Many strip card sets are avoided by collectors. Some don’t like the often crude representations of the players, the fragile card stock and lack of quality examples in the market. However, one of the more popular issues can’t be ignored due to its diverse checklist and collection of baseball greats.
Here’s a closer look at the 1920s W551 strip card set.
W551 Strip Cards Overview
Believed to have been issued in 1921, the W551 set is your typical strip issue in terms of design. The cards featured colorized depictions of athletes — some of which were half decent and others, like this Walter Johnson, not so good.
But the thing that sets the strip card set apart from some others is its wide collection of talent. The 40-card set includes all kinds of athletes, including baseball players, golfers, boxers, and tennis stars, among others. The set contains mostly athletes but, like some other strip issues, has some movie stars, too.
Roughly, the cards measure 1 3/8″ x 2 1/4″. That, of course, varies quite a bit as these are hand cut cards. Some you will find quite wider or narrower, as well as taller or shorter, depending on who did the cutting. Finding them with torn edges is also somewhat common, too. Fronts include a color picture of a subject with his/her name and sport at the bottom. Some have an added designation of ‘Champion’ added to them.
The cards were issued in ten-card strips. Today, these are getting harder to find in uncut form but they do surface occasionally. And while ten-card strips are rarer, partial strips featuring only a few cards are a bit more common. Collectors should be wary of two-card strips featuring Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb. While those do technically exist as the pair was printed next to each other on the baseball strip, many forgeries for those two cards exist.
Overall, it’s an incredibly clean set with few images that can be considered absolute eyesores. And in the world of strip cards, that’s a significant win.
Baseball Stars … and More
Despite the allure of the diversity of this set, the focal point is on the baseball cards. Ten of the 40 cards in the set, after all, are stars of the diamond. Most of the names, too, are significant ones.
Leading the way are cards of Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, and Walter Johnson. Those three legends are arguably the most sought after in the entire set. Others, though, are quite notable, too. Also included are the likes of Hall of Famers Tris Speaker, George Sisler, Casey Stengel, Home Run Baker, and Dave Bancroft. Even the two players not inducted in Cooperstown are worth collectors’ time.
One is Wally Pipp, who is famous for missing a game and being replaced by the legendary Lou Gehrig, who went on to play in more than 2,130 consecutive games. The other is Jesse Barnes, who had a solid career, winning two World Series titles with the New York Giants.
But while the baseball players are the keys to the set, there’s a lot more here, too.
Among the other important cards are those for golfer Gene Sarazen and tennis legend Bill Tilden. These are actually cited as rookie cards for both of the Hall of Famers. The card for tennis star Molla Mallory, another Hall of Famer, is also believed to be her rookie.
Boxers are also significant additions in this release. The top fighter found is the legendary Jack Dempsey and the card for Hall of Famer Mickey Walker is considered yet another important rookie card in the set.
The non-sports personalities are less valuable. However, a few do command a bit of money. Charlie Chaplin and Jackie Coogan are a couple of those that are sought after.
W551 Strip Card Prices
The allure of most strip cards is their value and that’s the same case here. While some of the key cards can be a bit pricey, by comparison, they are affordable.
Decent quality commons in the set can often be found in the $10-$20 range. Some of the more well-known athletes, depending on the subject and condition, are a bit more. Cards of Sarazen and Tilden, for example, can be closer to $50-$75 in nice shape. The cards of Ruth and Cobb are the most valuable. Even in low-grade condition, their cards are $300-$500. Higher grade examples can easily top $1,000.
Click here to check out W551 strip cards listed on eBay now.