Monday, March 22, 2010

BBM Timeline 1991-2000

As I've mentioned before, 2010 is BBM's 20th year producing baseball cards. I've been wanting to do some posts on their history, but I've been unable to get around to it until now. Here are the highlights of the first 10 years (1991-2000):

1991 - The first BBM "regular" set is issued - 399 cards that are slightly smaller than the standard US card (2 3/8 x 3 5/16 rather than 2 1/2 x 3 1/2). The set is issued in packs of 10 cards (with a possibility of a team logo hologram as an insert) and also as a factory set. The first All Star and Nippon Series (Carp vs. Lions) boxed sets are issued.

1992 - Regular set grows to 498 cards and is issued in two series of 249 cards. Insert cards are holograms of players. Set is again issued as a factory set.

1993 - Regular set is again 498 cards, but is issued in a single series. For the first time, the backs of the cards are in color and feature a head shot of the player. For the final time, the set is available as a factory set. Insert cards are team logo holograms again.

1994 - Regular set grows to 608 cards. No factory set is issued (or would ever be again). Insert cards are player holograms (again) and "Sluggers". For the first time, BBM introduces the concept of "Late Series" - where they stop the print run midway through the season and replace a subset of cards with a new group. In 1994, they replaced the Swallows cards with updated photographs. For the first time, the All Star box set contains a random insert card featuring an All Star game MVP from one of the previous years. Also for the first time, BBM releases a boxed team set (for the Hanshin Tigers) and a set to commemorate Hiromi Makihara's prefect game ("Perfect Pitching").

1995 - Regular set grows to 651 cards and literally grows to the standard card size (2 1/2 x 3 1/2). For the first time, there's a parallel issue to the set where 130 cards are available with a gold facsimile autograph. There's also an insert set featuring "All Around Players". The "Late Series" cards feature the Chiba Lotte Marines. The All Star set again features a random insert card featuring one of the two All Star game MVPs from 1994. Team box sets are issued for the Tigers and Orix Blue Wave (actually the Orix set proves so popular that BBM issues a second team set a little later).

1996 - Regular set is 655 cards. The "Late Series" cards are for the Chunichi Dragons. There are some sort printed 9 card puzzle subsets in the set. The only insert cards included are "Magic Motion" cards similar to the "SportsFlics" cards of the 1980's in the US. BBM also issues a 282 card high end set called Diamond Heroes for the first time. This set also features a "SportsFlics"-style insert set. A team set is again issued for the Tigers, this time featuring a random insert card.

1997 - Regular set is 573 cards. There is no "Late Series" cards this year, although there are a couple short printed subsets and a "green border" variation on the League Leader cards. For the first time, the set includes an insert set featuring the previous year's Best 9 winners - this will be missing in 1998 but a constant for all years after that. There's also a die-cut "Rivals" insert set where each card in the set is matched with another card from the set. The Diamond Heroes set contains 294 regular cards, a 24 card insert set using "refractor" technology and, for the first time, a game used jersey card (of Hideki Matsui). Boxed team sets are issued for the Giants, Tigers, Dragons and Marines - actually the Giants set is issued as two 50 card box sets, each containing half the set.

1998 - Regular set is 577 cards. Again, no "Late Series" but the facsimile autograph parallel set first seen in 1995 is back (and be included in subsequent "regular" sets except for 2000). Insert sets include Dream Team, Dream Matchups, Baseball's Best and game used jersey cards of Atsuya Furuta and Fumiya Nishiguchi. Although there's no insert set for the 1997 Best 9 winners, there is a subset to the regular set featuring them. The Diamond Heroes set includes 252 cards with an insert set of die-cut, embossed cards (Hit Leaders/Strikeout Leaders) and a Yoshinobu Takahashi game used jersey card. Boxed team sets are issued for the Hawks, Tigers, Giants and Baystars - as in 1995 with the Orix team sets, the Baystars team set is so popular that a second edition is sold.

1999 - BBM issues a 122 card "Preview" set using roughly the same design and pictures that will be used for the regular set. The Preview set includes a pink(!) facsimile autograph parallel set and League Leaders insert set. The regular set is 627 cards with a "Late Series" for the Swallows. Insert sets include Best 9, Dream Team and game used jersey cards for Kazuhiro Sasaki and Kazuo Matsui. The Diamond Heroes set is again 252 cards with insert sets of Picture Perfect/Above Average and Super Rookies (which features "SportsFlics"-style cards of Koji Uehara and Daisuke Matsuzaka). The set also has the first game-used bat cards for Bobby Rose and Tsuyoshi Shinjyo. Boxed sets are issued for the Tigers, Lions (a 20th Anniversary set for Seibu), Dragons and Hawks - the Dragons and Hawks sets commemorate each team winning their respective league pennant. There is also a Giants team set that is issued as a giveaway for new subscribers of the Yomiuri Shimbun. A 108 card set called "Mr. Giants" celebrating Shigeo Nagashima is issued - this is essentially the first of the annual "Historic Edition" sets although it isn't labeled as such.

2000 - The Preview set is issued with 134 cards including the first draft pick cards BBM has issued. The set has a facsimile autograph parallel set and a league leader insert set again. The regular set contains 632 cards with "Late Series" cards for the Marines and Tigers. Insert sets include New Faces, Best 9, Golden Glove, 90's Best 9 and Rookie Reprints - reprints of the rookie cards of 12 players to celebrate BBM's 10th Anniversary. The set also includes jersey cards of Kimiyasu Kudoh and Shigeki Noguchi. The Diamond Heroes set is again 252 cards and has insert sets of 90's Franchise Players and Golden Battery (featuring Atsuya Furuta and Daisuke Matsuzaka). No boxed team sets are produced this year - instead the Tigers and Giants have team sets issued as pack based sets which include various insert sets including game used Tsuyoshi Shinjyo batting glove cards and Hideki Matsui bat cards as well as Giants autograph cards. The Giants also have two other sets produced - a set issued to Yomiuri Shimbun subscribers and a set celebrating their Central League championship that was issued in a binder with the cards already in sheets. BBM issues their most ambitious "Historic Edition" set (although again it is not labelled as such) - the 484 card Century Best 9 set featuring four cards each of the 120 "best" players of the 20th century, along with a couple insert sets, a gold trimmed parallel set and some autograph cards. A very high end boxed set celebrating the careers of Sadaharu Oh and Shigeo Nagashima is issued - this 54 card set includes jersey and windbreaker cards for both players as well as other possible parallel inserts.

Gary Engel's "Japanese Baseball Card Checklist And Price Guide" was invaluable in helping me put this together.

From top to bottom, the images are a 1991 regular set wrapper, a 1991 factory set box, a 1992 Series 2 box, the back side of Hideo Nomo's 1993 regular card (#43), a 1994 Tigers box set, a 1995 Atsuya Furuta gold signature parallel card (#169), a 1996 Diamond Heroes Hiromi Makihara card (#49), the 1997 Giants box sets (black and orange), a 1998 card of Yutaka Ohno (#81), a 1999 "Mr. Giants" wrapper, a 2000 Preview card of Kenta Asakura (#P127) and a 2000 "Rookie Reprint" Hideki Matsui (#R8).


Jason said...

Wonderful time capsule of BBM, I can't wait to see the next 10 years!

Andrew said...

Nice retrospective of the series, keep up the great work on the site!