Wednesday, September 28, 2022

History Of Calbee Part 6 - 1998 To 2003

I mentioned in my last post in this series that the 1997 Calbee set could be viewed as the first "modern" Calbee set but that it was "transitional form" between the older sets and today's Calbee sets.  Over the following six years Calbee's sets would evolve in a variety of ways until they settled on the format that they pretty much still use to this day.  But Calbee being Calbee - there would be some odd twists and turns on the way.


You know how each Calbee Series nowadays is made up of a group of "regular" cards plus a separately numbered subset and a handful of checklist cards (that are also separately numbered than either the "regular" cards or the separate subset)?  1998 is pretty much when that started - although the 1997 set was the first to feature the separately numbered checklist cards.  The 1998 set was also the first to feature the now ubiquitous "Star" insert cards.

Calbee widened the cards this year from the 2 1/8" they had been since 1990 to 2 5/16" while keeping the 3 3/8" height.  This is pretty much the size the cards have been ever since.  For the second year in a row the cards had square corners.

The set was issued in three series.  Each series had the same three separately numbered subsets - "Giants Special", "East Special" and "West Special".  As you might gather from the subset names, the "Giants Special" only had cards for Yomiuri Giant players while the "East Special" only had cards from the six "eastern Japan" teams at the time - Baystars, Marines, Swallows, Fighters, Lions and Giants (i.e. everyone in Kanto) and the "West Special" only had cards for the six "western Japan" teams - Hawks, Carp, BlueWave, Tigers, Buffaloes and Dragons.  The "East Special" and "West Special" cards were regionally issues with the "East" cards being distributed in Kanto and further east and the "West" cards being distributed in Chubu and further west.  It's a bit confusing understanding how these sets were issued but luckily 1998 was the first year that Calbee put their checklists online so it's much easier to see how the cards were issued than in previous years.  The amount of "regular" cards and checklist cards varied between each series but there were 18 cards (17 player cards plus a checklist) issued for each of the "Special" subsets in each series.  There were 176 total "regular" cards in set plus 17 checklist cards.  Each of the "Special" subsets had 54 cards.  If you consider all of these cards as the base set, the set had 355 cards, making it the largest Calbee set since 1989.

Series One contained 72 "regular" cards plus seven checklist cards (and the 54 cards in the three "Special" subsets).  The checklist cards featured a series of sequential photos of Hideki Matsui batting.  Series One also included the first 12 "Star" insert cards.

The first 38 "regular" cards of Series One feature the 1997 league leaders and award winners.  The backs of these 38 cards look different from the backs of the rest of the "regular" cards in the set.  Additionally, there are two different versions of the Series One "regular" cards - "First Edition" and "Regular Edition".  The "First Edition" cards feature the player's name in a white rectangle at the bottom of the card with the player's uniform number in a box to the left of it along with the team logo in the upper right of the front and some text at the upper left.  For the first 38 cards in the series that text reads "Super Players '97" and for the other half of the cards the text reads "Calbee's Exciting Players".  The "Regular Edition" cards features the player's name superimposed across the photo on the bottom of the card with the team logo appearing to the left of it.  The player's uniform number does not appear on the front and there's no text (or logo) in either of the top corners.  The two versions of each card use the same photo (except for card #5 - Luis Lopez) and the backs for both versions are the same.  Series One is the only one of the three series to have a "First Edition" version - all the "regular" cards in the other two series are "Regular Edition" cards.  Here are samples of "First Edition" and "Regular Edition" cards from both halves of Series One:

Series Two had just 36 "regular" cards plus four checklist cards (and again 18 cards in each of the three "Special" subsets).  The checklist cards featured a sequential series of photos of Yoshinobu Takahashi batting.  There were also 14 more of the "Star" insert cards.  Here's an example card:

Series Three had 66 "regular" cards, the 54 cards in the three "Special" subsets and six checklist cards (which featured sequential photos of Kazuhiro Sasaki pitching) along with another 14 "Star" insert cards.  Here's an example card:

I don't have any of the checklist cards or "Star" insert cards to display here but I do have cards from the three "Special" subsets (although not from each Series).  The fronts of the "Special" cards look the same as the fronts of the "Regular Edition" cards but the backs are different:


The 1999 Calbee set was a bit of a departure from the evolutionary track the sets were making towards today's sets in that it didn't have any separately numbered subsets as part of its base set (other than the checklist cards).  On the other hand, for the first time the fronts had almost all the elements that have become standard on Calbee cards - the player's name at the bottom of the card with the team name in smaller type just above it along with the team logo plus the card number in one of the upper corners.  Really the only element that's missing is the player's uniform number.

The 1999 set had a total of 298 cards - 270 "regular" cards and 28 checklist cards.  The set was issued in four series.  There were two associated insert sets - "Titleholders" and "Star".  The cards were the same size as the 1998 cards and still had square corners.

 Series One contained 72 "regular" cards and seven checklist cards.  It also included 17 "Titleholder" insert cards.  Here's an example of both a regular card and a "Titleholder" card:

Series Two contained another 72 "regular" cards but only six checklist cards.  Oddly enough it contained one "Titleholder" insert card and 18 "Star" insert cards.  I don't have any of the insert cards but here's an example of a "regular" card - it's basically identical in design to the Series One cards:

Series Three also contained 72 "regular" cards along with nine checklist cards and 37(!) "Star" insert cards.  Once again the "regular" cards used basically the same design as the previous series:

Calbee changed things up a little with Series Four.  There were only 54 "regular" cards (plus six checklist cards) and the last 19 cards (#252-#270) were dedicated to the players elected by the fan vote for the All Star games.  There were 37 "Star" insert cards but these were the same 37 cards that were in Series Three - same card numbers, same photos (as far as I know) - which implies that "Star" cards #1-#18 (issued in Series Two) are twice as rare as "Star" cards #19-#55 (issued in both Series Three and Four).  Here's an example of a "regular" card from Series Four and an All Star subset card (I should mention here that all the Series Four cards I have are gold signature parallels from what was originally a lucky card premium box set.  It was not possible to pull these parallels from a pack.):

Once again I don't have any of the "Star" cards or the checklist cards to show here.


The 2000 Calbee set was similar to the 1999 sets in a number of respects.  The card fronts were virtually identical and once again there were two insert sets - "Titleholder" and "Star".  But the number of "regular" cards dropped from 270 to 215 and there were three separately numbered subsets - "Best 9", "ON" and "New Face" - along with 18 checklist cards.  Counting all those cards together gives a total of 288 cards for the base set.  

The cards were issued in three series.  Series One contained 71 "regular" player cards and six checklist cards (which featured sequential images of Daisuke Matsuzaka).  In addition the series also included the 19 card "Best 9" subset which featured the 1999 Best 9 award winners and the first six cards of the "ON" subset which featured reprints of old 1970's Calbee cards of Shigeo Nagashima and Sadaharu Oh.  There were also 17 "Titleholder" insert cards.  Here are examples of a "regular" card, a "Best 9" card, an "ON" card and a "Titleholder" card (I don't have any checklist cards):

Series Two had 72 "regular" cards, six checklist cards (with sequential photos of Koji Uehara), the "New Face" subset (featuring 18 players who were new to their teams in 2000) and the remaining 12 "ON" cards.  There were three more "Titleholder" insert cards (all for Kimiyasu Kudoh who had switched teams over the winter - the "Titleholder" cards had him with his new team - the Giants - as opposed to his old team - the Hawks) and 17 "Star" cards,  I actually don't have any cards from this series other than a couple of the "New Face" cards - here's one of them:

I feel like Calbee kind of ran out of energy for Series Three that year.  There were no subsets associated with the series, just 72 "regular" player cards and six checklist cards (featuring sequential photos of Ichiro).  Even the insert cards were just a repeat of the same three "Titleholder" and 17 "Star" cards that were originally published with Series Two.  Calbee did repeat featuring the 19 players elected to the All Star team with the final 19 cards of the set (cards #197-#215).  The backs of the cards include the player's 2000 statistics up until when the cards went to press.  Here's examples of a "regular" card and an "All Star" card - I again don't have any checklist cards:


The 2001 set continued the trend started in the 2000 set with several separately numbered subsets.  The number of "regular" cards dropped to 143 but between the checklists and the subset cards, the total number of cards in the base set was 191, almost 100 cards fewer than the previous year.

The cards remained the same size but there were some slight changes to the design on the front of the cards - the font that the player's name and team appeared in were enlarged and the player's uniform number was added to the line above the name.

The cards were issued in two series.  Series One contained 72 "regular" cards along with six checklist cards.  The last six cards of the "regular" cards (#67-#72) featured players who played on Opening Day - the fronts of these cards are identical to those of the other cards but the backs are different.  There were three separately numbered subsets - "Best 9" which featured 16 of the 19 2000 Best 9 winners (Ichiro, Tsuyoshi Shinjyo and Bobby Rose were no longer in Japan), "Japan National Team" which featured the eight professional members of the 2000 Japanese Olympic Baseball Team and "2000 Nippon Series" which featured eleven cards showing highlights from the 2000 Championship.  There was also an 18 card "Titleholder" insert set.  Here are examples of all of these cards - even a checklist this time:

The six checklist cards make up a puzzle featuring Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideki Matsui - this particular card has Matsuzaka's hip and Matsui's right leg.

Series Two included 71 "regular" player cards and another six checklists (this time forming a puzzle with Kazuhisa Ishii and Norihiro Nakamura).  For the third year in a row, the last group of "regular" cards were for the players elected by the fans to the All Star team but this year the number of cards grew from 19 to 23 as the middle relief pitchers and closers for each team were added.  The fronts of these cards had a gold box in one of the top corners with "2001 All Star Game" inside it above the league and position.  The backs of the cards had partial statistics for the player's 2001 season.  There was really only one subset in the series and it was a single unnumbered reprint of Ichiro's first Calbee card from the 1994 Hokkaido set (#C-37).  There was also a 12 card "Star" insert set.  Here's some example cards from the series - once again I don't have any "Star" or checklist cards:


Calbee celebrated their 30th Anniversary in 2002 - it was the first time they had actually done anything to mark how long they'd been doing cards.  The fronts of the cards looked pretty much the way the 2001 cards had except there was a "30th Anniversary" logo in either the upper left or lower right of the card.

There were a lot of separately numbered subsets this year as both series featured four each (although one subset was in common between the series so I'm kind of counting it twice).  There were 162 "regular" cards plus six checklist cards.  Adding in all the subset cards the base set has a total of 278 cards.  In addition the set again had two insert sets - "Titleholders" and "Star" cards.

To celebrate their 30th Anniversary, Calbee included a 36 card "Memorial" subset that reprinted the fronts and backs of old Calbee cards.  There were 24 cards included in Series One and the remaining 12 were in Series Two.  Here's a sample card (for more information on this subset, check out my post from earlier this year):

Series One had 90 "regular" cards and three checklist cards.  As previously stated, there were four separately numbered subsets.  Besides the aforementioned "Memorial" subset, there was a 12 card subset called "Ace & Slugger" that featured a pitcher and hitter from each team, a six card "Opening Game" subset that I believe featured a player from each team that won on Opening Day, 2002 and an 18 card "New Face" subset that featured players who were new to their teams in 2002 - whether it be players who had just been drafted, players who had switched teams via trades or free agency or newly signed foreign players.  The checklist cards featured pairs of players.  There were also 14 "Titleholder" and 12 "Star" insert cards.  Here's examples of all the cards except the checklists and the "Star" cards:

Series Two had 72 "regular" cards plus three checklist cards.  The backs of the "regular" cards included the player's 2002 stats through June.  The three separately numbered subsets that were unique to Series Two were "Sayonara Home Run!" (9 cards featuring walk off home runs), "Be Excited!" (9 cards featuring record setting performances or milestones) and "Rivals" (20 cards that paired two players from different teams together as "rivals" - each player had a separate card but the players paired together would share a card number - it''ll make more sense when you see the example).  The checklist cards again featured pairs of players.  There were also 24 "Star" insert cards.  Here's examples of all the cards other than the "Star" cards:


Calbee's big change to the their card fronts in 2003 was switching to a straight font rather than the slanted one they had used the two previous years and relocating the team logo from the left of the player's name to above it.  Other than that the cards pretty much looked the same as they had since 1997.  The other big change in the set was that for the first time ever, Calbee would issue the same number of "regular" cards for each team.  There were 168 "regular" cards in the set which worked out to 14 cards per team.

The set was issued in three series but the third series consisted only of 55 "All Star" cards.  There were four separately numbered subsets and nine checklist cards.  Adding it all together results in a total of 293 cards in the base set.  Once again there were "Titleholder" and "Star" insert cards.

Series One had 84 "regular" cards (7 per team) plus four checklist cards.  The checklist cards all featued scenes from the previous year's Nippon Series.  There were three separately numbered subsets - "Best 9" (19 cards featuring the 2002 Best 9 award winners), "Record Achievement" (six cards honoring records or milestones achieved in 2002) and "Jump Up To The Star" (12 cards featuring a promising young player from each team).  In addition there were 29 "Titleholder" insert cards.  Here's examples of all the cards:


Series Two also contained 84 "regular" cards along with another four checklist cards.  The checklist cards featured scenes from early in the season.  There was only one separately numbered subset - a 24 card "Opening Game" subset that included the starting pitcher and a batter for each team on Opening Day.  There was also a 24 card "Star" insert set.  Here's an example of each card (including a "Star" card):

As I mentioned before, Series Three was entirely made up of cards for the players who made the All Star team in 2003 (with the exception of Hideki Irabu of the Tigers).  There were 55 cards that were separately numbered from the "regular" cards (they were #AS-01 to #AS-55).  The fronts looked more like the 2001 and 2002 cards than the "regular" 2003 cards since they went back to using the slanted font for the names and moved the team logo back to the left of the player's name.  Additionally there was one checklist card available with this series - it showed some of the players during Game 2 of the All Star series in Chiba.  Oddly enough, this checklist card is not listed on Calbee's website but is shown on the Calbee collector's web page about the 2003 set.  Here's an example "All Star" card:

My primary sources for information on this post were Calbee's websitethe Calbee Collector's site and the 7th Edition of Gary Engel's "Japanese Baseball Cards Checklist & Price Guide" (the last one that covers post-1990 cards).