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The Japanese NEC Phone Card

The Japanese NEC Phone Card

“You have visited Japan.”

– The Adventure of the Gloria Scott (GLOR)


Many of the visitors to this website probably recall the days when pay phones were a common site when walking down a city sidewalk or inside a hotel lobby. You would drop a few coins into the phone, dial the number and make your call. Perhaps you would use a calling card if you were making a long distance call. In the mid 1990’s, there started to appeared prepaid calling cards by some enterprising companies, such as AmeriVox. These prepaid calling cards would generally have 50 call units that would be redeemed at a fixed ratio as the call progressed, until the card would have no remaining call units.

In Asia, prepaid calling cards are quite prevalent and frequently used to promote products or services. Public phones are equipped with card readers. A user would insert the prepaid card into the reader, make the phone call and when finished remove the card. The card reader would punch a small hole into the card, prior to its removal, showing approximately how many call units remain, if any.

Our most recent Sherlockian phone card, pictured above, has been issued by the NEC Corporation, a Japanese multi-national information technology company. NEC, which can trace its roots back to 1898, has been the largest vendor of personal computers in Japan since the 1980’s. This card is good for 50 call units and features a caricature of Sherlock Holmes, with deerstalker, inverness cape and magnifying class with a personal computer. A city skyline appears behind Holmes. The card is white in color, with printing in black, blue, red, teal, tan and yellow inks. The “fine print” on the back indicates that the card is intended for use in Japan.

Your editor would be very grateful to be contacted by any Japanese Sherlockians, who could translate this and other Japanese phone cards.

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