Friday, January 30, 2015

Idol Cards: All About That Base

Welcome, the time has come to tackle one of Japan's more interesting collectable markets as well as piss off the few female readers I have (all 1.5 of them).

Today we'll be looking at idol cards.
I'm not exactly 100% knowledgeable about this topic, but these are just a few observations I've made after opening a box or two (or ten) of these kinds of cards.

Now in Japan there are models that are referred to as gravure idels. I guess the best way to describe them is that they're essentially pin-up models. Hired to look cute/sexy/attractive simultaneously so that the whatever weekly magazine that has one of these bikini-clad women on the cover will be picked up by horny men that get disappointed when they realize the rag is filled with nothing but boring articles.

Anyway, modeling agencies like to exploit many different ways to make a profit off of their models. You can see all sorts of merchandise floating around ranging from videos, folders, CDs, photo books, and even trading cards.

I'm not sure where idol cards originate from. Some say it started when people started printing photos of past idols on telephone cards back when pay-phones were actually a thing, others say it started earlier. Whatever the case, it's become a pretty profitable market in Japan. Or at least one profitable enough so that at least a dozen different sets come out in one year.

Now in the US there are also trading cards that feature attractive women in various outfits on them. But for the most part they're a compilation set with various models. And while those do exist in Japan (especially when a set is focused on an idol/girl group like AKB48) most of the time they're focused on just one specific subject.

It's not always just the gravure idols who are featured. Other times it can be fashion models, those models you see posing at race tracks, and even pornstars. The bottom line is that anybody can have a card set as long as the subject is attractive enough for people to buy her merchandise (isn't it always?).

Today we'll be looking at one aspect of these idol cards, the base cards.

The number of base cards in a certain set differs from set to set/company to company, but they're usually a number divisible by nine (most commonly 81 or 72). Why? Because these cards are made to be presented in 9-pocket, three ring binders. Heck, they actually make binders for these sets, but that's a future topic.

How these base cards work is that every nine cards will have a common theme. Usually they're just models posing in bikinis but other times you've got them walking in the woods, eating, etc... This is meant to make the subject seem more human and also make it seem as though you and the subject went on a date. And yes, that is as pathetic as is sounds.

The backs feature pictures that were taken at a different time but also share a common theme.

Some of these base cards are meant to work as a puzzle. Wether it's 9 cards that come together to form a picture.

Or 4.

Or 3.

Or 2.

Where was I?
Oh yes, these cards are specifically designed to work with people who use 9-pocket binders.

And like any modern day set of trading cards, there are short prints for these cards as well.
Usually they aren't numbered and feature shiny silver shapes and facsimile signatures all over the cards. Other times they're just shinier (and warp).

The number of SPs in a given set can differ as well but it's also a number that's divisible by 9. Usually there are either 27 SPs or 36 SPs.

I'll also briefly touch upon three other cards that weren't strong enough topics to stand on their own.
The card you see above is a "Box Privilege" card. I guess it's a box loader of sorts that comes right next to the box.

Literally, these come in those sleeves right next to the box (BTW, these boxes are all sealed when they're sold so these sleeves/BP cards don't go elsewhere).
There are only three different kinds of BP cards per set but that has to do with how these cards are distributed/sold (which I'll get to in the future).

Here we have a "Shop Campaign" card. These are basically just advertisements sent to stores for future sets.

The backs sometimes (but not always) feature some information about the subject. The most important one is whether or not she's 18 yet.

And finally we have these "Event Privilege" cards. These are cards specially created for events the subject partakes in in order to promote her new card set. Which are almost always akushukais. Akushukais are events where people pay money to shake hands with somebody (usually a celebrity or somebody supposedly important). A card shop that I sometimes went to in Japan held these akushukais pretty frequently.

And yes, I know the concept is weird but please remember the following.
*Exploiting every last penny is important
*This is Japan we're talking about
*Money > Everything

This is (supposedly) a signed copy of one of these Event Privilege cards. I say supposedly because for all I know it could be fake, but at the same time this model has done akushukais at the aforementioned LCS a couple of times to promote her card set so I'm giving it a very rare benefit of the doubt.

And that was a guide into the world of idol cards. There are a few more aspects of this hobby to talk about and I'll probably be blogging about them at random times in the future.

As always thanks for stopping by and take care :).

Monday, January 26, 2015

Transparency Has Its Benefits

So I picked up a new LUIIIIISSSSSSSSSSS card on eBay the other day.


It is a Pure auto from 2014 Leaf Trinity. Although the Torrenator only has these plexiglass autos in the set, he has a ton of parallels that I can't be bothered to track down.


So for $5 and free shipping I picked up that normal base version of Luis Torrens. Now these cards are quite something. I'm starting to really love and appreciate these autographs that are on clear surfaces. Or clear-ish ones like the acetate autographs that DefGav featured.

It could be because these are relatively new "innovations" but these are a sight to behold and are definitely far better than sticker autographs. I'd probably even argue that they look better than a fair number of on-card autographs on surfaces that you can't see through.

Also working in this particular card's favor is the fact that the Torrenatrix is depicted in catching gear. Personally I believe that that is one of the best ways (maybe the only way?) for Leaf/Panini/not-Topps to get around the fact that they don't have an MLB license. I mean, you don't need MLB logos to show catchers in catching gear.

Now a few weeks ago my collecting associate campos-san tweeted about how these plexiglass autographs look amazing in magnetic holders and I wanted to try it out for myself.

So at my last card show I secured a 130-PT magnetic holder (these cards are really thick) and immediately put the Torrens into it when it arrived in the mail.

The result?

Look at that. Isn't it gorgeous?! Or "gawjus" as a lot of Yankee fans like to say.

The unfortunate downside to this is that it doesn't fit in my 2x2 four pocket binder, but I'll find a way (somehow). Mark my words, I will find a way.

In addition to that pure plexiglass auto I picked up a green paper parallel of Luis Torrens for under $5 shipped.

Numbered 11/75

And that concludes this post. I'll finish off with an obvious song to go along with the theme of this post.

As always thanks for stopping by and take care :).

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Code Of Conduct

I've never really touched on this topic in the past, but in light of various events, I feel it's time to go into detail about a pretty important part of the blogosphere. Trading, and the many guidelines I have.

Now I've enjoyed trading with other collectors via the internet numerous times. It's a fun little thing to do and the generosity some people have can really blow your mind.
However, I do have rules and regulations to abide by whenever I trade that I'm going to be sharing with you all for the first time in this blog's existence. Please note that most of these are for rules with people I'm trading with for the first time.

1). Do some prior research on the other person.
My first trade with somebody on the blogosphere (that wasn't in person) was in 2013 when I first reached out to The Lost Collector. You know how long I was lurking in the shadows to confirm that he was a trustworthy fellow? I was lurking and viewing his blog for two whole years before I contacted him about a trade.
And while I don't usually wait two years to confirm that a certain collector is legit, I'd just like to drive the point home that I do do extensive background searches on people before doing anything.
If I agree to a trade with you when you contact me, it's most likely because I've already done background checks on you in the past and put you in the "probably" category before our negotiations began. A notable example would be Mark Hoyle who I knew traded frequently with The Lost Collector and Red Sox Fan In Nebraska (another blogger I trust). And there was also Bob Walk The Plank who I saw trade with people like Play At The Plate (yet another blogger I trust) & The Lost Collector before me.

If you're new and have no track record for me to go on, then sorry but the chances me being the first name on your "list of trades made" are zero-to-none. I'm not going to risk being a guinea pig.

2). Must be over 18.
There is a reason why the forums over at places like Beckett have a strict age policy. Some people may call it age discrimination but I don't care, kids go to the kids table.

3). I receive your address first.
Those of you who have traded with me will know that I always ask for your address first and that you'll often have to ask me for my address since I will not just give it to you.
There is a reason for that. I'm the paranoid freak who believes that he is giving away something very important when he engages in a trade. No not the cards (which are really replaceable when you really think about it), but my personal information. I'm the type of guy who will lie about when my birthday is or what part of town I'm currently living in when we're having a casual conversation. I'd rather be on the safe side and know I only lost out on some useless cards I didn't want.

On a sidenote. I'm sure a few of you guys out there have my address. If anybody (and I mean anybody) asks for it, DON'T give it to them without asking for my permission first. I don't care if it's Night Owl from the center of the blogosphere or jolly ole St. Wes, it should really go without saying but, you should never give away another person's personal information. If you do I will hunt you down and prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law.

4). My Zippy Zappings are like my trust, you need to earn them.
So far I've turned something as simple as trading into something needlessly serious, but too bad we live in a post 9-11 world so deal with it.
I'm sure many of you guys know how hard it is to gain trust and just how easy it is lose it as well. If I send you a Zippy Zapping, it's not just a random assortment of cards. It's a sign that I trust you enough that I'd actually trade with you again. But do not take that for granted.
A while back I had somebody who I never traded with actually ask me to send them a Zippy Zapping. I never responded to that person (who later turned out to be a scammer) and never will. You must earn it, and asking for it is a great way to ensure that you will never receive it for as long as you live.

5). Leave no trail behind.
Like most people I use recycled bubble mailers to send packages. However, most people will probably notice that I tend to completely destroy or cross out the addresses that used to be on the mailer. I imagine that most of the mailers I send out will be used by others, but unfortunately I also have to imagine that others don't take the time to completely destroy the addresses listed on it and just do something minimal like put a piece of paper over it with the new addresses on top. Looking at you, Tom and Oscar. Now I realize that many of us are far too busy to do such a thing, but out of etiquette I always make sure to cross out all addresses before reusing mailers. You never know where that mailer with a vital piece of your personal information is going to next.
Also yes, I frequently delete emails with addresses in them. Hence why I sometimes ask you guys for your addresses again.

There are a few more but these are the big ones.
These aren't how I expect people to trade online. These are just guidelines and procedures I've set up so I can ensure the best odds of having a hassle-free trade with trustworthy people for the foreseeable future. I try to make every transaction that happens between myself and another collector as painless and seamless as possible. Most of the time they work out, the rest of the time I choose to ignore emails when I foresee that the headaches aren't worth it.

Sorry for this largely negative post. Anybody who knows me in real life will tell you that I'm one of those cynical assholes who live by the code "Trust No One" and while I present myself as having this relatively happy/positive persona on here, that part of me permeates how I go about doing trades and sending out Zippy Zaps.
Oh and Matt, thanks for Sanchez auto and Nomo relic.

As always thanks for stopping by and take care :).

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Weekend TTM Roundup: 1/12-1/17

Received On: 1/13/2014

My first return this week was this Eric Jagielo return that blew my mind.
After finishing last week with a Yankees first rounder in 2013, we start this week with another Yankees first rounder in 2013.
Eric Jagielo was the Yankees' first overall pick in the 2013 draft and is one of the reasons why the farm system is much deeper and better now than it was before he joined the organization.
Jagielo's 2014 season didn't go as smoothly as most would've liked as he missed some time due to injuries. However he did swing the bat relatively well when he played, hitting to a .315 BABIP and 132 wRC+ in 85 games with high-A Tampa (stats per Fan-Graphs). He also took his walks and most agree that he has managed to continue developing as a hitter.
Defensively is where people start to have concerns. Before being drafted there were some that thought Jagielo would be moved from third to first or the outfield. In 2013 he managed to show that he had potential to stick at the hot corner but in 2014 some of the doubters came out into the light agai given how he had a .887 fielding percentage in 62 games at third for high-A Tampa (per Baseball Reference). However some still believe he can stick at the position and, if nothing else, his bat will make up for his defensive shortcomings.
Jagielo was originally selected to go to the Arizona Fall League in 2014 but he was hit in the face (just under the left eye) while in the instructional league and missed the fall event. Hopefully he's a lot better now and is ready to go come Spring Training.

Received On: 1/14/2015

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the third consecutive return from a 2013 Yankees first rounder. The third one from IAN CLARKIN!
Clarkin is a southpaw drafted out of high school. He is equipped with a mid-low 90's fastball, curveball and change-up. He has the potential to be a top of the rotation starter and has already emerged as one of the Yankees' top prospects (often being ranked in the top 5 in the system). In 2014 he managed to pitch his way up from single-A Charleston to high-A Tampa. In 2015 he should start the season in double-A Trenton and possibly find himself in triple-A Scranton if he has himself a nice season.

With the Clarkin return I now have all three 2013 first round Yankee picks signed via TTM that were three consecutive returns. I believe in miracles now.

And those were my returns this week.
Big thanks to Mr. Jagielo and Mr. Clarkin for the awesome autographs.

And as always thank you (the readers) for stopping by and take care :).

2015 TTM Count: 5

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Meeting & Greeting

As a guy who basically lives on the internet (who doesn't nowadays?) I've gotten to know a lot of people online. And I've also gotten to meet few of the people I've met online in person.

I've met people online in person three times in my life so far. The first time was way back in 2010 (I think) with a person who happened to be teaching English in Japan who was also a member of a forum, that's unrelated to this hobby, that I was a part of. The second was with Ryan of the blog This Card Is Cool, who I frequently met (once a month I think?) in 2012. The third person I met was Anco, who I've mentioned on this blog before.

During my two week vacation to Japan I managed to meet both Anco and Ryan. It was my first time meeting Mr. Anco and probably the tenth or eleventh (I lost count) time I met Ryan.

----------------------- I'll talk about meeting Mr. Anco first -----------------------

Anco-san lives in an area outside Tokyo that's near where I used to live back in 2012. As such we decided to meet up at a card shop I used to frequent (that he also frequents) when I lived in that area. It was the second day of 2015 (1/2/2015) and a little after 12:30, my shinkansen had been delayed due to the large amount of snow falling on the western part of Japan but I managed to arrive at the rendezvous point only a few minutes late.

I met Mr. Anco and his wife (or was it his fiancé?) inside the card shop. He had just bought a fukubukuro, which is basically a smorgasbord of different leftover products all packed into one giant bag for a low price (something the Japanese stores sell every year after New Years), that came with a hobby box of '14 Bowman Draft Asia Edition, a jumbo box of '14 Bowman Draft, a box of Topps Supreme, two loose jumbo packs of 2014 Topps Update and one loose jumbo pack of 2014 Topps Series 2. All that for just $200 (aprox.), what a steal.
He and I decided to bust a box of something on the spot so I decided to buy a box of 2014 Bowman Draft Asia Edition (the second box in my Clone Breaks posts) while he opened his box with his wife. The thing about Anco-san is that he always busts packs with his wife because while she's not a collector she supports his hobby and loves pulling hits (she once pulled a Kris Bryant auto) and gets angry at Anco-san if he buys cards without her. Lucky guy.

We opened some boxes, and then exchanged gifts/cards we had prepared for each other. Originally I was also going to meet another collector I had met online, but with it being New Years and all he couldn't make it. Luckily he and Anco-san meet each other pretty frequently so I was able to give him the gifts intended for him. I gave Anco-san a value box of Topps Update (the ones that come with Update Chrome), an issue of Baseball America with Francisco Lindor on the cover, a few Indians cards, and the Bob Rhoades T206 I picked up a few months ago. I gave his wife some candy and Hershey's chocolate.

In return I got a bunch of Yankees prospects I needed.

Like this refractor of Luis Torrens.

And the elusive Asia Black parallel of Luis Torrens. Even though it remains to be seen whether or not Captain Rex will find another one in the second box, I did manage to secure one via trade.

And an EEE auto of Yankees prospect Nick Goody that's numbered 02/10.
Goody is an awesome guy and this is an awesome card of his.

So after opening boxes and exchanging stuff, we headed to a cafe to have lunch. We ended up talking for over an hour about how different being a baseball fan and collector is in Japan and in America. They seemed to enjoy my stories of going to minor league games and major league games, while I enjoyed their perspective on how teams are run in Japan.

After that we spent some more time chatting in another cafe until the time came when I needed to head back to the station to catch my train home. We said our goodbyes and parted on the platform.

If you can read Japanese, feel free to get Anco-san's perspective on our day on his blog.

----------------------- Now for my meeting with Ryan -----------------------

A few days after meeting Anco-san I met Ryan-san in person for the first time in nearly two years. We went to all four card shops that operated in Nagoya city and we basically spent way more money than we wanted to.

Unfortunately Ryan and I didn't really trade since he forgot the cards he prepared for me and all I did was dump a bunch of cards he didn't need onto him. But we had a pretty nice time catching up with how we were doing and hitting up card shops.

At our third card shop we basically scanned the whole store looking for Calbee cards. Ryan needed some inserts while I wanted to accumulate all of the Hiroki Kuroda base cards (and inserts) I could find.

Hirok had four different Calbee cards in 2007!

I'm pretty sure I'm missing some parallels but I'm also confident that I managed to at least get all of the base Hiroks.

I also picked up a Calbee base card of Shohei Ohtani who made headlines a while back as a guy who wanted to skip the NPB and come straight to America. I really wish he had come stateside because I want to know how good a top high school prospect in Japan can become if they're brought up in the minors with the best of the very best over here in the states. If I had to guess they should be a lot better than most of the Japanese talent that's come over here.

At the fourth and final store Ryan continued his search of Calbees while I continued stocking up on Big Hiroks.

I managed to add that awesome sticker to my collection as well as some awesome preview cards.

After that Ryan and I made our way to a bus stop where Ryan had to get on his overnight bus back to Tokyo. I waited for the bus with him and then abandoned him when it became time for him to put his luggage onto the bus.

And so those were my two awesome collecter-ific days in Japan. It's always a ton of fun to meet fellow collectors in person and just blab about random stuff.

As always thanks for stopping by and take care :).

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Did I Pass Or Fail?

So it's basically been one year since I started this blog and I thought I'd do this small little post on whether or not I successfully managed to accomplish my goals, or massively fail them.

5. Continue to trade with people

Midway through the season I abandoned the idea of trading with people and just switched to randomly dumping cards onto people when I felt the piles were getting to big for me to keep around. Depending on your perspective my Zippy Zappings may not count but screw it, I'm giving myself a passing grade.

Grade: C

4. Stop buying so much wax

This goal was originally supposed to keep me from not buying anything over $10 (in one sitting) until Bowman Draft came out. Judging from all of the missions I sent Rex on I'd say this was a total FAILURE!

Grade: F-

3. 62 TTMs

I got nearly four times that with 232 TTMs.

Grade: B+

2. Pick up a new "Oldest Card In My Collection"

I think those two scans speak for themselves. It's amazing what kind of cardboard you can get if you limit yourself to prospects and have nothing but apathy for vintage Topps/Fleer/Bowman and yet all the respect in the world for tobacco cards.

Grade: A+

1. 39 IP Autos

According to my 2014 IP auto tracker, I got 147 in-person autographs. Ten of which were signed by the Torrenator and have become the foundation for my #TorrenEmpire.

Grade: A-

I managed to accomplish four out of my five goals which isn't bad, but shows that there is room for improvement. I need to discipline myself and make sure I don't blow all my cash on crap I don't even like. I also need to be a lot more assertive and aggressive. I gave myself a A- on the IP auto grade because there are a ton of IP autos I missed out on because I didn't do my due diligence (and because I was lazy).

So with that I'd like to move onto my five new collecting goals for 2015.

5. Less Purchases

I realized a long time ago that the packs I can get at retail stores and the cards I can get on eBay are like a drug. They're a quick and easy fix for when I get the itch but they end up taking money away from my budget that I could've spent on something else and I'm always left with nothing but regret and anguish (and the knowledge that I could do it again too).
Darn it, why does my local Target have to be such a convenient and clean store that keeps its card aisle neat and tidy (and free of pack searchers), and a store that I can easily get to thanks to the above-average public transportation in my area? And why is eBay so quick and easy?
Because I was cursed with such an awesome Target that I'm sure a lot of collectors would kill to have access to, I have a tough time fighting my addition for quickies from retail. And well eBay is eBay. So in 2015 I'm going to fight that addiction. Which of course means that this is the goal that'll be destroyed within two weeks from now.

4. 20 IP Autos

In 2014 I got 147 in-person autographs, I'd like to say that next year I'm going to go for 148 autographs but unfortunately my future is kind of in limbo at the moment, so I'm going to aim low for now and see what happens.

3. 250 TTMs

On the other hand I will go HAM with TTMs come 2015. I wasn't able to send out over half of the potential TTM requests I stocked up on in late-2013 because most of the guys were either constantly moving around in the lower minors or because they were mainly assigned to short-season ball and I ran out of time. Well that won't happen in 2015 since now almost all of them will be assigned to full-season ball in the a-ball. I've already got 75 potential TTMs prepped up!

2. Pick Up A New "Oldest Card In My Collection"

Yep, I'm doing it again folks. There are baseball cards out there that are older than any of the T206's I picked up in 2014 and I'm going to try and add one to my collection. Although I am enamored with the thought of picking up a N172 or Mayo Cut Plug (which I might one day) I'll try and go for an older Highlander if possible.

1. Focus And Stay On A Budget

I spent WAY too much money in 2014. I'm lucky that I had a job that helped me stay financially stable. In 2015 I'm giving myself a $500 cap (stamps and envelopes for TTMs, transportation fees to MiLB games and shipping fees for my Zippy Zappings included).

So those are my top five collecting goals in 2015.
Here are a few not-quite goals that I like to call maybe projects.
A lot can happen in 12 months but these are a few ideas I have in mind that may or may not happen. Depends on my mood at various times of the year I guess.
*Go for the 1909-11 T206 Highlanders Team Set
*Go for the 1909-11 T206 Wee Willie Keeler
*Complete the Luis Torrens 2013 Bowman Chrome rainbow
*Go see Luis Torrens in Charleston or Tampa
*Start a cult religion dedicated to Luis Torrens
*Make custom #Torrenator or #Torrenatrix or #TorrenNation T-shirts

Actually I might actually try and go for that custom t-shirt if I can find a good enough image and sacrifice some cardboard money. Hmm.

Anyway, Happy New Years guys. Hope you all have a healthy and wonderful 2015 :).
As always thanks for stopping by and take care :).