Not too long after Horace Wilson and other American teachers brought baseball to Japan in the early 1870s, the Japanese produced their first baseball card. It was a disk, about an inch and a half in diameter, depicting a hand-drawn image of a generic player. The cardboard disk, known as a menko, was used in a popular Japanese flipping game that was similar to the 1990s American fad game of pogs.
The popularity of baseball cards grew with the game and soon Japanese children could collect their favorite players on menko, postcards, cheap paper photos called bromides, and other collectibles.
The history of Japanese cards is best divided into six stages: Pre-World War II, the Occupation, the late 1950s and early 1960s, 1965-72, 1973-1990, and 1991 to the present. The links below will bring to to a separate page for each era.
Although there are dozens of sports card shops across Japan, most specialize in modern Japanese and American cards. Collecting vintage baseball cards is not a common hobby in Japan. Most of the collectors and dealers are located in the United States. Vintage cards can be purchased at Japanese flea markets, antique stores, and in on-line auctions.
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Vintage Japanese Baseball Cards