Friday, April 17, 2020

Long Distance from Brazil

There has been a Blog Bat Around of late of "Things I Hate that You Love" and vice-versa. This is not that Bat Around. I'm trying to start a new one here. This one is inspired by Bo of Baseball Cards Come to Life, who posted a couple of weeks ago about a few various collections he has besides cards. Not only do I have a unique collection that was going to get a post anyway, I'd really like to see what all y'all have, too.

Using a public payphone on the streets of Cuiaba, Mato Grosso.
I spent the years of 2002 and 2003 living in Brazil. While there, I didn't own a phone. No cell phone, no landline. This was not uncommon, as many people used only the public payphones. Often, people would plan ahead the time they would call one another, then wait at the nearest payphone to their house for one party or the other to make the call. These phones didn't accept cash or coin. They had a card reader, and you would go into any store or shop and buy a card with a certain number of minutes. These cards were simply a necessity of life. But by the time I was buying them, card collecting was already deep in my veins, even if I hadn't bought sports cards for a few years before that. It was second nature to keep expired phone cards. I even found a little binder to hold them.

The cards are the size of credit cards. They were fun to save after they were used up because they were partly meant to be collected. There were series of themes with a few cards in the series. They were regional releases, so from state to state you'd usually find different designs. There were several different designs released concurrently, and each series was only released for a short time. I didn't go through them fast enough to collect entire sets, but there were a few series that I was able to get multiple cards from.

These three cards are part of a nine-card series commemorating the evolution of Brazilian currency. Here, you can see the change in currency from cruzados in the 80s, cruzeiros in the early 90s, and reais, which is the current form of currency. It speaks to the economic instability in the country that the type of currency used is changed so often. Can you imagine changing from dollars to some other form every decade or so? I'm not talking about the look of the currency; I'm talking about changing currency, like when Europeans moved over to Euros when the EU was formed.

This is the back of the currency cards. This is pretty typical. The card is inserted into the reader on the phone, and the bar code is scanned. There is information explaining the front of the card. In this case, it explains when the new type of currency was instituted and which political leader was in office. The blue marking on the left-hand card gives the series name and card number. These cards are from the Historia da Moeda Brasileira (History of Brazilian Currency), cards #6 and #9. There are nine cards in this set. The red mark on the right-hand card indicates when the card was released. These two are from February 2003.

The top two cards here are from the same series, about the blue macaw. The bottom card is a leopard. I don't know if the series was various animals or several about the leopard.

Some of the cards were promoting certain causes, like preventing Hepatitis C, ending hunger, raising money for the Alliance of Friends of Children with Cancer (the bird helping the kids build), and violence-free schools (the blue one on the right).

Some cards featured artistic endeavors. Clockwise from the top left: The Association of Visual Artists of Mato Grosso (a state in which I lived), an advertisement for a concert by the caipira group Ouro Preto Boiadeiro (Black Gold Cowboy), and the artwork of someone named Cris Conde. This person may or may not be famous, but I am mostly ignorant when it comes to art, so I really don't know.

You probably recognize these American cartoons that were popular in Brazil.

These three feature old churches in Tocantins, a state where I lived for a while. Clockwise from the top left: Sao Benedito, constructed in the late 18th century; Our Lady of the Nativity church, constructed in the mid-1700s; and an unnamed (at least on the card) church in the city of Porto Nacional.

These are fun ones. Each set has four cards and you can put them together to form a little scene. You can see the two ocean cards in the middle are #s 1 and 2, and they fit together.

This is the only completed set I have in my collection. If I recall, you could also buy mini-figures, like animals or fire trucks, that could drive on the road. I never did pick up any of those.

Some featured games or activities. The top two cards have 7 seven differences to discover. Can you find them? The bottom is a word search.

Here are a couple of sports-related cards. Brazil last won the World Cup in 2002. I just happened to live there at the time. Even though I've never been into soccer, it was certainly a pretty fun experience. This card shows the four countries in Group F of the 2002 World Cup. The card on the right has some basic specs for a game of football: the size of the ball and the field, number of players, and number of officials. American football is 100% foreign and baffling to most Brazilians.

These cards are holiday-themed. The top two cards are for Valentine's Day. Sort of. They don't actually have Valentine's Day in Brazil. These cards are for Dia dos Namorados (Lovers' Day), and it is June, not February. The middle row is for Father's Day and Mother's Day, respectively. The bottom right is for Brazil's Independence Day. It shows a progression of the Brazilian flag with the words "From monarchy to republic in three flags." The last card is obviously Christmas.

This is one of my favorites. It features a Brazilian president named Juscelino Kubitschek. He is an interesting guy to me. For one, he is like Brazil's Lincoln or Washington; he is on the short-list of best presidents regardless of who you talk to. Second, he is known by his initials, JK, much like JFK here--and there terms as president were concurrent. In 1964, a few years after JK left office, there was a military coup and Kubitschek fled the country into self-imposed exile. He returned 10 years later after his political rights were reinstated.

But here is why I find Kubitschek so fascinating: he built the city of Brasilia. Warning: Nerd Alert! I'm about to give y'all a history lesson. If this is boring to you, skip to the next paragraph. Brasilia is the capital of Brazil, but the city didn't exist until 1960. Kubitschek's idea was to move the nation's capital to the middle of the country to alleviate some of the overpopulation of the coast. The issue here was that there was no infrastructure for a city. Brasilia, the new capital, was built in the middle of nowhere, with no roads or highways or anything running to it. The only way to the city was by airplane. So the city was built in the shape of an airplane.

This is an aerial view of Brasilia. The North Wing is more residential, the South Wing is a lot of commercial, and the cockpit area holds the federal buildings. Brasilia is much like Washington, DC, in that it is a city-state surrounded by a state. Brasilia, DF is made up of this large city and a handful of smaller "satellite" cities. Even though I lived in four different states during my stint in Brazil, Brasilia and its satellite cities is where I spent most of my time.

Back to phone cards. These cards all show different places. The top left is from the Plaza of the Powers (kind of like the National Mall in DC) in Brasilia. The building shown is a monument to important National Heroes of the past. I never went inside, but I did visit the Plaza a few times. The bottom left is the city of Cuiaba, where I lived for a while. The building I marked with the red arrow was the apartment complex I lived in. The other two places look beautiful, but I don't know where they are.

Rounding out my phone card collection are some that were simply ads for the phone company.

So, for those of you who stuck around this far, I have a giveaway. Anybody who plays along with this Blog Bat Around and shows off anything they collect that is not sports cards or sports memorabilia will earn an entry in the giveaway. Just leave a comment on this post with a link to your post, and you'll get one entry. To make sure that as many people know about this contest as possible, let others know about it. Get the word out on your blog and you'll get a bonus entry. To enter, your post must be published by 11:59 MDT on April 30.

What's up for grabs? It just so happens that I have doubles of three of these phone cards:

Three winners will get their choice of card. Winner #1 gets first choice; winner #2, second choice; and so on.

So let's see what you have!

I'll end this post with one final picture. I keep these in the same little binder.

I guess these are the food issue oddballs of Brazil. These little cardboard coins came from little bags of chips. They feature cartoon characters who have been given soccer positions to make a team. I think they were to commemorate the World Cup.

I can't wait to see what all of your unique collections look like!


  1. I've been waiting to hear more about your time down there, pretty cool that you were able to talk about it, and tie it in to a "collectibles" post. I have collected so many different things over the years, some of which has been featured on the blog over the last couple of years (action figures, comic books, lobby cards, etc.), but other than some book/VHS/DVD posts, I hadn't planned on doing anything else anytime soon... might have to change those plans though?

  2. I love a good BBA. I have a few things I collect that aren't sports related.


  3. Cool BBA, I'll have to see if I have any old phone cards for you. I don't collect them myself but it's fun to see what others collect besides trading cards.
    Interesting about Kubitschek, I had heard the name but didn't know anything about him.

  4. I'm pretty sure I did a post about my other hobbies in the past, and I mention them often. I really enjoyed this! I had no idea these existed, but I would absolutely count these as trading cards if I had them. I actually have an example of the bottom currency note in my currency collection.

  5. This is a very interesting collection, I love the macaw and leopard cards in particular. Thank you for the tour of Brazil and sharing your knowledge of Brasilia. It's fascinating to me that a capital city was built basically from scratch to centralize the population.

    I'd hop on board this BBA if I had any non-sports related collections to discuss. But I'll give your contest a plug in my next post.

  6. So cool , thank you for this post

  7. I have 32 phone cards I gathered when I was deployed to Germany in 1995-96. It also includes some Israeli phone cards, as well as some U.S. phone cards, including NBC Sports. I have no use for them, if you're interested.