BBM transformed the Japanese baseball card industry in 1991 with their first set of 399 cards. Modeled after modern American cards, the set included most of the active players as well as cards of league leaders and a special subset of all-time great players. Like American cards, BBM cards came in packs of ten and in factory sets. BBM also were designated a number of factory sets for the American market, making the set fairly common in the United States. This first set includes the Hideo Nomo and Kazuhiro Sasaki rookie cards. Starting in 1991, BBM also annually issues boxed All-Star and Japan Series sets.
In 1992 and 1993, BBM continued to produce both foil packs and factory sets, but they ended production of factory sets in 1994. the same year, they started placing insert cards in random packs. In 1996, BBM began producing a premium set called Diamond Heroes. These cards are printed on thick stock and tend to have a flasher design. Diamond Heroes sets contain roughly half the cards than the regular BBM sets and sell for roughly twice the price.
Over the years, BBM added more annual sets. By 2010, they usually produced a pre-season set, a regular set, a premium set, individual sets for each team, all star and Japan Series sets, a nostalgic set as well as additional special issue sets. BBM cards are widely collected in both Japan and the United States. The company is responsible for transforming card collecting in Japan into a large business.
Following BBM’s example, several other companies have produced “modern” baseball card sets. In 1993 and 1994, Tomy issued major sets available only in foil packs. Neither set, however, was popular with collectors and the company stopped producing card sets. In 1999, two new companies, Broccoli and Future Bee, began producing cards of individual teams. These sets, laced with insert cards and parallel sets, were very popular with collectors. Upper Deck tried to enter the Japanese market in 2000 and produced a total of four sets. During this modern period, game cards returned to fashion. Large sets have been produced by Konami, Future Bee, Field of Nine and Power League.
A variety of small sets were also created. Three from the early 1990s are particularly interesting. The first are the 1991 Q Cards. These cards are the size of telephone cards and are printed on plastic. They are relatively scarce. The best looking sets of the 1990s are the 1993 and 1994 Kanebo Gold Cards. These two small sets (64 and 32 cards) were printed on heavy stock, contain raised vivid pictures, and gold foil decoration. They were issued in packs containing one card and a piece of gum. One of the most innovative sets of the 1990s is the Hideki Matsui Home Run Cards. One card is issued for every homerun hit by Matsui. Cards were available only through the television station showing the Yomiuri Giants games.
Japanese Baseball Cards 1991-
Other post-1991 issues