|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