When it comes to pre-war baseball card collecting, it’s no secret that it can be an expensive endeavor. For that reason, one type of card that budget-conscious collectors will turn to is the strip card.
Is it right for you? Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of collecting them.
Benefits Of Collecting Strip Cards
By far and away, the most obvious reason to collect strip cards is their affordability. Despite the earliest ones being more than 100 years old, these can usually be found at very reasonable prices – especially in raw lower-grade condition. It isn’t unusual to see commons $25 or sometimes even less.
But unless you’re a team, set, or type collector, commons might don’t interest you that much. Many turn to strip cards to obtain affordable cards of Hall of Famers and big name players. At auction, Babe Ruth strip cards from his playing days can be purchased for only a few hundred dollars – a fraction of what many of his other cards from that era will cost. Other Hall of Famers are easily found at under $100.
While cost is one reason to collect strip cards, another is that they filled a significant gap in history when few card sets were being created. Pitcher Eddie Cicotte from the infamous 1919 Chicago White Sox team is a well-known player but has only a few dozen cards from his playing days. However, several of those are strip card releases, including the W-514, W-516, and W-555 sets. For collectors searching for as many cards of a particular pre-war player, strip cards are essential pieces.
Strip cards can also be helpful when securing cards of little-known players. Former Giants/Phillies third baseman Goldie Rapp, for example, played only briefly in the early 1920s. Because of that, he has only a handful of known cards. Three of them, however, are strip cards.
Another check in the ‘positive’ column is that they are rare and there is a solid market for them. The prices strip cards command aren’t as much as other issues, but collectors are still eager to add them to their collection at the right price. And given the rarity factor and those low prices, an increase in future value seems entirely possible.
Several Negatives To Strip Cards
Unfortunately, there are several reasons some collectors have decided they aren’t worth the trouble.
From an aesthetics standpoint, some are downright ugly. The artwork on many is very crude and they lack the detail provided in other mainstream releases, such as the American Tobacco Company cards or caramel cards. Some of the pictorials are certainly passable. However, strip cards as a whole rank near the bottom of the pile when it comes to quality of the artwork.
Strip cards are also very delicate – even more so than tobacco and caramel cards from the same era. They were generally printed on thinner paper stock, which can make damaging raw cards entirely too easy. Even if you are not a fan of slabbed cards, third-party graders offer good protection on these fragile issues. Along those lines, since these were sold or given away by merchants with assorted purchases, they were often hastily cut or ripped presenting uneven, crooked, and tattered borders. It isn’t uncommon to see them with terrible edges.
In addition, almost all strip cards are entirely blank-backed. If you’re a fan of the elaborate advertising backs found on T-206 cards, player biographies introduced on T-205 cards, or checklists, such as those found on some E-card and N-card issues, you may be disappointed with the empty backs. Many issues are blank-backed, so it isn’t the worst thing in the world. However, those empty backs also add to the aesthetics problem.
Finally, as with any number of card issues, there are plenty of fakes of the big-name players. And given that many collectors are unaware of how they look/feel, it is even easier to pass these off as the real deal. Third-party graders aren’t perfect, but they can be helpful here when buying Hall of Famers or other desired players that could be the target of fakes. If purchasing raw cards of star players, however, caution should be taken.
At the end of the day, all collectors must decide on their own what they want to collect. Strip cards are not for everyone but they are also a good way to fill voids in collections.
You can see hundreds of strip cards for sale on eBay here.