Vintage Sports Report

This week, the look back at strip cards from the the early 1900's continues. There are four more issues to look at this week, including a couple with some pretty mysterious origins.

Hi everyone. Hope everyone is doing fine now that summer is starting to come to a close; we know we'll miss the summer weather. Today we'll be doing the second in the series on the W series strip cards.

First, 1916-1920 W-UNC "big head" strip cards. Given the known player content and the fact that no team designations are printed on the card, it is impossible to more accurately date this blank backed strip card issue. The 1 3/8" X 2 ½" strip cards have colored artwork of players in full body poses. The pictures are unusual in that the players heads are out of proportion to the rest of the body. Whether the portraits were meant to be accurate portrayals is conjecture.

Dave Bancroft's card – valued at $350 – is the only Philly that has surfaced from the set. The most expensive cards in the set are Babe Ruth at $4,500 and Ty Cobb at $2,500.

Next, 1921 W-UNC self developing strip cards. The technology of a self developing photographic baseball card was popularized in the early 1930's by Ray-O-Print and again in the late 1940's and early 1950's by Topps. The technology appears to have been pioneered circa 1921 by an unknown company which produced this series of strip cards. Individual cards measure between 1 1/16" and 1 3/16" in width and 1 13/16" in depth. In black and white, they feature action poses on a dark background with the players name and team in white. A white border surrounds the picture and the backs are blank; some cards from this set have still not surfaced.

Unlike the "big head" set, this set is dominated by Philadelphia players starting with, Grover Cleveland Alexander valued at $350. There is also Red Faber ($250), Jack Daubert ($75) and Billy Killefer ($75). The highest valued card in the set is Babe Ruth at $3,500 and Ty Cobb at $2,500.

There is not a lot known about the next two sets and they are very small.

The first are the 1924 W-UNC strip cards. The actual year of issue is conjectural based on the other nine athletic, cinematic and historical subjects found on the ten card strip, which includes the Babe Ruth card. The approximately 1 ½" X 2 ½" black and white, blue and white, or maroon and white cards have a blank back and identify the player, position, and team within the photo and includes the card number and name in the bottom border. The card has also been seen with numbers 52 and 71, possibly from later strip configurations. The only player to surface as of now are three different Babe Ruth cards – numbers 152 and 271 and one un-numbered card. The un-numbered card is valued at $1,100 and the others at $800.

Lastly this week, are the 1920 W-UNC playing strip cards. Because the only known baseball player from the presumably multi-topic set, never played for the team which is named, it's not possible to more precisely date this issue. Likely printed on a sheet similar to other playing card sets of the era, the individual cards are about 1 ½" X 2 ½". The front has a crude black and white drawing of the player inside a spade shaped design on a red background, the back is blank. The only player to date is Doug McWeeny and is valued at $150.

As always, any questions about these series or any suggestions on other topics, please email me at rrsports@ptd.net.


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