04 December 2011

Japanese, Korean, Taiwanese and Minor League Baseball Card Checklists (Online)

(click here to skip the wandering preamble and get straight to the important stuff)

     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 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.

     As I caught up with lots of the Meulens cards I'd missed, I had to find resources for the Japanese cards about which, up to this point, I knew absolutely nothing.  As I hunted for information on them, I encountered great sites like 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.)

    Along the way, I had also learned that there were a lot more minor league baseball card sets than were listed in Beckett's online system, so I picked up the last edition of Sports Collectors Digest's Standard Catalog of Minor League Baseball Cards (from 2000).  After several hours of scouring this volume, I found there were even more Hensley Meulens cards I was missing.  And I was also starting to get tired of spending so much time scanning down columns of sets looking for Meulens cards amongst the tens of thousands of minor league and Japanese sets and thought there had to be a better way to find what I was looking for.
     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

    As the system is still very much a work in progress, there are glitches here and there, and perhaps it is not the most intuitive system in the world.  And I did say the "most comprehensive", not to say that it is the end-all, be-all, just that it currently has more than any other site.  In order to use the system, you will need to be a registered user (free) of SportsCardForum.com.  This in no way obliges you to participate in the forum or use the trading system. But if you are looking for the most complete checklist you can find for players that have played in Taiwan, Korea, Japan, Venezuela or Mexico, this will give it to you.  This system would be a Julio Franco collector's dream (with cards listed from something like 5-6 countries) .

2011 Choice Huntsville Stars

    Over the past year, some 270 sets from the main minor league set producers (Choice Marketing, Multi-Ad Sports, Disabled American Veterans and Grandstand) from 2008-2011 have been added to the system, none of them listed in Beckett.  All of the known Alaska Summer League sets for which we could find information have been added.  Many minor league sets from 1970-2007, unlisted in Beckett, are included. 

    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
the Year

   For Japan, Calbee is complete from 1979-preset with some sporadic earlier sets.  All of the Takara Pro Baseball game sets are included.  BBM is complete up through 2007.  After 2007, all BBM base sets and team sets are complete, with parallels, autograph and memorabilia cards being added as the checklists are found.  All of the Future Bee sets are complete, both the team-centric and the trading card game sets.  The various Konami trading card games since 2000 are included (Field of Nine, Prime Nine, Baseball Heroes, Baseball All-Stars').  The new Owners League sets from Bandai are included.  A wide variety of Japanese team issues and other assorted sets from 1980-present are also included.

    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).


  1. An extremely helpful piece of information! I bet you could get the guy at minorleaguesingles.com to provide you a list of sets issued from the past five years, especially if he knows it could help people be more aware of recent minor league issues. I know Beckett doesn't do this, but it would be great to have a search-by-country feature or filter, and a search-by-league feature or filter. These would help on my set searches, though player collectors probably wouldn't care.

    I'm glad there's someone/a group of people really tackling a full inventory database. These days it's less about pricing and more about finding unique cards.

  2. I have seriously considered asking Mr. Weber for help, I've just had trouble figuring out how to ask in some way that he might get some benefit. He's been selling singles for over a decade now, but only JUST put up a website in the last couple of years. He doesn't seem overly concerned with ramping up his business, so I don't know that offering him advertising space in return for his information would be particularly attractive to him.

    On the other hand, he has been compiling his database for a long time, and has helped out both Bob Lemke and Beckett with new listings. Maybe he would be amenable to providing the data purely as a way to help out. I guess I just have to ask. If he says yes, I'm going to be busy for awhile :)

  3. I emailed Mr. Weber and made my plea. We'll see if anything comes of it. In the meantime, I managed to find the checklists for all of the 2011 Disabled American Veterans minor league sets on SportsGraphing.com, and have added them all into the system at SCF.

  4. Good luck with Mr. Weber! If the information is already typed up in spreadsheet form, hopefully he'll be willing to share it, since it shouldn't take much effort - and it would be of great benefit to the hobby. Eventually I'll find the time to really use the site to my benefit!

  5. Great read, Jason. Glad to have found you and Dave on the internet since I arrived in Korea. I'm thinking of moving my blog off blogspot to a personal domain. I'll keep you updated. Thanks again!


    1. And I am glad you found us and started your blog! Have you encountered any one over there that collects any of the older sticker and card sets that have been released in Korea?

  6. I'm sorry. Just seeing this now. I haven't come across any sellers who sell sets other than Robert at prestigecollectibles. I bought the couple he has in stock as well as the Lee Seung Yeop promo set. Lee Seung Yeop of which I started a raw master set and will start sending to PSA. I've found his cards on Prestige, ebay and Dave sent me some of his BBM in a trade.

  7. In the almost 11 years since I wrote this post, Beckett's listings have remained almost entirely stagnant on all of the related material. I have long since left SCF in favor of the much more robust system at TCDB.com and am still very active at adding new sets from Japan. So far, it seems the only new Japanes cards Beckett is including are the new Topps NPB sets.