hit off of  Hiroshima Carp pitcher Yoshiro Sotokoba (who was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2013 (despite having a career record of 131-138).  This is only through home run #756, I'm not sure if Sotokoba maintained that lead through the rest of Oh's career.

Anyway, its a nice addition to my collection!

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

That Escalated Quickly: Unsettling Auction Result a Threat to My Quest?

 


My quest to complete the 1975-76-77 monster Calbee set has made some decent progress over the past month, I picked up a few additional cards last week which I'll have to do a post about.  At the same time however, I was blindsided by the results of an auction that ended yesterday for a card that I (thank god) already own.  

It was for the above card, #71 featuring Ron Woods.  I  did a post about this exact same card last year.  Its from a rare series that was only issued in the Tokai area (where the Dragons play) and is thus among the harder to find cards in the set (which is why I was watching the auction despite already having the card, since they are rare they only pop up for auction occasionally and I like to keep tabs on how much they go for).  

The copy of the card that I picked up last year is in really nice shape, like probably Ex or Exmt (which is rare for 1970s Calbee cards).  I don't remember exactly what I paid for it but I think it was in the 2,000- 3,000 Yen range which is (or was) typical for cards from that series.  

Since the card in yesterday's auction is in  lower grade - maybe a G or so due to those corner creases - I was expecting it to go for a bit less than what I got mine for.  Boy was I wrong, this was how high the auction went:

15,500 Yen (about $150 US)!  About 10 times more than I was expecting and at least 5 times more than I paid for a higher grade copy of the same card just last year!

I should be happy about this (and yay, a card I have is more valuable, I'm happy!)  but I'm also worried about what auction results like this might portend for my quest to finish the set.  

With the rare Tokai regional series that this card is a part of I am still missing 12 cards (one of which also features Ron Woods).  Until now I've been expecting they would set me back maybe 2-3,000 Yen each in mid-grade condition (less if in lower grade), but this makes me wonder if that will be feasible.  If they are going to cost me anywhere near 15,500 Yen each there is no way I'll be able to afford them.  So far as I can tell this auction result is a bit of an outlier, I've never seen a card from the set sell for more than 10,000 Yen and maybe the seller was just lucky to have two guys who desperately wanted that specific card right now bidding each other up over it.  But its also one of those things where once that line has been crossed, no doubt others will follow.

Even more worrisome is that there is another series in the set, the Red Helmet series (609-644) that was only released in Hiroshima and usually sells for even more than the cards from the Tokai series.  I'm only about half-way there on completing that series and was hoping to finish those without spending more than 3-4,000 Yen (30-40$ US) per card, but if a card from the Tokai series can go for over 10,000, then definitely cards from that series can too.  And, again, at those prices the set becomes unaffordable to me, barring some huge pile of cash unexpectedly falling from the sky into my back yard or something (one can always hope).

On the plus side, auction results like these do make me quite glad that I started my quest to build this set a few years ago and have already knocked a decent number of cards from the rare series off my want list!  If I was looking for a set to start working on today, prices like these would have discouraged me from even trying.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Calbee Series 2: Let the Complaints Begin (strikes gong)!

 

Calbee Series 2 has arrived!  Or actually, wait, no it hasn't.  Its weird.  According to Calbee itself the set isn't supposed to appear in stores until June 28th.  And I can confirm that the local stores here still don't have them.

Yet as I sit here typing this I do so with the full 88 card regular set right in front of me, so obviously some of them have escaped from the Calbee factory early.  

This allows me to present the second 2021 installment of my thrice annual tradition I like to call "Complaining 'bout Calbee Photography".  So (cracks knuckles), let's begin.

First things first.  I bought this set off one of the re-sellers on Yahoo Auctions who buy up cases of Calbee chips to open them, hunt down the chase cards and sell them for major Yen.  They then offload everything else - the cards that are supposedly the main product -  for almost nothing.  So as a collector of just the regular cards when the new Series comes out its always a good time for me to pounce like a scavenger scoring the scraps leftover by an apex predator who feels his leftover scraps have no market value.    

I was a bit apprehensive about this purchase because the guy I bought it from has the most insanely bad feedback rating I have ever seen on Yahoo Auctions - 75.8% positive (out of 171 total so its not like he's new to this and one or two bad ones brought him down).   The average feedback scores on Yahoo Auctions are about the same as they are on Ebay, basically if anyone has less than a 99.5% positive rating its enough to make you look through their transactions to see if they are on the up and up.  Less than 99.0% is a huge red flag.  75.8% is just off the charts insane.  This guy is an absolute legend among low feedback Yahoo Auctions dudes, nobody can touch him.

I pulled the trigger anyway because the price for the entire set was just 300 Yen (plus 210 Yen shipping), meaning I could get the whole thing in hand for under 5$ US, which seemed worth the risk.

Much to my surprise, the cards were sent promptly after I paid for them and arrived within two days!  All of them.

I could kind of see where that 75.8% feedback was coming from though, the cards were literally just tossed loose into an envelope.  No wrapping or anything, and it wasn't even a bubble mailer.  But they survived the journey without damage so I'm not complaining and he can expect a positive feedback from me shortly (which might push him up into 76% range or so).

So let me talk about the cards themselves.  Usually when I do a post like this Dave has already done one on the set so I don't talk about the basics, but since I got these early I can beat him to it this time!

The regular set contains 72 cards (#73 to 144, continuing on from Series 1).  I got all of those.  There is also a four card checklist set and a 12 card Opening Pitcher set, which I also received (meaning my 300 Yen purchase netted me 88 cards).  Together these would constitute the "base" cards.

In addition there is a 24 card "Star Card" set, which I don' t have but assume its covered in shiny glittery stuff like usual, and a 12 card special box limited set which features the top hitter from each team, which I'm not sure how it is distributed but also likely has a bunch of shiny glittery stuff on it.  There is also a 24 card parrallel set of the Star Cards featuring embossed signatures of the player.  These can only be obtained by sending in "Lucky Cards" which are randomly inserted in packs and are the real money makers for the re-sellers like the guy I bought mine from.  

Anyway, now lets get on with what we've all been waiting for!  Me complaining about Calbee's photos!

Yup, they suck again this time around.  For those unfamiliar, I did a post a few years back highlighting the monotonous nature of Calbee photography which you can refer to.  The rules are that all position players except catchers are shown batting, all pitchers are shown hitting and catchers are the only position players sometimes shown actually in the field.  The photos are always framed the same way and are usually taken from the exact same vantage point in the team's home stadium.  Individually none of the cards have bad pictures on them, but collectively it makes for boring and repetitive looking sets.  

2021 Calbee sticks to precedent pretty strictly.  I could only find 4 cards in the regular set which deviated from those rules, these ones here:

None of these are particularly exciting and the close up framing perpetuates the monotony even with these. So once again we've got a thoroughly mediocre Calbee set which makes me value my vintage Calbee cards with their lovely and varied photography all the more!

Anyway, if you enjoyed reading me complain about Calbee photography (and who doesn't enjoy that?) be sure to tune in to the blog in September when I'll undoubtedly be devoting a post to complaining about Series 3!

Sunday, June 20, 2021

The Most Unusual Photo of a Professional Baseball Stadium Ever Taken

 

I Googled Osaka Stadium for no important reason just now.  Its the former home stadium of the Nankai Hawks until they moved to Fukuoka in 1988.  It was torn down in 1998 and the site is now the home of Namba Parks, a major shopping development (Dave visited on his trip a couple of years ago and did a great post about it). 

In my Google search the above photo popped up and really caught my eye.  That is literally a residential neighborhood built right in the outfield of a very large professional baseball stadium. You don't see that every day.

I thought it must be photo-shopped or something but on further looking into it I discovered that no, in fact that is a real photograph of Osaka Stadium.  In the ten years between the Hawks leaving Osaka in 1988 and it being torn down in 1998 they had to do something with the field.  One of those uses was as a showcase for model homes.  So the infield became a parking lot and the outfield became a neighborhood with about 20 homes in it, albeit one nobody ever lived in.

Its a shame they didn't keep it like that.  I think living in a house located in shallow left field of a really cool old baseball stadium would be hard to beat!  

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

I'm still alive!

 

I stepped away from the blog for three months there.  Everything is good!  Its just that my day job is one of those ones where after years of work your employer subjects you to a months long process the outcome of which is that you either end up with a guaranteed job for life on the one hand, or they let you go and your whole career is over in an instant on the other.  No pressure, ha! Anyway, I'm going through that now so I've stepped away from the blog because I'm too busy, but I've found a few spare minutes and thought I'd devote them to a little update post. 

Despite being busy, I'm still collecting, albeit at a lower rate than usual.  Here are a couple of updates on stuff with my collection.  

1975-76-77 Calbee Monster

Last week I picked up 7 more cards that I needed for my monster 1975-76-77 Calbee set, including the Sachio Kinugasa card (#510) pictured above.  These are the first additions I've made to that set all year and I'm really psyched about finally being able to fill in a few more pockets in those binders. 

My progress on the set has slowed to the crawl over the past couple years, something I've moaned about in previous posts.  The problem is that I've basically picked over what all the established dealers have for sale and so now I'm just waiting and pouncing on new listings, which only come up occasionally.  If you look on Yahoo Auctions at any given moment there are usually more than 2,000 listings for cards from this set so you might think it would be easier.  But that is for a set with 1472 cards, and most of those listings are of cards from a few of the easier to find series so there is heavy duplication of some cards and none for most of the others.  Within those 2,000 plus listings there are probably only 500-600 or so different cards available from that set, and the other 900 or so just don't come up for sale that often. 

I can also tell that I'm not alone in this situation because I'm always getting into bidding wars on those cards when they pop up, even for common cards in common series which just coincidentally happen to not be in any other dealer's inventory.  

The Menko Collection

My menko collecting has kind of fallen off a cliff recently just because of a recent market trend that  economists refer to as "Holy crap when did everything get this damned expensive???"

Basically the market has exploded here like it has in the US.  I think there was a bit of a lag and vintage cards didn't really start skyrocketing in price until a few months after they had in the US, but its happenned here too.  So while I'm still bidding on stuff that I would have won easily a year or two ago, nowadays I find myself getting blown out of the water and not even coming close to the winning bid on anything.  Especially Sadaharu Oh stuff is just no longer attainable in my price range, so I'm glad I knocked a lot of his cards off my want list when they were (though there are still a lot out there I would like to own!)


Anyway, that is my update. In all honesty I'm probably not going to have enough time to resume blogging at my normal rate until the above mentioned work thing-y is resolved, which won't be until later this year.  I'll try to find a bit of time here and there to post updates though, I find that my collection doesn't really feel complete without it being  blogged about!  

Thursday, March 25, 2021

2021 Calbee Series 1 is here.

 


Series 1 of the 2021 Calbee set is out in stores this week.  It wouldn't feel like the start of spring without them.

This year there is exciting news about the new Calbee set.

Ha!  Just kidding, its the exact same schlock they've been putting out every year for decades without anything but minor cosmetic changes here and there.  Which I admire them for.

This bag containing two cards and a bunch of chips that I don't like set me back 88 Yen (like 80 cents US or so).  Lets see what I got.

Lions second baseman  Shuuta Tonosaki's regular card and an MVP card of Hawks slugger Yuki Yanagita from the Title Holder subset (which I had to glean from Calbee's website since the card itself doesn't actually say it is from a subset called "Title Holder").   Not bad I guess. 

The cards are pretty standard in design.  They went with Roman letters for the player names on the front of the regular cards instead of kanji, which is about the only thing they seem to vary much from year to year anymore.  Backs of the cards are about the same as usual too.

Judging from the photos on the two cards I got, I predict that sometime in the next month or so I'll buy the whole regular set off one of the case breakers on Yahoo Auctions solely for the purpose of writing a post complaining about the mundane photography here.  Its become an annual tradition for me.

On a side note, I've been posting a bit less than usual this month, work has been extremely busy so has been keeping me away from it, a situation that will likely last into April but I'll try to do a post whenever I can squeeze in a bit of time.  

Monday, March 8, 2021

The REAL Hall of Fame Collection Bottleneck

 

A few days ago I wrote a post about how certain hall of famers, particularly those with exclusively pre-war careers, have very few cards of them and thus present a major obstacle to anyone trying to put together a collection of career contemporary cards of Japanese Hall of Famers.

Excluding Eiji Sawamura (who has no known cards) probably the most difficult player to get is Tokichiro Ishii.  Ishii was a star hitter for Waseda University in the 1940s and was also later a manager of the team.  He was elected into the Hall of Fame in 1995 and is notable as only the second player to enter the hall without any professional baseball experience ( the first was former Meiji University star Kichiro Shimaoka in 1991).

Because he never played professionally, Ishii doesn't appear in any of the professional player card sets of the late 1940s.  University stars featured prominently in the menko sets of the 1929-1931 time period (which pre-dated the establishment of a professional league), but he was too young to appear in any of those either.

There is exactly ONE set of cards which he does feature in, which is the 1948 Big Six University set (JRM 44).  The above is his card in that set, the only card of him ever made.

Unfortunately for Hall of Fame collectors, its a rare one - Engel lists it as R4, meaning that fewer than 10 copies are known to exist.  One hasn't appeared in a Prestige Collectibles auction in over a decade!

So while I'm not actively pursuing a Hall of Fame collection, I'm glad to have this one in my collection!