Well just got a response from the seller---not exactly what I expected...he is right about Ybor city, he explains why we can't find any info in the cigars, and my cigar store owner Tampa swore up and down again today that he had indeed heard of Alta Loma and the cards back thenThe website and the shilling still makes this seem very suspicious but he's definitely done extensive homework if he's making it all up...
This is a consignment item, so I know mostly what the seller has told me:
In my own words, these cards were made in 1995 for a company that went out of business before they really got started. A couple of marketing-oriented entrepreneurs wanted to hire some of the old Cuban-American stogie-rollers who were still around in a quarter of Tampa called Ybor City back then.
They printed these cards, which are nicely done, and they made up a few boxes with some hand-rolled cigars, then used these examples in their efforts to get a big cigar company interested in the concept. (So at no time were they actually a retail item.) Their big idea was to bring back the cigar card, a great idea, right? But the cigar makers they presented them to didn't want to package athletes with their tobacco, because this could easily become a publicity nightmare. No sale, and the Alta Loma guys soon moved on and faded into the woodwork.
The only other information I have is that Oscar Valdez (or Valdes) was one of the principals, and he might have been from Miami, not Tampa. My consignee purchased the cards in a storage locker auction several years ago.
As for getting these listed by Beckett, I doubt that could happen anytime soon. limited editions and tiny printings by small outfits like this won't usually be listed in Becketts until they are 25-30 years old. With or without Beckett, I'm sure these are the most valuable cards made by anyone since 1995, just based on scarcity. Most of the Alta cards went to a dealer/collector in Alabama, and he is not interested in selling any of them at any price.
I hope this information will be helpful.
Best wishes, Jim"