History of Japanese Baseball Cards
Japanese Baseball Cards from the Occupation
Despite Japan’s post-war economic turmoil, the occupation period became the heyday of the vintage Japanese baseball card. The period contains the greatest variety of cards as well as some of the most attractive cards produced on either side of the Pacific. Menko and bromides still dominated the card industry but candy and game issues also became widespread.
Menko came in a variety of different forms: rectangular, round, and diecut Most sets were small--containing fewer than a dozen cards but a few larger sets consisted of nearly one hundred cards. Hundreds of different mento sets have been identified from the Occupation period.
Occupation Era Menko
Mask Menko are particularly beautiful and highly desired by collectors. These cards are about the size of a child’s head- 5x7 inches. One could punch out the eyes and attach a string around it to wear it as a mask to pretend to be your favorite ballplayer.
During the occupation period, thousands of baseball bromides were produced. Black and white, sepia and color bromides were all common. Bromides set were often large, with some sets containing more than one hundred cards. Visiting Major League teams were popular subjects of bromides.
Two types of game cards became popular during the occupation period. The first were statistical-based simulation dice games. Game cards usually came in boxed sets that included the rules and playing field but sometimes came in uncut sheets inserted into magazines.
Kuruta was a card matching game. Sets usually came in boxes and were often printed on high quality cardboard. They are among the most attractive Japanese cards.
Candy and Gum Cards
During this period confectionaries began inserting baseball cards into candy and gum packets. Most of these cards were printed on thin paper, making them fragile. As a result, these cards are now uncommon and rarely found in high-grade condition.