Despite their looks, strip cards are often viewed as great options for collectors because of their affordability. But while many pre-war strip issues are plentiful and relatively inexpensive, some sets are quite challenging and more costly. Here’s a look at five sets that will test the most dedicated collectors.
Big Heads Strip Cards
The Big Heads strip cards are among the rarer strip issues. They aren’t impossible to find but are more challenging than many issues that are easily found on eBay. Dating for the cards is a bit up in the air, though they are often listed as a 1916-20 set. Some sources say they could be slightly later. Whatever the case, they are not an easy set to collect.
The cards feature slightly oversized heads on relatively chubby player bodies, making for an odd combination. At only 20 cards, the set is a small one. But with the cards being so rare (there are generally no more than a dozen on eBay at any given time), completing a set is not an easy task. That is true not only because the cards are not that plentiful but also because of their price. Even in lower grade, commons can be $200 – $300.
1919-21 W514 Strip Cards
The W514 strip card set is another challenging one but for a different reason. W514 cards are probably among the more plentiful strip issues. The problem here is that it’s a large set by strip card standards with 120 cards in it.
There are other large strip sets, such as the W512 and W513 issue, which combine for 100 cards. But only a portion of those sets are baseball cards with other sports and non-sports figures making up about 2/3 of it. W514 is all baseball and with that many cards, it can be tough to assemble. It is popular, though, because of the inclusion of many of the players from the 1919 Chicago White Sox team, including Joe Jackson. Commons here are far more reasonable, often in the $10-$20 range but a few cards, such as Jackson and Babe Ruth (the Ruth card is one of his earliest Yankees issues) can be quite expensive. This PSA 4 of Jackson, for instance, sold for more than $2,000.
1923 Fleer (W515) Strip Cards
Many collectors only know of Fleer’s modern cards, which were produced starting in 1981. But what few know is that the company’s roots actually began much sooner. Fleer was a sponsor of sorts of the W515 strip card set, printing their name on the backs of some cards.
While the standard blank-backed W515 cards are pretty easy to find, the Fleer cards are much tougher to find these days. They don’t sell for outlandish prices like you might think they would (this SGC 60 of Wally Schang sold for only a little over $100 in 2015) but they are not easily found.
It is often believed that all W515 cards can be found with a Fleer back but that has not been completely confirmed because of the rarity of these cards.
If you happen to be a poker player, this set is for you. The blank-backed W560 strip cards feature baseball players in a playing card design. Players are pictured on cards with hearts, diamonds, clubs, and spades.
While the issue is mostly a baseball one, others are found in it, including some boxers and even collegiate football players. This is another fairly tough set with Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig making an appearance and driving up the price. Commons, however, are very affordable often in the $10-$15 range.
The W9316 strip cards are known for one thing and that’s for being incredibly ugly.
Strip cards aren’t usually known for their aesthetics but the W9316s are particularly difficult to stomach. These have extraordinarily crude drawings that, in many cases, appear to have been sketched out in only minutes.
One glaring problem is that many (but not all) are found with an abundance of red on a player’s lips giving the appearance that he is wearing lipstick. But while the cards are not easy to look at, they aren’t terribly cheap, either. Commons in decent shape often top $50 and stars are in the hundreds. Hall of Famers George Sisler, Home Run Baker, Wilbert Robinson, and Ray Schalk are the keys to this small, 10-card set.