|Image Source (1976 Mitsuya Small Disk)|
|Example Menko Back - note math equation/long number at bottom; glove symbol, etc)|
So, how many baseball menko sets were produced? No exact numbers are available, of course, but the Japanese Baseball Card Checklist and Price Guide, 7th Edition, lists a total of 178 issues, 14 of which are diecut, 41 are round, and the remainder in rectangular shape. Other issues are sure to exist, but complete checklists aren't available.
Prices vary wildly. Some of the rarest die-cut cards can run in the hundreds of dollars (common cards from the airplane set seen above run about $50 at high book). However, many menko issues were issued in large quantities, and some issues were brought back to America and appear in better condition in even greater amounts. Commons from some sets can be as little as $2 or less. It's important to know what kind of menko you're working with. Sets aren't too difficult to identify with the right information - each issue has some distinguishing characteristic.
Menkos are some of the most beautiful baseball cards ever produced. They have the color and flamboyant designs reminiscent of tobacco-era non-sport and baseball cards and generally easy availability. I'm looking forward most to finding as many menko as I can while I'm in Japan!