Other special photographs under the B.L.T. label25 April, 2013 by Chad
In this second part of our ongoing guide on collectible AKB48 photos, we take a look at the other special photographs released by B.L.T.. Like in the previous part, we’ll run through all the different types of limited edition B.L.T. photographs, along with how they are obtained. We’ll leave the market information and price speculation to another time, but given their limited print, may be more difficult to get your hands on.
Release: Every 3 Months
U-17 is a seasonal B.L.T. gravure publication featuring idols and actresses which are under 17 years of age. The trend for it is to have front and reverse covers, featuring a small number of members from a 48 group on one side and a model, actress or other idol group on the other. Like the regular B.L.T. magazines, U-17 magazines are ordered online through the official site. At time of ordering, you can choose between receiving 48 related photographs, or those of the other featured girls. U-17s cost 1,500 yen each and come with 3 random photographs. Unlike regular B.L.T. magazines, there is usually no limit to how many U-17s one can buy.
Physically U-17 magazines are a much better buy themselves. They are usually pretty thick and are chocked full of photographs and interviews with the featured artists, provided you’re in to that sort of stuff. Though it works out to the same on a per photo basis, the additional weight and shipping costs involved, coupled with the limited number of members featured tends to limit the sales of the magazine. As such, U-17 edition photographs are pretty rare, and can be expensive when it features popular members. The price usually increases greatly when the issue mixes popular and unpopular members, since the random factor creates a greater risk.
U-17s usually feature 4-6 members of any particular group in candid photographs. U-17s always have a red bar with the current season stated but otherwise follow a similar format as regular BLTs. Traditionally, most special B.L.T.s have a red bar, though the later sets also sometimes used black bars too. Each individual girl will have 2 candid individual photographs and a 3rd photograph that is shared with another member. Finally, there is a group shot of all the members involved in the shoot. This group photo used to be pretty common but recent issues have made it rarer, causing its value to be grossly inflated.
Individual U-17s sell for anywhere between 500 to up to 2,000 yen for popular members, with the group photo going for many times more. While we cannot give an accurate estimation of how many U-17s are available, the number is low, with the number actually in circulation being negligible.
The AKB48 B.L.T. Weekly Calendar was a calendar sold once a year featuring images of the group’s members. Like many of the other AKB48 B.L.T. publications, these have ceased production (Try-X handle the AKB48’s calendars now) but as of 2012-2013 were still available for the rival and sister groups.
Each calendar costs 2,500 yen and contains 5 random photographs. While there are a total of 7 different designs per member, one for each day of the week. The members are encouraged to add in designs to the photographs (usually the names of the days of the week in a stylized manner) and these are digitally printed onto the photographs themselves. The Weekly Calendar photographs are quite typical of normal B.L.T. photographs, except that they usually feature the members in their own plain clothes.
The weekly calendars are one of the few B.L.T. products which you can purchase directly from third party stores that ship overseas like CDJapan, or certain physical book store. Pretty much every other B.L.T. type product requires you to make a pre-order directly from the B.L.T. website itself, which does not ship overseas (though you may use a deputy service). Unlike regular calendars though, the 46/48 group calendars are released at different times of the year, so you have to keep a look out.
Again the cost per photograph is strategically kept the same, and you get a nifty wall calendar too. However not as many collect the weekly calendar photographs, due to the high difficulty of completing a set of 7 photographs. The larger investment per calendar and the fact that the photos do not fall under the regular B.L.T. series also deter collectors. Weekly Calendar photographs are thus quite a bit rare than the previously mentioned B.L.T. types but as a result of their lower demand, the individual prices of calendar photos tend to be not too different from regular B.L.T.s.
Price: Medium-Very High
AKB48 and the sister groups used to release annual self-designed t-shirts through B.L.T. as well. Nogizaka46 still released some B.L.T. tees last year but the trend now is for the 48 groups to release the shirts themselves. The B.L.T. shirts are available on a pre-order basis only. A few months before the shirts are actually released, designs for all available members are announced on their website.
The B.L.T. shirts cost 3,000 yen each and come with one limited B.L.T. photograph (usually of the member wearing the tee). Fans are limited to purchasing 10 shirts per shipping address, this couple with the high cost, makes the B.L.T. t-shirt photos some of the rarest, especially for the less popular members. Since one gets to choose which member’s tee to purchase, and thus which photograph to receive, there is a very limited market for trade.
The trend is for popular members to see a surplus of t-shirts due to third parties ordering them in bulk in hopes of reselling them, so you can sometimes find popular members tees for sale on the secondary market. Less popular members tees and photos are especially rare and can fetch very high prices. Due to the nature of the item prices for previous years tees can reach exorbitant prices (think hundreds) when unused and with photograph intact.
Like other B.L.T. products, 1 autographed photograph and 5 autographed tees are randomly distributed to those ordering. Much like autographed jerseys, depending on the popularity of the individual member, these shirts can fetch between a few hundred, to about a thousand dollars.
While sometimes not explicitly labelled as such, there were a number of other one shot publications that can be credited to B.L.T. or their publisher Tokyo News Service. This includes Kashiwagi Yuki’s first photobook and the PHOTORE series featuring Kashiwagi as well. The bi-yearly AKB48 Visual Book is a good example in that included photographs following the existing B.L.T. format, but in sets of 9 or 16.
Prices of all these other random publications vary greatly. Depending on the size of the run and demand, some of these photographs may fetch quite a price. However many of these books tended to have a larger print runs, or stay in print for a while. As a result the value of individual photographs tended to be lower. For example, each issue of the 2,500 yen PHOTORE books came with 12 photographs out of 150 designs and are thus valued lower than regular B.L.T.s.
In the next guide, we begin exploring the expansive world of AKB48 theater photographs.Click here to search CDJapan for official AKB48 goods.