Saturday, January 16, 2021

Nintendo cards sets from the 1970s

The previous post featured a sales promotion leaflet for the Nintendo Paper Model series from the mid 1970s. Today we will take a look at an other leaflet from that same period, which I also acquired recently.

This one advertises various educational card series that Nintendo offered at the time. These cards focus on Japanese language, vocabulary and poetry, and they were used to play various games.

1970s Nintendo cards leaflet (front)

One side of the leaflet shows the range of so-called Iroha Karuta (いろはかるた), that are aimed at children and feature colourful drawings related to the topic (animals, vehicles, school etc).

A more extensive description of these cards and how they are used was given in this older post.

Two of the Iroha Karuta sets feature historic scenes from the former capital Kyoto (京 いろはかるた) as well as from ancient Tokyo, called Edo at the time (江戸 いろはかるた).

Edo and Kyoto Iroha Karuta sets

Moving to the back of the leaflet (or is this the front?), where a whole range of Hyakunin Isshu (百人一首) card sets is shown.

1970s Nintendo cards leaflet (back)

We haven't covered these cards on this blog yet, which is actually surprising, as they are an important early product of Nintendo, next to Hanafuda. Nintendo has been producing these (almost) from the start of the company, and still sells these to this day in Japan.

Hyakunin Isshu means '100 people, 1 poem [each]'. The game that is played with these cards, called Uta-garuta, is a one of the most well known traditional family games in Japan, that is also played at a more serious competitive level.

Similarly to the Iroha Karuta sets, the set contains matching pairs of cards. In this case, each pair contains a card with a strophe of a well known poem and a card with the first syllables of that strophe. 

During the game, the players have to recognise and grab the card with the full poem when the those first syllables are read out. It's a game that requires memorising skills, as well as fast reflexes.


A total of 100 card pairs is included in a Hyakunin Isshu set, by 100 different poets. Hence the name. An age-old standard set of 100 poems is used, called the Ogura set, named after the district in Kyoto where the scholar who compiled this set lived in the 12th century. The full name of these set is Ogura Hyakunin Isshu (小倉百人一首).

The table at the bottom of the leaflet shows the wide variety of sets offered. In the basis these are all the same, featuring the same set of poems. The difference lies in the quality of the material of the cards and the storage boxes. The prices go from ¥1.000 for the simplest sets up to ¥5.000 for sets that are more beautifully decorated and have cloth covered or hard plastic boxes.

For more on the Iroha Karuta cards, check out this earlier post.

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Nintendo paper model leaflet from mid 1970s

Welcome to 2021 and best wishes to you all. We will start the new year with a couple of short posts featuring some recent finds.

Shown in the picture below are two one-page leaflets for Nintendo products from the mid 1970s that I acquired recently; one of the Paper Model (ペーパーモデル) series and the other for cards games.

These leaflets were part of Nintendo's sales material and used to promote new products to potential (wholesale) buyers from toy and hobby shops. They are about A4 size and printed double-sided in color.

In this post we will take a look at the Paper Model one, and the other one is shown in more detail in a next post.

The front side shows a description of the Paper Model series and an overview of fourteen models in the Vehicle Series (のりものシリーズ). These were fun card board hobby sets, retailing for a modest ¥100.

Paper Model leaflet - front (1974)

At a later date this series was extended with two extra ones, bringing the total different vehicle models to sixteen. [As an aside, although most of the Paper Model series still is not that difficult to find in Japan these days through Yahoo Auctions, these last two models are much rarer.]

Paper Model leaflet - back (1974)

The back of the leaflet shows two other series available at the time: the Building Series (たてものシリーズ)...


... and the Zoo Series (どうぶつシリーズ).


Not shown on the leaflet is the fourth series with more elaborate Paper Model sets, the so called Panorama Series (パノラマシリーズ), which was released later in 1974.


The leaflet also shows two display options available to shops: a counter stand (86 centimeters high) and a floor stand (148 centimeters).

To find out more about the Nintendo Paper Model series, check out this previous post.

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Nintendo Love Tester sold in 1971 in USA

The Love Tester, created by Nintendo in 1969, was an electronic gadget intended to break the ice between dating couples, by giving them something to talk about and an innocent reason to touch each other.

Although based on relative simple technology, it was nevertheless a stepping stone for the company on its path towards more advanced electronic toys and games.

Nintendo Love Tester (1969)

The Love Tester proved quite a sales hit in Nintendo's home country Japan. However, at the time Nintendo had no sales organisation outside Japan. Perhaps they also had little desire to expand their buying audience that way, being busy enough conquering their local market. That certainly changed in the 1980s, when they started having increasing international successes with arcade games, handheld electronics and video games, and built their own worldwide marketing, sales and distribution network on the back of that commercial success.

That does not mean that no Nintendo products from the 1970s or earlier found their way into the hands of customers outside Japan. Toys like Challenge Dice, Ultra Machine (Slugger Mate) and Ultra Scope were sold abroad, through various Western sales companies, who bought stock and did some light localisation.

One of such deals involved the Lido Designs Inc company from New York, who offered the Love Tester through mail order to the American public in the early 1970s.

Instructions for one person and for couples

In the Lido Designs version of the Love Tester, an instruction leaflet in English replaces the original Japanese manual.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Nintendo Ele-conga Soft Case (エレコンガ ソフトケース) from 1972

One of the intriguing Nintendo products from the 1970s is the Ele-conga, an analogue electronic musical instrument.

Although not hugely expensive given its build quality (retailing at ¥9.800, which is roughly ¥30.000 in todays money when corrected for inflation), it was intended to be a serious instrument, not a toy.

That Nintendo was aiming for this to be an item for adults, is evident from the photo on the front of the promotional leaflet. It shows a trio of grown-ups making music with two Ele-congas, accompanied by an acoustic guitar.

Ele-conga Leaflet (front and back)

On the back of this leaflet, besides an extensive description of all of the features of the Ele-conga itself, three accessories are listed, that were sold separately as options:
  • Auto Player (available for an additional ¥1.200)
  • Connector Cord (¥500)
  • Soft Case (¥1.000)

The Auto Player (オートプレーヤー), pictured in the left-bottom corner of the back of the leaflet, allowed for programmed rhythms to be repeated (semi) automatically.

Although the Ele-conga includes its own speaker, it was possible to connect it to the line-in of a music center or tape deck, for external amplification or recording. The Connector Cord (コネクタコード) was a two-meter long cable that provided the required connection, using standard 3.5 mm jacks.

While pretty rare today, both the Ele-conga and Auto Player can be found as second hand items in Japan, if you know where to look and show some patience and perseverance. An official Ele-conga Connector Cord, however, I have never seen in real life. At least, not yet, as I hope to still find one, one day.

As is often the case, accessories such as these are very hard to find, as they were sold in (much) smaller numbers than the Ele-conga itself. They also got misplaced or lost more easily, or no longer recognised for what they were, and thrown out.

Ele-conga options (accessories): Auto Player, Connector Cord and Soft Case

For many years, the Soft Case (ソフトケース) for me also remained only an option listed on a piece of paper. As no picture was included on the leaflet, and none of these were reported to exist in collector circles, it was not clear what this case looked like, or if it was actually produced and sold at all.

This changed recently, when one of these crossed paths with me.

So presented here in its full glory: an original Ele-conga Soft Case from 1972!