Most strip sets of baseball cards from the pre-war are kind of quirky and the W574 issue certainly fits that bill. These black and white cards are among the later strip cards that were produced in the pre-war era and have several interesting characteristics.
Here’s a closer look at this interesting 1930s set.
W574 Strip Card Basics
Believed to have been issued in 1933, the W574 strip card set features a small collection of major league baseball players. The set has sometimes been classified as a 1932 issue in the past but is now recognized as at least one printed no earlier than 1933. The fronts included black and white images of players while backs were blank. Pictures of the players are printed inside of a thin black border.
The set has been dated to 1933 but its origins aren’t entirely clear. And while it is commonly said to originate from that year, a later release is also possible since no proof has ever really been found to determine where this set came from.
One unique note on the set is that it only includes American League players. Further, players from the Washington Senators and popular New York Yankees are excluded. No Yankees, of course, means no Babe Ruth or Lou Gehrig — two baseball fixtures of the era. Their exclusion makes for a more affordable, though somewhat dull, set. And because it includes only American League teams, some collectors believe this set was offered at American League baseball stadiums. Again, though, that has never been proven. Despite the questions about its origins, an informal name of ‘American League Ball Parks’ or some iteration of that is often assigned to this release.
The set almost exclusively features action poses. While many strip issues included an abundance of portrait poses, this one takes an opposite approach. The lone non-action shot exceptions are a portrait shot of Chicago White Sox player / manager Jimmy Dykes and a picture of manager Cleveland Indians Roger Peckinpaugh, who is in a dugout. Most of the cards are also printed vertically, save for a horizontal pose of Detroit Tigers player Harry Davis.
Additionally, the cards have thick white borders as well as the player’s handwritten name. His team name is also printed in block lettering in either black or white. The player’s name can be difficult to read on some cards, which can be a problem for collectors without a checklist since their name is not printed anywhere else. Finally, no card numbers are offered on the cards.
The set includes a total of only 29 cards. Since it includes only American League players, many big names are missing from it. However, it does certainly include some stars. Jimmie Foxx, Lefty Grove, and Al Simmons are the most notable players included. Also found are Hall of Famers Earl Averill, Luke Appling, and Red Faber.
Those players are joined by 23 others as the rest of the checklist includes the following: Dale Alexander, Ivy Andrews, George Blaeholder, Irving Burns, Pat Caraway, Chalmer Cissell, Harry Davis, Jimmy Dykes, George Earnshaw, Lew Fonseca, Vic Frasier, Frank Grube, Irv Hadley, Willie Kamm, Bill Killefer, Ralph Kress, Fred Marberry, Roger Peckinpaugh, Frank Reiber, Carl Reynolds, Joe Vosmik, Gerald Walker, and Whit Wyatt. While some of those players had noteworthy seasons, they are generally viewed as commons.
With a total of 29 cards, the checklist seems somewhat incomplete. But a 30th has not been discovered to date and 29 has become the accepted total for this set.
W574 Rarity and Prices
Despite its later date, the cards are surprisingly rare compared to other strip issues. That leads us to believe they were probably not printed in large quantities (compared to other issues), though again, that is inconclusive. To date, PSA and SGC have combined to grade only about 200. And while you will typically find some of these for sale on eBay, the amount there is usually quite small.
The prices for the W574 strip cards are relatively affordable. While some sellers are inclined to charge more for them because of their rarity, at straight auctions, they usually don’t sell for too much.
There, commons in decent shape will usually start in the $15-$30 range. Stars, depending on the player and condition, will be more. Because finding these cards can be such a challenge, you rarely will see a complete set offered. But they do occasionally pop up, like this one did in an Old Judge auction, selling for nearly $2,150 in an older auction.