I first became entranced with Indian Mughal-style art about thirty years ago. It is easy to go a little crazy with these; at one time I had several hundred pieces. These days I have perhaps a dozen or so that I haven’t been able to give up and perhaps another dozen that I wonder why I ever bought in the first place.
It’s a long story but these stylized gouache paintings brought me back to baseball. At some point I realized that this method was perfectly suited to recreating the look of many early cards. Charles.
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:
Sports Collector’s Digest has a nice article about Helmar in the lastest issue. You can read it HERE.
To jump directly to our auctions of hand-made cards click here.
I notice that Steve’s Sportscards (Staten Island, New York) is auctioning off one of our best known original paintings on eBay. It was one of Sanjay Verma’s pieces that we used on a few very large (48″ x 24″) wood signs for beer stores. It was also used on a couple of our cards and, perhaps most famously, on our packages of BBQ potato chips.
I remember selling this piece some years ago but I can’t recall to whom. He is asking $2,195.00. Here’s a link that opens in a new window: Joe Jackson
Here they are, listed by the highest auction prices realized over the past twelve months. It is nice to see that these top cards are spread over the several different series that we’ve been working on.
Rank Amount Series Card # Player Name
1 $315.00 R319 49 Ruth, Babe
2 $305.00 R319 93 Cobb, Ty
3 $302.00 Helmar Die-Cut 14 Clarke, JJ; Young, Cy; Bradley, Bill; Joss, Addie;
Easterly, Ted; Flick, Elmer;
4 $294.00 Helmar Imperial Cabinet 11 Jackson, Joe
5 $286.69 R319 49 Ruth, Babe
6 $281.56 E145 2 Ruth, Babe
7 $277.00 R319 94 Lloyd, Pop
8 $274.00 R319 117 Mantle, Mickey
9 $265.00 R321-Helmar 2 Jackson; Williams; Risberg; McMullen;
10 $257.52 Imperial 18 Wagner, Honus
11 $246.02 E145-Helmar 2 Ruth, Babe
12 $244.27 E145-Helmar 1 Wood, Joe
13 $237.50 Helmar Imperial Cabinet 17 Ruth, Babe
14 $236.46 T206-Helmar 10 Cobb, Ty; Wagner, Honus;
15 $235.50 R319 129 Mantle, Mickey
Visit our current auctions of hand-made cards here!
I love this great black & white photo of a neighborhood shop. Of course I was first attracted to the large Helmar sign across the facing but the details really place you in the scene. The shop was at 87 Tillary Street, Brooklyn, and was taken on Sunday, November 27, 1927. Broadcaster Vin Scully, the voice of the Dodgers, was born nearby that same day.
Apparently the building doesn’t exist anymore but it was quite near where the post office is today. Enjoy.
More capable curators have described the 1912 S81 Helmar silks far more eloquently than I am able to do. They are effusive in their praise, encouraging us to savor the vibrant colors, the sharp detail and the captivating sheen of the material. The combination of these attributes made the S81’s instant classics in 1912, the middle of an era which many consider to be the high water mark for stunning sports art. Their timeless beauty has ensured that, even a century later, they remain highly desirable. There is no doubt that they would be collected more avidly today if they were not so rare, and as a consequence, so expensive.
Back in 1912 it would have been an ambitious task to acquire even a single example of this series. Produced by the S. Anargyros Famous Cigarettes company, of which I have written about, the silks were distributed only as a mail-in premium. A collector was required to mail in 25 coupons found within packs of Helmar Turkish Trophy cigarettes in exchange for each silk. The practical purpose of the silks, it can be surmised, was to be sewn onto quilts, blankets and pillow cases as an adornment. Twenty-five different ballplayers were included in the set.
What we’ve discussed thus far are the basics of this legendary series. In my next post I’d like to share some of my thoughts on the design itself and some speculations regarding how many were actually produced. Thanks for reading and thanks to Robert Edwards Auctions for the image below!
When I finally decided to develop a baseball themed beer back in 2000, I had some trouble settling on a company name. My first choice, Budweiser, had already been taken. Being a collector, I wondered if any of the old-time cigarette company names were available. To my surprise, there were several and after much hand-wringing I eventually committed to “Helmar”. It is a nice name, I think, strong, yet short enough to be memorable. And the original Helmar cigarette company made a few neat collectibles. But what really drew me was the neat story relating how the name first came to be used.
The S. Anargyros Famous Cigarettes company was founded in 1885 and by 1900 had become a subsidiary of the giant American Tobacco. Anargyros’ brands used Egyptian-Turkish motifs, a durable theme that had enchanted the west through much of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. To the average American, living without the benefit of today’s media or ease of travel, Egypt and Turkey were basically the same thing–wildly exotic and very, very remote. “Anargyros” is, in fact, a Greek name and plainly unconnected to Egypt, a nuance that was probably also lost on consumers. Examples of popular Anargyros brands included Egyptian Deities, Murad, Turkey Red, Turkish Trophies and, of course, Helmar.The fact that “Helmar” doesn’t seem to quite fit into the Egyptian-Turkish mold it is understandable, given that the name has been perverted from its original form. The brand was first introduced as “Ramleh” or, more completely, “Ramleh Turkish Cigarettes”, and came complete with a stern looking Pharaoh on the package. “Ramleh” is, of course, “Helmar” spelled backwards. What in the world would possess the marketing geniuses at Anargyros to make such a drastic move with a popular brand? The answer is competition. The Mentor company of Boston, a sly group to be sure, had been eating away at Ramleh’s market share with their similar sounding “Ramly” brand. By August of 1907 Anargyros had had enough and made the expensive change, complete with a huge advertising campaign. Luckily, the change was successful and the Helmar cigarette brand flourished until production finally stopped in 1966. To remember Helmar we can look to some of the hobby’s most unique collectibles: the silks, leathers and player stamps that were issued between 1910 and 1915. More on each of those later. By the way, “Ramleh” is an actual city in central Israel. It was founded in 716 by the Caliph Sulayman ibn Abd al-Malik, a name too long for use as a cigarette brand. Apparently “ramleh” comes from the word “raml”, which translates to “sand”. I can imagine the Caliph standing at the site, dreams of the city that he will build swimming through his head, and saying, “I know, we’ll call it Sand!”.
By way of introduction, I have collected baseball cards for over forty years, since I was a skinny ten year old in June of that wonderful summer of 1969. To be precise, it was June 9th that my love affair with bits of cardboard began. I committed the date to memory, it seemed that important at the time. Do you remember the summer of 1969? Mornings were spent playing pick up ball games and the afternoons, well, the afternoons were just made for my old cane fishing pole (the one with black thread for line) and the little stream out back. Jeez, they were crummy little fish! When the heat of the day dissipated and dinner was over it was time to toss the horsehide around again. I’m pretty sure that was all that was happening that summer, the whole world over.
Like many of you, I can remember the very first cards that I held. Even now I can’t really put my finger on why I found them so interesting, so compelling. I didn’t know the players, except Kaline and Cash. I wasn’t a baseball fanatic by any means, though I enjoyed the game. Some of the attraction may have revolved around a latent desire to grow up and be like the young men pictured on the card fronts–healthy, strong and independent. And these young men were part of a team, a brotherhood, committed to doing something very, very important–namely, fighting for the honor of the cities that they represented. They were fighting for something bigger than themselves. I’m sure that was part of what attracted me.
Since that first day cards have remained an important part of my life. And yes, as an adult I have taken a fair bit of ribbing from my friends because of my addiction. I am glad to report, however, that I no longer dream about completing sets or finding a hoard of cigarette cards. Well, not as often, anyway. Still, it astonishes me how much I learned about life by studying those cardboard rectangles. I pored over the backs, especially the year-by-year statistics. Before long my young mind learned how to calculate things like batting averages, earned run averages and total bases. My math grades improved at school. But more important than the cold numbers, I was fascinated by the names of the far-flung cities that the young men played in. Eau Claire? Where the heck was that? And how do you even pronounce it? Little by little I pieced together a map in my head, in time determining that the United States must be a really, really big place. Mexico, too. And then there were places like Puerto Rico, Venezuela and even the Dominican Republic. The world seemed to get bigger every time that I picked up a card. It still does.
Eventually I found that I was attracted to some card designs more than others. You wouldn’t believe how nervous I would get around the time that the first packs hit the local party store! Who knew what the new cards would look like? If it was a design that I liked, the summer held promise. If the cards were ugly (think 1972 Topps)…well, that would threaten to ruin my entire life. Cards were that important. Did you feel the same?