Friday, December 29, 2017

2017 Year in Review

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas from the Japanese Sumo Wrestling Cards and Menko Blog!
It definitely has been an exciting year and one full of lots of adventures.  The biggest is that we moved to Germany and, along with the move, all the exciting adventures in travel, culture, and card collecting that come with it.  It was a busy 2017 in terms of my card collection so I'd like to wrap up the progress on my goals that I set for myself this year so I can clear my conscious and set some new goals for 2018.  Here are the 6 goals I set for myself this year:
1.  Finish the 4th Edition of my Sumo Menko & Card Checklist. (A+)
- I did it!  With a ton of work and some late nights, I was able to push out the latest edition of my book.  Every year I am finding new sets and expanding on others so it was time for a refresh of my book.  I am already stockpiling new material for the next edition and at this rate am going to aim for a Summer/Fall 2019 release.

2.  Focus on branching out of the sumo world and collecting cards of the local German sports teams and hopefully the main sets of the entire league. (F)
- This goal did not come to fruition and I can't see myself picking this up as a goal in 2018 either.  The modern card and collecting market here in Germany really doesn't lend itself to the kind of collecting I want to do.  Plus, we haven't really invested time in following any local teams with any sort of passion.  It was a valiant effort, but RIP goal #2!

3. "Discover" and catalogue at least 5 vintage sumo sets (pre-1960), add at least 3 of the 1973 Calbee cards to my set, and complete the base 2017 BBM set from opening boxes and trading. (A-)
- I did extremely well on this goal.  I knocked the number of vintage sets out of the park, picked up a few 1973 Calbee cards, and have almost completed the 2017 BBM Sumo Set.  With respect to the BBM set, I need to see how many cards I fell short, but I am almost there.  I'll likely have a similar goal for next year.

4. Start collecting Murai Tobacco Cards. (A+)
- I did well on this goal.... although someone warned me what I was getting myself into here.  I ended up picking up 6 Murai cards which I thought was a week accomplishment at first until I realized how difficult these are to find.  I'll likely carry this goal over to next year as well.

5. Build the 2017 Topps Heritage set and I plan on trying to complete that set through boxes and trading. (D)
- I bought a few packs, but I just couldn't muster up the momentum to working on this set, nor even come close to finishing it.  Sadly, as much as I really want to come back to collecting some American sports cards, there are too many Japanese interests pulling me in other directions.  RIP Goal #5!

6. Interviews! (D)
- Lots of thought went into this one of how exactly I want to do this, but no action yet.  I will likely pull this over to next year as I might be ready at that point.  My main problem is I don't want to half-ass anything and I want to be able to ask interesting questions on a variety of topics.  More to follow on this one in my 2018 Collecting Goals Blog.

Overall Grade - B
- Math in public, combined with a subjective score of how I felt I did, puts me at a B.  It was a great year!

Have a great New Year and I will catch you on the other side!!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

2017-2018 BBM Japanese Basketball B.League Cards Arrive - 20 January 2018!

Very much like last year's release, the 2017-2018 B.League set will contain 90 base cards with 5 players featured from each of the 18 teams.  There will also be a Game Changers subset that usually fall 3-4 per box as well as special autographs.  The autos will likely fall about 2 per box.   Boxes contain 20 packs with 5 cards per pack.  Last year's release was a huge success and I imagine this year's will be equally popular.  Rakuten Global has them up for sale and is accepting pre-orders.  This set is called 1st Half....indicating that there will be a 2nd Half like last year.  2nd Half will come out in March more than likely.  Here are some scans courtesy of BBM's website.

Monday, December 18, 2017

2018 BBM Japanese Sumo Cards Arrive - 18 January 2018!

The next issue of sumo cards is right around the corner releasing on 18 January.  The set promises the usual cards: 70 base cards (although it appears this might actually only be 69 since Yokozuna Harumafuji retired due to an abuse scandal), 2 new Juryo cards, 5 Young Hopefuls, and 14 Off Shot cards.  Plus there will be special autograph inserts that usually fall once every few boxes.  Here are pictures that I pulled off of BBM's website.  I've found that Rakuten is a good place to order and prices are fairly reasonable.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Sumo World Magazine Archive Now Populated!

After several weeks, I was finally able to get all of my Sumo World Magazine covers scanned and uploaded along with the table of contents.  Check out the archives in the upper, right of the web version....or at the top scroll down menus of the mobile version.  It was definitely a walk down the path of history as I was scanning through each of the magazines during the scanning and upload process.  I am hoping people will enjoy the cover art and if there are any articles you'd like to read, let me know.  I'll continually add to this archive as I get more and more, but here are some of my favorite covers:

One of the greatest Yokozuna of all time and an incredible physique!

Takamiyama was arguably the reason sumo became popular outside of Japan!

Akebono...the first foreign Yokozuna and a Hawaiian hero!

I love picture banzuke and this cover showcases these unique pieces of art.

It is not everyday you have 4 active Yokozuna...let alone all of them posing for photos.

This image captures all that is the scandals that go with sumo.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Germany's Annual Trading Card Show

I went to Germany's Annual Trading Card Show near Frankfurt a few weeks ago to scope out the German card-collecting scene.  Before anyone runs out and buys their tickets for next year, read on.  I was able to hook up with a prominent Germany collector (Nick Bolton) who speaks English and was able to get a better understanding of the current state.  First, vintage card collecting is a dying hobby in Germany.  He said I was the first new collector he had met all day and that he knew every single person in the room until I came along.  New collectors are not coming to the hobby at all.  Consequently, the show was very small compared to American standards.  In fact, all the dealers (about 15 in total) fit inside the small auditorium with room to spare.  Local shows in America would be much bigger.  Second, the internet has killed any sort of in-person show.  With the vast amounts of trade and cigarette cards, going to shows to eek out a profit isn't worth it for the collector's anymore.  Most early cards in Germany were produced by the hundreds of they can be had for less than a dollar these days and since no one is really collecting, shows have died.  Lastly, in my opinion, there is a lack of printed checklists for all the sets out there.  So I imagine new people have a hard time getting started in collecting, because it is difficult to focus.  There are several books out there, but they unfortunately don't dive down into individual cards.  It would be like having a card catalog that lists the 1952 Topps set as having 407 cards in it, but no individual names.  It is a different way to collect than in America and so it makes foreigners who want to start difficult too...let alone the language.

I am the worst at taking photos so no actual photos of the venue itself and the internet has failed me on digging any up.  It was small so pictures wouldn't have added to it at all.  Unfortunately, the show was only from 10:00 to 3:00 so I couldn't dig through all the bins like I wanted to.  There were tens of thousands of singles I could have spend half a day digging through.  I just ran out of time.  Everyone was extremely nice and I got by with my English decently. talks so when I found stuff to buy, we made it all work out.  I could have spent 100x as much as I did and really jumped into German card collecting.  Hopefully by next year I'll be much smarter and can focus on some interesting sets.

I ended up buying Nick Bolton's book that does an amazing job of capturing pre-WW1 card sets.  Nick is a Brit that lives in Germany.  He was an amazing source of info.

Nick also hooked me up with this amazing Riquet set called Tee in China.  It is a 12-card set printed on rice paper with amazing and vivid printing.  I was sold as soon as I saw it.

I was able to buy the Abraham Lincoln card from another dealer.  This is from the Bensdorp Cocoa "Famous Men" set which has 104 cards in it.  Card # 62 has the famous Honest Abe.

Here is boxer Max Baer and swimmer Johnny Weissmuller from the Bravour-Bilder Set.
I haven't been able to catalog this boxer from this 1937 Siegel set.

Lastly, I picked up these 4 interesting cards from the 1935 Olleschau Lesezeichen Set: Sigmund Freud, Walt Whitman, Isaak Newton, and Mark Twain.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

2017 Japanese BBM Infinity Multi-Sport Set - Part 3

This is the last post on my 2017 Japanese BBM Infinity Box Break.  You can see the results of my first and second box breaks by clicking on the links.  This part will only be 4 packs long.  One unopnened pack is going to fellow BBM sumo enthusiast Paul for his unopened box collection and another unopened pack is going to longtime blog reader Fuji for his Japanese collection.

Pack 15: Starting off to bat...pun an 80% baseball pack including another Brilliant Athlete.  Some old school soccer in here as well.

Pack 16: Starting to see more and more doubles!

Pack 17: Nailed some more sumo (Onokuni...aka...the Giant Panda) and another bodybuilder.  I wonder if they will ever do a boxed set of these wouldn't surprise me.

Pack 18:  Back to back Onokuni, but I nailed an Ohtani baseball card!

Overall impressions:  I like this set and I really like the variety of athletes they used.  Baseball tends to dominate and it did in this set as well.  Also, who can complain about on-card autos??!!  The athlete actually touched the card as they were writing on it.  Way to go BBM.  Although I can't say all the autos are on card.  My two biggest complaints are the lack of imagination on the front and back images (they are the same).  This has been my biggest complaint of BBM in recent years.  Also, the production quality is subpar.  I felt like a good majority of my cards did not look mint coming right out of the box.  There were corner dings as well as bubbles in the surface of some cards.  Baseball fans might be justified in buying a box, but it is quite an investment for fans of other sports as you only get a sprinkling of cards.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

2017 Japanese BBM Infinity Multi-Sport Set - Part 2

This is a continuation of my first thread where I opened 7 packs.  Here are the next 7 packs.  Let's hope I can get some more base sumo cards.

Pack 8:  Some freestyle skiing love in this pack.  I might be entering the double realm soon.

Pack 9:  Curling and Badminton and my second Brilliant Athlete insert card.
Pack 10: Gotta love Bodybuilding cards.

Pack 11:  Boom!  I hit the auto card (Rugby Player Kiyoshi Imaizumi) in this box!  It is #1/60 and an actual on-card sticker!

Pack 12:  Starting to see some doubles....

Pack 13:  Nailed another base sumo....Kaio!

Pack 14: Another Brilliant Athlete badminton insert card.  Must be a badminton hot box!!!

Definitely a great 7 packs.  I'll open up the last packs in the next few days.

Friday, November 17, 2017

2017 Japanese BBM Infinity Multi-Sport Set - Part 1

BBM just released another multi-sport set called Infinity.  For those that bought the Masterpiece set last year, Infinity falls right in line with that.  This set has mostly baseball players (42) along with a variety of other sports including Curling, Speed Skating, Ice Hockey, Pro Wrestling, Tennis, and Badminton to name a few.  Some of the players are still active while others have been retired for a while.  Most importantly for this blog are the 5 sumo wrestlers that are included in the base set along with a few sprinkled in insert sets.  This is an All-Japanese set so you likely won't find many names that you recognize unless you follow a particular Japanese sport.  There are 112 cards in the Base Set along with 4 Insert Sets: a 9-card All the Glory set, a 9-card One and Only set, an 18-card Brilliant Athlete set, and a large autograph set.  I believe the Brilliant Athlete set also has foil-stamped facsimile parallels in it.  Likewise, the One and Only set has holographic parallels #ed to 50.

I bought two of these boxes off of Rakuten and I am going to rip one here and keep the other one for a rainy day.  Packs come 20 per box with 5 cards per pack.  Let's keep fingers crossed for some sumo cards!

Pack 1:  Pro Wrestler Masakatsu Funaki and Horse Jockey Yutaka take make their debut.

Pack 2: A Baseball Heavy Pack
Pack 3: Boom, my first sumo card....the cropping on this card is a little weird though

Pack 4:  An eclectic pack for sure and I snagged a Brilliant Athlete insert...Naoko Takahashi.  Awesome to see a female hockey player too.
Pack 5: Another sumo wrestler...Kisenosato.  This is a Speed-Skating heavy pack.
Pack 6:  Some old school images here and another speed skater.
Pack 7:  MMA, Curling, and Baseball all in the same pack!  I love this set.
I'll bust another 7 packs and post in the next few days.  Until then...enjoy!

Sunday, November 5, 2017

1912 Rikishi 0 Set (R121)

The Nihon Sumo Kyokai (NSK) has ran a fairly stable professional sumo organization for about the last 90 years.  Before 1926, however, there were actually two professional sumo associations in Osaka and Tokyo competing for wrestlers and a cut of the sumo pie.  Menko sets produced during this era would actually include wresters from both of these organizations which can make identification and cataloguing a challenge; especially when the menko are not marked with any sort of affiliation.  Fortunately, this 1912 set has both the Osaka (大坂) and Tokyo (東京) designations.  I have only seen these three examples from the R121: 1912 Rikishi 0 Set so the date could be plus or minus a few years.  These are gorgeous examples of a woodblock-printed set with vibrant colors.  Each menko is printed with 4 colors and has the name of the wrestler on the front of the mawashi.  The backs have the wrestler's rank, height, name, and association listed in black ink.  This particular set also has varying amounts of parallel red lines across the names on the back.....which I am not sure mean.  They measure about 2" x 2.75" and are on a somewhat thin paper stock.  Hopefully more of these pop up someday to get a more complete checklist, but for now here are the three:

Maegashira Isenohama (Future Ozeki) - Tokyo
Maegashira Omijuji - Tokyo
Maegashira Hidenoumi - Osaka

Saturday, October 28, 2017

The Crash of Japan Airlines 123 and the Death of a Sumo Family

On August 12, 1985 tragedy struck a great deal of families across Japan.  Kyu Sakamoto, the famed singer, the president of the Japanese Baseball Team Hanshin Tigers, Hajimu Nakano, and the entire family of former Ozeki Kiyokuni died along with 500 other fellow passengers in Japan's largest aviation disaster in history.  Kiyokuni's 39-year old wife Sanae, his 12-year old son Yoshihiko, and 10-year old daughter Kiyoe were on their way to Osaka from Tokyo to visit Sanae's parents who were living in Osaka.  The cause of the crash....a ruptured pressure bulkhead in the rear of the plane that wasn't properly fixed when the tail struck the ground during landing 7 years earlier.  I visited the memorial at the crash site when I was living in Japan and was amazed at the story of devastation and survival. 

After the crash, Kiyokuni (having changed his name to Isegahama Oyakata when he took over the Isegahama stable after retirement) never was able to recover and drove his stable into the ground.  When he reached the mandatory retirement age of 65 in 2006 he had just two wrestlers under his roof.  The stable dissolved in 2007 after being around for almost 150 years.  Here is a great article from the now defunct Sumo Fan Magazine...I used to write for this magazine back in the day and sadly the magazine went belly up in 2012.

The above card represents one of only a few cards that features Kiyokuni....this one belonging in the famous 1973 Calbee Sumo Set. When this 1973 set was published, Kiyokuni was on the backend of his career having won one tournament.