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

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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...

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Pokemon Packs Provide Perfunctory Pleasure

Why, you may ask, are Pokemon cards here? Well, I've mentioned in the past that I have a Pokemon card collection, so they're not entirely random. I've been working on a master Pokedex for a few years now, first getting one card of every Pokemon, and now I'm working on all the variations. A pop-up Pokemon shop opened in the department store near me, so my coworker and I stopped in to check it out. I didn't walk away with any exclusive merchandise (the sleeping Eevees are cute, though!) I did grab eight packs, two of each type they had for sale.


This is from the Sword and Shield (8th Generation) series, and is titled Mugen Zone (Infinity Zone). It's the third series, with 100 cards: 44 common and 34 uncommon, plus 10 rare, 8 ultra-rare, and 4 triple rare (all shiny), along with 19 secret super-rare and hyper-rare cards.

If you've never looked at a Pokemon card before, the Japanese certainly won't help you. The number in the upper-right is a sort of health statistic, and the logo next to it represents the type of Pokemon (ghost, fire, water, and so on).The top left has the Pokemon's name; this one is Skarmory, who in Japanese is (roughly) called Airmode. Sometimes, there is a small image in the upper-left. This means that particular Pokemon is an evolved form; Skarmory is a base form.

The picture in the middle can be really interesting - sometimes there are clay Pokemon, or knitted Pokemon, though usually there is some artwork. The number below the photo (227) is the Pokedex number for that Pokemon. That is the number I'm most concerned with.

The rest of that line has some vital statistics, with the main body of text explaining that Pokemon's moves with this particular card. (Moves can change or be stronger or weaker depending on the particular card.)  The line below that includes some additional card game statistics for its use in battle. The bottom right corner includes information on where the image came from, which series this is from, its card number in that series, and the level of rarity (C stands for common). The rest of the text is a sort of biography about the Pokemon.

Trainer's cards seem valuable, but I don't really need them in my collection. They're useful when playing the game, but I don't play.
If you look closely enough, you'll notice that the color-coding of the card corresponds to the type. There are two water type Pokemon in this row, both with the water symbol in the upper-right corner and a light blue background.
On the left, we have a rare card! Decidueye (Japanese name: Junaipa).

Here, we move over to the Sun and Moon series (7th Generation). This particular series is called GG End (Jiijii End). This expansion pack was released in April 2019 and contains only 54 cards (23 common, 16 uncommon, 7 rare, 4 double rare, 4 triple rare) plus 14 secret (super rare and ultra rare). 
Not much to say here. That's a cool haunted house behind Litwick (on the right).
The Trainer's card here is Grimsley (Japanese name Gima). Character cards help support your battles.
Again, nothing particularly interesting.
This Trainer's card is a Reset Stamp. And doing a quick bit of research, it is a banned card in tournament play! It appears that it is a little valuable, so I suppose this card is the best in this pair of packs.
Another Sun & Moon pair of packs, this series is called Sky Legends. Again, there are 54 regular cards (23 common, 16 uncommon, 7 rare, 4 double rare, 4 triple rare) plus 16 secret (super rare and hyper rare).
I remember hunting down Magnemite (Japanese name "Coil") around Tokyo several years ago to evolve it and also finish off one of the medals. I'm talking about Pokemon Go of course.
Tsareena (Amajio) on the left is a rare shiny card, the second shiny in these packs. I should probably mention that rare, shiny cards aren't necessarily that much more valuable, if at all. 
Yes, I did get a double. Thanks for noticing. I guess when each pack contains 10% of a set, it's pretty likely that you'll get a double out of just two packs from time to time. Oh well. One more pair of packs to go.
Let's finish with Sword and Shield again, since that's the newer of these two series. This is called Bakuen Walker (Explosive Flame Walker). Nice name. 70 regular cards (30 common, 23 uncommon, 8 rare, 6 double rare, 3 triple rare) and 16 secret (super rare and ultra rare).
Mr. Mime in the middle is a Galarian version, which is a sort of regional variant. Again, not really valuable, but it is a variation. 
Golispod (Genkumuja), left, is another rare shiny, and the center card is an uncommon.
Blobs are gross. Ferrets are cute. Avoid both if you're smart.
Two more uncommons to finish this series, including a support trainer and a teapot. I guess Belle won't be too happy at the castle tonight.

And there you have it. Eight Pokemon packs from four different expansion packs from two different series. In addition to the fun of opening, scanning, and writing the post, and gaining some cards for my collection, I actually learned a lot about the actual Pokemon TCG for this post. Who knows, maybe I'll actually learn how to play. Probably not. But until next time...