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

Want Lists are located here. NPB Baseball Want List is located here.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 in Review: The Year of Absence

Hello there.

It's been a long, strange year. I moved into a new apartment in late January, which is why I disconnected my internet. I attended my grandma's memorial service in February, and said goodbye to the school I'd been working at for over four years in June.

I am now an "emergency" teacher, which means I fill in at schools when regular teachers aren't available. It's similar to a substitute teacher back in the US, but this is a step up, not a step down - it's an honor to be in this position. With this position comes some travel - I was up in Morioka this summer, skipping the heat and humidity that Tokyoites suffer through; the fall season was spent on the west side of Tokyo and now I'm working not far from Akihabara.

Being an ET (heh, heh) means I have yet another apartment - I moved from Koshigaya to Funabashi in June with the position change. However, since I've been working pretty far from home, I've mostly been living in branch school apartments instead of my own; my current assignment is only about 20 minutes away so I can actually commute this time. I can pick up free wifi from my Funabashi apartment, though it's intermittent sometimes. And I'm finally getting settled in to my apartment.

I've done some traveling this year; aside from the week in America back in February for the memorial service, I also spent a week in Korea (my third trip) and took weekend trips to Aomori, Akita, and Nagoya.

And while I haven't been posting much, I have been collecting. I've visited a few new card shops (new to me, that is). And I've worked on my collections. Let's see how I did by reflecting on my goals:

I set blogging goals for 2016.

  1. Fully update my card shop posts and publish the card shop directory I've mostly put together already.
  2. Finish up the Japanese card index page.
  3. Seriously, get those Calbee set posts done!
  4. Go back to the Idol Card of the Week posts.
  5. Post timely new release information for Japanese cards.
Obviously, none of those happened. I just flat out didn't post for the past 11 months.

And collecting goals.
  1. Finish the 1973 Topps set. Completed! I picked up the last card needed -  the Yankees manager/coaches card - at the beginning of the December. The key Mike Schmidt RC came from an eBay auction a couple months ago.
  2. Get the nine remaining relics I need for my players collection. Completed! I knocked this off my to-do list early in the year. The most difficult was Julio Franco's bat relic (he has no jersey relics as far as I can tell).
  3. Fully update 2014-present in the Japanese baseball type collection, and organize the non-sport type collection. Not done. I have the SCM guides to do this but not having internet (my spreadsheets are in Google Docs) kind of ruined this plan. 
  4. Reduce my Japanese sets wanted list from 162 to 100. I didn't delete anything yet. The list actually grew to 177 because I added a full new collection to the lists (37 sets). Additionally, there are more than 20 sets that could be and probably will be deleted. So I came pretty close.
  5. I have 428/1023 foreigners in my NPB collection. I'd like to reach at least 500 this year. Completed! I have 514/1075 foreigners now. I'm surprised it isn't more than that.
  6. Somehow deal with the Japanese Baseball Stadiums and Japanese Awards collections. Not done. I did something with US baseball stadiums and MLB awards that I will probably do here too. 
  7. My US card set want list is at 174 sets right now. I'd like that to drop to 125. I'm down to 146. I made some good progress on many of the sets but didn't finish as many as I'd like. And of course some 2016 sets got added.  Additionally, there is a "full set" want list that has 59 sets; I want to reduce that to 50 sets. Down to 22! Most of that was deleting the entire Fleer stickers collection, which I never started. And 14 of the remaining sets are college sets mostly from the Junk Wax era that could be deleted as well.
  8. Finish my set runs of Upper Deck and Stadium Club. I completed Upper Deck this summer! Stadium Club is not finished; I have the base set with rookies from 2008 but not the rookie variations or rookie autographs, and I am having a hard time finding a reasonably priced 2015 set.
  9. Knock the Awards collection want list down to 200 cards. I'm all the way down to 137! And 85 of those are team cards. 
I feel really good about completing some big things. The 1973 set took five years; again I need to thank Jim for all his help on this. The Upper Deck set run and player collections were fulfilling too. 

I also picked up some key cards for my collection. I hope to share those with you all eventually. And my MLB type collection got a big kick from some shopping I've done through COMC, Sportlots, and some luck here in Japan. 

So while I wasn't able to share my collecting experience with you, it was a good year for my collection. 

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

2016 Nipponham BBM Nippon Ham Fighters

I’ve read a lot about food issues coming from the US this year. I’m sure everyone who follows US baseball card blogs knows about the WalMart pizza cards. Well, Japan has its own new food issue this year too.

Actually, including cards, stickers, or other goodies with candy or food has been going on for decades here. Bikkuriman stickers continue to be popular, and there have been some baseball versions in the past. Kanebo Gum included MLB cards in 2002 and 2003, and walking down the candy aisle in the supermarket shows a lot of products usually packaged with a piece of gum.

Of course, Japan has had Calbee Baseball Chips every year since 1973.

But new on the scene this year is an odd-sized oddball set issued by Nippon Ham. It’s smaller than a regular card, similar to Calbee size, and manufactured by BBM.
As you can see the card design is fairly simple. There is a gold facsimile signature on the front, though it isn’t in foil. Note that the card number is found on the front of this set; the number on the back is the player’s jersey number.

Nippon Ham is a food producer which focuses on meat and dinner products. They have ready-to-bake pizzas in supermarkets all over the country.

Right now I’m not sure about any details for the set. But hopefully I’ll be able to find out more in the future. I picked this card up through Yahoo! Japan Auctions.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Charlie Hustle Ink

Should Pete Rose be in the Hall of Fame?

Everybody always talks about this each time the Hall of Fame voting begins. What Rose did as a player is amazing, though his gambling as a manager did him in.

While time heals all wounds, and people would like to forgive him for what he did, the Hall of Fame and MLB still mark him ineligible.

The Reds inducted him into their Hall of Fame this year and Rose is a member of the All-Century Team, showing that perhaps things will change.
It’s not hard to find Pete Rose autographs, as he signs anytime, anywhere. But his signature has eluded me until I picked up the Leaf card you see above. I’m pretty happy to finally have one in my collection, and I might go ahead and try to put together a small player collection of him.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Two for Altuve

My player collections come in three flavors. I have regular collections with just the base Topps card from each year for that player; most of my PCs are in that bracket. There are some super collections - Charlie Hough, Geoff Geary, and Buck Farmer are up there. And then there’s Jose Altuve, who falls in the middle.

I get pretty much any Altuve card I can, though parallels, autographs, and relics stay off my want lists. I did pick up an autographed bat card and a jersey card so I could have a “trifecta” but those cards are in the US so I can’t show them here.

I did, however, pick up a couple new regular cards of his:
I busted a few packs of Opening Day this year, as usual. It’s cheap and helps me scratch that itch. I didn’t get Altuve, but I was able to trade for it.
And this 2014 Topps Turkey Red card popped up somewhere so I grabbed it too. 

With the exception of 2016 cards, my Player Collections are pretty well-managed. There are 18 Altuve cards I’m looking for, which can be found in my want list link. Most of them I just haven’t pulled the trigger on because I’m focusing on other parts of my collection.

(Sorry, the formatting on my posts seems to be completely screwed up. So words are randomly splitting. I'll try to fix that next time.)

Saturday, May 28, 2016

New Autograph, Not Baseball!

The 2016 Olympics are still months away, but Japanese people are already excited about the 2020 Games in Tokyo. And Japan has a strong sense of national pride. So it’s no wonder that I spend a decent amount of time talking about the sports Japan excels in during international competition.

Rugby comes up often now, thanks to the Japan team’s recent success. And of course soccer, judo, and swimming come up frequently. Volleyball remains popular, and earlier this month I even talked about some of the boating events with a student.

Japan has a strong men’s gymnastics team, but I’m always happy to talk about gymnastics because America’s ladies have been the best for as long as I can remember.

In the Olympics we won the gold in 1996 and 2012, Silver in 1984, 2004, and 2008, and Bronze in 1948(!), 1992, and 2000. And individual competitors for the US dominate the individual all-around competition. Most Americans know the names, too: Mary Lou Retton, Kerri Strug, Dominique Moceanu, Shawn Johnson, Nastia Liukin, and all the 2012 gold winners: Gabby Douglas, McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman, Kyla Ross, and Jordyn Wieber.

Carly Patterson was a part of the 2004 silver medal-winning team, and won the individual all-around competition that year. I have a collection of gymnastics autographs now, and she is the newest addition to that collection.
I really like Goodwin Champions - it’s the one Upper Deck set I collect each year. In fact, I find that Goodwin has a more appealing selection of subjects than Allen & Ginter some years!

Friday, May 27, 2016

I'll Buy That for a Dollar!

Talk about lucky: I got this card for just one dollar. The line across the top is a scanner artifact, not damage on the card.
Enough said.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Old Calbee, New Pickups

It’s not too hard to keep up with recent Calbee releases, though the gold signature parallels are always pricey. But hunting for older Calbees I still need in my type collection is getting harder and harder.

I recently made two important and exciting pickups for my type collection.
The first is this August Best card from the 1979 set. The player is 新浦寿夫 (Hisao Niura) of the Carp. Gary Engel’s guide doesn’t indicate any rarity for this set, but finding a card has been difficult, and I finally came across one at Mint Ikebukuro. They identify this as a rare series, and the card came at a premium price. But given that I never see them at shows, I bit the bullet and dropped 4000 yen on the card.
The second card was much cheaper - a 1975 Homerun card that I got for only 1000 yen! My guess is that there are at most a dozen of any one Homerun card out there, and probably much fewer. They were mailed in to Calbee to redeem for a prize, so after being written on and later stamped by the redemption center, I’m sure most got tossed in the trash. Add to that the fact that Homerun cards were rare to begin with and possibly issued for every card front in the set, and you have an actual scarcity that’s difficult to match.

This card is even more interesting in that someone has circled a prize, but there is no stamp from the manufacturer, indicating the card might have never been redeemed.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

I ain't dead yet!

Hello, folks! Long time, no see.

I think my last post was back in January, because since then I’ve been living without standard internet. Me. A guy who spent hours a day browsing YouTube, searching eBay, and writing posts. I can’t say it’s been easy, though my old iPhone 4s still manages to handle the internet well enough to serve my needs.

Let’s bring you up to speed on my life.

In December, my grandmother passed away. A memorial service was held for her in February, and I went back home to attend. It’s not easy to say goodbye to one of the most important people in my life, and we were very close. But I feel better for doing so, and I was able to see family members I haven’t seen in decades.

My belongings which were stored at her house are now with my mother. Remember, I do not have a San Francisco address any more. I continue to grab things on eBay, and she sends me photos. So while I haven’t been posting, I have been collecting.

In Japan, I’ve made some great finds on Yahoo! Japan Auctions, and there have been a couple shows. Actually, I’ll be attending a show I’ve never heard of on the 29th. It seems that this is the 38th time this card show has been held, so it might be pretty big. We’ll see. And I’ve been getting to the card shops to pick up new singles.

On the career front, I am being promoted to Emergency Teacher. It’s like a substitute teacher, but requires a bit more skill than a regular teacher. I start that position next month, so I’m moving again. Luckily most of my stuff remained in boxes so packing hasn’t been too hard. I’ll be living in Funabashi now, about 20-30 minutes east of Tokyo, though this job involves lots of travel. I could teach in the Tokyo area, or I could be sent to Tohoku or Hokkaido. Or anywhere in Japan, really. It will be a challenge but at the same time I’m very excited to be moving up and meeting so many new people. Plus, I hope I can fit in a little sightseeing at times!

And some other big news: I will be on Japanese television!

Earlier this month, a TV show called “Rediscover Japan” interviewed me about my Japanese baseball card collection. The show is broadcast weekly on the Japanese TBS station, and my episode is supposed to air on June 7th. Note that this show is in Japanese, and I doubt it’ll be shown in America. But if you get Japanese TV channels and one of them is called TBS, you might find me! There is a bit of acting involved in the interview, so I hope they don’t make me look too geeky!

One of Japan’s biggest holiday seasons was this month - Golden Week was short this year as the holidays bookended a weekend so I didn’t take a long vacation. I went camping for the first time that I can remember, staying two nights on Sado Island. It’s one of those slower-pace-of-life places, and I really enjoyed being out in nature and hiking along the rugged coast at the northern end of the island! It’s certainly a place I hope to return to sometime.

So that’s about it. With about two weeks left until I move (there are two weeks where I’ll be living between my current and new apartment) I’ve been packing, trying to finish off the food in my pantry, and clearing out lots of stuff. Since I have no internet at home, I’ve pre-typed some posts and hopefully I can get the images to upload and line up properly and easily. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

On Haitus, But Trades!

Last weekend I made the big move around the corner to my new apartment. Yes, literally around the corner. However I didn't take my internet with me - I only have what I can get through my four year old iPhone 4S. For the time being posting just isn't possible... at least not easily.

I am going back to SF next week as as promised I hope to send several trade packages. Here is the current status of that:
All of this stuff will be properly packaged and mailed, God and finances willing, sometime next week. I still need to email people for addresses. 

Emailing from an iPhone is hard so I'm going to type up a "form letter" of sorts I hope. Or maybe find some free wifi around here to use my laptop. 

As for regular posting, I expect to get internet of some sort when I get back from the States, so I should be posting again next month. And I might do an iPhone post or two. 

So until then, enjoy Topps 2016!

Friday, January 22, 2016

New Release "Pack" Busting: 2016 Calbee All Stars

NPB Card Guy alerted me to the issuance of an early 2016 set from Calbee. He heard about it from another guy who came across the chips in Hokkaido, and passed the news on to me.
Calbee usually issues three regular series per year with three special limited sets to go with them. We haven't seen what Calbee's doing with the regular 2016 sets yet, but I like this addition. The cards come in a gold bag which advertises that all cards are sparkly. There are 36 cards in the set. And while it's not advertised on the bag, there is a foil signature parallel randomly inserted in packs.
Unlike regular Calbee Chips cards, this pack has only one card. Also, you can see that one bag of chips has a respectable 123 calories.
Here is the card I pulled in my first pack. Chihiro Kaneko of the Buffaloes. You can see the sparkle showing in the photo in the upper left of the card. The photo on the front has a sort of triple-exposure effect going on which is a bit disturbing in the scan but looks a bit better in person. The background is a dark blueish-gray tone, similar to Star Card and other premium inserts over the past 10 years or so.
And the back is pretty standard as well. The card number is in the upper-right, noting the year and carrying an "AS" prefix.

As I mentioned, there are foil signature parallels but I don't know how rare they are. I would guess that they are about as rare as the foil signature cards for the Star Cards sets, as prices on Yahoo Auctions are comparable.

I bought five bags of these chips, but three packs are saved for Fuji so I'll have one more card for you next week!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Fuchiko's Back to Hang Around Some More

I had a successful day at the UFO Catcher on Wednesday, coming back with six more Fuchikos after lunch! Some of these are the same style I already have, but the more, the merrier, right?
Panty shot unintentional. It's kind of hard to get my iPhone to focus properly on these.
Another bikini version. I think this is a repeat.
This, too, is probably my second one. She hangs by her twin tails (double pony tail).
See what I mean about focus? This yellow Fuchiko sits facing the inside of the glass instead of the outside.
Go Japan! Though I think I have this one already, too.
Last but not least, I finally got this green lady to balance properly on the rim of the glass. The empty glass I had been using for the other Fuchiko figures wasn't wide enough, so I put her on my Jack and Coke. Luckily she never tried swimming!

This is probably the end of Fuchiko for a while. I might try to get something else next time!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

A Little (Important) News and Little Helmets

Let's start with the news. It's a bit lengthy. Sorry about that.

First, I'm moving. It's not very far, but it very soon. At the end of the month, I'm moving to a different apartment around the corner from this first one. It's a bit of a long story but at least I'll get a slightly bigger place. And I think it's somewhat nicer too, though my current apartment has been at least decent for the past four years.

This means I've been boxing up stuff lately. That's mainly my souvenirs that are still loose. I'm photographing or scanning them all so that I can keep them packed safely. Even with a bigger place, there's no way I can display-store my souvenirs as I'd like. Besides, nobody who comes to my apartment wants to see them, I'm sure.

I owe some people (at least the Prowling Cat, if not more of you!) cards for trades, and there are some pending emails in my boxes. I'll address those next month. A couple of you have my current address in Japan, but please don't send anything to it!

Which brings me to my second piece of news. I'll be going back to the US for a week for my grandma's memorial service in February. She passed away about a month ago, I might manage to get to a card shop, but it sounds like things will be pretty busy, and there's no telling how exactly I'll be feeling anyway.

That said, I will be bringing my trade stacks with me to mail out next month. When I "pack" that shelf before moving, I'll take note of who I have stuff for and send out calls for addresses.

Also, many of you have a San Francisco address for me for trades. Please don't use the San Francisco address anymore - just go ahead and delete it from your listings if you keep such a thing. If you ever have something to send me let me know, and you can mail it to my mom's house in Georgia.

Over the next month, I'll be busy or just plain out of touch at times. I'm going to do my best to keep posts coming as much as possible, but don't be surprised if I go quiet again.

That said, here's today's fun!

Last week, I won an auction of four mini helmets, all autographed by players.
That's the Kyoto Flora women's baseball team. The helmets are the same size as those ice cream helmets from back in the day. Remember those? If someone did a team helmet ice cream promotion again I'd be all over the ice cream shop collecting all the teams. Ice cream four times a day for a week!
So yeah, they are autographed. I don't know who the players are, but I don't care. I just wanted the helmets! Unfortunately, the autographs are rubbing off on some of them. I'm going to have to protect them somehow.

I'm not sure what's up with the lighting on the pictures.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Star Wars Choco Eggs!

 There are a ton of movie tie-ins here in Japan for the new Star Wars film. American collectors usually have access to big things: action figures and toys, for example. But in a nation where space is seriously limited, collectors turn to smaller things.

[Okay, so the anime figurine business is pretty big here. And there are some giant stuffed toys to be won from the UFO catcher games. But for the everyday collector or just casual fan, things need to be small.]
You can find some interesting Star Wars things everywhere you look. Many are functional, like pencil cases, bags, smart phone accessories, clothing, and stuffed toys (they can be pillows too, right?). And there are plenty of plush toys that can be attached to bags. For true collectors, there are the Bikkuriman stickers, and what you see above.

Furuta is a chocolate company that frequently issues series of tiny figurines sold inside chocolate eggs. They are called, unsurprisingly, "Choco Eggs".  I decided to go after a set of these little figures full-out, and found a good deal on two boxes of 10 eggs each. That's 20 total figures, plus a few more I had bought before this.
 Inside the box is exactly what you'd expect: a foil-wrapped chocolate in the shape and about the same size as a large egg.
 Break open the chocolate and there's a small plastic capsule inside. The chocolate egg itself is white on the inside, but I don't know if it's "white chocolate" or just white milk chocolate. It doesn't taste like white chocolate. Anyway..
 Opening the plastic capsule gives you an unassembled figurine plus a small checklist.
 The figure above is Boba Fett!
 Can you guess who this is? You can see part of the checklist here, though it's all in Japanese.
 Han Solo!
 And here's Luke!
 And a Storm Trooper!

There are a total of 14 figures in the series, which appears to be the norm for Furuta's Choco Eggs. One figure is a secret, which is also rare.
 I now have the full set, though I was one figure short with the two boxes. Darth Maul was picked up off of Yahoo Auctions. So yes, I did get one of the secret figurines.
 The Millennium Falcon is the secret figure, which you see in the front.
 I love these figurines. They're tiny but detailed enough to be interesting. And they aren't too hard to find!
Most Choco Egg series lately have been Disney figures - soon after Star Wars sold out, the sixth Disney figure set was released. I found a bunch of figures at a thrift shop a couple weeks ago but I still haven't looked at them to see exactly what I have... and I have to find a list to see everything that's available.

FYI, individual eggs cost about 180 yen each with tax. I don't know of any current series being sold in stores, because the Disney eggs sold out very fast. But when they're on sale, you can find them at snack shops, convenience stores, and supermarkets.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Chipping Away at Set Building: Upper Deck Japan

In the past few years I've picked up Upper Deck's sets issued in 2000-2001 here in Japan. Yes, Upper Deck issued NPB baseball cards for a couple years. At some point I'll do a full post on them, but for now I'll just share some cards that put me a little closer to a full set.
 These three cards are from 2000 Ovation. The base set's first 30 cards were short printed as a "Rising Stars" subset. They're numbered to 2000 copies each, which is actually pretty high, but for some reason dealers sell these for a premium - we're talking $3-5 each at times. Maybe it's because they're "rookie" cards too. But they aren't exactly big stars. Anyway, three cards down, 27 to go.
From the flagship Upper Deck set is this Best Nine insert.

Until I get lucky and find a lot of inserts from these sets at low prices, I'm probably not going to add any more to my collection. I've completed the base sets already... or, I should say I've purchased all of the base sets already, and I have a few insert sets done too. So now I'm just going for the other inserts to give me a master set. There are relics and autographs involved but I'm not chasing those.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Recent Additions: Yahoo Auctions

Along with the Starting Lineup figures I posted about last week, I bought a bunch of singles from a seller on Yahoo Auctions Japan. The most I paid for any card was 100 yen (with the exchange rate, that's about 80 cents). And everything you see here was missing in my type collection. Not anymore!
 1990s Fleer! Somehow I've been missing several Update/Traded base cards. The John Rocker is just a base, but needed nonetheless.
 I'm probably overpaying if I'm not getting minor league singles for a dime, but in the end this is easier. And there are no dime boxes in Japan.
 I'm seriously lacking in minor league singles, but I tend to focus on other issues anyway. Someday, I'll really buckle down and work on these inexpensive sets.
 Mini and maxi. Not to scale.
 I was quite surprised to be able to get this Tek insert for 50 yen. If only I could get a lot of Tek cards I need for 50 yen or less.
 Does anyone really remember any of these turn-of-the-century era sets?
 One thing I was happy about was the number of "hits" I could get cheaply. There are lots to be had out there, I know. But picking through to find the ones I need gets harder and harder.
 Signed minor league issues. It seems like these don't carry much value even for players who make it in the bigs - a Tim Lincecum pre-rookie autograph is much cheaper than a Topps autograph, for example.
 I like that Morgan relic.
 Cesar Cedeno isn't that bad either - a jersey card from a multiple-Gold Glove winner for 100 yen is a good price in my book.
 I will never forget everyone in Atlanta heckling Pat Burrell whenever the Phillies were in town.
 There are some decent names in this lot. Dave Parker in an airbrushed minor league jersey?!
 For a high-end product, Upper Deck sure sucked at making nice cards for Ultimate Collection.
And we're done. I've been chipping away at my type collection lately, mostly via COMC. One of my unwritten goals for the year has been to get as many years as possible up to 25% or 50% completion, depending on where they are now. At the same time, I'm trying to knock out the most important cards for each year - the base cards - to get that category up near 100%.