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

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Saturday, May 17, 2014

Collecting Korea: Finally, Korean Baseball Cards!

One thing I noticed while in Korea that I keep coming back to is that Koreans haven't really developed a collecting culture. There are hobbies, of course. It seems like outdoor activities are extremely popular, especially with older generations. Video games and card games are fairly common, though there isn't much of a retail base for those. And everybody goes to Lotte World on their day off.

When it comes to souvenirs, though, they just haven't taken hold. I found a mall with several stamp collecting stores on my prior trip, though I'm not sure how they survive. As far as sports goes, I'm surprised there are no big baseball CCGs and there were no cards at any of the stadium stores I visited.

Teleca released a few sets in the 1990s. Three sets similar to what you see in America were issued in 1999 and 2000, plus several team and smaller issues seem to have come scattered over the years. I believe I have singles from the 1999 and 2000 issues and a few of the other random prior issues, but with limited details I don't know how complete my Korean collection is.

I didn't find any normal cards on this trip. I came home with seven different uncut sheets, though!
 Here's the first one. They remind me a lot of the old menko cards from Japan because they have card numbers and stars that could be used to play a game. And some of the earliest baseball menko cards were round. The sheets are die-cut and the discs can be punched out. This one is blank-backed; the others below all have similar backs. Each sheet is devoted to one team.
 This is obviously the Lotte Giants. I haven't tried translating any of the Hangul, but I'm assuming these were issued in 1983.
 Superman in his underwear in the upper-right might be the best card on this sheet, but there are two discs which feature only a player's waist or legs. It's an interesting idea.
 I have no idea how these were distributed, but the dealer I bought these from had some similar sheets with non-baseball artwork on them.
 I wonder if these were licensed. I don't think licensing is so tightly controlled like it is in Japan and America. The placement of the text on some of these discs is fairly funny, running right across the player's face.
 When you don't have enough pictures to fill a card, you just use large ones that take up multiple discs. So you have a disc with someone's stomach, and another one with his forearms. And then there's the photo in the lower right, which was cropped so tight that the disc shows only his eyes and nose!
The last might be my favorite because of the extra cartoons and inclusion of a game ball image.

I haven't done any research to try to discover any player names and an issue date, and I'm too busy these days to do so anyway. I'd be interested in compiling as extensive a list of Korean sets as possible for a post - I'm aware of most of the Teleca cards, of course, the 1995 sticker set, and the 2010 card game set. (I think SCF could really be improved by the addition of league information for each set.)

And yes, that's it. Perhaps a return to some of the stamp shops or similar shops in Korea might provide me with some additional sets, but it really does seem they have all disappeared. There aren't many paper-goods dealers at the flea markets I visited in Seoul.


  1. Cool stuff. Ralph Pearce had sent me a scan of a similar sheet from the Samsung Lions. I was as amused as you were about what the image on some of the pogs would be if you popped them out of the sheet.

    Korean baseball cards remain an unknown quantity. I had an email exchange recently with Thomas St John who is/was a sports journalist in Korea and has sold Korean cards on Ebay. He's hoping to publish a book this summer on them - not sure if it's a catalog a la Engle or something along the lines of "Sayonora Home Run!" but either way it'll be helpful.

  2. Considering the assortment of souvenir "junk" the teams do produce, and the wide proliferation of similar items for other subjects in Korea, it really is surprising that baseball cards (of one shape or another) never really caught on there. I have the same surprise about Mexico. Loads of stickers and cards for soccer and all manner of non-sports topics, but no tradition of baseball cards, despite being home to one of the oldest professional leagues in the world.

    I've run across these from time to time while hunting for Korean cards to catalog and write about, but never new there were so many to the set. Oddly now I can't find any of the images I'd save of them, so this post really help. I notice only some of the "cards" (if these were issued in the 1990s in the US, they'd probably be classified as pogs) have numbers, which always makes checklisting a challenge.

    The team with the Superman logo was the Sammi Superstars (who only lasted 3 seasons). This team probably went through the most name and ownership changes of any team in the KBO:

    1982-1985 Sammi Superstars
    1986-1987 Chungbo Pintos
    1988-1995 Taepyungyang (Pacific) Dolphins
    1996-2007 Hyundai Unicorns
    2008 Woori Heroes
    2009 Seoul Heroes
    2010-present Nexen Heroes

    Must be tough to be a fan of a team like that.

    The next one down was the Haitai Tigers (to become the Kia Tigers in 2001). Below the Tigers are the MBC Blue Dragons (who would become the LG Twins in 1990).

    I think I'll do a post just of scans of the cards from sets I have been unable to identify. There are a surprising amount of them.

  3. I really am amazed at how difficult it is to find Korean baseball cards, or even information on them beyond the couple of Teleca sets. Between Jason's recent post and emails there's a good start, and that book should be quite handy too.

    There is a range of souvenirs in Korea, but almost all of it is goods that you can wear or display in public, not just collect and store at home. I think that's the difference. The only real exceptions I can think of are the team baseballs (which kids can play with) and the team bus toys I saw (which I saw for only one team).

  4. Very cool! I'd say that you scored on these. I found two different Lions sheets on eBay sometime back, but that was it. They appear to be from 1983, perhaps the first "cards" produced, as Taiwan's first cards were from their second year (from photos taken the first year I understand). I understand that these menko-like cards are called "takji" in Korea.

    I enjoy trying to locate baseball cards from around the world. I'm currently keeping my eyes open for Nicaraguan and Columbian cards. I understand that they exist, but are very tough to find.

    A friend found some cards in Korea some years back, many of which were unlicensed. I believe that many (most?) old Japanese cards were unlicensed.

    Here are the Korean cards that I'm aware of:

    -1983 team sheets (takji)
    -1991 Lotte Gum (box of gum, 2 cards)
    -1992 Twins team set
    -1993 Twins team set (as I recall)
    -1993 Teleca
    -1994 Teleca
    -1997 undetermined manf. (from Thomas)
    -1999 Teleca
    -2000 Teleca
    -2010 undetermined manf. (from Thomas)
    -2014 Super Star Baseball Cards (Ntreev Soft Co.)

    I'm also looking forward to Thomas's book, hope he gets it done.

    1. Ralph: I've been building a type collection for several years now of MLB cards, and really expanded that reach when I came to Japan.

      Foreign cards are few and far between outside of the US, Japan, and recently Taiwan. Jason had a post outlining a whole bunch of Korean cards, especially unknown sets. You have to essentially live in a country to find cards there (except Japan, though really it took actually living here to find the card stores).

      I'd love to expand my type collection knowledge - and collection - to include more foreign sets, especially Asian sets because I'm living in Japan now. I really don't know what I know about Korean cards right now, as I haven't created a database for them. I've considered using Jason's post (and your info too) but like you, I'm hoping Thomas gets his book out soon and hopefully has a digital version available.

      Yes, most Korean issues are unlicensed, because I think copyright protection is pretty weak there. And I'm sure most earlier Japanese cards were unlicensed. I think bromides for pop stars are unlicensed still, though the bromide market is mostly gone for baseball cards.

      Thanks for your input - and if Thomas gets that book out, let me know! I'm usually unaware of things.

  5. So jealous! Great pickups. Love uncut sheets. I trade Korean cards with Dave (npbcardguy). I live in Daegu, Korea.