(Fronts and backs are pictured together throughout this post.)
I still have a lot to learn about menko, which are often smaller than standard North American cards and thicker, too. But for me, one of the best parts of collecting anything is doing the research and learning about your collection, so I really look forward to digging deeper into the history of these Japanese beauties.
I've picked up eight menko over the past year or so, all baseball themed. As many of you collectors likely know, the subjects go well beyond baseball players. Images of automobiles, movie stars, robots, monsters, samurai, sumo, and more can be found. Most of the menko here date from the 1950s and 1960s, I think.
I'm enjoying the various images and illustrations. (Check out the classy spectacles and pose on that Chunichi Dragons pitcher above.) The designs on the back can vary greatly, but I do enjoy the cartoon-ish ones.
I also like the fact that menko were designed as a game for kids. From what I've gathered so far, a player puts one of their menko on the floor, face up, and the other player takes one of their menko and flings it down, trying to flip the first menko over on its back.
If that reminds you of the Pogs craze of the mid-1990s, you're not alone. If the idea of deliberately banging up your cards makes you cringe, you're also not alone. But menko were meant to be played with, and I think that's a good way to view them when it comes to condition.
For another interesting aspect of menko, look closely at some of the card backs. You'll see what appears to be a rock-paper-scissors type of game, with a small illustrated hand taking on the shape of a rock or a scissor (I don't have any examples of paper yet). I wonder if this was used for a trading game, where you'd each flip down a card, back side up, and see whose card had the winning object. Man, that'd be a tough way to lose a card.
And now I do, too.
Thanks for reading, as always.