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.)
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.