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 it....it 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.