Monday, December 5, 2016

Japanese Auction Proxy Bidding Interim Comparison: JAUCE & Buyee

I've been a creature of habit when it comes to Japanese online auctions.  Up until about 6 years ago, I used to have a friend do most of the legwork for me in Japan when I was bidding on auctions, but once I started winning 2-3 auctions a week I decided to switch to a proxy bidding service to preserve our friendship.  I landed on Japan AUction CEnter (JAUCE) and have been using them until last month.  Raz over at The Raz Card Blog did a nice write up on a service called Buyee.  After doing some research on several other proxy bidding companies as well, I decided to give Buyee a try to see if JAUCE was still the proxy service for me or if I needed to move on from them.......I've considered JAUCE to be the Cadillac of proxy bidding services and they have not disappointed.  ~500 auctions later I have yet to have a single auction issue with anything I have won and have received each and every item which is a testament to both Japanese sellers and JAUCE.  There have been the occasional JAUCE server issues, but I have had no complaints...other than they are one of the more expensive services.  If I can save a good amount of money with another company, I'd be willing to switch since more money saved is more auctions to long as the service is comparable.  So after a month of trials, here are my preliminary results...and I plan on one more month of trials with Buyee before I make my final decision, but Buyee does look promising.

I purchase six items over this shipping period (4 from Yahoo Auctions and 2 from Rakuten), which is only 1 month in the case of Buyee, since they start charging you storage fees after that (More on that later, but booooo.......this is my biggest complaint with Buyee).  I compared my last three JAUCE shipments to this Buyee shipment to help me draw some interim conclusions which I decided to compare below.  First, here are the items I purchased (an assortment of modern, vintage, and a couple of magazines):
Storage Fee Time
Winner: JAUCE
This is the most annoying thing about Buyee....they only give you 30 days to store items and on average it takes 1 week by the time you win an auction until they log the item in their warehouse.  So once your first item arrives the clock begins.  I have several more auctions that I have won, but could not include them in this package, because they did not arrive before I had to consolidate and ship.  JAUCE, on the other hand, gives you 60 days.  This allows you to spread the shipping costs over more auctions.

Consolidation Fee
Winner: JAUCE
Each of these services charges a consolidation fee.  Buyee is ¥1000 for three or more auction consolidations...¥500 for two.  JAUCE is only ¥400 for two or more.  When you have to gather and ship items so quickly with Buyee, this can really eat into any cost savings they have over JAUCE.

Auction Fees
Winner: Buyee
This is where Buyee shines over JAUCE.  Fees are a lot lower when it comes to winning and paying for auctions.  So far, Buyee service is on par with JAUCE and I actually like their software a bit better.  They allow you to set up snipe bidding which can be a blessing to prevent some early morning auction bidding which tends to happen as auctions end in the evening in Japan and morning here in the States.  On top of it, Buyee directly debits your PayPal account instead of you having to transfer money to a JAUCE account.  With JAUCE, that money is tied up until you win the auction, or are outbid.  With Buyee, you don't pay until you win so it makes it easier to win auctions in my opinion.

Japan Domestic Shipping
Winner: JAUCE
If I win more auctions, this is where I think Buyee is going to get really annoying.  They don't allow sellers to consolidate packages so you have to pay for shipping two times if you win two items from the same seller...on top of it, they require sellers to send packages via a trackable means....which can drastically increase the cost of shipping with lower priced items.  If you are buying from Rakuten or Yahoo Shopping, you might not notice a difference since shipping likely includes tracking.  But many auctions on Yahoo Auctions are free shipping, however, Buyee will force the seller to send it with tracking and they will pass the cost on to you.  JAUCE doesn't require that and I have not had a problem with anything ever just is the way Buyee is set up to make processing at the warehouse easier.

Snipe Bidding Service
Winner: Buyee
As I mentioned before, Buyee software is more capable and allows you to bid live or set snipes.  Sniping is really handy due to the time difference...I'm not sure if the other proxy bidding services do this, but JAUCE needs to jump on board with this.

International Shipping
Winner: JAUCE
This is where I think JAUCE outdoes Buyee.  The packages that I get from JAUCE are beautifully packed and each item is well protected with bubble wrap... and I didn't have to pay as much for consolidation nor EMS.  Buyee did a good job, but not as good as JAUCE.  I also had an issue with Buyee's software where I picked the cheaper air mail option and paid...a few days later Buyee issued me a refund and said it was too heavy to ship that method.  Not sure why they gave me the option, but when I went back in to select EMS, the original option was now grayed out.  Software glitch and a minor annoyance for sure.

Payment Method
Winner: Buyee
Hands down, I like to pay only when I win like Buyee does it...instead of putting money into a JAUCE account and having to pay a service fee on top of it to do so.  So Buyee directly taking money out of my PayPal account is nice and much cheaper.  This has always bugged me about JAUCE and I can't tell you the hundreds of dollars I've spent just sending them money to spend with them.  Boo on JAUCE.

Here are some rough statistics on the last four shipments I had coming from Japan (3 from JAUCE and 1 from Buyee)

JAUCE Shipment #1: Hammer Price vs Total Price Percentage - 64% (so 36% in fees)
JAUCE Shipment #1: Average Hammer Price vs Total Cost Per Lot - 50% (The higher % the better)
JAUCE Shipment #2: Hammer Price vs Total Price Percentage - 54% (so 46% in fees)
JAUCE Shipment #2: Average Hammer Price vs Total Cost Per Lot - 51% (The higher % the better)
JAUCE Shipment #3: Hammer Price vs Total Price Percentage - 72% (so 28% in fees)
JAUCE Shipment #3: Average Hammer Price vs Total Cost Per Lot - 62% (The higher % the better)
Buyee Shipment #1: Hammer Price vs Total Price Percentage - 64% (so 36% in fees)
Buyee Shipment #1: Average Hammer Price vs Total Cost Per Lot - 57% (The higher % the better)

Interim Conclusion - I'm going to have to get lucky I think with the Japanese Domestic Shipping charges and how much they charge for trackable shipping I said, that could really eat into any savings they have over JAUCE.  My JAUCE Shipment #3 was sort of an enigma as there were a bunch of high-priced items so the fee percentage is naturally lower.  The first two JAUCE shipments had about half the auctions and lower priced per auction so the fee percentage is higher.  Okay, I'll report back after another month of so and I'll let you know if I am going to make the ultimate switch.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

New Set / 1974 Rikishi 0 (R741)

  I'm back in business after an extended break getting through Thanksgiving and turning in two mid-term papers.  I've been keeping up on my fellow bloggers' posts, but have failed to get one out myself in three weeks.  Hopefully I'll have time to get several more before the Christmas and New Years breaks.  This set has been sitting in my to-be-catalogued binder and is ready to get inserted into the 4th edition of the Sumo Menko and Card Checklist.
  I picked this set up about a year ago and it is one of the popular R-series (Rikishi series) die-cut sets.  In fact, this is the latest one I have come across and have nailed it down to being produced in 1974...likely right in the middle of the year.  So far, these 8 menko are the only ones I have come across and there are some big names in the set.  Here is the checklist:

Yokozuna Kitanoumi
Yokozuna Wajima
Sekiwake Takamiyama
Komusubi Masuiyama
Maegashira Kaneshiro
Maegashira Kirinji
Maegashira Kongo
Maegashira Wakamisugi

There are some big names in this 8-menko lot especially Takamiyama and Yokozuna Kitanoyumi who went on to become one of the greatest yokozuna of our generation.

The menko have a great/manga like drawing of the rikishi's likeness on the front standing in their kesho-mawashi.  Notice the hairy chest on Takamiyama....he was one hairy foreigner wrestling in Japan.  This style of menko was very popular in the 1930s-1950s and so it is nice to see it revitalized here.  The backs have a wealth of biographical data on the rikishi (pre-internet goodness) such as height, weight, birthplace, stable name and favorite winning technique.  The rikishi's shikona (name) dominates the middle with a nice Gu-Choki-Pa symbol at the top.  Backs are printed in purple ink.

This is the only R-series set I know of that was printed in the 1970s and they are extremely hard to find.  They do look like they have been popped out of a sheet as there are little nubs around the edges of the menko.  A nice looking and rare set if you can get your hands on some of them.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

1998 East Series BBM Sumo Wrestling Set

The 1998 East Series set marked BBM's second year effort in the sumo card business as well as their second year of producing two annual sets.  The 1998 East Series set represents the 1998 Hatsu basho or 1998 New Year's tournament.  Like the 1997 set, this set is printed on high-gloss, high-quality card stock and each card measures approximately 2.75" x 3.5".   Cards came in packs of 8 with 30 packs per box.  This 218-card set is broken up into 9 subsets as follows:

#1-106 - Active Wrestlers
#107-144 - Toshiyori (Sumo Elders)
#145-153 - 1997 Winners
#154-163 - Yokozuna in Showa Era - Series 2
#164-174 - Top 10 Kinboshi Winners
#175-189 - Maegashira Bashi Winners after World War 2
#190-191 - Sumo Museum Collection
#192-195 - Checklists
#S1-S5 & R1-R18 Insert Cards

#1-#106 Active Wrestlers
There are two cards each of the top 40 wrestlers (a squatting, pre-bout pose and a standing, kesho-mawashi pose).  For the lower-ranked wrestlers there is only one card each and they are standing in their kesho-mawashi.  Backs have the standard statistics and biographical information along with smaller inset photos.

#107-#144 - Toshiyori (Sumo Elders)
Like the 1997 set, the 1998 East Series features cards of the elders of the sumo association..these are the guys that make it all happen and run the organization....all of them are retired wrestlers.  The fronts of the cards feature the elder in his active years and the back has anecdotal info along with career statistics.

 #145-153 - 1997 Winners
This subset shows the tournament winners (Makunouchi and Juryo) for the last three tournaments of 1997.  It also has the the special prize winners in Makunouchi.  The back has highlights of the tournament as well as an action photo during the match.  The wrestlers winning record is printed below the name as well as which tournament he won.


#154-#163 - Yokozuna in Showa Era - Series 2
This 10-card subset is a continuation of Series 1 in the 1997 set and features all the yokozuna who were active during the Showa Era (1926-1989).

#164-#174 - Top 10 Kinboshi Winners
This subset features the top 10 wrestlers who have scored a kinboshi in their career (Maegashira-ranked wrestlers beating a yokozuna). Akinoshima had 15 throughout his career.  

#175-189 - Maegashira Bashi Winners after World War 2
The lower ranked guys get no respect in sumo....unless they win one of the six annual tournaments.  This subset highlights the Maegashira-ranked wretlers who accomplished just that.  Notice the uncorrected spelling of ranks (lanks).

#190-#191 - Sumo Museum Collection
Another subset featuring items in the sumo museum.  Tow cards in this subset.

#192-#195 - Checklists
The all important checklists.  4 of them here for this 218-card set.

#R1-R18 Insert Cards
This short-printed subset is called Rivals in the 20th Century and feature the great rivals throughout the years.  The cards come in pairs as shown below for 9 total rivalries.  I think these were seeded maybe 1 or so per box.  The backs highlight the rivalry on one card and the win/loss record between the two on the other. 

#S1-S5 Insert Cards
This short-printed subset feature a 3D like starburst with the wrestler's image slightly raised.  The back details their 1997 year in review.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

1983 Myojo Noodles Mechanical Cards

I love the odd-ball Japanese non-sports cards from the 1970s and especially these 1983 Myojo Noodles Mechanical Cards called Myojo Meka Kado (明星メカ カード).  These cards came affixed to the top of a bowl of instant noodles.  I wish I could find a picture, but was unable to come across one in my internet search.  There are six 30-card series that I know of: World Classic Cars, World Motorcycles, World Ships, World Jets, Space/NASA, and Star Wars.  For those that collect the Star Wars cards, expect to pay upwards of $30-$40 per'll be in the thousands for sure to complete the set.  For the other ones, they are fairly cheap when they hit the market...~$5 each, but they rarely hit the market in quantity.  In fact, the Star Wars set is the easiest to find (it might explain why they are more expensive) and the Space/NASA sets are almost impossible to find.  The cards measure 2.25" x 3.5" and are printed on thick cardboard.  I hope to pick up a few more of these now and then and I am not sure I am ever going to complete a set.  Here are a few examples of the Classic Cars, Motorcycles, and Ships sets.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

2015 BBM Legends/Most Valuable Asset Set

Back in March of this year I did a quick summary of the 2015 BBM Legends Set.  I was finally able to pick up a complete base set of these and wanted to show a few more below.  The 72-card set is broken up into 2 subsets.  The first subset (#1-#64) are pictures of the retired wrestlers, who are now stable masters, back in their active years.  All of these shots are pre-bout warm-up photos and are colored depending on how high of rank the wrestler achieved during his career.  For example, the Yokozuna (Grand Champions) have pink coloring on the front, the Ozeki (Champions) are purple, and so on.  The backs contain a recent "mug shot" of the wrestler in a suit and tie as well as all the statistics of the wrestler throughout his career as well as a little anecdotal write up on the bottom.  The second subset (#65-72), called Early Days, show very early photos of eight popular, but recently retired wrestlers.  These are done with a gold/brown hue on the front.  The backs of these also include another early photo of the wrestler along with career statistics and an anecdotal write up along the bottom.  I did not get any of the 58 autograph cards (an example is at the very bottom) that were also randomly included as part of this set.  I'll have to save chasing those for later.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Silver Bromide Poisoning - The challenge of 1930s and 1940s BB-Series Black and White Bromide Cards

I'm a completionist when it comes to collecting sumo cards.  I want to get my hands on each and every sumo card made.  I really feel it is the challenge of being able to document and catalog a new set for the first time.  Nothing is more satisfying than reuniting individual cards back into sets which is probably how a good amount of set collectors feel.  This is how I collected back in the 80s and this is how I collect now.  With sumo cards, however, it does present some challenges.  First, my disposable income forces me to pick and choose as I can't have everything, so I have had to prioritize.  Second, the different kinds of sumo menko and cards is vast (believe it or not) and so this economic limitation forced me to get the more common stuff early on in my collecting year.  Now I am left with the "harder" and more expensive stuff.  Alas, if I had them all there would be no need to collect anymore, right?  So I am not complaining.  Lastly, out of all the types of sumo cards out there, the 1930s and 1940s BB-Series Bromide cards are a hot mess.  I say that with fondness for the challenge, but I knew once I seriously dipped my toes in the 1930s and 1940s BB-Series Bromide sumo cards, my sanity would be tested.  Well, now that I am in my second decade of collecting sumo cards, I have come to the realization that the BB-Series sumo cards need some catalog and checklist lovin' and given the respect they really do deserve.  Why the hesitation you ask?  Let me quickly sum up the challenges 1930s and 1940s BB-Series Bromide Cards.

- There are over a hundred different sets (probably, I'm just estimating here) = Lots of auction action = $$$ & ¥¥¥
- Only a small fraction (less than 5) have any company marks = Need to figure out which cards go to which sets

- Blank Backs (see above) = Need to figure out which cards go to which sets based on front design
- Out of a hundred different sets, how many ways can the front design change? = Answer, not a lot in most instances = In-depth study needed to sort them all = time, time, time
- Most were printed prior to WW2 = scarce = beat up = patience for them to come to auction

The 1930s and 1940s BB-series bromides were usually (not always, though) actual photographs.  A few used the halftone printing process.  The term "Bromide" or in Japanese "Buromaido or Puromaido" ”ブロマイド or プロマイド” comes from the term 'silver bromide.'  Silver bromide is a yellowish chemical and when mixed with a gelatin was a photographic emulsifier.  Once exposed to light, the silver bromide darkened into metallic silver.  The areas that weren't exposed to light do not change and stay silver bromide.  That is why these bromide cards have a yellowish tint to them in the light areas and silver metallic on the dark areas.  In fact if you hold these card to the light just right, you can see the shiny silver metal reflect the light.

Here are three cards from the BB391: 1939 Black Shikona Bromide Set (Notice the hand-colored tint on two of them).  These came from three different sources over the years.

The unique things about Bromides, which is different from Menko, is that Bromides were meant to be collected and viewed, not used to play the game menko.  So a lot of times they were glued into scrapebooks or pasted into albums and consequently have a lot of back damage.  Here is one such book called a Puromaido Book プロマイドブック.  You can see the slits in the book to insert the Bromides.

It will not be a quick process, but the 4th edition of my book will have a greatly expanded BB-Series section as I will have added many more sets, corrected numerous cataloguing errors, and refined the research in the area. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

1997 BBM Sumo Wrestling Set

  It is hard to complain about the 1997 BBM Modern set since it answered the call for a mainstream, well-distributed sumo wrestling set...surprisingly 6 years after BBM started releasing the baseball counterpart sets.  Up until 1997, there had been yearly releases of playing card sets that featured 52 of the most popular rikishi of the time, but only with a photo and name; hardly what one would call a true trading card set and one that was available only to the fans that visited one of the 6 main tournaments throughout the year.  In 1997, all that changed with the Modern set which was released during the end of that year.  This 203-card set was a great first attempt at establishing what has now been 20 years of mainstream BBM sumo sets.  This set does try to cram anyone and everyone who is part of the sumo association into this set and is broken up into 10 subsets as follows:

#1-66 - Active Wrestlers
#67-116 - Toshiyori (Sumo Elders)
#117-130 - Gyoji (Referees)
#131-142 - Yobidashi (Announcer/"Handyman")
#143-151 - 1997 Winners
#152-161 - Yokozuna in the Showa Era
#162-171 - Top 10 All-Time Winning Wrestlers
#172-176 - Sumo Museum Collection
#177-180 - Checklists
#S1-S5 & P1-P18 Insert Cards

#1-#66 Active Wrestlers
The cards in this subset are stylistically ordinary on the front with a full bleed action photo for most of the wrestlers.  There is a vertical or horizontal box that has the name (Both Japanese and Romaji), rank (Yokozuna & Ozeki only), and stable information.  The BBM '97 symbol is in the upper, right corner for all these cards.  The back has a full body picture of the rikishi in their kesho mawashi as well as all the important biographical information you would expect on a trading card (height, weight, birthplace, career stats, etc) along with the card number in the upper, right corner.  One nice thing here is the presence of furigana, or the writing of hiragana above the Kanji (Chinese characters) so you know how to pronounce the name of the wrestler in true Japanese.  Sometimes the English on the front can be slightly off.

#67-#116 Toshiyori (Sumo Elders)
This subset features the elders of the sumo association, all of whom are retired wrestlers.  The front shows a full-bleed photo of the toshiyori in their active wrestling years along.  There is a box on the front that has both the toshiyori and wrestling names in Japanese and Romaji.  The back has a small insert that has a headshot photo of the toshiyori today as well as biographical information at that top.  The bottom has a "Did You Know?" section that has several interesting facts about the wrestler

 #117-#130 - Gyoji (Referees)
This subset has all the referees.  The front is a full-bleed photo of the gyoji during a match and has his name in both Japanese and Ramaji as well as which heya/stable he is affiliated with.  As with the toshiyori, the back has a insert phot with a headshot photo and all the biographical information.  Cards #117-#122 have a "Profile (よこがお)" at the bottom with interesting information about the referees in paragraph form.  Cards #123-130 have a "Data Clip (一口メモ)" with short bulletized facts about the what it takes to be a referee and the requirements.  There are 20 of these data clips that start with card #123 span to #130.  There is an uncorrected error (no reference that I know of mentions this error) with card #122.  It has written Data Clip when it is actually a Profile.

#131-#142 - Yobidashi (Announcer/"Handyman")
These are full-bleed photos of the Announcers during a match.  His name in both Japanese and Romaji is printed in a vertical box on the front as well as which heya/stable he is affiliated with.  The pack has the usual insert photograph with all the biographical information on the back of the card.  The bottom features a "Knowledge Dictionary" and highlights interesting facts about Yobidashi.  Cards #136-#141 actually have the top division bazuke rankings for the first three tournaments of 1997.

 #143-#151 - 1997 Winners
 This subset shows the tournament winners (Makunouchi and Juryo) for the first three tournaments of 1997.  It also has the the special prize winners in Makunouchi.  The back has highlights of the tournament as well as a action photo during the match.  The wrestlers winning record is printed below the name as well as which tournament he won.

#152-#161 - Yokozuna in the Showa Era - Series 1
This 10-card subset features all the yokozuna who were active during the Showa Era (1926-1989).  This set is carried over into other years since there were more than 10 yokozuna during this time.

#162-#171 - #Top 10 All-Time Winning Wrestlers
As written this sub set features the top 10 wrestlers who have won the most matches in Makunouchi from Yokozuna Chiyonofuji (who just recently passed away) with 1045 wins to Sekiwake Kurama with 765 wins.  The front has a full-bleed phot and the back has the usual features with career highlights at the bottom called "This and That Record (記録あれこれ)"  

#172-#176 - Sumo Museum Collection
This 5-card subset show various historical artifacts found in the sumo museum with an explanation and the wrestler or gyoji it is associated with.  On the back is a historical photo as well with a picture of the object.

#177-#180 - Checklists
 The last 4 cards are the checklists from all 203 cards in the set.

#S1-#S5 Insert Cards
The first insert set features the 5 top rikishi that were active when this set was printed.  The cards are pretty cool as they have a mawashi-type paper on the front with a gold foil star imprint on the bottom left.  The back shows a scene from the official announcement when a wrestler is notified when he gets promoted.  Promotion to Ozeki for Wakanohana in this case (#S-5). These cards are extremely hard to find and I think the seed rate was one of the 23 different insert cards per box or so.

# P1-#P18 Insert Cards
 There really are two sets here #P1-#P9 and #P10-#P18.  Each of these sets shows a 9-card action or photo sequence of the Yokozuna's ring entrance ceremony.  On the back is a "puzzle" which shows the tegate (hand print) of the wrestler once you complete the set.  The first subset is Yokozuna Takanohana and the second is of Yokozuna Akaebono.  As you can see from the example below, I do not have all the cards yet to complete the tegate for Takanohana.

I hope you enjoyed this quick run down of this set.  More sets to follow.