The W514 strip cards set is one of the most popular releases in the W-Card category. With 120 cards and many of the major baseball stars of the era, it has drawn its fair share of fans. And with seven of the eight banned members of the Chicago White Sox after the fallout from the 1919 World Series gambling scandal, Black Sox collectors have also taken note of it.
However, experienced collectors know that there is another interesting feature of the set – various advertiser backs.
Advertiser backs are exactly what they sound like – cards with advertising information printed on the backs. When most collectors think of pre-war cards with advertiser backs, they usually will point to the tobacco issues of the 20th Century. More specifically, the popular T206 set was produced for numerous brands and includes their names and designs on the backs of the cards. Other popular issues that were used by multiple companies were the M101-4 and M101-5 Mendelsohn cards (often referred to as the Sporting News set). Strip cards, though, were also a popular target of companies wanting in on the baseball card action.
Companies often chose to advertise on cards that were already established instead of creating their own set for a few reasons. For one thing, since the cards were already designed and printed, there wasn’t the need to pay an artist to create the set or wait for it to be printed. Companies could either work with the manufacturer of the cards to have their own information printed on the backs. Or, if they wanted smaller quantities, they could even simply acquire some of the cards that were being distributed elsewhere and stamp their own company name on the back. This wasn’t a problem to do with strip cards since they were often blank-backed. The cards would then be an advertisement of sorts for their own business.
It should be noted that Fleer’s first known baseball cards were actually ‘produced’ this way. The company had their advertisement added to the backs of W515 strip cards in the early 1920s.
Advertisers caught on to the appeal of the W514 strip card set and that issue was ultimately used by several companies. To date, several have been found – albeit in pretty small quantities.
Barker Bread – Barker Bread used these cards to promote its product. The backs of them read, “Safe at the Home Plate – Eat Barker Bread.” The Barker Bread cards were apparently often glued into albums. Many of these cards have been found with backs missing part of the text.
H.A. Robinson – The H.A. Robinson Company printed its ads on the back for two peanut products. The back advertises for both their ‘Our Hero’ Peanuts and the ‘Robinson Cruso’ Salted Peanuts. A relatively new discovery first mentioned in Bob Lemke’s blog back in 2009, only a handful of these cards have been found to date.
Hendler’s Ice Cream – Hendler’s wasn’t only an advertiser on these cards, but included several different slogans, including a typo. One of their slogans incorrectly reads, “A Pal for your Plate.” Corrected versions of, “A Pal for your Palate” also exist. Several other slogans are also known to exist.
Mother’s Bread/Besta Cake – Yet another advertiser is known in this set in the form of Mother’s Bread and Besta Cake. Backs of these cards have those product names on them and state that they are for sale at all grocers.
While these are the more common W514 advertiser backs, others very likely could exist. The H.A. Robinson backs were only made known to the hobby in 2009 new discoveries could surface. Collectors should be wary, though. Since many advertiser backs were simply stamped, forgeries have been found as modern collectors have simply tried to place obscure stamps onto these.
W514 Strip Cards Advertiser Back Prices
While the W514 strip cards are plentiful, ones with advertising backs are much more difficult to find. They do surface at auctions occasionally but generally have much higher price tags than the standard blank-backed versions.
Two Mother’s Bread cards in lower/mid-grade condition (including a Rabbit Maranville) sold for $360 at a REA auction in 2016. A Barker Bread and Hendler Ice Cream card lot of two in lower-grade condition (including an Eddie Collins) sold for $430.00 by Heritage in 2015. It is not known if any of the H.A. Robinson cards have ever sold at a public auction, but the Standard Catalog assigned a $600 NM value ($125 VG) to commons, placing them mostly on par with the others.
It is not known if any of the advertisers here printed their names on a complete set but other big names exist in the issue, including Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, and Joe Jackson. Their cards would obviously command exponentially higher prices.
While eBay generally has W514 strip cards for sale, finding one with an advertising back there is difficult.