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.

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 stuff....now 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 weekend.....talk 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.