As part of the second portion of our AKB48 photo guide, we focus on the special photos done by B.L.T. These are limited edition photographs and hard to find. They are also difficult to price since they have become coveted collector’s items for all AKB48 fans.
The U-17 Batch
This is the set of rare Under 17 or U-17 B.L.T. pictures that feature members who fall under this age category. In the B.L.T. magazines which were published every quarter, the issues have the good quality photos on the front and back pages. These issues never hit the stands since they were only available for online sales. The advantage with the online sales is that it gave the buyer a chance to pick from among 48 celebrity photos or buy the U-17 AKB48 batch. The AKB48 U-17 was sold for 1,500 yen each with 3 random photos. B.L.T. did not enforce a limit on the number of photos a buyer could order for the U-17 batch.
These quarterly magazines were considered a better buy than the monthly issues because they were thicker and contained more in the form of pictures and interviews. However, since the orders were shipped to the buyer, there was the additional cost of shipping which made the purchase more expensive than the monthly issues. Also, B.L.T.’s pick of featured photos for U-17 batch were not based on popularity meaning the chances of getting a photo of an unpopular member was just about the same as being send photos of your favorite idol. Still, since the U-17 batches were expensive, the popular images became expensive collector’s items.
Details on the U-17 Photos
The U-17 photos are candid pictures of 4 to 6 members in no particular order except that they are all under 17 years of age. Each U-17 picture has a red bar. In the bar is information about the member and the current season. Since other B.L.T. photos also used a red bar, the company changed the color to black bars.
One set of U-17 includes 2 individual candid shots, one shot with 2 girls, and one group shot. At the start of the U-17 sets, the group shots were easy to collect although through the years, they became harder to find which increased its value by a large percent.
It is possible to buy single U-17 pictures but the price of individual photographs can reach as high as 2,000 yen each especially if the photo is of a very popular member. The lowest price of an individual U-17 shot is around 500 yen. Since the group shots became so rare, fans were willing to pay much higher than 2,000 yen, sometimes more than triple the value. The fact that there are not many U-17 photos in circulation means the selling price tends to fluctuate and increase erratically.
The AKB48 Weekly Calendar
Once a year, the AKB48 B.L.T. would come out with their weekly calendars. It was always a highly anticipated event by all their fans even though they were sold for a high price. Not a lot of copies are printed which adds to the frenzy among fans to get a copy. The last batch of weekly calendars by B.L.T. was the 2012-2013 one. It remains to be seen whether there will be weekly calendars for next year since no new contract was signed. However, there is another group that offers AKB48 calendars and so you can look them up if you want. They are called the Try-X group.
The calendar has 5 random pictures and sells for 2,500 yen. Each member gets 7 designs to cover the 7 days in a week. You will notice that there are some add-ons in the photographs and these are intentionally included by the member herself. Most times, the member simple writes the day or the week in her own handwriting or creative style. Another interesting detail is that the girls are dressed casually and out of costume.
These weekly calendars are available from several sources. Some of the vendors are even willing to ship online orders to overseas buyers. Other buyers display the calendars in their brick and mortar stores. If you plan to buy from the B.L.T. website you need to place your order even before the calendars are available since the quantities are limited. As B.L.T. does not ship overseas you can use From Japan as your shopping agent. Also, it is important to keep yourself updated with the B.L.T. website in case of new releases since the weekly calendars don’t follow a scheduled release date.
Although rare, the weekly calendars are not as in demand as the B.L.T. series because fans find it hard to complete sets and the costs are higher. Thus, as collector’s items, they don’t have more leverage than the regular series from B.L.T. even though you do get that nice wall calendar.
The AKB48 T-Shirts
T-shirts are a big deal for fans of the AKB48. B.L.T. releases new designs every year and they can be quite expensive. These are designed by the members and their sister groups and sold through B.L.T. Another all girl group, Nogizaka46, deemed as the arch rival of AKB48 also had t-shirts of their own released by B.L.T. as well. Whether this prompted the decision of AKB48 to release their t-shirts on their own is something we’ll never know. The B.L.T. tees are also available only on pre-orders and designs are posted months ahead of the release date.
Each B.L.T. t-shirt sells for 3,000 yen and comes with one photo of the member featured on the t-shirt. Buyers can only buy up to 10 pieces although they can order more if they use a different shipping address. Since the cost of the t-shirt and shipping is high, the market is limited but at the same time, this makes the photographs rare. In fact, in a strange twist, the less popular a member is, the harder it is to find the B.L.T. t-shirt and photograph. Right now, there are several third parties selling AKB48 t-shirts although they are more expensive since these vendors are re-selling to make a profit.
Other Special Photos
There are other special AKB48 photos that pop up once in a while like in the photobook of Kashiwagi Yuki, the PHOTORE series, and the one off shots by other publications associated with Tokyo News Service. The group also has a visual book with sets of 9 or 16 photos similar to the B.L.T format.
Some of these special photos are very expensive while others are not. It really would depend on the print run. However, these special photos still tend to be valued lower than the B.L.T. series. Stay tuned for the next post on the theater photos of AKB48.
In the meantime you might want to search for your favorite members photos using the From Japan search engine.