Wednesday, August 12, 2015

2014 Bandai Owners League Masters Box Break

I don't pay a lot of attention to the collectible card game sets that Konami and Bandai publish in Japan.  There's really no good reason for that other than the fact that there aren't many of those cards available in the places that I normally am looking for cards and the fact that BBM and Calbee keep me pretty busy with their issues (as well as Epoch and Front Runner).  So when Jay Shelton contacted me a little while back and offered to send me box break photos and stats for a 2014 Owners League set from Bandai, I jumped at the opportunity to learn something about the cards.

According to the Trading Card Database, Bandai put out four sets last year - two with 144 cards and two with 132 cards - for a total of 552 cards.  But it turns out that the box Jay got was not one of those four sets - it was a "Masters" set that contained cards of retired (OB) players.

Here's Jay's photos:

The set contains 84 cards in four different types or subsets.  There are 12 "Premium Master" cards, 12 "Great Master" cards, 24 "Star Master" cards and 36 "Master" cards.  (You're probably making an assumption about the fact that they are all multiples of 12 and you'd be correct sort of but more on that in a minute).  The "Premium Master", "Great Master" and "Star Master" all appear to be short printed so similar to the recent Korean Superstar Baseball set, over half the cards in the set are short prints.

The box contained 20 packs containing 3 cards each for a total of 60 cards.  Jay ended up with 48 unique cards - 12 short prints and all 36 of the "regular" ("Master") cards.  Here's the breakdown:

2 "Premium Master" cards
4 "Great Master" cards
6 "Star Master" cards
one each of 25 "Master" cards
two each of 10 "Master" cards
three of one "Master" card

Here's a photo Jay sent showing each of the four different types of card:

From left to right, that's the "Premium Master" card for Taigen Kaku (#022), the "Great Master" card for Koji Akiyama (#023), the "Star Master" card for Takanori Yamauchi (#024) and the "Master" card for Shigeru Ishiwata (#026).

The cards are all in Japanese and Jay (like me) doesn't read Japanese but he scanned in the checklists that were included with the set for me to try to translate.  Which became an interesting task - here's the checklists:

So two things stood out about the checklists - there weren't any numbers on the checklists (despite the cards themselves having numbers) and the cards were grouped by teams.  So each team has one "Premium Master" and one "Great Master" card, two "Star Master" cards and three "Master" cards.  All of which made sense to me.  Then I tried to locate the Koji Akiyama card on the checklist, assuming that since he was pictured in a Lions uniform, he'd be listed with the Lions.

But Koji Akiyama is not listed in the Lions section.  Koji Akiyama is listed in the Hawks section.  And if you look closely at his listing, it also lists a year (1989) and the team he's depicted with (the Seibu Lions).

OK, that's kind of odd but Akiyama did play for the Hawks, so maybe that's why he's there.  I next decided to locate the Taigen Kaku card.  I first looked in the Lions section.  Nope, not there.  I found him in the Hawks section as well.  Now I really started wondering what was going on because Kaku never played for the Hawks.  So I did a quick search on Kaku on Japanese wikipedia and had an epiphany.

Taigen Kaku was the pitching coach for the Hawks in 2014.

Now I'm not the sharpest tool in the woodshed but you don't have to hit me over the head with a shovel for me to see a trend.  Because as you probably already realized, Koji Akiyama was the manager of the Hawks in 2014.  A little more research showed that the other five guys listed with the Hawks on the checklist were on their coaching staff in 2014.  Some more research showed that the same held true for the remainder of the teams.  So just to recap - the cards are organized by team even if the teams shown on the cards don't match the team the card is grouped with.  Akiyama and Kaku are pictured on the Lions but their cards are grouped with the Hawks.

It took me the better part of a week, but I did manage to identify every member of the set.  It would have been faster but it didn't occur to me that Yakyu Baka had published all the teams' coaching staffs for 2014 during the 2013-14 off season until just the other day, so I did it all by pattern matching the kanji.

I was able to deduce the numbering scheme based on how most Japanese card companies order their cards - the pennant winner (first place team) from the league that had the Nippon Series winning team is listed first, followed by the second through sixth place teams.  This is then followed by the other league in order of their finish.  Since the Eagles won both the Pacific League pennant and the Nippon Series in 2013, they would be the first seven cards in the set, followed by the Lions, Marines, Hawks, Buffaloes, Fighters and then the Central League teams - the Giants, Tigers, Carp, Dragons, Baystars and Swallows.

Here's the set checklist:

I made a trade with Jay to get his doubles so here's some sample cards:

#042 Naoki Matoba (Fighters ni-gun Battery Coach)

#056 Yutaka Nakamura (Tigers ni-gun OF/Base-running Coach)

#061 Junzo Uchida (Carp ni-gun Manager)

Back of #061 Junzo Uchida
As you can see, each player is depicted in his playing days and one year from his career is highlighted - this is the year shown on the checklist as well as the only stat line on the back.  I assume that the photo is from that year as well although I don't know that for sure.  What I don't see on the card is anything that associates the card with the team that the player is now a coach for - for example, I don't see anything on Uchida's card that says he's with the Carp.

Each card has a unique code on the back that I assume activates them for some sort of on-line game.

This is an odd little set.  I'm not sure what the criteria for picking the guys from the coaching staff was but I find it odd that none of the guys who've moved from being a coach to being the manager for their team in the past year or so - Norio Tanabe of the Lions, Hiromoto Okubo of the Eagles, Koichi Ogata of the Carp, Junichi Fukura of the Buffaloes and Mitsuru Manaka of the Swallows - are in the set.  There are a handful of star players in the set - Akiyama, Takahiro Ikeyama, Takuro Ishii, Senichi Hoshino, Tatsunori Hara, Masaki Saitoh, Motonobu Tanishige, Kenjiro Nomura and Tsutomu Itoh - but they are all among the short printed cards.  The biggest names in the "regular" cards are probably Masahiro Kawai and Yui "Denny" Tomori.  There's also a couple pretty big stars on coaching staffs that are not in the set - Akira Etoh of the Giants and Masayuki Kakefu of the Tigers come to mind.

On the plus side, the cards are attractive and the box was fairly cheap (Jay paid around $19 for the box from a seller on Amazon which included free shipping from Japan).

My thanks to Jay for providing the photos and information about this set and trading me his doubles.


Ryan G said...

I think there were two years of Masters series sets issued; I haven't seen one for this year. Bandai's video-game based cards become obsolete by the next year, forcing players to build a new team from scratch each year (great for sales, I'm sure!) so I tend to see Baseball Heroes and OL cards cheap a year or two later.

Actually, I need to get my lists in order and properly build up my OL type collection. I have singles from some series but no distinction on the different subsets and whatnot.

NPB Card Guy said...

Jay and I had an email exchange about some boxes on Amazon (where he picked up this box). We came to the conclusion that this was the third Masters set since the box said "OLM03" and the 2012 box was labelled "OLM02".