Saturday, March 18, 2023

History Of Calbee Part 11 - Wrappers And Bags

I want to finish up my series on Calbee's history with a post about the pack wrappers and chip bags.  I'm going to limit this to just items I have in my collection - for more information check out this post Sean did on some unopened packs he had from the 1980s (which then references some posts from the "Calbee Card Institute" blog).

I've been fortunate enough to pick up a number of unopened Calbee packs over the years.  They have not remained unopened for long, however, and I wasn't always good about minimizing the damage to the wrapper when opening the pack.  But I've tried to keep at least one example wrapper of every Calbee set that I've opened.  For the older sets there are often more than one wrapper design for a set.

When Calbee started out, each pack contained only one card.  The packs were not actually attached to the potato chip bags.  The shopkeeper who was selling the chips would keep the packs behind the counter and would distribute them to customers who bought the bags of chips.

The oldest set I have a wrapper for is the huge 1975-76-77 set.  Since both sides of the wrapper had the same design I scanned them both to give a sense of what an unopened wrapper would look like.

IIRC I pulled card #712 (Clyde Wright) out of this pack which would indicate that it was issued in 1976.

The next wrappers I have are from 1979.  Again these have the same design on both sides but since I did a better job opening them, I'm only scanning one side.  Despite there being three different designs, all three of the cards I pulled were from the "May Best" set so it doesn't appear that the wrapper design was specific to the Calbee series (or subset or whatever you want to call the 1979 sets).

The packs would have pretty much the same appearance for the next ten years, only changing in size (Calbee dropped the card size in the middle of the second series in 1980) and color occasionally.  Here are two packs from the 1980 set - these are the same size as the 1979 packs so they're from one or both of the first two series that year:

Unlike the previous packs, these packs didn't have the same design on the other side.  The other side had a baseball and what looks like laurel leaves design along with some text:

I think the vertical text on the right side says something about carefully cutting open the pack, something that I obviously didn't do.

Here are five wrappers from 1981.  I don't remember which cards I pulled from them so I don't know which series they were from.

Again the reverse side for all the packs had text on it - I think it says something about how to send in redemption cards:

Here's a pack from 1983 that illustrates what I said before about the packs looking very similar from year to year:

The other side looks the same as the 1981 packs as well:

As do both sides of the 1985 packs, although the color was green that year:

Back to blue for 1986 but there's a bit of change to one side of the design:

The next set I have a pack from is 1989.  This is the first pack I have that has the year on it but I don't know that the 1987 and 1988 packs did not.  Both sides of the pack were the same:

The player drawing disappeared with the 1990 packs.  Calbee issued their set that year in two sizes with the first series being the same size as the cards from the 1980's.  Here's what both sides of a pack from that series looks like:

The remainder of cards in the 1990 set were phone sized cards.  There was a change in the overall pack design for those cards.  I don't know the technical terms for this so I'm probably going to stumble a little over the description.  Hopefully it'll still make sense.  The previous packs were all essentially created by pressing two pieces of paper around the card and sealing all four edges.  Starting with the larger cards in 1990, the packs were created by wrapping one piece of paper around the card and sealing the overlapping ends together to form a seam on the backside of the back (and also sealing the top and bottom edges).  This makes it possible to open the pack by ripping open the seam on the backside of the pack rather than rip open one of the sides of the pack.  Here's the front and back of the 1990 large pack - I've scanned the backside in a vertical orientation to hopefully make more sense:

Seeing what look like glue spots on the back of the pack makes me wonder if 1990 was when Calbee first started physically attaching the packs to the bags.  I had thought that wasn't until 1996.

I think this next wrapper is from 1991 although it's entirely possible that it's actually from 1992.  You'll notice that it also has what appear to be glue spots on the backside.

I'm a bit confused about this next one as well - it's either from 1992 or 1993.  It looks very much like the previous one but the back side of it is different:

There does not appear to be any glue spots on the back of this pack.

Calbee had made a couple changes to their pack design by the time the next set I have an example wrapper from, the 1994 Hokkaido set, came out.  They changed the orientation of the design to be vertical instead of horizontal but the bigger change is that the packs were made of foil instead of paper.

The backs were blank and due to the four glue spots on it (that are still sticky after 29 years!) I believe that these packs were attached to the chip bags.

The next set I have a wrapper from is the 1996 set:

These I know for a fact were glued to the back of the bags.  How do I know that?  I have some empty bags to prove it:

Here's what the bag fronts looked like.  These are all from Series One.  I assume there were bags representing each team.  Note that these are labeled "Tokyo Snack" - Calbee cards were distributed with "Pro Baseball Popcorn" instead of potato chips in 1995 and 1996.

Here's what the front and back of the 1997 packs looked like:

Here's what they looked like on the back of the bags:

And here's what the bag fronts looked like.  These again are all from Series One (which you can see was released on March 26th).  You'll see that these are labeled "baseball chips" - Calbee was back to distributing the cards with potato chips in 1997:

The next wrapper I have is from 2001 Series One:

Here are the fronts of the Series 1, 2 and 3 packs from 2003.  The handwritten numbers obviously were added by someone other than Calbee:

Here's the front and back of a chip bag (with the pack still attached to the back) from 2004:

It's kind of odd - this is a Series One bag but it doesn't look like it was released until early May, about a month and a half later than I'd have expected.  I assumed that all the chip bags for a given series are released at the same time but maybe that's not the case.

According to Sean, Calbee increased the number of cards in a pack from one to two in 2007, dropped it back to one in 2008, then raised it back to two for 2009 where it's been ever since.  This is kind of reflected in the next two packs I have - Series Three from 2008 and Series Two from 2010:

The back of the 2010 pack has a little bit of the bag it was attached to still stuck to it.

Here's the front and back of both a pack and a bag from Series Two in 2011:

I started buying complete Calbee sets in 2012 which has made it much less likely for me to have any bags or wrappers.  In fact the only wrapper I have since 2011 is from Series Two in 2022 and this was kind of a fluke.  I had won an auction on Ebay for a lot of Calbee cards from last year that included some Star cards and the seller sent the cards wrapped in open Series Two wrappers:


Sean said...

Wow, you have a much more impressive Calbee bag/pack collection than I do.

I can clear up that mystery about the dates you mention in relation to the 2004 bag. Because the chips have expiration dates, Calbee continuously issues new bags throughout the season. So about once a week or so a new set of bags with new dates on them appear in stores. The date is the expiration date of the chips, not the date the cards were made.

On that issue though, I'm not sure if the cards in each series are all produced at once, or if they keep the printing presses running and make however many they need based on how well they sell. I've noticed that Series 3 cards from sets running back to the early 2000s seem to be a bit less common that 1st and 2nd series cards, which makes me think they keep the presses running and as demand wanes towards the end of the season they just end up making fewer Series 3 cards.

NPB Card Guy said...

Thanks! I've never been quite sure why I kept the wrappers and bags around but now I'm glad I did. Just wish I had kept track of the ones from the early 90's a little better.

Thanks for the background on the bag dates. That's kind of what I was figuring. And I do think Calbee keeps printing the cards because I think there's been at least a couple times where a card has been corrected. Although I haven't heard enough about any to check to see if I have an error or corrected card. I also think I heard they pulled Xavier Batista's card in 2019 after he tested positive for PEDs but I don't know that that's true.

NPB Card Guy said...

And I am so happy to finally be done with this series of posts!