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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Baseball Menko Madness: Uncut, Uncatalogued

True, I'm finally finished posting that massive mess of menko minis. But that doesn't mean I'm done showing vintage beauty.

I pick up menko in spurts. From time to time, I find myself with free time while I'm commuting. I've scrolled through Facebook, checked out my blog feed, and used up all of my hearts in Tsum Tsum. So I start poking around Yahoo Japan Auctions. I find a few menko listings and get what I can, and forget to keep an eye on listings for a while. Then, I have some more free time on the train, and the cycle begins again.

This uncut sheet probably dates back to the 1940s:
The menko are all intact on their sheet and feature crude drawings of various baseball players. I'm guessing that the logos on the jerseys are either generic or related to universities. The backs are blank.

Keio seems to be the name on the jersey of menko 6534, and the large character on the flag in 3534 is the first kanji in Keio. (Why is a player with an A on his cap holding a flag referring to Keio University?) The remaining characters refer to nationwide something-or-another. Keio University has a very popular baseball team and is a member of the Tokyo Big 6 Baseball League. Post-war, they dominated the Big 6 league in 1946 and 1947.

T could be Tokyo, or any other number of universities. But I don't know what R and A refer to. Furthermore, one of the "K" capped players has what looks to be Kokura on his jersey (the small unnumbered menko at the bottom).

Along those lines, T could be the Tigers on at least one of the cards. The uniform designs change from card to card, so each card could represent a different team. On 4571, a "T" player seems to be on the field with an "A" player. Though "A" could be a base runner. Then again, there's no guarantee that the two images are supposed to go together at all, and instead could just be two players or teams.

Kokura is a city in Kyushu prefecture, or at least it was, until it was joined with another city in 1963 to form Kitakyushu. But a very basic search didn't bring up any information on a Kokura University. Kitakyushu University seems to have been founded in 1946 but doesn't appear to have operated as Kokura University. The "Kokura" could refer to a high school team. A separate listing for this same sheet on YJA refers to high school baseball.

The star mark says 王元 Oogen (former king, or original king, or something to that point, based on what I can figure.)

I figure this is the from the late 1940s given the style. Round menkos were most common from around 1946-1950, Keio University had a strong baseball team around that time, and the crude drawings match up with other menko issued around that time. Furthermore, I've found some hints from other sites that Nukitori menko date back to the 1940s and this basic die-cut template was probably used multiple times.

Aside from that one menko with the flag, though, no other evidence shows that these menko are actually related to any particular team, and could just be random baseball art. Thanks to the heading, at least we know they're called "Nukitori Menko".

Art menko are my favorite. The drawings may be pretty simple here but that is part of the appeal. And while it's not too big (about the size of an Allen & Ginter box topper) it can look nice displayed on a wall!

As always, any other information is welcome!

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