30 January 2010

Online Japanese Sports Card Shops

    ****JAN 2014 UPDATE ****


For more in-depth and recent information on actual physical card shops in Japan, visit This Card Is Cool for locations and experiences at several shops.

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     I asked around on a couple of sites about whether there were any good online cardshops in Japan, but didn't receive any responses that didn't involve American sites selling Japanese cards.  So, grabbing some keywords from my various Yahoo! Auction Japan searches, I set about digging for some sites I could order from using  KuboTEN.com.  As of yet, I have not ordered from any of these, so your mileage may vary.  Most of the sites I found sell baseball (both NPB and MLB), soccer, wrestling and several other sports and non-sports.  I'll post both the native links, as well as the Google Translate versions.

http://mint-web.jp  (Mint Web in English)
    Mint is a franchise of collectibles stores carrying all kinds of stuff in addition to just sports cards. There are several stores scattered across Japan. While they apparently have a very large, and at times very cheap, inventory in-store, the website doesn't seem to have that much for sale outside the most recent products. You can read about them on Deanna Rubin’s blog: http://marinerds.blogspot.com/search/label/Baseball Cards


     The following I found in the classified ads at the back of the latest Sports Card Magazine that is produced by BBM (Baseball Magazine) mainly as a price guide and advertising vehicle for their own product.(though they do list a few other current sets from other manufacturers, mostly they just cover BBM):

http://www.e-bits.net/  (Sports Card Bits in English)
       BITS! almost doesn't need the translation, as most of their graphics are already in English.  They offer boxes, packs and singles (BBM back to 2004 and Calbee back to 2007).


http://www.cardfanatic.co.jp/  (Card Fanatic in English)
        Card Fanatic seems to revolve mostly around American cards and cards of Japanese players in America.  Probably not of much interest unless one just feels the need to pay an extra $50 per box for something that is readily available from Blowoutcards.com or any other online American card shop.
 

http://www.rakuten.co.jp/cardya/  (Cardya in English)
       Good luck with this one.  Lots of their graphics and buttons are in Japanese, so the online translators don't work.  There is a player/team search near the middle of the page, though.


http://www.amazon.co.jp 
     Yes, that's Amazon's site in Japan.  Much the same as they are now beefing up their individual baseball card listings through their partnership with several dealers and CheckOutMyCards.com, the Japanese site also has thousands of single cards listed.


http://www.amiami.com/?set=english
     Mentioned quite often on the Japanese Baseball Card Blog, AmiAmi is one of very few online Japanese stores that has an English site and does sell and ship internationally.  NPBCardGuy orders lots of smaller sets and recent boxes from there.  Describing themselves as a "Character & Hobby Shop", AmiAmi carries an enormous stock of figures/statues of all manner of Japanese characters, as well as a fairly decent assortment of current unopened boxes of trading cards, both sports and non-sports.  It's basically a fully stocked Japanese comic shop with a few extras.

17 January 2010

2000 Future Bee Power League UL box break (pack 1)

I don't think I've ever seen a set that has as great color as this one.  It's a shame that in only two years, Future Bee would cede the baseball CCG market to Konami (who produced much less visually interesting cards).  A set this nice looking demanded larger images:



Interesting that only two teams are represented in the base cards in the pack.  The set checklist is completely organized by team, each team ending in the manager:  Giants 001-016, Dragons 017-032, BayStars 033-048, Swallows 049-064, Carp 065-080, Tigers 081-096, Hawks 097-112, Lions 113-128, Fighters 129-144, BlueWave 145-160, Marines 161-176, Buffaloes 177-192.  It also seems to be standard practice in Japanese card sets to use the leading zeroes, as seen here on the back of the card:



Neat how they used the headshot from the back as the background on the front.  That's the team name at the top and Kinjoh's name in the gold section.  Beyond the obvious vital stats, this being a game card, I have absolutely no idea what the rest says.  But still...very colorful!

The first pack yields the first insert, as we see the 2000 Central League Saves leader, Eddie Gaillard. Unfortunately none of the shiny, chrome-styled cards scan very well on my LiDE scanners.  They look much nicer in person.  I'll see if I can hook up my ancient Umax flatbed and see if I can get a better scan.



That actually points to the UL set being released after the end of the 2000 season, which I guess is appropriate for a booster set.

Here's the action card for use with the actual game:

The Brito of Waterloo


     Seen here in his third season in A-level ball, young Bernie still hadn't quite found his stroke. Waterloo would be a slight promotion for him, but barely keeping his nose above the Mendoza line, he ended up right back down in A- ball in Batavia the following season. Considering today's state of the farm system, one has to wonder if he'd still have a job if he'd only managed to hit .228 over his first three seasons, but I guess the Indians' management saw something in the 15 home runs scattered across 477 at bats.

     Since he sadly had no cards issued for 1984-85 (actually neither Batavia, nor Waterloo had sets issued either year), I'll go ahead and cover the gap. In 1984, Bernardo turned his fortunes around, perhaps finally getting some attention from the Batavia Trojans hitting coach, and hit at a .300 clip, and leading the New York-Penn League with 19 home runs and 171 total bases, and tied for the lead in doubles with 19. That wake-up call earned him a second shot at Waterloo in 1985, which he took by the throat and cranked out 29 home runs (leading the Midwest League) and drove in 78 in 135 games.

     For what it's worth, the Waterloo Indians (later the Diamonds) are history, closing up in 1994. Waterloo is now home of the Bucks of the Northwoods League, a collegiate summer league. Batavia is now home of the Muckdogs, the short season A affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals.

16 January 2010

2000 Future Bee Power League UL box break



      In 2000, Future Bee, Hudson (the software company, formerly HudsonSoft...hardcore, old school Nintendo and TurboGrafx 16 gamers will recognize the name) and Ahomaro Games launched the 2000 Power League Dream Stadium collectible card game. The set was issued largely as starter decks with 25 player cards and 25 action cards for playing the game (20 decks per box).

     They then issued the "booster set" which they called Power League UL which was released in boxes of 20 packs containing 7 cards (6 base, possibly including an insert and 1 action card). The base set contains 195 cards and there were two insert sets for Power League UL, league leaders (25 cards, prefixed with 'T', representing both leagues) and Super Rare (36 cards, prefixed with 'S'). Both are shiny foil style cards that don't scan well (as you can see from the cards below). In addition to the contents of the packs, each booster box also contains one Super Rare Promo insert. The card below came as the insert for this box. The only apparent difference between the regular Super Rare and the Promo versions seems to be that tiny "PROMO" stamped right next to the card number on the back.


Working the math, one box should result in 21 insert cards and 100 base cards.

The Yankees Next Big Thing!

     In 1988, the baseball card industry, led by the nose by its publications, was neck deep in the hysteria of rookie card collecting and speculation. Look at the future Hall of Famers gracing this cover, for Pete's sake! (sorry Pete)



     However, this is also probably one of the first issues to announce the coming of Yankees minor league power prospect, Hensley Meulens. He even got a piece of the cover with his first baseball card from the 1987 ProCards Prince William set. Inside, the writers present a team-by-team analysis of the prospects who seem to be on their way to the big time. As would be a trend for a couple years after, most of the speculation for the Yankees was on the order of how much of their farm system would they continue to sacrifice for below-average middle-relievers and under-achieving infielders to pad out their roster. The writers here were of the belief that, while he had been declared by New York as "untouchable", there was still a strong likelihood Bam Bam would end up being traded for the likes of Ron Hassey or Roy Smalley on a whim. They also went on to say that beyond Meulens, there really wasn't much else to work with in the Yankees' farm system.
     Every June must have been their minor league system report issue, as a year later, despite Junior getting the cover all to himself (something usually reserved for BCM favorite Mickey Mantle), Bam Bam got no less than a FOUR PAGE spread all to himself!



     It's a pretty good article, covering his life in CuraƧao, his signing with New York and the fact that he actually grew up a Dodger fan and hated the Yankees! In hindsight (and maybe even back then) one has to chuckle at the next to last paragraph of the story by writer, the late Pete Dobrovitz:
"I'll make one prediction. Grab that Meulens Donruss card, and hold on to your price guides. You thought the Jefferies craze was something? Wait 'til you see what rabid Yankee fans can do to the rookie card market. Forget a buck and a half for Leiter. Yes, $3 for Mark Grace was amazing. But how about $5 apiece for Bam-Bam? Don't laugh yet."
     As of this particular issue, the BCM price guide had that 1989 Donruss card at an over-priced $0.80, which is probably where it would top out.  When I started collecting Bam Bam in 1989, all my friends were just giving me his cards for nothing...not even trading.  It became something of a joke over 1989-90, and in a year, I ended up with about 70 or so of that 1989 Donruss card.  Since I got back into collecting a few years ago and really set to work at finishing up my Meulens collection, I started picking them up again as filler for trades.  A handful of 1989 Donruss Meulens cards will go a long way toward getting something I have for trade.


     Incidentally, despite sitting on a pile of this card for years, it wasn't until about 18 months ago that I learned about all those *Denotes and INC. variations among 1989-1992 Donruss cards. After shuffling through the stack, all four variations were present! There's an extensive discussion of card variations over at Freedom Card Board. The discussion began back on the old Beckett message board before the Beckett ran their site through the shredder in favor of impressing potential investors with style over substance.

     What I find most odd about the coverage Meulens got in Baseball Cards is that he never had a card in any of their magazine inserts. Sam Horn? Joey Meyer? Cameron Drew? Absolutely! Hensley Meulens? Nope.

12 January 2010

2000 Epoch Pro Baseball stickers box break (pack 30)



Doubles: Sohji, Jefferson, S. Noguchi, H. Takahashi, T. Itoh, K. Kobayashi

The final numbers after 30 packs and 300 stickers:

185 of 384 total possible unique stickers for just under half of the set (48.1%).

152/204 base (74.5% complete)
25/108 puzzle pieces (23.1% complete)
5/24 Leading Players (20.8% comlpete)
3/12 Star Players (25% complete)
115 doubles

View the entire gallery here.

Not bad on the base set, but an annoying amount of doubles amongst the puzzle pieces. Only the Seibu Lions puzzle ended up with more than 3 of 9 pieces for completion. On the whole, this was something of an educational experience. But in 300 stickers, there was no trace of Tuffy Rhodes, or even Ichiro or Hideki Matsui as a consolation. And as was stated in the first post, everything is up for trade or sale. And since Sportlots.com has their pre-2006 moratorium and CheckOutMyCards.com is locked into following Beckett's catalog (and Beckett seems to have their own moratorium on including or updating Japanese sets), I really don't have another convenient outlet for these.

Next post will be back to the player collections. I think I may stagger the future box breaks a bit with player posts to keep it from getting too monotonous. I definitely got a little burned out around pack 15, and there are the glaring posts with no commentary. I've got a couple more boxes of 2000 Japanese stuff to post, but I'll take my time with them.

2000 Epoch Pro Baseball stickers box break (pack 29)


Doubles: Y. Ohshima, Arias, Nagashima, Nilsson, M. Nashida, Ohgi, K. Yoshinaga

2000 Epoch Pro Baseball stickers box break (pack 28)

Echoes of pack 25, only the single puzzle card is new, all the rest are dupes, with two packs remaining.

Doubles: S. Ohtomo, K. Nomura, N. Matsunaka, M. Tatsukawa, S. Miyamoto, T. Ide (hasn't he been in 3 of the last 4-5 packs?), Oh (again!), T. Nioka, A. Inaba

2000 Epoch Pro Baseball stickers box break (pack 27)

Total bust! Pack #27 is 100% doubles, and of that, only Takahashi and Yabu (and maybe Jefferson) qualify as half decent cards using either price or star power as a gauge.

Doubles: N. Matsunaka, O. Higashio, S. Ohtomo, Jefferson, Yuhki, T. Shindoh, K. Yabu, T. Kuji, Y. Takahashi, Hoshino puzzle piece

2000 Epoch Pro Baseball stickers box break (pack 26)


Doubles, T. Ishii, A. Iwamura, M. Yamamoto, T. Iwamoto, S. Murata

11 January 2010

2000 Epoch Pro Baseball stickers box break (pack 25)

Wow, you know the end of the pack is near when 9 out of 10 are doubles :/



Doubles: Oh (2nd straight dupe of Oh!), T. Takagi, M. Shimizu, T. Ide, S. Miyamoto, M. Tatsukawa, K. Danie...er S. Nishiyama, K. Nomura, Y. Wada

2000 Epoch Pro Baseball stickers box break (pack 24)



Phil Clark....make that Phill Clark. Never underestimate the potential for misspellings on baseball products, no matter what country they come from.

Bobby Rose is another player in the vein of Tuffy Rhodes. Not much success in MLB, but went to be a huge star in Japan for awhile.

Doubles: Oh, K. Akiyama, M. Tanishige, K. Nomura, S. Tohyama