Saturday, July 4, 2015

Upcoming BBM Releases

BBM updated their website last week while I wasn't looking and published information on a number of upcoming sets:

- I previously wrote about this year's Baystars set and said that it would be out in late June.  BBM ended up delaying publication of the set for a month - it will now be out on July 17th.  There doesn't seem to be any more information about the set on the website than there was in SCM last month.

- The final two team sets for the year - the Lions and the Giants - will be released in the next few weeks.  Both of them have the "standard" 81 cards in their base sets that all the other team sets have had this year.  The Lions base set has 69 cards for the players (and manager), three "combo cards", six "puzzle cards", two "2014 Award Winner" cards and a checklist card.  There will be two nine card insert sets - "Raging Lions" and "Mighty Lions" - and the usual boatload of autograph cards - including ones with multiple players and "1 of 1" parallels.  The Lions set will be out July 11th.  The Giants base set has 70 cards for the players (and manager), a mascot/checklist card, three "Master Skill" cards and seven "Star-to-Be" cards.  There are six different insert sets - "Giants Pride" (9 cards), "Golden Hill" (3 cards), "Glorious Leader" (3 cards), "Great Bond" (3 cards) and "TRIPLEX" (3 cards).  There's a bewildering number of parallels for each of the inserts (as well as the player cards).  Some of them appear to be limited to the player's uniform number.  The "Giants Pride" cards have metallic parallels - either silver or gold.  The "TRIPLEX" cards are 3d and are limited to 25 cards apiece.  There are also memorabilia cards - undershirts and bats - that include multi-player cards.  The set will be out on July 15th.

- The latest team box set from BBM will be the Hawks "Autographed Edition" set (possibly a reaction to last season's "Signature Edition" sets from Front Runner?).  This set will contain 28 cards - a 27 card base set plus one autographed card.  Cards with autographs from multiple players are possible.  I'm not entirely sure, but I think there's some sort of "secret parallel" as well - I don't know if this means there's a parallel version of the autograph card or if there's a possible parallel to one of the base cards available as well.  This set hits the stores on July 24th.

- This year's 2nd Version set will be out on August 2nd.  Unlike the 1st Version set, this year's edition potentially has more cards in it than last year's.  This year's base set has 216 player cards (18 for each team) which has been the standard for the last six years.  There's also three subsets - a 36 card "1st Version Update" (3 per team), 12 team checklists and 36 more of the "Cross Plasma" cross set subset (3 per team) - plus the standard "1st Pitch Ceremony" subset although as usual BBM is not saying how many cards will be in this subset.  The total size for the base set is 300 cards and counting - last year's set was only 301 cards.  There's one 12 card insert set ("Future Legends") and a variety of autograph and memorabilia cards.  There is an amazing variety of parallel issues that will make your head swim - 72 of the player cards (six per team) have five different signed parallel versions with varying levels of scarcity, there's two different parallels for the "Cross Plasma" sets, and some sort of parallel for the "1st Pitch Ceremony" and "Future Legends" cards.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Meeting Mashi

The book tour for Rob Fitts' latest book "Mashi: The Unfulfilled Baseball Dreams of Masanori Murakami, the First Japanese Major Leaguer" got underway last week and I trekked up to New York City yesterday to see their event at the Barnes & Noble at 86th and Lexington Avenue.  I've corresponded with Rob many times over the 15 years or so I've been collecting Japanese cards but I had never met him in person until last night.

The event started around 7 in the evening.  Rob, Mashi and documentary film maker Yuriko Gamo Romer were introduced and came out and sat up at the front of the room.  After some preliminary comments from Rob, they ran a short clip from Yuriko's current work-in-progress - a film on US and Japanese relations over baseball that is centered around Mashi called "Diamond Diplomacy".  Rob then gave a talk describing the contents of the book, illustrated with a slide show and punctuated with comments from Mashi.  For example, Rob pointed out that Mashi's first base hit in the majors was off of Sandy Koufax.  Mashi then described the at bat in which he got the hit - a bunt up the third baseline - and expressed disappointment that he didn't get the ball.  (To be complete, Mashi's only other major league hit was off of Ted Davidson of the Reds - in fairness to him, as a relief pitcher he didn't get many at bats - only 16 in the 54 games he appeared in.)  Once the presentation was completed, Rob and Mashi took a couple questions from the crowd but they only had time for maybe three before they needed to get set up for the autograph session.  There were a lot of people at the event (one of the Barnes & Noble employees said that it could properly be referred to as a "throng") so there was a lot of autographing to be done.  Mashi was kind enough to sign both my copy of the book (that Rob had already signed as it was my premium for having donated to his Kickstarter campaign) as well as a promo baseball card that Rob had had printed up for the book:



Here's some photos from the event:

Outside the Barnes & Noble

Sign for the event

Yuriko, Mashi and Rob being introduced by the Barnes & Noble employee

Rob at the podium

Watching the clip from "Diamond Diplomacy"

Rob's presentation

Signing

More signing
The evening turned even more special afterwards.  I had sent an email to Rob last week asking if it would be possible to ask Mashi a few questions about baseball cards either before or after the event.  Not only was Rob gracious enough to agree, he invited me to join them for dinner at a nearby restaurant after the event.  He arranged the seating at the table so that Bob, a gentleman that had contributed enough to the Kickstarter campaign that his reward was getting to basically spend the day with the two of them, and I were seated with Mashi and Yuriko.  Mashi's English is quite good and Yuriko translated whenever there were any issues with understanding.  One thing that I learned was that Mashi had had no idea that there were baseball cards of him produced during his career - Rob had given him his Kabaya-Leaf card a few days previously and he had never seen it before.  He said something that Yuriko translated as "they have to ask permission now" but although I was curious about how BBM and Epoch contact OB players for their sets, I decided not to ask too much.  It was a bit noisy and I sensed (and he confirmed) that Mashi was a bit tired and jet lagged - he arrived in Chicago last Friday from Japan and had traveled to Boston before arriving in New York.  I had a great time talking with him, Bob, Yuriko and a friend of Yuriko's at dinner however (Rob was at the other end of the table with his wife and some friends of the family so I didn't talk a whole lot with him during the meal).  I'm very grateful to Rob inviting me along and I hope I didn't bug Mashi too much.

I want to close by talking a little bit about "Diamond Diplomacy".  The clip that Yuriko shared was very interesting, talking about the introduction of baseball in Japan by Horace Wilson in 1931, followed by some clips of the 1934 MLB All Star and the 1949 Seals tours before moving into the Mashi story.  At dinner I asked Yuriko about the clips from the 1949 Seals tour - I was surprised to see that she had color footage.  She said that the father of a friend of hers was a player on that tour and that they were home movies of his.  She added that her project originally was going to only be about the Seals tour but as she learned more about the context of the tour, the project grew much broader.  I really look forward to seeing the final film.

She had promo postcards for the film at Barnes & Noble:




 I also found this clip of hers on YouTube that shares some of the footage with what she showed last night:




The tour continues with stops in Rhinebeck, NY and at the Hall Of Fame in Cooperstown this weekend before going to California next week.

UPDATE - Zippy Zappy was at the event as well.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Card Of The Week June 28

Ever see a guy hit a home run completely out of a domed stadium?  That's what Ernesto Mejia of the Lions did during their 12-4 shellacking of the Fighters on Friday night.  He hit a two run home run to left center that completely left the Seibu Dome.  This was only possible because Seibu Dome is open on the sides - it was a standard open air ballpark until they put a roof on it back in 1999.  Here's a link to Pacific League's video of the home run and here's Mejia's first BBM card:

2014 BBM 2nd Version #413 (1st Version Update subset)
Friday night's game had a number of interesting features.  Shogo Akiyama had the difficult three quarters of a cycle in his first four at bats - triple, home run and a double - but could not get a single in either of his last two at bats.  And Fighters manager Hideki Kuriyama left Yuki Saitoh in to take a pounding in the sixth inning - Yu-chan faced 10 batters and gave up 7 hits, including home runs to Hideto Asamura and Tomoya Mori and three doubles.  He also walked a batter.  He gave up five runs and would have given up more probably had Takumi Kuriyama not gotten greedy trying to go to second on a throw to the plate after singling.  Kuriyama also let rookie starter Kohei Arihara take a bit of pounding as well - 10 hits (including the home runs by Akiyama and Mejia) and six runs (only five earned) over five innings.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

2015 Eagles Team Issued Card - Memorial Uniform Subset

I mentioned the other day in my post about JAUCE that I had picked up the "uniforms" subset from the 2015 Eagles team issued set.  I thought I'd take a few minutes to talk about this subset.  The Eagles issued a team set (not sure if it's a fan club set or not - couldn't find anything about it on their website) around the beginning of April.  It's a 93 card set with 76 cards for the players, a 15 card "Memorial Uniform" subset and a two card subset that's kind of a catch-all.  The "Memorial Uniform" subset features current Eagles players wearing alternate uniforms from 2010 to 2014.  The featured uniforms are the 2010-11 "Summer" uniform, the 2011 "Eagles Rainbow" uniform, the 2012 "Eagle Star" uniform, the "Fans Uniform" from 2012, 2013 and 2014 (three separate uniforms), and the "Tohoku Green" uniforms from 2013 and 2014.

As you might expect, I picked these up to be included in my upcoming post on the history of Rakuten's uniforms so I'm just going to show a couple here:

2015 Eagles #SS1-07

Back of 2015 Eagles #SS1-07

2015 Eagles #SS1-13
The text and team logo on the front are embossed in gold which make them difficult to see in the scan.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Proxy Bidding With JAUCE

A couple of months back I got a recommendation from reader Ryan Laughton to on another Yahoo! Japan Auctions proxy bidding outfit called JAUCE (Japan AUction CEnter).  I was browsing the auctions a few weeks back and decided to give them a shot.

JAUCE charges 800 yen + 8% for an auction win which at first looks like a better deal than kuboTEN's 1000 yen + 10%, especially when you take into account that the 8% is only taken from the winning auction price rather than the 10% from the winning auction price plus domestic shipping.  However, JAUCE charges an additional 300 yen "banking fee" when you pay the seller which kind of wipes out any savings over kuboTEN.

One significant way JAUCE can be cheaper than kuboTEN is multiple auctions.  Once you've won an auction, any auction you win in the next 24 hours is only 400 yen plus 8%, regardless of whether or not it's the same seller.  And you can keep extending this "discount period" as long as you keep winning auctions within 24 hours of the previous one.

One additional expense with JAUCE is the deposit fee - it's a flat rate of 40 yen + 4.15% of the deposit amount (JAUCE's website says 3.9% but the numbers I paid imply 4.15%).  kuboTEN's fee is simply 3.9%.

I had identified two auctions from the same seller that I wanted to buy (the 2015 BBM Eagles set and "uniforms" subset from the 2015 Eagles team issued set) and figured I'd try out JAUCE on them.  Registering for the site was relatively simple but I was a bit put off by the fact that I couldn't just enter the URL of the auction that I had already found anywhere - I actually had to use their search feature to re-find the auctions so that I could bid on them.  The bidding itself, however, was one of the best things about JAUCE - JAUCE does live bidding.  When you tell JAUCE to bid on something, you're not making a bid request that they'll get around to soon - you're actually putting a bid in on the auction right then and there.  Or if it's a "buy-it-now", you're buying it now.

Anyway, enough with the set up!  Here's what I ended up paying for everything.  The two auctions I won the two auctions were from the same seller and ended about a minute apart.  I won one for 800 yen and the other for 700 yen.  My fees for the first auction were 864 yen (800 yen plus 8% of 800 yen) and the fees for the second auction were  456 yen (400 yen plus 8% of 700 yen).  The domestic shipping for the two items was 300 yen total.  Since both items were from the same seller, I only had to pay the 300 yen "banking fee" once.  I had made an initial deposit of 2000 yen - the fees on that ran me another 123 yen on top of that (40 + 4.15% of 2000).

International shipping was 1200 yen.  I had to pay another deposit fee when I paid the balance of what I owed (everything above the initial 2000 yen) so that was another 148 yen.

So here's the summary of the charges (including the deposit fees):


Expense Amount
Deposit Fee on 2000 yen 123
First Auction 800
Fees on First Auction 864
Second Auction 700
Fees on Second Auction 456
Domestic Shipping 300
Banking Fee 300
International Shipping 1200
Deposit fee on 2620 yen 148
Total 4891

I did not do anywhere near as detailed a comparison as I did last summer comparing kuboTEN and Shopping Mall Japan.  All I doing this time is comparing the fees I paid with JAUCE to what I would have paid with kuboTEN (making the assumption that the EMS shipping fee would be the same):


Expense Amount
Deposit Fee on 2000 yen 78
First Auction 800
Second Auction 700
Domestic shipping 300
Fees 1280
International Shipping 1200
Deposit fee on 2280 yen 89
Total 4447

So obviously in this particular case, JAUCE was a little more expensive than kuboTEN was.  But what would have happened if the two items were from different sellers?  Here's a table with the comparison:

JAUCE kuboTEN
Deposit Fee 123 78
First Auction 800 800
Second Auction 700 700
First Auction Fee 864 1110
Second Auction Fee 456 1100
Domestic Shipping 600 600
Bank Fees 600
EMS Shipping 1200 1200
Fee on 3220 173 Fee on 3510 137
Total 5516 5725

So in this case, JAUCE would be the better deal.

There's a price point for determining which proxy company has lesser fees for a single item.  Unfortunately it's a bit difficult to determine because there are actually two variables - price of the item and price of domestic shipping.  If domestic shipping were free, any item that costs more than 5000 yen generates less fees through JAUCE than kuboTEN.  The more domestic shipping costs, the lower that price point gets - for 300 yen in domestic shipping, the point is 3500 yen where it become a better deal through JAUCE than kuboTEN.  At 500 yen for domestic shipping, the price point is 1800 yen.  Once domestic shipping reaches 1000 yen, JAUCE is always cheaper than kuboTEN.  (Just to show my work, if x is the item price and y is the domestic shipping, you need to solve the equation 1000 + y + 0.1*(x + y) > 1100 + y + 0.08*x.)

I want to add a couple comments about JAUCE's service - I was mostly happy with them but I felt that they were a little slow.  It took about 10 days from when I won the auctions before they told me that they had received the items and a couple days after that before they told me what shipping to the US would be.  Granted some of that delay could have been due to the seller, but I wonder if some of it is due to JAUCE's location - they are in Sakaiminato city in Tottori prefecture which is on the Sea of Japan on the north coast of Japan - kinda-sorta between Hiroshima and Osaka.  It seems a bit out of the way to me although I will admit to being somewhat ignorant of Japanese geography.  The 1200 yen EMS fee was pretty amazingly low but they did a minimum amount of repackaging for international shipping - the two items had been only wrapped in paper and placed in a cardboard envelope - no bubble wrap or plastic cases.  In JAUCE's defense they warn that they will do this - I believe their repackaging charge is around 1200 yen.  For the comparisons I did above, I assumed that kuboTEN would charge the same amount for international shipping - in practice I think kuboTEN will generally be a little more than that due to the repackaging that they do.

So to wrap up (and I apologize if this post has been a bit "stream of consciousness"), I believe JAUCE is a worthy competitor to kuboTEN - you can save some money on auction fees if you select your proxy appropriately.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

More Memories Of Uniform - Tigers Edition

The Tigers have been one of the more stable teams in Japanese baseball history.  They were founded in 1935 as (I believe) the Osaka Tigers but changed their name during the war to Hanshin.  After the war they went back to being called the Osaka Tigers until the 1961 season, when they changed the name to the Hanshin Tigers (and adopted the interlocking "H" and "T" logo that their hats have used ever since).

Once again I am using The History Of Uniform and Professional Baseball Uniforms Encyclopedia 1936-2013 as my primary sources.  Neither source differentiates between home and away uniforms until 1953.  I am also using Yakyu Baka's Uniform posts as a reference for some of the more recent uniforms.

1936-40 3 different

2006 BBM Nostalgic Baseball #011

2006 BBM Nostalgic Baseball 014

2010 BBM Tigers 75th Anniversary #10

1940-43 2 different

2000 BBM 20th Century Best 9 #386

1944 2 different

1945-48 2 different

2005 BBM Tigers 70th Anniversary #02

1947-51 2 different

2000 BBM 20th Century Best 9 #451

2005 BBM Tigers 70th Anniversary #16
1948-49

2010 BBM Tigers 75th Anniversary #02

1950-51

1951 JGA 11 Watanabe
1951-53 2 different

2005 BBM Tigers 70th Anniversary #12
1953-57 Home

2000 BBM 20th Century Best 9 #422
1953-57 Away

1958-59 Home

2013 BBM Tigers Legends #94
1958-59 Away

2009 Epoch All Japan Baseball Foundation 15th Anniversary #09
1960 Home

2013 BBM Tigers Legends #95
1960 Away

2015 BBM Tigers 80th Anniversary #11
1961-65 Home

1961 Marusan JCM 12d Murayama
1961-65 Away

2000 BBM 20th Century Best 9 #T-06
1965-69 Home

1967 Kabaya-Leaf #111
1965-69 Away

2007 BBM Draft Story #038
1970-71 Home

2015 BBM Tigers 80th Anniversary #13
1970-71 Away

2000 BBM 20th Century Best Nine #S-01
1972-73 Home

1973-74 Calbee #92
1972-73 Away

1974-75 Home

1974-75 Calbee #929
1974-75 Away

1974-75 Calbee #234
1975-78 Home

1979 Yamakatsu JY8 #123
1975-78 Away

1977 Calbee "Pro Series" #52
1979-81 Home

2015 BBM Memories Of Uniform #15
1979-83 Home
2015 BBM Memories Of Uniform #016

1979-83 Away

1980 Calbee #227
1984-87 Home

1984 Calbee #159
1984-87 Away

1984 Calbee #153
1988-90 Home

1989 Calbee #277
1988-90 Away

1989 Calbee #104
1991-1999 Home

1993 Tomy #128
2000 Home

2000 BBM Late Series #611
1991-2000 Away

1997 BBM #437
2001- 2006 Home

2002 BBM 1st Version #160
2001 Away

2001 Upper Deck #91
2002-2006 Away

2015 BBM Memories Of Uniform #017

2005-06 Home Turn Back The Clock/Interleague

2005 BBM Tigers 70th Anniversary #93

2006 Away Turn Back The Clock/Interleague

2006 BBM 2nd Version #614

2007-11 Home

2008 BBM 1st Version #091
2007-11 Away

2015 BBM Memories Of Uniform #018
2007 Interleague Home

2007 BBM 2nd Version #608

2007 Interleague Away

2007 BBM 2nd Version # 612
2008 Interleague Home

2009 BBM Back To The 80's #089
2008 Interleague Away

2008-09 Away Alternate(?)

2009 BBM Tigers #T026
2009 Turn Back The Clock Home 

2009 Turn Back The Clock Away

2010-11 Away Alternate

2010 Turn Back The Clock Home 

2010 BBM Tigers 75th Anniversary #89
2010 Turn Back The Clock Away

2010 BBM Tigers 75th Anniversary #80

2010 Turn Back The Clock (Great Central) 

2011 Turn Back The Clock

2012-14 Home

2013 Calbee #026
2012-14 Away

2012 BBM 2nd Version #612
2012 Turn Back The Clock (Great Central) 

2013 Turn Back The Clock

2014 BBM Brilliant Teenagers #024

2014 Alternate

2015 BBM Memories Of Uniform #019

2015 Home

2015 BBM 1st Version #215
2015 Away

Notes:

This one was rough.  A lot of the differences between uniforms are very subtle so it's difficult to discern sometimes just when a uniform on a card is from.  For example, both the home and away uniforms appear roughly the same over the period of time from 1965-73.  But names were added to the back of the uniforms in 1970 (along with a change to the Tiger head on the away uniform) and the hat logo went to multi-colored in 1972.  I tried my best to get them right but there may be a mix up in some of those cards.

The Tigers have a LOT of recent alternate uniforms and I'm not sure if there are any cards available for them at all.