It's February 1st, training camps have opened in Japan and it's time to talk about the first 2023 baseball cards sets that have been announced. So without further ado...
- BBM's first baseball card set for the year actually looks back at last year. It's a box set called "Munetaka Murakami Shin-ka" and commemorates Murakami's awesome 2022 season. There are 58 cards in the box - a 57 card base set plus one "special insert card". There's a base set card for each of Murakami's 56 home runs last year along with a card celebrating him winning the Triple Crown. The "special insert card" is possibly a foil signed parallel card, a 3-D card, a jersey card or an autographed card. BBM is only making 4000 of the boxes and they have an MSRP of 5500 yen (around $43). I'll be curious what the unopened boxes go for on the secondary market as it looks like the sets are already sold out, at least at Discount Niki and Mint-Web. The set will be released in early February.
- Rookie Edition, BBM's annual draft pick set, will be out later in the month. This is a pack-based set containing 138 cards in its base set. 126 of those cards are for the players taken in last October's draft along with a 12 card "New Face" subset featuring young players from each team. There are three insert sets - "Starting Point" (12 cards featuring a player from each team as a rookie), "Close Relationship" (6 cards each featuring two draftees who have some "relationship" such as having been high school teammates_ and "Rookie Of The Year" (2 cards featuring last year's Rookies Of The Year Taisei (Ota) and Yoshinobu Mizukami). There are autographed cards available although autographs of the draftees are only available through exchange cards. This set will contain the first cards for most of the draftees except for the players included in Panini's 2019 and 2020 USA Baseball Stars & Stripes sets, the Dragons and Swallows draftees who were featured on Epoch One cards last year and Gosuke Katoh.
- BBM's annual set for retiring players will be out in late February. Once again the set will not only include baseball players but retiring athletes in other sports including sumo, track & field, boxing, soccer and softball among others. The set is sold as a 41 card box set. Each box will include the entire 39 card base set, one of 15 possible "Cheers!" insert cards (with parallel versions available) and one autographed card. The set includes baseball players like Kosuke Fukudome, Yoshio Itoi, Tetsuya Utsumi, Chihiro Kaneko, Atsushi Nohmi and Tomotaka Sakaguchi.
- BBM has also announced that their initial flagship set for 2023 - 1st Version - will be out in late April. The set appears to be following the same pattern it has since 2015, at least in how the base set breaks down. There's the usual 324 player/manager cards (27 for each team), the 12 team checklist cards and the 36 "Cross Something" cards that will be continued in the 2nd Version set later in the year - this year the Something is "Moon". That makes a total of 372 cards in the base set. Nine cards for each team have several different facsimile autograph parallels. There are also parallel versions for 69 of the rookie cards (or all the rookie cards). There are three varieties of short printed photo variants - each team has a card with a rare "secret" version, a card with a rarer "ultra secret" version and a card with an even rarer "super ultra secret" version (and they could all possibly be variants for the same player). There are two non-premium insert sets - "Future Stardom" (12 cards - one per team) and "Japonism" (12 cards - one per team and each a member of Samurai Japan) - and three serially numbered premium insert sets - "Amazing" (24 cards - two per team), "Cross Foil Signing" (6 cards - all members of the Giants) and "3D Cross Moon" (12 cards - one per team as you probably guessed). Some of the insert sets will probably have parallel versions but I don't see anything about them yet. There are memorabilia cards available for four different players although the only one actually named in Yoshinobu Yamamoto. There will also of course be autographed cards available.