Wednesday, July 25, 2018

1933 Rikishi 4-5 Set: R331 Sumo Wrestling Menko

1932 and 1933 were very strange years in Japanese sumo.  The Shunjuen Incident had just occurred where 32 rikishi gathered at the Shunjuen Chinese restaurant in Tokyo demanding reforms from the Nihon Sumo Kyokai ultimately resulting in the postponement of the January 1932 tournament and the rikishi leaving the NSK.  The rikishi formed several new sumo groups in called the Great Japan Emerging Rikishi Group and the Progressive Rikishi Group.  (source: Sumo Fan Magazine).  Over the next 4 years these groups struggled and the last of the "rogue" wrestlers disbanded in 1937.  In 1933, during the height of this turmoil, the R331: 1933 Rikishi 4-5 menko set was produced.  A lot of reorganization was happening during 1933 with the rikishi that were left and so this set has a variety of rank mismatches which indicated it was produced over the course of many months.  Surprisingly, this set is one of the easier 1930s R-series sets to come across which might indicate sumo was entering a popular period.

Monday, July 23, 2018

July Sumo Wrestling Tournament Winner - Congrats to Sekiwake Mitakeumi!

Sekiwake Mitakeumi had a heck of a tournament, in part due to the absence of all the Yokozuna and one of the strong Ozeki.  Mitakeumi has been in the Nihon Sumo Kyokai for a little more than 3 years coming right out of college into one of the Makushita slots reserved for college rikishi that do well.  He is one of the Japanese hopefuls that will hopefully see a push to Ozeki next tournament.  He is going to need another 13 or so wins next tournament for consideration for promotion to Ozeki.  Here are a few Mitakeumi cards from the two 2018 BBM sets.

Maegasshira Yutakayama got the runner-up award with a fine record of 12 wins.  Here is another Japanese hopeful that given some more time to season in the mid ranks, should be a strong contender for some of the top ranks.   I was lucky enough to pick up this auto card in a box break I did a few months ago.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

New Set: 1958 Manga/Sumo Wrestling Karuta (K581)

I like these multi-purpose sets that were issued in the 1950s.  This particular one has a manga story on the front along with the hiragana alphabet for playing karuta, and sumo wrestlers on the back.  A lot of times these came in kids magazines which inevitably leads to crooked edges from unskilled scissor use, paper loss, and general disarray.....all of which I love.  These cards actually were held in a Japanese child's hand 60 years ago.  History right here.  I'm not up on my 1950s Japanese manga series which might help determine which magazine these came in, but fortunately the sumo wrestlers have rank information which can help us narrow down an exact year....1958 in this case since Shinobuyama only held the Sekiwake rank for three tournaments in the latter half of 1958.  The cards measure 1.75" x 2.5"...approximately.

These are the only 6 cards from this set I have seen in all my years of collecting...and until I find out if they were actually issued in a magazine, I'll catalogue them under the karuta (K-series) column...this one being the K581 set.  Here is the current checklist:

い - Yokozuna Wakanohana
ろ - Yokozuna Tochinishiki
へ - Yokozuna Chiyonoyama
ほ - Ozeki Asashio
ぬ - Ozeki Kotogahama
り - Sekiwake Shinobuyama

Friday, July 13, 2018

For the 1st time in 12 Yokozuna competing!

For the first time in over 12 years, there are no Yokozuna competing during the tournament.  The three current Yokozuna are down with injuries which will make for a very interesting tournament!  Hakuho has a knee injury, Kakuryu has a bum elbow, and Kisenosato is plagued with a lingering chest muscle injury.  Crazy...and the newspapers and critics of the current grouping of wrestlers are going to have a field day.  Not to mention the Nihon Sumo Kyokai will be especially critical of the Yokozuna telling them they need to compete or retire.  This definitely opens the door for a fan favorite, Ozeki Tochinoshin, to capture the championship and make a run at Yokozuna.

Here are the latest Yokozuna cards from the 2018 BBM "Rikishi" set...One of my favorite designs in a while.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

German Flea Market Finds #3: Card Goodness

Flea market season is in full swing over here in Germany.  Dozens are happening every weekend so picking and choosing the right ones isn't as hard....if you hit a dud, just move onto the next one.  I try to look around to see what people are buying, but it truly is a random assortment of stuff.  Fortunately, it seems I am the only one in Southern Germany that is collecting cards so that is a positive thing that keeps me going out as often as possible.  Here are some of the highlights of one of the local markets:

I picked up this full album of 1937 Cigaretten-Bilderdenst-Hamburg cards of trees and flowers called "Aus Wald und Flur" (Trees and Flowers) for 8 Euro.  Its catalog number is 21806-17.  As is German tradition, the cards are pasted in the album.   This tobacco card series seemed really popular back in the day due to the amount of them I see these days for sale.  They are also all over German eBay so I feel like I got a pretty good deal.

World Cup fever was in full swing here until Germany lost last week.  Boo, but at least the biergartens are now a lot less crowded.  A local store, Rewe, hands out these cards for every 10-Euro purchase.  They have done this now for at least 3 World Cups.  The cashier took pity on me when I asked if I could have one and he gave me a whole stack of unopened packs.  The cards above, however, came from a seller at the flea market.  He had hundreds of them and I was able to complete an entire 36-card set for 10 Euro and keep my unopened packs sealed.

The WWF (no, not the wrestling brand), World Wildlife Fund, teamed up with the local grocery store, Edeka, to issue these 4-sticker packs with a purchase of groceries.  As you can imagine, each of the stickers contains an image of an animal, or part of an animal for larger, multi-sticker images.  There are 180-stickers in the set and once you tear off the borders of the pack, it reveals 4 stickers that are perforated.  A seller at the flea-market had a whole stack of them and was happy to unload them all for 2 Euro.

More to follow next week.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Meet Mark "Fuji" Fujimoto - Fellow-Card-Collector Interview #2

Fuji was one of the first bloggers I started following when I got into blogging on a more serious note a few years ago.  The Chronicles of Fuji is one of the most popular blogs out there and so it is natural that we needed to include him on one of the first few collectors interviews.  His passion for Japanese cards and my love for sumo wrestling cards made for a great blogger friendship....let's peek behind the curtains a little more and see what the magic Fuji sauce is made of.

[Ryan] Hi Fuji!  When I sat down to start crafting this interview, I didn't realize I had so many questions to ask you.  Your blog is amazing and easily one of the Top 5 I check every day.  You just swept past your 8-year mark, are closing in on 1750 posts, and have gathered 251 followers.  These are stats of sports card Hall-of-Fame bloggers.  Hopefully these questions can expose the readers a bit more to the man behind The Chronicles of Fuji, although you do an excellent job already with your blogging style.

[Fuji] Hey Ryan!  Thank you for the very kind words.  Eight years?  Time sure flies by when you’re having fun.

[Ryan] I bet!  You seem to have been having a lot of fun since 6:52 pm on Tuesday, March 2, 2010 when The Chronicles of Fuji was born.  You actually talk a little bit in that first blog post about how you got into collecting...1979 Topps baseball and loving to sort (OCD).  But why blogging?  What attracted you to the blogging world and where did you see your niche when you started?

[Fuji] Hmmm… I’m pretty sure the reason I started my blog is the same reason I still write to this day.  It documents my hobby experiences.  Although I don’t have the time to cover everything, my blog has covered a high percentage of my card shop, card show, eBay, COMC, Sportlots, online card shops, and flea market purchases.
Plus it allowed me to connect with other people around the world who share an interest in little pieces of cardboard with pictures on it.

Before I started my blog, I enjoyed reading other card blogs like Wax Heaven and Night Owl Cards.  They both incorporate their personal lives into their writing, which inspired me to start my blog and use it kind of like a makeshift diary.

[Ryan] It has been fun reading some of your past blog entries and I wish I would have discovered your blog a lot earlier.  You’ve mentioned over the years that you got out of collecting for a while.  Walk us through some of the highs and lows of your almost 40-year passion for sport cards.

[Fuji] Wow.  There’s so many memories to sift through.  I could dedicate a series of blog posts to this topic alone.  Let’s see.  I’ll filter it down to one high and one low.

One of my favorite memories is trading cards with my neighborhood buddies when were around ten or eleven years old.  We’d sit around on each others’ porches with our shoeboxes filled with cards sorting and trading cards.  Book value hadn’t become a part of our vocabulary yet.  It was about getting rid of our doubles and trying to claim this 1981 Donruss Al Hrabosky.  That card traded hands on a regular basis.  We all thought it was a rare error because it had a purple border, while other Braves in that set had a light blue border.

The positive memories outweigh the negative ones 1000 to 1, but there are two low points that really stand out.  One involves a box of 1986 Topps baseball cards that I wrote about a while back.  The other involves my collection being stolen back in high school.  The details are still a little blurry, but I eventually got part of the collection back.  The thieves sold it to my local card shop, which turned it over to the police, who held it as evidence for what seemed like years.  On a positive note… that card shop offered me a job and I worked there for a few years.

[Ryan] Oh dang, it is great you have such positive memories of the past despite the negativity of some bad apples out some of the mistakes of your youth you've overcome.  That attitude is probably why you have stuck with it and are so successful today.  On a side note, I worked at a card shop in the early 1990s for several years too.  Let’s talk about that for a minute.  How did your card-shop experience shape you as a collector?  Any fond memories working there and chatting about sports cards for hours on end with customers?

[Fuji] Working at a card shop definitely impacted me as a collector.  My first time around (late 80’s/early 90’s) gave me a lot of insight on the business aspect of collecting.  I was able to see first hand what sold and what didn’t, which impacted what kind of stuff I purchased for myself.  I honestly don’t have any memories that stand out, but it was a great experience overall.
After I started teaching in 1998, I started working at another card shop that was in the mall across the street from my school to help supplement my income.  I met one of my closest hobby friends at that card shop.  I’ve written about him on numerous occasions.  He’s the guy who specializes in IP autographs.

[Ryan] Very cool!  I have been very impressed with your ability to balance and manage your own blog, read other blogs and comment, and have a full-time job.  Any secret formula or magic Fuji-sauce you are keeping to yourself?

[Fuji] Lol.  Sorry… there’s no magic sauce.  In fact, there are times when I get so overwhelmed that I end up either taking a break on writing posts or cutting back on commentating.  However, I try my best to make a conscientious effort to read and support other blogs.  Obviously I enjoy learning new things about our hobby and seeing how different people collect.  But it also has to do with returning the favor.  I truly appreciate people taking the time to read my posts and leaving me comments.  The least I can do is reciprocate.  If I had to pick my favorite aspect of blogging, it’d be the interaction among all of us… most of which takes place within the comment section of our blogs.

[Ryan] Well, I for one am appreciative of the time you’ve taken with the hobby and it is one of the reasons I enjoy doing these interviews as it is these interactions which make this hobby so fun.

[Ryan] The readers and I get a glimpse into your school life and I imagine being a teacher you have to keep your desk and classroom to some sort of school standard.  How about at home...if I walked into your house right now, what would I see in terms of your card and memorabilia collection?  Proudly displayed, OCD organized in binders & plastic bins neatly labeled, controlled chaos.......?

[Fuji] Oh man.  Right now my office looks like a tornado hit it.  I recently purchased a collection from a friend, plus I just bought a huge box of cards at the flea market, so there are cards literally everywhere.
However… normally… I’m pretty organized.  I do have a binder system in place for most of my lower end stuff.  There are two bookshelves dedicated to housing those binders along with a few shelves worth of Star Wars collectibles.  There are five or six floating shelves scattered around my room that display SLU’s, bobble heads, and other kinds of memorabilia.

The bulk of my lower end team collections are stored in 5,000ct. boxes along with base cards for sets I’m currently trying to build.  As for the rest of my collection, I have stuff scattered all over the place.  I have about fifteen bankers boxes filled with random pieces of sports memorabilia sitting in my parent’s garage.  Plus I have a buddy who lets me store stuff at his place as well.
One day, I’ll gather everything together and spend a month or two organizing and cataloging the collection.  Unfortunately… this won’t happen anytime soon.

[Ryan] I’m sure when that time comes, the readers are in for some great blog series as you possibly rediscover stuff in your collection!  I can see it now, “The Compiling of Fuji” or “Fuji’s Grand Marshalling”.

[Ryan] We just saw a very active and popular blogger, Matt over at Bob Walk the Plank, announce his blogger retirement.  Over the past 8 years, I imagine you have seen your fair share other bloggers come and go.  Any advice or things you've learned to convince current bloggers from leaving, and to entice any new folks that are thinking about starting their own blog?

[Fuji] I’m not sure if I’d want to convince a blogger to stick around if they’re not into it.  I’m sure there are a variety of factors involved when making the decision to take a break or call it quits.  I’ve actually thought about hanging things up myself.

Personally… I feel like the most important thing for me is to enjoy what I’m doing.  Running my blog has never come easy to me, but 90% of the time I’m having a blast writing about things that interest me.
So I guess… I’ll say the same thing I tell my students each and every year.  Whatever you decide to do… try to find something you enjoy, so that you’ll be willing to put your best foot forward.

[Ryan] For sure…it has to be fun!  You have gone all out with The Chronicles of Fuji giving it a very fun and nostalgic feel to definitely sparks emotions of the good ol' days of the 1980s and 1990s which I can see you are very passionate about.  Arguably, the hobby is going to have to do something different as fewer and fewer young kids are getting into the hobby these days.  In what direction would you like to see the hobby move so, 25 years from now, future bloggers will have the same fond memories of the year 2018?

[Fuji] Great question.  I’d like to see card companies cut back on the number of products produced each year.  I feel like they (the card companies) realize less and less kids are collecting cards, so they’re trying to capitalize on current collectors as much as they can by flooding our hobby with whatever is the latest trend.  Aaron Judge is the first example that pops into my head.  Topps knew that collectors and baseball fans wanted to pull Judge rookie cards last year, so they decided to create 50 to 100 different rookie cards.   Personally… I feel like that was ridiculous.  I can’t envision any scenario where “flooding our hobby” is a good thing for the future.
I also feel that by cutting back on the number of products, card companies can spend more time on developing quality cards for collectors to chase.  I think it’s really sad that there are so many “lame” insert cards out there that are practically worthless.

[Ryan] I’m with you!  I got out of the hobby in 1994 because of too many products out there.  I read an old Tuff Stuff article from the July 1993 issue.  Zachary Reid argues that chasing insert cards is good news for the short term, but in the long run it could be troublesome.  He summarizes, the roots of the hobby are with set collectors and they should be the focus as they will stick around through the slumps.  I have a feeling the hobby is going to have to pay the piper here soon with puking out way too many inserts and chase cards.  What are your thoughts on this 25-year old argument?

[Fuji] I’d have to say that Mr. Reid was dead on.  The hobby has already crashed since that article was posted.  Has it bounced back?  Sure… to some extent.  But most 90’s insert sets have never recovered.  And this time around it’s much worse.  Today… a huge percentage of the inserts you pull out of current products can be found in dime boxes and quarter bins a month after its release.
I’m an insert guy.  I have approximately 20 binders filled with inserts and parallels of guys I collect.  Overproduction allows me to fill those binders without breaking the bank.  On the flipside, I have a feeling things are gonna be sad when there’s only a handful of collectors who are even interested in them.

[Ryan] I think you hit it spot on.  I think the only way this hobby is going to survive after our generation stops collecting is to focus back on fewer sets with fewer insert cards.

[Ryan] My favorite series on your blog has to be "Flea Market Finds".  The stuff you are able to dig up and purchase makes a lot of us jealous.  What is your go-to series on some of your fellow collectors' blogs?

[Fuji]  Well… I’ll preface my response by saying I love, love, love any Blog Bat Around posts.  I realize that this isn’t necessarily a regular “series” on someone’s blog, but it’s always fun to see bloggers take one topic and reply from a variety of angles.

Okay… getting back to your question… here are some of my favorite blog series (in no particular order):
1.  Dime Box Nick’s Top Five posts
2.  GCA’s Card Room Renovations
3.  Sport Card Collectors’ Sets of My Childhood
4.  A Penny Sleeve For Your Thought’s Tales from the Thrift Store
5.  Night Owl’s Cardboard Appreciation
6.  The Shlabotnik Reports’ Which 3 Players Would You Pick (for the 1964 Topps Giants)
7.  Shoebox Legends’ Buyback Frankenset
8.  The Snorting Bull’s Friday Five
9.  The Collector’s Sports Card Tour
10.  Night Owl’s Best Set of the Year
11.  Pack War’s Monday Question Day
12.  Cardboard History’s Error Gallery

Plus… I can’t wait to read future blogger interviews on Japanese Sumo Wrestling Cards and Menko

[Ryan] That is quite a list!  I’m hoping these interviews maintain their popularity too.

[Ryan] Let’s talk Japanese stuff for a minute.  I'm also a Japanese card collector at heart which is why I am really drawn to your blog and collection.  How do you see the Japanese portion of your collection evolving?  Is it getting overshadowed by other parts of your collection, or do you balance its growth pretty well?

[Fuji] I absolutely love my Japanese card collection.  I’ve said it before… I grew up being a banana and didn’t really embrace my heritage until my early 30’s.  This part of my collection helps me learn new things about a culture I should have learned about years ago.

Compared to other collections, I’d say it holds its own.  I’m constantly on the lookout for new Ichiro and Hideo Nomo cards.  Plus, I can’t get enough BBM and Calbee cards.
But without a doubt, I can say that the bulk of this particular PC has come from fellow bloggers like you, Ryan (This Card Is Cool), Christopher (The Raz Card Blog), and Kenny (Torren’ Up Cards).

[Ryan] Ichiro is one reason I really got excited about collecting Japanese cards again  When is your next trip to Japan, and what do you/would you consider the ideal sports card man trip across Japan?  If you had two weeks to focus solely on sports and sports cards while you were there, how would you spend it?

[Fuji]  Well… my next trip will actually be my first trip.  And I’m not exactly sure if I’ll ever actually make it out there.  I’ve been battling anxiety the past few years and one of my issues is confined spaces like airplanes.  I’ve been working on the issue by taking short flights to Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Portland.  But I’m not sure about being stuck on a plane for 10+ hours.
However… if and when I do overcome that issue… I would love to visit a few card shops and buy a bunch of cards while I was there.  However… my trip to Japan would actually focus mostly on the history and seeing famous landmarks.  Oh… and I’d make sure to plan on attending at least a few baseball games.

[Ryan] I’m rooting for a positive outcome with the anxiety and I really hope you get to experience it!

[Ryan] Okay, are you ready for a tough question?  If you could make a living in the sports card world, would you give up teaching?

[Fuji]  I realize that I might sound crazy… but this question was one of the easier ones in this interview.
No way.  Sports cards are awesome and definitely help me cope with my OCD issues.  However… it’s purely a hobby for me.  My number one passion is being an educator.
Let me see if I can put things into perspective.  I’ve pulled some amazing cards from packs and have received thousands of generous pieces of cardboard over the years.  They have definitely brought a smile to my face on countless occasions.  But not even my 1956 Topps Jackie Robinson can make my heart melt like when a current or former student takes the time to say “thank you”.

[Ryan] **applause** Thanks for tackling truly a tough profession!

[Ryan] I’ve noticed some brilliant witticism that I think is honed after years and years of interaction with students.  It has bleed into your blog perfectly.  But, how do you come up with the titles for your blog entries?  They are perfectly they just come to you or do you have a running list to pull from?  They seem to revolve around music too, which seems to be an important part of your life.

[Fuji]  Sometimes they just pop into my head.  Other times I spend twenty minutes thinking of a title.  Music definitely plays a big role in my life… and has stirred up a blog post on a few occasions.  It’d be nice to have a running list of blog titles, but unfortunately… I don’t have one at the time.

[Ryan] A two-fold question.  Can you summarize your current collection in 10 words or less and where do you see the next chapter of your "Chronicles" taking you in the collecting world?

[Fuji] Part 1:  My current collection is very diverse.

Part 2:  It seems like I’ve been going back and forth on my next chapter for years.  I definitely want to eventually narrow down my collection at some point, while hopefully maintaining this blog.  But like I said… this has been something on my mind for years.  I’ll take it one day at a time for now and presently… I don’t intend on making any major changes to my blog or collection anytime soon.

[Ryan] Alright, we better wrap up this interview, do you have any parting shots or comments you want to shoot out to the readers?

[Fuji]  I would like to say thank you to anyone who has taken the time to read any of my posts.  Like I mentioned earlier… I love the interaction among our family of bloggers.
And a special thanks to you.  Not only have you added hundreds of cool collectibles to my collection over the years, you’ve also taught me a bunch of cool things regarding the sport of sumo wrestling and Japanese trading cards.  Domo arigato… and sayonara.

I'd like to offer the chance to ask any further questions for Fuji in the comment section below.  Thanks!

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Trade Post - Australian Rugby Cards via Indonesia

One of the cool things that I love about this community is the people I get to meet.  Through my sumo blog, I met an Aussie collector (Karl) working down in Indonesia.  He has been helping me work on the Japanese Sumo Wrestling Trump (Playing Card) sets where I am trying to catalog all of them from 1975 to current.  We've traded a few items back and forth and the latest items I am the recipient of are 4 packs of 2018 National Rugby League Traders.  I know very little about rugby, but am excited to have these cards and am hoping to learn more.  I have since come to learn that there are two types of rule sets for Rugby: League and Union.  With respect to this set, there are a whole host of inserts in these 10-card packs.  A quick search of eBay also shows a cool album I may have to snag.  I'm going to open two packs, and keep the other two sealed for the future.  Let's see what I get:

Pack #1:

8 Base Cards: 36, 53, 62, 71, 86, 94, 116, 127
Pearl Special (1 per pack): #86 Michael Morgan
Faces of the Game (1 per 3 packs): #37 Daniel Alvaro

I scanned the two inserts, the knights checklist, and the Robbie Farah card.  Robbie is 34 years old...hard to believe in rugby at least from my perspective.

Pack #2:

8 Base Cards: 19, 24, 50, 108, 111, 138, 143, 160
Pearl Special (1 per pack): #63 Jesse Bromwich
Startoons (1 per 18 packs): #7 Dylan Walker

The Startoons is a clear card with only the image of Dylan opaque although the scan doesn't do it justice!

Thanks so much Karl!

Does anyone else collect rugby cards?

Monday, July 2, 2018

1977 Sportscaster Card - Sumo Wrestling

These 1977-1979 Sportscaster cards have always been fascinating to me.  A bit oversized for sure, but the variety of sports has been very intriguing.  They even managed to make a sumo wrestling one, although I am uncertain who the Yokozuna is.  Probably Wajima or Mienoumi.  What is even more interesting is they printed these cards in both Italy and Japan.  I own the Italian version and only recently picked up the Japanese version and am waiting on shipping.  There are a good handful of "foreign" sets (cards made outside of Japan) that have sumo wrestlers depicted and I plan on cataloguing all the ones I know about under a new "Foreign" heading in my book.

Is anyone else collecting these Sportscaster cards?