Friday, January 4, 2019

2018 In Review - Epoch

Epoch significantly upped their game in 2018.  They issued 27 sets (although one of them technically should have been a 2017 set but it was delayed until February) which was four more than they issued in 2017.  It wasn't the amount of sets they issued that indicated them upping their game however - it was the fact that a number of the sets they issued were a direct challenge to BBM's dominance in the Japanese card market.

The most significant challenge Epoch made to BBM was in issuing an actual flagship set.  Epoch's set was called "NPB" and featured 432 cards, over 50 more than BBM's 1st Version set.  All the cards were player (or manager) cards and were split evenly between the 12 teams so there were 36 cards per team.  That was nine more players per team than 1st Version had for a total of 108 more players in the set.  Unlike many of Epoch's offerings, this set was reasonably priced. 

Epoch also released "comprehensive" team sets for seven NPB teams - the Carp, the Lions, the Swallows, the Buffaloes, the Dragons, the Baystars and the Tigers.  The sets were all labelled "Rookie & Stars", were reasonably priced and contained 90 cards each.  They featured each team's entire 70 man roster along with the manager and in some cases coaches and ikusei players.  These are the first "comprehensive" team sets I know that were not either a team issue or a BBM set.  I don't know why Epoch didn't do all 12 teams and I don't know if they are planning on issuing these team sets (or the flagship) set again in the future.

Epoch did one additional reasonably priced set this year.  In October they issued a set for the Japan Women's Baseball League (JWBL).   This was the second time they had done a set for the JWBL - the first one was two years ago in 2016.

They also issued a box set called "Pacific League Rookies" which featured the 2017 draft picks for all the Pacific League teams (so essentially half of the 2018 BBM Rookie Edition set). 

The remaining 17 sets Epoch issued were all expensive high end and ultra high end sets which typically featured a box containing four to six cards for over 10,000 yen.  Each box is guaranteed to contain at least one autograph card.

Three of these sets were done in conjunction with the Japan Baseball Promotion Association (JBPA) which is also known as the OB Club - "Award Winners", "Career Achievements" and  "Batting Leaders".  These sets feature only retired (OB) players.  Epoch also issued several other sets that featured OB players from specific teams - "Tigers Glorious Players", "Legend Of Yokohama" (which celebrated the 40th Anniversary of the Whales/Baystars being in Yokohama) and "Seibu Lions 40th Anniversary" (which obviously celebrates the 40th Anniversary of the Lions being sold to Seibu and moving to Tokorozawa from Fukuoka).  The latter two sets are another challenge to BBM as previously team anniversary sets such as these were issued by BBM.

They issued five "Stars & Legend" team sets that contained both active and OB players for each team - these were for the Dragons, Swallows, Buffaloes, Tigers and Carp.  There were a couple other team sets that featured both active and OB players for the team - a "Season Achievement and 15 Anniversary Legends" set for the Fighters (which celebrates the 15th Anniversary of the team's move to Hokkaido) and another Tigers set called "Footprints Of The Tigers" which was a tie-in to an exhibit going on at the Koshien Museum.

The remaining sets all feature active players only.  Three of these were "Season Achievements" sets for the Lions, Baystars and Tigers (although the Tigers set was really a 2017 set but it didn't come out until February of 2018).  The other set was the "Pacific League Premier Edition" set (which has now been issued by Epoch for three years in a row) which only contained players from the six Pacific League teams.

In addition to all these sets, Epoch also started doing something similar to Topps Now called Epoch One.  Epoch started offering cards on-line for a limited time for 500 yen apiece.  Like the Topps Now cards these cards are tied into actual on (and off) field events.  They only did cards for seven of the 12 teams (oddly enough they aren't the same seven teams they did "Rookie & Stars" sets for) - the Lions, the Dragons, the Tigers, the Marines, the Giants, the Carp and the Fighters.  They ended up issued 680 cards total this year.  I found it interesting that the final cards for the year featured the Dragons 2018 draft picks - the photos are from the team's rookie introduction ceremony held on December 8th which will also be the source of the photos for BBM's Rookie Edition set coming out next month.

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