Saturday, December 24, 2016

2016 Year in Review

This will be the last post I get out this year as the holidays will likely tie me up over the next week. It surely has been a great year.  I really had no expectations on where this blog would take me, but I'm enjoying it and having a great time interacting with the community of collectors. I'll post my 2017 goals early next year, but wanted to mention a few of my card collecting accomplishments this year.

1st - I've been able to connect with a few other collectors and enjoy immensely their perspectives.  The Raz Card Blog and The Chronicles of Fuji are among my favorite. The Japanese Baseball Cards Blog and Baseball Cards in Japan are excellent blogs as well where I get to absorb more Japanese card knowledge than I know what to do with.  I was also able to connect with a Facebook Group that focuses on the modern BBM sets. Thanks guys!

2nd - My line of work has always been a priority right behind my family so I am fortunate to be able to get some time to focus on my collection and sharing it with the wider collecting community.  What I didn't realize is that my fellow collectors have motivated me to broaden my collecting interests too. Although I haven't dove in yet, I have ideas for next years. Thanks Raz and Fuji!

3rd - I finally expanded my proxy bidding knowledge thanks to Dave at Japanese Baseball Cards and Raz at The Raz Card Blog.  Through some spreadsheet comparisons and research I've been able to try another service besides JAUCE which has the good potential to save me money in the long run.

4th - This has been a busy year at work and we eventually moved down to AL for a 10-month assignment at the end of summer. My schedule became more predictable and I've been able to start selling more on eBay to "thin the herd" of my collection. I've had doubles and misc stuff I've had slated to sell for a I've been able to move it and put some of that money back into my collection.

5th - I've been able to regularly add new cards and menko to my sumo collection throughout the year for which I'm very grateful. I thought the older stuff,that I don't already have, would dry up, but I keep finding more and more of it which prevents me from working on the more modern stuff.  No complaints though, since the older stuff is much more rare and harder to come by.  There is too much to mention specific things that I've added, but all of it will be included in the 4th edition of my Sumo Book.

6th - My vintage Japanese Pro Wrestling PC has come a long ways this year. I added a few more cards to my 1974 Yamakatsu New Japan Pro Wrestling Master Set. I'm also 1 card away from completing the base 1976 Yamakatsu All Japan Pro Wrestling set, not to mention all the other cards I've added to that Master Set. I've also been able identify the complete 16-card Japanese Pro Wrestling Menko set from 1974. In one me card away from completing that set as well.

Cheers and everyone have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

2017 BBM Sumo Wrestling Set

 A few days ago, BBM announced their 2017 annual wrestling set that is due to come out in the middle of January.  There will be 90 base cards in the set, 20 of which will be subsets to the regular 70 standard wrestling cards.  There is also expected to be between 9-12 signed inserts that will be randomly inserted in packs.  Each box will contain 24 packs with 5 cards per pack.  Retail is ¥7200 which is a great deal now that the exchange rate is so high compared to the American dollar.  Here are some pictures of the expected signed cards.

I'm sure the March 2017 edition of the Sports Card Magazine (SCM) will be highlighting the entire set with more pictures.  Stay tuned for more info.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

2016 BBM Masterpiece - Sumo Checklist

 A few months ago, BBM released a 127-card multi-sport set titled "Masterpiece" with a ton of insert cards.  It focused on both current former players from a variety of different sports to include badminton, swimming, sumo, baseball, and rugby to name a few.  There are a variety of different subsets as well within the set and I've highlighted several of those below.

Here are a couple of spreads from the last two Sports Card Magazine (SCM) on the set.

I was able to pick up the base set of 6 sumo cards fairly inexpensively.  Each of the cards has the wrestlers squatting just before the match begins with the Masterpiece tag above his name in both English and Japanese.  The back highlights his career statistics and a small paragraph under his picture with more anecdotal info.

  The first subset is titled Glorious 3D and are numbered to 50.  I have not seen one of these in person (image above from Yahoo Auctions), but they look pretty sweet.  There are three sumo wrestlers in this subset: Akebono, Musashimaru, Hakuho.

The second subset is the Stay Gold Subset although I have yet to see any of the actual cards come up for auction and have only see photos of these cards in SCM.  Right now they are issuing exchange cards, see above(image above from Yahoo Auctions), for the actual card in the near future.  There are also three sumo cards in this set: Chiyonofuji, Takanohana, and Hokutoumi.

Yokozuna Hakuho is the only sumo wrestler in the Superstar subset, but there are different parallel cards of him for this subset.  A base card, a gold parallel numbered to 200, a hologram parallel numbered to 100 and a hologram PP parallel numbered to 100.  I am not sure what the difference is between the two holograms, but one of them is shown above.

 There is also a Sparkling Hero subset, but no sumo wrestlers appear in it.  The biggest draw, though, are all the autograph cards as seen above...each one comes in a vertical and horizontal orientation with different numbering.  My biggest complaint if I was to get any is the sticker autographs.  BBM is notorious for them and I am not a big fan....but when they are the only game in town you have no choice.  Some of the sumo signers in this set I would love to own especially Musashimaru, Akebono and Takanohana.  Although, I can't see myself paying for a few squiggles in the case of  Takanohana or Akebono.  If I do get any of these, it would be the Musashimaru as he has the cleanest of signatures.

Here is the complete sumo checklist for the 2016 Masterpiece Set.

#78 Chiyonofuji
#79 Hokutoumi
#80 Akebono
#81 Takanohana
#82 Musashiyama
#83 Hakuho

Musashimaru-Horizontal  (#ed to 90)
Musashimaru-Vertical (#ed to 60)
Takanohana-Horizontal (#ed to 90)
Takanohana -Vertical (#ed to 30)
Akebono-Horizontal (#ed to 89)
Akebono-Vertical (#ed to 60)
Hokutoumi-Horizontal (#ed to 82)
Hokutoumi-Vertical (#ed to 60)

Super Star:
#SS12 - Hakuho
Gold Parallel (#ed to 200)
Hologram Parallel (#ed to 100)
Hologram PP Parallel (#ed to 100)

Glorious 3D:
#3D06 - Akebono (#ed to 50)
#3D07 - Musashiyama (#ed to 50)
#3D08 - Hakuho (#ed to 50)

Stay Gold:
#SG05 - Chiyonofuji (#ed to 50)
#SG06 - Hokutoumi (#ed to 50)
#SG07 - Takanohana (#ed to 50)

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Sports Card Magazine - January 2017 - #120

I got my copy of Sports Card Magazine (#120) last week.  Dave over at Japanese Baseball Cards did a nice review of the contents of #120, so I won't rehash any of his points here, but I did want to highlight a few specifics from the issue.

On the inside cover (these magazine pages turn right to left like the American style) is a nice ad for Mint Mall.  I haven't bought anything through them as my collection focus has been mainly on the vintage stuff.  Mint Mall has made a big push to advertising to the American market and they have an add in the latest Beckett Baseball.  When I have time I plan on spending a little more time browsing their selection.  It does look like their website is connected to the 12 or so brick-and-mortar stores they have around Japan.  It didn't look like there was an English-language tab on the website so some amount of knowledge of the Japanese language might be necessary to navigate your way around.

Try as I have, there is no presence of the Japan Sports Card Association on the web even though the price guide in the back of each issues is a touted as the "Official Price Guide".  There is a small snippet in the back of the magazine with more information about their mission statement of promoting interest in the hobby and establishing of prices.....they even have an physical address in Tokyo, but no online information.  I do see they are also listed as "Advisors" to the editorial they are a big deal it seems.  Anyone been to their office or have any further info?

One thing I love about Japanese card manufacturers these days is the variety of sports cards they are producing. When is the last time a recent set of bowling cards has come out in the United States?  I have a feeling if Panini or Topps released a set of these there might be a renewed interest in bowling in the U.S....especially with high school boys.  Check out some of the YouTube videos on P League bowling.  It seems to somewhat follow UFC fights in the fact that they have these occasional big events under the P League moniker. 

How the price guide works is once a year (each magazine is released every other month for a total of 6 a year) the entire checklist of cards for a certain sport will appear while the other sports will only get a checklist of the current year's release (2016 in this case) as well as any new sets from all sports that appeared since the last issue.  A lot of times the sets highlighted throughout the magazine are then checklisted in the New Card List.  This January 2017 issue has the entire Pro Wrestling checklist and price guide as well as 2016 sets from sumo, baseball, curling, soccer, etc... I believe they usually repeat year after year, but I am not sure about that.  Here is what the guide has for complete checklists for the previous 4 issues, this issue and March 2017's issue.

May 2016 - BBM Baseball Cards
July 2016 - Soccer and J-Cards (not sure what this one is)
Sept 2016 - Calbee Baseball Cards
Nov 2016 - Calbee Soccer Cards
Jan 2017 - Pro Wrestling (this issue)
March 2017 -Sumo and Other Cards

Every issue comes with 6 cards sealed in a paper enveloped within the magazine.  To maybe some people's dismay, I don't open the envelopes.  I know, I know, but I love unopened material and I love keeping these in their original state.  Randomly inserted in these packets is a facimile purple autograph card Ami Inamura's #390 card.  Dave has a pictures of a few of the cards plus the facimile autograph card here on his review.  Each SCM issue has 6 cards with one of the cards being randomly "autographed".

To wrap it up, each issue lists the shops across Japan, broken down by region.  I would love to be able to translate them into English sometime, but not sure I'll be able to find the time in the immediate future.  Several of the other Japanese baseball bloggers have been to several of them and it always looks like sure a fun time.  Hopefully I can visit a few during my trip in March.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Japanese Auction Proxy Bidding Interim Comparison: JAUCE & Buyee

I've been a creature of habit when it comes to Japanese online auctions.  Up until about 6 years ago, I used to have a friend do most of the legwork for me in Japan when I was bidding on auctions, but once I started winning 2-3 auctions a week I decided to switch to a proxy bidding service to preserve our friendship.  I landed on Japan AUction CEnter (JAUCE) and have been using them until last month.  Raz over at The Raz Card Blog did a nice write up on a service called Buyee.  After doing some research on several other proxy bidding companies as well, I decided to give Buyee a try to see if JAUCE was still the proxy service for me or if I needed to move on from them.......I've considered JAUCE to be the Cadillac of proxy bidding services and they have not disappointed.  ~500 auctions later I have yet to have a single auction issue with anything I have won and have received each and every item which is a testament to both Japanese sellers and JAUCE.  There have been the occasional JAUCE server issues, but I have had no complaints...other than they are one of the more expensive services.  If I can save a good amount of money with another company, I'd be willing to switch since more money saved is more auctions to long as the service is comparable.  So after a month of trials, here are my preliminary results...and I plan on one more month of trials with Buyee before I make my final decision, but Buyee does look promising.

I purchase six items over this shipping period (4 from Yahoo Auctions and 2 from Rakuten), which is only 1 month in the case of Buyee, since they start charging you storage fees after that (More on that later, but booooo.......this is my biggest complaint with Buyee).  I compared my last three JAUCE shipments to this Buyee shipment to help me draw some interim conclusions which I decided to compare below.  First, here are the items I purchased (an assortment of modern, vintage, and a couple of magazines):
Storage Fee Time
Winner: JAUCE
This is the most annoying thing about Buyee....they only give you 30 days to store items and on average it takes 1 week by the time you win an auction until they log the item in their warehouse.  So once your first item arrives the clock begins.  I have several more auctions that I have won, but could not include them in this package, because they did not arrive before I had to consolidate and ship.  JAUCE, on the other hand, gives you 60 days.  This allows you to spread the shipping costs over more auctions.

Consolidation Fee
Winner: JAUCE
Each of these services charges a consolidation fee.  Buyee is ¥1000 for three or more auction consolidations...¥500 for two.  JAUCE is only ¥400 for two or more.  When you have to gather and ship items so quickly with Buyee, this can really eat into any cost savings they have over JAUCE.

Auction Fees
Winner: Buyee
This is where Buyee shines over JAUCE.  Fees are a lot lower when it comes to winning and paying for auctions.  So far, Buyee service is on par with JAUCE and I actually like their software a bit better.  They allow you to set up snipe bidding which can be a blessing to prevent some early morning auction bidding which tends to happen as auctions end in the evening in Japan and morning here in the States.  On top of it, Buyee directly debits your PayPal account instead of you having to transfer money to a JAUCE account.  With JAUCE, that money is tied up until you win the auction, or are outbid.  With Buyee, you don't pay until you win so it makes it easier to win auctions in my opinion.

Japan Domestic Shipping
Winner: JAUCE
If I win more auctions, this is where I think Buyee is going to get really annoying.  They don't allow sellers to consolidate packages so you have to pay for shipping two times if you win two items from the same seller...on top of it, they require sellers to send packages via a trackable means....which can drastically increase the cost of shipping with lower priced items.  If you are buying from Rakuten or Yahoo Shopping, you might not notice a difference since shipping likely includes tracking.  But many auctions on Yahoo Auctions are free shipping, however, Buyee will force the seller to send it with tracking and they will pass the cost on to you.  JAUCE doesn't require that and I have not had a problem with anything ever just is the way Buyee is set up to make processing at the warehouse easier.

Snipe Bidding Service
Winner: Buyee
As I mentioned before, Buyee software is more capable and allows you to bid live or set snipes.  Sniping is really handy due to the time difference...I'm not sure if the other proxy bidding services do this, but JAUCE needs to jump on board with this.

International Shipping
Winner: JAUCE
This is where I think JAUCE outdoes Buyee.  The packages that I get from JAUCE are beautifully packed and each item is well protected with bubble wrap... and I didn't have to pay as much for consolidation nor EMS.  Buyee did a good job, but not as good as JAUCE.  I also had an issue with Buyee's software where I picked the cheaper air mail option and paid...a few days later Buyee issued me a refund and said it was too heavy to ship that method.  Not sure why they gave me the option, but when I went back in to select EMS, the original option was now grayed out.  Software glitch and a minor annoyance for sure.

Payment Method
Winner: Buyee
Hands down, I like to pay only when I win like Buyee does it...instead of putting money into a JAUCE account and having to pay a service fee on top of it to do so.  So Buyee directly taking money out of my PayPal account is nice and much cheaper.  This has always bugged me about JAUCE and I can't tell you the hundreds of dollars I've spent just sending them money to spend with them.  Boo on JAUCE.

Here are some rough statistics on the last four shipments I had coming from Japan (3 from JAUCE and 1 from Buyee)

JAUCE Shipment #1: Hammer Price vs Total Price Percentage - 64% (so 36% in fees)
JAUCE Shipment #1: Average Hammer Price vs Total Cost Per Lot - 50% (The higher % the better)
JAUCE Shipment #2: Hammer Price vs Total Price Percentage - 54% (so 46% in fees)
JAUCE Shipment #2: Average Hammer Price vs Total Cost Per Lot - 51% (The higher % the better)
JAUCE Shipment #3: Hammer Price vs Total Price Percentage - 72% (so 28% in fees)
JAUCE Shipment #3: Average Hammer Price vs Total Cost Per Lot - 62% (The higher % the better)
Buyee Shipment #1: Hammer Price vs Total Price Percentage - 64% (so 36% in fees)
Buyee Shipment #1: Average Hammer Price vs Total Cost Per Lot - 57% (The higher % the better)

Interim Conclusion - I'm going to have to get lucky I think with the Japanese Domestic Shipping charges and how much they charge for trackable shipping I said, that could really eat into any savings they have over JAUCE.  My JAUCE Shipment #3 was sort of an enigma as there were a bunch of high-priced items so the fee percentage is naturally lower.  The first two JAUCE shipments had about half the auctions and lower priced per auction so the fee percentage is higher.  Okay, I'll report back after another month of so and I'll let you know if I am going to make the ultimate switch.