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

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Monday, January 22, 2018

New Autograph: Yuna Hiraiwa

Things have been busy this week, as I've been settling in for a longer-term stay at a school. So my posts have been brief, but I'm happy to say that I've been able to post consistently so far this year. I hope it can continue!

My Women in Sports collection isn't restricted to specific sports, but I do focus mainly on gymnastics. It's my favorite Olympic sport and it's been featured in several card sets.

BBM has issued a few box sets for the Japan national gymnastics team over the years, and I've made it one of my goals to try to get one autograph or relic for every team member who has one. Some of these athletes have appeared in the Real Venus/Shining Venus series, while others are in the gymnastics box sets. Rie Tanaka had her own box set, but her autographs are quite pricey, so I've stuck with just a relic card.
 Yuna Hiraiwa is still active in gymnastics, though there isn't much out there. She started college this school year, but appears to still be participating.
Here's the back; this card is numbered out of 110. I believe it's her only autograph.

If you're interested, here's a video of Yuna in action:

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Making Progress on 2000 Calbee: Dice-K

One of my goals this year is to finish my 2000 Calbee set. The biggest part of the set that's missing is Series 2; I don't want to try to build the set card by card. That'll cost a fortune and take a long time. So I'm holding out for an affordable set to show up in an auction or a card shop.

The most challenging part, though, is finishing the insert sets. Granted, inserts aren't actually part of the set, but I have a good start on getting everything and it makes the experience that much more fulfilling. There are two insert sets that will be the most difficult. One is the Title Holders set; it's doable but pricey because it's more limited than the others and is printed on shiny card stock. The other is the checklist set.

I don't know why checklists are so challenging and expensive. I'm still not entirely sure they're any more rare than a regular card. The 2000 card set has 18 checklists in all, six per series. Each series of six checklists feature the same player in a succession of images. Series 2 was the first one to be completed, featuring Koji Uehara.

Series 1 is the most valuable in Engel's 7th Edition guide, with each card being valued at $25 each! However, my SCM guide lists those singles at only 300 yen each. On the other hand, the Series 3 checklists carry the most value there, at 1000 yen each.

Series 3 has Ichiro, and he is definitely the biggest name in modern Japanese players. So who did he beat out? Series 1 is Daisuke Matsuzaka. Here is my Series 1 complete checklist set:

The full progression of Dice-K's pitching motion is pretty cool to see in a row. I have a few more insert cards on the way, too, so hopefully I'll get to show those off in the next couple of weeks!

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Going Platinum: My First 1/1... Platinum

I didn't expect to win this card.

It's a simple story - I saw this card on Yahoo Japan Auctions and tossed in a basic 1000 yen bid.
 A few days later, I won it for my minimum bid! It's from the 2013 update set, and it is an RC logo. But most importantly is that foil stamp above the Cubs logo. It's 1/1. This is the Platinum parallel, which I've never had in my collection before!
The backs are pretty standard, though the front has that parallel color border.

It's not my first 1/1. I have several printing plates in my collection, though technically there are four of every card, just with color variations. A couple came from packs, while many others came from card shows and auctions. I also pulled one notable 1/1 autographed patch from a pack back in 2005, and I have a couple other 1/1 cards I've lucked into over the years. Plus all of my Buck Farmer 1/1 cards (29 different!).

But the one kind of 1/1 I've never had is a Platinum parallel from the flagship Topps brand. Granted, this is Update, but I consider that a third series of the base set anyway. Unfortunately, an Allen & Ginter Wood parallel that was recently for auction went out of my price range. Otherwise, it could have been a really great week for my type collection!

Friday, January 19, 2018

2017 Epoch BayStars Season Achievements: Alex Ramirez

My Rami-chan collection continues to grow with this single card purchase. I probably overpaid (about 300 yen), but BayStars singles are tough to come by.

One interesting thing to note here is that BayStars jerseys don't really have patches on them. Several Japanese teams have similar style jerseys - everything is printed on the jersey. For the basic design, I don't mind that, but I think the actual patches look cooler for numbers and team logos. They're actually three-dimensional. Not to mention that it makes patch cards actual patches, and much more appealing to look at.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

New Autograph: Honoka Kajiura

The 2017 boxed cheerleader set featured the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters Girls, and for whatever reason I decided there were three cheerleaders I wanted autographs for.

One of those I already picked up cheap from the box set, but the other two have remained out of reach, mainly because I'm keeping to a very limited budget.
The Fighters Girls held an event on the sixth, and attendees could get autographs from some of the Girls. Each Girl had two single-sided cards, which are actually printed on photographic paper. (These translate as Life Photographs, and are pretty popular here, especially with idols. I have seen various baseball players featured on these as well - I know the Tigers sold them in their team store, and I've seen others here and there. BBM has included them in a few of their box sets, too, especially the cheerleader box sets.) The first "card" is a photo of the Girl, seen on the left; the other "card" is designed with space for the Girl to write a message and autograph. These are hand-signed, and include a long message. It certainly is a decent substitute for the BBM autographed card.

Two down, one to go!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Poster Card

I can't remember the last time I saw a Star Wars movie in the theater. I guess it was during the prequels - I probably saw Episode II but I might have missed Episode III. Okay, get mad at me. Whatever. I love Star Wars, and I love going to the theater, but sometimes things happen. I'm pretty sure I saw 3 in theaters, but by then I was kind of over the prequels. One had the best Anakin, Two had the best Padme, and Three had... um... clones?

And because 3.5 and 7 have come out since I moved to Japan, I've just been waiting to watch them at home. Going to the theater now is expensive, and it's difficult here to time it so you can see the movie in English. Usually big budget movies are dubbed into Japanese, but the first showing of the day at some theaters are in the original language with Japanese subtitles.

So that's how I saw the movie on Christmas Day, 2017. I met up with my friend and her son, and his cousins (on the father's side) for my first IMAX in forever. An early 10:00 start along with subtitles meant that there were very few people in the theater (besides, Christmas is not a holiday, so most adults were at work). 

I am going to say I enjoyed the movie. It was different from the original three and the prequels, and it wasn't perfect, but I'm far from dissatisfied. 
This card came free with an IMAX ticket - it's slightly larger than my scanner, making it a bit bigger than an A4 sheet of paper. That's why it's not quite lined up properly. My scanner clipped it a little, but there is an IMAX logo in the lower-left corner. I like this art style, and if I had all of the films with mini-posters like this it would make for a nice wall display somewhere.Maybe someday I can do something like that?

Looking on eBay, it seems that there is a set of four. I'm guessing that a different poster was available each week, based on some of the listings. I do know that everybody in my group got the same poster.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

New Autograph: Yuki Kawabata

Sports in Japan are certainly co-ed. Most junior high and high school students will either join a club or play school sports of some kind. In elementary school, kids will usually do several extracurricular activities, like learning a musical instrument, taking ballet lessons, or playing soccer. Add to that a decent PE curriculum including very important Sports Day competitions, and it's difficult to find someone who didn't at least try a sport of some kind during their childhood.

That said, men's sports are still basically men's sports. The major league sports are men-only: baseball, sumo wrestling (okay, not a league, but still...), soccer, basketball. Women play these sports, but there's rarely a true full professional league - the national teams are popular and especially talked about during international competitions, but there aren't many places to see women's sports competitions in Japan.

Except baseball.

So, I just contradicted myself there - baseball still is essentially a man's sport. I haven't heard of any girls playing in the Koshien high school tournament. In fact, as of the 2016 season, girls weren't permitted to be on the field and I don't know if that's changed. There are a few women who have made names playing in the semi-pro leagues (Ayumi Kataoka, manager of the Ibaraki Golden Golds, is the most well-known these days, along with Eri Yoshida, a knuckleball pitcher).

And there's the JWBL. I've posted about it before, so I won't go into too much detail, but when it comes to stars in that league, there is no name bigger than local lady Yuki Kawabata.

I say local because Saitama is the closest team to where I live now, and very close to where I used to live. In fact, their games were played not too far from my former apartment.

Anyway, she's probably the best player in the four-team league, and I'd argue the most popular as well. She had a .406 batting average in 2011, and in 2013 bested that with a .431 average. While her 2016 statistics showed an "off" year of .327, this season she hit .397, bringing her career average up to .377. That's pretty impressive, I'd say.
This is from aiaio, the company which creates cards for all of the teams' players, but not a pack-based set. Unfortunately, they don't sell sets, it seems (one year I was able to get one, but they're not exactly readily available). To get cards, you have to trade with the players, making it quite difficult to get everyone's cards. But Yuki signed this card, so I can knock her off my want list!

I still haven't decided if I want to torture myself by trying to get a full set of the JWBL Epoch autographs from 2016 - that's 79 cards (or 78 if you ignore the celebrity autograph). Epoch didn't issue a set in 2017, so that may have been just a one-off set. But I hope it comes back in 2018!

Monday, January 15, 2018

2017 Hits BayStars Trading Paper - Alex Ramirez

I have two Japanese player collections, and Rami-chan is one of them. So while this post is basically focusing on the release, the cards are heading to the player collection!

On April 4, 2017, Hits released a set of eight "Trading Mini Color Paper" cards. Actually, it's a set of 16, featuring eight players including manager Alex Ramirez. Cards with an N- prefix are normal cards, while SP cards are short printed, though there's no published ratio.

Version 1.4 reprinted the first eight cards and added four additional players, bringing the checklist to 12. Of course, that does mean that there are really 24 cards to be found. It does appear that all of the players have some authentically signed versions as well, but there is very little information about that on their website.

Version 1.4 boxes include 10 cards - six from the first "series" and four from the second "series". This essentially means that you will get one full second series in each box, though with SPs this might not be true. Likewise, it might be safe to assume that the first series boxes contained 10 cards, and thus most likely had a full set.

Each pack - one card - costs 500 yen. The secondary market has provided some of these cards less than their original price, but the lowest I've seen of any card from this type of release is about 300 yen, for Carp singles from a couple years ago.
My scanner did a poor job of keeping the full borders, but you can get the idea between the two cards. There's a gold foil border around each card, and the SP cards have additional foil printing and facsimile autographs. The cards are numbered on the front - N-04 by the BayStars logo for the top, normal cards; SP-04 in gold foil along the bottom for the parallel. Also you can see that the photos and coloring are different for the two sets.

These are blank-backed; actually, they have yellowish backs and the foil border folds over to the back. There are flecks of silver foil also embedded in the paper.

The design of the card itself - the square, hard board with foil edges and foil-embedded paper, called shikishi - is copied from the design of congratulatory boards and autograph boards commonly found across Japan. The fancy "paper" is used for friends and coworkers to write special messages most commonly for farewell parties, but also can be used for birthdays and other special events. While the plain, solid-colored versions are the most traditional, themed versions can be found, like round ones printed to look like sports balls.

The regular ones are pretty large, too - about 9.5" x 10.75". Sometimes I come across autographs on these boards, and I like them as they'll mount well or sit solidly on a shelf. While "fine" artists don't necessarily like them because they're mounted on a stiff board, they're great for autographs and sketches, in addition to farewell or congratulatory messages.

So there you go, a little bit of Japanese culture mixed in with a trading card post.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

2006 BBM NPB Interleague Program Cards

NPB made a big deal out of interleague play, just like the MLB did. And it's not uncommon for random oddball cards or entire sets to be produced for events. Put the two together, and you get this 60-card set.

The 2006 NPB interleague "season" was about three weeks long, from May 27th to June 18th. I haven't seen much about it in the past couple years, but generally teams "win" interleague play based on their record. There's no real benefit to it during the season other than just another boasting point... just like MLB. And of course, it's another excuse to create a bunch of limited special merchandise - there are pins, badges, towels, shirts, and, naturally, programs.
 Engel's last guide to include modern cards has a checklist for this set, but based on my experience, the description isn't entirely accurate. I bought an intact program, which came sealed in its original poly bag. I've opened it up to see the cards.

This program came from the Chiba Lotte Marines, which you can see prominently featured on the cover. The six player photos are all Marines players, and their team logo is the largest. In fact, next to the VS, in red letters, it says Chiba Lotte Marines, and in black letters, "version". So each team probably had their own interleague program. The yellow circle next to that talks about the free cards, basically saying that there are five different types to be found in this program, with two cards actually included inside.

Also, regarding the program itself, the first half or so of the program highlights the Marines and the players. There's a summary of the 2005 interleague series, and the last half (give or take) looks at each of the teams in the other league. The last page is a visual checklist of all sixty cards in the set, with details specifying that each program has two random cards from the five cards of that team. Again, this strengthens the idea that each team had their own interleague program; I'm not sure if you had to travel to each stadium (or order online) just to get them, or if each stadium had programs for all 12 teams.

Also also, at 1000 yen per program, and three programs at minimum required per team, it would cost you about $360 to build the set; you'd have one card left over from each team. This assumes perfect collation for each set of three programs. And of course, you'd have 36 programs, three for each team. What you'd do with the remaining two programs is anybody's guess.

Anyway, on to the cards.
 Engel's guide says the cards are worth double their value if they're still in the magazine. That's all well and good until you see that you can't actually see what cards you have. They come in a little pack with a header card seen above. It might be possible, by removing the pack itself (or possibly damaging the outer poly bag or cards), to see one card. But overall, I'm saying this "double value" part is unlikely. Note that my "pack" wasn't actually attached to the program, just floating around free on the outside.

This header card is blank-backed. The text basically reiterates what I've already mentioned - this is the 2006 Interleague Program's Original Baseball Cards. There are 5 different cards possible, with two inside. There are different programs for each team, and each team has their own five-card set which is found in their programs.
 Since I have a Marines program, it only makes sense that I get Marines players inside. This is Saburo, with my second player being Imae.
There's a swooping bottom border of sorts, and the player photo has a background of what I'm going to call a vertical fluorescent light bulb. The fronts also have the interleague logo, as well as the team's logo, team name, player name, his jersey number, and his general position.

Backs are numbered in the top-right corner out of 60. While the BBM logo doesn't appear on the front of the card, as Engel mentions, their logo and copyright information is clearly visible on the back. Standard details found on BBM cards are also there - biographical information, awards and honors, and brief statistics. However, there are two lines for 2005, and the first line appears to be interleague statistics for that year.

I'm certainly happy to add these oddballs to my collection, but what I really need now is the Alex Ramirez card from this set. I doubt it's going to be easy to track down!

Saturday, January 13, 2018

One 2018 Goal Done! Figures In Hand!

Last year, I hit my goals hard early in the year. And throughout the year. And at the end of the year.

This year, I'm trying to not be lazy, and be as successful as 2017 in reaching my goals. But last year, several of my goals could be knocked out pretty quickly; this year, it's not so easy. That's fine - I designed a lot of it that way.

My New Year's vacation wasn't very pleasant thanks to a cold and more importantly an infection, but all the home-time means that I could work on my to-do list.

While the to-do list isn't completely finished, I've verified my Japanese MLBer and NPB Foreigner lists. And I've even been keeping it updated with the most-recent signings (tentatively, of course - there's no guarantee even Shohei Ohtani will ever play an MLB game until they actually step on the field). 

I also spent an afternoon updating my MLB and MiLB type collection lists as accurately as possible from Trading Card Database's listings.

That's all good, of course, but most of my goals focus on milestones in my collections. And one area that is seriously lacking is  figurines for my player collections. I have 32 player collections, and I started the year with 14 figures - less than half. Okay, Geoff Geary has no figurine and probably never will. But it's still less than half.

So one of my goals for this year was to obtain three figures. And if you read the title of this post, you'll know I've met that goal.
 Yeah. I stole these images from eBay. But these are the auctions I got, so whatever. I got both of these figures on New Year's Day, kicking off the year with a bang. The Altuve is an Import Dragon figure, while King Felix is a McFarlane.
 I've picked up a few MLB figures around Japan. A few fit into my type collection (yes, SLUs and McFarlanes are in my type collection), while others are just fun novelties. But I found an Albert Pujols bobblehead at an anime shop in Osaka, and a local secondhand shop is where I found my Bobby Cox bobblehead. I've also been keeping my eyes on Yahoo! Japan Auctions lately, looking for cheap figures. And timing was right that I could pick up this Tom Glavine SLU at a decent price to finish off my goal. The auction was won back on the fourth, but I received it earlier this week.
While we're talking about figures, this SLU pair was found at a secondhand shop that focuses on anime merchandise. I didn't really need a Jeter/Ichiro figure, and this package is big, but it's a cool figure and will eventually look nice sitting displayed on a shelf... if I ever have a shelf for it to be displayed on. And I have to figure out how to get all this stuff I'm collecting in Japan... home. (The Altuve and Hernandez figures were sent to my mom's house in the US.)

Friday, January 12, 2018

Shohei Ohtani Collectors: BEWARE this card.

This is not a real Shohei Ohtani card. It's fake. Some guy made it on his computer.
In fact, the image above is high enough quality that you could go ahead and print your own.

Let me reiterate the fact that this card is not worth anything.

Yes, the guy printed some nice quality fake cards. He put them in a nice-quality fake slab. And he's SELLING THESE FOR $25-50 EACH. I'm sure he's just printing another one out every time someone orders one, or he has hundreds of these things already printed.

I remember the 1990s, when everyone and their brother were printing "promo" cards. Those $10-20 cards are now in dime boxes. You can expect these cards to end up there as well. DON'T WASTE YOUR MONEY.

Seriously, it really bothers me to see this crap selling - especially at these prices. Every single one is a "GMA" Mint 10. There's no value in this. Do you think there is? If you think so, I'll sell you legitimate Ohtani cards for $50 each too. I might as well make a few bucks here.

Honestly, I don't have a problem with "homemade" cards. There are niches in collecting that Topps and others have left unfilled, and some people just enjoy making and distributing card sets of their own. I'd love to create a few real card sets of my own. But this guy (or couple of guys) is/are seriously ripping people off. 

NPB Card Guy has posted (first post, second post) about Ohtani's legitimate 2013 rookie cards. Check that out for information on real rookie cards. (BTW, he did a post about this card's IN-authenticity a year ago. I'm reiterating for the good of society.)

There are no legitimate Shohei Ohtani cards from 2012.

Folks with collecting buddies on Twitter, Facebook, message boards, share this article, so people can be made aware.

And if you really want the card above, print one yourself. The image is high-enough quality.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Oddball Find: Idol Bromide PP Cards

 Sold like most bromides, these cards came in a pack (front and back shown above), individually packaged in light lavender colored envelopes. Each envelope originally would cost 20 yen (about 20 cents). "PP" is, I believe, some kind of plastic/coating - the cards are kind of shiny and some rare ones have hologram backgrounds. I've seen "PP" used on other sets as well, and they usually have that background for at least some of the cards.

There is no manufacturer listed. There are 30 cards in each full pack plus the one on the front.The cards below are sorted by "number" though at least one card number is shared. The subjects are all idol music stars. I could spend a few hours figuring out details, but I'm going to just go with "early 1990s" as the era these are from.
 Each card front has a "Power" number, which is always a four digit number with the last two digits "00". There's also a playing card symbol with a janken (rock-paper-scissors) symbol inside. This card is of Eriko Tamura.
 The backs are virtually identical for every card. The same six photos in colored boxes take up most of the space, with "IDOL BROMIDE" along the left edge. The bottom has a number which I'm using as the card number, followed by the name of the person on the front of the card. As you can see here, Takuya Kimura is a member of SMAP, a boy idol group.
 Yumiko Takahashi
 Rieko Miura of the girl group Coco.
 Alisa Mizuki (Arisa Mizuki).
 Tsuyoshi Kusanagi, also of SMAP. This is a good point to mention that there are actually a couple different backs - the design is exactly the same, but the dark-pink (fuchsia?) colored backs have six different photos from the yellow colored backs. And later on, you'll see a third style.
 Rie Miyazawa. You can see her on the back, but in a slightly different photo from the same event.
 Goro Inagaki, another SMAP member.
 Takuya Kimura of SMAP with another card. A cropped version of this photo appears on the back of the rare cards.
 from Hikaru Genji, a music group, this is Akira Akasaka. Note that he shares the same card number as Takuya Kimura. It's possible that there are about 60 cards in the set, with 30 yellow-back and 30 pink.-back. But I don't have enough evidence to even begin checking that.
 Hiromi Nagasaku from the group Ribbon (Ribon here). She's gone on to become a comedic actress.
 Riho Makise
 Alisa Mizuki again
 Masahiro Nakai, the oldest member of SMAP.
 Here's Riho Makise again.
 Hikaru Nishida has pretty good English skills, since she lived in LA for about 12 years.
 We have the full SMAP group with this last card of Shingo Katori.

Now on to the rare shinies. These are unnumbered and have a slightly different back design. But what sets them apart is the holographic foil backgrounds. Super cool! These are also pretty rare, though I don't know how many are in the set so I couldn't tell you how rare each card is. I will say that I got two out of the envelopes (that's 1:15 odds), plus I kept the one from the front of the display package.
 Here is SMAP all together.
 Hikaru Nishida returns with a peace symbol.
And one more Riho Makise for the road. This is the card which was on the front of my packaging. These days, "sample" cards are put in small plastic sleeves, which are then taped to the front, but this card was simply taped to the front of the package. So there's a tiny bit of residue from the tape, and from something else. I could probably clean it up a little bit if I tried.

And that's it! I had a decent number of duplicates, so if this set really has 60+ cards in it, good luck finishing it all. But the images found on the backs weren't duplicated on the fronts of most of my cards, meaning there must be several more cards out there. Perhaps (I'm doubtful) I'll come across a few more taba packs of these and we'll find out together!