H-Series Menko

The H-series menko are some of my favorite and are much harder to find on the market than most other menko or cards.  There are only 7 known sets that fit the bill of an H-series set with 1 or 2 more sets lurking out there yet to be found.  According to the series description, H-series menko are thick, heavy and were of much higher quality than their counterparts and these menko were marketed in the toy stores as Kyokuku Menko, or Extreme Thickness Menko.  All of the sets have a beautiful layer of gloss applied to the front of the menko and the majority of the sets are printed with gold ink.  What really makes the H-series stand apart is the fact that they were marketed to be the slammer menko during a menko game; much like how a shooter is in a game of marbles.  Most of the H-series menko have dimensions of approximately 2” by 3”.
The first known H-series set, the H541 – 1954 Maruta Renga 7-8-9 set (Picture 1), was printed in 1954 and had a beautiful gloss coat and exceptional gold ink.  Unfortunately, for what ever reason, the quality of the cutting process that Maruta Gangu used was still yet unrefined and many of these menko have off-center cuts.  This set also features a pip on the back which was common during the early 1950s as well as different pictures of US military vehicles and atomic bomb themes.

Picture 1 (H541 Set) – First known H-series Set, 1954 Maruta Renga 7-8-9

      Kagome Gangu printed a high quality non-gold set in 1955, the H551 – 1951 Kagome Renga 10 set (Picture 2).  What makes this set different from the others is that they printed the menko in two thicknesses: thick and extremely thick.  The extremely thick menko are 1/8” thick!  The colors on this set are very vivid, but unfortunately Kagome was struggling with its printing processes and the registration is off on most menko in this set.

Picture 2 (H551 Set) –1955 Kagome Renga 10

Kagome Gangu entered the gloss and gold Kyokuku menko scene in 1956 with the H561 – 1956 Kagome Renga 6 set (Picture 3), but stole images from other menko sets it was printing at the time and adapted them to the H-series.  Unfortunately, the Kagome printing process was still working out the kinks and the registration on many of the menko is very poor.  The backs are extremely simple with a playing card pip and a 6 digit Fighting Number at the bottom.  This Kagome set is very hard to find.

Picture 3 (H561 Set) –1956 Kagome Renga 6

The three boom years of H-series menko were 1954, 1955 and 1956.  But in 1974 there was another high point in sumo popularity as well as a small reemergence of sumo menko and cards.  The lone H-series set from this boom was the H741 – 1974 Nazo Nazo 3 set (Picture 4).  The fronts feature a high quality photo of the rikishi and nice, vivid colors.  The backs have standard menko marks: Gu-Choki-Pa, Fighting Number and War-Themed Word.  The unknown maker also printed on the back a nazo, or puzzle, with a riddle and an answer printed upside down on the bottom.  These riddles offered clues about such hot topics as red peppers, books and baseball gloves.

Picture 4 (H741 Set) –1974 NazoNazo 3

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