Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Old-Time Baseball - Pat Deasley

As I continue to explore the wonderful custom cards created by Helmar Brewing, I'm more and more impressed by what I find.  So far I've covered the inaugural 2005 release, a T206 mini, and an "Oasis" framed card.  Tonight I've got my first card to show off from another present-day Helmar set, Polar Night!

This here is my very first card of Thomas H. "Pat" Deasley!  One of the things I find most entertaining about the Helmar releases is that they profile some old-time players that I have little to no chance of adding to my collection otherwise.  Deasley does have one or two playing era cards out there, but we're talking Old Judge cards from the 1880s; not exactly something you come across often if ever, and insanely expensive if you were to find one.  I don't exactly see Topps clamoring to release a Deasley card anytime soon, either.

Well, thanks to Helmar I can indeed count Pat Deasley among the names in my collection!  These Polar Night cards look absolutely stunning in hand.  Even the picture above, which I snapped with my iPhone, gives you a good idea of the bright, vibrant color that brings this set of deadball-era stars to life.

The inspiration for this release seems to be the 1887 Buchner Gold Coin cards, known in the hobby as the 'N284' release.  I don't own any of those, but here's a scan I found online for comparison.

Elements borrowed here would include the elongated card dimensions, the plain white border, and the nature-based backgrounds.  All of the artwork in this Polar Night release is original stuff done by Helmar's artists.  According to their website, they "kept the look of the early line drawings but improved them so that the players are recognizable".

While the 1887 originals are certainly beautiful in their own rite, you can see that claim about the elevated level of detail in the Helmar artwork is accurate.

In the case of the Deasley card, I was able to determine exactly what image the Helmar artist worked from.  It's pretty clearly the photograph from his 1887-1890 Old Judge card.  I obviously don't own a copy of that one either, but here's a photograph for reference courtesy of the Library of Congress.  Yep, that's the image alright, although understandably much more fuzzy and much less detailed being well beyond a century old at this point.

I didn't realize this connection when I purchased the card, and only discovered it while researching this post, but I have to say it's kind of cool to see an old black and white photograph like this be brought to life in full, vibrant color.

Like the Helmar Oasis card that I showed a few days back, these Polar Night cards really have the feel of a piece of baseball artwork (I suppose that's what they are, after all).

These Polar Night cards measure roughly 3" x 5", quite a bit larger than a standard size modern baseball card as you can see here.  Again, I find the large size to actually be a benefit.  The artwork is truly stunning, and I love the level of precision and detail in the drawing and painting that you can see when viewed at this scale.  Plus, at the advice of the gentleman I purchased this one from I found the perfect sheets for keeping these in a binder, which I'll show off in a future post once I fill one up.

The Polar Night series all have the same exact card back, with the only difference being the card number of course.  This is actually the first and only Helmar release I've come across personally so far that has the card numbers included on the back.  For the other releases that lack this though, their website has a comprehensive (and interactive!) checklist that makes tracking your cards a breeze.

So, there you have it! My first Helmar Polar Night card, and my first card period of the man who played catcher and roamed the outfield for a few franchises between 1881 and 1888!  Simply awesome.  I certainly hope to have more of these cards to share with you in the future here on the blog.

What do you think of the Helmar Polar Night release?  I'd love to hear your feedback, positive or negative, in the comments.  Thanks as always for stopping by!

Monday, August 26, 2019

1950 Bowman - Post #10 - Johnny Pesky

It's been many months since I previewed a new card towards my slow burn set build of 1950 Bowman, having last shown Jim Hearn and the mystery man in a tie.  Today's example is one I've actually shown on the blog before, way back in 2011, but haven't officially previewed for this project.

It's Red Sox fan favorite, Johnny Pesky!  It's easy to see why Pesky was so beloved in Boston that he's got a foul pole in Fenway Park named after him.  An under-rated player and a class act of a human being for sure.  While I haven't made it a point to add to it in recent years, there was a time when I was building a small collection of his playing-era cards.

I tend to forget just how effectively Johnny swung the bat early in his career.  Check out these stats courtesy of Baseball Reference:

The man led the American League in hits in 1942, 1946 and 1947.  It's interesting to think about how things might have differed had Pesky not given up three seasons to serve his country in the military.  Could he have led the league in hits during his age 24, 25 and 26 seasons as well?  We'll never know, but if he had, he'd have been the only player in league history - to this very day - to do so.  The closest anyone's come to that mark are Jose Altuve, who led the league in hits for four consecutive seasons (2014-2017), or the great Ichiro Suzuki, who did it for five years running (2006-2010).

Here's a better look at the card, though a bit fuzzy due to the plastic slab messing up the scan.  A little off-center, but a great-looking example, and one of my favorite Johnny Pesky cards.

That's all for today, and I finally hit double digits on this project with ten cards profiled now.  I've already got the next two of these queued up in draft format, so I'll make sure I don't go nearly as long between posts this time.

Thanks for stopping by, and have a great week!

Set Progress:  10 of 252 (3% Complete)

Saturday, August 24, 2019

The Most Creative Card I've Landed in a While

I'm not sure if it's the dog days of summer, or just my mood in general, but for whatever reason I continue to gravitate towards old-time baseball as far as my collecting goes.  In particular, I'm increasingly becoming a fan of the Helmar baseball art cards.

I've picked up a small sampling this summer courtesy of their weekly eBay auctions, and have been beyond impressed so far.  Earlier this week I showed off my first pick-up from their "T206" release, and today I've got one that I think tops even that.  Behold, the Helmar "Oasis" line!

Beautiful work, huh?  I've had this card for a couple of weeks now, and I'm still so impressed by the level of care and detail that went into creating it.  First of all, as I mentioned previously, every card that Helmar produces is comprised of 100% original artwork done by the small handful of artists on staff.  Their attention to detail in creating the artwork is impeccable.  They do an amazing job evoking the feel of the era that they're shooting for, and I love the creativeness that is shown in some of the themes.

According to Helmar's website, each one of these Oasis cards is actually composed of seven different layers of material, then scuffed and worn to give it an authentic feel.  The inspiration for the design was to create something that pays homage to the "Gaslight Style" commercial trade signs of the 1870s through the 1890s.

Within the set, there are a few different faux-brands that make up the borders and backs of the cards.  In this case Clyde Milan, star outfielder for the Washington Senators, is done on the "Cycle Cigarettes" design.  In addition to the intricate border... with all Helmar cards being produced these days, you get some nice artwork on the back.

These cards measure (roughly) 2.65" x 4", as you can see here they are slightly larger than a standard-sized sports trading card.  Doesn't bother me in the least, and in fact where these are really small pieces of baseball art I actually prefer the enlarged size.  I've got some 4-pocket sheets on the way from Amazon that I think will hold these just perfectly.

The really cool thing about these, which you can't really tell from the prior photos, is that they've got some dimension to them due to that layered approach to creating the card.  Think Gypsy Queen or Diamond Kings "framed" parallels from modern sets; the painting of the player is actually recessed within the border of the card.  You can see it a little better in this photo, especially along the cigarette pack on the right border there.  This shot gives you a better feel for how thick and sturdy these are as well.

Like the other Helmar sets that are being produced these days, you'd be surprised what some of these cards can fetch at auction.  I really like grabbing the obscure guys as much as anything though.  After all, I've got dozens of Babe Ruth cards in my collection already, but this is my very first Clyde Milan!  I can honestly say that this might be the most satisfying $10 I've spent in our hobby so far this year.

Clyde was a light-hitting speedster of a center fielder, who actually supplanted the great Ty Cobb as the American League stolen bases leader in both 1912 and 1913.  Milan received AL MVP votes for four consecutive seasons beginning in 1911.  Really pleased to have him included as a player in my baseball card collection at last.

I applaud Charles Mandel and the other folks at Helmar for putting such effort into creating beautiful custom cards like these.  I will absolutely be searching out some more of these Oasis cards for my collection in the future.

Have a great Saturday, and thanks as always for stopping by!

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Big Stack of Sox from Dimebox Nick, the Sequel!

Time for the second and final installment of amazing Boston Red Sox cards that arrived recently courtesy of my pal Nick!  No time like the present...

In tonight's post there is plenty of evidence that Nick is the man when it comes to oddballs.  Perhaps the best example in this package was this fantastic Jim Rice Hostess.  What's not to love here; awesome simplistic design, great photo, and originally part of a snack package!

Minor league insert.  Sadly, the Pawtucket Red Sox are winding down after decades in the state of Rhode Island, preparing for an upcoming move to Worcester, MA.  A bittersweet addition to my collection here.  Nick also included an entire Pawtucket Red Sox team set from the late '80s, but as I already had a copy of that one I sent it along to Chris at The Collector as part of the Well-Traveled Envelope challenge.

I've got a ton of Nomar cards, but I never tire of adding new ones.  The man held the distinction of being my favorite active baseball player for a number of years, and since he was in his prime during the late '90s to early 2000s he's got a metric ton of cardboard out there to be acquired.

It's not easy to tell in this scan, but this Uehara is a Rainbow Foil parallel.

Remember these Wal-Mart exclusive Black parallels?  A great one here, commemorating Dustin Pedroia's 2008 AL MVP Award.  Very cool.

In the post on the first part of this trade package I (gently) panned the Player's Weekend Nickname insert from 2019 Topps Big League.  This Blast Off insert from the same set, however, is just awesome.  I haven't quite figured out why yet, but I'm a fan of these for sure.  Really happy to have received this one, for whatever reason I think it's one of the under-rated stars of this bubble mailer.

If you've stopped by here with any regularity at all over the years, then you know I am a huge fan of Topps' various buyback cards.  In order to keep things from really getting out of hand, I try to stick to just Red Sox and star players I collect when it comes to their Bowman buyback counterparts.  That's exactly what Nick delivered here!

Wade Boggs '83 insert from the 2018 flagship set.  Kind of odd/jarring seeing a different Boggs on this design, given his iconic rookie card.

Sticking with the Boggs theme for a moment, and reinforcing what I said about oddballs at the outset of the post, how about a Rite-Aid Team MVPs card?  Love it!

Pacific Paramount Pedro pitching.  Alliteration is fun.

I have no clue at all what this card is.  Obviously unlicensed, and from 1990, I know that much.  Anyone?

I was actually quite surprised to find that I didn't already have this Collisions at the Plate insert of Carlton Fisk.  One of those where I could have sworn I owned a copy, but very glad I double checked before tossing it in the pile of trade bait to be mailed out.

It took me a second to realize that this JBJ is actually a hot box parallel.  You can tell by the darker shading behind Bradley.

Here's his standard 2018 A & G card for comparison.

I love the Classic releases from the late '80s and early '90s, some of my absolute favorite oddball sets from that era.  I think that's a Fenway Park 75th Anniversary patch that The Rocket is sporting here.

I know this is an MLB Showdown card, and that it's from around the turn of the century.  I can't lie though, after about 10 minutes of researching on The Trading Card Database, COMC, eBay, and the internet in general, I gave up on identifying exactly what this card is.  Like the Clemens above, I could use an assist with this one if anyone has a lead.

Jim Rice and the Quaker Oats guy on the same trading card.  Without a doubt this one would make a top-5 list of cards included in this package.  Simply awesome!

Another PawSox card, and I like this design even more than the first (this is a CMC AAA All-Stars card, for the record).

[insert comment from above regarding Nomar Garciaparra, and the prevalence of his cardboard]

This 2004 Leaf Certified Materials card is a Blue Mirror parallel.  It's serial-numbered on the reverse, though I don't recall to what.  50 maybe.  Either way, cool obscure parallel card.

We round out the modern cards from the package with this classy-looking 'Tek insert from 2009 Upper Deck A Piece of History.  To me, that set is hit and miss.  Plenty of gorgeous cards like this one, some that I don't enjoy quite so much.  I do applaud Upper Deck for trying something quite different with this set at the very least.

I said that last card rounded out the modern cards from this package, but that certainly wasn't everything.  I was one of the lucky folks that Nick decided to bestow some cards upon from a recent haul of 1970 O-Pee-Chee!

These are absolutely fantastic!  Easily among the greatest cards I've received in trade this year.

Russ Gibson's got a few surface wrinkles, but just enough to give it some good character.

It just so happens that the images on the cards Nick sent from this set are all really nice.  This Dick Schofield batting cage shot might be the best among the bunch though.

Lee Stange takes offense to that last critique.

I'm not sure if he checked my collection on The Trading Card Database, or whether it was just random chance, but despite me having a few '70 OPC Red Sox prior to this, each and every one Nick sent was new to me!

Well, that wraps up another thoughtful and much-appreciated surprise package from Nick.  Thanks so much bud, I'll certainly be hitting you back soon!  To everyone else, thanks as always for stopping by!

Monday, August 19, 2019

Casey Stengel, Rough on Rats!

In a recent post where I ripped a pack of 2005 Helmar baseball cards, I mentioned that the company is still producing cards all these years later.  Nowadays they release sets over long periods of time, printing just a few dozen cards each week and selling them via weekly eBay auctions.  They will never print more than six copies of any given card in a calendar year, and retire their sets after a while as well.  So, while not serial-numbered, these are somewhat scarce, and I was surprised to learn just how popular some of them are.

I've been lucky enough to win a few auctions so far, and have my first one to share with you tonight.  From the "Helmar T206" release, my new favorite Casey Stengel card!

I could say this about nearly every card I've seen so far in their catalog, but what a beautiful piece of baseball art!  I've got a few different cards of baseball lifer Stengel, but most of them focus on his time as a manager later in life.  I have to say I like Casey in Dodger Blue more than in Yankee pinstripes!

Each card in this release, as in all of Helmar's releases, is based off of an original painting by one of Helmar's commissioned artists.  I'm really impressed by the job the artists did of recapturing the feel of the original T206 set.  This modern creation looks right at home next to my authentic T206 cards.  From the painting itself, to the colors, to the wear on the card, it's just perfect.  Here's a blurb from Helmar's website about their T206 set:

The Helmar T206 series is one of our boldest and most important projects. Each card is the same size as the original American Tobacco 1909-1911 T206 cards, though the Helmar T206s are thicker and sturdier. Each Helmar T206 is made from an original, exclusive painting. Cuban stars, Babe Ruth with the Red Sox, Negro Leaguers, and Ty Cobb shaking hands with Honus Wagner are some of the most popular Helmar T206s.
We also spend a huge amount of time creating evocative, humorous, interesting backs. In creating these cards, we have a deep appreciation for the unknown artists who brought the original T206s to life. Will Helmar T206s ever get to 514-520 cards, the (controversial) number of 1909-1911 T206s? We hope so.

As mentioned in the summary, the care that Helmar takes in creating unique card backs is very apparent.  Look at this gem!

Honestly, I'm not sure I can offer any commentary to improve on that.  I love the sense of humor, and again the artwork and style is absolutely on point for the era they're paying tribute to with this release.  Tell me you wouldn't pay a premium of the original T206s had a "Rough on Rats" back!

As I mentioned in the lead-in to the post, these cards are actually quite popular with at least a small cross-section of collectors.  Big name stars can go for more money than I'm willing to spend on a custom card, nice as they may be.  I sort of figured that might be the case with this one, given that Stengel is enshrined in Cooperstown, but in the end I reeled this card in for less than $15.

Some of you might think that's crazy.  A lot of money to spend on an "imaginary" card.  What if they end up printing a million of these over time?  Can't you buy a real T206 for that much money?  I guess you wouldn't be wrong, but is supporting Helmar any crazier or less significant than picking up whatever Topps has out on the shelves these days?  Besides, while I can buy a T206 for that price, I couldn't buy a Casey Stengel T206 until now.

The owner of Helmar is super responsive, and seems to realize the benefit to producing enough of these cards to meet collector demand without flooding the market.  For example, this is the 17th copy of the Stengel T206 created so far, each slightly unique in its wear.  In my research I ran across a couple of posts on the Net54 forums where his creations were getting trashed pretty badly.  Mostly for things like not printing a copyright date or other telling mark on the back, which could in theory lead to a novice collector mistaking one of these for an authentic T206.

I was impressed by his willingness to converse with his critics in those threads, and remain polite and informative.  From my vantage point, the folks complaining kind of came across as little bit elitist, but what do I know.  Helmar seems from outside appearances like a great operation to me.  I have no problem at all supporting a smaller dog in the trading card game like this, especially one that has single-handedly been responsible for creating hundreds of awesome, unique old-time baseball paintings, and in turn pieces of baseball art, like this one.

All I know is, regardless of who manufactured it, this is easily now my single favorite card of the great Casey Stengel!  Collecting is supposed to be fun, and to me that's exactly what this card is.

What's your opinion on a card like this?  A nice addition to a collection, or cardboard blasphemy?

Sunday, August 18, 2019

COMC Blaster - Vintage, Vintage, Vintage!

Happy Sunday everyone!  Time for my latest "COMC Blaster" post; let's see how I did with $20 in credit on my absolute favorite sports card site on the internet.  The theme of today's post is vintage...

...and we lead off with a couple of needs from my 1965 Topps Red Sox team set.  It's really inexcusable that I haven't knocked some of these older team sets out already, or at the very least made more progress than I have.  Especially since I can get "will never need to upgrade" shape examples like Felix Mantilla here for 50 cents.

Or even high-number cards like Lenny Green for 73 cents.  This one's got a little ding in the upper right corner, but the card still presents very well and that doesn't bother me in the least.  $1.23 out the door, two cards closer to knocking this little project off.

I've mentioned that '50s and older baseball cards have really been a big hobby interest for me of late.  I will happily accept any card from the decade that I don't already own, but have been focusing on a couple of sets in particular.  One of which is 1959 Topps, and toward that goal I was able to snag a couple of commons for 60 cents each.  Alex Kellner of the Cardinals...

...and Julio Becquer of the Senators.  I'm well past the halfway point with this set now, and have the cards all laid out in a binder already.  It's so satisfying to slide new cards like these into their slots, especially at this price point.  That's not all the '59 Topps I have for today, however.

I ponied up $1.61 for this Carl Erskine, good for third most expensive card in today's post.  Sure, I may have paid the "Dodger Tax" here, but it's not like I broke the bank.  I love the ominous LA Memorial Coliseum background on this card.

Let's do another trio of new '59s here, with Don Dillard's Rookie Stars card setting me back 59 cents (appropriately, for a 1959 card)...

...Russ Kemmerer ringing in at 70 cents (but in immaculate condition!)...

...and Giants' hurler Curt Barclay rounding out the group at 67 cents.  That's half a dozen new cards for this set in total, bringing me up to 311 cards and counting now from this release.

We're only at an even $6.00 and counting as far as today's post goes, so let's keep plugging on here...

The other set that I've been working more diligently at than perhaps any other of late is 1955 Topps.  I love the over-sized cards, already had a decent start on it from a small lot I picked up when I re-entered the hobby in 2007, and the checklist is pretty small at just 206 cards.

I set sort of an unofficial goal of trying to get 1/3 of the way there (68-69 cards) by the end of this calendar year, and today I get three cards closer.  Wayne Terwilliger here was a total steal at just $1.13.

Fred Marsh of the Orioles was slightly more expensive at $1.60.  This one is in unbelievable shape for being well over 60 years old now.

I'm pretty shocked at the cartoon on the back of Marsh's card.  We're certainly living in a different era now.  Imagine the outrage if an image like this showed up on a modern day trading card?

Finishing off the '55s for today is catcher Charlie White of the Braves.  $1.64 for this one but again, I'll never need to upgrade or replace it.  I'd snag up more commons at these prices and in these conditions all day long, but it's getting harder and harder to find deals like this the further along I get in my quest.  With these three in hand though I'm up to 46 now, getting close to the 25% marker anyway!

The pair of '65 Topps cards that led off the post weren't the only progress made in '60s Sox team sets in this "blaster".  I also strengthened my 1960 Topps team set by two cards, with catcher Haywood Sullivan at 75 cents...

...and first baseman Vic Wertz at a very reasonable 60 cents.  I've now got 21 different Boston Red Sox cards from this release, but still have well over a dozen to go to knock off the team set.  One of those is the Yastrzemski rookie as well so yeah, it's gonna be a while...

If you're keeping tally, we're at $11.72 so far.  Let's dive back into the '50s to keep working towards the $20 total...

I love the 1956 Topps set every bit as much as the 1955 release.  I'm simply targeting '55 first because it's a smaller set and I'm further along with it.  That doesn't mean I won't grab cheap '56 cards when I run across them though!

Jim Wilson here is certainly a little rough condition-wise compared to what I typically look for, but this card cost just 50 cents.  50 cents for a 1956 Topps card that's not creased to hell and has no pen marks on it?  Yes, please!

Frank Sullivan, in much nicer shape and doubling as a new card for my Red Sox collection, was still had for just 75 cents.  I love the detailed ballpark background on this one, after the very plain one on the Jim Wilson card prior.

Art Fowler here's a tad bit worn, but came from the same seller as the Jim Wilson and was also just 50 cents.  Condition aside, you can't go wrong picking up three new '56 cards for a grand total of $1.75.  Just another example of why COMC is so great.

Topps wasn't the only company producing over-sized baseball cards in the '50s, as Bowman did so with their '53, '54 and '55 releases.  Next up I've got a pair from 1954, Murray Dickson of the Fightin' Phils for 85 cents...

...and Frank Shea of the Senators for one penny more than that.  True, each of these has a surface wrinkle or two, but that's what made them so affordable.  As you can see in the scans, they don't really do anything to detract from the overall visual beauty of the cards either.  Bowman produced some really great cards in the '50s, and I'm happy to have these two in my collection.

I also grabbed Frank Shea's 1955 Bowman release.  With color TV being a somewhat new novelty at the time, I totally appreciate the historical significance and tie to that cultural element in the 1955 Bowman set.  With that being said, it's actually my least favorite of the six baseball sets that Bowman released in the decade.  Couldn't pass up this one at just 75 cents.

That's all the vintage baseball I could easily get my hands on from my COMC "to be processed" box, but we're only at $15.93 in credit and counting.  Solution?  One awesome vintage hockey card to finish off the post.  Behold!

I never get tired of these stunning "tall-boy" 1964-65 Topps hockey cards.  I just don't seem to run across many opportunities to buy them at good prices, and because of that it's been some time since I picked one up.  When I stumbled upon this mint Bill Hay during this year's Spring Cleaning promotion, priced at just $4 even, I snagged it immediately.

Well, that's a wrap for today.  As these posts always seem to, this one just affirmed that hand-selecting singles is my preferred way to collect.  I appreciate the excitement of opening packs, but in the end it's doubtful that a retail blaster would have provided me with even a single card that I enjoyed as much as these.

Thanks as always for stopping by, and enjoy the rest of your weekend!
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