Monday, December 30, 2019

2019 Year in Review

Here we are seemed just like yesterday that I was writing this blog's 2018 year in review and now in a blink of an eye 2019 is almost over.  It was quite a year with some international travel, a big move, and a new job.  Here is hoping 2020 bring as much excitement as 2019 did.  Let's see how I did with my 2019 collecting goals.  Over the past two years, here is how I faired:

2017 Overall Grade = B
2018 Overall Grade = A-
This year I set out to accomplish 12 collecting and hobby goals.  I knew it was ambitious, but I thought most of them could be easily achievable....I wanted my trophies and to get my "A" grade.
Goal #1: Finish Editing and Print the 5th Edition of my Sumo Menko and Card Checklist Book -  Grade "D"
- I really thought I was going to be able to knock this goal out of the park, but the workload of my job prevented me from putting forth a valiant effort here.  Plus it seemed like every time I turned the corner I was getting new sets to catalog and the backlog of unchecklisted sets grew.  I did make a dent in editing, but I still have a large dent that I need to conquer before it is ready for print.  This goal will carry over to next year for sure.  Not a complete failure since I did get some stuff done, but below average for sure. 
Goal #2: Update this Blog's Content and Publish 75 Posts - Grade "D"
- This goal kicked me in the butt as well.  I was on the correct glide path to make 75 posts, but could never get in a rhythm the second half of the year.  It'll be pure luck if I can land 61 posts for 2019.  I had planned on publishing 6 times a month, but that quickly got derailed once we moved.  Plus, I never got around to editing the material in this blog to spice it up and make it more user friendly.  I did add some additional sections to the blog and felt like I kept it somewhat clean so, again, not a complete failure, but below average for what I had planned.
Goal #3: Add 5 New Cars to my 1973 Calbee Set - Grade "A"
- I made a "serious" dent in this set this year and was able to add 5 cards to the most expensive sumo set out there.  This set will cost the average collector at least $3000 to complete and cards rarely come up for under $100 per card.  I am now sitting at 13 cards...a whopping 36% complete.  The more expensive cards are the second half of the #19-#36.  Scored an "A" here...I'll drink to that!

Goal #4: Expand the Checklists for Sumo Wrestling Telephone Cards - Grade "C"
- I was able to make a small dent in this and was even able to card out a section in my book for this new CT series of cards.  However, prices continued to detract me from being a serious telephone card collector.  At an average of $15 per card, these cards couldn't tempt me to pull the trigger all that often.  Although unique, I doubt I will be able to expand the checklists much over the next few years even though this is an underappreciated genre of card collecting.  Considering how huge the telephone card craze was in Japan in the 1980s and 1990s, these cards still carry cost premiums that don't make sense for my pocketbook.
Goal #5: Expand the Event-Signed BBM Sumo Card Checklist - Grade "A"
- I'm not going to lie, I "cheated" here.  A fellow sumo card collector, Paul, has done almost all the legwork.  Once we figured out where these cards were getting printed, signed, and distributed, Paul was a hound dog in trying to compile the checklist.  As I mentioned before, I can't believe that BBM can produce these really awesome event cards, yet use sticker autos for their main BBM releases.  These gold ink versions with embossed seals are really sharp.  Paul will get all the credit in my book for compiling the checklist, but we now have captured the information for posterity!

Goal #6: Earn 1000 points on the Trading Card Database - Add BBM Sumo Wrestling Checklists - Grade "D"
- Gah, I thought this one would be easy, but it was hard to find the time to scan and get things organized.  I'm at 674 points...not much progress was made this year....but I did make some progress so not a complete failure.  I feel like this could be a worthy goal in 2020, but we'll see.  I do have some ideas to boost my numbers as I'd really like to get to the 1000 point mark and attain Level 7 which I think would open the door for me on expanding checklists.

 Goal #7: Start a YouTube Channel with BBM Card Box Breaks - Grade "A+"
- I really had fun with this one and I hope to get back into the swing of making videos.  Before we moved back to the United States, I was able to publish several of these videos a month.  Now I haven't touched the recording equipment in months although I do have the setup all ready to go in my house.  Maybe I'll make a video or two over the holiday break.  Checkout my SumoMenkoMan channel.  Hopefully I can restart adding new content sooner than later.
See the source image
Goal #8: Add 5 New Sumo World Magazines to my Collection - Grade "A+"
- Boom, nailed this one.  I am down to needing only 28 more magazines to have the complete run from 1973-1999.  Plus I was able to add more post-2000 magazines although I am not focusing on those and only picking them up if they happen to be a good price.  These are pieces of sumo history that shouldn't be forgotten....and they are definitely fun to read....although really hard to come by on the secondary market!
Goal #9: Finish my Yamakatsu Bruce Lee Series 1 Set, and Add 5 More Cards to Series 2 & 3 Sets - Grade "A+"
- I did it!  I finally finished my 48-card Series 1 set and am down to the final 9 cards for Series 2 and 32 cards for Series 3.  I was able to pick up handfuls here and there so felt really good about this goal.  I didn't think I was actually going to knock this one out, but splurged a little and slightly overpaid for the last two cards.  Oh well, it is complete and now I can sit back and enjoy it while I whittle away at Series 2.  Bruce Lee is no joke and you never finish collecting until Chuck Norris tells you to stop. 
Goal 10: Maintain Google/Yahoo/Bing Search Engine Rankings for Sumo Card(s) Menko - Grade "B+"
- This one was a really fun on to go back and see how the search engines adjusted to my blog and blog traffic.  Last year's rankings are in brackets [ ].  Stayed #1 on Yahoo and improved on Bing, but lost ground on Google. 
Sumo Card: Bing #2 [#7], Google #6 [#9], Yahoo #1 [#1]
Sumo Cards: Bing #2 [#2], Google #4 [#2], Yahoo #1 [#1]
Sumo Menko: Bing #1 [#2], Google #1 [#1], Yahoo #1 [#1]
Sumo Wrestling Card: Bing #1 [ #2], Google #3 [#1], Yahoo #1 [#1]
Sumo Wrestling Cards: Bing #1 [#1], Google #2 [#1], Yahoo #1 [#1]
 See the source imageSee the source image
Goal 11: Add Additional Cards to my Brandon Laird and Yuta Tabuse Player Collections - Grade "A"
- Thanks to Fuji and eBay, I was able to beef up my two player collections, although these days it is hard to find any new Laird cards except for Japanese ones, but the Tabuse cards are still pretty plentiful.  Laird did rather well with his new team, Chiba Lotte Marines, and led his team in homers.  Tabuse is still with the Tochigi Brex and leading the East Division.  The season is halfway over and the next season of BBM B.League cards will soon arrive at my doorstep.  I think if I would have added a small handful more of these, I would have reached the A+ pinnacle.  Whoop!
See the source image

 Goal 12: Add 10 additional Cards to my Airport Trading Card Collection - Grade "A+"
- Last year around this time there were about 125 known cards in the master set of Airport Trading Cards.  As of right now, there are 153 known cards and I am now down to needing only 14 more.  Every year the checklist expands, but I manage to hold my own.....some of the older cards are almost impossible to find no doubt.  I'm not sure I will ever be able to collect them all, but who knows!
There you have it.  With some solid "A" grades and some significant "D" grades I feel like I earned an overall Grade of "B" in 2019!  Not bad.  Had I knocked out some of my higher goals this would have pushed up into the B+ range...maybe even A-.  Oh well, there is always next year for sure.
2019 Overall Grade = B

Friday, December 27, 2019

For the love of Japanese Baseball & Sumo Wrestling Cards - Z591 & JBR60

Japanese baseball and sumo wrestling have shared some common history.  Athletes from both sports often intermingle with each other.  Sumo wrestlers get to throw out the first pitch at games and baseball players will sometime swing by the sumo stables to eat with the top wrestlers.  In 1959, sumo and baseball were at equal pinnacles with strong Yokozuna and the emergence of baseball stars like Nagashima and Oh.  This transcended to cards as well as shown here.  Issued in the January 1959 Omoshiro Book (おもしブック), these two sheets of cards contained 16 sumo wrestlers and 16 baseball players.  When cut, each card measures approximately 1 5/8" x 2 1/2".  Catalogued as the Z591: 1959 Omoshiro Book Zashi 0 for sumo and the JBR60: 1958/1959 Omoshiro Book set for baseball, these cards are somewhat hard to find....I've only seen three sets in close to 20 years.  Here is the checklist for both sets:

Sumo Wrestling
  • Yokozuna Chiyonoyama
  • Yokozuna Tochinishiki
  • Yokozuna Wakanohana
  • Ozeki Matsunobori
  • Ozeki Asashio
  • Ozeki Kotogahama
  • Sekiwake Wakahaguro
  • Sekiwake Shinobuyama
  • Komusubi Tokitsuyama
  • Komusubi Tamanoumi
  • Maegashira Dewaminato
  • Maegashira Annenyama
  • Maegashira Naruyama
  • Maegashira Wakachichibu
  • Cartoon Rikishi - Yokozuna Gokurou

  • Yoshio Anabuki
  • Shigeru Fujio
  • Tatsuro Hirooka
  • Kazuhisa Inao
  • Kazuo Kageyama
  • Shigeo Nagashima
  • Futoshi Nakanishi
  • Teruo Namiki
  • Katsuya Nomura
  • Hiroshi Oshita
  • Tadashi Sugiura
  • Kenjiro Tamiya
  • Tasumitsu Toyoda
  • Shozo Watanabe
  • Wally Yonamine
  • Yoshio Yoshida

Thanks for stopping by and have an awesome weekend!

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Eye Candy: A601 - 1960 Kabaya Caramel Sumo Wrestling Cards

Japanese candy/gum cards were quite popular back in the 1950s and 1960s and were used as marketing ploys to help entice the young ones to spend their hard-earned yen on the treats and prizes.  Sumo was at a peak in popularity during this time, but there were few types of cards to market the wrestlers.  Menko was past its heyday and bromides were quickly becoming a thing of the past.  Candy and gum cards had a short burst of energy in the late 1950s and early 1960s which happend to capture these current wrestlers of the day.  These paper-thin cards are extremely hard to find and very rarely come up for auction.  I can't imagine there are many still out there as the thin paper is easily damaged and many were likely thrown out by uninspired collectors.  I have seen less than 10 of these in about 20 years lending some credence to their rarity.  These three happen to be of some of the lower-ranked wrestlers, but I can imagine any of the top wrestlers of the day would command a premium.

Here is a metal box that distributors would have sold to candy shops which would have contained the smaller candy boxes.

I hope everyone has a wonder Christmas!  Cheers!

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Right Place, Right Time - Panini Kimmidoll Craze!

Sometimes it is better to be lucky than good.  Not sure who coined that phrase, but it definitely applied to my adventures in card collecting in Europe.  Earlier this year, we happened to be working our way through Spain on vacation and I picked up some interesting Panini cards featuring Kimmidolls.  As a card collector, I knew I had to have them and then figure them out later.  Turns out, there was a craze that was running (arguably it still is happening) with these neat little dolls inspired by Japanese kokeshi dolls and Panini produced a 108-card set of these Kimmidoll photo cards for the European market.  In fact, these cards weren't for sale in the United States and only sold in Spain and Portugal.  By the time I found these, there were a good handful of YouTube videos up of Spanish/Portuguese collectors opening packs.

These photo cards are rather large (4" x 6") so collecting them can be somewhat cumbersome I suppose.  Ultimately, I ended up buying a few unopened boxes online as well as the album to hold the cards this summer.  I went back and checked a few moments ago and there are none of these photo cards for sale anywhere that I could find (ebay, Amazon) least not the unopened box/pack products.  Panini International does have the option to buy these online as single cards to fill the holes in your collection, but the secondary market seems to have dried up or the craze is over.

The cards themselves are pretty cool.  The artwork is amazing and the print quality is top notch.  Although you can't tell from the scans, the actual doll has a glossy sheen to it while the rest of the card is this matte finish which gives it that matte photo look.  The back has a write-up in Spanish on the qualities of that particular Kimmidoll.  The official Kimmidoll website has all the kimmidolls listed as well as their qualities.  For example, my favorite of the pack I opened (see below) was Yoriko.  I went to the website and this is what is has listed for her:

My spirits is steady and true.
Your steady nature and trustworthy character reflect my faithful spirit.
May your dependable way bring happiness and purpose to your life every day.
Here are the contents of a pack I just opened up.  What do you think?  Something you'd collect?  Oh well, sometimes it pays to be lucky, rather than good.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Silver Linings - New 1956 Silver Front Sumo Wrestling Set

Work has been busy for me of late and I am finding it harder and harder to spend time on my sumo wrestling card hobby.  When I do, though, I try and maximize my time with cataloguing a set or two before my bedtime is the case with this set.  This set is a new one for me and the first time I have seen this print style on a sumo menko card.  From 1956, this set has a shiny silver printing technique for the front.  It doesn't show well in the scans, but this set uses a black ink printed on this shiny silver paper that is then affixed to a thin piece of cardboard.  The fact that I have only seen these 4 menko cards in all my years of collecting must mean they are extremely rare and it appears very few have survived today.  I only recognize a few of the wrestlers, but some of the photos have been used in other sets.  Right now I am going to catalogue it as the BB5612 Set - 1956 Silver Fronts.  It might be another 20 years before I find any more of these, but I'm glad I can document this little piece of history. 

Saturday, December 7, 2019

It's Different - Z573 Sumo Wrestling Magazine Cards

I am a set completionist and love collecting and cataloguing sumo menko and cards.  It is my passion and goal to continue to build the most comprehensive checklist of Japanese Sumo Menko and Cards out there.  Part of doing that is chasing set variations and trying to decipher why the same set was made differently across its production run.  Much like today's parallel and short-printed cards, variations can be a fun chase to completing master sets.  I recently picked up this Z573 set that was issued inside an unknown magazine in 1957.  Or at least I think it was.....actually before a few weeks ago I would have been dead certain.  Now, I don't know.  The original sheet I had found years and years ago was printed with blue ink.  It looked like the numerous other sets from the 1950s and 1960s that were issued in magazines as free giveaways to entice kids to buy the magazines.  Then I stumbled across this version that was printed with brown ink.  Huh....not something that I have ever seen before with magazine issues.  The print run would have been a day or two on these magazines and then shipped out.  Changing colors midstream would have been odd.  So now it is making me question what I have here.  Regardless, I am now able to add a new type to the Z573 set.  Introducing the Z573-2: 1957 Zashi Type 2 - Brown Ink on Front.

Z573-2: 1957 Zashi Type 2 - Brown Ink on Front
Z573-1: 1957 Zashi Type 1 - Blue Ink on Front
Any thoughts?  Have a great weekend everyone!

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Mystery Solved - 1980s Sumo Wrestling Game

Last week I published a quick post on an unknown sumo wrestling game (相撲ゲーム) that I picked up with unknown contents inside the envelopes.  These would have hung up inside toy/candy shops to entice kids to spend their hard-earned yen on the contents inside.  I posed the question on what is inside of the big reveal. 

It turns out this game is played somewhat like a board game.  Inside each envelope are 30 playing pieces that come on a 2x15-piece perforated sheet.

The back of the envelope was used to keep score over 15 rounds.  It took me a while to realize, but the back of the 2x15-piece sheet is covered in a thick, purple tissue paper that is meant to be torn off.  How you would play would be to tear off two end pieces of the sheet and then randomly chose who gets each piece.  You would then remove the purple tissue paper off the back to reveal your winning (or losing) technique.  If your piece was a winning piece it had a white circle on it...if it was a losing piece, you would get a black circle on your piece.  You had to pull off two at time from the end because so there would always be 1 winner and 1 loser.  Some pieces had a tie and a losing piece which would result in a tie and you would indicate that on the score sheet with two circles, one inside the other.  There were 15 rounds and the winner was the player with the most wins (white circles).

Well, there you go.  I guess the envelope would be the collectible "card" in this instance as it had three of the most popular rikishi of this time.

Thanks for tuning in this week and have a great finish to your weekend!

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Mystery 1980s Sumo Wrestling Game - What is this?

I picked up this display sheet from the early 1980s of an unknown sumo wrestling game.  It has Kintanoumi, Asashio, and I think Wakanohana (thanks Karl) on each of the envelopes.  Each of the wrestlers has 8 envelopes that measure approximately 7" x 2 3/4" with unknown contents inside.  According to the display sheet, each of the envelopes cost 10 yen.  Inside the envelope feels like a card, but I can't be sure.  On the back of the envelope is the tournament score sheet indicating you are supposed to record the wrestler's results over 15 days.  After that, I'm not sure what you do as part of the game.

What do you think/hope/wish is inside?  Without doing any research, reply with your guess below.  I'll open up one or two of the envelopes this week to find out and update this post.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Raw & Uncut: 1946 Two Stripe 3-4 (M462) Sumo Wrestling Menko Sheet

I'm continuing to clear out my backlog of uncut cards that I picked up these past few months and finally was able to catalog this new set.  From 1946, this new set is distinguishable by the two striped poles/lines on the left and right side of the card on the back.  Beautiful hand-drawn pictures of the wrestlers dominate the front against a bright, vivid background.  Likely, these menko that I picked up were from unissued inventory or sat tucked away in the backroom of a dagashiya for all these years.  Regardless, they make a new and interesting addition to the M-series of menko and will be catalogued in the 5th edition of my book.

Some huge names dominate this set from 1946 which featured only 1 tournament that year due to the post-war depression and rebuilding that was occurring in Japan.  The great Yokozuna Futabayama had just retired so the current/future Yokozuna, Terukunia, Haguroyama, and Azumafuji, were on their way to dominating the sport over the next 7 years and are aptly captured in this set.

I have only seen this set pop up recently and there continues to be uncut sheets for sale as the seller is trying to clear out his/her inventory. 

I hope everyone has an amazing weekend!

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

The $20 Card Show Challenge

Work has been extremely busy lately and what better way to blow off some steam and stress then to hang out with Fuji over at The Chronicles of Fuji.  I recently moved to SoCal and made it a point to meet Fuji since he has an amazing blog and a captivating writing style.  He managed to make it down last month and I decided I needed to take a trip up north to hang out again last weekend at the Crowne Plaza Hotel Sports Card Show in Sacramento.  After my flight was cancelled into San Jose, I managed to snag a flight into San Francisco and as soon as I landed we were off to the races.  For those that have never met Fuji, he is one of the easiest guys to talk was like we were old friends talking about cards, work, life, cards....and before I knew it we were there.  I didn't have too many expectations before we arrived, but this show definitely was worth the trip.  There were about 20 or so venders that had a nice variety of things and boxes to hunt through.  Fuji reminded me about our $20 challenge where we challenged each other on who could stretch their $20 and come away with the best stuff.  Now I knew Fuji was the king of bargains, but watching him work his magic was amazing.  This guy lives for the hunt and I was in minor league ball compared to him, but let's see what my eyes were drawn to:

Purchase #1: Random Baseball and Astronauts $2.50

The first box is always the harshest as far as value for me, but these cards are headed out in care packages.  The Yaz is creased and miscut and will find a nice home in Fuji's Damaged Card PC.  The other baseball are headed to my brother...the astronauts are for me.

Purchase #2: Two super mint 1990-1991 Fleer Basketball Sets - $2

Heck yeah, these sets were in amazing shape and each was only a buck..I pulled out some of the stars to scan here.  This set is full of stars and HOFers so I couldn't pass them up in this condition.  It looks like they have not seen light of day in 29 years.  Although overproduced, a classic look in my book.

Purchase #3: Mid-1990s Inserts - $5

These Topps Finest Main Attractions scream 1990s...and I couldn't pass up this impossible-to-find-back-in-the-day Beam Team card.

Purchase #4: 1953 Topps Who-Z-At-Star? Cards - $4

I've been working on this set for a while and like to pick these up in lower condition if I can.  Couldn't pass them up, but they dented my budget a bit.

Purchase #5: 1966 Topps Batman Bat Laffs - $3
For those that have not seen the new Joker movie, I think Joaquin Phoenix is in for an Oscar.  Cesar Romero did a decent job as well back in the day!

Purchase #6: 1987 Donruss and Fleer Packs - $5

I am a sucker for 1987s unopened product.  This purchase put me over our $20 limit by $1.50, but it was worth it.  Growing up in a small town out West, we never got Donruss and Fleer at the local stores.  These were rare back in the day so a final nostalgia purchase for me.  Let's see who I came away with after opening 2 of the Donruss and 1 of the Fleer!

Back in the day, these Donruss packs would have been huge hits with Benny and Robin....we also had kids chasing David Cone.  The Fleer was less fruitful, but Todd Worrell was a favorite of my buddy so would have come away with a nice trade.

After the show Fuji and I grabbed our traditional Del Taco and then headed over to Teammates to search around for a few things.

Well there you did I do? 

Looking over at Fuji's post, he is an A-lister...I'm a benchwarmer, but definitely appreciate you stopping by.  Looking forward to the next adventure with Fuji!

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Raw & Uncut: 1946 Kagome Rikishi Down 3-4 (R462) Sumo Wrestling Menko Sheet

1946 was a really slim year for sumo.  Only one tournament was held and most of the rikishi were struggling to transition to the post-war occupation and an environment that wasn't friendly to traditional Japanese sports.  While baseball thrived in Occupied Japan, sumo wrestling floundered and thus, very few sumo menko sets exist from the late 1940s to early 1950s.  This 1946 menko set printed by Kagome was one of those few.  Surprisingly, the only menko I have seen from this set have been in uncut sheets and I recently discovered a full 3-sheet, 21-menko set from this hard to find "rare" release.  And as an extra bonus, I discovered this set comes in at least two types of backs, light blue and dark blue ink.  As you can see the fronts have bold colors and good quality drawings that somewhat resemble the likeness of the rikishi.  Likely this set was printed in early 1947 as it is missing Yokozuna who retired in the 1946 tournament, but the ranks are based on the Aki 1946 Banzuke.

Have an amazing Sunday!

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Raw & Uncut: 1945 Rikishi 5 (R451) Sumo Wrestling Menko Sheet

Well, technically these menko cards have been perforated so are cut a little, but they haven't been popped out of the sheet yet.  This set that I have catalogued as the R451: 1945 Rikishi 5 set is not impossible to find surprisingly...or at least in recent years I have picked up a decent amount and have given it a "Rare" Availability Rating.  However, what makes this menko sheet so unique is not from the fact that they are uncut, but the fact that they are from 1945 and printed a little less than three months after the war officially ended in Japan.  You have heard me talk before about how ravaged the economy of Japan was during the war and for many years after.  Paper was in short supply, food was scarce, and rampant inflation and black markets sprung up all over the country.  Again, the fact that a sheet of these menko were printed and the fact that it still exists is amazing.  This set and sheet, I believe, does give us some clues to the origin.  First, the top of the sheet says "Sample Sumo Menko" which leads me to believe that maybe it survived because it was more of a salesman sample and not intended for sale.  Maybe the salesman was giving these away to drum up business.  It is pristine shape and so it must have been tucked away somewhere safe for 75 years.  Second, the back has light green ink.  I also have catalogued light blue ink and light grey ink versions which leads me to believe they were printed in different places or printed in mass quantities which led them to using different inks, basically anything they had which might explain why I have seen so many of them.  Lastly, the design, colors, and production quality is top notch leading me to believe it was made by one of the larger companies...possibly one that survived the war intact; likely Kagome Toys.  If only menko could talk....

Enjoy your week and stay safe!