Many collectors tend to think of the late 19th Century tobacco sets, such as Allen & Ginter, or the 1933 Goudey Sport Kings set when considering multi-sport pre-war sets. But one that sort of flies under the radar is the W590 strip card set.
About the W590 Strip Card Set
Produced over a series of years, the W590 strip cards are most commonly dated to 1925 through 1931. How many printings took place exactly is a bit unknown. But the set was updated to reflect team changes or changes to an athlete’s status (i.e. a champion athlete in an individual sport).
Speak to collectors on the appeal of the pictures and you’ll generally get mixed answers. The set utilized real black and white photographs of athletes, which makes them more attractive than some ugly strip issues. But some collectors prefer more colorful artwork and that is absent here.
The cards have a pretty basic look with the athlete’s name and other information presented at the bottom. Backs, like most strip issues, are blank.
The set is believed to consist of about 100 cards (not counting variations) but a fully confirmed checklist is still a task not yet achieved. Three boxing cards, for example, were only just recently added in 2016 and other additions could still be forthcoming. It should also be noted that, due to the update variations, many more cards exist as some checklisted players have more than one variation.
A final mention is that some of the cards can be found with small numbers printed in the left or right borders. Some collectors believe these were to indicate a specific row on a printing sheet. Others, however, are not so sure. Whatever the case, finding cards with the numbers on them is somewhat rare.
Baseball, Baseball, Baseball
While a multi-sport issue, the baseball cards are generally the most desirable ones in the set. That’s a good thing for collectors as it’s also the sport that is represented the most with approximately 40 of the cards depicting baseball players.
Leading the way in the set in terms of the baseball players are the trio of Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, and Lou Gehrig. Those three alone can make completing a set a challenge. But there are plenty of others here, too, including Walter Johnson, Zack Wheat, Tris Speaker, George Sisler, Rogers Hornsby, Eddie Collins, and more.
Beyond those names, additional Hall of Famers and stars are sprinkled in as well. Completing even the baseball portion of this set is a somewhat considerable effort.
As this is a multi-sport set, there are a lot of other desirable cards here as well. Around 20 boxers exist, including Hall of Famers Jack Dempsey, Jack Johnson, and Gene Tunney. Additionally, the rookie card of golf legend Walter Hagen is found in the set. But the real prize among the other sports cards is a Red Grange football card.
Grange’s card is considered by some to be his rookie issue and it is generally one of the most expensive cards in the set. Tennis, wrestling, and cycling are also featured. A handful of non-sports figures are found here, too. Betsy Ross is in the set as are former first ladies Florence Harding and Grace Coolidge.
With regards to the boxers in the set, it should be noted that a very similar issue, W580, exists as well. Those used the same pictures but have the name presented in a non-serif font slightly different from these. The two sets are often confused by collectors despite being distinctly different sets.
W590 Strip Card Prices
Prices for the W590 strip cards are relatively reasonable. Commons in decent shape start around $25 with poorly cut examples selling for less. Hall of Famers can easily top $100 and the most expensive cards can sell for more than $1,000 in nicer condition. Even low-grade examples of the biggest stars can approach that amount. A modest SGC 30 Babe Ruth card, for example, sold for nearly $1,000 at an REA auction. There are usually a few dozen W590s including an uncut strip or two listed on eBay.