Monday, June 8, 2020

1989-90 Lotte Gum sets

Lotte, the same company that owns the Marines in Japan and the Giants in Korea, issued two 120 card sets in 1989 and 1990.  Both sets were issued in packs containing a single card along with two pieces of gum.

The 1989 set featured borderless photos with the player's name and team on the front in Japanese.  The corners of the cards are rounded.  They very much resemble the "phone card" size Calbee cards from 1990-91 except Calbee had the player names in English.  (In fact when I first saw the set years ago I kind of thought that Lotte was ripping off Calbee's design until it clicked with me that they came out first!)  The backs of the cards feature the player's name in English.  I suspect this is the first Japanese set to have the player's name in English on it.  Calbee added English names to the back of their cards in their third series in 1989 and I wonder if it was in response to Lotte having them.

The set contains the stars of the day including Hall Of Famers Koji Akiyama, Tatsunori Hara, Tsutomu Itoh, Hiromitsu Kadota, Manabu Kitabeppu, Kimiyasu Kudoh, Choji Murata, Hiromitsu Ochiai, Yutaka Ohno, Kazuyoshi Tatsunami and Tsunemi Tsuda along with other stars like Kazuhiro Kiyohara, Norihiro Komada and Takehiro Ikeyama.  There's a large number of Western players in the set including Greg "Boomer" Wells, Ralph Bryant, George Hinshaw, Mike Diaz, Mike Easler, Brian Dayett, Anthony Brewer, Willie Upshaw, Tony Bernazard, Carlos Ponce, Jim Paciorek, Larry Parrish, Matt Keough and Cecil Fielder.

Half of the cards in the set has some sort of variation.  Most of these are either variations on the English spelling of the player's name ("Ito" vs "Itoh" or "Fieldar" vs "Fielder") or the player's weight but there are two different versions of the front of Bryant's card and two completely different versions of card #29 - one is Easler and the other is Dayett.  You can see the full checklist for the set over at  Here's some sample cards:

#9 Koji Akiyama

#40 Hiromitsu Kadota

#106 Takehiro Ikeyama

Back of #11

The fronts of the cards in the 1990 set have white borders and feature the player's name in English on them.  Again I believe that this is the first time that the player's name appeared in English on the front of a Japanese card.  Calbee started doing this with their second series of cards that year (which was also when they changed the size and shape of their cards to match the 1989 Lotte set).  The cards had the more traditional sharp corners rather than the rounded corners.

The checklist for the 1990 set was very similar to the 1989 set - in some cases literally.  A number of players have the same number in both checklists.  The 1990 set contains the same 11 Hall Of Famers that the 1989 set had plus Masaki Saitoh.  Hideki Irabu appears in this set as well.  There doesn't seem to be as many Westerns in this set however, only Bryant, Wells and Diaz.  Neither of the big rookies from 1990 - Hideo Nomo and Atsuya Furuta - appear in the set.  There's only one known variant - there's an extremely rare version of card #117 for Cecil Fielder.  It appears the card was pulled when Fielder returned to the US in early 1990.  The more common version of the card is for Katsuhiko Kido.  The full checklist can be see at  Here's some example cards:




Back of #82

Engel rates both sets as having a scarcity factor of "R1" which means "between 250 and 1,000 copies known of most cards".  My feeling is that the 1989 cards are less common than the 1990 ones which is a shame because I think the 1989 cards have better photographs.

1 comment:

Sean said...

One thing that I kind of like about the 1990 set is that it is probably the only Japanese set ever made that has a design very similar to early junk wax era (mid to late 80s) sets in the US.

The Calbee sets from the 80s are in a world of their own design wise.