Wow, I was looking over the list of cards in our Helmar-R319 series that have retired over the past few months. As you know, we auction about four prints of a card each year until we reach the total that we intend to sell. In the case of this series we planned on selling twenty prints of each. It saddens me a bit when a card reaches retirement.
The good part about a card retirement is that in one sense the fun is just beginning. At this point the card has entered the secondary market and the twenty or so lucky souls that are fortunate enough to own a print have something very, very rare. In a few weeks we’ll be introducing the Helmar Marketplace on our website; this should help Helmar collectors connect more easily.
Anyway, here is a sampling of recent retirees:
It is time for an update on our Joe Wood Boston Garter rug project. So far the weaving map has been made and all the wool and art silk has been dyed to our specifications. This means that we are at the stage where the hard part begins–and in this case we are depending upon the expertise of India’s women crackerjacks to tie the actual knots. Everything looks great to this point, doesn’t it? I’ll try to find out the names of the women here. Note: we are looking at the back of the rug.
If you are like me–and I’m sure that you are–every time you’ve ever walked across a hand-knotted rug you’ve asked yourself, “Gee, I wonder how they know where to put each color of thread?” The answer is that a map is produced before a single knot has been tied. These color maps are usually called “cartoons”. Here is the cartoon of our Joe Wood rug.
A great deal of planning goes into a hand-knotted rug before it even gets on the loom. First, of course, the basic design is agreed upon and colors that will be needed are selected. In our case the design will be based upon our Boston Garter Joe Wood art card. A true four-color is not possible with jacquard and so representational art, such as our Wood, is usually not attempted. With endless varieties of beautiful geometric designs readily available to the weavers that we will work with, there is usually little point in attempting to convey subjects as difficult as as subjective as the human face. However, this is Helmar and we always seem to be pushing the envelope.
Two issues are of immediate concern. In order to accomplish the intricate design that we’ve chosen it will be necessary for the weaver to make 300 hand-knots per inch when I can barely tie my shoe once. Secondly, a high quality hand-knotted rug will sometimes include up to a dozen different colors of yarn. Our piece, however, will have up to 25. The more colors that need to be integrated the more difficult the weaving. There’s no question; we’ll need an experienced artisan at the loom.
I’ll leave you with just one photo today–our yarn has already been dyed. Here is what it looks like:
Last year Mike Shannon, long-time envy of baseball writers everywhere, kindly agreed to write the backs of my Helmar “Game of the Century” series. What a great job he did! Mike used the “voice” of a 1930’s sportswriter when doing the compositions. I had to laugh the first time I read through his submissions… they were right on and were the perfect compliment to the art deco style portraits. Here is one example, front and back:
Mike is the forever editor of the magazine Spitball, which he founded back in 1981. If you are a baseball fan and have not subscribed you are missing the best value out there! Don’t bother with the one or two year offers; a lifetime subscription is only $125! Basically the same price as a cup of coffee at Starbucks.
Mike also wrote an article published in Sports Collectors Digest (June 4, 2018) about the series. You can access it here.
A few months ago I was reading up on the stunning medieval tapestries at the NY Met. How beautiful they are! The amount of clever designing, experimenting and yes, tedious work required is mind numbing. And, as usual, I found myself wondering about this process and how it could relate to baseball. There is not a deep textile tradition in sports art and little in the way of large scale imagery.
To make a long story short, I began to research the process in some depth. It was soon apparent that old style jacquard weaving is an art that has almost disappeared. These days if you want a rug or wall hanging it is nearly always made utilizing digital printing on artificial material. Some of it looks…okay. But the real thing? You’ll have to dig deep for a traditional supplier.
After a great deal of time I have found a maker of hand-knotted carpets and we have already started on our first collaboration. For the design I’ve selected one of my favorite Helmar art cards from the Boston Garter series, Joe Wood. Here is the image:
It takes a few months of hard work to make one of these. In my next post I’ll talk more about the process.
Just thinking of Mom today, on what would have been her 87th birthday. She was the perfect mom for a young card collector. I remember those summer afternoons when she would drive us around town, visiting corner party stores and looking for packs of cards from any series other than the one that was available close by. It was thrilling to find some out of the way place that had series that we had missed. A couple times we even found packs that were one or two years old. Mom was a big supporter of my card collecting even when I was old enough to have grown out of it. Thank you, Mom, and God Bless. Say hi to dad for me.
Collector Derrick Sanders’ favorite player is the flamboyant and aggressive Pepper Martin. Who can blame him? Pepper was a 5’8″, 170 pound ball of fire. Playing 16 seasons in the big leagues he had a lifetime average of .298. He led the National League in stolen bases three times and once led in runs.
Derrick has framed his Helmar Trolley card of Pepper along with sentiments from yours truly and Sanjay Verma, the painted the wonderful portrait on the card.
Here is a close-up of the card and a second image of a new Pepper Martin card from Helmar:
Paul Conan, a relative of 19th century Hall of Famer Jim “Orator” O’Rourke, asks that I post of photo of the Helmar card of Jim O’Rourke from the long-retired Heroes of the Polo Grounds series. Here it is, Paul.
Jim had a 19 year career playing catcher, first base and the outfield. His lifetime batting average was .310. His .347 mark while playing for the Buffalo Bisons was good enough to win the 1884 batting title. Belated congratulations, Jim!
O’Rourke also appears in the Helmar Polar Night series as card number 50. The first copy brought $461 in an April, 2017 auction. Here is an image of that card:
They look like classic old baseball cards of the past – like Goudeys and Cracker Jacks and T206 tobacco cards. They are based on beautiful original artwork done by highly talented contemporary artists. They are handmade from top quality card stock and other intriguing materials and intentionally distressed so that they appeal to true collectors and not to wheeler-dealers interested only in their money-making potential. They are produced in extremely low quantities and not released in sets so that collecting them is a worthy challenge.The stunning cards we are talking about are produced by a small Michigan outfit called the Helmar Brewing Co., which is owned and run by Charles Mandel. Mandel is a visionary, an unrecognized genius and quite possibly the most important person in the baseball card hobby known by the fewest collectors. On display through May 27th.
Longtime collector John Metz was kind enough to send along a couple photos of Helmar items that he’s framed. The first item is a Lloyd Waner display where John has used an Imperial Cabinet and a smaller Helmar-R318 die cut of the great Pittsburgh outfielder. Very nice! The second piece that John has framed is the very large Pittsburgh Pirate display that we did with Let’s Play Two Collectibles.
Thanks for sharing, John!
If you would like to share photos of your displays please contact us.
Decided to market Baseball History & Art on Amazon. What can go wrong? Three issues are now available there, each come with one of the special art cards that I’ve written about in this space. If you have time, please take a moment and give us a review. It looks a bit bare without at least a couple!
I will be making these available with back orders, too. In Helmar style they will be distressed. 5″ tall.
There is a second version, with Larry Lajoie, that I will try to post later.
I finished this advertisement featuring good old Hughie Jennings today. I love Hughie. That green was used on many vintage ads and it reminds me of the famous T206 series. By the way, the advertisement is for Helmar T330 Art Stamps. There are 200 in the series and they really did turn out great. If you read the ad, you’ll see who to contact for them.
The Spring cover may have a special card that folds up into a standing display. If it works….
Anyway, here is a mock up of the next issue’s cover:
The latest issue of Baseball History & Art focuses on Brooklyn baseball and some of the most beloved players of the early decades. There is also a bit about Charles Ebbetts, builder of Ebbetts Field. Imagine, he started selling scorecards for the team in 1880 and ended up owning the team! That “can-do” attitude is one of the things that I most admire about both baseball and America in those earlier days. I suppose even now there are success stories like his; it’s just that they seem much less frequent. Maybe not, but there does seem, to me, to be one big difference. Fortunes today seem to be built overnight. Some manage it by creating a software app that will be forgotten in less ten years, some do it by scams, some do it by getting fat contracts through politicians that they seem to have paid off. How often do we hear of modern fortunes being built up slowly, over a lifetime, such as Charles Ebbetts accomplished? More important than Mr. Ebbett’s wallet is the fact that he really built up an institution (the Dodgers) that will last a long, long time. I suspect Ebbetts would be more proud of the Dodger legacy than any of the money that he made.
Anyway, here is the latest cover:
I think you’ll really enjoy this issue, especially if you like Brooklyn baseball.
The inaugural issue of Baseball History & Art is now available! Seventy-six full color, beautiful pages of baseball history with vintage Helmar-style art. Printed on thick, wonderful paper! 8.5″ x 11″, 76 pages.
If you want to learn the stories behind the player’s names, along with great art, this is the magazine for you.
This INAUGURAL issue includes:
This magazine is about BOTH baseball history and collecting. It will be published on a quarterly basis…this listing is for ONLY the first issue. You will love it!
Longtime collector Steven P reports that he has sold the set that he was offering a couple weeks ago.
Dedicated collector Steve Patterson has completed the 77 card series of Helmar Die Cuts. He is offering it for sale; you can contact him below. Previously Steve completed and sold a complete set of the E145-Helmar cards. Congratulations, Steve!
firstname.lastname@example.org or call Steve at 319 572 0393
Finds from third party sellers. The first photo is for an auction that has the first four Helmar sets, I’ve never seen that before. Click to go to the auction:
Once in a while I do like to check eBay to see what old Helmar items resurface. Here are a few of my current eBay favorites:
Just a heads-up for you Tinker fans. Saw this on eBay and think that it is interesting for the price. Click the photo to go to the auction.
Here’s an interesting manuscript illumination, now at the Walters Museum. Possibly made for John III, Lord of Ghistelles and Ingelmunster, (d. 1315). Ingelmunster is in the Belgian province of West Flanders. That bat certainly has a similar shape to the one that we are familiar with!
No, Jed Silver was not a reserve center fielder for the 1913 Sioux Falls team. Jed is alive and well, a Helmar collector with an eye for detail. Recently Jed called me out on our cabinet cards of Del Bissonette, the superb but unfortunate Brooklyn first baseman with a lifetime .305 average. Both our cabinet cards (from the Imperial Cabinet series & the Prominent Newsmakers series) depict a head shot of Bissonette wearing a “NY” cap.
For some reason I had assumed that at some point Bissonette had been a member of the New York Giants. Wrong! Jed correctly pointed out that Bissonette spent every minute of his Big League career with Brooklyn. Why then, the “NY” cap? It took a little digging but it turns out that in 1921, very early in Del’s career, he was under contract to a Yankee affiliate. Mystery solved.
Little things like this make collecting baseball history fun and even exciting. This gave me an excuse to delve calf deep into the career of one of the more interesting players of the late ’20’s-early ’30’s.
Here are a few factoids about Del:
Helmar factoids about Del:
I won’t give a long description but I do like these “photographic” tiles. The process was developed by Mr. Carlidge during his long relationship with the Sherwin & Cotton company (1882-1911). From what I’ve read, the entirety of the process has been lost. We know, however, that he prepared a silver based gel that would be applied to a ceramic tile. The rough image appeared after exposure to a photo negative. From there certain light values were removed from the surface of the tile, leaving a thin relief. The translucent glazes, considered revolutionary at the time, furthered the effect. They are quite collectible now.
The ever diligent Steven P. from West Burlington, Iowa, has placed his FULL SET of Helmar’s E145 red background cards on eBay. It was fun corresponding with Steven over an 18 month period as he put the set together. Here is the link and a photo: