Taba vs. Boxes vs. Sheets
Ask any elderly Japanese person about dagashiya and they will usually recount a tale of their favorite snack or a special dagashiya they would frequent in their childhood. Dagashiya means “Cheap Sweets Store” and is basically an old fashioned penny candy store. Unfortunately, dagashiya are on the decline in Japan, but they still can be found here and there and when you do run across one it’s always worth a look inside; especially when you are on the hunt for sumo menko.
During the menko era from the 1930s-1960s, menko manufactures would sell their menko products in dagashiya because this was the gathering place for the main buyers of their menko---schoolkids. It would work something like this. First, a particular company would print out a set of menko, wrap each individual menko in a handmade newspaper envelope and then string 100 or so packs together with a sting and form what is known as a taba pack. About 7 or so of these menko would be randomly stamped with a number 1, 2 or 3 winner stamp on the back. The manufacturing company would then package a prize sheet and uncut sheets of menko along with the taba pack and sell it to dagashiya wholesalers. Dagashiya owners would then make their supply runs to these wholesalers and buy their stock of sweets as well as pick-up any taba packs that they might need or feel that they can sell. The most popular theme for menko at the time were baseball, sumo and various anime characters. Once back at the dagashiya, the owners would take the prize sheet from the taba pack and hang it up in the store. Most often the uncut sheets of menko were glued to the prize sheet at the factory, but some had to be glued at the dagashiya. Glue residue is quite common on many menko that survive today. The prize sheet would normally have 1-#1 prize, 2-#2 prizes and 4-#3 prizes. Usually the #1 prize would be a “supersized” menko of a popular yokozuna of the time of a sheet of 16 uncut menko from the set. A typical #2 prize would be an uncut sheet of 4 or 8 menko and a typical #3 prize would usually be a pair of uncut menko. The final process was for the owner to hang the taba pack from the ceiling by the string where kids would pay about 1 yen to pull an envelope from the pack. If they opened the envelope and pulled a winner menko, they would get the corresponding prize according to their winner stamp.
There were several other ways manufactures packaged menko besides taba packs. The second most common way was to wrap 3-4 menko in a fine tissue paper and then package them in boxes. Random winner menko were inserted as well and the most common prizes for boxed menko were uncut sheets as they could be packaged easily inside the box with the other menko. The earliest form of packaging were sheets of menko where children would “pop” out the menko. This allowed children to see the menko they were purchasing so the introduction of prizes and winner stamps didn’t come into fashion until the early 1950s and then introduction of taba packs.
Lastly, kids could purchase whole sheets of cards. Although, not as common of a method as taba or boxes, these are actually the hardest to find because many kids would cut them apart after they purchased them. Again, see below for an example of this.
|Taba bundle with folded up prize sheet attached|
|2nd Level Prize
(4-menko sheets) and 3rd Level Prize (Pair sheets) still attached to the prize sheet.
|Boxed Gold Proof Menko. Note the gold ink used in printing this card! These menko were used as prize menko in boxes.|
|40 menko sheet that kids could purchase and cut apart themselves.|