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

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Friday, May 12, 2017

Truly Stale Gum: 1949 Asayama Fusen Gum (Type I)

When it comes to trading cards in Japan, gum doesn't get older than this.
The earliest cataloged food issue from Japan is the card you see right here. While it's highly possible that there are older cards in existence, the latest issue of Engel's guide has this right at the top in the "Misc. Vintage Food, Candy and Gum Cards" category.

Coming in around just 1-1/16" wide and 1-7/16" tall, give or take, these are somewhere around the size of those tiny Topps Micro cards from around 1992. At least five series were issued, or at least types of cards were designed.

Type I is the version you see here - I think. This is the easiest to distinguish because "Asayama Fusen Gum" is printed vertically (that's the white box near the top). However, the example in Engel's book has two white boxes, with the player's name appearing in the second box as well. Furthermore, none of the cards listed is the one I have. That doesn't mean it doesn't come from this series, because there are possibly uncataloged cards in this set.

Type II has the Asayama Fusen Gum box at the bottom, horizontally, with a border around that box.

Type III's horizontal box is also at the bottom, but oval-shaped (possibly without a border?).

Type IV has the text at the bottom, but without a box.

Finally, Type V features San Francisco Seals players exclusively, and there is a white box at the bottom without a border.

The cards are all blank-backed and quite rare, receiving the designation "R5" - the rarest scarcity of known copies. As such, they carry a premium in better condition. I got the card above from a seller who listed several different singles from many of the series, but I was outbid on the other auctions. Still, this is a pretty cool little (really little) card to have!


  1. Very cool....although I don't recognize the name Nakatani. It looks like these were a somewhat recent find for Engel as they weren't listed in the 7th Edition and only included in the Vintage Edition. I have some Japanese Sumo Cards made by Morinaga from circa 1917. They were included with the Morinaga Milk Caramel product. But since baseball really didn't go mainstream in Japan until the late 1940s, I can't imagine there is anything earlier than this. Congrats and thanks for sharing!

    1. Yeah, I'm guessing as pro players go, this is the earliest. There are college player menko and bromides that predate this set, so it's possible something is out there Engel hasn't listed yet.

      I would guess that your Morinaga sumo cards are one of the earliest trading cards out there. I say that meaning menko, karuta, and other game cards don't count.

    2. The earliest catalogued pro cards are from the Marutoku B&W bromide set from 1947 (JBR 73). The photos show players in their 1946 uniforms. What I thought you meant in the post was that this was the first pro player set that was issued with a food product.

      Junji Nakatani played 15 seasons between 1938-57 (I assume he served in the military the other five years). He had a couple good years with the Hankyu Braves around 1950 - he made the Best 9 team in 1950 and the All Star teams in 1951, 1952 and 1955 (he couldn't have made the All Star team before 1951 because that was the first year they had the All Star Games). (I got all this from his Japanese wikipedia page.)

    3. Yes, I do mean the earliest food product issues.

      Thanks for the details on Nakatani!

  2. Same size as Topps Micro? Damn... these are tiny. Super cool though.

    1. This really is really small. I was surprised when I actually held it on my finger... because a card this small disappears in your hand.