Monday, June 21, 2010

A Little Foreign Flavor

Despite being mainly a collector of Topps and Bowman issues from 1948-1980,  I have several other items that I find cool. Along with several prewar type cards and long-term Goudey, Play Ball and Diamond Stars projects, I am not averse to adding something different if for no other reason than showing it off to people looking through my cards.

At the 2007 National Convention in Cleveland, I found this card for $3 and decided it would be cool to take home:

According to a collecting buddy of mine, this card is from 1959. The player is Terukuki Takakura, an outfielder for the Nishitetsu Lions. The card is classified as a Marukami Bat on Right Menko. Marukami is the name of the card manufacturer. "Menko" is a Japanese game played with cards, where one player places a card on the floor and another attempts to toss another down and try to flip it over. Before World War Two, the cards were most likely to show warriors, tanks and Zero planes; baseball players became popular Menko subjects after the war. Menko cards often came in sheets that would be cut apart, which explains why my card appears to have been trimmed on its right border and is missing the top white border.

The set is also referred to as JCM14a. American vintage collectors are familiar with the ACC designations (T, R, E, etc.) given to cards, and Japanese cards have their own categories. With Japanese cards, "JCM" is a designation for standard Menkos. Other designations include JRM for round menkos, JC for Calbee cards and JBR for bromide cards.

I'd like to stop for a minute and recommend a good starting place for understanding Japanese baseball cards. In fact, one of this book's authors (Gary Engel) is the same guy who sold me the card you see above. Yes, the link leads to Amazon and I'll receive a portion of anything bought through the link...but any proceeds I get will go toward adding more books to my own reference shelf, which will allow me to continue making posts to this blog.

One of the pages in Engels' book goes over the stuff found on the card backs. First, the set is called "Bat on Right" because of the back design (not the fact that Takakura is holding the bat on his right shoulder):

On the bat is a "Who Am I?" question -- note the question mark -- that gives a hint for somebody playing a game to guess who's pictured on the front. The picture on the bottom right is part of a "rock/paper/scissors" icon common to Menko cards. The number across the bottom is a Menko number, which I haven't yet understood. In the middle is player info. The writing in the middle tells us about the player: above the squiggly border, it tells that he bats and throws right-handed. Also listed is his height, weight, place of birth and uniform number (25, which is the only part of the writing I can read).

It's cool to see that the cards were designed to use as part of several different games, from the "flipping it over" aspect to the "Who Am I?" question and even having a "rock/paper/scissors" icon. Since American kids were quite familiar with the concept of flipping cards as well as the idea of paper covering scissors, it shows that kids' games are pretty universal.

1 comment:

  1. Funny you mention Japanese rock-paper-scissors, I snapped this photo from Florida's Morikami museum just a couple months ago.

    Janken (Japanese rock-paper-scissors)