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

Want Lists are located here. NPB Baseball Want List is located here.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Baseball Card Stores in Japan: Mint Ikebukuro

Here's a feature I've been putting off for a long time. I discovered my first card couple card shops in Japan on accident early in the year, and I've reported a tiny bit on a some of my finds, but I've never really talked about any particular shop's specifics. So it's time I do just that! And what a perfect time this is to post about card stores, as I made it a point to visit four of them on Monday.

My second stop was Mint Ikebukuro. "But wait!" I hear you say, "Where was the first?" You will just have to wait for that one, as I didn't buy anything this time. So on to Mint Ikebukuro.

This is really three stores in one. On the first floor, you find mostly soccer and idol cards, plus some unopened product from several sports. I took a quick look around and headed up to the second floor where the real goods are.

The second floor has two shops across the hall from each other. You can't go from side to side with merchandise - you have to pay in each section separately. One of the sections is mostly card games (think World of Warcraft, but on a much bigger popularity scale). I didn't buy anything there. The other shop (the one to the left after you climb the stairs is a Japanese baseball card paradise!

The store has plenty of unopened product - both Japanese and American - and some complete sets too. I saw a 1991 BBM set for about $150. They also have a great range of singles, including some recent oddball releases. Since oddballs can be quite difficult to locate, I pick them up whenever I see them. I also grabbed some 2012 release singles. Here's what I bought:
 My scanner cropped the cards just a little too much, but you can just barely see the word "GEORGIA" in the upper-left. Georgia is Coca-Cola Japan's coffee brand, and I'm guessing this card was a premium inserted into product or available through a redemption offer in 2010. There is a regular GEORGIA release with active players so I think this might be a more limited issue.
 And as is customary with most recent BBM releases, there is a foil signature version, which I snatched up immediately as well! Yes, BBM made these cards - notice the logo in the upper-right? (Why can't Topps adopt something like that, with the year imbedded in the logo?) I should mention that both Georgia cards are a bit smaller than standard, similar to the 1987 Topps Minis found in 2012 Topps's release.
 Now this is a scary card. And I knew I had to have it. I've never heard of D-1 coffee, which might not exist anymore. But in 2006, BBM released a set similar to the Georgia set. This has a facsimile black ink autograph, as you can see.
 Another oddball I picked up was this Yakult Swallows vending machine card. It's probably a team issue, as it has similar manufacturing characteristics to the team issue I picked up this year (which you haven't seen yet).
 Here's an insert from the 2012 Lions team set. It's called The King's Roar, and it's super-foil shiny, like a late 1990s Donruss/Leaf card. There's plenty of gold foil too!
 This sticker card came from a Lotte product. Lotte stickers can be difficult to track down, and they aren't issued anymore. There's gold foil highlights on this one, and all those logos on the left are separate stickers.
 This scan came out really good, other than the bottom being cropped off. There's a black border with the team name that's gone missing. This is a clear acetate card, issued by the Swallows and is completely blank-backed.
 This is a premium card from the Swallows 2008 team issue, honoring Masanori Ishikawa for 1000 somethings - probably 1000 strikeouts. A bit of the bottom got cut off on this scan too, but I like how the bouquet he's holding jumps out of the card's border.
 Ack! An American card! Not really. Konami produced card game cards for MLB players in 2006, and Burrell was one of the stars of the year, I suppose. The back shows him in video game form:
I wonder what happened to his leg. And arms. And eyes. Oh wait, his eyes were always that way.
 Back to the Lotte stickers! This is a silver foil issue, with many more stickers - 15 total, to be exact. The gold issue was released in 2007, and this was printed in 2006.
 Another Yakult Swallows team issue, this time as just a base card.
 And another 2008 "premium" issue by the Swallows. This time, the base premium card... Oh, Swallows, you try so hard! This card really has a BBM-made feel. And it was probably made by BBM, even without logos.
 Hello. I'm Michael. I play baseball. Remember that foil Lions insert card I showed you above? Well, this is another foil insert. Actually, it's a parallel of the base set with a foil background. BBM has been doing that with all the team issues this year. Thankfully they don't carry a premium at the card shops right now, though they seem to be in fewer quantities.
 What does the base card look like, you ask? Well, here you go! There have been a few retro-style team issues this year, and I kind of like it. There's certainly a change from prior years' releases, which tend to look somewhat similar.
 Speaking of other team issues, the BayStars have a team set titled "Reborn," which either honors their return to good playing, or their new name (they used to be the Yokohama BayStars, and now they're the Yokohama DeNA BayStars). I'm guessing it's the rename. The BayStars are currently 20-38, 16 games out of first.
 Hey! Another Konami game card! You know what that means! Missing limbs!
Who needs fingers or legs, anyway? Or noses or mouths? Breathing and eating is overrated.
 Did the NPB version give the players all their appendages?
Of course not! Well, at least Ishii has one leg. Or is that just his foot? And his globs of hands sure are holding that bat high. Wait, where's the catcher and umpire?! Speaking of other players, Kenny Rogers above has nobody in the field! Is he that good, that he can pull a Satchel Paige and call his fielders in to rest? "Don't worry, boys. I can pitch another perfect game, and strike out all 27 batters!"
Let's finish with a giant card. This card is twice as large as a regular card, and must have been a box-topper. It was issued in 1999 and honors Kenshin Kawakami winning the 1998 All-Star Game 1 MVP award. Japanese baseball has multiple All Star Games in different cities/stadiums - three in 1998, it seems. There will be three in 2012 - July 20, 21, and 23.

Mint Ikebukuro is located about 5 minutes from the Ikebukuro Station on foot, in the direction of Sunshine City. The address is: 東京都豊島区東池袋1-28-6 (1-28-6 Higashi-Ikebukuro, Toshima, Tokyo). Here's Mint Ikebukuro's map:
That's the East Exit from the JR Ikebukuro station, and then you can basically follow the map. Or go to their website (in Japanese only). They're open daily 11AM to 8PM.


  1. Fantastic.

    Without trying to be nosy, but very curious, how do single prices stand up to US prices? What did you pay for the cards? Do card shops trade?

  2. Card singles from most BBM sets (such as the Lions retro card and foil parallel, and the Konami game cards) run 50 yen each. It isn't cheap. Some of the better players go for more, of course, and many of the cards in this post were more than 50 yen because they're special issues (the Shinjo card was 500 yen). Calbee singles go for 100 yen or more each, at most of the Mint locations. I haven't tried trading, but I have a few Ichiros I want to try to trade.

    Single inserts (other than these team set foil parallels) seem to run at least 100 yen, with most at 200-500 yen per single inserts. Hits (which include relics, autos, and "photo" cards) usually start at 1500 yen, though they can be real expensive.

    I haven't found or heard of any card shows, though I imagine I'd find better deals on some stuff if I did. Most info is in Japanese. I might need to get Kenny's help on that front!

    As for US cards, hobby jumbo packs of 2012 Topps are 1200-1500 yen. Opening Day was 100 yen per pack. Most of the mid-range and premium stuff is a good bit more expensive than US prices, but I really haven't been buying any US cards here. And again, singles start at 50 yenfor commons, with the stars going for more.

    Other than the common cards, prices are probably similar to card shop full prices. Japanese players on US teams and US cards (Darvish, Ichiro, etc) carry a premium and would be your best bet for trading, if they do trade.

    Keep in mind the exchange rate. 100 yen = $1.20, approximately.

    1. Thanks so much for the info. Current exchange rate is at 100 yen = $1.25, so a 50 yen card is about 63 cents.

      Very cool.

  3. I would love a chance to fill out my Tuffy Rhodes collection at one of those shops. I can only imagine the great Tuffy oddball cards to be found in some shop in Osaka. Sadly, I have no occasion to travel to Japan.

    The Lions team set is using the 2009 O-Pee-Chee design. It has been awhile since I've seen BBM just blatantly borrow a design. I guess they put out so many sets, that they just go the easy route on occasion. Makes for a nice change, though.

    If sheer shipping costs wouldn't be so prohibitive, a single large Japanese dealer would be enough of a draw for me to hit the National some year.

  4. Jason - there's another throwback design that's a copy of 1953 and 1966 Topps designs, plus a memorial set which looks a lot like UD's Baseball Heroes design, all issued this year. For Japanese card collectors, the design is fairly unique, although it certainly is easy for BBM.