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

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Tuesday, April 27, 2021

What is this? A glove for ants?

Yesterday, I showed off a nice piece of art I found at the local recycle shop. But that's not all that I've bought there. I also came away with some much smaller souvenirs: ones that I had never seen before.
First, let's start off with some mini figurines. These little guys I have seen before, and I have a couple of the tiny ones. Now I have a few more. The Clemens is a 2005 Corinthian mini figure, while the rest are SportsClix kind of things. (I wish I had gotten a better picture or scan of that pamphlet.) I believe those were found in gacha-gacha vending machines, or they could have been sold in little boxes. I considered for a brief second trying to put the set together; I could have come close just with the selection at the shop. But I wisely decided against it.

The little guys are also made by Corinthian, by the way, and in their original little bags. Left to right, Ken Griffey Jr., Chipper Jones, and Randy Johnson.

Next, three little baseballs. One side shows a player's name and jersey number (Mike Piazza, Chipper Jones, and Sammy Sosa).
The other has the player's team logo. Each ball has a little strap attached so you can put it on a phone or phone case, or a bag.
These straps are little plastic baseball caps. They don't have any players, but the detail is amazing given their size. Each one is about the size of a piece of popcorn (as are the baseballs above).
And here are some tiny jerseys with straps. And now you can probably tell where these came from. The fronts of the jerseys are designed to look like teams' home or away jerseys.
Backs continue the design, along with a player's name and jersey number. Ichiro was wearing #51 for the Mariners back in the mid 2000s, while Bernie Williams was Yankees #51. But I got two Chipper Jones jerseys, both home and away! And a Pepsiman jersey.
These gloves are tiny, and have straps as well. I have Ichiro, Chipper Jones, and Mike Piazza.
Finally, these are little metal plates that look similar to baseball cards, but also have straps to attach to your phone or bag.
Despite being really small, the backs include a team logo, photo, and lots of text. As you can see if you enlarge the photo, these were issued in 2004 by Pepsi. My guess is everything other than the Corinthian mini-figures were included free with various Pepsi products.

Boy do I miss those days, when I could walk into a supermarket or convenience store and find free toys hanging from the necks of soda bottles. I see some free items, but now they are nicer-quality and require bigger purchases. And they aren't related to baseball.

Would you hang one of these from your phone?

Monday, April 26, 2021

Hanging Thing

As I shift from school to school, one thing I try to do is visit some of the local thrift shops. Depending on the area, I can sometimes find a lot of old, traditional Japanese things, or I come across piles of baseball knickknacks. 

The biggest one in town here in Matsumoto is a branch of a chain called BookOff. This particular location has housewares, clothing, hardware and electronics, collectibles and toys, and even an automobile/motorcycle section. And in the back of the store, I found some hanging things.

"Hanging thing" sounds really generic, but it's the literal translation of "kakemono". Japanese sometimes uses really simple compound words to describe things. But instead of getting into the language, why am I bringing this up?

Well, "kakejiku" (hanging scroll) is the more common name for a particular item in a stereotypical Japanese home. These are used to mount and display paintings and calligraphy. I found several kakejiku, and picked out one that appealed to me.

It came in this nice lightweight wooden box. 
Opening it up, you can see it is a scroll. They typically have specific sections and parts. The top is the "heaven" part, while the bottom is "earth". The bottom has a "jikugi" rod, which the scroll is wrapped around when rolled, and another rod and other pieces are found at the top, including hanging thread and tassels. 
I hung this up for the photo, and I left the tassels hanging in the front so you can see everything. The painting itself is framed by wallpaper-like gold paper, and additional fancy paper frames the top and bottom. If you enlarge the photo above, you can probably see the detail on all of the different papers, and of course get a better look at the image itself.

I chose this particular one because it has a lot of color and a very nice nature/river scene, but there is also a man in a boat, an old house, and four mythical creatures. I'm pretty sure this is an original painting (not printed), but if it's not copied from another work, it's certainly based on it. Four gods in a landscape is a relatively common theme. I didn't buy it as an investment, anyway. Eventually, I hope to have it displayed somewhere, along with my Chinese scroll that is definitely a (nice looking) reproduction.

These are often displayed in nicer homes in a Japanese-style room; most formal rooms have an alcove used for hanging these and displaying nice vases, wood, or other aesthetically-pleasing items.

It's no baseball card, but it is a nice item in my collection!

Until next time...

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Winning An Unfair Fight: 2008 Stadium Club

I present to you: Clayton Kershaw. This card is arguably the key card in the 2008 Stadium Club set. Max Scherzer is giving him a run for his money, though.

And it's mine, now. With that purchase, I now have a full set of 2008 Stadium Club! To be honest, my set is a bit of a Frankenset.

2008 Stadium Club is a 184 card set, but cards 101-150 have photo variations, making a full set 234 cards. But Joe DiMaggio was removed, so a full set is 233 cards. #151-184 are rookie autographs, like Kershaw above. Every third card #1-150 (3, 6, 9, 12, etc) is numbered to 999 copies, as are the photo variations. Rookie autographs were only found in hobby packs. Confused, yet?

There are several parallels. For non-autographed cards, First Day Issue Hobby are numbered to 599 copies, while Retail versions aren't serial-numbered and found one per pack. There are also blue, gold, and platinum Photographer's Proof parallels for all cards #1-184, numbered to 99 or less. 

Finding all of the variations and stars in regular base form was actually much more difficult than picking up parallels here and there. I especially relied heavily on retail First Day Issue cards for the /999 base cards and photo variations. There are even a couple Photographer's Proofs in there!

I'm definitely glad to knock this set off the list! I still need to finish a few Topps throwback sets. Perhaps those are my next focus. What set has been nearly impossible for you to finish?

Until next time...

Friday, April 16, 2021

Go Big or Go Home

Calbee has been including prize redemption cards since their first baseball set back in 1973. Originally called homerun cards, and now called lucky cards, these could be exchanged for various gifts. They've offered card albums, baseballs, towels, books, and, yes, even cards.

From 1990-1993, you could get your hands on an oversized card set. There were two unique series in 1990, but only one type for the remaining years.

1992 is definitely the rarest of the issues, and I'm not sure I've ever seen one in a shop. I finally bit the bullet and bought this Tatsunori Hara:

The design copies the base card from that year, but the set is much larger than the regular version.
I ended up with two Haras for the price of one. This is from the 1993 Big set. Again, it uses the same design as the regular 1993 cards, just in a larger size.

While we're at it, here are the other sets at a glance:

Here's the first version of 1990 Big Size cards. The front design is different from the regular set, but the backs are similar to base cards.
The second series was printed on photographic paper and has no Calbee markings, though they have the facsimile signature on the front. These might be better off labeled as bromides or raw photos rather than Big Cards.

Here's 1991. It, like 1992 and 1993, uses the same design as the base set.

I'm happy to have this run of inserts completed and crossed off my list! I guess my next whale will be a 1989 Hologram card. That might prove to be impossible, but we shall see. Until next time...

Thursday, April 15, 2021

I'm Still Learning

You can't collect everything. It's impossible. With the existence of 1/1 cards, that should be pretty obvious, but even ignoring those parallels, there are about 45,000 different MLB sets out there. Add in around 7500 minor league team sets and over 10,000 Japanese sets. Oh, that's my type collection goal. Over 60,000 cards. I am approaching 20,000 cards, but the other 40k aren't going to be easy.

The same can be said for knowing all the sets. It's possible to be familiar with major releases, or be an expert on vintage gum cards, but stuff will always slip through the cracks. In Japan, a lack of documentation makes it even harder to know details about sets released even a few years ago.

Sometimes the information is out there, but I've forgotten, misremembered, or misinterpreted it. And I'm not talking about translation and language barriers. The above card of Koji Akiyama is an insert card found in the 1995 BBM All-Stars set. I had it labeled as "All Stars Inserts" in my list, but I never properly attached it to the box set, instead believing it came from regular packs. Since I never came across one in the wild, I recently reviewed Engel's last guide containing modern cards, and realized that the inserts were, in fact, found in the box set. Knowing that, I could quickly hunt one down, and now I have a full 1995 All-Stars set to go with it!
The Seibu Lions celebrated their 25th anniversary in 2003 (25 years of being the Seibu Lions, not the overall franchise anniversary). BBM reprinted cards from their 1991-2003 sets, adding a special logo on the front, and a second copyright line, second card number, and special stamp on the back. 

There are actually two different sets of this type. The above card, with the number L2, comes from a 25-card "limited" set. A second series, with LP card number prefixes, uses the same design, but only has 10 cards, and seems to be less rare.

Both sets are mentioned on the backs of the promo cards below. These three cards reproduce the covers of past Weekly Baseball magazines, with the backs advertising a special event for the release of a "mook" for the Lions anniversary. The event took place at Seibu Dome and one Seibu department store location. With the purchase of the book, you could receive an LP promo set, and it appears that the 25-card set could also be purchased for an additional 1500 yen. The 25-card set was limited to 1000 copies; that's not a big number, but I'm surprised I haven't seen more of them around.

Here are the three promo cards, front and back:

Finally, this card is a promo for the Chiba Lotte Marines issued in 2004. It's numbered MP9.
If you're interested in the details, check out NPB Card Guy's post about this set. Basically, it was sold with a particular snack at a small chain of convenience stores in a small part of Japan. Despite discovering this set in 2019, I didn't actually get my own card from the set until a couple weeks ago. 

How many other uncatalogued cards and sets are floating around out there? I'm still learning, but I'll never know. Until next time...

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Vintage Baseball: Learn To Read Japanese

A popular card game here in Japan before video games and TCGs were all the rage was karuta. Kids still play it; it's a great educational tool and it's fun. I'm pretty sure I've explained this before, but for newbies, karuta involves two sets of cards: picture cards and reading cards. The two sets run parallel to each other like so:
The card on the left has a picture of, in this case, a player, with the Japanese character "ra" inside the circle. The right-side card has text. The "ra" is repeated in the upper-right corner, forming the beginning of a word, phrase, or sentence. In this case, it says "raito uchino Chiba senshu", which means, essentially, right fielder, (Shigeru) Chiba. ("uchino" means "our", and "senshu" means player.)

As you can see here and in the rest of this post, the artwork is very attractive. The backs are blank on both reading and picture cards. The background for the reading cards is red with a white catcher line drawing. A similar set is JK 17: 1949 Marumon Karuta, which instead has a right-handed batter in one of two poses. The checklist corresponds to that issue, so it's my belief that this catcher back set is a third parallel or variation.

The cards I got were in pretty poor condition, many missing corners or having some discoloration. They might have been stored in an album of some sort.

Left: a (Hiroyoshi Tsukamoto). Right: to (Toshio Kawanishi).
Left: wi [archaic kana!] (Sadayuki Minagawa). Right: hi (Kazuo Kasahara).
Left: nu (Fumio Fujimura). Right: u (Tsuguo Goto).
Left: wo (Korakuen Fans). Right: no (Zenzo Hasegawa).
Left: ko (Noboru Aota). Right: i (Tokuji Iida).
Left: so (Satoru Sugiyama). Right: o (Hiroshi Oshita).

The "ra" card went into my type collection, while the rest I'll keep in my collection of random vintage Japanese cards. One of these days, I'll pick up a complete old baseball karuta set.

I have a bonus for you in this post. I also picked up a pair of vintage menko. One was really just a milk cap, but I knew that going in. I wanted this card:

It's a cute airplane diecut menko featuring a baseball player in the cockpit. 
The back has the image of the bottom of an airplane, including a Pokeball-looking pair of wheels. I think those are wheels. 61257 is the menko number. It's an uncatalogued menko, but that may because it's a cartoon character instead of related to any particular player or team. It might be related to JDM 3: 1949 Airplane Diecuts, given the basic design. It's a cute addition to my collection, regardless of its origin.

That's all for today! Until next time...