1911 S81 Silk Complete Set Uncut Sheet

Sold For: $197,200

Auction Year: 2005 spring

Lot: 2

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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 is the "Holy Grail" of uncut sheets. It is also one of the most spectacular of all baseball display pieces. 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. It is in Near Mint to Mint condition. Presented in an uncut sheet form, the beauty of the entire set presents an overwhelming and awe-inspiring museum-caliber display. The terms "rare" and "special" and "museum-quality" are often used and overused in collecting circles. The S81 Tobacco Silk uncut sheet is one of the few items in the collecting world of such magnitude and significance that it cannot easily be described without referencing these terms. 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: Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Tris Speaker, Nap Lajoie, Rube Marquard, Grover Cleveland Alexander, Hugh Jennings, Eddie Collins, Johnny Evers, Joe Tinker, Chief Bender, Frank "Home Run" Baker, Roger Bresnehan, Ed Walsh, John McGraw, etc. 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 saved by someone closely involved in the manufacture of the set, and survived undisturbed in storage until discovered in the late 1970s by two Philadelphia area antique dealers. The S81 sheet was, at that time, sold to legendary silk collector Ken Silverman. Silverman was known, literally and figuratively, throughout the world as "The King of Silks." It remained the centerpiece of the largest and most famous tobacco silk collection ever assembled until Silverman retired from collecting, and his collection was eventually dispersed in the 1980s. When the S81 Silk sheet changed hands in the late 1980s, it was one of only two items in the entire collecting world of baseball cards and memorabilia which had at that time ever sold for $100,000 or more. The other member of this very exclusive six-figure club was the now legendary Gretzky-McNall T206 Wagner, which of course has since sold for $1.265 million dollars. It is an honor for Robert Edward Auctions to be chosen to present this extraordinary sheet, which would, without exaggeration, be the centerpiece of any museum display or museum-caliber collection of baseball cards and memorabilia. In fact, the sheet was prominently displayed at the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown on loan by request for a special exhibition in 1990 and 1991. The sheet is in Near Mint to Mint condition with flawless colors. 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. Magnificently framed with Plexiglas to dimensions of 41.5 x 60 inches. Reserve $100,000. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $197,200.00

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