Monday, April 30, 2018

The 3 Japanese Sacred Treasures of the 1960s and the End of the Golden Age of Menko

       Browsing the internet, you can find numerous articles and tidbits of information regarding menko and the impact the game the game had on Japanese children.  The history of menko from the late 1800s to the mid-1960s is well documented in various books, magazines, and internet sources.  However, its eighty year run as one of the most popular children's game often doesn't focus on the abrupt ending in the mid 1960s.  Menko survived the devastating Kanto earthquake of 1923.  Menko survived the World War II paper drives.  Menko even survived the extreme poverty and rebuilding of Japan in the late 1940s and early 1950s.  However, in the mid-1960s menko could not survive the 3 Japanese Sacred Treasures.

      The 3 Treasures I am referring to are the television, electric washing machine, and electric refrigerator.  These treasures rapidly enhanced the standard of living in Japan and ushered in the era of mass consumerism.  Televisions in homes now offered a distraction to kids who otherwise might be playing menko with their friends.  The pressure of parents on Japanese children to advance themselves in society (basically go out and earn these three treasures} through studying more and hard work also decreased time to play menko.  Playing menko was often seen as a hindrance to advancing japan and children were spending all their extra time.

   The last sumo menko set of the golden era was the 1964 Marusho Tawara 5 set.  This set was not extraordinary at all and a sad end.  In fact, this set was a rehash of several other sets Marusho had done earlier in the 1950s.  At this point, menko profits were likely all dried up and they were attempting to crease a set with as little investment as possible.  The total number of menko in this set is likely between 30-50.  It does, however, contain 5 Yokozuna (Kashiwado, Taiho, Tochinoumi, Sadanoyama, Tamanoumi) at various stages in their career.

Each menko can have several of the approximately 10 different back designs and each of those back designs can be found in different colors of ink making the master checklist quite large.  There are 5 different types of backs: Red Ink, Blue Ink, Grey Ink, Light Green Ink, and Dark Green Ink.

There are a lot of parallels to card collecting in America these days.  Lots of other distractions that pull kids away from card collecting.  What happens when our generation of older collectors goes away?  I personally don't think enough of a new generation has been created and we'll see another dramatic cut in trading card production in the next 10-20 years.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

2014-2015 Airport Trading Card Update

I least I feel like I did.  With this Airport Trading Card set I feel like it has been a monster to track down cards by either 1) flying to/through the airports, 2) trading with fellow collectors, or 3) buying them off of eBay.  After over two years of flying, trading, and buying I finally decided to contact each of the airports directly to see if I could snag some cards that I was missing.  Most of them wrote me back and said they would be glad to, two were out of them, and I am waiting on a few more responses from others.  All the airports I wrote to have been super nice so if I am going to be cheating at least they are treating me well.  Here are the latest updates to this monster set.  As it stands there are 76 confirmed cards in the master set issued over two years from 66 different airports across North America.  Some airports printed a different card each year and one airport printed three different cards over the two years.  My total is at 62 of these cards from the set leaving me 14 cards short of completion.  Here is the evidence of me giving in.

LEX - Blue Grass Airport.  I didn't think I'd be falling in love with Kentucky, but yet here we are.  Thanks Allie!

 GSO - Much to my surprise, there was a previously unknown 2016 GSO card that they included in my envelope!!  Whoop, and it is a really good looking card....almost like it is embossed!  Thanks Piedmont Triad Airport Authority!

SLC - Salt Lake City International Airport - I love me some snow bunnies and the Rocky Mountains.  Thanks Jason!

BNA - Nashville International Airport.  Triplets to trade with my friends.  Thanks to my friends at Nashville International Airport!

BOS - Boston Logan International a BOS!  This one arrive safe and sound.  Thanks Michelle.

YYC - from our neighbors to the north....these came all the way from Calgary.  Thanks Darlene!

There you have it!  Anyone else collecting these?

Thursday, April 19, 2018

1975 Osato Sumo Wrestling Mini Card Set

The years 1965 to 1973 were a rough time to be a trading card collector in Japan because production was almost zero.  Menko cards had made a valiant production run from the 1930s until 1964 where millions of cards had been mass produced with thousands of different themes.  Then, in almost a blink of an eye, menko production stopped in 1964 except for a couple of dozen sets that were sporadically printed over the course of the next 8 years.  TV was thought to be the major contributor to the death of the menko era, but in reality it was probably a combination of increased economic prosperity in Japan, better and more sophisticated toys, more focus on education and attention on making Japan a world leader again, and the lack of a card collector base.  In the US, kids and adults alike were collecting and trading baseball, football, and basketball cards and they carried the demand with them to spur production.  However, in Japan, children were almost solely the collecting base and when their attention turned to other forms of entertainment the demand dried up.

Then, as almost quickly as television had killed menko, television brought about the birth of the mini card era in Japan in 1973.  By the early 1970s, color TVs were the standard and by 1975 almost 32 million color TVs were in Japanese households.  Color TV allowed for some visual graphic and exciting shows.  Television stations started broadcasting in color a variety of diverse programs including popular dramas, anime, sumo, baseball, and music.  TV had turned into the norm for daily life for people in Japan in the early 1970s.  What this meant was that kids and adults alike wanted to now collect cards of their favorite TV personality, anime series, movie actor and sports hero.  Hence the mini card era was born in 1973.

No less than 6 companies jumped on board and started printing mini cards including Yamakatsu(who had made menko a decade earlier), Osato, Calbee, and Amada.  The size was standardized at approximately 2” x 3” for most mini cards.  Unfortunately, only a handful of sumo card sets were printed in the 1970s.  However, one of these sets was by Osato in 1975 and printed to represent the 1975 Haru Banzuke.  Like most mini card sets it has 32 cards in it because the card sheets were printed at the factory with 16 cards on them (4 cards x 4 cards).  Some of the larger mini card sets had 48 and 64 total cards.  These Osato sumo cards were issued in boxes of 50 packs (1 card per pack) that cost 10 yen a pack.  These packs were made of brown paper and were stapled across the top with two staples.

Also included in the box were 3 “winner” cards that had a special gold stamp on the back.  This stamp allowed the lucky kid to claim one of the 3 card albums included in the box for free.  These lucky winner cards were packed separately in the box so the store owner knew which ones were the lucky cards and could presumably control when each of the albums was given away.  These albums are made of thin cardboard and have a sumo photo on the front with a picture or two of some of the cards from the set on the back.  Inside the album are 7 plastic, 2-pocket pages to hold the cards.  There are currently 5 known different album designs.

The cards themselves are fairly standard.  Of the 32 cards, 27 have a single color background which is yellow, orange, pink, green, red or blue.  The other 5 have a photographic background which includes the audience at the Kokugikan.  The backs are printed in blue ink and indicate the rikishi’ s shikona (with furigana above it), heya, birthplace, height, weight and favorite technique.  On the bottom of the cards is a picture of a kimarite with the “white” rikishi as the winning rikishi and the “black” rikishi as the losing rikishi.  The name of the kimarite is written next to the picture. 

This set does have some important rikishi in it.  First, the two reigning yokozuna of the 1970s: Kitanoumi and Wajima.  It also has up-andcoming Yokozuna Mienoumi (in 1975 he was a maegashira).  Most importantly for the Western collector and Hawaiian rikishi collector it has a card of Takamiyama when he was ranked as a maegashira and 3 years after his Makuuchi yusho in 1972.  Surprisingly, it doesn’ t have Wakamisugi (Yokozuna Wakanohana) even though he was ranked as a sekiwake when this set was printed.

This set is fairly easy to collect because of the amount of cards on the market.  The base cards are fairly easy to find in auctions and usually show up once every several months.  More difficult to find are “winner” cards and extremely difficult to find are uncancelled “winner” cards, meaning that the store owner didn’ t mark out or cross out the winner stamp on the back when a kid turned it in.  Albums are difficulty to find and unopened boxes of this set are nearly impossible to come across.

Monday, April 16, 2018

2013 BBM Shohei Ohtani Rookie Card - Green Version

There are several variations to Shohei Ohtani's 2013 BBM 1st Version Rookie card.  One of them is the "KP2 Green Version" which was given away as a promotional gift during Golden Week family festivities, called Family Series, at the Fighters Farm Team's Kamagaya Stadium from 29 April - 5 May 2013.  If you purchased more ¥500 at the gift shop during the Family Series, you would receive one of these two cards shown below, one of which is the KP2 Green Version. The family could also come out and participate in family activities like batting class, catch with players, photos with players, and of course eat some amazing food at CafĂ© Cubby.  Some great info can be found here.

KP2 Front - Image courtesy of Officecab

KP2 Back - Image courtesy of Nippon Ham Fighters

KP1 Front - Image courtesy of Officecab

KP1 Back - Image courtesy of Officecab

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Japanese Baseball Card Articles in PSA's SMR

Ohtani mania is in full force which led to the April 2018 Sports Market Report being almost exclusively about Japanese baseball cards including Ohtani, Ichiro, and several key vintage sets.  I wanted to give a quick shoutout to my fellow Japanese baseball card collectors who made it into the latest issue of PSA's Sports Market Report (SMR).  Dave over at the Japanese Baseball Cards blog is featured in the articles.  All of the articles are also online:

Image from Japanese Baseball Card blog
Ichiro Article
Sadaharu Oh Article
1967 Kabaya Leaf Article
Vintage Collecting
Modern Collecting

There is some good background and useful information for sumo collectors in the articles, although the sumo timelines and card cataloguing system follow a slightly different path.  It is nice to see the Japanese cards getting some lovin'.

I was also inspired to pick up two unopened boxes of 2013 BBM 1st Version which contains Ohtani's rookie card.  Now what to do with them.


Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Preview - 2018 BBM Rikishi Sumo Wrestling Set

The next BBM sumo wrestling, titled "Rikishi" releases on 23 May.  It looks like a standard issue with 81 cards in the base set along with an autograph insert set.....probably 9-10 auto cards.  Each box will include 24 packs with 5 cards per pack.  Here is the breakout of the 81 card base set:

- 42 Rikishi Cards (see images below)
- 12 Fight! Cards
- 12 Next Generation Cards
- 9 Early Days Cards
- 6 Upset Cards

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Kids will be Kids - 1958 Marukami Kimarite 6 (BC588)

Kids will be kids, not matter what nationality.  Here, Ozeki Asashio is holding a practice session for a group of children.  These kids' sessions were usually done in conjunction with regional tours in between the main tournaments and a way for the wrestlers to be accessible to the public.  Bad photo timing, an annoying wedgie, and poor quality control gives us this 1958 Sumo Wrestling Menko Card.

Does anyone else have any ill-timed photos?