The following twelve lots represent a choice sampling of what many collectors today believe is one of the most interesting offerings in the field of modern card collecting: Helmar Brewing Company cards. These cards, which began as a novel promotion to help increase the company’s line of beer in 2005, are immediately recognizable by their unique “retro” style. The cards all feature beautiful, contemporary illustrations of baseball players from the game’s earliest years and incorporate the designs of many classic issues, including those of 1933 Goudey, T3 Turkey Red, and 1912 Boston Garter. They are not reprints, but newly created limited-edition cards featuring designs that otherwise would not exist. Furthermore, the cards are intentionally produced with a distressed look, with most having rounded corners and rubbed edges. Another aspect which appeals to collectors is the manner in which they are issued. Initially, the cards were only available in packages of the company’s expanding line of food products, such as Helmar Potato Chips and Caramel Corn. However, the positive response to the cards was so overwhelming that Helmar began producing different issues and selling them on its website. Later, the decision was made to only sell the cards, in very limited quantities,on eBay, a practice which continues to this day (auctions are held weekly under the eBay handle “sirraffles”). What is important to note is that for each card, no more than forty are produced (in some cases, fewer are made), making the assembly of a complete set of any limited-edition Helmar issue all the more challenging. For many collectors, the fact that these cards are not mass produced, but must be collected one by one, is part of their great appeal. For others, it is their fascinating design and method of production, and the fact that if these cards were truly vintage they would cost a fortune. It is also important to understand that some of the sets were only produced for a year or two before being “retired.” However, other sets, such as the extremely popular “R319″ Helmar Big League Brew, remain works in progress, with new cards issued on a monthly basis. In fact, the “R319″ Helmar Big League Brew issue currently has over 400 cards in the set and may soon hold the distinction of becoming the largest baseball card set ever made from quality original artwork!
This is the first significant offering of Helmar cards and related baseball products in an auction catalog devoted to vintage baseball cards that we are aware of, and given their increasing popularity, it will certainly not be the last. Each of the eleven Helmar lots in this auction has been consigned by a dedicated hobby veteran who became enamored with the cards at the time of their initial distribution. Using the same methods he employed during his years of collecting, he has methodically sought out many of the most desirable players and sets in the Helmar line, always with an eye toward quality. While not everyone in the collecting community may be as enthusiastic as we are about what is admittedly a modern issue, the quality of these cards has earned them a place in the hearts (and collections!) of many and we can see why. From our perspective, these art cards have merit as being part of a long-standing hobby tradition of cards featuring old-timers being produced for collectors, and it is hard not to appreciate the ingenuity and quality of Helmar’s efforts. It is easy to see why many vintage card collectors consider these the coolest modern cards being produced in the hobby today.
To learn more about the Helmar Company please visit their website:
For more information about the company and the history of the cards we recommend an outstanding article written by Mike Shannon of Sports Collectors Digest:
http://www.sportscollectorsdigest.com/featured/helmar-brewing-co-cards-attracting-plenty-of-attention. Finally, a partial checklist of cards and sets can be found at:
Here is a link to the twelve Helmar Brewing Company Art Card lots in the REA fall auction (closing date October 19, 2013):