The 1926 W511 strip card set isn’t one of the more common strip issues — and for good reason. The set is relatively obscure, confusing, and doesn’t include much in the way of baseball.
But the set is home to four Babe Ruth cards and because of that, has drawn a fair share of attention from collectors of early cards.
Here’s a closer look at the set.
W511 Strip Card Basics
The W511 Strip Card set includes a hodgepodge of stuff. Primarily a non-sports issue, the sports cards in it are by far the most popular.
Like other strip cards, these were hand cut. If you are a collector of this issue or of other strip cards, you might notice that the cuts on these cards can be particularly brutal. Some sets have a decent number of uncut sheets or strips (like the W512 strip cards) that have survived. That has yielded some high-grade cards today as many of them have been cut in recent years. However, that does not seem to be the case with W511 cards Uncut strips have occasionally surfaced but are extremely rare.
W511 cards are considerably rarer than other strip issues and many have particularly rough edges or are found in low-grade condition. If you search for these cards on eBay, you will not typically see many listings for them. And the ones you are able to find are often in poor shape.
The cards are distinguished by different tints — at least four types are known (black and white, blue tint, purple tint, and red tint) and some have even referenced an orange-colored version (possibly a red tint gone wrong). In addition, while many cards have card numbers, some do not. As if that wasn’t confusing enough, some card numbers are shared between more than one card. It is also not clear if every card can be found with every tint. The cards are so rare that that may never be known.
Cards are numbered up to No. 95 and they measure roughly 1 1/2″ x 2 1/4″. Of course, the actual dimensions will vary from card to card simply because they have been cut differently.
At the top of the list in terms of demand and value are the sports cards found in the set. And there are none greater in either of those categories than the Babe Ruth cards.
The various tints aside, Ruth has four different numbered cards in the set as he is found on No. 1, No. 52, and No. 71. A fourth card is known without a card number. The Ruth cards feature the same image, just with different tints and numbers. A black and white one is shown here.
But while the Ruth cards are the most desirable, other sports cards are found in the set, too. Two of the few football strip cards known in the pre-war era are found here. College Football Hall of Famer Bill Edwards is in the set pictured on a pair of cards with child actor Jackie Coogan. Edwards played football in the late 1800s at Princeton and would go on to become the president of the short-lived American Football League in 1926.
Hall of Fame boxer Jack Dempsey is also seen in the set. Dempsey is seen on a pair of cards and, while his cards do not rival Ruth’s, they are highly desired by boxing collectors. Those collectors also have an interest in boxer L.A. Firpo, who is seen on a pair of cards eating a large plate of spaghetti.
And while his name does not appear in the title, race car driver Barney Oldfield is included on two cards with movie star Tom Mix. Early aviators such as the famous Charles Lindbergh round out the sports participation in the set.
W511 Strip Card Prices
While rare, the non-sports cards in the set do not command much money. There are a few exceptions with famous personalities such as Mix and Charlie Chaplin, which are a bit more sought after. But most of the value in this set is tied up in the sports issues and non-sport commons in the set usually start in the $5-$10 range.
Cards of Dempsey, Edwards, and other sports figures will sell for more, depending on the condition. Ruth, of course, is the highlight. To date, PSA has not even graded 50 of them (across all numbers and variations), proving they are quite rare. Even in very low-grade, his card typically starts at $500 or more — sometimes even much more. This low-grade Authentic Ruth card, for example, recently sold for just under $900 on eBay.