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.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Baseball Card Show, Japanese Style

 I've been in Japan for about 18 months now, but it took me more than a year to get to my first card show on this side of the Pacific Ocean. Last year I really missed the Bay Area card shows - small, but free with some great dealers who had nice cheap boxes of random cards and new hotness. And then there are the two San Leandro shows, stuffed with vintage and oddballs. And of course the few paid events with card dealers in attendance, where I could find a different assortment of dealers and thus walk away with some cards I normally don't see.

Well, card shows don't happen that often in Japan. To start with, Japanese people don't consume as much of anything. Most box busters are the stores themselves, or collectors who then "donate" their extras to the stores to keep clutter away. So there aren't as many dealers with product to move. And while older product can be popular, the desire to get the latest and greatest is even more important here in Japan than in America - vintage is a tiny subset of the collecting population. I'd gather that most collectors here are player or team collectors who don't want to bust open a ton of packs. This changes the kinds of cards you might find at a show. I wonder if any collectors actually throw away trading cards here - a definite possibility given the lack of concern for condition for most base and inexpensive insert cards, even in the recent past.

I'm sure I miss some shows but there's only one I know of in Tokyo this year - it happened last weekend, I attended, and you'll hear about that later. There seems to be a group of dealers who travel around central Japan (Osaka and Nagoya mainly) that holds a show in those areas about once a month. I happened to be in Osaka during their late April/early May show there, and again in Nagoya at the end of May for that show. What you see here is some of my findings.
 One dealer had a bunch of hits. B-level and cult favorite stars from some of the pop culture releases were pretty cheap - I think all these guys cost me 500 yen (abouut $5) each. I was more than happy to pay that much for Bruce and the rest.
 Bill(y) Mumy was on Lost in Space, the TV show, and I was a big fan of it as a child. When reruns played on the SciFi Network. I got several other family members' autographs in person, but missed out on Mumy for some reason (though I have a picture of me with him and another character). So yes, I bought this.
 Yvonne Craig? Okay!
 I have never been much of a Trekkie. I was a Star Wars child, though I'm not a crazy Lucas freak either. When Levar was playing a blind man on a space ship I watched The Next Generation and basically enjoyed it, but this autograph is more for my love of his show before that...
 I'm not sure why I bought Jim Broadbent's autograph. I think I just like his body of work.
 Oh, wait, I said baseball card show. Let's start with this card from Calbee. I don't know anything about it and I haven't bothered to try to translate it. The black circles in the image below (from the back) combine to say purezento, so this card must be some kind of present card. But I'm not sure what the prize would be or even what year it's from.

 The dealer that had the prize card had a ton of other Calbees from around 1998-2001. I picked out every single superstar I could, because they were dirt cheap. I was literally giddy with excitement when I paid for them.
 A bunch of Ichiro cards, including a couple of the same image.
 Just so you know, I don't think any of them are for trade, though I hope to post an offer list in the future and if I have extras you'll hear about it.
 Actually, several of the cards I grabbed were only for my Japanese awards collection, which is almost as complete as possible at this point. I think I might try to finish it off next month...
 Yes, Matsui was in there too, just after announcing his retirement.
 As a superstar, he had several cards in the '99 set, just like Ichiro.
 Horizontal? Vertical? You got it.
 Running? Okay.
 Oh, another Ichiro!
 I want a throwback BlueWave uniform.
 Daisuke Matsuzaka! This is a checklist card.
 So you get another Matsui copy.
 And Matsuzaka looking smooth. No?
 Oh, and a bunch of these Oh-Nagashima tribute set cards.
 These, too, went toward the award collection. Nagashima and Oh usually command premiums, especially as inserts.
 I really like this set.
This image shows his batting stance.
 Another card.
 Posed shot!
 Old shot!
 Old posed shot!
 Don't make him mad...
 Waiting to bat.
 I think I ended up with almost the full set from this one dealer, all at about 30 cents a card.
They shouldn't have called it Ferris Bueller's Day Off. They should have called it Ferris Bueller's Day ON! Because he was so ON that day!
 For those that like looking at the back of a famous baseball player.
 I wonder if he hit a home run here?
Okay, one last card. I've noticed that this year's BBM sets have featured more foreigners, especially the historic/OB/legend sets. This Cecil is from the Tigers Legends set and came soon after his first BBM card in the Legendary Foreigners set.

All these cards came from the Osaka show. What I found there, in a fairly small meeting room, was about 15 dealers with a decent variety of cards. Some had high prices, and some had great prices. The Calbee dealer was a very pleasant surprise, but I also found a bunch of single inserts at 50% or more off usual prices. There were also plenty of foreign issues available - MLB, NBA, and NFL mainly - plus soccer, which is pretty big out here. Additionally, I found a few tables with boxes.

Several of the dealers at the Osaka show traveled the hour or so by bullet train to the Nagoya show (or vice versa) leaving me with basically the same selection. I think I spent a couple bucks on something, but I doubt it. The room was smaller and there were fewer dealers. If I hadn't been to the Osaka show, I would have been fairly happy at Nagoya.

One thing to point out is the kind of dealers you should expect to find at Japanese card shows. Because average collectors probably don't keep tons of cards they don't want in their tiny apartments, mostly full-time sellers set up at card shows. This means card stores set up at card shows - they bring their latest product and a couple mixed boxes and plop their stuff on a table. But this also means that prices aren't great. Card stores can bring their stuff back to the shop and let it sit for daily buyers. Compare this to US card show dealers - usually they're collectors making money on the side or only part-time (show-only) sellers, looking to clear stuff fairly cheaply to keep room for next month's new cards, and with a low overhead as well.

So, Japanese card shows have the same basic selection like you'd find at American shows - new singles and some random recent old inserts and star players, plus boxes - but at higher prices/less of a discount than you'd expect in America. Remember, Japan is the land where a 5% discount is a big deal!

That said, I'm happy to have gone to a card show in Japan, and hope to have more opportunities to check out other shows around the country (and here in the Tokyo area)!


  1. Nice haul Ryan. I never went to a show in Japan before so it's nice to get someone's take on one.
    And I've seen a lot of collectors throw away cards in both Nagoya and Tokyo. Although in turn I managed to get some cards for free :) (one man's trash is another man's treasure).

  2. Hmm, those two Ichiro cards with the same image are both numbered 128 - aren't they two of the same card?

    I'm curious if the ON-07 card is Nagashima's home run from "The Emperor's Game" in 1959. ON-17 is from Nagashima's retirement ceremony in 1974.

    I've been noticing the same increase in gaijin that you have. I wonder if BBM is actually attempting to market to the US at all.

  3. Wow... very, very envious. Nice haul buddy.

  4. Kenny: I think it's sad that so many collectors just toss away base cards, especially given that this shouldn't be a time when cards are overproduced. On the other hand, the big hits are such a drive that it makes sense.

    NPB: They are the same card, sort of. I picked up two copies (as with one of the Matsuis, though the images were separated I think). I'm not sure about ON-07 and unfortunately I can't read the characters enough to figure it out. I wonder if BBM has taken note of an increasing number of Japanese modern-card collecting blogs in English (there aren't that many) that responded well to the foreigners set. The comments on my post were pretty positive for the set, and it's one of my most popular posts. I'm looking forward to the next version, flawed as it may be.

    Fuji: thanks, as always!