Sunday, June 14, 2009

1967 Kabaya-Leaf

The first attempt for a Japanese card manufacturer to publish a set that was similar in style to American baseball cards occurred in 1967. Prior to then, most of the cards produced were either menko or bromide cards with little to no biographical or statistical information on the cards. In 1967, the Kabaya-Leaf set was produced that looked very similar in style to the Topps sets of the late '50's.

The card fronts had two different styles. One looked very much like the 1959 Topps design with a circular picture of the player. Here's a couple examples - Yasuhiko Kawai (#359) and Masahiko Mori (#10):

The other style looked vaguely like the 1958 design, with the photo taking up most of the front with a rectangle at the bottom giving the players name. These are the cards of Michio Nishizawa (#51) and Kingo Motoyashiki (#111):

The backs of the cards contained biographical information on the player as well as the player's career statistics. Here's the front and back of Isao Harimoto's card (#409). Notice that the years indicate Showa Period year rather than Western (1966 = 41 Showa, although I don't know if I'm saying that right).

One of the odd things about the set is that it only has card for six of the teams - the Giants, Dragons, Tigers, Lions, Hawks and Flyers. For whatever reason, the Braves, Carp, Buffaloes, Whales, Orions and Atoms were left off. (One possible reason - the six teams represented were the top three teams in each league in 1966.)

According to Gary Engel, the Kabaya-Leaf cards were imported into the US and sold by mail until the early 1970's. The cards are rarely found in Japan anymore. 1967 was the only year that the cards were published. I wonder if the fact that they mostly ended up in the US had something to do with that.

This set is very popular - bidding on eBay for the cards can get quite heated.

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