Sunday, August 31, 2014

Card Of The Week August 31

Ever wonder how the Buffaloes got their name?  Shigeru Chiba was a star second baseman with the Giants from 1938 to 1956 (except for the years he missed due to the war).  His nickname was Mogyu, meaning the "Wild Buffalo" (I've also seen it translated as "Formidable Buffalo").  When he took over the Kintetsu Pearls as manager in 1959, there was a fan vote to rename the team.  The winning name was inspired by Chiba's nickname and the team was called the Kintetsu Buffalo.  And you're reading that correctly, it's the singular.  The team changed its name to Kintetsu Buffaloes in 1962 after Chiba was no longer manager.

Here's a card of Chiba during his first year managing the Buffalo, from the 1959 Doyusha Team Name Back (JCM 30b) set:

Friday, August 29, 2014

Proxy Shopping On Yahoo! Japan Auctions - A Comparison Of kuboTEN and Shopping Mall Japan

Yahoo! Japan Auctions is a fascinating cornucopia of Japanese baseball cards.  It's amazing what all can be found there, sometimes at very reasonable prices.  There's just one problem - if you don't live in Japan, it's pretty much impossible to order anything.  You have to use a proxy service, which will cause the price of anything you want to grow quite a bit.

So what's a proxy service?  A proxy service is an outfit that will bid on Yahoo! Japan Auctions for you.  They will also handle receiving the item from the seller and shipping the item off to you.  Obviously, there is a fee associated with all of this - typically it is driven somehow by the cost of the item.  So you end up paying the fee, the price of the item, the cost of shipping the item from the seller to the proxy and the cost of shipping the item from the proxy to you.

I believe that there are a number of proxy services out there, but I only have any experience with two of them - kuboTEN and ShoppingMallJapan.

I've been using kuboTEN off and on for about four and a half years now.  I had stopped using them about a year and half ago because frankly the service was terrible.  The guy who runs the site, Craig, was overwhelmed with orders and was also dealing with health issues.  Everything I bid on I eventually got but it took months.  Last spring I decided to give them another chance - Craig has hired people to help him out and he also rolled out a new website that's a lot easier to use.  I've been pretty pleased with the service since then.  kuboTEN charges 1000 yen (roughly $10) as their fee plus 10% of the total of the auction win (including shipping to kuboTEN's office in Fukuoka).  So if you won something for 100 yen with 100 yen for shipping, you'd pay kuboTEN a total of 1220 yen - 100 yen for the item, 100 yen for shipping, 1000 yen fee and 20 yen for the 10% of the auction total.  Keep in mind that you still have to pay for shipping from kuboTEN's office to where ever you are.  You can combine items for shipping if you have multiple wins.  If you win several auctions from the same seller within a 24 hour period, you only have to pay 100 yen (plus the 10 %) more per auction (rather than 1000 yen per auction).

Shopping Mall Japan has apparently been around for quite a while now but I just learned about them last spring.  I've done a couple auctions through them and they're OK.  Their website is kind of clunky (you can only log in or log out on the main page) and it's sometimes hard to find things.  I also feel they are very slow to let you know when things happen.  Their fee structure is a little bit better than kuboTEN's depending on what you're ordering.  There's a $3 "wire" fee plus a processing charge that varies depending on how much your auction win was.  It's $6 for an item less than 2000 yen, $8 for an item between 2001 and 6000 and $1 more every 1000 yen after that up to 33,000 yen.  Between 33,000 and 100,000 yen it's a flat fee of $35 and beyond 100,000 it's $0.50 per 1000 yen.  If you buy multiple items from one seller, SMJ only charges you the $3 fee once and takes $1 off the processing fee for each item won (so if you won three 1000 items from the same seller, you'd pay the $3 wire fee + $6 for the first item + $5 for the second item + $4 for the third item).  One of Shopping Mall Japan's interesting features is that they have an office in Tokyo as well as in Indiana (I think it's in Michigan City but I'm not positive).  They bulk ship items via EMS from Tokyo office to the Indiana office so that you only end up spending a fraction of what you would normally.  So you ultimately end up paying for shipping three times - seller to SMJ's Tokyo office, SMJ's Tokyo office to SMJ's Indiana office and finally SMJ's Indiana office to you.  The hope is that this works out to being cheaper than shipping from Japan directly to you.

A lot of this is kind of confusing so I decided to do a bit of comparison shopping - I went looking for two items I was interested in for the same price by the same seller that were ending roughly the same time.  After a bit, I finally decided on two 1978 Calbee cards (one of Yasushi Tao and one of Tatsuhiko Kimura) for sale by (of all people) Mint Yokohama.  The cards were 500 yen a piece.  (NOTE - I would not normally buy something like this off of YJA unless I was buying some other things from the same bidder.  As you will see, the costs with the fees and the shipping will add quite a bit to the cost.)

Both proxy sites require that you pay a deposit before you can bid on anything.  This is to protect themselves from deadbeat buyers.  It's fairly easy to enter a deposit in kuboTEN - you go to the account management page (after you log in) and click on the "add funds" button in the deposit section.  You'll be taken to another page to enter the amount that you want to deposit, then taken to another page to actually make the payment.  You can pay either by PayPal or directly by credit card but either way you end up paying a 3.9% fee by their payment processor.  Once you pay the deposit, you are allowed to bid up to the amount of your deposit.

It's a little more complicated with Shopping Mall Japan.  You can pay a cash deposit via PayPal but you need to go to PayPal directly and send the money to SMJ's email along with a note with your user name.  You then have to wait until they credit your account with the deposit which could take a little while.  Once you have been credited with a cash deposit, you can build to (roughly) five times what your deposit was.  You can also do a credit authorization deposit using a credit card - I haven't done this but it appears that you can't do it directly on their website - you need to send them an email telling them how much to authorize.  Once a credit deposit is set up you can only bid up to the amount that's authorized.

Both proxy services offer ways to search Yahoo! Japan Auctions but I haven't used them much.  I generally search the auctions directly and once I find things I want to bid on I use each site's auction bid page.  I have to say that SMJ's page is much easier to deal with than kuboTEN's.  At SMJ, all I need to do is enter the URL of the page I want to bid on along with the amount I want to bid (you actually enter that on a second page after SMJ has looked at the url).  At kuboTEN, I need to enter the name of the auction site (kuboTEN also supports bidding on mbox and Rakuten Auctions), the url, the title of the auction, the auction id and the amount you want to bid.  (I asked Craig at kuboTEN why I had to fill all that in - basically he said that if you used kuboTEN to search YJA directly, I'd be able to bid very easily - the page I'm using was really meant for the other auction sites.  Since I don't like the lack of flexibility in kuboTEN's auction browser, I'm going to continue to do it this way).

So let's get down to the comparison.  I did a 1000 yen deposit at kuboTEN and a $10 deposit at SMJ.  Each of the cards sold for 500 yen.  I used the remaining deposit on each account to pay for some of the fees.  Here's the totals for kuboTEN:

Item Amount In Yen Amount In $ Notes
Deposit 1039 10.53 PayPal fee of 39 yen.  PayPal used exchange rate of 98.733 yen = $1
Auction, Domestic shipping and fees 686 6.92 Domestic shipping was 100 yen. Fees were 1060 yen (1000 yen plus 10% of 600 yen). Total including auction price was 1660 yen. I paid 1000 of that using the deposit so I needed to pay 660 yen. I had to pay 26 yen PayPal fee on that also. PayPal used an exchange rate of 99.23 yen = $1.
International Shipping 229 2.31 kuboTEN gave me three options for shipping - surface(I think), SAL and EMS. Surface was the cheapest but SAL was only about 40 yen more and roughly 1000 yen less than EMS, so I went with SAL for 220. Once again, I had to pay an extra "PayPal fee" of 9 yen. PayPal used an exchange rate of 99.22 yen = $1.
Total 19.76

Here are the totals for Shopping Mall Japan:

Item Amount In Yen Amount In $ Notes
Deposit 10.00
Auction, Domestic shipping and fees 7.55 The fee for the auction was $9 ($3 "wire" fee plus $6 "processing"). The shipping charge was 330 yen - this was both the domestic shipping to SMJ's office and my portion of the "bulk" shipping to the US. More on this below. SMJ uses a 97 yen = $1 exchange rate so they charged me a total of $8.55 for the auction price (500 yen) and the shipping. So the total price for item plus fees was $17.55. I used the deposit to pay for some of it so I only needed to pay an additional $7.55
Final Shipping 4.05 More on this below
Total 21.60

So Shopping Mall Japan was almost two dollars more than kuboTEN.  The bulk of the difference appears to be in the shipping costs.  They charged me 330 yen for shipping from the seller to their Tokyo office and then from the Tokyo office to Indiana.  This seemed somewhat high to me.  When I asked them how much the bulk shipping fee was, they said it was only 30 yen, implying that shipping from the seller to the office was 300 yen.  I pointed out to them that the auction said that domestic shipping was only 100 yen (which is what kuboTEN paid but I didn't tell them that part).  I did not get an answer back from them on that.  Even more ridiculous, however, was the final shipping from Indiana to my house.  I requested first class, expecting that it would be a dollar or so to ship the single card in a padded envelope.  Instead, I was charged $4.05 for a box roughly four inches on a side.  Once you make your shipping request, SMJ goes ahead and ships your item before you get a chance to argue the price so at that point I had to just pay it.

I took pictures of the box:

The other thing that SMJ does that I didn't like here is decide what the exchange rate should be.  They used an exchange rate of 97 yen = $1 so my auction price and shipping cost of 830 yen was $8.55.  If I had gotten the same rate that I had been getting from PayPal (about 99 yen = $1), it would have been about $8.38.  Not a huge difference for this particular item but for a more expensive item, this could end costing a couple of dollars.

The auctions ended on July 24.  I received the card from SMJ on August 6th.  I did not receive the card from kuboTEN until August 19th. kuboTEN had shipped the card the morning of July 29th (Japan time) so took almost 3 weeks for the card to get to me which is a little long for most shipments I get of this type.   I suspect that for whatever reason, the card got held up in customs.

I mentioned before that I would not normally have bought these two cards this way - I would have bought both of them through one site or the other.  I thought it might be interesting to see how much I would have paid if I had used each site to buy both cards.  We're going to use the same deposits and assume that the shipping costs would have been the same in both cases.  For kuboTEN, the auction cost would have been 1100 yen, so the fee would have been 1210 yen (1000 for the first item, 100 for the second and 110 for the 10% of the auction cost).  The total would have been 2310 yen.  I would have paid 1000 of that using my deposit, so I would have sent a second payment of 1310 which (with a fee of 3.9%) would have been about $13.75 (using an exchange rate of 99 yen = $1).  We're assuming shipping would have been the same so for a total we sum up the deposit ($10.53), the second payment ($13.75) and the international shipping ($2.31) and get a total of $26.59.  For SMJ, we'd be paying the $3 "wire" fee, $6 for the processing of the first item and $5 for the processing of the second item plus 1330 yen for the items plus the shipping.  At their exchange rate of 97 yen = $1, that 1330 yen becomes $13.71.  Add in the $4.05 final shipping and we get a total of $31.76.  So it would have cost almost $5 more to have used SMJ.

So in wrapping this up, I have to say that I think kuboTEN is the better way to go.  They end up being a little cheaper and they really seem to have cleared up the issues that I had had with them in the past.  Really the only thing that I like about Shopping Mall Japan is the ease of entering a bid.  I did get the card faster via SMJ but I think that may have been a fluke.  I think kuboTEN's site is much easier to deal with when I need to pay for something.  kuboTEN is also much better at sending emails to let you know something has happened, like your item has been received.  I have never gotten an email from SMJ telling me my item had been received - I have only discovered it by checking my account page on their site.  Most importantly, I have never felt like kuboTEN has done silly things with shipping that ended up costing me more money.

I'm going to notify both sites about this post and invite them to respond.  I'll publish any emails I get from them here.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

2014 Super Star Korean Baseball Series 2

I noticed last week that Super Star Baseball Card, the Korean outfit who had put out a set of baseball cards a couple months back, have announced and released a second set.  The set is labelled "1st Edition" like the earlier set but it is also labelled "Season 2" to differentiate it from the earlier set.  The set once again contains 126 cards in the base set.  They are numbered 1-126 so they are not numbered in continuation of the previous set.

The good news is that it looks like none of the 126 cards are short printed.  There are "All Star" parallels of 54 cards (six per team) and some sort of other parallel for 9 cards (1 per team).  It looks like this mystery parallel could be one of several different types - a parallel design, a parallel design with facsimile autograph, an authentic autograph and a jersey card.  You can see pictures of the cards at Super Star Baseball Card's Facebook page.

Jason has already added the cards to the checklists at Sports Card Forum and Trading Card Database.  From his analysis, it doesn't appear that anyone who appeared in the earlier set shows up in this set.  The set also does not include any foreign players.  Jason has pointed out that each Korean team has 66+ players on their roster (I would assume split between the top team and the "minor league" team) so Super Star could potentially put out two more sets without having any overlap in players or having any foreign players.  I don't pay enough attention to the KBO to know if the 28 players per team included so far are all top team players or not.

The set was apparently released on August 19.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Card Of The Week August 24

Well obviously my hiatus was not quite as long as I thought it would be but there's still going to be a bit of a difference in the posting.  My computer is in our family room on the ground floor of our house but most of my cards are in binders in my office in the basement.  Messing around with the binders is a bit of a strain currently and bringing one or two upstairs for the blog is probably overdoing it right now.  So most of the posts in the next few weeks will probably be heavier on text than pictures of cards.

The Card Of The Week this week is another card dealing with the installation of artificial turf at Korakuen Stadium in the 1975-76 off season.

1975/76 Calbee #406
I was originally going to use this as Card Of The Week last week as a symbol for my back surgery but doing a post last Sunday was really out of the question.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Many New Sets

A bunch of new sets got formal announcements over the last two weeks.  Let's start with the BBM stuff:

- BBM is doing four more team specific box sets.  The first one up is Tigers Fielding, a 24 card set with 23 cards of Tigers players in the field and 1 special card which could be an autograph or jersey card.  It will be released at the end of August.  BBM will follow that up with the Celebration Of The Hawks set which will have 27 cards of Hawks players in this year's red alternate jerseys plus one special card (photo, facsimile autograph or real autograph).  This set will also be released in late August.  Mid September will see Red Sensation, a 28 card box set for the Carp.  It will have 27 regular cards of Carp players plus one special card which could be a foil parallel, a jersey or bat card or some sort of "large format" card that is four times the size of a normal card.  Around the same time, BBM will also be releasing a box set for Orix called something like "March".  It will also have 28 cards in the set with 27 being base cards showing Buffaloes players and the other being an autograph or jersey card.

- BBM will also be releasing Genesis, their high end set, in mid-September.  This is a pack based set with a base set of 120 cards - 9 per team plus a team checklist.  There is a mind-numbing array of parallel, insert, autograph and memorabilia cards available in the packs.  The memorabilia cards include jersey, ball, and patch cards and I think there might be cards that have autographed baseballs embedded in them.

- And if two cheerleader sets this summer wasn't enough for you, BBM will be releasing the unfortunately named "Honeys Flash!!" set in mid-September.  This is a 46 card box set dedicated to the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks dance team the Honeys.  There are 44 base cards in the set - 21 of the dancers in their costumes, 21 of the dancers in street clothes, one group photo and I'm not sure what the other card is.  Each box contains 2 special cards - one is an autograph card (either facsimile or real) and the other is some sort of foil version of a photo card maybe?  I'm not sure I'm understanding Google's translation very well.

- Series Three from Calbee will be out on September 15.  Like the two previous Series from Calbee this year, this Series features 84 player cards, 7 per team.  There are also two subsets - a 12 card "Clutch Hitter" (CL) subset featuring a hitter from each team and the ubiquitous four checklist cards.  The player cards plus this two subsets make up the 100 card, non-premium portion of the set.  The standard 24 card (2 per team) "Star" card insert set is also included.  Rounding out the set, there's a 12 card set dedicated to closers that is available (somehow) by mail order plus the two cards that are obtained by redeeming specially inserted "lucky cards" in the packs.  I'm assuming that like the two previous sets this year that these will be 3D cards.  I think (but I'm not positive) that the two cards are of Yuki Nishi of the Buffaloes and Tomoyuki Sugano of the Giants.

Friday, August 22, 2014

SCM Insert Cards Checklist

I'm doing a bit better than I was last weekend so I thought I'd make an attempt to post something about a project I've been working on for a couple months or so.  Since I started picking up the new issues of Sports Card Magazine when they come out I've been getting more and more curious about the cards that BBM prints up solely for use in the magazine.  So I started doing some research with the goal to generate a list (in English) of all the SCM insert cards.

You may be telling yourself "That's not a big deal.  Every issue of SCM includes a list of all the SCM cards so far".  Which is true, but there's several caveats.  The first being that the list is in Japanese, not English.  The second is that there's not much information about the card other than the name of the player(s) depicted on the card.  The third is that there are no card numbers associated with any of the cards listed in the SCM even though almost all the cards I had seen had card numbers.  The final caveat was something I didn't discover until I was halfway through my research - the list in SCM is not complete.  I found at least one instance of there being a card that was obviously from SCM not being in the magazine's list.  So, lots of work to do.

The magazine that we now know as Sports Card Magazine started out as a small magazine (or pamphlet) in the early 1990's that was mostly given away at card shows.  Paul Margiott, one of the pioneers of the hobby, told me that they were "glossy paper, center stapled, color covers, professionally printed."  They contained  "ads, articles, price guides, ‘World Card News’, etc;"  The final issue appears to have been #14, issued with a cover date of "Winter 1996".  This issue had 48 pages. (The quotes from Paul Margiott came from an email conversation he and I had a few months back.  I apologize ahead of time if I misunderstood something he wrote me).

The first newstand issue of Sports Card Magazine was published in October 1996.  As an indication that this was a break from the earlier giveaway issues, this issue was labelled #1.  The next issue was published in March of 1997 and the magazine has been published bi-monthly ever since.*

*Just want to stress that the dates I'm using for the newsstand version are the actual publication dates of the magazine (i.e. the date they hit the newsstand) rather than the cover data of the magazine.

BBM has included cards inserted in every issue of the magazine starting with issue #1.  I have not been able to figure out who the cards with issue #1 were.  Many of the insert cards during the first few years were not baseball related - many were related to wrestling, sumo and boxing, as well as I think at least one race horse.

From what I've put together, there are a total of 341 cards that have been published as inserts to SCM.  However, only 271 of them have actual "SCM Original Numbers".  The rest are unnumbered (or in some cases have the number of the actual version of the card that they are the promo version of).  The first card to have an SCM number on it was this card of Koji Uehara from issue #13 in January of 1999:

And before you ask - this is not the first card included in SCM that was not a promo version of another card.  There were at least two others prior to this.

Now the next frustrating thing in attempting to catalog all of these is that not all the cards in later issues were numbered.  For example, here's a reprint of a 1974 Calbee Sadaharu Oh card that was included (with a reprint of a Shigeo Nagashima 1973 Calbee card) in issue #15 in May of 1999, four months after the above Uehara card:

Back to being unnumbered.  It looks like SCM would skip number the insert cards for the next nine years or so - the last cards that I know for sure were unnumbered were included with issue #68 in March of 2008.

I can't swear to this, but I believe that for a certain period of time, SCM would not number cards that were promos for memorabilia cards (the dreaded "non-memorabilia" cards).  But as far as I can tell, every card included since March of 2008 (which includes promos for memorabilia cards) have been numbered.

I've lumped all the cards into five categories - Original (meaning there's no set that the card is related to - at least not one from when the card was issued), Reprint (reprint of an earlier card), Promo (promo version of a card from a set that is indistinguishable from its original except by text saying it's a promo and/or a color variation in the graphics), Variant (a promo version of a card that differs in picture and/or additional graphics) and Bonus (an original card done in the format of a recent set).

The Uehara card is an example of an Original card while the Oh card is an example of a Reprint (actually it and Nagashima card are the only examples of reprints that I've seen so far - we can nitpick the Atsuya Furuta rookie reprint from SCM #20 - I'd argue that that's a promo version of an insert card from the 2000 BBM set).  I don't currently have a good example of a variant - at least not one that I can show both the original and variant versions of.  Here's an example of a promo card vs the original card for the 2014 BBM 80th Anniversary Pitchers Edition:

As you can see, the photos are identical - the only difference is in the color of the graphics (and the inclusion of the SCM logos).

This Michael Nakamura card is a Bonus card for the 2005 BBM Rookie Edition set - it is numbered #120 while the original set ended at #119.

One other thing I want to point out is that BBM has apparently been doing parallels of these cards for a while now, possibly all the way back to issue #1.  I can't claim that every single card has multiple parallels but I have seen facsimile signature parallels as well as foil or laser ones:

There's a lot of interesting cards that BBM has included with SCM.  Many highlight events or awards that BBM has not done anything with in their flagship sets.  There is what I felt a surprising number of bonus cards for the 2007 1st Version set and a couple of the Rookie Edition sets.  There are some interesting inserts like the one with issue #81 in May of 2010 - they are cards of rookies done in the style of the 1991 BBM flagship set - basically Classic before BBM officially did Classic in 2013.

I've put a link to my checklist here so that any updates I make to it will immediately become visible to anyone looking at it.

Sunday, August 17, 2014


I'm going to be going on a brief hiatus for a couple weeks.  I had back surgery done on Wednesday and I suspect that attempting to continue the blog during recovery is going to be difficult.  I'll try to still respond to comments and questions although I won't guarantee that I'll do it in a timely manner.

Hopefully I'll be back blogging by the middle of September.  Take care and I'll see you then.