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?


Chris said...

That is a very unique piece of cardboard, and I'd say <$15 is a nice price for the Stengel. You did your homework on this stuff and felt comfortable paying that price. That's all that matters.

And FTR, I think that printing REPRINT on the back would detract from the appeal, and it's not technically correct if there was no t206 Stengel to begin with.

shoeboxlegends said...

Thanks Chris, I edited the reprint wording a bit. It's been a few days since I read those threads on Net54, and I want to be fair to the critics in case they didn't use that terminology exactly. The gist of it was a concern that these would be mistaken for actual T206 cards by an uninformed collector, without any marking indicating otherwise. I guess I understand that but I *am* an informed collector, so it doesn't bother me in the least. In fact, I think a big old "Copyright 2019" on the back would kind of ruin this one for me to some degree!

Oh, and some of the more cranky folks in that forum went a step further talking about how these are worthless just like every single post-war card, because the only thing that makes a card valuable is scarcity. Seemed like a real fun bunch!

Hackenbush said...

I love it! It's obviously a work of art as opposed to the many cheaply made fantasy cards out there.

Fuji said...

You'll hear no complaints from me. I was addicted to those 2005 Helmars a year or two ago.

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