Sunday, August 14, 2016

1994 Calbee Hokkaido

Sean did a post a few weeks back talking about a 1994 Calbee Hideki Matsui card he had recently picked up.  He mentioned in the post that Calbee actually did two separate sets in 1994 - the "regular" set (which appears to have been issued in four series of 36 cards each for a total of 144 cards) and a regional set that was only issued in Hokkaido and has come to be known as (naturally) the Hokkaido set.

Sean mentioned that the 1994 regular set is hard to find and the regional set is even more scarce.  While that may be true, I was fortunate enough to get a large number of the Hokkaido cards.  Several years ago there was a a seller on Ebay who had a number of unopened packs that I picked up.  I ended up with 29 of the 39 cards in the set (along with a couple doubles).

The most significant thing about the 1994 Calbee Hokkaido set is that it includes the first Calbee cards of Ichiro Suzuki.  It looks like the set was originally only 36 cards (which would have been the same size as each of the Series from the regular set) which did not include Ichiro but then they later issued three cards of him (numbered C-37 to C-39) to take the set to 39 cards.  Unfortunately, I did not get any of the Ichiro cards in the packs that I bought off Ebay (although I do have a reprint of #C-37 that Calbee issued in 2001).

The set itself includes most of the major stars of NPB at the time - Hideki Matsui (3 cards), Koji Akiyama, Hideo Nomo, Hideki Irabu, Hiromitsu Ochiai, Atsuya Furuta, Kazuhiro Kiyohara, Kimiyasu Kudoh, Tatsunori Hara, Masumi Kuwata, Masaki Saito and Tsuyoshi Shinjyo are all in the set along with Shigeo Nagashima who was managing the Giants at the time.

The design of the set was a throwback of sorts for Calbee.  For the previous five years (1990-94), Calbee's designs had moved away from the simple "full bleed photo with Japanese text" design that they had mostly used from 1973 to 1989.  The 1990 set either featured a bottom border with the player's name and uniform number (for the first Series) or the player's name in English (for the remainder of the set).  The 1991 set also featured the player's name in English while the 1992-94 sets had actual graphics drawn on the card.  This set, however, featured no graphics on the front and no English text on the front or the back (the first time since the first Series in 1989 and the last time until this year that the "regular" Calbee cards in a set would no have any English on them).

There was at least one occasion where Calbee used the same picture for a player in both the regular set and the Hokkaido set.  I'll use this to illustrate the difference in the card design:

1994 Calbee #15 (left) and Calbee Hokkaido #C-26 (right)
The backs of the cards were multi-colored and featured a head shot of the player.  This is the first time that Calbee had card backs like this - pretty much every thing before this was monochrome.  This has obviously become a standard for them in the years since (and was undoubtedly influenced by BBM doing it for their 1993 set).

Back of #C-31 (Takahiro Ikeyama)

Here's some of the other cards from the set.  I was lucky enough to pull several of the more valuable cards from the set so I'll take the opportunity to show off:

#C-1 (Hideki Matsui)

#C-20 (Hideki Matsui)

#C-25 (Hideo Nomo)

#C-23 (Tsuyoshi Shinjyo)

#C-5 (Tomonori Maeda)
Engel states that the Ichiro and Nomo cards are commonly counterfeited.  Since I pulled the Nomo from a pack I'm feeling pretty good about its authenticity.

The Calbee Collector website has a little more information about the set.


R Laughton said...

Cool, thanks for the rundown! Was there a reason that Hokkaido was the only spot where there was a special set released?

NPB Card Guy said...

No idea. I think Calbee did a couple regional sets during the 1990's.

Sean said...

Nice, those look amazing. I don`t have any of the Hokkaido ones, but they are on my radar.

Its an interesting question as to why only Hokkaido - they didn`t even have a team up there back then.

There have been a few regional sets or series within sets (some of the 1970s Calbee cards were only issued regionally which makes them extremely hard to find and expensive). I`m not 100% sure but this might have been the only one issued exclusively in Hokkaido.

R Laughton said...

Dang, not even a team??! Very interesting mystery indeed. Wonder if one of the sponsors on the team had any influence?