I'm not sure it's a coincidence, but BBM introduced the Preview set in 1999, a year after Topps had started doing the Opening Day set. Like Opening Day, the BBM Preview set was a smaller set that (at least the first few years) used a similar design to that of the flagship set. Unlike Opening Day, however, Preview was released two months before BBM's flagship set. I believe Topps has always released Opening Day after Series One was released but I may be wrong.
As I mentioned, BBM released the first Preview set in 1999. It featured 122 cards - 120 player cards plus two checklist cards. The 120 player cards were split evenly among the 12 teams. I don't have any cards from this set so I'm not entirely certain but I believe that the cards looked identical to the regular 1999 cards except that "Preview" appeared on the front of the card. The backs were identical except for the card number. There was a facsimile autograph (in pink!) parallel available for half the player cards. There were also four insert cards that served as preview cards for the Leader subset of the regular set - they featured the 1998 MVP and Rookie of the Year winners.
The 2000 Preview set was very similar to the 1999 variety. Again there were 120 player cards that were nearly identical to the cards in the flagship set along with two checklist cards. Here's a comparison of the fronts and backs of the Preview and flagship cards of Jong Boom Lee:
|2000 BBM Preview #P68 (left) and "flagship" #404 (right)|
|Backs of 2000 BBM Preview #P68 (left) and "flagship" #404 (right)|
The big new thing for the 2000 was the addition of 12 more cards depicting the first round pick from the fall, 1999 draft for each of the teams. This would bring the total for the set to 134 cards.
|2000 BBM Preview #P127|
|2000 BBM Preview #P38 Facsimile Signature Parallel|
Big changes were in store for the 2001 set. The set shrunk down to 124 cards, broken down into 120 player cards (10 per team - nine "veterans" plus the top pick in the fall 2000 draft for each team) plus four checklist cards. While the design of the front of the card was similar to the flagship set, the photo of the player was different. The backs were completely different:
|2001 BBM Preview #P68 (left) and "flagship" #164 (right)|
|Backs of 2001 BBM Preview #P68 (left) and "flagship" #164 (right)|
|2001 BBM Preview #P30|
|2000 BBM Preview #P81|
|2001 BBM Preview #P121-P124|
BBM shifted from a single flagship set in 2001 to having two separate flagship sets (1st and 2nd Version) in 2002 and the final Preview set shifted to reflect this. The front design of the Preview set contained elements of both the 2002 1st and 2nd Version sets but was a completely separate design:
|2002 BBM Preview #P85 (left) and 1st Version #258 (right)|
|2002 BBM Preview #P61 (left) and 2nd Version #628 (right)|
The 2002 Preview set contained 123 cards - 120 player cards (10 per team) plus three checklist cards. The ten cards per team included each team's top draft pick from the fall 2001 draft - these cards may have been short-printed. (These cards were titled "The Brightest Hope" as opposed to "Draft #1 Pick" because several of the players featured were not taken in the draft but rather in something that I don't understand that's getting translated as "freedom acquisition frame". Anyone know what this is?)
|2002 BBM Preview #P40|
|2002 BBM Preview #L4 (left) and 1st Version #402 (right)|
|Backs of 2002 BBM Preview #L4 (left) and 1st Version #402 (right)|
|2002 BBM Preview #A2|
|2002 BBM Preview #E1|
Not that this will be a surprise, but I used Gary Engel's "Japanese Baseball Card Checklist and Price Guide" (7th Edition) extensively in researching this post.