Wednesday, August 29, 2018

The Wakanohana Story: Devil of the Dohyo - 1956 Sumo Wrestling Menko Cards

These are definitely a first for sumo wrestling menko cards.  Up until now, I have never discovered any promotional items for sumo wrestling movies.  There certainly have been a few for TV shows, but this is the first movie one.  In 1956, the Nikatsu Company released a movie base on the true story of Wakanohana's life.  The title of the movie was called "The Wakanohana Story - Devil of the Dohyo". At this point in Wakanohana's career he had just been promoted to Ozeki, but was well on his way to Yokozuna.  He was by far the most popular wrestler of the time with his skill, speed, and good looks.  People were eating up anything and everything made or printed about Wakanohana.  M-series menko had reached their popularity peak in 1956 so it made sense that this medium would be used to promote the movie.  There were two menko cards made for promotional events and are shown below.  Wakanohana was promoted to Yokozuna in 1958 and retired in 1962 with a changing the guard to sumo's new hero, the great Taiho.  He eventually headed the Sumo Association from 1988-1992 and passed away in 2010.


Monday, August 27, 2018

Meet Tony Montgomery - Fellow-Card-Collector Interview #3

What do Alabama and sumo wrestling have in common?  Tony Montgomery is the answer!  A long-time contact sport fan who recently picked up watching sumo wrestling and collecting sumo cards was gracious enough to allow me a few questions to get to know him a little better.  He and I met in Facebook's BBM Sumo Card Collectors group.  Being a new English-speaking sumo wrestling card collector can be intimidating, but Tony has jumped right in and established himself as a collector of all things Tochinoshin.  I appreciate you tuning in and I hope you enjoy this interview!

[Ryan] Hi Tony, thanks for being my guest on this episode of “Fellow Card Collector”.  You are a fairly new sumo fan and sumo card collector….unfortunately we met each other online about 6 months after I left the Alabama area where we lived only about 20 miles from each other.  I don’t imagine there are many other sumo enthusiasts in Alabama.
[Tony] What’s going on! Thanks for having me on here! Wow that is crazy, too bad we didn’t get to meet. I am super new…like March Basho new!  You know there are not any [in Alabama] that I know of to be honest. Everyone I have mentioned Sumo to just kind of looks at me strange.

[Ryan] Wow, that is really new.  So, you’ve only really experienced the full May and July tournaments so far.  Great, welcome to the world of sumo.  You’ll get used to the awkwardness pretty quickly when the topic changes to sumo in your daily conversations.  Ha.  Let’s start off by talking about how you got interested in sumo and your new passion for sumo cards.
[Tony] Well….I’m a huge fan of contact sports. My son is an amateur boxer and I am always watching fight videos on YouTube. And with YouTube when you watch a video it tracks your interest and recommends other videos. Well about 2 or 3 days into the March basho one of my recommendations was the NHK highlight video for that day. I almost thumbed past it but something said click it and watch. I was hooked! I saw Tochinoshin on there looking like a beast! And honestly, I was just really so impressed with all the guys. I have always been a fan of Asian culture and history so I could appreciate the traditions and rules they followed. Now I had the same consensus most non-sumo fans have that these guys were just fat out of shape guys…...Boy was I wrong! I fell in love from then on.
Now I have to say as a general rule about me is when I like something I go into it 1000%. Once I googled Sumo and started reading on it and searched YouTube for more videos. Well that brought me to a guy on there who did a box break of some sumo cards. When I saw that I got stoked! I had to find them. That in turn lead me to search Facebook and I found the page. The rest is history!

[Ryan] I can tell from your posts and card pickups you are really passionate about sumo and cards.  Did you collect cards in the past?
[Tony] Actually yes I did. I used to collect baseball and football cards as a kid. I still have my album of over a 100 Jose Canseco cards from his rookie cards all the way through his career. He was my favorite player as a kid. I used to have thousands of cards and out of all those the only ones left from my childhood are the album of Canseco cards. Since then I have bought some specific cards here and there of players I like...such as Amari Cooper , Derek Carr and a few others. I’m a Alabama fan and a Raider fan.
[Ryan] I thought so since you have that collector's mentality and passion.  What was running through your mind on Sunday, March 22, 2018 when you requested to join the “Sumo Card Collectors Group” on Facebook?
[Tony] I was just so excited to find a page where I could possibly meet people and talk about this and hopefully find out more about obtaining my own sumo cards. I am so happy I joined. You and the guys on the page Paul, Volker, Gernot & Paco and all the others have been so cool and answered any questions I had and have treated me so awesome! Best group of guys I could have asked for to teach me about the sport.

[Ryan] The group has been really great to interact with and we glad you joined.  People from all over the world really focused on sumo cards and helping to promote the hobby.  It is not often we get many new English-speaking sumo card collectors and especially not one with such passion as you have shown.  When you jumped into the sumo card collecting hobby, did you have any expectations of what there would be?  Now that you have been here a while, are there any surprises or disappointments with the state-of-the-hobby or state-of-the-industry?
[Tony] You know I don’t think I had any expectations aside from I knew I would go full in haha! I guess maybe I expected the cards to be more accessible online. You really have to put in some work to get these. I use translator apps and lots of questions to you guys to help guide me to what I’m looking for. Now that I have gotten a small collection myself I have to say I’m a little disappointed it's not marketed at all really here in the States. I mean I know it's not a sport really watched as much here, but I think if it were on ESPN or something it would catch on! I mean if people watch UFC and Boxing here they could appreciate this sport. And I guess the only other thing would be the scarcity of the block of cards from the 2000’s. That makes it tough on a budget collector like myself.

[Ryan] I think you hit the nail on the head, the inaccessibility of the hobby outside of Japan has limited the collectors.  But it definitely takes passion and dedication to grow a sumo card collection for sure.  Speaking of growing a collection, the May 2018 tournament coincided with the release of the 2018 Baseball Magazine (BBM) Rikishi Sumo Set which I personally thought was a sharp looking set.  How was it opening your box of these?  Highs, lows, praises, disappointments?
[Tony] Wow, I was so excited to get my box! I literally watched my app weekly to make sure my order went through and anticipated their arrival so much! When they finally got here I was so excited I shot a video opening the packs on my YouTube. I really wanted to get one of the autographed inserts so I can’t say I wasn’t a little disappointed when I didn’t get one. But I almost came out with a full set and with our excellent trading system we have on the Facebook page it took no time to complete my first set. Getting my first Tochinoshin card was one of my highlights of the box even if it was a common.

[Ryan] For sure and it’s no secret that Tochinoshin is your favorite rikishi.  This guy is built like Yokozuna Chiyonofuji was if you ever have a chance to go watch some of his bouts when he was younger.  You’ve been able to dig up some really unique stuff of his.  Tell the readers how it has been collecting his cards and memorabilia.
[Tony] The Georgian Beast! This guy is so awesome, for one when I first saw him picking up these 300+ pound guys walking them out of the ring I couldn’t believe it. Like with any sport or hobby you have a favorite, right….well he quickly became my favorite rikishi. So, I started the hunt to find all things Tochinoshin. It started with my cards from that box I opened, then I got the Banzuke when he won his first tournament. Then you were awesome and sent me the banzuke from his very first basho. Those are proudly displayed in my Son’s gym. I guess my prized possession of his is my original Tegata from him. I was going to get a copy of one but I wanted to wait out and get a legit one.

[Ryan] I always say, the time to buy is when you see something you like since you never know if, and when, the stuff will ever come around again.  Where do you see your entire sumo collection going over the next few years?  Do you intend to branch out to other sumo items?
[Tony] I honestly see more and more cards in my future and probably many more banzuke. I hope to get more autographed stuff. Right now, it’s my Tochinoshin Tegata and my Goeido Shikishi. I have a Yukata from the bolt of cloth used for Harumafuji. I also plan to get more of the older Menko cards. I can thank you for that. Those are amazing to look at and the history behind them makes them even more special.

[Ryan] I think you might have found your niche in the English-speak sumo collecting world with your Tochinoshin stuff.  I’m excited to see what you add over the years.  Let’s talk a little bit about how you organize your collection.  I’ve seen pictures of your “man cave” {aka, your son’s gym} with the banzuke on the wall, but how is it with the card piece of your collection?
[Tony] My cards are in a binder organized by the set. I like to keep them in as much order as possible. I have bought some partial sets from the Facebook page and been gifted some cards so I am filling up the binder fast.

[Ryan] You know, I never used to really focus on the BBM stuff until just a few years ago.  I really regret not diving in fully committed years ago….who knows, I might not have this big, empty hole where all the early 2000 BBM sets go.  You’ll find yourself filling up your collection fast, though.   What’s it like having the largest sumo memorabilia collection in the State of Alabama?  Ha.  Actually, how has it been promoting the sport and describing your collection to non-sumo fans?
[Tony] HAHA. Right?! Well I have tried talking to a lot of people about the sport including but not limited to… wife and kids who know Tochinoshin and Hakuho now haha. My grandparents, my co-workers, friends….Really anyone who will listen. I tend to get weird looks and the typical fat guys dancing jokes, but that’s their loss!

[Ryan] Hang in there, hopefully they’ll understand someday!  You’ve talked a bit about going to Japan someday.  Describe a little bit about your dream vacation there and which tournament would you like the trip to center around.
[Tony] My son and I are the travelers.  We’re the only two who will step foot on a plane so we make the long trips. We just went to New York for his graduation present and loved it. So we both love Japan and want to make the trip. He is a HUGE Godzilla fan so he wants to go to Tokyo and I love the way it looks so I would say that would probably be our destination. It’s really pricey but we do plan to make it there one day. I am also a big Transformers fan so getting some actual Japanese transformers would be awesome! Oh and to see the Bonsai gardens. I am a novice bonsai grower so to see the masters’ creations would be amazing.

[Ryan] I can see how your hobbies have circled around Japan and sumo for some time.  It was only a matter of time before you fell into the black home of sumo fandom.  I guess we have to thank YouTube for making the connections!  Ha!  Yes, you will absolutely love Japan I am sure.  It is pricey, but easy to do on a budget as well.  Wow, you have quite the interests, don’t you collect certain types of coins as well?
[Tony] Actually I do! I collect all types of coins. I have the Dansco archive albums for all of the US currency that I am filling. I have almost completed all of the quarters and pennies from their start and most of the Dimes and Nickels. Well, starting with the 1908 wheat penny to current day and starting from the 1932 Washington quarters to current day. Washington is my favorite president so I have some old civil war tokens with his face on them from the 1800’s and lots of other stuff. I also collect foreign currency and old colonial coins to Spanish shipwreck coppers. My oldest coin would be a widow’s mite that circulated the earth around 106-86 BC on up to the times Jesus walked the earth. I hope it’s something I can one day give to my grandkids. And I’m a huge fan of history so most of my collection were circulating around huge moments in world history. So it’s exciting to know these things saw that happen. I always like to say if a coin could talk the stories would be amazing.
[Ryan] Holy cow, a coin that old??!  That is insane.  This coin collection of yours sounds amazing.  I imagine your sumo card collection is going to look similar to that someday.  With that, we are getting close to BBM announcing the last set of the year that will include sumo cards in it.  Give us your thoughts on what they should do.  How would you design and construct the ideal sumo set for Fall of 2018?
[Tony] Oh wow that’s hard to say… I guess one thing I would like to see is maybe more inserts or some cards with match used items or relics like they do for all the other sports cards. It would be amazing to get a card with a piece of a retired Yokozuna’s top knot or a piece of the mawashi or maybe even part of a Gyoji’s Gunbai. (Which is something I would love to get for my collection) I guess more things like that..the cards themselves look great. The designs are awesome I just think the scarcity of inserts like autographs are really the only thing I would change. We pay a hefty price for a box with the hopes of pulling a autograph where we could honestly wait and spend about 35-40 dollars and buy the actual complete set on the Yahoo Japan auctions. But it’s the thrill of not knowing what you’re getting that makes buying these boxes fun. So I think they should maybe have a rule like some of the baseball sets now that included in every full box is at least one relic or autographed card.

[Ryan] Good point.  I'd like to see the one autograph per box as well.  Maybe someday we can band together and give some feedback.  Okay, let’s wrap this up and get it out to the readers.  Thanks a bunch for taking the time to do the interview and I’m excited to watch your collection grow.

[Tony] Thank you so much for choosing me as one of your guests on “Fellow Card Collector”. It was really fun answering the questions. I look forward to more talks about the upcoming tournaments for the years to come with all you guys on the Facebook page and especially collecting the cards and memorabilia.

I'd like to offer up the chance to ask any questions below.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

What's wrong with these Brandon Laird Bowman Chrome Cards? - Come on Topps!

The interns were at it again at Bowman.  Maybe this is a known problem or this has been discovered before with these 2008 and 2011 Brandon Laird cards, but can anyone tell me what is wrong with the 2011 card?  5 free packs of Japanese baseball/basketball for the first correct answer.  Come on Topps!

Brandon is in his 4th year with the Nippon Ham Fighters over in Japan and is doing a fairly well with the team through the 3/4 of the season mark.  It'll be interesting to see what he does as I believe his contract extension is up at the end of this season.

Monday, August 20, 2018

1956 Sumo Wrestling Karuta Beauty - Like 1953 Topps!

It is not everyday that I get excited about new sumo wrestling sets.  For sure I see my fair share of new stuff and love to catalog it all, but rarely does a set stand out as something unique and outright beautiful.  The majority of the sumo menko and card sets use stock images to create the cards, while others use decent drawings to create the cards.  Not this set, these are some high quality, hand-drawn pictures of the actual wresters that they eventually printed on the cards.  What am I talking about?  The K562 1962 Sports Karuta set in fact.  Here are some images to prove that I am not lying.

This is actually a karuta set, although it doesn't have your typical hiragana/katakana letter on the front.  There are corresponding reader cards, but not in the auction I picked up.  This set likely came in a magazine from 1956 as there are perforations and cut lines on the cards indicating the intent for a kid to cut them out of the magazine.  There are 29 cards in the set including these 6 sumo wrestlers, 14 baseball players, 4 pro wrestlers, 2 boxers, 1 swimmer, 1 marathon runner, and 1 judo fighter.  All of them are equally amazing in terms of image quality.  They measure approximately 2.0" x 2.5", but I am not sure of the real intended dimensions as the set I picked up is somewhat hacked....but I love it since it shows that some kid back in the day actually held these and cherished them as well.

Kind of reminds you of the 1953 Topps Baseball set, right?

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

2017 Japanese BBM Special Event Signed Sumo Wrestling Card - Tochinoshin

It's nice to be back on the grid again with internet.  It took the better part of three weeks to arrange for the repair guy to get out here and exchange our modem with a functioning one, but here we are.  Trying to post anything on my iPhone is frustrating so I held out until I could get back in front of a computer and scanner.  I'm not sure I was too missed, but I sure missed posting.

This summer has been busy with sumo card pickups with a variety of unique and fun items I am hoping to share at some point.  One interesting discovery has been these gold-signed BBM Event Cards.  BBM has promotions around the country (Japan) for its new releases and some of the prizes for the sumo events are these gold-signed cards.  All of them are signed with a gold Sharpie and then embossed with an authentic BBM raised seal.  The scan below doesn't pick up the seal well, but what is really interesting is these are on-card autographs, while the regular signed cards in BBM boxes are sticker autographs.  These are much cooler and unique in my mind than the regular issues.  Here is then-Maegashira Tochinoshin's 2017 Regular Issue card with his auto across the front.

According to BBM's Event Website, if you spent 500 yen at a participating store event, you would be eligible for a kuji drawing, or lottery drawing.  Basically an instant win chance.  If you happened to pull the #1 prize, normally you'd get a box of cards.  A 2nd place prize are these signed cards and a 3rd place pull garnered you 10 free packs of cards.

They do these events for all the BBM releases and so you'll see baseball, soccer, boxing, etc...  I can't image there are more than a handful of cards for each wrestler making these a fun collectible to chase.  Look for the gold ink and raised seal to know they are authentic.

Cheers and have a great week!