Chaos and Kanji is the blog where I write about my adventures through Japan!

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Thursday, March 23, 2017

Baseball Menko Madness: Full Set!

Are you sick of seeing cards of players I can't identify on cards that are uncatalogued? I'm not tired of researching them, but today's menko set - the last, I think, for a little while at least - is cataloged. (By the way, cataloged, not catalogued. Uncatalogued, not uncataloged. Huh, spell-check?)

Today's menko cards come as a complete set. Identified as JRM 2, the set is called 1949 Starburst for obvious reasons: a yellow starburst is located behind each player's head. The cards are blank-backed and are considered pretty rare. They measure 1-7/8" in diameter.

Note that there are three variations of this set, all larger than my cards. Cards that are 2-5/8" (set 2a) are more valuable and include three variations (Betto, Kawakami, and Aota). 2b is 2-1/4" in diameter, and is considered extremely rare. Finally, set 2c is 3" in diameter and due to a recent find they aren't as valuable.

Since this set was printed in 1949, it predates the creation of the NPB, though as I mentioned yesterday all of the teams in existence in the Japanese Baseball League at that time transitioned over to the restructured league.

This "base" set is considered a rarity of R1 (250-1000 copies of each card), with singles ranging from $10-60 and a complete set listed at $300. I think I got a pretty good deal!

Here is my complete ten-card set:
Kaoru Betto and Henry "Bozo" Wakabayashi
Takehiko Bessho and Fumio Fujimura
Michio Nishizawa and Nobuo Nakatani
Shigeru Chiba and Tetsuharu Kawakami
Hiroshi Oshita and Noboru Aota

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Baseball Menko Madness: More Uncut Sheets! More Uncatalogued Cards! More Research!

 The first sheet is uncatalogued, yet again. There's a reason for that, though: the fronts depict random players on each team, most likely. The text on the front is the team name.

  • Hanshin / Giants
  • Hankyu / Taiyo
  • Chunichi / Nankai
  • Kinsei / Kyuei
Kinsei was a tricky one for a long time while I was researching this post. And then I decided to look before the establishment of the NPB, and came across the Gold Stars, AKA Kinsei Stars (1947-48). The Stars would eventually become today's Chiba Lotte Marines.

And Kyuei fell into place soon after. This team would soon become the Toei Flyers, and eventually the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters. They were only called Kyuei Flyers for one year: 1948.

Therefore, this menko must be from 1948! All eight teams were members of the Japanese Baseball League, which existed from 1936 to 1949, before it became the NPB in 1950. During the 1948 season, there were eight teams, so all teams are represented here. And oddly enough, all eight teams that made it to the 1948 season (several teams in the league did not) still exist today (though with different owners in most cases). Again, that's pretty interesting, since several teams folded or merged in the 1950s.

I guess after all that I should talk about the back. Some crazy topless guy with long hair looks about ready to slap someone across the face. A batter is about to swing inside a baseball. A janken symbol is on the lower-left with a math equation at the bottom.

This second uncut sheet is not quite JCM 23. These, 1960 Playing Card Backs, aren't assigned a catalog number, but I've catalogued them as JCM 23b. My uncut sheet includes four TV stars in addition to four baseball players, showing that baseball and entertainment menkos were packaged and even printed together. Engel's guide recognizes this fact; some uncut sheets from this set have eight baseball players while others have four and four, as you see here.

Backs can't be used to identify the fronts, as it depends on the printing. And if you look at my example above, two pairs of cards share backs.

As for the baseball players, the top card is Eiji Bando with an unknown pitcher, next is Tadashi Sugiura with an unknown Hawks player, followed by Toru Mori (both images), and at the bottom is most likely two unknown Orions players (unless it's Sadaharu Oh with a pitcher; the image isn't that good).

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Baseball Menko Madness: Uncut, Uncatalogued

True, I'm finally finished posting that massive mess of menko minis. But that doesn't mean I'm done showing vintage beauty.

I pick up menko in spurts. From time to time, I find myself with free time while I'm commuting. I've scrolled through Facebook, checked out my blog feed, and used up all of my hearts in Tsum Tsum. So I start poking around Yahoo Japan Auctions. I find a few menko listings and get what I can, and forget to keep an eye on listings for a while. Then, I have some more free time on the train, and the cycle begins again.

This uncut sheet probably dates back to the 1940s:
The menko are all intact on their sheet and feature crude drawings of various baseball players. I'm guessing that the logos on the jerseys are either generic or related to universities. The backs are blank.

Keio seems to be the name on the jersey of menko 6534, and the large character on the flag in 3534 is the first kanji in Keio. (Why is a player with an A on his cap holding a flag referring to Keio University?) The remaining characters refer to nationwide something-or-another. Keio University has a very popular baseball team and is a member of the Tokyo Big 6 Baseball League. Post-war, they dominated the Big 6 league in 1946 and 1947.

T could be Tokyo, or any other number of universities. But I don't know what R and A refer to. Furthermore, one of the "K" capped players has what looks to be Kokura on his jersey (the small unnumbered menko at the bottom).

Along those lines, T could be the Tigers on at least one of the cards. The uniform designs change from card to card, so each card could represent a different team. On 4571, a "T" player seems to be on the field with an "A" player. Though "A" could be a base runner. Then again, there's no guarantee that the two images are supposed to go together at all, and instead could just be two players or teams.

Kokura is a city in Kyushu prefecture, or at least it was, until it was joined with another city in 1963 to form Kitakyushu. But a very basic search didn't bring up any information on a Kokura University. Kitakyushu University seems to have been founded in 1946 but doesn't appear to have operated as Kokura University. The "Kokura" could refer to a high school team. A separate listing for this same sheet on YJA refers to high school baseball.

The star mark says 王元 Oogen (former king, or original king, or something to that point, based on what I can figure.)

I figure this is the from the late 1940s given the style. Round menkos were most common from around 1946-1950, Keio University had a strong baseball team around that time, and the crude drawings match up with other menko issued around that time. Furthermore, I've found some hints from other sites that Nukitori menko date back to the 1940s and this basic die-cut template was probably used multiple times.

Aside from that one menko with the flag, though, no other evidence shows that these menko are actually related to any particular team, and could just be random baseball art. Thanks to the heading, at least we know they're called "Nukitori Menko".

Art menko are my favorite. The drawings may be pretty simple here but that is part of the appeal. And while it's not too big (about the size of an Allen & Ginter box topper) it can look nice displayed on a wall!

As always, any other information is welcome!