Thursday, April 19, 2018

1975 Osato Sumo Wrestling Mini Card Set

The years 1965 to 1973 were a rough time to be a trading card collector in Japan because production was almost zero.  Menko cards had made a valiant production run from the 1930s until 1964 where millions of cards had been mass produced with thousands of different themes.  Then, in almost a blink of an eye, menko production stopped in 1964 except for a couple of dozen sets that were sporadically printed over the course of the next 8 years.  TV was thought to be the major contributor to the death of the menko era, but in reality it was probably a combination of increased economic prosperity in Japan, better and more sophisticated toys, more focus on education and attention on making Japan a world leader again, and the lack of a card collector base.  In the US, kids and adults alike were collecting and trading baseball, football, and basketball cards and they carried the demand with them to spur production.  However, in Japan, children were almost solely the collecting base and when their attention turned to other forms of entertainment the demand dried up.

Then, as almost quickly as television had killed menko, television brought about the birth of the mini card era in Japan in 1973.  By the early 1970s, color TVs were the standard and by 1975 almost 32 million color TVs were in Japanese households.  Color TV allowed for some visual graphic and exciting shows.  Television stations started broadcasting in color a variety of diverse programs including popular dramas, anime, sumo, baseball, and music.  TV had turned into the norm for daily life for people in Japan in the early 1970s.  What this meant was that kids and adults alike wanted to now collect cards of their favorite TV personality, anime series, movie actor and sports hero.  Hence the mini card era was born in 1973.

No less than 6 companies jumped on board and started printing mini cards including Yamakatsu(who had made menko a decade earlier), Osato, Calbee, and Amada.  The size was standardized at approximately 2” x 3” for most mini cards.  Unfortunately, only a handful of sumo card sets were printed in the 1970s.  However, one of these sets was by Osato in 1975 and printed to represent the 1975 Haru Banzuke.  Like most mini card sets it has 32 cards in it because the card sheets were printed at the factory with 16 cards on them (4 cards x 4 cards).  Some of the larger mini card sets had 48 and 64 total cards.  These Osato sumo cards were issued in boxes of 50 packs (1 card per pack) that cost 10 yen a pack.  These packs were made of brown paper and were stapled across the top with two staples.

Also included in the box were 3 “winner” cards that had a special gold stamp on the back.  This stamp allowed the lucky kid to claim one of the 3 card albums included in the box for free.  These lucky winner cards were packed separately in the box so the store owner knew which ones were the lucky cards and could presumably control when each of the albums was given away.  These albums are made of thin cardboard and have a sumo photo on the front with a picture or two of some of the cards from the set on the back.  Inside the album are 7 plastic, 2-pocket pages to hold the cards.  There are currently 5 known different album designs.

The cards themselves are fairly standard.  Of the 32 cards, 27 have a single color background which is yellow, orange, pink, green, red or blue.  The other 5 have a photographic background which includes the audience at the Kokugikan.  The backs are printed in blue ink and indicate the rikishi’ s shikona (with furigana above it), heya, birthplace, height, weight and favorite technique.  On the bottom of the cards is a picture of a kimarite with the “white” rikishi as the winning rikishi and the “black” rikishi as the losing rikishi.  The name of the kimarite is written next to the picture. 

This set does have some important rikishi in it.  First, the two reigning yokozuna of the 1970s: Kitanoumi and Wajima.  It also has up-andcoming Yokozuna Mienoumi (in 1975 he was a maegashira).  Most importantly for the Western collector and Hawaiian rikishi collector it has a card of Takamiyama when he was ranked as a maegashira and 3 years after his Makuuchi yusho in 1972.  Surprisingly, it doesn’ t have Wakamisugi (Yokozuna Wakanohana) even though he was ranked as a sekiwake when this set was printed.

This set is fairly easy to collect because of the amount of cards on the market.  The base cards are fairly easy to find in auctions and usually show up once every several months.  More difficult to find are “winner” cards and extremely difficult to find are uncancelled “winner” cards, meaning that the store owner didn’ t mark out or cross out the winner stamp on the back when a kid turned it in.  Albums are difficulty to find and unopened boxes of this set are nearly impossible to come across.

Monday, April 16, 2018

2013 BBM Shohei Ohtani Rookie Card - Green Version

There are several variations to Shohei Ohtani's 2013 BBM 1st Version Rookie card.  One of them is the "KP2 Green Version" which was given away as a promotional gift during Golden Week family festivities, called Family Series, at the Fighters Farm Team's Kamagaya Stadium from 29 April - 5 May 2013.  If you purchased more ¥500 at the gift shop during the Family Series, you would receive one of these two cards shown below, one of which is the KP2 Green Version. The family could also come out and participate in family activities like batting class, catch with players, photos with players, and of course eat some amazing food at CafĂ© Cubby.  Some great info can be found here.

KP2 Front - Image courtesy of Officecab

KP2 Back - Image courtesy of Nippon Ham Fighters

KP1 Front - Image courtesy of Officecab

KP1 Back - Image courtesy of Officecab

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Japanese Baseball Card Articles in PSA's SMR

Ohtani mania is in full force which led to the April 2018 Sports Market Report being almost exclusively about Japanese baseball cards including Ohtani, Ichiro, and several key vintage sets.  I wanted to give a quick shoutout to my fellow Japanese baseball card collectors who made it into the latest issue of PSA's Sports Market Report (SMR).  Dave over at the Japanese Baseball Cards blog is featured in the articles.  All of the articles are also online:

Image from Japanese Baseball Card blog
Ichiro Article
Sadaharu Oh Article
1967 Kabaya Leaf Article
Vintage Collecting
Modern Collecting

There is some good background and useful information for sumo collectors in the articles, although the sumo timelines and card cataloguing system follow a slightly different path.  It is nice to see the Japanese cards getting some lovin'.

I was also inspired to pick up two unopened boxes of 2013 BBM 1st Version which contains Ohtani's rookie card.  Now what to do with them.