This category contains 100 posts

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

An Oldie but Goodie

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:



Meet Me in Cleveland April 8th!

Helmar’s Baseball Cards and Art Opening Day

April 8 @ 10:00 am2:00 pm
League Park, 6601 Lexington Ave
Cleveland, 44103
+ Google Map

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.

John Metz and his Pirates!

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.

Framed Lloyd Waner Helmar display


Helmar Pittsburgh Pirates display

We Enter the Amazon

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!

Winter, 2015 Baseball History & Art Magazine

page1 2015 Baseball History & Art Magazine


Baseball History & Art Premium Revealed!

I will be making these available with back orders, too. In Helmar style they will be distressed. 5″ tall.


back 027 detroit 2btes stent

Christy Mathewson art magazine

Christy Mathewson art magazine

Baseball History



Helmar-T206 card back of Ty Cobb

There is a second version, with Larry Lajoie, that I will try to post later.


T206, Helmar, Ty Cobb

T206, Helmar, Ty Cobb

Winter issue of Baseball History & Art is ready!

I think you’ll really enjoy this issue, especially if you like Brooklyn baseball.

WIP sm

It’s here! Helmar’s Baseball History & Art magazine Inaugural issue!

front page ad 2 flatClick the magazine for details!

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:

  • TY COBB die-cut, 7.5″ dia. portrait insert in the style of the popular circa 1911 “Fan for a Fan”.
  • “Players We Ought to Know” features stories behind history’s most interesting players
  • “Black Stars Exhibit” brings great art and bios of some of baseball’s best blackball era stars
  • “Boneyards” feature on Forbes Field, Honus Wagner and the history of that great, lost ball field. Written by Mark Schraf.
  • “Finding Home”, in which author Steve Hermanos tracks down and visits the apartment Christy Mathewson and J.J. McGraw shared in 1903. It is still there!
  • “Ticket Stub” feature examines how a no-name rookie beat Bob Feller for the pennant. Written by Dennis Snelling.
  • An insightful interview with Marty Appel about Mickey Mantle and the boys as he knew them.
  • An examination and discussion of the many Helmar-T206 card backs. There’s more involved in those beauties than one might expect!
  • Auction results of Helmar cards in graph form
  • “The Lucky Man,” an interview with super-collector Jerry Bradley
  • Mike Shannon, editor of Baseball History & Art, puts the hobby in review in a thoughtful book review

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!

Complete set of Helmar 6-Up Die-Cuts Sells

Longtime collector Steven P reports that he has sold the set that he was offering a couple weeks ago.

Okay, A Few More From eBay

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:

Box from Series II Helmar

Box from Series II Helmar

Moe Berg Silk Banner

Helmar Brewing Babe Ruth beer carrier

Helmar Brewing Babe Ruth beer carrier

George Stoval Helmar lock

George Stoval Helmar lock

Joe Tinker Cigar Band, I like it.

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.

Joe Tinker Cigar Band

Joe Tinker Cigar Band

How Old is the Game of Baseball?

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!

early baseball


Eagle-Eyed Jed Silver and Del Bissonette

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:

  • led the majors in games played as a 28 year old rookie in 1928.
  • More homers (25) than any other Brooklyn franchise rookie ever.
  • While his career only lasted five Big League seasons, he turned in two outstanding seasons. In 1928 he batted .32o; his 1930 mark was .336
  • 25 years separated his first minor league season from his last (1949)
  • Managed the 1945 Boston Braves for part of the year. Managed extensively in the minor leagues.
  • Apparently shot himself in the stomach in a Maine apple orchard. Died a week later (1972).

Helmar factoids about Del:

  • Average sale price of his Prominent Newsmakers cabinet: $15.99 (population of 12)
  • Average sale price of his Imperial Cabinet: $21.99 (population of 6)

Del Bissonette, from the popular Helmar Imperial Cabinet series.

Del Bissonette, from the popular Helmar Imperial Cabinet series.

Things that I like: George Carlidge Photographic Tiles

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.

tile 1 tile 1a tile 1ab tile 2 tile 3

E145-Helmar Full Series on eBay

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:

Click here

E145-Helmar Set



1912 Baseball Comic…Newfangled Sunglasses in the Ballpark!

1912 Baseball Comic...Newfangled Sunglasses in the Ballpark!

Okay! Another Sneak Auction!

While you weren’t looking I loaded an auction last evening that ends in just three days–this coming Sunday, Dec. 22. Seeing how it is Christmas, I loaded the auction with all kinds of extra goodies. Why not check it out? While I was at it, I boosted next Tuesday evening’s auction with additional items. Together this makes for the biggest auction one-two punch of the year! Here are some photos of cards selling on those two nights:

13 12 14 210 13 12 14 274 13 12 14 328a 13 12 14 358 13 12 14 372 13 12 14 373 13 12 14 374 13 12 14 379 13 12 14 380 13 12 14 381


Thanksgiving Secret Recipes

Came across a small cookbook from a kindergarten class. Here are my favorites:

How to Cook a Turkey

Cut it and put it in the oven for 15 minutes at 4 degrees. Take it out and eat it. –Alex

Paint it with paint. Then it dries. Cook it at the table for 15 minutes, then eat it. –Timmy

First you kill it. Then you cut it. Then you put it in the oven for 10 seconds at 10 degrees. Then you eat it. –Brennan

How to Make Stuffing

Put in cookies, cake and macaroni and cheese. Mix together and put in the turkey. –Gena

Put salt, pepperoni and macaroni in the turkey. Cook it for 25 minutes -Elizabeth

Put bones in it. Then you pull the bones out. Then you break them and give them to your dog. Then you eat it. -Brad

You stuff the stuffing up it. Put in salt and pepper, then put in chopped bunny ears. -Brennan

Mix hot dogs, jello and milk. Put it in the turkey. -Chelsea

Great Old Cards, Some of my Favorites

They may not be baseball cards, but here are a few favorites that I thought you might like to see:

Love the colors.

Love the colors.


Robert Edward Auctions: Helmar Modern Classics

A Helmar collector has consigned a dozen lots to the prestigious fall Robert Edwards Auction. If you are a Helmar collector you may want to follow the progress of these lots. This represents the first time that a major auction house, probably the major auction house, has handled the Helmar art cards that we all enjoy. We are excited that our products will be introduced to thousands of potential collectors.

They have even blogged about the Helmar lots and you will find what they have to interesting! Click on the image of the catalog to see all the other great memorabilia that is available through the auction.


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