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

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Thursday, December 24, 2015

2015 in Review: NPB Card Sets

Yesterday, I listed out and discussed the MLB issues for 2015. Let's look at NPB.
Unlike MLB, the 2015 card year seems to be fully over in NPB releases. In fact, two 2016 sets are already out. A quick count in my database shows 52 sets, though there are a couple box sets issued in the past month that aren't listed yet. While that means more sets were issued here than in America, at least a majority of them are team-based.

BBM Sets:

  • 1st Version
  • 2nd Version
  • 25th Anniversary
  • Classic
  • Dancing Heroine Hana
  • Dancing Heroine Mai
  • Genesis
  • Historic Collection: Memories of Uniform
  • Icons: Ace
  • Loto (small promo issue?)
  • Master of Insert
  • Rookie Edition
  • Rookie Edition Premium
  • Sekibetsu Kyuujin (Retirement Set)
  • Team Sets
    • BayStars
    • Buffaloes
    • Buffaloes Achievement
    • Buffaloes Autographed Edition
    • Carp
    • Carp Authentic Edition
    • Carp Legends
    • Dragons
    • Dragons Autographed Edition
    • Cheer Dragons Hippy Hippy Shake
    • Fighters
    • Fighters Horizon
    • Fighters Sky High
    • Giants
    • Giants Giant Step
    • Golden Eagles
    • Hawks
    • Hawks 10th Anniversary
    • Hawks Autographed Edition
    • Lions
    • Marines
    • Swallows
    • Tigers
    • Tigers 80th Anniversary
    • Tigers Golden Tigers Batter Edition
    • Tigers Golden Tigers Pitcher Edition
    • Whales Achievement
Calbee (three series)

Other Issues
  • Epoch Carp Red Hell (Red Helmets) 40th Anniversary
  • Epoch MVP of the Year
  • Epoch National Record Holders
  • Epoch Tigers 1985 Anniversary
  • Frontier BayStars Heroes & Rookies
  • Frontier Buffaloes Heroes & Rookies
  • Frontier Giants Game Used Bat Edition
  • Frontier Lions Heroes & Rookies
  • Golden Eagles Team Issue
  • Sports Graphic Number Swallows Central League Champions
  • (plus several team issued cards I'm not aware of)
What I Collected
Last year, I chased the full three-series run of Calbee, and I did the same again this year. However, I just bought sets through Yahoo Auctions instead of chip by chip, a much cheaper way of doing things. I also did not get the Starcard inserts, giving me just the "base" set with the common inserts. So far I don't have the flagship BBM sets, but if I can find them at the right price I'll pull the trigger.

I also have full sets of the Classic throwback set and the two Dancing Heroine sets along with the two Achievement team sets that came out at the beginning of the year. The Icons set this year has a lot of big names, so I grabbed one at a good price; I'll go back and get the other(s?) when I get a chance.

BBM again issued a First Pitch insert set, this time with 12 cards. And as for team sets, I have Epoch's Carp and Tigers anniversary issues. I might pick up some of the new box sets if they're cheap.

Other than oddball magazine promos, I don't have any 2015 sets on my want list.

The parallels between MLB and NPB card set collecting are amazing. The sets I got this year are mostly continuations of collections from prior years. BBM didn't issue any new topic sets that piqued my interest; 25th Anniversary may end up in my collection if I can find it cheap.
BBM seems to have gotten lazy. The yearly team sets are very formulaic; I've written about it a few times. The same number of cards. The same insert cocktail. The same sparse number of parallels and autographs. Many of the box sets issued later in the year were simply "autographed" editions with foil or other facsimile signatures, otherwise without a theme. 25th Anniversary was the only real "topical" set, and Master of Insert was BBM's first ultra-high-end release showing a growing trend toward hits-only products.

There are way too many team sets. Team loyalty is pretty strong in Japan, but there are no Japan Series or All-Star Game sets, and only three multi-team BBM sets in the list (Icons, Retirement, Rookie Edition Premium).

Epoch's box sets are the most attractive singles of the year, with nice card stock and good designs. And the sets are topical, giving me a reason to collect them.

Moving Forward
As I mentioned, 2016's sets are already starting to be issued. The 2016 edition of Historic Collection was Ballpark Stories, but there was a total missed opportunity on actually showcasing Japan's ballpark history.

This can be remedied by including some subsets or inserts in the team sets or flagship sets; at least the modern parks should be shown. I count a total of 30 different NPB stadiums (including the 12 in use now) - how hard could that be? It would be nice if the smaller "touring" ballparks were highlighted, too - that could make for enough cards to fill a full set. How about a base set featuring the stadiums, and insert sets and autographs highlighting players in the stadiums?

BBM needs a true good topical set every year. Classic is nice, but it's just a throwback set. 2012 had the beautiful No-Hitters set, and 2013 had the popular Foreigners sets. The 80th Anniversary sets of 2014 we okay, but 25th Anniversary was weak. Again I point to the ballpark idea, but there are plenty of awards and events to highlight. How about a comprehensive Japan Baseball Hall of Fame set? 

Also, BBM really cut back on subsets this year in the base sets. There were still a lot of inserts, though. The subsets usually had something interesting on the backs - puzzles, hitting charts, and such. BBM's inserts are just foil cards with minimal text on both sides. I'm fine with BBM reducing subsets, but again I call for BBM to give the inserts purpose.


  1. This is a great to-do list for me since I got so far behind in adding checklists this year.

    I still would like to see BBM attempt a Chrome or Finest style set. As far as I can tell, there has never been a set like that in Japan.

  2. My checklist for the year has 59 sets total. BBM also did a set for the Dragons cheer squad called "Hippy Hippy Shake", a single player set for Hiroki Kuroda called "Homecoming" and a set for the top Swallows batters called something like "Swallows 3 Sluggers". Epoch released box sets in the last two months for the Baystars ("Game Uniform Edition"), Dragons ("Mizuno") and Swallows ("Champions"). I'm pretty sure the Swallows set you list from Sports Graphic Number is actually a team issue - I made the same mistake last year with a similar set. Sports Graphic Number released a set for Yoshitomo Tsutsugoh of the Baystars in late November.

    What's the "Loto" set from BBM? I don't know anything about it, at least by that name.

    And I want to add a hearty "amen!" to your comments about BBM. The sets have gotten smaller, the subsets have either gotten smaller or been eliminated altogether and even the insert sets have gotten boring. Even the photography which used to be exceptional has gotten stuck in a rut - mostly pitchers pitching, batters batting and catchers catching. Occasionally we get a runner running or a fielder fielding. Very rarely now do we get candid shots of the players. At a minimum, I'd like to see BBM bring back the Leader subset to the flagship set and the Nippon Series set.

    I'd like to see them do something a little more interesting with Classic. They missed an opportunity last year with the 1992 design where they could have issued a subset with the current ballparks that would have echoed the same subset in the original 1992 set. Maybe in 2016 when they are using the 1994 design they could include a subset of multi-player cards or "Sluggers" subset similar to the inserts from the original set. Just do something other than the simple "six current players on the old format cards and three OB players on a completely unrelated format cards per team" set up.

    What we need is for someone else to step up and become a serious alternative to BBM. There's absolutely no incentive for BBM to up their game right now.

  3. NPB Card Guy: thanks. I haven't gotten the Mizuno, BayStars Game Uniform, or SGN Tsutsugo sets yet. I'll update this post appropriately. Hippy Hippy Shake is already up there though - there is no way I'd miss that set! I mislabeled the Swallows Champions set; I don't have the team issue set yet either.

    The Loto set seems to be some kind of collaboration with the lottery (Loto here in Japan). I picked up a random card at a store or card show but I don't know any details; it was probably given away at Loto booths or as a prize or something. I'll have to find and post about it when I actually go through the rest of my new cards.

    To respond to Jason and NPB Card Guy, I've never been a fan of Chrome, but a Finest-like set could be interesting. That would be good for Genesis or Master of Insert or something.

    I really enjoyed the throwback style of the Achievement sets and it seems like they were pretty popular, so I think BBM could successfully issue an annual throwback set, or adopt that style for its Historic Collection series. They could do menko, game or bromide throwbacks, or even do some US-style throwbacks. (But, BBM seems pretty happy putting out the same as always.)

    Classic has been a missed opportunity. BBM really seems to have great ideas but not doing them properly. They need to look more seriously at Topps Heritage to see why that has been so successful and incorporate it - subsets, inserts, other issues of the year. "xxx has been a missed opportunity" can be said for many sets BBM has issued, especially in the past year.

    I'd be more than happy to serve as a consultant with BBM. Sure, there's a bit of a language barrier, but I could easily hand them concept sketches and such.

    1. D'oh! on missing that you already had "Hippy Hippy Shake" on your list - I didn't look for it under team sets.

      I'd love to consult with BBM as well. Although I'd settle with interviewing them for my blog...

  4. There was only one set that made it onto my radar. It was the Hiroki Kuroda homecoming set released near the end of the year. I was so intrigued by it that I arranged a box trade with one of my foreign contacts for it.

    1. I remember hearing about that set. Is it out already? I was going to pick one up for you, so it's good to know that you have one, or will soon. If I'm impressed with it, I'll pick a set up for myself too.

    2. I believe it is. It's quite pricey now with all the hype behind Kuroda, but I suspect the opened boxed sets with the hits removed will be quite cheap going forward.