Surprise #2 finally revealed - I am* finally* ready to reveal the second surprise I had up my sleeve for the Cardboard History Gallery. I didn't expect it to take as long as it did, but ...
Wednesday, August 14, 2019
Helmar? What the Hell is Helmar?!?!
Helmar is a company from the Michigan area that, among other products like beer and potato chips, has produced high quality baseball art cards for well over a decade now. I don't know a whole lot about them just yet to be honest, but I do know that I'm intrigued by their very apparent appreciation of baseball history. That appreciation is certainly reflected in their "labor-of-love" approach to creating high quality baseball art, and cards.
These days they produce a few different custom sets at any given time. The approach is pretty unique, with each individual card painstakingly produced and released in a somewhat limited quantity. Every Tuesday night they run a series of eBay auctions for singles, and they have publicly vowed to produce and sell no more than 6 of each card per year. After a period of years sets are retired as well as new sets are moved into their product line, so for most of their cards there are no more than a couple/few dozen copies of each floating around out there. They're very hard to find, if you don't believe me open up another tab in your browser and go check eBay. See how many you can locate outside the few dozen that are auctioned direct by Helmar each Tuesday.
That's a story for another post and another day though. The way things started for Helmar on the baseball card front was with a small set, done in the style of the early tobacco releases, that was released back in 2005. These cards, referred to simply as the "Famous Athletes" series, would actually come in packs of three (see image above), inserted into bags of potato chips and caramel corn.
There is a certain amount of collector demand for the various Helmar cards, and you'd be amazed what some of the hand-crafted singles I mentioned go for each week. These 2005 minis aren't quite as sought after or valuable, but they're still rare compared to most modern baseball cards. I was lucky enough to work out a deal with an eBay seller for four unopened pack at a price point that worked out to about $6 per pack shipped. With three cards inside, I paid about $2 per individual card. Series 2, which was produced in much smaller quantities in response to collector demand after Series 1 and sold direct, is much rarer and single cards routinely sell in the $15-$20 range and up.
Enough setting the stage here, let's rip the first pack and check these cards out!
In my research I read that they have three or four artists on staff, all local in Michigan except for one highly touted artist overseas. I am seriously impressed with the job that these folks did in creating these cards. As someone who loves really old-time baseball, I think they did an absolutely perfect job creating bright, vibrant artwork that looks right on point for the era these athletes appeared in. Sort of a T206 meets early 1950s Bowman in my humble opinion.
This is just my second card of Buck Weaver overall, member of the infamous "Black Sox" of 1919 (as evidenced by the "Expelled in Scandal" reference along the top of the card. I'll take this over pulling my 50th card of Christian Yelich or Chris Sale from a modern Topps pack!
While I prefer the baseball subjects, I think it's cool that they sprinkled in some other athletes, particularly since they seemed to seek out lesser known subjects from their region of the country. Is it weird that when I pull a card out of a modern baseball pack and don't recognize the subject I get annoyed, but when I pull a card of a really old subject I don't recognize I get excited by the "research opportunity"?
Well, with just a three card pack that wraps it up for this evening. I'm off to see what I can find out about Goto here; any leads?
I know that unlicensed cards like this aren't everyone's cup of tea, but what's your opinion on that kind of stuff (and on Helmar specifically if you have one)? Personally I'm fascinated by these, and even more so by some of Helmar's other, more recent sets. I find them to be exponentially more interesting than 95% of what's come out since I rejoined the hobby back in 2007, and I wish Topps would put half as much effort into some of their sets as this small company clearly does.
I welcome any opinions in the comments, and regardless of how you feel thanks for stopping by my little corner of the internet!