PSA Set Registry
The 1923 W572 Baseball Strip Card Set
An Inexpensive and Challenging Vintage Alternative
by Kevin Glew
Strip cards have long been overlooked in the vintage hobby.
Jeered for their primitive designs, poor quality photos and cheap paper stock, these cards have generally been scoffed at by vintage collectors.
But this perception appears to be changing. Fuelled by their affordability and the challenge of finding them in top grade, strip cards - like those that comprise the 1923 W572 set - appear to be growing in popularity.
"The simplicity of the card design is what appeals to me, as well as the challenge of finding them in good condition," said Gregg Paquette, who owns the top 1923 W572 set on the PSA Set Registry.
"You can pick up a decent condition Hall of Famer [from this series] for $40 to $60," added Rhett Yeakley, a longtime vintage dealer and collector. "Strip cards are sort of a budget-conscious decision for a lot of people."
Distributed in horizontal strips of 10, the 120 cards required for this issue on the PSA Set Registry boast the same player photos (with the exception of the Ty Cobb single) that were employed in the 1922 E120 American Caramel set. When cut properly from the strip, the individual cards measure 1-5/16" by 2-1/2".
Yeakley says that 12 strips of 10 cards were manufactured and that each player only appeared on one strip. Printed on either white or darker stock, these cards showcase a black-and-white photo, the player's name (in script) and a copyright symbol for the photo on their fronts. The backs are blank.
"If you find an uncut strip, the card on the far left of the strip will have a two-digit number on it," explained Yeakley, adding that the number is located in the middle of the card front.
The veteran collector believes that the printer may have assigned this number.
The manufacturer of these cards is not known, but Yeakley believes that they were distributed with the 1923 W580 boxing strip cards. Some miscut 1923 W572 cards have also been discovered with the words "Metro Star" on them, which means that their production was likely linked to a non-sports issue as well.
The majority of these cards are found with black-and-white photos; however, a smaller quantity has been uncovered with sepia photos. Cards with sepia photos generally don't command a premium.
"These cards were probably sold as a strip of 10, not individually. The collector would then take them home and cut them up," said Yeakley. "There's no indication that they were sold individually, unless an enterprising shop owner wanted to do that himself. But the way that the actual W572s were distributed was in strips of 10, most likely for a penny or five cents - or something like that."
Yeakley further adds that the strips might have been distributed with another product.
"They very well could've been distributed with candy," he said. "So you bought a big piece of candy and you got a strip with it - something along those lines. They could've been sold by themselves, or they could've been sold in conjunction with a candy."
The veteran collector only sees about one or two strips per year.
"They typically sell in the $300 to $500 range, which isn't that bad considering there are 10 cards per strip," he said. "Invariably, there's going to be a Hall of Famer in the bunch."
A series of 1922 Neilson's Chocolate cards (V61) also utilized the same photos as the W572 singles. In 1996, 47 W572 cards were discovered with a Neilson's ad on their backs. After some initial confusion, it was concluded that this advertising was added well after the initial production, and these cards have been significantly devalued as a result.
Over two dozen Hall of Famers are featured in this set.
"The Babe Ruth card is the centerpiece [of the set], with the Cobb and Tris Speaker following, in that order," noted Paquette.
Just 10 Ruth cards have been submitted to PSA and the highest grade assigned has been PSA EX 5. A PSA Authentic copy garnered $478 in an auction sale in March 2011.
As noted earlier, the Ty Cobb card is the only card in this set that features a different photo from the 1922 E120 American Caramel set. Eleven Cobb singles have been evaluated by PSA, with a PSA 5 being the highest grade recorded.
Just three Speaker cards have been sent to PSA. One was deemed PSA Authentic, while the other two received PSA VG-EX 4 and PSA VG 3 grades respectively.
The Grover Cleveland Alexander card is almost always found off-center (top to bottom).
"Grover Cleveland Alexander seems to be just about the most common card from the set," said Yeakley.
Six Alexander cards have been submitted to PSA and there have been three PSA 5s (with nothing grading higher). One PSA 5 fetched $155 on eBay in January 2011.
Paquette adds that the Rogers Hornsby single has always been difficult to obtain in top condition.
"Hornsby has always been an end card [on the strip], and the end cards are almost always in fair or poor condition," he said.
Just three Hornsby cards have been graded by PSA and there has been one PSA 5 (with nothing grading higher).
Of the 232 cards submitted to PSA from this issue, there has been just one PSA MINT 9 and two PSA NM-MT 8s. Ninety of the cards have been deemed Authentic.
While thicker than newsprint, the stock of these cards is still relatively fragile.
"The cards don't do well when bent," said Yeakley. "Typically, creases will turn into rips."
And as with any hand-cut issue, many of these cards are found miscut. Making them even more challenging to cut with any sort of precision is the fact that there are no black lines separating the cards on the strips. According to PSA standards, cards that don't possess visible borders must still fall within a certain size requirement to qualify for a grade. In other words, the borders must be virtually full in order for a grade to be rendered. Otherwise, a label of "Authentic" will be assigned, or in some cases, the cards may fall short of the size requirement altogether.
On top of ragged cuts, Paquette has also uncovered these cards with writing on the back and with glue or tape residue.
For some collectors, however, the difficulty of finding these in high-grade adds to their intrigue. And while these cards aren't lighting the hobby on fire, they are starting to shed their redheaded stepchild status.
"I think the set is a great investment," said Paquette. "I also think that all baseball strip card sets will increase in popularity in the future."
Please feel free to contact Kevin Glew at [email protected] if you have any additional information or comments. Gregg Paquette provided pictures for this article. Please note that the Population Report figures quoted and Set Registry rankings reported are those as of October 2012.