Saturday, March 23, 2013

Card Shops In Japan - Part One

I ended up going to nine cards shops in Tokyo over a three day period, plus another card shop in Yokohama a couple days later.  I'm going to do a series of posts summarizing them over the next few days.

Quad Sports, Takadanobaba

Quad Sports is a little shop hidden away on the second floor (I think) of a building maybe a block or so away from Takadanobaba station on Waseda dori.  Ryan had located this store a few months ago and told me about it.

I took this picture before I actually found the store, thinking it was in the building with the sign with the pig and chicken (a Korean barbecue place I think).  Turns out that they're actually in the building to the left, but for some reason, I never took a new establishing picture.  Probably too excited to actually be in a place that sold Japanese cards.

It took me a couple minutes to find them since they weren't in the building I thought they were, but once I located them, I walked in and a big smile broke out on my face when I saw all the boxes of single cards available.

These cabinets contain binders full of Calbee cards from the 1970's to the present as well as the more valuable BBM cards - rookies, inserts and parallels.

I probably spent a good two hours going through their singles for a bunch of BBM sets, plus another hour the next day when I came back with Ryan.  (I needed something like 110 cards from the 2004 BBM 1st Version set which is roughly a quarter of the set.  I wanted to see if I could simply pick up a complete set rather than try to get all the singles.  After talking to the guy at Mint Ikebukuro, I was convinced that I needed to get all the singles after all.  So I needed to go back to Quad Sports.)

Ryans says that their singles start at about 30 yen a card, cheapest he's found.  I can't confirm this since I didn't really get a price break down of what I got.  Beyond the singles, I picked up a bunch of Calbees and the parallel issue for the Epoch All Japan Baseball Foundation 1987 set that look like 1987 Calbees.   My total bill for Saturday was around 9000 yen.  I don't quite remember how much I spent on Sunday but it probably wasn't much more than 2000 yen.

There were two guys working at the store.  One spoke some English, the other one not so much.  But they were both very helpful.  (I think I saw the English speaking one at the Tokyo Dome on Sunday night but I'm not sure.)

Mint Ikebukuro, Ikebukuro

Mint is a chain of about 20 card shops in Japan.  I would eventually get to four of them - Ryan's been to several more.  Their Ikebukuro store has been recommended to me by both Ryan and Deanna Rubin as the best in Tokyo, at least for finding single cards.

The store is located just a little way from Ikebukuro station (and actually is only about a 20 minute walk from Quad Sports if you're feeling like a little exercise).  There's actually three distinct stores - one on the first floor that seemed to have a lot of more expensive stuff and two on the second floor.  I looked around at the first floor shop briefly, then headed upstairs.  When I got to the top of the stairs on the second floor, there was a store to the right and a store to the left.  I went in to the store on the left and never made it into the one on the right - Ryan says it specializes in gaming cards.

The shop was smaller than Quad Sports, but packed with lots of cool stuff.  They also were a bit better organized with their singles - I didn't have to lift any boxes up to get to other boxes.  Again, I spent a couple hours here going through boxes of singles, especially their old Calbees.

I had an incredible stroke of good fortune at this store - while I was there, Dean, an American who'd been living in Tokorozawa for the last 28 years came walking in to look at an old Calbee card of Shigeo Nagashima that the store owner had located for him.  We got to talking (he thought he'd seen the blog) and he offered to translate any questions I had for the store owner.  This was unbelievably helpful and I was able to locate some things that I was looking for.  Beyond being helpful in translation, Dean was also a real nice guy with a lot of useful information, so I was very lucky to run into him.  

Again I'm not exactly sure what I paid for everything.  Ryan says that the single cards usually start at around 100 yen a card.  I bought a BUNCH of old Calbee and other cards from the 1970's (including the 1973 Calbee Sadaharu Oh card) so I ended up spending around 15000 yen there.  This was the most I spent at any one store.

Coletre, Ikebukuro

Coletre is a store that I found through an article in Sports Card Magazine (although Ryan had checked it out for me).  I think they've been around for a little bit as an internet-only store and only opened the brick and mortar shop last October.  (Dean had seen the guy running the store at a card show previously and asked him a little about the store's history.)

The store is located only a couple blocks away from Mint Ikebuburo.  Dean was not aware of it when I mentioned it to him so he took me up on my offer to go there with me.  And I was really glad he did, because it took a little doing to locate the store.  I knew roughly what building, but there wasn't anything obvious that said where it was.  Dean finally asked someone at a nearby bar and they told him how to find it.  They are on the fourth floor of this building.  The sign in the foyer has their name in katakana, which I wasn't able to read.  But I could read the sign on the door.

It's a very small shop and they're still getting organized.  I was worried at first that I wasn't going to be able to find anything I was looking for but once Dean starting talking to the guy running the shop, everything changed.  He (the shopkeeper) dug up a bag from underneath the tables in the middle of the room and brought out a bunch of BBM cards from the 1990's that I sifted through, finding most of the remaining 1990's cards I wanted that I hadn't found at the other stores.  He also pointed out the two boxes of opened box sets (3 for 1000 yen!) that Ryan had told me about but I hadn't noticed until he showed me.  (By opened box set, I mean one that's been opened and had the insert and/or memorabilia cards removed but still contains all the base cards.)  I ended up buying six box sets (2012 Hiroshima Starting Lineup, 2012 BBM Suntory Dream Match, 2012 BBM Greatest Games 10-8-1994, 2012 and 2013 BBM Farewell sets and the 2012 BBM Tomaoki Kanemoto Retirement set) and maybe 10 or so BBM singles from the 1990's.  My total bill was only 2000 yen - he basically gave me the singles for free.  (Or he overcharged me for the singles and gave me the box sets for free - I would find in the next couple days that I could have beaten their price on the box sets.)

That wraps up my first day of card shopping.  I'll have more to post soon.


Jason said...

So when you walked into the first store and saw all the boxes of cards, did you hear the sound of angels singing in your head? I only ask because lots of the photos you took seem to be close to a Japanese card collector's vision of heaven.

NPB Card Guy said...


Sean said...

Great post, I love reading these types of shopping-travelogues! Looks like you made some good purchases too, very lucky meeting that American fellow also!

I guess your trip might have just coincided with the release of the first series of 2013 Calbee Yakyuu chips? I just bought my first bag of the year yesterday but I think they`ve been out for a couple weeks or so.

Greg Dunn said...

I realize these are small businesses and the hassles for them would be tremendous, but did you get any sense that any of the card shops would be willing to deal with you on a mail order basis?

Ryan G said...

Jason - when I walked in there for the first time I went into shock. It really was heaven for me too. (I really need to do my write-ups for these stores.)

Quad Sports should be charging 30 yen a card (they did that the other times I've been there as I've paid attention to my spending). But I think I came out of there with only a couple cards when I went with you so they charged me 50 yen a card? Not sure... hope not! I didn't want to push the issue that time given my small purchase.

Ryan G said...

Sean - FYI I didn't see Calbees in grocery stores until last Friday.

Greg - most card shops would probably be willing to deal with mail order business and many of them do. I know specifically that the Mint stores all do mail order in Japan with free shipping over 10,000 yen. There might be a minimum price, language barrier, and higher shipping fees but I'm sure they'll work with you. I think this is mainly for box/pack/set/high-value card purchases. I'm not sure about set-building interests.

NPB Card Guy said...

Sean - I think the Calbee's came out on Tuesday, March 12. I saw them at the open-sen game in Yokohama the next day. I didn't see any packs anywhere else, not even at the Calbee+ store in Tokyo Station (which was nuts when I was there because it was White Day). The guys at the Mint Yokohama store on that Wednesday were sorting the cards, so I could have bought a specific single probably, but they had neither unopened packs or complete sets (yet).

NPB Card Guy said...

Sean - so you're in Japan? Where?

Sean said...

Oh yes, I scrolled down after posting that comment and came across your post about the Calbee chips, nice that you got Tanishige there!

Yup, I`m in Japan, in Nagoya. Actually I`m the same guy who you were emailing back and forth about a possible trade for some Calbee cards on your want list about a year or so ago, sorry I fell out of touch, things got a bit busy around here (I was living in Fukuoka at the time but moved last year).

NPB Card Guy said...

Sean - Of course I remember you. Sorry it didn't click with me who you were. Also sorry to tell you I traded most of those Calbees away while I was in Japan since I hadn't heard anything from you about them.

Ryan's got a bunch of posts on some great card shops in Nagoya if you're looking for places to find cards.