This category contains 90 posts

Exhibit Display #3, Cleveland

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Exhibit Display #2, Cleveland

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Exhibit Display #1, Cleveland

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

Three Boston Catchers

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

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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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]

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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Jim Rowe Postcards

It was likely the late Jim Rowe that made these contact prints using original negatives of photos done by George Brace.

While a young collector I had the good fortune to meet a Chicago native, the late Jim Rowe. Jim had worked for the great baseball photographer George Brace and had access to Brace’s original negatives. Brace, and by extension Rowe, were a God-send to autograph collectors such as myself. Collecting autographs through the mail had before Rowe had a somewhat frustrating aspect; there were many, many great players willing to sign for kids such as myself but it was nearly impossible to find photos worthy of sending to them. Once or twice I cut up baseball history books that I had thoroughly absorbed but taking scissors to a book made my heart sink. Besides, the photos in the cheaply printed books were grainy and of the lowest possible quality. I pretty much had to settle for sending blank 3″ x 5″ cards. Even that had dangers; blank cards on both sides were difficult to find and players would (far too) often sign the cards on the lined side.

But card shows came to Detroit in the early ’70’s and hence my introduction to Mr. Rowe. I certainly never got to know him well but he was a pleasant, if very quiet, man. He had a closely typed list of players that he could make real photo prints of. If I recall the price was three for a buck and you could order just a single print of any player on that list. I don’t think that you could choose different poses of players but if you ordered, say, three Carl Hubbell postcards then you would often get multiple poses back from him. A buck was still a buck back then and I would save up for some time to finally mail Mr. Rowe an order for five or six bucks. Actually, six bucks was probably a very big order for me but the gentleman never complained.

The photo postcards were generally beautiful and I remember that my mouth fell open when the first signed one come back through the mails. The postcards took my enjoyment to an entirely new level. Thank you, Jim Rowe, I remember your kindness. In the next post I’ll write a little about the process that Mr. Rowe probably used to make his wonderful photo postcards. Charles

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A Riot of Color

This was probably the second or third piece of Indian miniatures that I purchased years ago. It impresses me as much today as it did back then. Hope that you enjoy it. Charles

The Old Ballpark

The great Hughie Jennings in Detroit. Underrated all around.

This is a piece that has been done for a while but I haven’t published it yet. A few people might recognize the homes in the background from period photographs. It would have been a wonder to live right next to Bennett Park! Charles

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Another Experiment..

Based on the Allen & Ginter series of 1888. I’ve always liked that design. Charles

Baseball Heritage Museum Plug

Shoeless Joe Jackson at League Park

Today I would like to give a plug to our friends at the Baseball Heritage Museum in Cleveland. Their Facebook page is updated more frequently and it is surprising how many activities that they have. It is a wonderful place to visit; the exhibition space is actually within the old ticket offices. Kudos to Bob Zimmerman and Joe Gazzo. Joe is a very gifted artist and has often held art instruction classes at the museum. What could be cooler than that? Charles.

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Had to share this one…

I really like this one, a Bill Mazeroski for the new series of 1950’s players. The painting is done using opaque watercolors. Which other second basemen from that decade would you like to see?

Best, Charles Mandel

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What we’re working on today…

Time to shake things up a bit! Here’s one of the first paintings for a new series that will concentrate on the 1950’s.

I expect that the final size will be 3″ x 4″. How about sending me some suggestions for the name of this new set? Any players that you would like to see?

Best, Charles

What we’re working on today

The 1910-11 T3 Turkey Red series is often considered by collectors to be the most beautiful of all early baseball sets. In fact, the beauty of this series has probably never been surpassed since the oversized cards appeared over a century ago. Amazing.

I’ve finally decided that it is time for us to take a shot at our own version of the iconic series. After months of discussion we’ve started to work on our first paintings. Here’s an advance view of our Eddie Collins card as of a couple days ago.

And here is the work as of today. Any suggestions for improvement? Also, if you have any other ideas for this series, such as player suggestions, please let me know!! Charles.

A Close View of Mr. X

A close-up of Mr. X

Here’s the close-up of our mystery player. I think that it points away from being Hans Wagner. The shoulders are more narrow and the face just seems to indicate that it is another player. So, who do you think it is now? Our choices seem to be Fred Clarke, Chief Wilson or Roy Thomas. In any case, it is a great photo!

Update to Player Identification

Clarke or?

The last post began the discussion of our Helmar Imperial Cabinet #4 and the identity of this mysterious Pirate player. While I’ve suggested that it is Hall of Fame member Fred Clarke, others are certain that the photo is of the ever-popular Hans Wagner. Let’s dig a little deeper:


At the top of the cabinet the photographer has scrawled “Bresnahan catching” and “Pittsburg + N.Y.”. Following that is a much less clear tag that appears to read “Sept. 18”. This does help narrow things down for us.

A quick Internet search shows that the Pirates played the Giants on Sept. 18, 1908 in a double-header at the Polo Grounds. Our photo clearly agrees with other period images of the stadium. On that long-ago September afternoon the Giants crushed the visiting Pirates in both games. Left handed batters for Pittsburgh that day consisted only of these players: Fred Clarke, Chief Wilson, Roy Thomas, and pitcher Nick Maddox (who only had two at bats). The player shown in our Imperial Cabinet would be one of these four men unless Wagner decided to bat from the left side that day. Wagner is known to have hit lefty no more than a handful of times over the course of his long career. It would be a very rare photo indeed if it turns out to be Wagner.

Maddox, I think, can be excluded almost immediately. He simply didn’t look anything like the batter in the photo. Each of the other natural lefties (Clarke, Wilson, and Thomas) had prominent noses and that does complicate things for us.

Chief Wilson

Roy Thomas 

Based on my photo library I am now leaning toward Clarke but an not at all convinced. In my opinion it is definitely not Wagner. The best news of the night is that I found another photo online that I’ve never seen before. It is a photo from the HOF and is dated September 19th, 1908–the very next afternoon from our Imperial Cabinet photo. Pittsburgh and New York again played at the Polo Grounds (with a big win for Pittsburgh). This new photo clearly shows Bresnahan and Wagner together and is taken from the same point of view. Does it change your opinion of the mystery batter? Here it is.

Honus Wagner batting in game, Roger Bresnahan catching

A Little Help? Player Identification

Bresnahan catching; Pittsburg & New York

A question came in the other day asking who the Pittsburgh batter is in this piece. The writer wondered if it was the great Honus Wagner. That would be something, wouldn’t it? Could there be a more interesting action shot than those two Hall of Famers together?

When I first saw this image some years ago my first impression was that it was, indeed, Wagner at the plate. The pose fits my conception of how Honus would appear in action. The nose, too, seems fairly prominent–not unlike Han’s honker. But this batter is hitting from the left side of the plate (Honus was a rightie). Could the plate have been reversed? No, Bresnahan has his catcher’s mitt on the correct hand. Who, then is the batter?

While Wagner played for Pittsburgh from 1900 through 1917, Bresnahan only appeared with the Giants from 1902 through 1908. This image is almost certainly from the latter part of that period.

A quick check of the Pittsburgh rosters from those years turns up several possibilities and I feel that the most likely are either Fred Clarke or Beals Becker. Both were lefties, both had generous noses and both were a bit smaller than The Flying Dutchman. Who do you think that it is?

I used colored pencils and a little gouache to do this piece. Gosh, it was done quite a while ago now. The most recent copy of this Imperial Cabinet that sold just this past week was the last one that I had.

Design by Coincidence?

Recently I’ve been scanning my modest collection of old matchbox labels and have noticed some similarities in design with old baseball cards. Most of the similarities seem to be unintentional. For example, here are three matchbox covers where the red stripe at the bottom are filled with bold text.

These examples of Swedish matchbox covers for the Indian market share the design element of a red stripe filled with bold text.

Do they remind you of a famous baseball series? How about the classic 1933 Goudey set? Here are three cards from that series followed by a grouping of retired cards from our Helmar-R319 set.

1933 Goudey cards. Note that both end cards have striking red backgrounds. We’ll talk about this in a minute.

I don’t for a moment believe that the Swedish matchbox designers were familiar with the Goudey cards. It is interesting, however, that two sets of graphic designers on different continents adopted the same look.

A Surprising Conclusion Coming

 Now take a gander at the Japanese examples below. The red background concept was used on thousands of different Japanese designs over many years. True, manufacturers in other countries employed it as well–they all copied shamelessly from each other. It was by far most common in Japanese design, however. I’ll share some beautiful examples some other day.

Japan was a major, major exporter of matchboxes in the earlier decades of the 20th century.  Their designs were eye-catching, quirky, and their product was everywhere — including here in the United States. American graphic designers were certainly aware of the Japanese designs and most likely admired them. I don’t think that it is much of a stretch to imagine that the designers of the 1914-15 Cracker Jack cards were heavily influenced by them. What do you think?

Above: early Cracker Jack cards. Below: Helmar Cigar cards.

This Woman is doing the Hard Work

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.


Joe Wood Rug Progress

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.



Boston Garter Joe Wood Rug Update II

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:

rug colors



The 1933 Game of the Century

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.

Follow our new project with me!

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:

H813-4_Boston_Garter-Helmar_17_Front (2)

It takes a few months of hard work to make one of these. In my next post I’ll talk more about the process.


Charles Mandel

A perfect baseball card mother

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. 20150421_220841S/W Ver: 96.B0.0AR

Pepper Martin has a big fan!

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:

Helmar_Trolley_Card_22_Front (2)martin sm20170920_173311_1505947376835 sm

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