At first glance, Calbee's sets from the early 1980's seem pretty straightforward, especially compared to the sets from the 1970's. There was only one set each year and each set only spanned one year. All the cards were of the smaller 2" x 2 5/8" size that was introduced midway through the 1980 set. With a few exceptions the card fronts all used a similar design each year which can make it difficult to identify the set a card is from without looking at the back. However, after you dig into the details of the sets, there's still quite a bit of oddness.
The 1981 Calbee set contained 450 cards that I believe were issued in nine 50 card Series. The fronts of the cards featured the player's name and team across the bottom.
The backs of the Series One cards were printed in pink ink like the cards for the previous two years. Here's a sample card of Tsutomu Wakamatsu:
The remainder of the cards in the set have blue backs. Here's an example card from Series Two of Hiromichi Ishige:
Series Five (cards 201 to 250) feature scenes from the 1981 All Star games. It's the only series in the set that has the "parallel numbers" for the subset on the back. Here's an example card for Hiromitsu Kadota - you can see the parallel number "2" in the circle in the upper left of the back of the card:
Many of the cards in Series Six, Seven and Eight show the player's 1981 statistics on the back. It's kind of amusing to watch the cut-off date change from August 6th in Series Six to August 19th in Series Seven and September 24 in Series Eight. Here's a card from each series - Akio Saitoh from Series Six, Daisuke Yamashita from Series Seven and Senichi Hoshino from Series Eight:
I want to mention one card from Series Eight that I found interesting. Card #354 is "officially" a Sadaharu Oh card (in that it has his biographical information on the back) but it shows Oh along with Giants manager Motoshi Fujita and rookie Tatsunori Hara celebrating the team's Central League pennant. I find it interesting because Hara, who was the Central League Rookie Of The Year that year, didn't have a card of his own in the set although fellow Rookie Of The Year award winner Ishige did.
Series Nine kind of had two parts. The first half of it (cards 401 to 425) are all dedicated to the 1981 Nippon Series between the Giants and the Nippon-Ham Fighters. Here's cards of Junichi Kashiwabara of the Fighters and Kiyoshi Nakahata of the Giants (along with the back of Nakahata's card):
I'm not positive but I think the other 25 cards in Series Nine (cards 426 to 450) somehow feature the statistical leaders for the season - or at least 25 players that Calbee decided they should show the full season's statistics for. Here's the front and back of Masayuki Matsunuma's card:
The 1982 Calbee set had 651 cards but were actually numbered to 751. The reason for this is that the 100 cards numbered 452 to 551 were never actually issued. It's unclear to me how many series the set was issued in. I'm guessing there were 13 50 card series although either Series One or Series Two must have been 51 cards.
The card fronts once again have the player's name and team on them and Calbee returned to pink ink for the backs. Cards 1 to 101 had backs that looked very similar to the first Series from the 1981 set. Here's the front and back of Yasushi Tao's card for an example:
Some of the cards in what I think is Series Three (cards 102-151) had backs that showed 1982 stats up until May 6th. The others had just comments about the player. As an example of a card with the partial 1982 stats, here's Daisuke Yamashita's card:
I think that the cards up until Series Six (cards 252-301) had the player comments on it. Series Five (cards 202-251) contain mostly Hiroshima Toyo Carp players and may have been a regional issue. Series Seven (cards 302-351) and Series Eight (cards 352-401) are appear to have been regional issues for the Kansai and Tokai regions respectively. (I don't have cards from any of these three Series to use for examples.)
The backs of the Series Six, Seven and Eight cards have baseball terms on them. Here's an example card of Mitsuo Sumi from Series Six:
All the cards after the eighth series (starting at card 402) have the player's basic biographical information on them. This card of Makoto Shimada (that uses a multi-exposure photo) is an example of this:
The final Series (cards 702-751) features a number of cards for the Central League champion Dragons. The backs of those cards use a "V1" logo rather than the Dragons logo. I don't have any cards from this Series either.
The 1983 set appears to have followed a similar pattern to the previous two sets. Once again I'm not positive but I think each series was 50 cards with the exception of the final one. There was a total of 709 cards issued that were numbered 1 to 700 along with seven unnumbered cards (which would make a total of 14 series).
Once again the first series (cards 1-50) was a bit different than the rest of the set. There were two different backs for the series - one that had text and one that showed the player's statistics from the past couple seasons. I only have an example of the text back - this card of Junichi Kashiwabara:
There were a couple changes to the cards for the rest of the set. You'll notice that the front of Kashiwabara's card has text for his name and his team on it. The fronts of the remainder of the cards in the set have the team name in parentheses. The backs all have text on them (that apparently was contributed by Kazuhisa Inao) and significantly don't have the year on them - these would be the only Calbee cards in the 1980's to not have the year on them. Here's a card of Yutaka Fukumoto that's pretty representative of much of the set after the first series:
There are a couple Series from the set worth a little more attention although of course I don't have any cards from any of them. It appears that both Series Nine (cards 401-450) and Series Eleven (cards 501-550) may have been regional issues only available in the Sanyo region (including Hiroshima) since both series feature mostly Carp players. Series Thirteen (cards 601-650) only has players from the two league champions that season - the Lions and the Giants. The backs of these cards have a "V2" (in the case of the Lions) and "V1" (in the case of the Giants) on them instead of the team logo. Series Fourteen (cards 651-700) all have gold borders and a little trophy on the front to indicate that the player led the league in something or reached some milestone that season. I'm not sure but I think the front of the card may mention what the player is being recognized for. I'm pretty sure the nine unnumbered cards were issued as part of this series. There are five unnumbered cards for Tatsunori Hara and four for Osamu Higashio - they were the league MVPs that season. The cards have the same gold borders and trophy's as the numbered cards from Series Fourteen and include the text "MVP" on the fronts.
The 1984 Calbee set contained 713 cards but it's not entirely clear to me how many series the cards were issued in. It doesn't appear to me that each series had a similar number of cards.
The first 70 cards in the set (which could have been issued as one 70 card series or two 36 card series) have a front design very similar to the 1983 cards with the player's team name in parentheses. The backs continued to use pink ink and show the player's recent statistics. Here's Hiromitsu Kadota's card as an example:
Calbee changed the card fronts starting with card #71 and introduced their most distinctive design of the 1980's. Each front had a green bar at the bottom containing the player's name and uniform number (in a little baseball) along with a drawing of the player's team's hat a la 1981 Topps:
The backs of the cards contained a block of text about the player written by either former Giant Shigeru Takada (for position players) or former Dragon Senichi Hoshino (for pitchers). This design was used through card number 440. Cards 371 to 400 and 401 to 440 are possibly regional issues (although I don't know what region or regions). Here's the back of the above card of Yutaka Fukumoto:
Cards 441 to 490 are for the 1984 All Star players and have the words "'84 All Star Special" in gold on the fronts. I don't have any cards from this series (I assume it was a single 50 card series but I don't know that for sure) but the backs contain the recent All Star performances for each player (prior to 1984). Cards 491 to 540 are similar in design to cards 71 to 440.
Calbee tweaked the design of the card front a little starting with card 541. For whatever reason they reduced the size of the hat. The backs remained the same as this card of Tatsunori Hara will attest:
There appear to be two further regional series. Cards 591 to 640 only have Carp players and may be a Hiroshima or Sanyo only issue while cards 641 to 690 only feature Dragons players and may be a Nagoya or Tokai only issue. Surprisingly, I actually have one of the Dragons cards - this one of Ken Macha:
I suspect that cards 691 to 713 were issued as a single series. These cards are similar to the final cards from the 1981 and 1983 sets in that they feature players who either led the league in something or reached a particular milestone in 1984. Instead of the team hat these cards have a little "V" with laurels design. This card of Osamu Higashio celebrates him getting his 200th win - you can see the text for "200 wins" on the front of the card: