Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Mint Cards From Japan

Around last year I tipped off NPB Card Guy that the biggest chain of baseball/trading card stores in Japan, MINT, had begun offering international buying options. His post explains the process pretty well. You email them and attach URLs of the items you want to buy. They send you an invoice on Paypal (or however you choose to pay), you pay, they ship the cards out in a matter of days, and in a week or two you get your items.

I assume this service was originally set up for buyers in the Chinese/Taiwanese market who're really into basketball cards or for Americans who may be interested in Mint's MLB selection (I helped a guy get a 1/1 Mark Teixiera card thanks to this service).

Well it also comes in handy for people like me who want to either A). buy boxes of NPB products, or B). buy singles of NPB products.

I didn't really want to buy a box because like MLB products, most boxes don't return much value. The boxes themselves usually cost either 6000 yen or anywhere above that ($60+). The completed sets and such can be had for anywhere between 500-3000 yen (aprox 5-30 USD) on the secondary market, and chances are you're going to pull a regular autograph that just sits in the 2000-3000 yen range ($20-30). Meaning that you're almost never going to break even on your box.

So I went the singles route instead. I'll simply pick up a set of 2017 BBM Heat (Dragons Edition) for cheap next time I go to Japan.

And I'm glad I went this route because I ordered my very first certified Shigeru Sugishita autograph. It's a bit hard to see but this one is numbered 03/35. This cost me the price of a blaster and a rack pack combined. But for a legendary HoF Dragon who basically IS Mr. Dragons to me and my family, it's well worth the price.

I've kept tabs on Mr. Sugishita in Japanese news cycles to see how his health is but for the most part he seems to be fine. The 91 year old God of Forkballs had a pretty nice piece in 週刊スポーツ (Shukan Sports), a Japanese sports magazine, earlier in the year where he explained that his forkball was taught to him when he was a sophomore at Meiji University by legendary NPB Hall of Famer Shinichi Amachi, who himself learned the forkball from the American All Stars who had come to Japan in 1922. Amachi was Sugishita's manager and personal coach throughout high school and college. The duo would later lead the Dragons to it's first Nippon Series title in 1954. He also went into details about how the forkball works and how it was classified back in the day.
Nowadays Mr. Sugishita goes golfing 2-3 times a month at the age of 91. He's so active even strangers come up to him and say they hope to lead full, long, fulfilling lives like he's done. I don't blame them, that's what I'd say if I ever met him too (right after asking for an In Person autograph). He also keeps up with baseball, and spoke highly of Shohei Ohtani.

I swear, the more I learn about Mr. Sugishita, the more fun I find in researching Japanese Baseball History. I look forward to doing more research and presenting more parts of the Sugishita story as I post more about him.

Sidenote, now Mr. Sugishita is an official PC guy. I've updated my PC page accordingly.

I picked up another OB Dragon, this time of Tatsuhiko Kimata. It's numbered 28/38.

Kimata is/was the Dragons' catcher for all of 19 seasons. During his college days as a star MVP caliber catcher at Chukyo University, he quit halfway through and joined the Chunichi Dragons as a professional in 1964. Kimata hit pretty well for a catcher during his career and was even the very first catcher to hit over 30 dingers in a single season when he hit 33 dingers in 1969 (nice). Kimata also became the first catcher on a Central League based team to play in over 2000 games (he was the second in history behind Katsuya Nomura), although my sources can't specify whether he appeared in all 2000+ as a catcher or as something else :P.

One interesting tidbit I found researching Mr. Kimata's story is that he had an interesting batting stance. One where he lifted his left leg when waiting for the pitch and made contact with one leg. A stance which was dubbed the "Masakari" method. Unfortunately the best video I could find of it was the one I embedded above.

The last (but certainly not least) of my pickups, is this autograph from 2017 BBM Heat of Dragons pitcher Hiroto Fuku.

Fuku was drafted by the Chunichi Dragons in the fourth round of the 2015 NPB Player Draft. After high school Fuku played in the professional industrial league (Japan's equivalent of Indy Ball) as part of the JR Kyushu team, and managed to get some attention from pro scouts thanks to his 150 kph (aprox 93 mph) heat. Fuku is a reliever with a upper 80's fastball, upper 60's slider, mid-60's changeup, and a curveball. Fuku's outlook is a middle reliever and, yeah, that sounds about right.

This Fuku cost me around $12. A little much for the NPB equivalent of Tyler Webb but considering it's low print run, it's excusable. If nothing else, this and a used competed set of Heat will ensure that I only spend half the price of a sealed box on the same contents :P.

Normally that'd be the end of it but Mint threw in some extras :).

First was this Cross Freeze insert from 2016. 2016 was Takayuki Kishi's last year as a member of the Seibu Lions as he signed a four year deal with the Tohoku Rakuten Eagles last winter. Kishi is a native from the Tohoku region so it makes sense that the 32 year old veteran wanted to go back home.

Next up is another 2016 BBM card, this time a base offering of Daiki Tohmei. A middling starter for the Orix Buffaloes with a low 90's fastball, slider, forkball, shuuto and changeup.

And here's former Red Sox farmhand/Pirate/Twin, Kris Johnson. Johnson became a really good starter for the Hiroshima Carp after arriving in 2015 and even won the Sawamura Award, an award they don't give to foreigners often (Johnson himself was the first to earn it in 52 years). Johnson's a quarter Japanese as his grandmother on his father's side is Japanese.

And finally there was Mint's official business card. It's very shiny in person and has a refractory rainbow effect. Color me impressed.

And that was my latest package from Japan. I've had a lot of them come through in recent times and I'm happy because of it.

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


  1. So, Mint is kind of Blowout Cards or Dave & Adam's for Japan? That's pretty neat.
    Great additions to your collection. Especially, the certified auto from Shigeru Sugishita!

    1. Pretty much, except that you could also argue that Mint is like COMC, AND has physical retail stores throughout the country.

  2. Some neat looking sets. Cross Freeze is cool! I said it in an "Ahnold" voice.

    1. Thanks TLC :). Get to the da choppa.

  3. Cool card of Sugishita. Love to see these Japanese cards.

    1. Thanks SH. I love the Sugishita card myself too :).