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Thursday, January 7, 2016

Calbee Through the Years: 1978 Calbee

The 1978 Calbee set is a beast. I don't mean that in terms of size, though a full set has around 600 cards. And I don't mean in terms of cost, even if a full set will cost you thousands of dollars and many years of hunting. No, it's just downright complicated. With the exception of one special set, none of the eleven series of cards have card numbers and checklists were never issued. There are distinctions to help determine the series, but at first glance they're almost identical.
The 1978s are easy to identify as a whole, as all cards have light blue backs with a baseball border and no card number. Note that some 1977 sets have blue backs with baseball borders, but these sets have card numbers in the upper-right corner. (Note that one 1978 set, for Oh's 800th home run, has card numbers.)
 "Regular Type I" The front text's top line is the player's name, and the team name is on the bottom line; this text is centered at the bottom of the card. The backs have the player's name at the very top line.
 "Regular Type II" The front text is in a corner instead of centered at the bottom. The backs are identical to Regular Type I.
 "Pennant Race Series" The front text is centered at the bottom, similar to Regular Type I. However, the first line says "'78 Pennant Race" (in Japanese) and the second line contains a date and two team names. Some cards have only the first line of text on the front. The backs have a line of text at the top that is identical to the front, which says "'78 Pennant Race" in Japanese at the top, followed by the player's name, jersey number, and so on, similar to the Regular types.
"Player Name/No Team Name" This series has the player's name on the front in one of the corners, but no team name. The backs are identical to the Regular types. Note that Engel's guide states that only Dragons players have been found in this series, but my card above features Shibata, a member of the Giants. The Dragons checklist does list a "Dragons vs. Giants" card which means this could technically still match Engel's description.

The remaining series are ones I have not found a type card for yet - the 1978 set has been the most challenging for me to locate. As I find new cards I'll try to keep this post updated.

"Team Home Run Record" The fronts of these cards have text in one of the corners which says (in Japanese: "Team home run record, great hits, red helmets". The backs are identical to the Regular types. All players in this set are on the Carp.

"Yakult Swallows V1" Again, the text on the front is in a corner, with the player's name and team name. However, this set is easily distinguished by the giant "V1" text on the front. The backs are identical to the Regular types. All players in this set are on the Swallows.

"Yakult Swallows 1st Championship in 29 Years" By far the most easily recognizable series in the 1978 set, all of the fronts have a border of swallows in red, blue or green. There is no text on the front, and backs talk about the Swallows' first title in 29 years instead of isolating a specific player.

"Vs. Cards" All cards in this series have horizontal fronts, and the only text is in one of the corners listing two teams (i.e. Carp vs. Giants). Backs have the same vs. notation at the top.

"1978 Nippon Series" One line of text on the front says "Nippon Series" in Japanese, in one of the corners. The backs have "1978 Nippon Series" in Japanese at the top, followed by team names and game details, and then a player's name on the third line.

"Sadaharu Oh 800th Home Run" Oh hit his 800th home run on August 30, 1978, and this 20 card set was issued to honor that event. Fronts have "Oh 800" in Japanese on the front (the 800 is easily recognizable) in one of the corners. Backs repeat that text from the front and there are card numbers in this set in the upper-right corner.

"Home Run Cards" The prize-winning parallel cards are pretty rare. All have blue text on the back. There are three types listed in Engel's guide for 1978:
  • wavy-lined box in the middle with a baseball resting on three crossed bats
  • solid-lined box in the middle with the same image
  • solid-lined box in the middle with no image
Finally, the home run cards could be redeemed for the following prizes:
  • a card album with a green border and a picture of Sadaharu Oh batting on the front (#22 is catching).
  • a card album with a blue border and a picture of Sadaharu Oh batting on the front (the image is identical to the green album).
  • another blue-bordered card album with Oh batting on the front (a catcher with red gear and the pitcher are visible
All card albums have "Baseball Card Album" in Japanese text at the bottom of the photo - either in red or white text.


  1. Nice write up. The 1978 Calbees confuse the hell out of me. Glad to see you doing these posts again. Only one more difficult year to do (1979) and then they get much easier! :-)

    I'm amused that Calbee labeled the one subset as "Yakult Swallows 1st Championship in 29 Years". That would imply that they won the championship in 1949. They actually came into existence in 1950 (as the Kokutetsu Swallows) so they really should have called it "Yakult Swallows 1st Championship Ever".

  2. The '77-'79 sets were/are daunting but once I sat down and started really getting to it things all basically made sense. The newest Engel guide really helped, though, especially since it's so tough to find singles to compare. It's my goal to post Calbee weekly until I'm caught up.

    Yeah, that title wordy and misleading, but then again translation between English and Japanese is really difficult given subtle nuances in meanings in both languages.

  3. Great review. no numbers + no checklist = quite the set builder's challenge. Gotta track down one of those Oh cards.

  4. Thanks Fuji! The 1978 set is so difficult that there still is no definitive list, nearly 40 years later.

    Getting "any" Oh card isn't that hard, especially in a lower condition. Getting one of the "800" Oh cards is much more challenging.