2008 JAPAN RELEASE
Corinthian once again appeased it’s distributors in the Far East and produced another collection of ProStars Select 500 figures, as it would turn out; this would be the very last series of Select 500 designed for the Japanese market, not a bad way to bow out either!
As with the previous Japanese releases, this release consisted of 4 players, all worthy to be included in the exclusive Select 500 range. The full line up of figures was Roberto Baggio in Italy Home kit, Hidetoshi Nakata in Bologna Home kit, Shunsuke Nakamura in Celtic Away kit and Dennis Bergkamp Arsenal Centenary home kit.
Once again the distributors in Japan decided against releasing these figures in any set structure, it seemed as though they appeared sporadically, almost taking the collector by surprise.
The Nakamura and Bergkamp surfaced initially, as for how they were distributed in Japan I am not 100% sure, but from what I can gather they were made available on a similar basis to those in the UK, free gifts for money spent with the company, which would hold true by their relative accessibility to collectors and the price they commanded.
It followed suit that any figure released inside a ‘Lucky Box’ was more valuable than the ones released for money spent, as retailers simply bought enough stock to ensure they had the Select 500 figures to meet their demands.
The Nakamura was of course an instant hit with collectors in Japan but was by no means as hard to acquire as one would first assume a Japanese player released in a Select 500 range would be. The Bergkamp is a stunning figure, the detail on the Arsenal Centenary kit is superb, and even down to the last detail of having ‘Highbury 1913 - 2006’ printed on the back of the shirt.
Japanese collectors have long held a love obsession with Italian Roberto Baggio, so of course he was a must for inclusion in this series of Select 500. Given the staggering amount of Baggio ProStars already in existence, you would have feared that Corinthian had already exhausted all kits he had played in, however they scoured the archives and managed to find a kit he had yet to be released in.
The Baggio figure was this time not released inside a ‘Lucky Box’ it was instead to be included in Foot Circle’s (Foot Circle was Corinthian’s Japanese distributor) New Year Lucky Bag! This bag contained a whole host of Corinthian products, most of it was of course old stock which was not selling but inside this Red New Year bag was a Baggio Select 500, guaranteed! The price of the New Year Lucky Bags were about £75, so although the bag contained a lot of old stock, it was certainly worth buying just for the Baggio. The New Year Lucky Bag was a Red paper bag, about A3 size and just had all the figures placed inside.
So all that is left to discuss is the Hidetoshi Nakata and I must admit that when I heard that Nakata was to feature in a Japan released Select 500 range, I feared my collection would never be complete! Some time passed between the release of the Nakamura, Bergkamp and Baggio and the announcement of the Nakata figure, which led many collectors to believe that perhaps there were to be only 3 figures in the set, not the customary 4.
As with the Baggio, Nakata had already been released in a variety of shirts, in fact Corinthian had nearly all clubs he had played for, which were:
Perugia - released home and way in ProStars series 4
Roma - released home and away as Japan Specials
Parma - released as a Reseller Special
Fiorentina - released in home kit in ProStars series 30
Bolton Wanderers - released in home and away kit in ProStars series 31
However there was a solitary club that Nakata had played for and he had not already been released in, this club was Bologna. Nakata went on loan to Bologna in 2004 and despite making a meagre 17 appearances for the Italian club; it was enough for him to be deemed worthy of inclusion in the ProStars Select 500 range.
I must admit that when Johnny Carson informed me that Nakata was to be included in the range, I feared the worst. Japan released select 500 figures were already hard enough to acquire, so I dreaded to think how hard it was going to be to get one of Japan sporting idol Nakata, and I dared not thing of the monetary cost!
I had first feared that the distributor would place Nakata inside one of their now iconic ’Lucky Boxes’ however as it transpired he was released In similar fashion to the Baggio, placed inside their New Year Lucky Bag, which again sold for around £75.
Luckily for me, a collector friend of mine called Rikky Smith had formed a friendship with Ken Hinatra at Foot Circle, so he was able to acquire Nakata relatively easily and for a reasonable price. Despite the relative ease in which I obtained the Nakata the figure remained fairly elusive and seldom appeared for sale, which I attribute not to a distribution error but down purely to collector demand in Japan, put simply, collectors in Japan wanted the Nakata in their collections, with no desire to sell to collectors in the UK for an inflated price.
Had I not been able to obtain my Nakata ‘direct from source’ as it were, I think I would have struggled to get one for some time and would have had to wait for them to appear on the secondary market.
This is a truly fine and superbly detailed set of figures and a fine way for the product to bid farewell to the country that truly embraced the product and made it so collectable. All 4 have remained incredibly rare and are seldom seen for sale, so do not pass up the chance if you are offered one
Centenary Home 2005/06