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!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

A short guide to 1970s-1980s Japanese Mini Cards via the 1983 Amada LSI Game Mini Card Set

     Japanese card collectors in the 1970s and 1980s were bombarded with a ton of collecting options ranging from menko, bromides, and mini cards which covered a wide variety of topics like tv shows, anime, movies, singers and video games.  Apart from my sumo wrestling card hobby, I love to collect cards from the 1970s and 1980s, especially if they have a theme that I am particularly interested in or can relate to.  Japanese mini cards are my main focus from this era and I wanted to give a short guide to collecting these cards in the 1970s and 1980s via the 1983 Amada LSI Game Set.

    Mini card production started around 1973 and ended approximately 12 years later in 1985.  As irony would have it, the subject of today's review (1983 Amada LSI Game Set) was likely the reason for the demise of the mini card as Japanese kids turned their attention from card collecting to video games and electronic entertainment.  But if you were a kid in 1983 and wanted to buy mini cards, you likely would go to a Dagashiya (Candy Shop), like the picture below, to browse the selections and make your purchases.  Dagashiya have been around in Japan for decades and where you would purchase menko in the 1930s-1960s , but today when you find one they are more for tourists and nostalgia.

   Once inside the shop you would be bombarded with candy, hanging bromide taba, small toys and of course mini card boxes like the one below.  Most dagashiya owners went to wholesale districts regularly to stock up on goods for the store and you see this still in Japan with the fish and meat markets scattered about in the bigger cities.  In order to prepare the box for display in the store the owner would remove the prizes as well as the envelope of sealed winner card packs.  See pictures below.  The prizes would be kept behind the counter and the winner card envelope opened and the winner packs would be randomly distributed among the regular, non-winning packs.  I'm not sure why the winner card packs were originally segregated, but likely so the owner could distribute as he/she saw fit, or because the cards were stamped separately and it was easier to package them separately. 

   The cover of the box, like most mini card boxes, shows what kind of cards you would be buying as well as what the odds were of getting a winner card.  The 1983 Amada LSI Game set came with 60 packs (2-cards per pack)...50 packs of regular or "Loser はずれ cards" and 10 packs of winner cards.  The prizes in this box are 2 Grand, 2 1st Level, 3 2nd Level and 3 3rd Level prizes.  As mentioned above, the winner card packs were distributed throughout the box by the owner.  It's impossible to tell from the pictures above put the Grand Prize (Gray) was a pack of 12 cards, the 1st Level Prize (Blue) was a pack of 8 cards, the 2nd Level Prize (Black) was a pack for 5 cards, and the 3rd Level Prize (Red) was a pack of 3 cards.  Most often these prize packs contained more of the same of the regular cards.  If you haven't caught on yet, the big push with mini cards was really all about gambling; the chance and motivation to get bigger cards and prizes.  Each pack, or chance, cost 10 yen and considering in 1983 the exchange rate was about 250 yen per US dollar, each kid was buying a pack for about 4 cents....which seems comparable to what kids were paying in 1983 per card....maybe a little more.  So after paying 10 yen, the kid would pick, or the owner would choose a pack, and the kid would start ripping.  If a winner card was opened, the owner would cancel the card (usually with a pen or marker through the winner stamp) and give the card back to the kid along with his/her prize.
  The below picture contains some single cards I have picked up over the year to give you a better idea of this set which was to highlight and showcase different handheld LCD video games from the early 1980s.....this set really seems like a big marketing ploy by the top game manufactures to get you to buy their electronics (Bandai, Tomi, Epic, Takara).  I've never played any of the games in the set, but they sure do look interesting and many of the games are still available on eBay for a hefty sum.  The Japanese called the early electronics LSI, an acronym for Large Scale Integration, which was the process of integrating thousands of transistors on a single silicon microchip (Thanks Wikipedia for the quick reference).  Also note below is a uncancelled winner card for a 3rd Level Prize.  More often than not, you see cancelled winner stamps on cards that come to auction, but occasionally you see uncancelled cards, and my guess is that these uncancelled cards were acquired on the secondary market many years after the set was originally sold and so there was no chance to claim a prize.  I consider these cards "parallel cards" and collect them right along side the regular/loser cards. 

   I don't have the set checklisted yet, but it is on my to-do list when I come across a hoard of these next time. 

Sunday, August 7, 2016

R377 - 1937 Rikishi Gunbai 4

  There is nothing nicer, and more popular, in my opinion than a 1930s R-series sumo menko set.  R-series menko were nothing new in the 1930s and, in fact, had been around since the turn of the century, but a huge resurgence of sumo popularity was spurred by the great Yokozuna Futabayama.

The 35th Yokozuna Futabayama (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

  Futabayama hit his stride in the mid-1930s and eventually made it to yokozuna which kicked off a flurry of sumo menko sets production.....and timing is everything as there was also a surge in overall menko popularity in the 1930s.  These two factors have made for a treasure trove of sets to chase and pursue from this era.  1930s R-series menko are not that rare (obviously some more than others) and surprisingly a vast majority of them survived the war through fires, bombings, and paper drives.  It is unimaginable how many must have been produced to still see them come up for auction today.  One such set is the R377 - 1937 Rikishi Gunbai 4 set that was produced by an unknown company likely trying to capitalize on Futabayama's dohyo prowess.  As is somewhat common for this era, registration can be spotty at best for these sets and the quality of paper used was often poorly produced.

  This particular set is unique in the fact that there were two colors of ink used to print the back: blue and purple.  My only two guesses for this is the manufacturer likely used whatever color was available (maybe scarcity of certain colors) or they were produced regionally and standardization wasn't addressed.  As with all R-series sets, this one is die-cut and uses nice and vivid colors on the fronts to depict the kesho mawashi aprons used as part of the ring entrance ceremony.  Registration, especially noticeable with red, is quite poor with the R377-2 Type 2 Purple Backs, but seems to have been cleaned up when the R377-1 Type 1 Blue Backs were printed.  There are too few of these out there to make any definitive conclusions though.  Unfortunately, I haven't located a Futabayama from this set yet, but I'm sure there is one out there.  I do like the clean and simple design on the back dominated by a large referee fan with the wrestler's name in the middle and rank at the very top.  The bottom shows the wrestler's weight with a 4-digit fighting number at the very bottom.  Overall, most menko are about 1.5" x 2.25".

Here is the checklist so far from this set:
8958 – Maegashira Takanobori
8901 – Maegashira Nayoroiwa
8702 – Maegashira Itstsushima
7256 – Sekiwake Asahigawa
6728 – Komusubi Yamatoiwa
4860 – Yokozuna Minanogawa
2812 – Sekiwake Taikyuzan

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Lone Sole Mate / New M-Series Set: M526 - 1952 Trump 5

I have a binder of "To-be-checklisted" sumo menko sets.  These are sets I have just acquired and that I have not yet entered nor checklisted in my book.  Normally the amount of sets in my binder number between 5-10... I'm always cataloging and clearing new sets as new ones come in.  I define a set as having two or more menko, however, I also have a section in my binder called the Lone Soles.  These are menko I only have one of and can't catalogue them since I usually need at least two menko to narrow down a year.  Some of these Lone Soles have been in there for some instances almost 10.  This week I was able to move one of my menko out of the Lone Sole section and into the queue for cataloguing due to finding another one from the set.  Nothing brings me more joy, other than discovering new sets, than finding a match (or Sole Mate if you will) to my Lone Sole pile.  Sumo menko collecting will never be as mainstream as baseball or football, but in this small niche collecting community, these are the discoveries that get us excited.

This Lone Sole Mate is a a new M-Series set from 1952 and I've catalogued it as the M526 - 1952 Trump 5.  I had the #53819 Yokozuna Chiyonoyama menko for what seemed like an eternity, but I picked up the #62357 Yokozuna Terukuni menko recently at auction.  I've deduced it's from 1952 as Terukuni retired early on in 1953 and Chiyonoyama didn't promote to Yokozuna until later in 1951.  This set has the possibility of being from 1951 or 1950, but I'll update it if I happen to find any more of these rare bad boys.  I love the artwork on this set and the colors are nice and vivid.....also having a red-inked back is quite rare too as most sets usually have blue, brown, black, purple, or green.  Red is really uncommon.

I am hoping that more of these exist out there, but given that I have only found 2 in my 16 years or so of collecting, I am unlikely to find many more.  If a Wakanohana menko of this set exists, that would be the big menko of this set as it would be considered his Debut Menko.....much like a rookie card is defined.