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Charles

This blog is about vintage and hand-made baseball cards, art, brewing and cigars, history and anything interesting that I think should be passed along. Come often, you are welcome!
Charles has written 193 posts for helmarblog

Honus Wagner Badge


Honus Wagner Sporting Goods by Helmar

I did this for the Honus Wagner Sporting Goods Company. Charles

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Mike “King” Kelly Art


Helmar Mike “King” Kelly

Something else I have been playing around with. Here’s King Kelly, well-known as the “10 Thousand Dollar Man”. Let me know if you would like to see a series like this, please. Charles

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Abner Doubleday, Blues


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Exhibit Display #3, Cleveland


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Jack Barry, Philadelphia A’s


Jack Barry, by Natallia Valiukevich

Natallia is coming along very well with her watercolors. We’ve been adding more color to her uniforms which, in my view, adds nice complexity and depth.

You might remember Jack Barry as the longtime shortstop, mainly for the Athletics. Over eleven seasons he only managed a .243 batting average but no one can deny that he knew how to win. His A’s teams won World Series Championships in 1910, 1911 and 1913. They also appeared in the 1914 World Series but the incredible Boston Braves were not to be denied. Boston swept the more polished team in just four games.

Connie Mack broke up the team over the winter and Barry was sold to the Boston Red Sox. He took his winning ways with him and that very season saw Boston in the World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies and their ace, Grover Cleveland Alexander. Boston took the series in five.

Minnesota Fats on the Table


Minnesota Fats by Helmar.

There’s a lot that I like about this one: the sweater, the background works well and, of course, it is a very good likeness. It will be fun to come back to this series soon. I am doubtful that the prints will get the price results that I hope for but it is well worth doing anyway. Perhaps an album to go along with the cards is worth considering if I can come up with something new. Charles

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As You’ve NEVER Seen Him!


Jim Jeffries Helmar art.

I’m really regretting that I chose white for the early boxing trunks for obvious reasons. It is a beautiful painting, though, of a great boxer. Should I change the color for the card, when it is made? Charles

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Exhibit Display #2, Cleveland


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1910 World Series


1910: Philadelphia vs. Chicago. Helmar, not published.

The Athletics took the series four games to one. Charles


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Ancient Poses, Modern Art


I thought that it would be an interesting idea to pose some of my favorite players in the style of ancient Greek and Roman statuary. Here’s the finished version of Tony Lazzeri and below you’ll find the related materials. Paintings of two or three other players are partially composed but this is a low priority at the moment.

Here’s the image that inspired the painting. It’s a natural pose for a ballplayer, though I replaced the boar with something more appropriate.

One version of the digital mock-up. I ended up putting the player’s name on the bag because I like the way that it was done on the Boston Garter series. The bag itself is similar to some bags that were used to carry practice baseballs. Charles

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A Slick Willie Mosconi


Willie Mosconi by Helmar Brewing

I can imagine Mosconi here saying, “Sure, I’ll play for a little money. But take it easy on me”. Charles

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Exhibit Display #1, Cleveland


Display done for exhibition at the Baseball Heritage Museum at League Park, Cleveland.

Added to the Website!


Remember these? The Famous Athletes series marked the beginning. Inserted into colorful bags of potato chips and caramel corn, the first series of seventy-four cards appeared on Midwestern grocery shelves in 2005. Three cards came in a silver foil wrapping printed with an image of Frank Baker. Subjects included boxers, Negro and Japanese baseball players along with the barnstorming Benton Harbor House of David squad-very unusual for the time. A scratch-off back enabled consumers to win prizes. Also notable is the fact that the artwork for every card had been hand painted; it took two years to paint the series and was the largest hand painted series done for the hobby in several decades.

Further series were added over the coming years but until now a checklist has been unavailable. We’ve finally gotten around to it and you can see the checklist with photos of each of the cards at our website here. You’ll simply need to sign into your free account. It’s easy to keep track of which cards that you own and you can buy, sell or trade for others on the Helmar Marketplace. Visit us often! Charles

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Test Card Backs


As Helmar collectors know, there are a number of different back designs in our Helmar-T206 series. Collecting the backs has become something of a niche. Over the next several weeks I will be auctioning off early sample cards that I made using different back designs that were, for some reason or another, never used. This should be of interest to future collectors. The cards generally have test notations and markings. These may appear on the front and/or the back. I will note here that the majority of the sample cards had a front design with Johnson.

Here’s a test back for “Pin Head” cigarettes. I don’t recall why I didn’t end up using this design; I think that it was because I was choosing more colorful backings.

Each back is one of one and I just recently mounted them. Charles


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Dazzy Vance, Brooklyn Jacket


Dazzy Vance: Led the NL in strikeouts seven straight years.

I’m partial to paintings of players wearing sweaters and jackets. It’s an added opportunity to play with colors and textures. This card of the irrepressible Dazzy Vance was #278 in the Helmar-R319 series. It is retired though I may have one more mounted in my stack. I suspect other collectors like poses such as this. The highest price paid for the other card of Vance in the same series, #6, was half as much as this one. Charles

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Three Boston Catchers


The Cincinnati Jungle Club


This painting became card #118 in Helmar’s R319 series

This is one of my favorite cards that we’ve done. Sanjay Verma did the original painting in gouache, as usual. The size of the original is only 3″ x 3.5″. I think that it is incredible to get that much detail into such a small space. Charles

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George Armstrong Custer


George Armstrong Custer by Helmar

This will be another art card in our series of Western subjects. Charles

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Lincoln in the Field


Helmar colorized photo: Abraham Lincoln

363. That’s all you need to remember.


Warren Spahn, 363 victories. I don’t think that he lost any.


Gouache, 3″ x 4″.


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Early Henry Ford


By Helmar Brewing.

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T-Shirt Design, Terrapins


Federal League Baltimore Terrapins design by Helmar

Always something different to think about… Charles

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The Little Scooter


I like this one. Gouache.

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The Great Pancho Barnes


Art by Helmar Brewing, as always

I can’t even begin to describe the life of Pancho Barnes; it is best to look it up. Make sure that you have a couple of hours to do so as you’ll not want to stop reading! Charles

We did the art for this series three years ago and are just getting around to making the project a reality.

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Nellie Fox gets a shot to Play.


Here’s our latest gouache: Nellie Fox.

How many of you were lucky enough to see Nellie play? I missed that but I did have a small interaction with him in late 1971 as he was coaching for the Washington Senators and their manager, Mr. Ted Williams.

Now, Nellie was a big idol for me and seeing him in person was a very big deal. Sure, I may have missed out on his entire career but he was already being featured in some of the baseball books that I regularly devoured. In addition, I had cunningly traded for his 1960 card from an older kid down the street. And being mostly a second base-shortstop sort of fellow, well, it was just natural to look up to Nellie. That pumped up cheek of his seemed to be just the sort of attitude that a young infielder should emulate.

I don’t recall the results of that 1971 game but afterwards my dad allowed us kids to linger around the visitor’s exit and team bus. We regularly did this and from my personal experience that day I can attest that the Baseball Encyclopedia has it all wrong: Frank Howard was at least nine feet tall, perhaps more; Ted Williams reached about eight feet and Nellie Fox was certainly a seven-footer.

The Senators were very good signers that day with the exception of these three fellows. Frank Howard kind of looked at me as if no one had ever asked for his autograph before and couldn’t imagine why they would want it. Ted Williams came huffing out of the stadium and seemed to be in a really foul mood. My courage fled and, shrinking down to the size of a mouse, I had to content myself with simply watching him as he shared a few words with someone that he apparently knew. I remember him scanning the thin crew of kids present (also keeping their distance) and as his eyes passed over me I could only hope that I was completely invisible. There was this palpable feeling in my gut that this guy could really be dangerous if his temper were to escape.

And then Nellie Fox appeared, one of the last to leave the stadium that afternoon. I’ll bet my eyes were as big as saucers. He was quickly striding toward the bus but I intercepted with my most polite autograph request ever. In the years since I’ve never even asked my wife so politely for anything. It was to no avail, however, he brushed by me with something like a growl. My heart sank. Obviously he didn’t like me.

But I don’t want to give anyone the impression that these guys were uncaring or not thankful for their fans. I’m quite sure that they were. Well, maybe not Williams. But it must be difficult to be badgered all the time by people wanting you to sign napkins. I mean, if you think about it you’ll agree that it really is absurd. Final note: I didn’t give up on Nellie. That winter I mailed him a polite request and he was kind enough not only to sign but to include a couple signed color photos. It was very nice of him and the thought crossed my mind that he somehow knew that I was the same kid in Detroit that he had brushed by over the summer. Charles


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Today’s Smile


New this week: gouache painting of Pee Wee Reese

I remember that in a sober discussion of baseball nicknames my counterpart asking, in all seriousness, “did Pee Wee Reese have one?”.

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Happy 21st to son Nick!


One of Nick’s favorite images. He’s a great young man.

Amy Johnson, Aviator


Amy Johnson by Helmar Brewing

The art will be used soon in a series on aviators that I am working on. I know that it would be more appropriate to write about Amy Johnson’s highly successful flying career but, let’s face it, people want to know about terrible crashes. Here it is, from Wikipedia:

On 5 January 1941, while flying an Airspeed Oxford for the ATA from Prestwick via Blackpool to RAF Kidlington near Oxford, Johnson went off course in adverse weather conditions. Reportedly out of fuel, she bailed out as her aircraft crashed into the Thames Estuary near Herne Bay.

The crew of HMS Haslemere[Note 3] spotted Johnson’s parachute coming down and saw her alive in the water, calling for help. Conditions were poor – there was a heavy sea and a strong tide, snow was falling and it was intensely cold.[16] Lt Cmdr Walter Fletcher, the commander of Haslemere, dived into the water in an attempt to rescue Johnson.[16] Fletcher failed in the attempt. As a result of the intense cold he died in hospital days later. In 2016, Alec Gill, a historian, claimed that the son of a crew member stated that Johnson had died because she was sucked into the blades of the ship’s propellers; the crewman did not observe this to occur, but believes it is true.[17] This claim has not been verified, as Johnson’s body was never recovered.

A memorial service was held for Johnson in the church of St Martin-in-the-Fields on 14 January 1941. Walter Fletcher was posthumously awarded the Albert Medal in May 1941.[16]

As a member of the ATA with no known grave, she is (under the name Amy V. Johnson) commemorated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission on the Air Forces Memorial at Runnymede.[18]

Disputed circumstances

Johnson had been one of the original subscribers to the share offer for Airspeed.[19] It has been more recently hinted her death was due to friendly fire. In 1999, it was reported that Tom Mitchell, from Crowborough, Sussex, claimed to have shot Johnson’s aircraft down when she twice failed to give the correct identification code during the flight. Mitchell explained how the aircraft was sighted and contacted by radio. A request was made for the signal. She gave the wrong one twice. “Sixteen rounds of shells were fired and the plane dived into the Thames Estuary. We all thought it was an enemy plane until the next day when we read the papers and discovered it was Amy. The officers told us never to tell anyone what happened.”[20]

A big cat on the field


Johnny Mize gouache in art deco style.

By my count we now have twenty-four paintings done for this series. By the way, we are TRYING Instagram and will be posting many of these photos there.

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Real Photo Postcards


Vintage contact print equipment with unopened packages of raw postcards.

In a recent post we looked at the late Jim Rowe of Chicago and how his real photo postcards really invigorated autograph collectors back in the latter 1960’s through perhaps the mid 1980’s. Today we’ll take a quick look at the basic process that was used to make real photo postcards back in the 1910 era. Most of the equipment pictured here can be reliably dated to 1918 or prior.

Real photo postcards were not difficult to make once the maker got the hang of it. The equipment needed was minimal: a photo negative, a contact print frame, blank postcards that have been chemically treated, a few readily available solutions and a couple rinse pans. It was a perfect small business and could be done at home. The 1918 package of blank postcards on the right even brag that the postcards “can be developed by gaslight”.

With the advent of blank postcards becoming available in 1903, the actual process became straightforward. A photo negative and blank postcard were sandwiched within a contact frame and locked down (there were no opportunities for enlargement; the print would always be the same size as the negative). A light source was briefly engaged, transferring the ghost image to the postcard. A little experience was needed to gauge the length of the exposure. The postcard, with the inherent ghost image, was then quickly rinsed through a series of four baths and voila! Your postcard was ready for sale. Charles.


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