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 :).


  1. Are you a big fan of Nicki Minaj? I only ask because...

    1. Lol, I liked a few of her songs back when she was an up-and-coming rapper and before she signed to Young Money/transformed into the obnoxious personality she is now. But for the most part no, I'm not a fan.

  2. Nice. I'm attracted to pretty ladies, ain't gone lie!

  3. Early favorite for post of the year.