There are very few pieces in the hobby that are so noteworthy that the market braces itself for the impact. In recent times, collectors have salivated over some tremendous items such as the famed 1923 Babe Ruth game used home run bat auctioned off by Sotheby's and SportsCards Plus jointly last year. There have been, of course, other items that have stopped collectors in their tracks, wishing they had more money to bid with but the true hobby wonders are rare.
The cover of Sports Market Report, this month, is graced by one of those rare treats -- the type of item that simply speaks for itself when you lay eyes upon it. The following is an auction snapshot, coming soon in a Robert Edward Auctions catalogue, describing the piece which is sure to grab the attention of many. Here are some excerpts.
1911 S81 Silk Complete Set Uncut Sheet - PSA Authenticated
Presented is one of the hobby's greatest treasures, which without question qualifies as the single most extraordinary display piece Robert Edward Auctions has ever had the privilege of offering: The only uncut sheet of 1911 S81 Tobacco Silks in existence. This uncut sheet is a collecting miracle on many counts. It is unique. It features a complete set of one of collecting's most classic and desirable tobacco issues, a set which many consider to be the single most beautiful issue ever produced.
S81 silks were issued as special premiums by Helmar Turkish Trophy cigarettes in 1911. The set was part of the very same promotion which brought us the classic T3 Turkey Red cabinet card set and the famous L1 leathers tobacco premium issue. Together, these three sets represent the premier tobacco premium issues of the era. All three sets share the same designs. The S81 silks have long been recognized as the most beautiful of this most important and respected trio of 1911 baseball tobacco premium issues.
To collectors, these three sets represent the pinnacle of the art of manufacture, production quality, and craftsmanship of all 1910-era baseball issues and all tobacco premium issues. S81 silks are revered both for their beauty and rarity. Few were distributed. Only Helmar Tobacco's most loyal customers could even attempt to collect the set. One silk could be obtained, only by mail, in exchange for 25 Helmar coupons, which were packed one per package with Helmar Turkish Trophy Cigarettes.
Today, the total number of surviving S81s probably totals no more than several hundred, and to the best of our knowledge only three sets have ever been assembled in the history of collecting. Two of these sets have long been broken up; we are uncertain of the status of the third. All of the great players of the era are represented including Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson and Christy Mathewson.
An incredible sixteen Hall of Famers can be counted among the 25 baseball players in the set, with the remaining nine players also great stars of the day. The sheet also features all five of the S81 Generals, which were issued along with the ballplayers, giving the sheet both an additional dimension of interest to both non-sport and Americana collectors. The generals, each appearing on horseback along the top row, are George Washington, U.S. Grant, Robert E. Lee, Napoleon Bonaparte, and Colonel W. F. Cody.
The sheet was prominently displayed at the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown on loan by request for a special exhibition in 1990 and 1991. A small notation at the bottom of the sheet is a production approval note by the printer and reads simply "OK" followed by his signature. This is the printer's notation approving the set for production. Each S81 silk measures 7 x 9 inches. The complete sheet of thirty S81s measures an imposing 36 x 54 inches.