Vintage Sports Report

This week, the spotlight falls on a rare, beautiful and therefore, expensive, set of cards. It's back to 1912 for a look at one of the most beautiful sets ever issued; The Leathers. Just beware, the cost isn't for everybody.

Hello, sports fans; It's less than two weeks to the trading deadline and we're all wondering what the Phillies will actually do. Will they make a big splash or little waves? Let's hope for the big splash theory.

This week, we're only going to look at one set of cards, but it's one of the most beautiful, rarest and most expensive sets out there and it's relatively small. Normally, it's called the leathers, but the official name is 1912 L1 Leather.

One of the most unusual collectables of the tobacco ear, the leathers were issued by Helmar Tobacco Company in 1912 as a premium, with its Turkish Trophies brand of cigarettes. The set featured 25 of the top players and shared a checklist with the closely related S81 Silks, which were another part of the promotion. The leathers – advertised as being 10" x 12" - featured drawings of baseball players on horse hide shaped pieces of leather. The drawings were based on the pictures used in the T3 Turkey Red Series issued a year earlier. Twenty of the 25 players in the leathers set are in the T3. Five pitchers – Grover Cleveland Alexander, Rube Marquard, Rube Benton, Marty O'Toole and Russ Floyd – were additions to the set. Each leather was available in exchange for 50 Helmar coupons. In addition to the 25 baseball players, there were 100 other subjects, including female athletes, bathing beauties, famous generals, Indian chiefs, actresses, National Flags, college mascots and others.

For pricing, there are three Phillies: Alexander ($7,000), Sherry Magee ($3,000) and Red Dooin ($3,000). Others in the set include Ty Cobb ($20,000), Christy Mathewson ($15,000) and Walter Johnson ($15,000).

These are a very desirable collectable and if you ever see one, you'll agree. To me, this is the top of the list. In the last ten years of looking at on-line auctions and various other places, I have seen just two. One of them was the Grover Cleveland Alexander card and I had to drop out of the bidding at $5,000. It eventually sold for just under three times that amount. Expect to pay more for these beauties, because of the rarity and their workmanship.

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