Sunday, September 4, 2016

Mystery wrapped in a riddle: How is this card supposed to have been centred?

Another week, another 1970s Calbee pickup, in this case card #17 from the 1977 set (famous scenes series).  It features members of the Yomiuri Giants taken on October 16 at Korakuen Stadium singing a "song of victory" after going from worst to first under Shigeo Nagashima`s management.

The card carries a huge mystery to it which I am having a lot of trouble wrapping my head around. It seems to have been miscut on both the top and bottom, yet on both sides the nature of the miscut precludes the possibility of the other side`s miscut.

Look at the top of the card.  The heads of Sadaharu Oh and Isao Harimoto are cut off from above the eyebrows.  It seems the card should end a bit higher than that, so at least you get the entire faces of the two main players in the centre, right?

But then look at the bottom of the card. The lower, smaller bottom line of text says "巨人V1” but it has clearly been cut in half, with the lower part of the text completely off the card.

The miscut on the top suggests the card was cut too low, while the miscut on the bottom suggests it was cut too high.  Under the laws of physics currently in force in the known universe it is not possible for these to both be simultaneously correct, yet they both exist.  What gives?

In case you are wondering, the card has not been trimmed at all, it is identical in size to a standard card from that set.  I can`t make heads or tails of this.  The only explanation I can come up with is that the image on the card itself was somehow accidentally printed at 1.1 or 1.2 times magnification, making it too big to fit on the card.  But I`ve never seen a card with that before.

Kind of a mystery, I almost feel like I am looking at an MC Escher painting or something.  Anyone else come across similarly weird card cuts?

Raz in the comments made a pretty good find, locating the above image which seems to show how the card was intended to look when correctly centred.

This just really opens up a whole new can of "what?" worms.  Calbee actually intended this card to have Sadaharu Oh and Isao Harimoto`s faces cut clean out of the photo?  In order to provide more room on the bottom for that lovely image of....the backs of photographers?

I`m guessing there were a few quality control issues related to how images were centred on printing plates with Calbee cards in the 70s, there are a couple of other cards I have with questionably centred images.  On most it isn`t noticeable since moving the centre of the image a bit only crops out a bit of random background, but on cards where some key element (like say the faces of the NPB all time home run king and hit king) is close to the edge, errors like this become really hard to miss.


  1. I found this image, where the card appears to be cut correctly, at least based on the foil position.

  2. Wow, good find! That is truly bizarre. The card, correctly centred, actually cuts Sadaharu Oh and Isao Harimoto`s faces in half!

  3. It does seem like an odd decision, like couldn't they cut out a little of the photographers at the bottom in order to ensure all the players' faces made it into the frame?

    1. Yeah, exactly! The backs of the photographers on the bottom of the card isn`t exactly key to the image like say the faces of the all-time NPB leaders in home runs and hits are!!

  4. When I first saw the card I thought the Giants V1 was some sort of printers mark not intended to be part of the final cut. Anyone have a guess at what it means? I opened up Engel's guide to learn more about the 1977 Calbee sets and noticed they did the same thing with the Hank Aaron/Oh card in the JC5G set....schwacked Aaron's head off at the hairline. My next thought is there was something above their heads they didn't want printed...some advertising or something in the crowd that wasn't appropriate....but I see other Calbee cards with advertising so that's probably not it. Interesting difficulties with the full-bleed photos.

    1. By the way, is the back off centered as well?

    2. My thinking is actually that there might have been some sort of miscommunication between the people who design the cards and the people who set up the printing plates. Seems pretty obvious that the editors would have wanted the player`s faces to be visible at the expense of the (useless) bottom part of the images featuring the backs of photographers. Perhaps when the guys were setting up the plates they were just kind of careless about how the photos were centred and this was the result. There are a couple more cards in my collection where this sort of thing probably happened. I guess for 95% of cards it wouldn`t be noticable since cropping the photo one way or the other would only eliminate a couple millimetres of background, but on cards where the player`s head is near the edge to begin with, mistakes like this really show.

      The back of the card is perfectly centred.