Sunday, August 14, 2011

1940s-1950s Japanese Menko Cards ("Tobacco" Style)

This weekend I've posted four sets, including the one below. All five cards displayed over the weekend were recent pickups at the Alameda Antique Fair. 
 Set size: Unknown. These cards are approximately tobacco-card sized, though they are a little wider.

Front Design: Japanese Menko baseball cards tend to feature either a specific or generic player in a comic book-style image. A minimal amount of Japanese text accompanies the image.

Back Design: The backs of this design are relatively identical, and are printed in blue ink. Three crossed bats sit behind a large black baseball. The image of a glove and trophy, and the words "BASE BALL" all appear horizontally between the two seams of the ball. A six-digit code in the format ####X## appears in a white box at the bottom.

Parallels and Similars: There are many menko sets, and without a guide I'm unable to identify the details of this set.

Distribution: The story of Japanese cards - and menko in particular - is fairly interesting. Cards like these got their start for use in games, though Americans serving in Japan frequently brought the cards back with them.

Thoughts: I love the art on these cards. They look awesome in person, and it doesn't matter if I don't know who the player is or if it's a real player at all. It's like a little slice of a comic strip removed from its context. Maybe the batter above is staring down the pitcher because he just got a brush-back pitch. Maybe the runner in the card below is about to steal third or score the winning run to win the championship. Once I buy a guide to Japanese cards I'll be able to revisit these two and determine what I have and where they really came from. Until then, these are highly welcome in my collection.

Additional Links: While it's mostly a sales outlet, there is some information on Japanese cards at Rob's website.

Additional Images: A second example bought with the first card (front and back):

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