I did a post way back when I first started this blog that listed all the baseball sets that BBM typically did in a year. The shelf life on that post was pretty short - BBM stopped doing Climax Series box sets after 2007 and stopped the All Star and Nippon Series sets after 2012. I thought it was time to update this list. Now there's a couple things that I'm making a guess on based on only two years worth of data so it's possible that these really aren't annual sets. Each set is pack-based unless I say it's a box set.
"Ultra High End" set - BBM did their first "Ultra High End" set back in 2015. It was called "Masters Of Insert" and was issued in May of 2015. It only featured OB players. BBM issued their first "Ultra High End" set with active players in late December of 2016. This set was called "Rising Sun". They issued another "Ultra High End" set with active players called "Glory" a year later. Both sets had a base set of 36 cards along with a plethora of premium insert and autograph cards. Since these two sets were the first BBM sets to feature the new year (2017 and 2018) on their fronts I am treating them as the initial BBM set for each year. I'm also making the assumption that BBM will continue to issue an annual "Ultra High End" each year.
"Time Travel" set - BBM has issued two "Time Travel" sets in the past two years - a "1975" set in late 2016/early 2017 and a "1989" set in late 2017/early 2018. These are 99 card sets that highlight a particular season and are made to look like they were actually issued in the season they are highlighting. Again I am making the assumption that BBM will continue to do these sets because they've done them two years in a row.
Retirement - Now we're getting into territory where I'm a little more confident in predicting BBM's behavior. This is a box set that BBM issues in late January that features the players that retired the previous season. This may include players who were playing in MLB or in the indy leagues in either the US or Japan. Some of the bigger name players can possibly have multiple cards in the set. Each box set contains the complete base set (around 30-ish cards) plus a "special" insert card that could be an autograph. BBM has been producing this set every year since 2011. I call this set "Farewell" or "Retirement" but its real name translates as something like "Regret At Parting Ball Players".
Rookie Edition - This set features all the picks from the NPB draft that is held the previous fall - it's been in late October the past few years. Players are typically photographed at the team's introductory press conferences held over the winter so the photos on the cards usually show the player wearing the team's jersey over a suit or at least a dress shirt and tie. BBM has been doing this set every year since 2003. Typically it has a base set of around 120 cards and gets released in mid-February. This set replaced the Preview set which BBM did between 1999 and 2002. The last three editions of Preview featured "Draft Pick" cards for the top draft picks for each team which I assume proved so popular that BBM switched to doing "Draft Pick" cards for ALL the picks.
"Icons" set - This is a box set that BBM issues each March. It has a different name/theme each year. The first set was issued in 2013 and was called "Hope". It featured young players (including Shohei Ohtani). This set was followed in 2014 by "Big Guns" (sluggers), "Aces" in 2015, "Speed" in 2016, "Japan Pride" in 2017 and "Fanfare" in 2018. Each box set contains the complete base set (the past few editions have had 36 card base sets) plus a "special" insert card that could be an autograph. "Icons" replaced a set BBM did two years in a row called "Diamond Age" that highlighted 23 year old players. The 2011 set was called "Diamond Age 1988" (and was an excuse to produce another card of Yuki Saitoh of the Fighters) and the 2012 set was "Diamond Age 1989".
1st Version - This is BBM's biggest set each year and is essentially their "flagship" set (or at least half of it). BBM did a single annual "flagship" set from 1991 to 2001. Starting in 2002 they started doing a 1st Version set and a 2nd Version set. For the last few years this set has featured 372 cards with 27 players (and the manager) per team although earlier versions had more cards.
Team sets - BBM does a "comprehensive" team set for each of the 12 NPB teams that features all the players on each team's 70-man roster (which typically has fewer than 70 players). For the last few seasons all the team set base sets have been 81 cards but earlier sets were larger. The team sets are published between March and July each year.
Dancing Heroine - Hana/Mai - BBM does two sets each year that contain cards for the cheerleaders and dance squads of some subset of the NPB teams. I confess that I don't pay a lot of attention to these sets so I can't tell you what the difference between the "Hana" and "Mai" versions are or even if they feature the same women in both sets. The base sets are usually somewhere between 80 to 100 cards in size. BBM produced a single "Dancing Heroine" set in 2011 and 2012 and split the set into the "Hana" and "Mai" versions starting in 2013. The "Hana" set is usually released in June and the "Mai" set usually comes out a month later.
2nd Version - This is BBM's continuation of their "flagship" set. This typically contains a 36 card "1st Version Update" set that features players who either signed late, were traded or simply weren't included in 1st Version for some reason as well as 18 cards per team. There is also a subset featuring celebrities throwing out the first pitch at NPB games (I know Topps has been doing this the last few years - BBM started doing it in 2004). The base set has been around 312 cards for the last few years. As mentioned above, BBM broke their "flagship" set into 1st and 2nd Version back in 2002. This set is usually released in mid-August.
Genesis - This is BBM's 'high end" set. The base set is usually pretty small - it's been 120 cards (9 players per team plus a team checklist). The big draw of this set is the autograph and memorabilia cards that are seeded into the packs. This set typically come out in mid-September. BBM's original "high end" set was called "Diamond Heroes" and was published from 1996 to 2001. They replaced "Diamond Heroes" with "Touch The Game" starting in 2002 - I think this is when they started to add more memorabilia cards and have fewer cards in the base set. BBM rebranded the set as "Genesis" starting in 2012.
"Team Cheerleader" set - For the past four years BBM has published a box set featuring one particular team's cheerleader/dance squad. The teams featured so far were the Hawks (2014 Honeys Flash), the Dragons (2015 Hippy Hippy Shake), the Giants (2016 Original Smile) and the Fighters (2017 Fighters Girl & B*B Family). I think this set used to be released in October but last year's version came out in September. They have somewhere between 40 and 60 cards in their base sets and of course have some sort of "special" insert card included in the boxes.
Rookie Edition Premium - This is a box set that features the top rookies of the current season. I don't know for sure but I think it only includes players who were drafted the previous fall (and therefore appeared in the Rookie Edition set earlier in the year). Each box set contains "special" insert cards that may include autographed cards along with a base set that's been 36 cards in size for the past few years. BBM started doing these sets in 2007. I think it usually comes out in October.
"Multi-Sport" set - This is another set that I'm assuming is going to continue. For the past two years BBM has issued a set containing athletes from multiple sports. Baseball is well represented in the two sets so far but other sports featured include soccer, wrestling, sumo, skiing, curling and gymnastics. The sets contain both active and retired players. The first set (with 128 cards) was issued in 2016 for BBM's 70th Anniversary as a magazine publisher and was called "Masterpiece". Last year's set was called "Infinity" and had 114 cards. The sets have been released in October so far.
Fusion - One more set that I'm assuming is now a staple after two years. This 144 card set could almost be considered as a third part of the "flagship" set. It has 9 "1st Version Update" cards that again feature players who didn't make it into the 1st or 2nd Version sets and 9 more "1st Pitch Ceremony" cards. It also has a 24 card subset showing the statistical leaders of the season just completed. The bulk of the cards are the regular player cards that are split between active and OB players. This set is typically released in November (at least so far).
So currently* BBM issues 26 annual sets - 22 pack based and 4 box sets. Additionally you can expect them to publish a number of other sets - usually team based box sets and historical sets like the recently released Hawks 80th Anniversary set.
*well, it's what they did in 2017 at least
Previous annual sets from BBM included the All Star box sets (1991-2012), the Nippon Series box sets (1991-2012), the Classic sets (2013-2016), and the "Historic Collection" sets (2002-16). BBM also did box sets for the league champions annually from the late 90's until around 2008 - I think that will be the topic for another post.
5/21 UPDATE - updated the text to give some idea of the number of cards in each set