Monday, February 27, 2017

Initial D = Manga, RC Cars, & Trading Cards

I love me some Initial D!  For those that don't know about Initial D, it is a manga (now anime) that centers around Tak Fujiwara, a young and talented drift racer, whose natural racing skills allow him to mop up against opponents that are older and have much fancier and much more expensive cars.  A great story line and the manga is engaging (although sometimes awkwardly translated), but TokyoPop screwed up their relationship with Kodansha so only 33 volumes of the manga were translated into English.  Boo.  However, pick them up if you can as they are great reads.

So why am I talking about Initial D?  Trading Cards!!!!!  Bottomline, I had just come back from living in Japan when these manga hit the streets in English in 2002.  Not only that, but the story takes place only about ~20 km from where I lived in Gunma prefecture.  Around the same time miniaturized  Radio Controlled (RC) cars were hitting the streets in the U.S. and Radio Shack teamed up with ZipZaps, an RC car company, to produce the Initial D versions of the cars.  Included in the packaging was one (1) trading card that matched the RC car that you bought. (Of note, all ZipZap cars came with one card and I have four (4) from the Fast and Furious series as well.) Bam....Manga, Gunma, Cars and Cards.  It was the cliche perfect storm.  I still have this massive collection of ZipZap stuff....extra bodies, gears, race tracks, timers, barriers......  Sadly, I misplaced all but one of the Initial D cards, though, and am working at amassing my card collection again.  Unopened packaged ZipZap cars sell for ~$50 on eBay, so that might be the more expensive option last resort.

Here is the one card I have at the moment, Ry Takahashi and his RX7.  It is standard trading card size at 2.5" x 3.5". 

Anyone else read and/or watch Initial D or ever play with ZipZaps?

Monday, February 20, 2017

The start of my Yuta Tabuse (Japanese Basketball) player collection

A huge shoutout to Billy Kingsley over at Cardboard History for inspiring me to start my Yuta Tabuse collection.  A few weeks back, I helped Billy secure a box of 1st-half 2017 Japanese B.League Basketball cards...this stuff is selling like wildfire over in Japan and they sold out of preorders before the set even released back in mid January.  A few days ago 2nd-Half released and same sort of thing.  The secondary market is on fire....about 20% of the cards that are currently up for auction have bids on them.  Since the 1st Half was released a month ago over 2000 auctions have closed with bids.  Only ~800 card auctions are running and as I mentioned roughly 20% of those have bids.  Unopened material is almost non-existent...chaos in the streets....BBM hit the right amount of hype.  I don't follow basketball, but through helping Billy I decided I wanted to branch out and start collecting Yuta Tabuse.  My first card....naturally Yuta Tabuse from the 2017 B.League 1st-Half set.

Why Yuta?  He was the first Japanese player ever to appear in an NBA game for the Phoenix Suns in 2004...something that I was not even aware of until a few weeks ago.  Although his NBA career was short, he has had the longevity in the Japanese basketball system and is currently playing for the Tochigi Brex.  He is by far one of the oldest players in B.League, but is doing it for the love of the game and seems to be the go-to leader on any of the Japanese National Teams.  More to follow as I slowly pick away at cards from his 2004-2005 season.

I see Fuji has a nice Tabuse collection going, anyone else collect him?

Thanks for the inspiration Billy!

Friday, February 17, 2017

1964 Morinaga Top Star Gum Color Stand-Ups (A641)

I don't want any more cards from this set.......says no sumo card collector ever.  The 1964 Morinaga Top Star Gun Color Stand-Up set is such a unique and a rare set for sumo collectors, that it is difficult to obtain in terms of availability and price....but a must have for any collection.  Most examples that I have seen have sold for around $100 per card making this 5-card set quite expensive.  Morinaga has been around since the late 1800s and has been making candy products since.  For those that love Hi-Chew (my hand is raised too), this is the same company.  Here is Mr. Morinaga with a couple of the logos that have been used over the years.

The current checklist for the sumo set is at 5 cards with the 3 Yokozuna (Taiho, Kashiwado, Tochinoumi) and 2 of the Ozeki (Sadanoyama, Yutakayama) from 1964.  Likely there are more cards in the set...possibly up to 10...or at least 7 to cover all the Yokozuna and Ozeki.  It is unknown how these were distributed, but the backs are meant to be punched out to form a stand that displays the cards on a desk or shelf.  There are baseball versions of these as well that are more common, but the sumo cards are very difficult to find.  At 5.5" x 3.5" in size, these bright blue bordered card with simple images make these very attractive. 

Monday, February 13, 2017

New Set / 1955 Maruta Renga 11 (H554)

  Discovering new menko sets is getting fewer and farther between so it is always exciting when a new set pops up and I am able to get my hands on them.  This set hails from the H-series of menko (The Brick Menko) and has a lot going for it.  First, it is very rare given the fact that these 8 menko are the only ones I have ever seen from this set in almost 2 decades of collecting.  Second, the backs make for easy identification....made by Maruta along with all the ranks of the wrestlers pinpoints this set depicting the October 1955 Tournament (1955 Aki Basho).  Future Yokozuna Wakanohana was promoted to the rank of Ozeki right after this tournament and is a key menko in this set.  Lastly, and most importantly, these menko are in immaculate condition.  If you ever played Pogs, you know the importance of the slammer.  In menko, these H-series "Bricks" are extremely thick and heavy and were great slammers for flipping over other menko.  Naturally, the ones you find today are usually beat up and bent....these, however, were likely deadstock in some store before they made their way to auction.  Just for reference, these measure about 3/16" thick and are very stiff.  Given that 6 of the 8 wrestlers in the known checklist of this H554 set made it to Yokozuna along with great artwork on the front, makes this a true masterpiece of a set.  I'm happy to add this set to my collection and it will be checklisted and included in the 4th addition of my Sumo Menko and Card Checklist book.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Anyone interested in doing this? 2017 Japanese BBM Group Box Break Competition Club

The latest issue of SCM (#121)came out a few weeks ago and I got mine not too long after that.  Dave over at the Japanese Baseball Cards blog did a nice summary of the issue.  One thing that has always been interesting for me in the magazine is the box break competition that they do in almost every issue.  The basic premise is 4 Mint Card Shop owners (or a substitute from the card industry if one of the owners can't do it) open boxes of new BBM product and then compare their hits and declare a winner.  Here is the spread from the issue:

My question is would any of my fellow bloggers or readers be interested in forming a similar group?

Obviously some details we'd need to work out if there is any interest, but I think it would be a great way to open some unique Japanese products and showcase the sets for others on our blogs.
To get started on gauging interest, here are some high level details that I was thinking:

1.  Open between 4-6 products throughout the year.  We'd have to agree generally what the products would be.  As a suggestion here are some options (Pure Heart Wrestling, Sumo Wrestling, a ton of baseball products, Shining Venus, Soccer, P.League Bowling, Rugby)
2. We don't even have to open 2017 stuff, or even BBM...there is some older stuff we can still snap up for cheap.
3.  Get commitments from between 4-6 people.  There would be some cost to this as we'd all have to buy our own boxes and have them shipped.  There could be some costs savings buying in bulk (one person buys), but those are details to work later.  It could be anywhere between $60-$100 per break depending on how you get your box.
4.  Determine a point system per break so a winner is declared each break.  I was thinking highest % of base set completion, points for autographs, and inserts would earn points.  We would have to decide a point system each box break since each product will have different content.  I don't mind donating a $20 gift card or something like that to the winner of each break.
5. Overall winner at the end of the year (most points, or highest average points per box) would be the annual winner.  Maybe all the "losers" could pitch in $15-$20 each at the end to buy the winner a box of something.
6. Each person would post break results on their blogs at a set time.
7. Each person could maybe "miss" one box break and still be eligible for the overall winner.

Anyway, something fun I thought we could try.  If there is any interest, or questions, send a reply in this blog entry.  If we get enough interest, and eventual commitments after the details are hammered out better, we can press ahead and I don't mind organizing it all.  Thanks!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

2017 BBM Japanese B.League Basketball Fast Break 2nd Half

In a few weeks the 2nd Half of the 2017 B.League cards should be released.  BBM Cards Navi, BBM's Facebook page, has a few pictures of the 2nd half cards.  Like the 1st Half set, there will be 72 regular cards as well as an 18-card "On Fire" subset along with all the usual autographs.  The autograph checklist isn't released yet, but I'm assuming there will be 72 autograph cards in the 2nd Half as well(one for each player).  The 1st Half boxes have been sold out in some of the usual places I've looked so these seem to be a fairly popular product in Japan.

Here are the photos the BBM Cards Navi's website....

 Best name award goes to Zen Maki.....

Sunday, February 5, 2017

2017 BBM Sumo Wrestling Box Break - Part #3

I wrapped up opening this box this morning.  Overall I am happy with the design and quality of the cards...and the collation was pretty good pulling 78 of the 90 cards in the set for a ~87% completion rate.  Likely, had I opened another box I would have pulled the last 12 cards in the set so you'll need several boxes to complete a set.  I do have 42 doubles to hopefully trade and knock out the rest of the set over on the Facebook Sumo Card Collectors Group.  No autograph cards in this box, but I am a base set collector anyway so no big deal.

A nice little plug for Iphones from Ishiura......

Salt is used during the prebout warmups to purify the a lot of cards have the wrestlers throwing salt in the photos.

Kitaharima is a little light to be wrestling in the top divisions.  In fact, he fell back down to the Makushita rank after this photo was taken.....but he is likely going to be back up in the Juryo ranks come March.

Nailed the Kisenosato.  This is his last card as an Ozeki....he'll be a Yokozuna on the next card and since Yokozuna can never be demoted, this is a milestone card for him.

Foreigners are in sumo is Kaisei the Brazilian.

There you have it....let me know how your box breaks go!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

2017 BBM Sumo Wrestling Box Break - Part #2...or why I love sets with multiples of 9

What I love about the Japanese BBM sumo wrestling sets is that there are 99 cards in the base set.  99 is such a wonderful fact, sumo sets used to be 72 cards, 180, 189, even 153.....these are nice numbers in the collecting world as they fit 9-pocket sheets for the binder.  No partial-filled sheets to figure out what to do with.  Nice and tidy.

I opened up 8 more packs of the 2017 BBM Sumo Wrestling set and was pleasantly surprised that I walked away with only 15 doubles.  A little upset that 3 whole packs worth of cards were doubles, but hopefully these will be good trade bait to fill in the holes with fellow collectors.  Here are the cards I got:

Where else can you get a sports card with an athlete eating a watermelon??!!!  Japan of course...anyone that has ever lived there will know the watermelon is a staple during the summer months.   Also, nailed the #1 card in the set with Yokozuna Harumafuji.

More food!

During practice the hair gets messed up quite a bit as seen in Sato's photo here.

Maegashira Hidenoumi owning the pink mawashi...a color you don't normally see.

New Juryo wrestler Oamami.  We are expecting great things from him!

For those that are interested, a small group of sumo card collectors resides on Facebook.  Check us out.  BBM Sumo Card Collectors....

I'll get the last 8 packs up in the next few days!  Thanks for stopping by!