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

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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Taiwan Baseball and Baseball Cards

First, if you haven't seen my most recent post (because, hey, that happens sometimes), it's about St. Anky Beer. No it isn't. It's about two very nice, expensive autographs. Well, expensive to me.

So go here to read about the time I blew my wad splurged.

But now, Taiwan baseball and cards. This is actually a question (sorry if the title is misleading). And I promise you in a month or so I'll have full-out posts really talking about the subjects.

Have you been to Taiwan? If so, please read on.

Did you see a baseball game? What can I expect as far as souvenirs, food, and crowds? I don't need to many details, but any tips you can give me are appreciated. I am hoping to see three or four games while I'm there next week! Image
Did you find any baseball cards? Do you know of any baseball card stores or night market hopefuls? Any details you can give me are helpful - when you visited, where the stores were located, or even what to search on Google. I tried translating terms like "sports card shop/store" and "baseball card shop/store" and then searching but I had no luck. I've heard that I could possibly find packs at Seven Eleven of current releases, but I'm interested in older cards too (granted, they won't go any further back than 1989).

Any help you can give me will be greatly appreciated. I'd really love to find a good selection of Taiwanese cards while I'm there but I don't have much of a starting point.

I leave for Taiwan on Sunday, so I'd appreciate any help before then. But if you come across anything next week or even in the future, let me know - eventually I would hope to return to Taiwan or at least be able to forward the information on to others looking for it.

I blew my wad... of cash.

Today, my coworker Amanda joined me for lunch for my favorite meal - spicy curry with stewed chicken. She's an adorably lovable little sister to me. I took her under my wing when she arrived and I know I've gone way out of my way to help her these past couple of months. But I enjoy helping her and hanging out with her can be fun, partly because you never know what she's going to say or do. I should start writing them down and keep a list of Amandisms.

But back to lunch. We were looking at the menus and she mentioned how the item on the menu she wants the most is really expensive. Then she says "I don't want to blow my wad."

"What? My wand!" is my new "WTF" phrase. Just so you know.

Okay, some of you probably already realize that she meant spend a lot of money. But I had to explain to her what else that term meant.

What does that have to do with baseball cards? Well, Fuji was inspired to ask:

What's the most you have ever spent on a single sports related item?

I'm a cheapskate when it comes to cards. I rarely spend double digits on single cards. But I've spent $50 twice on individual cards, both of which remain the most I've ever spent on a single sports-related collectible item. I'm not counting wax boxes and complete sets.

What did I buy? Wouldn't you like to know! Actually, both cards are autographs from two of my favorite players.
 I might have spent less than $50 on this card. Actually, I might have paid as little as $20 for it (it's a pretty-high numbered card). But somewhere in my mind I attached the $50 price tag to it. It's a great autograph of Griffey Jr, although he's pictured with the wrong team (he's always a Mariner in my eyes).
My prized possession is this sticker autograph of Nolan Ryan, numbered to 15. And for $50, I got a great deal. Again, he's pictured with the wrong team, as he was traded to the Rangers when I started collecting cards. I'm still really happy with it!

While I don't splurge on individual cards often, and I rarely buy boxes anymore, I've made a few sales greater than $50 for individual cards. My first really big sale was a Cal Ripken insert card from some premium issue in 1995, pulled right around the time he was about to break Gehrig's record. It was booking at $100 and selling by dealers around $150, so I managed to get the full $100 bill for the card. I also did quite well selling off my non-sport hits (dangit, I wish I kept most of them), as some of them that I obtained for $10-20 from a case-busting dealer ended up being short printed and thus reselling for as much as $200. I've worked hard to rebuild that collection (though not all the same cards are back in), and I'm wise enough now to not sell the cards I still have. Most recently (about 2006 or 2007), I managed to pull a Griffey Jr. Bazooka-backed mini from Allen & Ginter which I sold on the 'Bay for $75. That's the last card I sold on eBay to date. Go figure!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Those Ugly Japanese Cards

Everyone's busy answering Fuji's latest question (as written by dayf):

What is the ugliest card set you've ever seen?

But they're all stuck in America, showing American baseball cards, with American baseball players. And while I could look through my US type collection cards to find some ugly designs, I thought I'd take a look at the cards I've found in the past six months here in Japan. So you won't see any Topps, Upper Deck, or gaudy Fleer, Score, or Donruss from the junk wax era.

Finding oddballs isn't easy here. They just disappear into the ether once they're issued. But there's a good bit of BBM, Calbee, and game cards to choose from. Let's take a short look at some of them.
 Game cards just have too much going on with them. There's a ton of data on both the front and back - Japanese game cards these days work with games in arcades or online so the back has even more space for more skill charts and stats. Plus, any particular company's game cards have the same design, with just minor differences between each game (mainly a different logo hidden somewhere on the back). Each series is identical to the ones before it, and several series are released each year for several years. One game is on its 11th or 12th series so far.

As a collectible for baseball fans, they have nothing going from them. I understand they're designed for another purpose, though, so they just receive honorable mention.
 #5: Most BBM flagship (1st and 2nd Version) issues from the past 10 years or so. Looking at the card above, you might say "There's nothing wrong with the design." Well, I suppose not - the text at the bottom doesn't take up much space, and most sets have players' names, positions, teams, and even jersey numbers. Plus I really appreciate the inclusion of set names on the fronts and/or backs of modern BBM and Calbee releases. So what's so bad about BBM? The designs follow the same basic idea: some computer-generated basic color bars of some sort with an action photo. There are no standout designs in regular BBM sets - and most of BBM's other issues follow suit with the base cards. There's a design on this card, but it's almost the same feel every year. What about Calbee? Sure, Calbee has the same design, but Calbee cards have a different feel - photo-focused with no design elements to distract from the picture. I've mentioned before I like sets with minimal or even no design, and I'm glad Japan has one (and it only needs one).
#4 BBM Parallels. When you're the only game in town, you're going to end up on this list several times. Sorry, BBM, you just have so little competition. All the team issues this year have foil parallels that seem to have no extra value over the base cards. Plus, I don't care much for foil parallels like this. Many teams have something going on (the Giants team issue has a giant silver G logo on the gold foil background). I've seen foil signature cards for other BBM issues which I'm happy with. But those are tougher to find, and thus have value over the base version.
 #3 Who put a giant gem on my baseball card? I think this set led to the safe, relatively bland designs I've seen on BBM issues lately. The golden cut stone stuck in icy ivy-like growth inside a cloud of green smoke seems like something inspired by that bad Batman movie and plenty of creativity-enhancing substances. This was BBM's regular issue design for 1999, and as far as BBM goes it's their worst flagship base set design.
 #2 The 1999 design team at BBM must have been hired from the mid-1990s Fleer design team, because both the prior card and this Diamond Heroes issue look like something that would have found its way into a Fleer/SkyBox product. Lots of seizure-inducing silver metallic squares are cluttering up the background. What's up with the random color squares? And was this a rejected design? Perhaps it was scratched out with that red pen, and instead of being discarded, it found its way to the printing presses. Diamond Heroes was BBM's premium issue.
#1 BBM is saved from the most hideous offering I've seen in my short stay. Sure, the scan has promise. It looks like there's a fun comical line drawing of some player on the Yomiuri Giants.

But he has boobs. And he's holding a plunger and apparently wearing rubber gloves. And shin guards (I guess he's a catcher). And he's Godzilla-sized. Plus, I think he has tattoos. He's wearing a cape? Is he the Giants version of a toilet-fixing superhero? Is he Mario from the video game, but if he left plumbing to become a baseball player, but never lost his love of clearing the most stubborn clogs?

I like the cartoon. It's fun. But this little line-art drawing is etched into a little gold foil sticker, so nobody can really see it. Frankly, I'm very surprised it scanned. And that's why I think it's the ugliest Japanese issue. This is a 2008 issue by Lotte (the company that owns the Chiba Marines and sells lots of chocolates and other food goods). The cards/stickers were found inserted into these chocolate cream filled wafer things from 2006-2008. There are stickers still being made somewhat similar to this, most recently seen when I went to Fukuoka:
 This came in a package with a chocolate wafer candy, but doesn't have any manufacturing information (copyright on back is for the Hawks). These are certainly tamer, but fun.

The funny thing is, the cartoons issued by Lotte from 2006-2008 that aren't gold foil-etched are pretty good, even if they're on a foil background too.
 Dragon warrior!
 Barry Bonds if he played for the Buffaloes and batted while wearing sandals.
And some Marines guy who pitches missile baseballs of different colors.

The gold foil stickers just don't look good. Granted, they aren't vomit-inducing, but line art cartoons and foil really shouldn't be mixed. And that's my opinion! There are plenty of boring designs, and some really gaudy inserts too, but I excuse inserts since some of the craziest inserts are also the best. No, parallels aren't inserts.

Hmm, now that I think about it, I might need to try to put together the Lotte stickers sets because of the awesomely wonderful cartoons. Yeah, that'll be easy. Yep.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Playing Favorites

I've been up for nearly 24 hours now. After a long workweek, a busy Saturday, and overtime Sunday afternoon, I spent Sunday evening and all night with my Japanese friend playing sports and singing karaoke. It's actually about 6 am in Japan as I write this and I'm sitting in McDonalds munching on a hash brown. A good night, but now it's time to write.

Fuji asks via someone else (sorry I'm writing using the iPhone blogger app) what my favorite sets are in each sport. Well, I only really collect baseball though I have some other sports sets as well.
So let's start with the national pastime. What's my favorite set here? The entire Diamond King series. The sets all feature beautiful art and ran for quite a long time (22 years as a licensed baseball product). I continue hoping Panini will bring it back in the next year or two. I'll be on board for that set, license or not.
As for other sports, I like the variety of subjects seen in this year's Topps Olympics set, but I wish they had just gone with photos for the base set. The art style isn't that impressive. It's a tough call, but I think I'll go with Sports Illustrated for Kids. There's a simplicity yet attractiveness to the card designs, and a great collection of different sports and subjects. There are no gimmicks though the cards are gimmicks themselves. No silly hits or crazy SPs.
A big part of my collection is my non-sport cards. While I'm very proud of all my full sets I really like my complete Charlie's Angels vintage sets and my nearly-complete vintage Star Wars sets. But my favorite set is probably the Pop Century relics set. There's a great collection of stars who I want relics for and the swatches are huge.

That's about it! I don't collect any other sports specifically. Again, this is on the iPhone blogger app so pictures will come later!

Edit: I added the pictures. As if you couldn't tell.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

It Was His Destiny: A short story about a budding collector

42. The answer to the ultimate question.
Zooey Deschanel. She's why I watched the movie.
But that's not the question. This is:

How did you first decide to collect sports cards, and when?

I've told this story before, but I'd like to tell it again, in a different way.
A long time ago, in a country far, far away, there was a preteen boy with a love of reading and collecting random stuff. He had over a hundred books. He had dozens of magazines (anyone remember Zoobooks?), rocks and toy cars, shells, and Legos. And everything was scattered about his tiny bedroom.
Stickers and a poster are more than enough to interest me. I think mine came with cards, too.
At some point, alongside all the other random "neat" things he bought, he convinced his mom to pick up some baseball cards. Perhaps it was 1987, or 1988. But in a random, unknown toy store, or perhaps while picking up some candy from Walgreens or another convenience store, a couple packs of cards found their way into the shopping cart and eventually ended up in that tiny bedroom.
Like the shells, Legos, and Teddy Ruxpin tapes (remember him too?), the cards were tossed aside to be forgotten like the lunch you ate on January 12th, 2006. A few other packs of cards joined them over the next several months, maybe gifts from grandma during the long summer break.

Sure, the cards were there, and a collection was started. But the little boy hadn't really decided to collect cards yet. Books and Hot Wheels were still more important to him, but that would all change in the early months of 1989.
It was but a piece of paper that taught the young boy about value, collecting, and organization. The Scholastic Book Club was a favorite school-time handout for the child. He would spend an hour every month carefully studying the latest offerings in hopes of maximizing his interest (and getting some freebie, like the poster seen in the ad above). Some cold winter day, the new Scholastic flier was distributed, and the hunt began. Nestled carefully among the "Harry Potters" and "Twilights" of the time, the future supercollector spotted a unique offering: baseball cards. For the low, low, price of who-the-heck-cares-since-mom-is-paying, the boy would get a stack of cards, a storage box, and a little guide for beginning collectors.

"Mom, I made my selections!" the boy said.

"Okay, let's see... baseball cards? Why do you want those?" Mom answered.

"I'm going to start collecting!"

"But you'll probably lose interest really quick, just like everything else you've started collecting."

"This is different! I know I won't forget about them! These are special and I need them!"

Finally, the mother gave her only son the money needed for the cards and books, and the waiting game began.

But, wait! The boy remembered he had some older cards sitting in a box somewhere! Before long, he had those cards out and glued to some poster paper with rubber cement so he could display and admire them every day.
Actual kit not shown.
The collectors kit arrived, and the boy sorted through the cards with glee. He read the book, learning about the old tobacco cards, the wonder that was Topps, and the recent interest in rookies and the coming of Donruss, Fleer, and the brand-new manufacturer Score (it was 1989, remember?). The boy learned about card value and condition, how to store cards, and what kinds of cards existed.

Soon after, Spring Break came, along with it traditional family trip to Mendocino. The car ride took forever - four hours in adult time. But a stop at a country convenience store along the way really solidified the collecting bone in this young man. There, hanging next to the sweet and salty snacks passersby would want to grab for the road, were rack packs of 1989 Topps!
Again, the little boy begged and pleaded his mom, and the pack found its way into his hands. With his new knowledge about collecting, the next week was spent sorting and re-sorting the cards. And from that moment on, baseball dominated his life. By that summer, he visited his first card shop. He saw his first baseball game at Candlestick Park, learned how to actually play the game, and found friends to trade and collect with.
Obviously, the little boy was me. That's how I started collecting! Of course, this story is a trilogy of which you've only heard part four. The prequel trilogy is full of crazy aliens and an unconvincing love story, and no baseball at all! But it does involve Natalie Portman in form-fitting costumes the way I remember it.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Baseball Card Stores in Japan: Yellow Submarine/Mint Akihabara

Yes, it's time for yet another Mint location. There are very few card stores in Japan that aren't part of the Mint chain, though I discovered a really great one yesterday - I'll be telling you about that soon enough!
 Mint Akihabara is actually part of a store called Yellow Submarine, which mostly focuses on anime and figurines. There's also a Red Submarine, which I think is part of the same group. Since this Mint is part of the Yellow Submarine chain, shoppers can't use the same point card.
 I found Mint Akiba on accident, when I was exploring Akihabara, and didn't know it was part of Mint until later. They have a small selection of Calbee and BBM cards, because baseball isn't their main focus.
 Being in Akihabara, most collectibles shoppers are looking for anime and sex. The majority of this location's card stock is in idol cards - there are nearly-naked women and AKB girls all over the place. However, collectors looking for the latest packs and boxes in baseball and soccer won't be disappointed; there are a few thousand poorly-sorted singles that can sometimes reveal some gems as well.
 I've had a good bit of luck with Calbee here (I haven't spent much effort on BBM), as well as a couple oddballs here and there. Q Card was released in 1991 and I found a small handful. I don't know why Q Card didn't become popular while BBM did.
 I didn't notice last time, but on my most-recent visit I found a bunch of these Matsui Home Run cards. A set has been issued starting from Hideki Matsui's first year with a picture from every one of his home runs. Think Barry Bonds/Mickey Mantle/A-Rod/Josh Gibson Home Run History, but done right. The card set is updated each year. Originally it was issued by NTV, but Upper Deck took over the job when he came to America. Now that Upper Deck is essentially out of the baseball card business, Topps has been printing cards lately.
My last pickup was just my third relic (if I remember correctly), and it cost me only $5. There aren't many relics to be found but I scooped up one that I found.

Mint/Yellow Submarine Akihabara is pretty easy to find. Go out the Electric Town exit, to the left, and make a right towards the major street (Chuo Dori - LABI should be on your left and you are heading towards LAOX). You want the building on the left corner, which should have a bunch of display cases with anime stuff inside it. Look for Radio Hall Of The World (or a similar sign). Note that there has been a lot reconstruction in the area lately, and Google's street view is out of date. You want the building that looks abandoned with the red overhangs in street view (now it has yellow signage). The cards are on the fifth floor of the Radio Kaikan building.

Monday, July 23, 2012

This time it's personal: Another short look at my autograph collection

One of my recent posts gave a little hint at my autograph collection, and eventually I'll showcase all of them. Eventually.

Until then, let me give you another taste of Sharpie-soaked photographic paper by answering Fuji's latest question:

Describe your best or worst IP autograph experience.  Who was it?  What made it special/memorable?

Who would you want to meet in person?  What would you have them sign?

Actually, that's three complicated questions. I decided to answer them all, because, well, this is my blog and I can do what I want!

So first, my best IP autograph experience...

First, let me warn you: I don't do much in-person baseball signings. I've had the opportunity for signatures a few times, but I don't see a point in paying $50-200 for an in-person autograph from someone whose certified on-card autographs go for much less. So my focus is on my non-sport collection.
 Felicia Day might take the cake. She is extremely friendly, and the cliched "down-to-earth" label really does apply to her. She's still nerdy (in a good way) and really appreciates her fans. When I met her, I had the opportunity to talk with her for a little while. Plus, she's really adorable. You just want to go up and hug her. I blame her for my interest in gingers and redheads in general. I was able to listen to her speak at a Q&A kind of event and it was pretty fun. I guess her appeal is that she really is the girl next door.
Which brings me to my worst experience. I should mention that it really wasn't that bad meeting Hayden Panettiere. She's just as adorable (looking and behaving) in person as she is in the movies and on TV, but mostly due to her popularity she was basically mobbed and I felt like I didn't have a chance to talk with her. As a bonus, though, she's big on charity work and all her autograph fees at this event were going to her favorite charity. Oddly enough, one of my prior student's father was working security for her, so we talked for a little bit as I moved through the line. But with Hayden it was just "Hello!", the signature, and then I was done. Not that I would have had much to say to her. "Hi, I like Heroes." Yeah, but still.

Who would I want to meet in person? What would I have them sign?
 My number one choice is Tom Hanks. I love most of his movies - mainly the comedies. Big? Turner & Hooch? The Toy Story series? That Thing You Do? Forrest Gump? The 'Burbs? The Money Pit? I've seen them all. Oddly, I've never watched his TV show (Bosom Buddies).

While a Tom Hanks autograph on anything would be fine with me, I'd love to have this large Rockford Peaches promotional card signed from A League Of Their Own. But with that, I'd also have to add:
 I don't like Madonna in a lot of things, but ALOTO is one where I do enjoy her. And there's one more card in my set to have signed:
Not my favorite Peach, but the most famous. Geena Davis is a great actress in her own right, and I like a lot of her movies.

I have an in-person autograph of Kit Keller (that would be Lori Petty). She's pretty awesome too, but that's a whole other story for another time. And now that I think about it, wouldn't it be cool to have autographs from the entire Peaches roster from the movie?

Friday, July 20, 2012

Emotional Angels on Order

Let's play the pun game!
I'm lucky follower number 100 of Angels in Order (I was a reader but I didn't follow the blog through Google - go figure). While I'm a bit of an eclectic collector, he is all over the place! Angels cards, random sets (signed or unsigned), specific players...
Anyway, if you're not reading his blog, get over there and check it out. He's running a contest-type thing, by the way.
I was really into Mariah Carey back in the mid-90s.

Why is he running a contest? He's starting a great set-based blog about the 1995 E-Motion release by Fleer/SkyBox. It's a great set that's often overlooked since it's from the '90s. I think it's a great-looking set except for those ROOKIE cards. They just jam that word in your face.
You go now! Check out both blogs! Enter the contests! Take drugs called Charlie Sheen!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

It's Not Just Baseball! Totally awesome crap you can find in my collection.

More Fuji goodness with this question:
Outside of the sports memorabilia genre, is there anything else you collect?
 There sure is! I'm a collector by nature, so anything that interests me could become a collection. I have a small collection of beer coasters. I only get coasters for beers I've tried or restaurants/bars I've been to. It's part of a larger collection...
 My travel souvenir collection. Everywhere I go, I try to buy a small item for a tangible reminder of my visit. I have a nice original art piece from Chicago that's about the size of a catcher's mitt, which may be my favorite item in that collection. It's usually not about having some large living room conversation piece; instead I can look at the assortment of items on the shelf (when I had a shelf to display them) and remember all about my trip.
 Maybe you don't know this about me: I've been on nearly 400 roller coasters at the time of this writing:
I should break the 400-coaster barrier in Taiwan in a couple weeks. Like the travel collection, I try to focus on smaller souvenir items when I can. I have a lot of shot glasses from parks in the US, though parks from outside America don't tend to carry shot glasses. I find some more unique items in that case. I have nice cell phone charms from Fuji-Q here in Japan, for example. My favorite item in this collection might be my piece of wood from a roller coaster in Georgia (don't worry, it was sold as a souvenir when they replaced some track). I'd love to have a used coaster wheel or something similar eventually.
My favorite non-baseball collection is my pop culture memorabilia collection. I have a lot of autographs - Anna Faris above, the Donnas below. My favorite in-person autograph is of Ben Folds from a concert I attended a few years ago.
I also have some great concert memorabilia (drumsticks, bottles, guitar picks, set lists, even DEVO's wardrobe from a festival concert in 2005). But my ultimate favorite is this item:
I have a small movie wardrobe collection, and this is probably the best item in it right now. Alexis Bledel's full wardrobe from Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2. So it's not a hit movie, and most of you don't know Alexis Bledel. That's okay. I love it!

I have wardrobe from a small collection of movies and TV shows, plus a prop steering wheel from Minority Report with Tom Cruise (highly probably used by him in the movie). (On the wall are some of my favorite autographs - Katie Holmes, Rachel Bilson, Elisha Cuthbert, Christina Ricci, and a Spiderman on-card autograph from Kirsten Dunst.) Yes, I have more actress autographs than actors. But I do have Gene Wilder, Leslie Nielsen, and David Carradine. Now if only I could get Tom Hanks, Bill Murray, and Robin Williams...

I also have my non-sport card collection, which is mainly complete movie and TV show sets plus a nice collection of autographs and memorabilia cards. Actually, the non-sport collection might have more cards in it than my baseball collection, because of all the non-sport base sets! I've been collecting sets and individual cards since high school.

I have items in my other collections going back to my childhood, though each collection started at different times. My travel collection spans my entire life as I've uncovered toys from some of my first trips. The movie collection started sometime around high school, and the music collection is the youngest, having started about seven years ago. I have scans and photos of some of my favorite items, and someday I'll put forth a full post about many of the items, but until then, enjoy this small glimpse into my non-baseball life!

Captain Canuck's Cardboard from Canadia

Living in Japan, getting cardboard featuring MLB players can be either difficult or expensive. Finding the true oddballs I need for my type collection is at a standstill. However, the blogging community has been very kind to me, with several of you trading me cards on an IOU/Card to be Named Later basis. I really appreciate that! I've been keeping a list of who has offered what (hopefully it's up-to-date) and I have a bunch of cards to eventually send out in return. Now that I think about it, I should have picked up some certain cards I saw this weekend. Anyway, I recently received a shipment of all the mail that's been piling up for the past four to five months...

One card comes courtesy the 1990s. You know, the Humpty Dance era.
Speaking of Humpty, Captain Canuck of Waxaholic sent along another oddball rarity from the 1990s. (Wait, 1990s rarity? Really?)

 Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall. Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. Etcetera. These cards were included with Humpty Dumpty chips and through a mail-in offer, and while they aren't exactly super-rare (commons like Benny here run about 25 cents each), they're Canadian. This means they didn't make their way to my part of town too often - Canadian cards just aren't seen often in Georgia and California. Plus, they're tiny, almost as small as the Cracker Jack cards that came out around the same time. Hooray minis!
See? Canadian! It even has French! Thanks Canuck, I really appreciate the card!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Baseball Card Stores in Japan: Omiya's old toy shop

It's time to go back to Omiya.

My first baseball card shop experience in Japan wasn't a real card store at all. Instead, it was a tiny closet of a shop filled floor to ceiling with old toys and junk, with a small assortment of cards. You can read about some of my finds here. I made a return visit a couple months ago, and I am just finally getting around to showing you what I bought. How's that for a quick turnaround time?

There is something totally awesome in this post. You just have to wait, though.

 I grabbed some more of those round menkos. This one is much smaller than the others, which is why it has a black background - I can scan it in my sheet-fed photo scanner like most normal cards.
 I also bought a couple more large menkos.
 There are a lot of Dragons in the set!
 I found this baseball-related menko which features the local team - the Seibu Lions.
 And I had to grab this when I saw it.
 I picked up another Batman menko, and some other cartoon menko.
I then went for the tobacco-style menkos, including trains, cars, and... is that the Thunderbirds?
 Rock on, movie style.
 Here's a fairly unique set of menkos. They are made of aluminum or tin, and are quite thin. The fronts are gold with the photo in the middle, apparently of some TV or movie personalities. The writing on the front is black and embossed.
You can see the embossing from the silver-colored backs, with some standard menko things like random numbers and a rock-paper-scissors (janken) symbol. Too bad they didn't have baseball players. Speaking of random Japanese idols:
 There were some 1980s(?)-era idol cards in the shop. This one is nearly 8 by 10 inches, and features Yoko Minamino (spelled Yohko Minamino on the card). She was an instant star on TV and had a singing career too.
 This and the next two cards are all around standard size, and feature other random stars (though Yoko may be one of them - I'm not paying enough attention). This card has some kind of game on the back.
 Ooh! Holographic foil! Like the previous card, this one has a game on the back.
While the backs are slightly different on each card, you can see different symbols and such give different results, and I suppose this card back is worth 200 points. The other one is 450P.
 This is a blank-backed card with no discernable purpose other than collectability.
 OK, back to baseball. This is a Yomiuri Giants postcard. I don't know much else about it.
 This bromide "card" was issued in 1960 and is called Doyusha 4 in 1 B & W. I bet you can't figure out why. The cards are generally seen in this format. They aren't entirely valuable, though they have a fun playing card back. There is a colorized version of this set as well.
 Here are the backs.
 Wait, a 9-card sheet for a 4 in 1 card set? This is a prize sheet of some sort, and they can come up to 54 cards per sheet. Wouldn't that have been awesome? Again, not entirely valuable, but a nice find.
 Here's the back. The backs don't match up to any particular player, and you have to figure it out by the team and player's pose to identify each little card.

I decided to call it a day after pulling down these two last cards. There are more menkos that I didn't go through, because I knew I could easily spend too much time and money looking through menko cards. My next visit (whenever that can happen) will probably focus on that, though.

As is my custom when I'm about ready to check out, I took another glance around the store. Tucked away in the back, hiding around some toys where nobody would find it, was a find of a lifetime.
No, not that.

What's that? Oh, it's only an UNCUT SHEET OF MENKO CARDS.

Issued around 1949-1950, this is the Green and Red Stripes round menko set. This is designated as Horizontal Sheet 2, with a book value of $500! It features (in no particular order): Shigeru Sugishita, Chusuke Kizuka, Fumio Fujimura, Tsuguhiro Hattori, Masumi Isekawa, Noboru Aota, Osamu Mihara, and Tetsuharu Kawakami. The quality isn't 100%, but this was an awesome find. I paid nearly nothing for it, and it is the oldest Japanese card (er, cards?) in my collection so far. They don't get much older than this - all but 10 of the cataloged sets were released in 1947 or later. I'm super happy to have this. It's certainly the highlight of my collection, despite the poorer condition.

The shop I found this card at is located next to Omiya Station, across the small street from the East exit. It's nestled in among the cell phone shops and other tiny stores. I have no idea about hours, and selection is really limited. (If you read my first visit post, I found a small selection of Calbee cards and some other cards from baseball, soccer, and non-sport.) However, if you want some menkos, toys, or the experience of searching through piles of stuff for some random find, head out that way.