The National Honor
Last May the Japanese government conferred the "People's Honour Award" on Shigeo Nagashima and Hideki Matsui. Both BBM and Calbee included cards in their sets last year commemorating the cermony but BBM decided to up the ante by releasing a box set called The National Honor which included four cards for each of the four baseball players who've won the award - Sadaharu Oh (I think the award was "invented" to honor him in 1977), Sachio Kinugasa, Nagashima and Matsui. The four cards show each of the players during their playing days. There are two additional cards showing Nagashima and Matsui at last year's ceremony, making it a total of 18 cards in the set.
The cards feature beautiful, full bleed photos on heavy card stock. My only complaint is that the gold foil on the front of the cards is a bit much. Here's some example cards:
Ryan did a couple posts on this set, one that covered the premium cards and one that showed all the cards in the base set. Jambalaya has all the cards up on their site as well.
Rookie Edition Classic
As a small follow up to last year's Classic set, BBM released a 24 card box set called Rookie Edition Classic back in March. Last year's Classic set featured cards current players using the format of the inaugural BBM set in 1991 (and they are following up with a set this year that will be released later this week using the 1992 card design). The Rookie Edition Classic set features 12 current players and 12 OB players on cards using the 2003 BBM Rookie Edition design, which was the first Rookie Edition set. The pictures for all 24 players are from their rookie years. There's a player for each of the 12 teams represented in each of the groups, although since the players are shown in their rookie season there's no player shown in a Eagles uniform - their representative, Kazuo Matsui, is shown in his 1994 Seibu Lions uniform. The OB players are all from the 1990's - the earliest is Shinji Imanaka from 1989 and the latest were Koji Uehara and Katsuaki Furuki from 1999
This is an interesting idea which BBM has done a couple of times before with SCM insert cards in 2009 and 2010. The one thing that kind of rubs me the wrong way is that if the point of a "Classic" set is to show current players in an older card format, shouldn't the cards in this set have been of players in the 2014 rookie class?
Here's a couple examples (Jambalaya has all the cards but I couldn't find any post by Ryan about the set):
Icons - Big Guns
BBM did box sets in 2011 and 2012 called "Diamond Age" to celebrate players born in 1988 and 1989 respectively (I suspect originally to print another card for Yuki Saitoh in 2011). Last year they did a box set called "Icons - Hope" instead featuring young players (but not necessarily 23 year olds). This year they did another "Icons" box set but instead of young players, the theme this year is "Big Guns". The set has 27 cards - 24 of them feature two sluggers from each team. There are a lot of gaijin represented in the set, including Andruw Jones, Wladimir Balentien, Tony Blanco, Craig Brazell and Kila Ka'Aihue. Oddly enough, Brad Eldred did not make the set (the other Carp player is Shota Dobayashi) but Kevin Youkilis, who ended up only hitting one home run in Japan, did. The other three cards highlight certain players - one card features Balentien for setting the home run record last season, one card highlights "MLB Stars" Jones and Youkilis and the other showcases a quartet of former Osaka Toin high school sluggers - Takeya Nakamura and Hideto Asamura of the Lions, Sho Nakata of the Fighters and Ryosuke Hirata of the Dragons.
Ryan did a post on the set and (again) Jambalaya has all the cards on line, but here's a couple examples anyway:
Speed & Smart
This last BBM boxed set is kind of an odd one for them. If I told you that the set had 24 cards in the base set and featured both current and OB players, what would you expect the distribution of players per team to be? If you've been paying attention to what BBM almost always does, you'd expect that there'd be 12 active players (one per team including the Eagles) and 12 OB players (one per team including probably the Kintetsu Buffaloes instead of the Eagles). Well, in this case you'd be wrong! There are 14 current players and only 10 OB players. What's more, the 14 current players are split unevenly among only nine teams. The 10 OB players are split between only seven teams.
The theme of this set is base running, presumably the smart and speedy type. All the photos in the set are of base runners (which must be where all the photos that would have normally gone into 2nd Version ended up this year). The cards have full bleed photos and 16 of them (two thirds of the set) use a horizontal format which works well in showing players sliding. The OB players are kind of from all over - the oldest player is Shigeru Takada who debuted in 1968 but a couple players who retired in 2009 (Norihiro Akahoshi and Koichi Ogata - I have to mention that this is the Koichi Ogata from the Carp as the Koichi Ogata from the Giants also appears in the set). The one player that I would have to say is missing from the set is Yutaka Fukumoto of the Hankyu Braves, who's the career leader for stolen bases in NPB. Other than that, I have to say that it's a nice little set with some great action photos:
Ryan did a post about this set already too and Jambalaya has the complete set up for viewing as well.