Epoch released reasonably priced team sets for eight of the twelve NPB teams this past summer (basically between mid-June and the end of August). When I say reasonably priced, I mean that a box of 20 packs containing 4 cards each had an MSRP of 5000 yen ($45-ish). Autographed cards were not included in the product but there was some sort of scratch off card included in every pack that allowed you to accumulate points to redeem for autographed cards.
Epoch did sets for the Dragons, Hawks, Tigers, Carp, Lions, Swallows, Baystars, and Giants (or in other words all the Central League teams plus the Hawks and Lions). Each set had between 27 and 36 cards in the base set and most sets had parallel issues and insert cards. And variants. Oh God are there variants. Epoch took BBM's "secret" version idea from their 1st and 2nd Version sets and went completely overboard with it. Many of the cards in the sets have variants that may be a recropping of the photo on the original card, a new photo altogether or a recropping of the new photo. It's bewildering trying to keep track of it all.
I put together a table trying to summarize what's in each set and to make an attempt to organize the information on the variants. Ryan has already done some of this in his posts on the Dragons, Hawks, Tigers, Carp, Lions, Swallows and Baystars sets (he hasn't done a post on the Giants set yet) so I'm summarizing some of what he's deciphered (as well as checking out what Jambalaya has on-line).
|Set||Size||Rookie Cards||1 * Variants||2 * Variants||3 * Variants||4 * Variants||5 * Variants|
|Dragons||30||6||? HDR||? crop of regular||? photo||? crop of 3 *|
|Hawks||27||4||24 crop of regular||22 photo||14 crop of regular||9 crop of 2 *||6 crop of 2*|
|Tigers||36||8||36 crop/photo||18 photo|
|Carp||35||6||29 HDR||12 crop of regular||12 photo||6 crop of 3 *|
|Lions||27||6||? crop of regular||? crop of regular||? photo||? crop of 3*||? crop of 3 *|
|Swallows||30||6||24 crop of regular||12 crop of regular||6 photo||6 crop of 3*?|
|Baystars||27||9||27 crop of regular||11 photo||22 crop of regular||8 crop of 2 *||6 crop of 2 *|
|Giants||36||3||36 crop/photo||? crop/photo||? photo?||? HDR|
The type of each variant is indicated by the number of stars on the back of the card. What I tried to do was put the identify the number of variants and what they were. "Photo" means it's a different photo than the regular card, "crop" means it's a recropping of either the regular card or a photo variant and HDR means it's a "High Dynamic Range" image - it's had some fancy image processing done on it to make it look sharper.
OK, so after all that talk about the variants...I don't have any except for the Tigers set. I had asked Ryan to pick up just the base sets for these sets as the base sets could be had for 500 yen each while the sets with all the variants were much more. He picked me up a "master" set for the Tigers but the rest of the sets were just the base sets. I assume he got some good deal on the Tigers set but I haven't gotten the details from him yet.
I'm going to deal with the Tigers set in a separate post so let's talk about the other seven sets. They're...ok. Don't get me wrong - I'm glad I got them. But they won't make me stop getting BBM or Calbee. All the sets have a different design and the designs range from somewhat attractive (the Carp and Tigers sets) to functional (the Hawks, Lions and Baystars sets) to kind of dark and ugly (the Dragons and Giants sets). The Swallows set is in a different category - the design is nice but I don't like the "diagonal line filter" they added to the background of every photo.
As for the content of each set - all the sets except for the Swallows includes a card of the team's manager. The Carp and Swallows sets also include a card for their mascot (and there are variants for those cards as well). The Swallows set also includes an additional card for Tetsuto Yamada celebrating his "Triple Three" from last year - .300+ batting average, 30+ home runs and 30 steals. The sets pretty much have the big stars from each team as well as a bunch of fan favorites - the Hawks set has Daisuke Matsuzaka in it for example.
Each team set except the Giants includes the team's entire 2016 draft class. The Giants for some reason only have half of their class of six players included and it's picks #1, #2 and #4. One of my gripes about a couple of the sets (other than my usual complaint about the number of rookies crowding out other players from being in the set) is that the photos for the rookies are either headshots or photos like the ones in BBM's Rookie Edition sets rather than game or training shots.
OK, enough talk - here's some sample cards:
|2017 Epoch Dragons #24|
|2017 Epoch Dragons #21|
|2017 Epoch Hawks #16|
|2017 Epoch Hawks #04|
|2017 Epoch Carp #02|
|2017 Epoch Carp #08|
|2017 Epoch Lions #22|
|2017 Epoch Lions #4|
|2017 Epoch Swallows #24|
|2017 Epoch Swallows #15|
|2017 Epoch Baystars #07|
|2017 Epoch Baystars #19|
|2017 Epoch Giants #33|
|2017 Epoch Giants #22|
Ultimately I think these sets by Epoch are a nice attempt that fall a bit short. They kind of feel like bad minor league team sets, especially the Dragons and Giants sets. I think what I'd really like to see is Epoch try their hand at a full 300+ card "flagship" set like BBM and Calbee does rather than these team specific sets. But I'm quite happy that Epoch did some sets that were affordable this year.