It’s hard to find a North American equivalent of CalBee. The Japanese snack maker wrapped its arms around baseball cards almost 40 years ago–and they’re still inserting them into packs. Topps may have been around longer, but as a ‘food issue’, they stand alone.
CalBee’s “Professional Baseball Chips” sets have been a favorite of those who collect Japanese baseball cards all over the world. In their home country, they’re a staple of the summer months. The company has now distributed over 1 billion cards since 1973. Sadaharu Oh has the most cards of any player but a popular manager has also been featured numerous times.
CalBee cards are available on eBay–but not that many. Surprisingly, rookie cards of Yu Darvish, produced in Japan, have been selling for less than $20. Some of Oh’s first Calbee cards–the Japanese home run king of all-time–are less than $175.
Not everything has been rosy in NPB (Nippon Professional Baseball). Soccer has been a major rival and CalBee has stepped up to meet the demand, but so far hasn’t abandoned its baseball line.
It’s an interesting story about collecting from the other side of the world that you can read in the Asahi Shinbum.