Wednesday, September 28, 2016

BBM Sumo Wrestling Card Lot- Christmas in September!!

I recently picked up a ~2500-card lot of assorted BBM Japanese sumo wrestling from 1997-2003 and was taking a gamble on getting anything I needed and filling in some holes.  I almost forgot about the shipment as I had it shipped by boat over from Japan which takes about 6-7 weeks.  Not too bad, but the box was pretty beat up when it arrived.  Fortunately JAUCE did a great job of packing and everything arrived okay including the pounds of BBM cards.  Most significantly with this shipment, I was able to complete some base sets and pick up some of the insert cards from these early BBM sets as well.  In 2004, BBM stopped putting insert cards in packs and stuck with just base cards in the sets.  It was this way until 2013 when signature cards first appeared in the BBM sumo sets and the signature cards have been a staple ever since.  So these early insert cards are hard to find needless to say.  I normally don't chase insert cards and it was one of the reasons I got out of the hobby originally back in the mid 1990s, but I take an exception to the sumo BBM inserts as there are only a handful per set and I was really chasing more base sets and these happened to be in the auction as well.....bonus.  Normally, I wouldn't outright buy the cards at auction.  The nice thing about picking up all these cards is I was able to correct some of the checklists in the my book (Sumo Menko and Card Checklist) which will be reflected in the 4th edition that I plan on releasing sometime later this year or early next year.  The one downside is that I am left with a fair amount of doubles that I am going to have to unload somehow...hopefully eBay will be kind to me.  If anyone wants any give me a holler.....I'll give you a good deal on any that you want.  I should have enough material to do about 4-5 posts and will start with the 1997 BBM-Modern set this weekend once I get done sorting everything.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Post WW2 Occupied Japan Menko - 1946 Kimarite 6 (M461)

    Post World War 2 Occupied Japan was marked by heavy poverty, inflation, and a very weak economy with a rampant black market.  To say it was a struggle for most Japanese is an understatement as most families had barely enough money to buy food and provide shelter let alone any frivolous items like toys and menko.  So when I have the opportunity to buy and own post-WW2 occupation menko I consider it a great honor to be able to preserve something that likely cost a child, and his/her family, food money.  A unique attribute to most post-WW2 occupation menko (prevalent throughout all menko subjects) is the "westernization" of menko where the wording is written in romaji or the romanization of the Japanese alphabet.  This was an attempt to provide a common language where the Japanese children and American troops could communicate with each other.  Since baseball was America's pastime there are dozens of sets produced in Japan during this time....and several sumo sets....not to mention the dozens of non-sport sets out there.  One of those sets is the 1946 Kimarite 6 Set (M461).  These menko were printed on very thin paper stock (paper was very difficult to come by so the thinner the cheaper to produce) with either blue or purple backs.  This set came in sheets and had to be hand cut with each individual menko measuring about 1.75" x 2.75".  On the front of the menko is a cartoon drawing of the rikishi as well as the rikishi's rank, shikona, and the romanized spelling of the shikona as seen in the pictures below.  The back had all the menko features (dice, gu-choki-pa, fighting number, hometown, height, weight, birthplace, stable (heya)).  So far I have identified 11 menko in the set with a few more likely.  Interestingly, in 1946 there was only one tournament as the whole sumo association was thrown in a whirl as the occupying forces took over various sumo facilities during this time.  On a positive note, by 1952 Japan was out of the post-war depression with a decent economy with sumo popularity reaching an all time high thanks, in part, to the advent of television and broadcasting.  So for now, we'll take these pieces of history and imagine how cherished they likely were due to the sacrifices made to own them.

- 995041 Maegashira Chiyonoyama
- 957600 Yokozuna Terukuni
- 876540 Maegashira Terunobori
- 745002 Ozeki Azumafuji
- 725650 Yokozuna Terukuni
- 640520 Maegashira Masuiyama
- 625398 Komusubi Kamikaze
- 605040 Ozeki Shionoumi
- 504207 Maegashira Wakasegawa
- 437021 Maegashira Kashiwado
- 156217 Sekiwake Fudoiwa

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

1974 Nazo Nazo 3 (H741)

There has been a lot of talk and discussion of the variety of the 1974 menko cards produced in Japan.  This year is significant because it was the restart of the menko collecting craze in Japan which previously spanned from the 1930 to early 1960s.  For the American collector there are several of these sets with Western topics including Bruce Lee, Pro Wrestling Cards, Sumo Wrestling Cards as well as the handful of Japanese Baseball Card sets.  Today we'll highlight the H741: 1974 Nazo Nazo 3 set.  Like all the of the 1974 sets, this has 16 cards in it which is not a coincidence as the menko sets of this era were printed in sheets of 16 cards.  For sumo wrestler collectors, this set is important because it contains an early card of Takamiyama, the very first foreigner to win a main sumo tournament championship.  His Debut Card (rookie card) is in the 1973 Calbee Sumo Set, but his 1974 H741 menko card is several times more scarce and very difficult to find.  Each of these menko is printed on thick cardboard stock (approximately 3/32" thick) and measure 1 5/8" x 3.0".  The backs come in two colors of ink: green and brown.  Each card, I believe, can also have either color of ink on the back as well as plethora of Fighting Numbers so there are an large amount of cards in the Master Set.  As an added bonus in this set for the Pro Wrestling collectors is the appearance of the Haku who started his career as a sumo wrestler under the name Fukunoshima.  In early 1974 the Tonga government sent 4 young wrestlers to Japan to study sumo.  Fukunoshima did really well and likely would have made it into the top ranks.  However, his career was cut short when there were issues with the sumo stable he was in which led to an early retirement.  He later wrestled under several names including Haku.  The 4 Tongan wrestlers make their appearance in this set as well as the 1975 Osato Mini Card set.  Overall, all the three most famous rikishi of the day are printed in this set (Kitanoumi, Takanohana, and Takamiyama) are featured in this set as well as some more obscure rikishi that didn't rise very high (which is odd that they were featured in this set).  Completing the set has taken me years of scouring auctions so it will take a while to finish it if you are going to attempt it.  I have yet to see a complete uncut sheet of these....not sure if they exist.

Here is the set checklist:

(1) Yokozuna Kitanoumi - Arms Stretched
(2) Yokozuna Kitanoumi - Green Back
(3) Yokozuna Kitanoumi - Squat
(4) Ozeki Takanohana - Black Background
(5) Ozeki Takanohana - Blue Background
(6) Ozeki Takanohana - Orange Background
(7) Sekiwake Kaiketsu
(8) Sekiwake Takamiyama
(9) Maegashira Wakamitsugi
(10) Maegashira Arase
(11) Maegashira Onishiki
(12) Maegashira Fujizakura
(13) Maegashira Kirinji
(14) Maegashira Kaneshiro
(15) Maezumo Yashinoshima/Hidenoshima
(16) Maezumo Fukunoshima/Minaminoshima

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Lone Sole Mate / New M-Series Set: M547 - 1954 Famous Stars 10

    Two Lone Sole Mates in a month!  Hopefully I keep this up.  This set has eluded me forever.....and the evidence was right under my nose the whole time.  I've owned maybe 4-5 of the sumo card of Yokozuna Yoshibayama over the years, but could never find another sumo wrestling menko card in the set.....that's because he is the only sumo wrestling star in the set and the other cards are famous stars from baseball, tv, movies, and cartoons.  I have a big box of misc menko cards that I've accumulated over the years as I tend to "dump" the non-sumo cards in this box when I buy auction lots.  It's been slowly piling up and I've made a concerted effort recently to try and put some of the cards on eBay to thin the herd and give these menko new homes.  I found a baseball menko of Fumio Fujimura that I listed on eBay with no takers....fortunately.  When I studied the back design of the Fujimura menko I realized I had seen that back before and went to my binder of Lone Sole sumo menko.  Low and behold I discovered a match...I then proceeded to dig through the box of misc menko and discovered 4 more bringing the total that I have of this set to 6.
   I've labeled this set the M547 - 1954 Famous Stars 10 set with the checklist as follows:

- 9989354617 - Boy on Bear (Unknown)
- 8795234157 - Fumio Fujimura (Baseball) 
- 7824357681 - Keiko Kishi (Actress)
- 6732548295 - Yokozuna Yoshibayama (Sumo)
- 2545678951 - Keiji Sada (Actor)
- 1698675432 - Tarzan (Actor)

Good I can go have a beer and enjoy the rest of my Labor Day weekend feeling like I've accomplished something laborious.  Enjoy and stay safe this to you next week!

Friday, August 26, 2016

1961 Ito Kami Zumo (G612)

This is a fun set printed at the very end of 1961 presumably in preparation for the January 1962 tournament.  Up until recently I thought it was printed later in 1962, but I discovered the Maegashira Matsunobori card and could narrowed it down to late 1961 since he retired following the November 1961 tournament.  I was fortunate to pick up a partial taba pack of these (9 packs) and realized it was printed by Ito which made various paper products in the 1950s and 1960s.  For cataloging purposes that is important because it will hopefully help fill in holes and help identify other sets with similar printing styles.

Kami Zumo (Paper Sumo) games are really easy to play as kids would stand up their cards on a paper ring on top of a card board box or something that vibrated.  With this set, these cards were meant to be rolled and secured on the ends by tabs.  Then each kid would tap the cardboard box which in turn caused the paper wrestlers to move and push against each other.  The one that fell over or was pushed out of the ring was the loser.  For those that grew up in the 1980s, do you remember the vibrating football games?  Same concept.  The 1961 Ito Kami Zumo set is interesting because it has actual photographs of the wrestler's head superimposed on the paper to give it a more realistic feel.

This G621 set came in taba packs (see photo below) that were hung up from the ceilings by a string. In this case a kid would pay 5 yen (about 2 cents in 1961) and pull a cellophane pack down....each taba pack contained 30 individual packs.  Inside each cellophane pack were a paper ring, 3 cards and as well as trophy and referee fan.  The trophy and fan cards could come in any of these three colors: purple, pink, or red.  Each of the wrestler cards, however, came in only one of those three colors, although I am not 100% certain on that.

Here is a good YouTube video of how it's played.

Here is the latest checklist at 19 cards.

o   Yokozuna Wakanohana

o   Yokozuna Asashio

o   Yokozuna Taiho

o   Yokozuna Kashiwado

o   Ozeki Kitabayama

o   Ozeki Wakahaguro

o   Sekiwake Tochinoumi

o   Sekiwake Tochihikari

o   Komusubi Iwakaze

o   Komusubi Fujinishiki

o   Maegashira Hagurhana

o   Maegashira Yutakayama

o   Maegashira Fukudayama

o   Maegashira Annenyama

o   Maegashira Wakachichibu

o   Maegashira Tokinishiki

o   Maegashira Maedagawa

o   Maegashira Matsunobori

o   Maegashira Wakanoumi

There are two key cards missing from this checklist - Ozeki Kotogahama and Sekiwake Sadanoyama so I am thinking there are probably closer to 25 in the complete set.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

1974 Bruce Lee "Enter the Dragon" Menko Cards

There is probably no iconic actor from the 1970s that has transcended multiple generations, countries, and cultures throughout the decades than Bruce Lee.  His work ethic and story is one that resonates with many people even today.  Fortunately for Japanese collectors, he was equally popular over there, if not more.  His movies eventually made it over there and the subsequent movie memorabilia soon followed.  Way of the Dragon (known in Japan as Dragon's Path) was released in 1972 and soon followed by Enter the Dragon (known simply as Dragon) in 1973.  On a side note, for those that follow Bruce Lee movies, you also know that Chuck Norris made his first credited acting debut (as Colt) in Way of the Dragon and has several 1974 mini cards in the Yamakatsu Mini Card release.

The first Bruce Lee menko cards were released in 1974 to coincide with the release of the Enter the Dragon movie in Japan.  There are two known Bruce Lee menko sets at the moment based on the Enter the Dragon movie: 1974 Amada Bruce Lee Dragon & 1974 Bruce Lee Bat/Bone Back.  The unknown company that printed the Bat/Bone Back set also printed baseball, pro wrestling, sumo wrestling, and various other popular subjects of that time.....the same can be said for the Amada set although it appears that Amada spanned several years for all of their releases.  Below are some scans of the menko from these two sets.  The Amada set has the Towa copyright in is my understanding that Towa was the company that bought the licensing rights to show and market the movies in Japan.  Not sure if the Bat/Bone set was licensed or not.  Each of the menko measures about 1.75" x 3.0" and are 3/32" thick.  Each of the sets display the usual menko markings like Fighting Numbers and Rock-Scissor-Paper symbols.  The Amada set has military weapons and playing cards depicted on the back, while the Bat/Bone set has baseball-themed words and playing cards symbols as well.  These aren't extremely rare in Japan and can be picked up frequently, but I haven't started picking these menko up in earnest yet.  My goal is to pick up a bunch more and try to complete a checklist.

I'll try and dig out the Chuck Norris rookie cards here soon for a future post!  Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Fellow Collector's Request! Why it matters and card history is important.

Now that I've settled into the new job and life in Alabama (at least for the next 10 months until we have to move again) I've started purging out excess material and doubles onto the Bay and gathering a few material to fill in holes to focus my collection.  I think we all go through this at some point....or we try to streamline our collections.  Plus, the excess material is better suited in new homes where another fellow collector can enjoy.  One purchase recently, however, really got me thinking about the history of our collections, where stuff came from, and ultimately where it goes when we are done with it.  The purchase of the following cards came with an amazing note; one where I had to stop and reread it to really understand the impact of what I had just bought  The cards and note are as follows:

Dear Ryan,

Thank you again!  I case history is important, these cards were purchased new near Kanto Mura Housing Facility/Yokota Air Base, Japan between 1973 and 1976 when I was a child.  They moved to Colorado Springs, CO and lived in a small areas south of town.  They remained in storage at my parent's home until a couple years ago.  I retrieved them from storage and brought them to my home where they have stayed until now.

One favor.  If you ever sell them, please be sure to pass along their history.

Thank you again.

Here was a childhood collector letting go of some of his Japanese memories which obviously meant enough for him to add the note and pass along their history.  As a fellow collector, I am honored to pass along the history of these cards if I do end up selling some of them...even if I don't, I've passed along some of that history here already.  Fortunately, most of these fill in some big holes in my collection so they will likely be staying put for a while.  I have a request out to the seller to do an interview to understand what it was like to collect menko and mini cards in Japan in the mid 1970s.  And hopefully get a better background on these specific sets.  I'm hoping it all works out where I can share that with all of you.

But more importantly, these few short sentences have verified and confirmed what us Japanese card collectors have had to deduce from countless hours of research.  It nails down timeframes, locations of sale, and even the mini card prize system.  It doesn't get any better than that!  Most of these sets are destined for the blogosphere so stay tuned.

Has anyone else ever had a similar request or a good story on the history of cards in their collection?  I makes me want to be a better seller and pass along any info I have as the cards change hands.

Thanks for reading and enjoy the rest of the weekend!