Japan is Calling: Collectible Microsoft Telephone Cards

Posted on November 2, 2021 by Stephen Chapman in Microsoft with 3 Comments

If I asked you to immediately think of any type collectible item – any at all – I would be willing to bet absolutely no money whatsoever that your selection would include the words “telephone” and “card” (at least not if you hadn’t already seen the title of this post, which I kind of shot myself in the foot with here…but just go with it 🙂 ).

If you’re from Japan, however, then you actually might have thought of them since telephone cards are as common a collectible there as any other type of card anywhere in the world! As with mascots in Japan, there are phone cards to represent everything: businesses, video games, special events, landmarks, contests, celebrities, television shows, movies, adult publications/stars, and much more.

Here’s a closer look at a few of the telephone cards from my personal collection pictured above:

Unfortunately, I have absolutely no knowledge to offer at the moment insofar as the specifics of those cards! Sure, it’s simple enough to hazard a generic guess for each of them based on their respective faces, but it’s the specific context and full historical framing that remain a mystery I’m still chipping away at — you know, questions like: How many of each exist? Where/why, specifically, were they sold and/or handed out? Why does Japan always have the cool stuff?

Per my adventures thus far, it seems to be quite rare for a telephone card to don anything but non-metallic inks atop a standard plastic surface. To that end, I really love the three cards above — the first of which containing the old “blibbet” logo with silver line printing that’s reminiscent of the silver material used for scratch-off tickets. (“Blibbet” is the official word for the middle ‘O’ character used in the Microsoft logo of the first of three cards above.)

Shifting gears to some other telephone cards I’ve acquired over the years, here’s a handful of interesting ones featuring Nanami, Ai, and Yuu of the Madobe family. They are the official Microsoft mascots that were used for various promotions related to Windows 7 (Nanami) and Windows 8 (Ai and Yuu) in Japan:

For now, I’ll let you marinate in your questions/thoughts/excitement/confusion in regards to the characters in the picture above, but only because I’ve almost completed an upcoming piece in which I fully detail the topic of “OS-tan” (which I first teased in this article). Buckle your seatbelt for that one once it’s ready!

Suffice it to say, if you’re a collector who thinks they have it all but you’ve yet to poke around Japan, then I might actually be willing to bet something more than zero dollars that quite a few discoveries across new form factors (more of which I’ll be detailing later) await you. In fact, the more obscure, the better your luck could be — or so has been the case for me.

If you’d like to read a bit more about the historicity of telephone cards in the context of being Japanese collectibles, I highly recommend this archived article, as well as this NYT article from 1999 that notes the value of certain cards ranging in the high-thousands of dollars (and that was back in 1999).

With that, I’ll now bring to a close today’s journey into Microsoft-related collectibles from Japan. Thanks for reading!

-Stephen

For a sneak peek into more of my collection and some of what’s to come, you can follow me on Twitter at @beta_collector!

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Comments (3)

3 responses to “Japan is Calling: Collectible Microsoft Telephone Cards”

  1. Rafael Rivera

    I'm also curious about the notches on each card. Perhaps they are for accessibility purposes -- to ensure correct card orientation before insertion? Or maybe machines have a latch that locks the card into place? Or all of the above?

    • Stephen Chapman

      Good questions! One thing we know for sure is that none of them developed Minecraft...

    • sykeward

      The notches in the cards are an accessibility feature. Phone cards have round notches, transit cards have a triangular notch, and gift/shopping cards have square notches. From what I read, the notches are off-center so vision-impaired users can make sure that the card is in the proper orientation to be inserted into the reader, which is with the notches pointing outwards and closer to the left edge.