The W555 cards aren’t your typical strip issue. In fact, they are not really a strip card at all.
While classified by Jefferson Burdick in his American Card Catalog as a W-Card, the reality is that these are now known as a hand cut candy card of sorts. Collectors familiar with early cards will also note that many of the images are cropped versions of photographs that were used in several other candy card sets.
The cards have a sepia tone on the front with a thin black border and are blank-backed. Additionally, none of the cards have numbers printed on them. The only print offered is the player’s name and his team, which runs across the bottom of the front. The set is believed to include nearly 70 cards, though more could surface in the future. The cards are relatively rare with PSA and SGC combining to grade fewer than 500 to date.
As described by REA here, the cards were hand cut from boxes of candy from a Philadelphia candy maker named Jay Meyer. The boxes were discovered in 2007 and bore the name ‘Base Ball Snap Shots.’ Technically, that could be seen as the formal title for this set. REA notes these cards were actually intended to be hand-cut by children and they are not merely random pictures of baseball players that were cut out by enterprising collectors.
The W555 cards are square in shape and measure only approximately a little more than an inch in any direction. A precise measurement for them should never be given due to the nature of the cards being hand cut. That causes significant variations in the actual sizes. They are believed to be from around 1909 or 1910.
So if the cards were from candy boxes, why would Burdick classify them otherwise? Well, the American Card Catalog sort of spells that out, too. Burdick identified the cards’ producer as ‘anonymous’, meaning he was not real clear of their origins. Burdick certainly saw a lot but didn’t see everything and the fact that the candy box would have eluded him is not out of the ordinary — particularly given its extreme rarity.
Another thing that may have sent Burdick in that direction are these cards shown here in the Net54 forum. These look a lot like the W555 cards and could have been printed in strips. Further, the ones shown there are all featured in the W555 set. It is possible that Burdick saw these and believed them to be W555s. It is also important to note that the cards in that group, as stated in the post, could simply be a part of an advertisement for the W555 cards. Whatever they are, though, could have contributed to Burdick’s mindset in listing them as a strip issue if he came across them.
The W555 set includes a large assortment of stars and the checklist certainly will not disappoint collectors. Ty Cobb, Christy Mathewson, Cy Young, and Honus Wagner are at the forefront of the release. However, it includes numerous other notables as well, such as Hall of Famers Eddie Collins, Mordecai Brown, Addie Joss, Willie Keeler, Nap Lajoie, Eddie Plank, Ed Walsh, John McGraw, and many more.
Additionally, Hall of Fame manager Connie Mack is included as well. His card is a nice surprise as he was not found in too many sets in general.
Of particular interest is that Cy Young has two cards and another card featuring Irv Young is related as well. Young has one card picturing him as a hitter and a second showing him standing. The problem is that the card the latter is actually a picture of Irv Young. The manufacturer appeared to catch the mistake as some of those cards read Cy Young and others simply say ‘Young’.
That mistake is understandable as the same one was made in the E97 C.A. Briggs and the anonymous E98 sets. Confusion exists to this day as to if those cards should be considered Cy Young cards or Irv Young cards.
As stated, these cards are small, measuring only a little more than an inch on each side. But their rarity has helped to drive the asking prices for them up considerably.
In decent condition, it is difficult to find these cards for much under $100. Even in lower-grade shape, they usually command at least $50. Stars are exponentially higher, depending on the player involved and the condition. Often, stars and Hall of Famers will start around $200 and four figures isn’t out of the question, either, for the bigger names. A Cobb graded a modest SGC 3.5 sold for just over $1,300 in a 2014 REA auction. You can usually find a few on eBay.