In recent years Calbee's flagship sets have pretty much continued the same pattern of being issued in three Series with roughly the same number of cards. The total number of cards in the base sets is usually between 250 and 300 cards. There were a couple breaks in the monotony, though, as Calbee issued several non-flagship sets and had to deal with a couple non-baseball issues that caused some disruption to the flagship sets.
I'll warn you in advance that these Series descriptions get kind of repetitious. Each Series almost always has 72 "regular" player cards, one subset which is usually 12 cards, four checklist cards and 24 "Star" insert cards.
Collectors in Japan were surprised to discover a Calbee set hitting the shelves in January of 2016, two months earlier than usual. This was not the flagship set though. Instead it was a 36 card set called "All Stars
". Despite the name, this was not a set featuring players from the 2015 All Star game rosters but rather three players from each of the 12 NPB teams. This was the first time since 1995 that BBM issued a non-flagship set. As far as I know this set was available nationwide (as opposed to some of the non-flagship sets in the 90's that were only available in certain areas). All the cards had a "kira" finish, making them resemble the ubiquitous "Star" insert cards from the flagship sets:
And continuing the parallels between these and the "Star" insert cards there was a gold facsimile signature parallel available for each of these cards.
The set must not have been very popular as Calbee never issued any similar sets to it in later years.
The 2016 flagship set arrived on schedule with Series One being issued in March. The big change in the design of the front of the card was that for the first time since 1990 the player's name did not appear in English*. Instead the name appeared in Japanese - kanji for the Japanese players and katakana (I think) for the foreign players. The size of the base set dropped to 216 "regular" cards (18 per team) and only three subsets (besides the usual 12 checklist cards) for a total of 270 cards. There were two insert sets - a 72 card "Star" set issued as 24 card chunks in each Series and an 11 card "Legend" set featuring players who retired after 2015. 10 of the "Legend" cards were issued with Series One and the other one was with Series Two.
* I'm talking flagship sets as the 1994 Hokkaido set also did not have the names in English
contained the first 72 "regular" player cards numbered 1 to 72, an 18 card "Titleholder" subset and four checklist cards (featuring some scenes from the 2015 season including the Hawks celebrating winning the Nippon Series and the Swallows celebrating winning the Central League pennant). It also had the first 24 "Star" insert cards and the first 10 "Legend" ones. Here's samples of the base set cards:
had the next 72 "regular" player cards (numbered 73 to 144), a 12 card "First Win" subset featuring the first win from each of the 12 teams and the next four checklist cards (which showed early season highlights). The next 24 "Star" insert cards (numbers S-25 to S-48) were issued with this set along the final "Legend" insert card (for Nobuhiko Matsunaka who didn't announced his retirement until March of 2016. Here's examples of the base cards:
contained the final 72 "regular" player cards (numbered 145 to 216), a 12 card "Exciting Scene" subset featuring notable events in the first half of the season and the usual four checklists (featuring more mid-season highlights). The player cards had the player's statistics up until the end of June. The final 24 "Star" insert cards (numbers S-49 to S-72) were also issued with this set. Here are the different types of base cards:
But Calbee wasn't finished with cards in 2016 after finishing the flagship set. They issued a second non-flagship set in November. Calbee had apparently gotten the license to produce cards for the Japanese National Baseball Team (aka Samurai Japan). This was the first time since 2001 that Calbee had issued cards for the team and the first time that it did an entire set for them. The 2016 Samurai Japan set
consisted of 36 cards featuring 35 players and manager Hiroki Kokubo, whose card doubled as a checklist. Officially the players in the set were members of the team that played in "friendly" games in November of 2015 and March of 2016 but it's pretty much the set for the team that played in the 2015 Premier 12 Tournament with the exception of Kenta Maeda as he played in MLB in 2016. Like the "All Star" cards, the Samurai Japan cards all had a kira finish and a facsimile signature parallel (which I don't have any examples of). Here's Kokobu's card and a player card:
A natural disaster the previous year ended up affecting Calbee's sets for 2017. Calbee primarily uses potatoes from Hokkaido for their chips in their various products (including the "Pro Baseball" ones) but a typhoon that made landfall on that island in the summer of 2016 caused the potato crop to fail
. As a result, Calbee couldn't secure enough potatoes to make their expected number of chips and in April of 2017 they halted production of a number of their product lines. As a result, Calbee pushed back the publication of Series Two from June to early September and cancelled Series Three outright. (Series One was published at the usual time in March).
As a result, the base set shrunk to just 187 cards with 144 "regular" player cards (12 per team), two subsets and eight checklists. There were two insert sets as well - a truncated 48 card "Star" set issued in two blocks of 24 cards each and a six card "Legend" set for players who retired at the end of the 2016 season.
The design of the fronts of the cards reverted back to pretty much the same design that Calbee used from 2001 to 2014 with the player's name appearing in English and white text.
contained the first 72 "regular" player cards (numbered 1 to 72) along with a 23 card "Title Holder" subset and four checklist cards showing highlights from either the late 2016 season or the post-season. As usual it also had the first 24 "Star" insert cards along with the six "Legend" insert cards. Here's each type of base card:
As I mentioned before, Series Two
was delayed by about two and half months, coming out in early September instead of mid-June. Looking at the cards, though, it appears to me that Calbee had produced the cards with the expectation that they'd have been released in June. The "regular" player cards have the player's 2016 stats on them rather than their 2017 stats up until June as I would have expected from the normal Series Three set issued in September. Additionally the four checklist cards all show highlights from the opening weeks of the season rather than later in the season. It's not a big deal but it illustrates that Calbee didn't adjust their cards to a later publication date and suggests that the cards were printed in May or so and sat on a shelf somewhere until their were potatoes available to be made into chips. Series Two had the other 72 "regular" player cards (numbered 73 to 144), 12 "Dora-Ichi" (first round draft picks) cards and the usual four checklist cards along with the other 24 "Star" insert cards (numbered S-25 to S-48). Here's are base card samples:
I had had hopes that Calbee would issue a Series Three later in 2017 so it was kind of bittersweet for me that instead they published a second Samurai Japan non-flagship set in November of that year. On the one hand I love Samurai Japan sets but on the other I really wanted a full 2017 Calbee set.
The Samurai Japan set
contained 36 cards - 35 player cards plus a checklist. Officially the players included were ones who had played in some friendly matches against Mexico and the Netherlands in the fall of 2016 along with some warm up games prior to the 2017 WBC but obviously it's an unofficial World Baseball Classic set. The only WBC players missing from the set were Norichika Aoki as he was still in MLB in 2017 and Ginjiro Sumitani who was a late replacement for Motohiro Shima). Hiroki Kokubo was still the Samurai Japan manager when these games took place but not when the set was released so he doesn't appear in the set - there's a generic team card that acts as a checklist instead.
The cards again had a "kira" finish like the "Star" cards and there was a gold printed parallel although it wasn't so much a facsimile autograph but the player's name in kanji that was printed across it. Here's a couple examples:
2018 was a return to normalcy for Calbee. Once again the flagship set would be issued in three Series. The base set contained a total of 264 cards - 216 "regular' player cards (18 per team), 3 12 card subsets (one in each Series) and the usual 12 checklist cards. And also once again there were two insert sets - a 72 card "Star" set issued in 24 card chunks with each Series and a three card "Legend" set issued with Series One.
Calbee returned to having the player's names in Japanese on the front of the "regular" cards - this time the text was in black characters with white borders. Calbee has alternated this every year since with odd numbered years having the player names in English and even numbered years having them in Japanese.
as always had the first 72 "regular" player cards (numbered 1 to 72) along with a 12 card "Dora-Ichi" (first round draft pick) subset (which included Munetaka Murakami) and four checklist cards that featured highlights of the late 2017 season and post-season. It also had the first 24 "Star" insert cards and the three "Legend" insert cards for players who retired at the end of 2017 (Tadahito Iguchi, Yuya Ando and Masahiko Morino). Here's base card samples:
continued with the next 72 "regular" player cards (numbered 73 to 144), a 12 card "Member" subset (each card had the team's manager on the front and the full team roster on the back) and the usual four checklist cards (featuring early season highlights). It also had the numbers S-25 to S-48 of the "Star" insert set. Here's example base cards:
had the final 72 "regular" player cards (numbered 145 to 216), a 12 card "Exciting Scene" subset (featuring one...uh...exciting scene for each team from the 2018 season) and the four checklist cards featuring mid-season highlights. The backs of the "regular" player cards have the player's 2018 stats up until June. The last 24 "Star" insert cards (numbered S-49 to S-72) were issued with this Series. Here's some base cards:
And just to break things up a little, here's a "Star" card that would have been issued with Series Two:
Calbee did not issue a non-flagship Samurai Japan set that November.
2019 was more of the same for Calbee. Since it was an odd numbered year it was back to English for the player's names on the front of the "regular" cards. The base set had 274 cards - 216 "regular" cards along with three subsets (one of which was 22 cards with the other two being 12 each) and the usual 12 checklist cards. The set also had the usual 72 "Star" insert cards along with 10 "Legend" cards for players who retired at the end of 2018.
You can probably already guess that Series One
had the first 72 "regular" player cards (numbered 1 to 72), four checklist cards that showed scenes from late in the 2018 season and post-season, the first 24 "Star" insert cards and all of the "Legend" ones. But it also had a 22 card "Title Holder" subset. Here are all the possible types of cards that you could have pulled out of a Series One pack in 2019:
had the next 72 "regular" player cards (numbers 73 to 144) and the next 24 "Star" insert cards (numbers S-25 to S-48). There was also a 12 card "Opening Pitcher" subset featuring the Opening Day starting pitchers for each team and the usual four checklist cards showing early season highlights. Here's examples of all the types of base cards:
The bulk of Series Three
was the remaining 72 "regular" player cards (numbered 145 to 216), all of which had the player's 2019 stats until the end of June on them. In addition it included another 12 card "Exciting Scene" subset, the ubiquitous four checklist cards (showing mid-season highlights) and the remaining 24 "Star" insert cards. Here's what the base cards looked like:
In November of 2019 as the Premier 12 tournament kicked off, Calbee issued another non-flagship Samurai Japan set
. At 44 cards this was the largest National Team set that Calbee had published. The set included a card for manager Atsunori Inaba who had taken over for Hiroki Kokubo after the 2017 WBC that doubled as checklist for the set. The other 43 cards were for players who had played for the team in various friendly matches, including many (but not all) of the players who participated in the 2018 US-Japan All Star Series. Like the previous Calbee Samurai Japan cards, these had a "kira" finish on them similar to the "Star" cards although it was much more subtle with this set. And again there were facsimile signature parallel cards available.
Calbee actually shook things up a little bit for 2020, starting with their Series One set but, like everyone, the pandemic forced them to make even more changes from the norm. They ended up publishing a 264 card base set in the usual three Series with 216 "regular" player cards, the 12 checklist cards and 36 cards spread across five subsets. They also cut the number of "Star" insert cards to 48 and only issued them with Series Two and Three while Series One had the "Titleholder" and "Legend" insert sets.
As it was an even numbered year, the fronts of the "regular" cards had the players' names in Japanese again.
came out on schedule in mid-March, just as much of the world was going into lockdown. As usual it included the first 72 "regular" player cards numbered (say it with me) 1 to 72. It also had the standard four checklist cards showing highlights from the previous season's pennant races and post-season. It also had 12 cards that were split across three subsets - a two card "League Championship" subset showing the two 2019 league champions (Lions and Giants) celebrating; a single card "Nippon Series" subset showing the Hawks celebrating sweeping the Giants in four games; and a nine card "Record Achievement" subset featuring various achievements or milestones reached by players in 2019. What's striking about this last subset is usually Calbee splits these subsets evenly between the 12 teams but obviously there's no way to do that with nine cards. Even more striking is that the Lions, Tigers and Hawks ech have two players in this subset so there's only six teams represented in it. Series One also had the 10 "Legend" and the 22 "Title Holder" insert cards. Here's examples of all the base cards as well as a "Title Holder" card:
presented a challenge to Calbee. Frequently this Series includes a 12 card subset of highlights from the first month or so of the season or the Opening Day starting pitchers. And the four checklist cards show additional highlights from the early games. But the 2020 season didn't start until June 19th which is normally just about when this set comes out. Calbee delayed the set until early July but that still wasn't enough time to get any game action in. So they improvised. In addition to the next 72 "regular" player cards (numbered 73 to 144) the set included a 12 card "AVG Leader" subset featuring the player who led each team in batting in 2019. There were three new NPB managers in 2020 so Calbee cut back on the number of checklists by one and featured each of the new skippers (Hajime Miki of the Eagles, Shinji Sasaoka of the Carp and Shingo Takatsu of the Swallows) on them. The Series also included the first 24 of the "Star" insert cards. Here's examples of the base cards:
Series Three was published in mid-October, about a month later than usual. It had the final 72 "regular" player cards (numbered 145 to 216) which had the player's 2020 statistics up until the end of July on them. It also had a 12 card subset called "First Win" which featured the first win for each team in 2020 and FIVE checklist cards showing early season highlights. The Series also had the final 24 "Star" insert cards. Here's examples of the base cards:
Series Three was only on shelves for about a month and half before Calbee published another Samurai Japan set
in late November. It's a little misleading to say that this is a 37 card set as it's actually kind of two sets in one. There's a 27 card "set" that includes the players (and manager Atsunori Inaba) who played in the 2019 Premier 12. The Inaba card doubles as a checklist. Then there's a 10 card "Starting Lineup" subset that's numbered separately than the other 27 cards. As was the case with the cards in the earlier sets, these cards have a "kira" finish. Here's some examples:
There's also a parallel version of each card with a facsimile autograph:
This would be the final Calbee Samurai Japan set. There was no set issued in 2021 and by 2022 it was apparent that Topps has the license for Samurai Japan cards.
2021 was pretty much a return to normalcy for Calbee. They published their three Series at the usual times in March, June and September and since the baseball season started on time in March, Series Two and Three had the usual highlights for the season so far. The base set was 264 cards split between the standard 216 "regular" player cards (18 per team), three 12 card subsets (one in each Series) and the usual 12 checklist cards. There were three insert sets - a six "Legend" cards, 25 "Title Holder" cards and 48 "Star" cards.
It was an even numbered year so the English names were back on the front of the cards. But Calbee brought back the black ink for them for the first time since 2015.
of course had the first 72 "regular" player cards (numbered 1 to 72) along with a 12 card "Exciting Scene" subset featuring events from the 2020 season and four checklist cards showing more events from late in the 2020 season as well as the post-season. Series One also offered both the six card "Legend" insert set highlighting players who retired at the end of the previous season and the 25 card "Title Holder" insert set. Here's examples of the base cards and one of the "Title Holder" cards:
consisted of the second batch of "regular" player cards (numbered 73 to 144), a 12 card "Opening Pitcher" subset (featuring the Opening Day starting pitchers for each team) and four checklist cards showing early season highlights. The Series also included the first 24 "Star" insert cards. Here's examples of all these cards including the "Star" cards:
contained the final 72 "regular" player cards (numbered 145 to 216) - the stats on the back of the cards covered up until the end of June 2021. It also had a 12 card subset called something like "Interleague" which had a card for each team's performance in the "Interleague" portion of the 2021 schedule - the front of the card had some highlight while the back had the team's results against the other league. The four checklist cards featured mid-season highlights and the Series also included the other 24 "Star" cards (numbered S-25 to S-48). Here's examples of the base cards:
Calbee's offerings for their 50th year of making baseball cards looked much like what they had done in their previous seven years. The flagship set was issued again in three Series and each Series contained 72 "regular" player cards, a subset and four checklist cards. The base set had a total of 271 cards - the 216 "regular" player cards, a 19 card subset, two 12 card subsets and the 12 checklist cards. The one thing Calbee did to celebrate their 50th Anniversary was spread a 25 card "Reprint" insert set across the three Series. They had two other insert sets - a 75 cards "Star" one which once again was issued in chunks of cards with each Series and the four card "Legend" one featuring players who retired at the end of 2021.
With it being an even numbered year the names were again in Japanese on the fronts of the "regular" player cards.
as always had the first 72 "regular" player cards numbered 1 to 72. It also saw the return of the "Title Holder" subset as part of the base set rather than an insert set for the first time since 2019 - it contained 19 cards this time. The four checklist cards as usual featured scenes from the last months of the 2021 season and post-season. The Series also had the four "Legend" insert cards, the first 24 "Star" insert cards and the first two "Reprint" insert cards. The reprints were of cards of both Shigeo Nagashima and Sadaharu Oh and were numbered M-1 and M-2. Here's examples of the base cards and a "Legend" card:
followed with the next 72 "regular" player cards (numbered 73 to 144), a 12 card "OBP Leaders" subset and the usual four checklist cards (showing early season highlights). The Series also had the next 11 "Reprint" insert cards (numbered M-3 to M-13) which were reprints of Calbee cards for all the current NPB team managers except Tsuyoshi "BIGBOSS" Shinjyo. For whatever reason Calbee decided to give BIGBOSS a "Star" insert card but they didn't want to slight a Fighters player so his "Star" card is basically an extra one. Which means that Series Two has 25 "Star" cards (numbered S-25 to S-49) instead of the usual 24. Here's examples of all the Series Two base cards along with one of the "Reprint" insert cards:
As you've probably come to expect by now, the final 72 "regular" player cards in Series Three
were numbered from 145 to 216 and had the player's stats up until June 30th on the backs. Series Three also included another "Exciting Scene" subset featuring 12 significant events from the first half of the 2022 season - including four no-hitters! The four checklist cards showed the usual mid-season highlights. The Series included 12 more "Reprint" insert cards numbered M-14 to M-25 - these were reprints of OB players from each team. The Series also had the last 24 "Star" cards numbered S-50 to S-73. Here's example base cards along with a "Star" card:
And with that, my year-by-year history of Calbee's sets is complete! I was originally hoping to be done by October but the task seemed to grow and it also ended up being a somewhat unexpectedly busy year so I'm happy I finished before the end of the year. I'll have a couple more Calbee History posts coming up - one on card pack wrappers and chip bags and another on the mail in redemption/on-line store cards - but I might take a little time to write about something other than Calbee for a bit first.