Sunday, March 19, 2017

1957 Kami Zumo Set (G571)

Here is a fun set from 1957 called Kami Zumo or "Paper Sumo" in English.  Paper figures of sumo wresters, as seen in the photos below, at placed standing facing each other in a ring made of cardboard....the wrestlers are made to stand by bending their legs or folding their arms.  Players then make the wrestlers move by tapping the outside of the ring with their fingers and the winner is the one who forces their opponent out of the ring or to fall over.  This 1957 Kami Zumo Set came with two wrestlers and a cardboard sword...I am assuming for the losing paper wrestler to commit ritualistic suicide if he lost.   Each of the wrestlers in this set are about 2 1/4" tall and they each have an actual photo of the wrestler's head superimposed on the paper body.  Pretty cool.  I also did a review on the 1961 Ito Kami Zumo Set.  Here is a YouTube video of two people playing kami zumo.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Japanese BBM B.League Basketball Card Mail Day!

I have become enamored by the new BBM.s new B.League cards this year.  I think the relative scarcity of the cards and great design is what appeals to me....not to mention Yuta Tabuse is in the set.  I was able to pick up a few unopened boxes for my collection before they sold out and a few weeks ago I also picked up the 1st and 2nd Half complete base sets as well as a bunch of unopened loose packs...maybe around 30 of each series.  Truth in advertising, the seller did admit these packs probably did not contain any autographs since once he pulled the 5 per box, all the packs that were left he ended up combining and selling in a larger lot.  I am a base card collector so I didn't mind.  It's unopened!

Billy did a great rundown of the 1st half set and once he gets his 2nd Half set box (Currently delayed due to the winter storm up his way) he'll be doing another one.  I'm looking forward to that one.  For those that are interested in some free B.League packs, I am running a contest right now on another thread.  I'll likely end that Giveaway this Saturday and ship the winner some goodies!

Anyway, here is the 72-card 1st Half set in its entirety and a few examples of the packs.  Happy Wednesday!

Friday, March 10, 2017

2017 Collecting Goals - Update #1

2017 is well underway and I thought I'd give everyone a quick update on where I stand with my collecting goals.  So far so good with most of my goals.  Here is a quick rundown of what I committed to do this year and what my progress is

1. Finish the 4th Edition of my Sumo Menko & Card Checklist
   - Current Progress - C
   - Future Outlook - A+
   - I didn't plan on starting this until April, but I slowly been whittling away at it.

2.  Collect German Bundesliga cards
    - Current Progress - F
    - Future Outlook - A+ 
    - We are moving to Germany this summer so I plan on collecting German Bundesliga cards of the VfB Stuttgart team.  Hopefully will have progress updates later in the year.

3. Discover 5 new sets, add 3 additional 1973 Calbee cards and complete the base 2017 BBM set
    - Current Progress - A-
    - Future Outlook - A-
    - Finding new sets are tough, but there are a few I have my eye on over in Japan...I've knocked out a few so far.  As far as adding new Calbee cards, I have picked up one more so far this year.  Also, I am close to completing my 2017 BBM set.  Might have to open another box to do so as trading partners are slim to none.

4. Start Collecting Murai Tobacco Cards
    - Current Progress - A+
    - Future Outlook - C-
    - I manages to pick up several of these over the past few months, but the supply quickly dried up.  This one is going to be harder than I thought.

5. Complete the 2017 Topps Heritage Baseball Set through boxes and trading
    - Current Progress - B
    - Future Outlook - C+
    - I'm still contemplating this one and if I want to just buy the set outright. I bought a few packs and may just keep plugging away at it a few packs at a time each time I am in Walmart or Target.

6.  Start a collector interview series on this blog.
     - Current Progress - F
     - Future Outlook - C
     - Another one that I am contemplating, but still not sure if I have the journalist acumen or if there would be enough interest on this.  It is still on the table, but it might fall off soon..

How is everyone else coming along with their 2017 goals?

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Free Pack Giveaway - From the Deepest, Darkest Depths of the Japanese Internet...

....I've landed some Bass Fishing Lure Cards.  Yes, you've read that correctly.  Cards depicting bass fishing lures.  These aren't knock offs either....they are made by Takara which is a legitimate company.  This set is title "BassColle '97" or Bass Collection 1997.  How, you may ask, does one end up buying bass fishing lure cards?  When I browse the internet over in Japan it is a lot like Wikipedia.  For example, it is like when you start by reading about the history of Greenland, but you are soon learning about the mating habits of ostriches....all by the virtue of everything being linked.  When I stumbled upon these I knew I had to have them and landed a full sealed box and an opened box with just three of the packs missing.  Some of you know my affinity for unopened boxes so the sealed box is going to stay in my collection.  By now most of you are dying to know what these cards look like so I opened a pack from the open box with the contents show below.

This one is staying in my collection ^ 

 Ready for opening ^

These are pretty cool with a picture of the lure in a simulation of its natural environment on the front and on the back it talks about at what running depth the lure is used at as well as the name and some history of the lure and how to use it at the bottom.  Pretty neat.....

I started sleuthing around to figure out what is up with Japanese Bass Fishing Lures.  It soon became apparent that Japanese fishing tackle is hot stuff.  According to the Japan Lure Shop, "Japanese fishing tackles are high quality [and] your fishing becomes happier."  Bass Pro Shops has a nice article titled "The Japanese Bass Lure Invasion."  The gist of the article is that the Japanese kick bass when it is comes to designing and manufacturing bass lures.  After the short, but informative read, I was hooked and wanted start collecting bass lures....but several clicks later I decided that I would be poor in a matter of minutes as some of the really awesome lures get spendy really quick.

Why 1997 and why only one year...and why is company like Takara printing these cards?  We have Brad Pitt to thank for that....Say what ?!!  According to young cub reporter Steve Glain from the Wall Street Journal, the movie A River Runs Through It (a flyfishing hit), spread a huge Bass Fishing Boom around Japan in 1997, called a Bass Boom (I'm not making this stuff up) and Takara was likely there to capitalize on the really was All About the Bass in 1997 (cue music).  There is even a magazine called Basser to get your monthly fix when not out fishing.  I'm not is the cover from October 2011.  The magazine is still in print so the boom lives on.

So there you have it....through the power of clicking and the Japanese internet we are now all a little smarter on the Bass Boom immortalized by the Takara BassColle '97 set.

[Pack Give Away]

I have 7 wonderful kick-bass packs to give away.  I'll even pay for shipping and as an added bonus, I'll throw in 4 packs from the 2017 Japanese B.League Bassketball set (see what I did there?): two 1st-Half packs and two 2nd-Half packs.  Just comment below on the craziest, oddest, or funniest set you've ever purchased.  I'll chose a winner bassed on the best story and soon you will be well on your way to receiving some Japanese happiness.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Mint Mall Musings and why Japanese are "masters of efficiency"

Maybe I am biased having lived in Japan, but I swear by Japanese efficiency.  I can get an Express Mail Service (EMS) package from Tokyo to southern Alabama faster that it takes for me to ship a package from Alabama to my home state of Wyoming via USPS.  Take for example my latest shipment from Mint Mall.  It left Mint Mall and processed through Narita early in the morning of 28 February Alabama time and was at my doorstep the morning of 2 March.  Reading online posts, most everyone has the same experience.  It seems that EMS skips some steps with customs which would explain the blazing speed.  It is amazing the USPS postal system works that fast with EMS packages on this end when they have a hard time with their own internal packages sometimes.  And my latest shipment of two 2016 BBM sumo boxes only cost around $20.  Simply amazing!

I really wanted to talk briefly about Mint Mall, a sports collectibles chain store in Japan.  There have been numerous blog posts about Team Mint from Dave over at Japanese Baseball Cards, and Ryan at This Card is Cool.  Those two guys have actually been able to go to the stores in person.  I haven't used their online service until now (actually I bought their stuff through eBay), but they have been making a big push in Beckett Magazine to the English-speaking market.  I'm hoping to be able to visit a few of them when I head to Japan in a few weeks.  Navigating their website does take a bit to get used to and you have to keep in mind that you are browsing different stores inventory as well as their web inventory.  They do have overseas shipping information here.  It does look like if you want cards from 3 or more different stores, there will be a $5 fee handling fee.  Here is their latest flyer that has the numerous stores throughout Japan list listed....take a look at Mint Shibuya....they have actually installed a bar so "you can enjoy some alcohol while breaking card boxes."  Whoop, I know where I am going to go first.

I had zero issues with the order and they actually sent some extra BBM Masterpiece sumo cards along with their pretty fancy holographic business card printed on high quality card stock.  Great customer service as always from a Japanese business! 

I walked away with nothing too fancy...just a few boxes of 2016 BBM Sumo that filled in a hole in my unopened collection.  I might open one of them for a box break review at some point.

They are pretty much on par with Rakuten as far as selection (although much more of the singles cards at Mint Mall) and they have a lot more of the American stuff for expats living abroad.  I am excited about picking up some stuff in person and I'll hopefully have some fun stuff to share when I get back.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Sumo Cat Pins and Menko - Autographed by the artist!

 A month or so ago, Lynn Chang reached out to me with an awesome idea that she needed some help on.  Since I am definitely not a creative nor crafty person, I was more than happy to help since I admire people who are and can turn ideas into reality.  Lynn's idea is to create sumo pins (see above) with the packaging for the pins as menko (see below).  I threw around some ideas, she threw some back and she is now live with her Indiegogo Campaign to raise the initial funds for production.  Click here to check it out.  The artwork for the menko is all handrawn and each menko will be die-cut.  Even better, all the pins/menko sold during the campaign will have special, gold-signed menko by none other than Lynn herself.  All pins/menko sold after the campaign will be black-inked signed menko.

Right now there are 3 pins/menko with future ones arriving later.  The current checklist is:

YokoNekoZuna FutabaNyaMa
YokoNekoZuna TaiKawaiHo
YokoNekoZuna ChiyoNyaFuji

For those that understand Japanese, you'll get the cute cat references.  Looking at the drawings of each sumo cat, Lynn has definite talent.  She incorporated some traditional menko design features on the back of her menko such as rank, shikona, and rock-scissors-paper symbol (in the shape of a cat's paw).  Her pins are hand-designed pieces of art and done in enamel.  Lynn really created the whole package here.

Raz over at the Raz Card Blog pointed me to Art-O-Mat machines last year and I have been hooked on this type of art ever since.  It is fun, unique, and high quality.

I hope you'll take a look and consider buying 1 or more of the pins/menko from Lynn so we can get more of them in the future!

Monday, February 27, 2017

Initial D = Manga, RC Cars, & Trading Cards

I love me some Initial D!  For those that don't know about Initial D, it is a manga (now anime) that centers around Tak Fujiwara, a young and talented drift racer, whose natural racing skills allow him to mop up against opponents that are older and have much fancier and much more expensive cars.  A great story line and the manga is engaging (although sometimes awkwardly translated), but TokyoPop screwed up their relationship with Kodansha so only 33 volumes of the manga were translated into English.  Boo.  However, pick them up if you can as they are great reads.

So why am I talking about Initial D?  Trading Cards!!!!!  Bottomline, I had just come back from living in Japan when these manga hit the streets in English in 2002.  Not only that, but the story takes place only about ~20 km from where I lived in Gunma prefecture.  Around the same time miniaturized  Radio Controlled (RC) cars were hitting the streets in the U.S. and Radio Shack teamed up with ZipZaps, an RC car company, to produce the Initial D versions of the cars.  Included in the packaging was one (1) trading card that matched the RC car that you bought. (Of note, all ZipZap cars came with one card and I have four (4) from the Fast and Furious series as well.) Bam....Manga, Gunma, Cars and Cards.  It was the cliche perfect storm.  I still have this massive collection of ZipZap stuff....extra bodies, gears, race tracks, timers, barriers......  Sadly, I misplaced all but one of the Initial D cards, though, and am working at amassing my card collection again.  Unopened packaged ZipZap cars sell for ~$50 on eBay, so that might be the more expensive option last resort.

Here is the one card I have at the moment, Ry Takahashi and his RX7.  It is standard trading card size at 2.5" x 3.5". 

Anyone else read and/or watch Initial D or ever play with ZipZaps?

Monday, February 20, 2017

The start of my Yuta Tabuse (Japanese Basketball) player collection

A huge shoutout to Billy Kingsley over at Cardboard History for inspiring me to start my Yuta Tabuse collection.  A few weeks back, I helped Billy secure a box of 1st-half 2017 Japanese B.League Basketball cards...this stuff is selling like wildfire over in Japan and they sold out of preorders before the set even released back in mid January.  A few days ago 2nd-Half released and same sort of thing.  The secondary market is on fire....about 20% of the cards that are currently up for auction have bids on them.  Since the 1st Half was released a month ago over 2000 auctions have closed with bids.  Only ~800 card auctions are running and as I mentioned roughly 20% of those have bids.  Unopened material is almost non-existent...chaos in the streets....BBM hit the right amount of hype.  I don't follow basketball, but through helping Billy I decided I wanted to branch out and start collecting Yuta Tabuse.  My first card....naturally Yuta Tabuse from the 2017 B.League 1st-Half set.

Why Yuta?  He was the first Japanese player ever to appear in an NBA game for the Phoenix Suns in 2004...something that I was not even aware of until a few weeks ago.  Although his NBA career was short, he has had the longevity in the Japanese basketball system and is currently playing for the Tochigi Brex.  He is by far one of the oldest players in B.League, but is doing it for the love of the game and seems to be the go-to leader on any of the Japanese National Teams.  More to follow as I slowly pick away at cards from his 2004-2005 season.

I see Fuji has a nice Tabuse collection going, anyone else collect him?

Thanks for the inspiration Billy!

Friday, February 17, 2017

1964 Morinaga Top Star Gum Color Stand-Ups (A641)

I don't want any more cards from this set.......says no sumo card collector ever.  The 1964 Morinaga Top Star Gun Color Stand-Up set is such a unique and a rare set for sumo collectors, that it is difficult to obtain in terms of availability and price....but a must have for any collection.  Most examples that I have seen have sold for around $100 per card making this 5-card set quite expensive.  Morinaga has been around since the late 1800s and has been making candy products since.  For those that love Hi-Chew (my hand is raised too), this is the same company.  Here is Mr. Morinaga with a couple of the logos that have been used over the years.

The current checklist for the sumo set is at 5 cards with the 3 Yokozuna (Taiho, Kashiwado, Tochinoumi) and 2 of the Ozeki (Sadanoyama, Yutakayama) from 1964.  Likely there are more cards in the set...possibly up to 10...or at least 7 to cover all the Yokozuna and Ozeki.  It is unknown how these were distributed, but the backs are meant to be punched out to form a stand that displays the cards on a desk or shelf.  There are baseball versions of these as well that are more common, but the sumo cards are very difficult to find.  At 5.5" x 3.5" in size, these bright blue bordered card with simple images make these very attractive. 

Monday, February 13, 2017

New Set / 1955 Maruta Renga 11 (H554)

  Discovering new menko sets is getting fewer and farther between so it is always exciting when a new set pops up and I am able to get my hands on them.  This set hails from the H-series of menko (The Brick Menko) and has a lot going for it.  First, it is very rare given the fact that these 8 menko are the only ones I have ever seen from this set in almost 2 decades of collecting.  Second, the backs make for easy identification....made by Maruta along with all the ranks of the wrestlers pinpoints this set depicting the October 1955 Tournament (1955 Aki Basho).  Future Yokozuna Wakanohana was promoted to the rank of Ozeki right after this tournament and is a key menko in this set.  Lastly, and most importantly, these menko are in immaculate condition.  If you ever played Pogs, you know the importance of the slammer.  In menko, these H-series "Bricks" are extremely thick and heavy and were great slammers for flipping over other menko.  Naturally, the ones you find today are usually beat up and bent....these, however, were likely deadstock in some store before they made their way to auction.  Just for reference, these measure about 3/16" thick and are very stiff.  Given that 6 of the 8 wrestlers in the known checklist of this H554 set made it to Yokozuna along with great artwork on the front, makes this a true masterpiece of a set.  I'm happy to add this set to my collection and it will be checklisted and included in the 4th addition of my Sumo Menko and Card Checklist book.