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

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Thursday, September 12, 2013

Calbee By Year: 1973 Calbee (Bat-Backs)

As Gary Engel puts it, Calbee is the dean of card companies in Japan. For over 40 years now, they have been including one-card (now two-card) packs with potato chips. Unlike Topps, Calbee didn't publish checklists for a long time, and without card stores and dealers, collecting more than 1400 different cards per year (in a couple cases) meant buying a ton of potato chips and then having to trade duplicates.

These days, collecting Calbee cards is easier - checklists are released beforehand and dealers are available to buy singles from to finish sets. But in 1973, kids had nothing but each other to go with.
 The 1973 set features color photographs with minimal text on the front. This card is of Katsuya Sugawara and the text is almost invisible due to his shoe and the shadow. It says his name in kanji; family name first and his team name again in kanji, in parentheses. Cards measure 2-3/8" by 3-1/8".
The backs are royal blue (my scan is a bit light) with a crossed bat symbol at the top. The backs seem to all have a lot of text on them, and Engel says they are sometimes known as monoshiri (know-it-all) cards. I really like how the kanji includes kana to help with pronunciation. If I ever wanted to really practice my vocabulary or at least kana reading skills, I could translate the backs of Calbee cards!

The top line says Pro Yakyu ?? Card in Japanese (yakyu is the Japanese word for baseball). The bottom of the card says Calbee in katakana and a pair of English letters. The first line below the crossed bats translates as Giants pitcher of third! Sugawara player. Player is used here as an honorific title, such as sensei. I'm not sure why he's labeled as "Giants pitcher of third" - he ended up with the second-most victories for the Giants that year but appears to have been usually used in relief - a duty he shared with a few other pitchers. Perhaps he was considered their number three pitcher overall. 1973 would be his last year, as over 6 games he had an ERA of 6.97 and who knows what happened to him after that.

A homerun-back version of the cards has the word "homerun" in Japanese between two baseballs, below crossed bats. A date of August 30, 1973 is printed at the bottom.

The 1973 set contains 91 cards, with the first six cards belonging to Shigeo Nagashima and the next six to Sadaharu Oh. After that, many other players have multiple cards in the set, so there are far fewer than 91 players featured. Many players have cards back to back. A quick glance shows Kazumi Takahashi has four cards total in the set: numbers 16 and 17, and numbers 43 and 44. There doesn't seem to be any actual reasoning for card numbers since not all cards for a player are in a row, but the cards aren't all randomly scattered either. Most of the cards are sorted by team. The Giants hold an overwhelmingly large portion of the checklist thanks especially to Nagashima and Oh.

The checklist for the 1973 crossed bats set is identical to the first part of the next set (1973-74 issue). The fronts are usually identical; 1973-74 sets have a different back style than you see above.

Sports Card Magazine, the Japanese price guide magazine similar to Beckett in the US, lists variations for cards 64-72. There doesn't seem to be any notation as to what the variations are; those cards are in italics in the checklist below. The "A" version of those cards carry a 50% premium in SCM. All those cards are of Dragons players, though two other Dragons cards in the set (#52 and 53) weren't changed. Further research indicates that the variations may only be which bat is on top in the crossed bats design on back; the left bat or right. I am assuming, because my card has a right bat on top, that the left bat on top is the scarcer version.

Card #14 apparently has two photos, one with a horizontal orientation (pitching motion pose) and one with a vertical orientation (set position pose). The horizontally oriented photo was reused in the 1973-74 set.
  1. Shigeo Nagashima
  2. Shigeo Nagashima
  3. Shigeo Nagashima
  4. Shigeo Nagashima
  5. Shigeo Nagashima
  6. Shigeo Nagashima
  7. Sadaharu Oh
  8. Sadaharu Oh
  9. Sadaharu Oh
  10. Sadaharu Oh
  11. Sadaharu Oh
  12. Sadaharu Oh
  13. Tsuneo Horiuchi
  14. Tsuneo Horiuchi
  15. Tsuneo Horiuchi
  16. Kazumi Takahashi
  17. Kazumi Takahashi
  18. Isao Shibata
  19. Masaaki Mori
  20. Isao Shibata
  21. Shigeru Takada
  22. Shigeru Takada
  23. Shozo Doi
  24. Shozo Doi
  25. Masaaki Mori
  26. Masaaki Mori
  27. Takashi Yoshida
  28. Yukinobu Kuroe
  29. Shitoshi Sekimoto
  30. Shitoshi Sekimoto
  31. Katsuya Sugawara
  32. Katsuya Sugawara
  33. Masahiro Yanagida
  34. Shozo Doi
  35. Shigeru Takada
  36. Shigeru Takada
  37. Isao Shibata/Toshimitsu Suetsugu
  38. Yukinobu Kuroe/Shozo Doi
  39. Tsuneo Horiuchi
  40. Yukinobu Kuroe
  41. Toshimitsu Suetsugu
  42. Takashi Yoshida
  43. Kazumi Takahashi
  44. Kazumi Takahashi
  45. Tsuneo Horiuchi
  46. Masaaki Mori
  47. Takashi Yoshida
  48. Tsuneo Horiuchi
  49. Masaaki Mori
  50. Takashi Yoshida
  51. Koichi Tabuchi/Yutaka Enatsu
  52. Kenichi Yazawa
  53. Tatsuhiko Kimata
  54. Akira Ejiri
  55. Makoto Matsubara
  56. Masaji Matsubara
  57. Masaji Hiramatsu
  58. Kazuyoshi Yamamoto
  59. Yoshiro Sotokoba
  60. Sachio Kinugasa
  61. Koji Yamamoto
  62. Toshiyuki Mimura
  63. Mitsuo Inaba
  64. Tatsuhiko Kimata
  65. Mitsuo Inaba
  66. Kenichi Yazawa
  67. Kenichi Yazawa
  68. Morimichi Takagi
  69. Tatsuhiko Kimata
  70. Mitsuo Inaba
  71. Morimichi Takagi
  72. Yukihara Shibuya
  73. Koichi Tabuchi
  74. Takenori Emoto
  75. Katsuya Nomura
  76. Taira Fujita
  77. Teruhide Sakurai
  78. Hiromitsu Kadota
  79. Shinichi Yamauchi
  80. Koichi Tabuchi
  81. Katsuya Nomura
  82. Taira Fujita
  83. Hiromitsu Kadota
  84. Teruhide Sakurai
  85. Shinichi Yamauchi
  86. Takenori Emoto
  87. Yutaka Fukumoto
  88. Atsushi Nagaike
  89. Hisashi Tamada
  90. Hideji Kato
  91. Tadayoshi Okuma


  1. There's something about the photography of the 1973 set that sets it apart from all the remaining Calbee issues, even the 1973-74 set. I can't quite put my finger on what it is, but a lot of the photos look like they were taken in the 1950's rather than the 1970's - and I mean that in a good way. The photos just have this classic look to them. The cards from the 1973 set in this post of mine have the look I'm talking about, especially the group shot and the card of Yoshida.

    I've been anxiously awaiting this series of posts since you first mentioned wanting to do them. Looking forward to the rest of them - good luck when you get to the 1977-79 issues!

  2. I think the photo difference is them going from a lot of posed shots, to Calbee later going almost completely to action shots (some of which are terrible and almost look like television screen captures).

  3. As Jason said, there seems to be more posed photos, but I do think the colors were more vibrant in this issue than others (except for the pink in that one subset which I think glows in the dark). Even today's cards don't seem as bright, though the photography is sharper and more dynamic.

    I have been thinking a lot about '77 and '79 especially, so I have a good idea of what I want to do with them. I know I won't be 100% happy with the way they post no matter what.