Thursday, February 22, 2018

Full set of 1975-76 Calbee Cards Available!

There is a really interesting item up for bid over on Yahoo Auctions right now.  A complete set of 1975-76 Calbee cards:

I love writing about that set on here because its one of my favorites and also probably one of the most difficult sets in the world to put together owing to its sheer size.  The cards are numbered 1 to 1436, and for #s 289 to 324 there are two version of each (one is a boyhood photos of the stars subset, the other is a Hiroshima Carp subset called the "red helmet" series, which is a bit harder of the two to find), so the master set is 1472 cards.

It is extremely rare for a complete vintage (pre 1990) Calbee set to come up for auction, let alone the biggest.  I have never seen a complete set and while I am passively working away on one myself, I only have about 600 different cards.  Any other set and that would mean I was almost there, but with this monster I'm not even halfway!

I wouldn't necessarily recommend getting your wallets out for this one, the starting bid is 1,280,0000 Yen (about $11,000 US) with a BIN price option at 1,800,000 (about $16,0000 US or so I think). To be honest I have no idea if that is a fair price for it since this is the first time I've ever seen a full set and there just aren't many out there, but at almost $10 per card (for the starting bid price) it feels a bit high.  There are some short printed rare series that were only regionally issued (one of Chunichi in Nagoya, another in Hiroshima) but I don't think they quite add enough to explain the price since most of the commons can be had for 100-300 Yen each in auctions.

Regardless of the price though its a pretty impressive sight!  Bidding ends in 2 days.

On a side note, this is my first post in a few months.  My wife gave birth to a little girl in December so I've been a bit too busy for blogging since then, but will try to update here a bit more often!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

The 1973 Calbee Sadaharu Oh Full Run!

The 1973 Calbee set is pretty awesome.  I don't think I can ever collect it due to the cost, but I did just make a major purchase - the full Sadaharu Oh run from the set.

The set famously begins with card #1 of smiley face Shigeo Nagashima, and in fact the first 6 cards of the set all feature Nagashima.  This is followed by the next 6 cards (7 to 12) which all feature Sadaharu Oh, which I just purchased en masse via Yahoo Auctions.  I've always preferred Oh to Nagashima so its sort of natural that I would get his cards first, but Nagashima's are also on my want list.

The cards are all pretty epic, but card #7 in particular is quite striking, with Oh taking a swing against an all blue sky backdrop (upper right card in the above photo).  The card is (on the back) titled "Monster"and notes that he is often called 怪物 (monster) as a player. The photo is strikingly similar to the one on Nagashima's first card, also against an all blue backdrop, and this is probably not a coincidence.

Card #10 (lower right in the above photo) is the only one that I already have, though this new copy is a bump up in terms of grade. Its interesting to note that card #11 (next to it in the photo) was taken at the exact same time, which is evidenced by the same fans sitting in the same locations in the stands in the background.  The photographer must have just caught him, gave him a bat and said "Pose with this", then tossed him a glove and said "OK, now this." Card #12 (lower left corner) looks like it was also taken at the same time, but since its at a different angle the stands in the background are different.

Anyway, I'm pretty happy to have these in my collection now!

Also, this is my first post in about 5 months.  Work has been busy, but this absence is mostly explained by the fact that my wife and I are expecting a second child (girl this time!) and so my life has gotten much busier.  I might not be posting to this blog (or collecting baseball cards) as much as I used to for a while but will try to clock in whenever I have something interesting to write about and the time to do it!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Some more cool Shonen Club Baseball Cards

 I made another find of something I didn't know existed until I saw it for sale the other day: a set of Shonen Club baseball postcards.

This is my second Shonen Club addition to the collection after picking up my 1929 Shonen Club Babe Ruth last year (coincidentally exactly one year to the day ago).

I haven't been able to find any information on these (anyone out there know?) and I am not sure if these comprise a whole or partial set, but given the player/team combinations it can be inferred that they date from between 1952 and 1957 at the latest.  Its an extremely impressive lot in terms of player selection, all four of them are members of the Hall of Fame.  From left to right in the above photo we have Tetsuharu Kawakami (Giants), Kaoru Betto (Orions), Hiroshi Oshita (Lions) and Shigeru Sugishita (Dragons).

On the backs they are typical postcards.  On the upper left corner is a box with the player's name and team.  The text in the middle says "Shonen Club Special Photograph Postcard", and on the upper right is a spot telling you to put a 5 Yen stamp here.

I like these a lot, the images are colorized black and white photos which have a kind of cool look to them.  As postcards they also make pretty cool display pieces, I might try having these framed at some point.

I am going to try and find out more about this set.  From what I know from other Shonen Club sets, they usually consisted of more than 4 cards so I suspect there are more from this series out there.  They also were usually issued in illustrated envelopes which are nice pieces in their own right and I'm hoping one with some baseball design might exist. 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

An Amazing Treasure Trove from the 1940s

I had one of the most satisfying moments of my Japanese card collecting career the other day.  I came across a seller on Yahoo Auctions who had listed some cards from the early post-war era which were pasted onto black album pages.  The cards were fantastic - many with beautiful action photos of big name hall of famers, ranging in size from small Calbee sized cards (roughly the same size as 1950 Bowmans for American collector reference) to large postcard sized ones.  The album pages had been removed and were being auctioned one by one, each with between 4 and 6 cards on them.

They had a low starting bid and with one day left on the auctions when I found them, each already had one bid.  I put a bid on all of them for the minimum increment (10 yen) above the existing bid and immediately became the number one bidder.  I anticipated a bidding war would break out during the last hour or so of the auctions as they usually do for stuff like this and carefully calculated my max bid on each, depending on which cards they had and how they looked.  I then upped my max bids on all of them, hoping that the other person bidding on them wouldn't drive them up too much.

Then the weirdest and most magnificent thing ever happened.  The other bidder must have forgotten about them and nobody else noticed them, because they received no further bids and I won all of them for just 10 Yen (about 10 cents US) over the lowball starting bids. Hooray!

They came in the mail the other day and I was not disappointed with them actually in hand.  Check out these beautifes:

Victor Starffin, Japan's first 300 Game winner (with the Stars, which would date this at between 1948 and 1953):
Hall of Famer Kaoru Betto taking a swing with the Hanshin Tigers (which would date this between 1948 and 1949):

Hankyu Braves pitcher Rentaro Imanishi (not a Hall of Famer but I like the picture on this card):

 Takahiro Besho, another 300 game winner and Hall of Famer. This pictures him with Nankai, which would date it to no later than 1948:

 The "God of Batting" Testuharu Kawakami, who appears on several cards in the lot:

 And here are some more highlights, many of these are also hall of famers. I LOVE the photography on these, the in action shots are just as good as the ones you see on my beloved Calbee cards from the 1970s, but with these you have the added interest of seeing very early postwar stadiums in the background.
 This is what they look like altogether, the cards were pasted onto the backs and fronts of each album page:

The cards obviously come from different sets, but judging from the player team affiliations these probably date from the immediate postwar years, no later than about 1948.  From what I have been able to see from peeling them away from the album pages a bit, the backs are blank, though they are all printed on standard baseball card-thick cardstock.  I am guessing these have been catalogued, and they now provide me with yet another excuse to finally buy a catalogue.  I think I will keep them on the album pages for now, they actually seem to display better like that.

This is yet another thing I am starting to love about collecting cards here - if you are a budget conscious collector (ie not rich) you will never find something this neat, this rare, from this era featuring so many big name hall of famers selling for a reasonable price (total cost to me including shipping was less than 50$ US) in the United States.  In Japan though its still possible.  This is the type of find that makes collecting so worthwhile. 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Finding Cards in the Most Unexpected of Places

 Last weekend my wife and I took our son out to the above Book Off Bazaar way out in the southern suburbs of Nagoya.  It is by no means an attractive location to spend a Saturday afternoon, but Book Off Bazaars are a very good place to go if you have kids since some of them, including this one, sell a lot of used toys, children's books and clothing for very reasonable prices. 

My son walked away from this with a new shirt (boring!), a book about dinosaurs (better) and a toy race car (awesome!). 

Unexpectedly I also walked away with something: a big pile of 1991 and 1992 Calbee cards!

This was a really cool find for me.  I was looking through racks of toys with my son when I discovered a bunch of lots of baseball cards, wrapped and put into little baggies containing 10 cards for 100 Yen.  Most of them were stuff I wasn't interested in and likely not worth 100 Yen for 10 cards (beat up BBM commons from recent years, etc), but I was quite excited to find that six of them were full of Calbee cards from the early 1990s (which are worth way more than 100 Yen for 10 cards), so all of them went into the shopping basket.

It was kind of cool opening them since except for the top and bottom card the contents were a mystery.  I wasn't disappointed with what I got, there were quite a few stars in there, including a 1992 Hideo Nomo that alone was probably worth more than I paid for everything.

It was kind of fortunate that these happened to be cards from the early 1990s when Calbee sets had round instead of sharp corners as these would likely all have had dinged corners from being thrown into baggies and tossed haphazardly onto a rack subject to the ravages of bargain hunting suburban children and their parents (the most destructive force on the planet incidentally).  So all the cards were in very nice shape.

If I had bought these anywhere else I probably wouldn't have been so excited about them, but there is something very thrilling about finding somewhat hard to find vintage cards in a totally unexpected place for an extremely cheap price!

Monday, March 13, 2017

The Greatest Baseball Card of all Time?

One card that I have been hunting for a while is #416 from the 1974 Calbee set.  It first caught my eye when I saw it in an auction a few months ago.  I put a bid on it that was a lot higher than what the then current bid was, and then went to bed.  And woke up in the morning to discover someone had sniped me on it.  I've never felt so much regret about losing a card in an auction (admittedly this is not a major thing in life to feel regret about, but it was still noticable).

In the months since I have been regularly checking to see if one came up, but I had to wait until last week for another one to appear.  When one finally did, with a 1000 Yen start bid, I put a much higher bid on it this time...and won!

I think one can make the argument that this is the most beautiful baseball card ever made.  The photograph is perfect.  Shigeo Nagashima crouching in the on-deck circle while Sadaharu Oh takes a mighty swing against a Dragons pitcher.  Korakuen Stadium is packed because this was taken on Nagashima's last game.  The crowded bleachers, the lights and the billboards make the perfect backdrop.  The color of the card is perfectly balanced too, the top half blue sky, the bottom half green walls, grass and dirt infield.  I have never been so taken with the photograph in a card before.  In some ways it is similar to #404 in the same set, which was taken during the same game and shows Nagashima walking off the same field.  I love that card too, but like this one better - its got both Nagashima and Oh in the same picture and is a bit more exciting to look at. 

Sunday, March 5, 2017

1967 Kabaya Leaf Minagawa Mutsuo

 I finally picked up my first card from the 1967 Kabaya Leaf set.  NPB Card Guy did a pretty good write up about the set a few years ago here, it seems that many of them were exported to the US and thus they are actually pretty hard to find here in Japan and they are quite expensive when they do turn up (hence it taking me so long to get my first).  I won't go into the details of the set much since you can read NPB Card Guy's post, but suffice it to say this is probably the first American style Japanese baseball card set, with a design similar to the 1959 Topps (though there are two design templates, the other looking a bit more like the 1963 Fleer set). 

I absolutely love the design of these cards and this one of Hawks pitcher Mutsuo Minagawa drew me in quickly - I love that photo with all the advertising billboards in the background.  It really looks like something out of 1960s Japanese baseball (which it is) in a way that most posed shots fail to capture.

I picked this one up extremely cheap.  Despite looking about EM on the front, the back looks like this:

 Ouch - the double whammy of glue AND writing in pen.  Thanks to some kid though (perhaps an American, given that they wrote his name in Romaji) I paid about 1/10th what a non-defaced version would have cost me.  And I just wanted it for the front anyway, so its a nice addition to the collection.