Thursday, February 12, 2015

BBM Preview

I saw a post at the Shlabotnik Report the other day speculating that the player cards in the Topps Opening Day set this year might feature different pictures than the player cards in the regular Topps set.  This got me thinking about BBM's similar set from around the turn of the century - the Preview set.

I'm not sure it's a coincidence, but BBM introduced the Preview set in 1999, a year after Topps had started doing the Opening Day set.  Like Opening Day, the BBM Preview set was a smaller set that (at least the first few years) used a similar design to that of the flagship set.  Unlike Opening Day, however, Preview was released two months before BBM's flagship set.  I believe Topps has always released Opening Day after Series One was released but I may be wrong.

As I mentioned, BBM released the first Preview set in 1999.  It featured 122 cards - 120 player cards plus two checklist cards.  The 120 player cards were split evenly among the 12 teams.  I don't have any cards from this set so I'm not entirely certain but I believe that the cards looked identical to the regular 1999 cards except that "Preview" appeared on the front of the card.  The backs were identical except for the card number.  There was a facsimile autograph (in pink!) parallel available for half the player cards.  There were also four insert cards that served as preview cards for the Leader subset of the regular set - they featured the 1998 MVP and Rookie of the Year winners.

The 2000 Preview set was very similar to the 1999 variety.  Again there were 120 player cards that were nearly identical to the cards in the flagship set along with two checklist cards.  Here's a comparison of the fronts and backs of the Preview and flagship cards of Jong Boom Lee:

2000 BBM Preview #P68 (left) and "flagship" #404 (right)

Backs of 2000 BBM Preview #P68 (left) and "flagship" #404 (right)
As you can see, the fronts are identical except for the "Preview" text and the vertical line.  The backs appear to differ only in the card number and the portrait.

The big new thing for the 2000 was the addition of 12 more cards depicting the first round pick from the fall, 1999 draft for each of the teams.  This would bring the total for the set to 134 cards.

2000 BBM Preview #P127
Once again the Preview set featured a facsimile signature silver parallel but this time all 120 non-draft pick player cards had a parallel.  In addition, there was a super rare gold facsimile signature set for all 11 (including the draft pick) players from the Tigers.  It's not clear to me that these were available in packs - they may have been some special promotion for BBM with the Tigers.

2000 BBM Preview #P38 Facsimile Signature Parallel
There was also a six card insert set that again was a preview for the Leaders subset from the flagship set.  This time the cards featured the 1999 batting leaders, victory leaders and Rookie of the Year awatd winners.  The big difference between these cards and the "flagship" version is that these cards have the leader category in gold foil.

Big changes were in store for the 2001 set.  The set shrunk down to 124 cards, broken down into 120 player cards (10 per team - nine "veterans" plus the top pick in the fall 2000 draft for each team) plus four checklist cards.  While the design of the front of the card was similar to the flagship set, the photo of the player was different.  The backs were completely different:

2001 BBM Preview #P68 (left) and "flagship" #164 (right)

Backs of 2001 BBM Preview #P68 (left) and "flagship" #164 (right)
2001 BBM Preview #P30
Additionally, the leaders on each team in batting average, home runs, RBIs, victories, ERA and strikeouts had a notation on the front of their card indicating this.  (With certain adjustments - the batting leader for Orix in 2000 had left for the US for the 2001 season so the acknowledged team leader in the set was Yoshitomo Tani who's .284 average was over 100 points lower.)

2000 BBM Preview #P81
The four checklist cards formed a puzzle featuring the Giants celebrating the 2000 Nippon Series championship:

2001 BBM Preview #P121-P124
There were no signature parallel cards for the 2001 BBM Preview set but there were two insert sets.  One was a four card Leader preview set featuring the 2000 MVP and Rookie Of The Year award winners with silver foil text.  The other was the nine card Century Best 9 set featuring the winners of the 20th Century Best 9 balloting.

BBM shifted from a single flagship set in 2001 to having two separate flagship sets (1st and 2nd Version) in 2002 and the final Preview set shifted to reflect this.  The front design of the Preview set contained elements of both the 2002 1st and 2nd Version sets but was a completely separate design:

2002 BBM Preview #P85 (left) and 1st Version #258 (right)

2002 BBM Preview #P61 (left) and 2nd Version #628 (right)
Note that the Preview and 1st Version cards share the baseball diamond in the upper right of the card while the Preview and 2nd Version cards share a batters box outline (although from different perspectives) towards the bottom of the card.

The 2002 Preview set contained 123 cards - 120 player cards (10 per team) plus three checklist cards.  The ten cards per team included each team's top draft pick from the fall 2001 draft - these cards may have been short-printed.  (These cards were titled "The Brightest Hope" as opposed to "Draft #1 Pick" because several of the players featured were not taken in the draft but rather in something that I don't understand that's getting translated as "freedom acquisition frame".  Anyone know what this is?)

2002 BBM Preview #P40
Once again there were no parallel cards but there were two insert sets.  The first was the usual four card Leader preview set featuring the 2001 MVPs and Rookies of the Year with silver foil on the front.  Here's how the Masanobu Ohkubo card from this insert set compares to the corresponding 1st Version leader card:

2002 BBM Preview #L4 (left) and 1st Version #402 (right)

Backs of 2002 BBM Preview #L4 (left) and 1st Version #402 (right)
The second insert set (that could actually be considered two separate insert sets) took its cue from the "team leader" annotations from the 2001 Preview set.  This included the batting average and ERA leaders from each team, for a total of 24 cards.  (The batting average leaders were numbered separately from the ERA leaders which is why they could be considered separate insert sets).

2002 BBM Preview #A2

2002 BBM Preview #E1
The 2002 set would be BBM's final Preview set.  In 2003, BBM replaced this set with the Rookie Edition set which would expand Preview's draft pick subset to include all the players taken in the annual draft.

Not that this will be a surprise, but I used Gary Engel's "Japanese Baseball Card Checklist and Price Guide" (7th Edition) extensively in researching this post.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the run-down! Japanese sets can be confusing from the outside, it's always good to have clarification on these Preview sets.

Thank you for spelling "Shlabotnik" correctly. You've made Charlie Brown happy. :-)

NPB Card Guy said...

Attempting to correctly spell unusual (for Americans) names kind of comes with the territory here :-)

Ryan G said...

Despite being well aware of the existence of the Preview sets, I never put much thought into their composition... even after reading Engel's guide. If I ever attempt to build a set run of BBM issues, I might just need to include these too.

Jason Presley said...

I suspect "freedom acquisition frame" is something like an undrafted free-agent. That's how the Yankees signed Hensley Meulens, but that may have more to do with the fact that there is/was no international draft, so all non-US signings were undrafted free-agents.