A few years ago, when I seriously got back into collecting baseball cards, I decided to pick up where I left off on my Hensley Meulens collection. I had mostly stopped collecting and following baseball after the strike in 1994. Then I came school, marriage, the beginnings of a career, and for awhile there, I was more concerned with just keeping the lights on, the rent paid, gas in the car and food on the table, so I had almost no idea what had happened in the intervening 8-9 years I was away from the hobby. When I got back into it, I found that Dave Winfield had been elected into the Hall of Fame, Matt Williams was named in the Mitchell Report and Meulens had spent three years in Japan (later making a couple of unsuccessful returns to the Majors).
As I started to jump back into things, I discovered the joys (and pains) of eBay, online trading sites (SportsCardForum and The Bench Trading being the main two I've settled into, later expanding to Freedom Cardboard, mostly for the conversation), the expansive sites based around statistics (Baseball Almanac, Baseball Reference and The Baseball Cube being my most frequented) and all manner of collector's blogs and hobby news sites. But that only showed me that there were some glaring gaps in my collection and knowledge from outside the mainstream of the North American hobby.
JapaneseBaseball.com, The Japanese Baseball Card Blog, Rob's Japanese Cards and Prestige Collectibles. Through Rob Fitts' site, I was able to pick up most of Meulens' BBM and Takara cards, but came up short on the Calbee cards. I only knew those cards existed because Beckett happened to include a few years of Japanese cards in their online price guide. However, I knew there had to be more, and just in learning about the BBM and Takara sets, I knew Beckett was far from complete or accurate in their listings. Everyone I encountered or asked for help suggested I pick up a copy of Gary Engel's Japanese Baseball Card Checklist & Price Guide. So I picked up the 6th edition. And learned that there was an enormous world of baseball cards in Japan. And Hensley Meulens had a few more cards that I needed to find. (A 7th edition was released in early 2010 and is available from Prestige Collectibles.)
After several aborted attempts to work with sites to expand their listings, I saw that SportsCardForum was making a serious attempt to build an online inventory manager/checklist/price guide system to offer collectors an alternative to Beckett, and the myriad of other long abandoned checklist sites. Beckett's system, in particular, suffers from the following shortcomings for the more adventurous collector:
- no team issued minor league sets have been added since 2007
- many missing minor league sets from 1970-2007
- no Japanese sets have been added since 2002
- of those Japanese sets, most checklists are incomplete, especially the Takara sets (only listing seemingly random cards from the 12 yearly sets, and only covers a few years) and Calbee sets (mostly just major stars are included in older sets, and all Calbee listings stop at 2000).
- several of their Winter League sets are incomplete, many just missing
- no coverage at all for the CPBL (Chinese Professional Baseball League)
- incomplete listings for the Futera Australian Baseball League
- no coverage at all for KBO (Korean Baseball Organization)
Hard copy resources are great, but if you don't know a card exists, not having a search capability is a killer. For the better part of 2011, I've been working with SportsCardForum.com to help fill out their online Inventory Manager system with all manner of oddball, international and minor league baseball card sets. This has included transcribing hundreds of set checklists from every resource I could find; the Standard Catalogs, Gary Engel's books, endless hours scouring Yahoo! Japan, Amazon Japan, Mitchael Trading (currently offline), Rakuten Global Marketplace, a wide assortment of Japanese online shops, and message boards and blogs from Mexico to Venezuela to Korea to Taiwan. SCF's Inventory Manager now holds, in addition to all the usual main stream sets from the major manufacturers and almost everything included in the Standard Catalog and Beckett's online system, the most comprehensive system of checklists for minor league, oddball and non-North American baseball card sets you will find.
[Update 20 March 2015: Over the past year, I have also been making a concerted effort to list all of these same checklists at TradingCardDB.com. While checklists are still being added at SCF, the actual system and software development there has stopped. TradingCardDB.com is actively being improved, with new features and enhancements being added almost monthly]
|1990 Columbus Clippers|
|2011 Choice Huntsville Stars|
Many Venezuelan winter league sets have been added 1970-1998. Several Korean and Taiwanese sets have been added to cover KBO (mostly older Teleca sets) and the CPBL (the current Player of the Year sets produced by the league). Several previously undocumented Mexican sets have been added from the 1970s - 2000s.
|2009 CPBL Player of|
This will be especially useful to collectors of current Japanese stars or foreign players in Japan. For example, the system currently includes some 295 cards for Yu Darvish to Beckett's 77. For posting hopeful Norichika Aoki, it's SCF 282 to Beckett's 66. Even for an MLB veteran like Hideki Matsui, because he played the first 7 years of his career in Japan, SCF lists 5045 items to Beckett's 4400. Then there's a player like Ryan Vogelsong, who made a triumphant return to America after refining his game in Japan. SCF lists 110 cards, while Beckett lists only 98, missing all of his recent Japanese issues from 2007-2010.
New sets are constantly being added. Only today, I added the following sets to the system:
1967 Shonen Club Yomiuri Giants Color Bromides
1977 Calbee Pro Series
1977 Calbee Nagoya Series
1977 Calbee Giants Series
1977 Calbee Go Go Series
1977 Calbee Standups
2011 BBM Chunichi Dragons
2011 BBM Chunichi Dragons Dragon Heart
2011 BBM Hanshin Tigers
2011 BBM Hanshin Tigers Fantastic Revolution
2011 BBM Hanshin Tigers Sweet Smile
2011 BBM Kyuji Fujikawa
2011 BBM Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles
2011 BBM Yokohama BayStars
2011 BBM Yokohama BayStars Spirit
2011 BBM Young Carp
2012 BBM Historic Collection Legend of the Strongest Generation
2012 BBM Historic Collection Legend of the Strongest Generation Promos
2012 BBM Historic Collection Golden Generation
So drop by. Register. Have a look around and be sure to ask questions and point out problems should you find any. By all means, if you have access to any checklists SCF is missing, the information would be very welcome and quickly added. The system is still very short on filling in the gaps in minor league issues from 2007 to present, and there are still large numbers of contemporary sets being issued outside North America that we hope to include. Once you've registered and signed in, the Inventory Manager can be found in the top left on the navigation bar. And the system is not baseball-only, it's just that baseball is all I collect, so it's really all I'm working on. The system supports all major sports with trading cards, and less major, but growing sports (boxing, golf, MMA, track & field, pro wrestling, etc).
Just to be perfectly clear, this is an endorsement only of the Inventory System. Should you choose to engage in trading and using the discussion forums, please exercise restraint when dealing with the less mature segments of the forum population (the ignore function works wonders with the signal to noise ratio).