There are three major baseball card producers in Japan that release Nippon Professional Baseball card sets. BBM, Calbee and Epoch. BBM is the top dog in the NPB card scene, and they take advantage of that by releasing 18 sets this season. 12 are team sets, the other six general releases ranging from Version 1 & 2 (equivalent to Topps Series 1 & 2) and ranging up to Genesis, which is a very high end release. In contrast, Calbee has 1 set release with just 6 insert sets.
Bay State Baseball Cards is adding BBM 1st Version to stock in the next week or two. We want our Japanese offerings to be simple for people just sticking their toe into foreign baseball card waters. So let’s take a look at 1st Version.
The base set is a 336 card checklist with 28 teams per team, 26 player, one manager and a “Spring Training” themed team card for each of the NPB’s 12 squads. There’s a 36 card Cross Universe subset, and 3 twelve card inserts (Japonism, Gemstone and 3D Cross Universe).
There are also some relics and chases including 200 serial numbered Dennis Sarfate cards. For a more robust breakdown of the set, read this post at japanesebaseballcards.blogspot.com.
The base cards are fantastic looking. Full bleed photos with no border. A very small BBM logo in one corner (with consideration to avoid overlapping any element of the photo). I really like the paint stroke background behind the player’s name. The reverse has a head shot and a bunch of information in Japanese, which I haven’t read since I took Japanese 101 which was weirdly offered to me in 8th grade back in the very, very….very early 90’s.
I’ve seen pictures of the Japonism insert, which hints at cherry blossoms in a very fantastic way. The Cross Universe set, according to the JBC post (link above), is reminiscent of other “cross” subsets from the last 8 years. But this year’s set has an ethereal cosmic vibe. The Gemstone set feels like a miss to me. It looks like it maybe sort of wants to be Japonism, but doesn’t know how to draw The Great Wave off Kanagawa. I would have gone away from pink background with sort of similar elements for the Gemstone set. But, I really believe that between Japonism, the relics & auto cards and the strength of the base set totally offset the points lost on the Gemstones.
Overall, the set received strong reviews from the NPB collector blogosphere (do people still say “blogosphere” in 2018?), and looks to be a strong jumping in point for those of us who are interested in starting our Japanese card collection.