Friday, January 10, 2020

1920-21 W516-1-2 Baseball Strip Cards #5, Tris Speaker

Over the last several years, I profiled W516 strip cards a few different ways, links provided at end of post. I think W516s deserve repeated treatment due to its star power, endless DIY trimming variations, and affordability in low grades. Tris Speaker proves a prime example, as a guy valued $100+ for most low-grade "playing days" cards, while my own #5 types cost $30 each.

W516-1-2 #5
...and yet, one type variation, the rouge-cheeked example above, remains out of reach. I hypothesize why later in the post.

What our hobby catalogues as W516-1-2 and W516-2-2 shows Tris Speaker flipped right-to-left, while its text reads left-to-right. Compare W516-1-2's "IFC ©" at lower-right to W516-2-2, where Tris became #6, half-visible on this card due to poor printing. Expert collector opinions vary about the reversed image. Did its editors plan to create temporary tattoos, printed in reverse, before falling back to "normal" strip cards?

W516-2-2 #6, "Cleveland Outfield" at top due to miscut

Like W516-1-2, W516-2-2 Speaker cards use hand-written text in the same style as its "IFC ©." I assume non-flipped cards with script represent our "original source" that its maker later decided to reverse for a second print run, whether by accident or intent.

W516-1-1 (aka W516-1)

This 1920 W516 used an out-of-date original photo, with RED SOX left-to-right on his chest, four years after Speaker moved from Boston to Cleveland in 1916. Other contemporary sets, like the oversized 1921 Exhibit below, got a current CLEVELAND photo. (W516 calls him "outfield" and Exhibit says "manager," because Tris served as player-manager from 1919-26.)

Indeed, Tris Speaker (Cleveland, 1919-26) intertwined with Ty Cobb (Detroit, 1921-26) as both American League player-managers and unexpected W516 "number-mates."

To finish my hunt for every W516 #5, I need two Tris Speakers and three Ty Cobbs, as they do-si-do numbers #5 and #6 across five catalogued set variations. Check out four of those Cobbs, two each script and typeset names.

Why all the flipping and flopping? Some strip card printers also created wet ink transfers, a.k.a. temporary tattoos. Prewarcards wrote about Decalco Litographic Company of Hoboken, NJ, whose name appears on edges of strip cards like W519 & W521 Rube Marquard.

Our "flipped" Marquard would fit right in with this Topps Baseball Photo Tatoo (sic) set and its wet-transfer ink, DIY steps shown below the wrapper's title panel.

Topps revived this tatoo/tattoo format every decade or so and 1971 Frank Robinson would look at home in those 1920s strip card sets.
1971 Topps Tattoos, Frank Robinson + on-field action

So what does that get us today? Up til now, every W516 Cobb and Speaker cost me under $50, due to limited design appeal and poor condition. As a prewar buyer, I want that price ceiling to continue forever. Why not? A past dealer (trying to be a heckling jerk) told me I was the "kind of guy who wanted to collect crap and wanted to pay crap." I mean, yes, of course. Guilty!

Jerks aside, let's return to our W516-1-2, the crouching, photo-reversed, handwritten, player-manager Tris Speaker.

These rosy cheeks put "pay crap for crap" to the test, because our modern market lacks this card in any meaningful quantity. As of writing, I found just one reversed-and-handwritten W516-1-2 for sale on eBay, for $799, claiming to be SCG's top graded example. A price I've paid for Ruth and Wagner and no one else.

On the upside, PSA's population report shows six total graded W516-1-2 #5s, five Authentic and one PSA 4. Perhaps my lack of success finding this Speaker says more about a shift in our hobby. Ten years ago, a good deal of W516s at card shows sat ungraded and disregarded in oddball binders. Few people understood how to classify and price W516's many differences. That malaise helped me buy types at wallet-friendly prices.

As 2009 became 2019, raw cards migrated to slabs in growing numbers, vacuuming up many former bargains. Now a $30-50 card aspires to higher heights. Am I interested? Not in that context, even with a lottery win. Consider me glad my binder contains a few already!

1920-21 W516 Speakers

Past W516 set profiles, if you want to compare insight progress. There must be more to know out there.

Value: Over the last decade, I paid $30-50 for my #5 stars. Based on eBay listings, some dealers want a lot more for them these days. Let me know if you defy those odds and pull a strip card bargain!

Fakes / reprints: Reprints and counterfeits exist for many W516 stars, including Ruth and Cobb, so be skeptical of any too-good-to-be-true deals. Seek out experienced prewar sellers if you want an ungraded (and thus cheaper) star from this set.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

1924 Crescent Ice Cream's "Hanbury Sawmill" Baseball Club #5, John Daniels

This post features one of the rarest types a prewar collector could pursue, as made and distributed by Canadian dairy brand Crescent Ice Cream. Finding singles in the modern market for a foreign, prewar, minor league issue starts with at least two strikes against you. As of writing, I've never held its cards in person, just seen scans online.

Each of this set's 14 cards features a simple medallion design and #1 leads with their mascot, youngster Jack Lester. (Most "mascots" from early baseball meant a kid or dog the team treated as a good luck charm; our modern uniformed entertainers came later.) Cards #2-14 show players like Captain Daniels.

Scan from Old Cardboard's near-set gallery

Card backs summarize this set and Hanbury's recent successes. Who doesn't want to lead in both baseball and ice cream?

The Terminal City League featured dozens of amateur teams from British Columbia's local fishing, lumber, and public industries. Many drew their rosters from specific companies like Hanbury Sawmill and played small-park summer ball.

A feature on Asahi, one of British Columbia's Japanese teams, explains in brief how Terminal City League operated and why WWII forced players of Asian heritage to abandon league play.

Courtesy of the Kitagawa Family, Nikkei National Museum

Team sponsor J. Hanbury Co. operated its sawmill in Vancouver, British Columbia, and this 1950s photo shows surrounding infrastructure a few decades after that 1924 Crescent baseball set.

City of Vancouver archives, circa 1953

This picture shows the kind of investment in trains and public works lumber required to reach its customers. Zoom in for photo details like three "Spear & Jackson Saws" buildings and a looming Hotel Vancouver at distant right. Though it no longer dominates Vancouver's skyline, the five-star hotel remains an impressive edifice.

Crescent also printed hockey issues from this era featuring the Selkirk Fisherman, one of Canada's oldest junior league teams. Check out Anson Whaley's writeup for more on those sets. This gallery shows most cards from 1924-25.

1924-25 Crescent Ice Cream Selkirk Hockey #5, William Roberts

Crescent's 1924-25 Selkirk set resembles a Selkirk subset from the contemporaneous 70-card Canadian issue catalogued as 1924-26 Paulin Chambers (V128-1), down to photo reuse.

1924-26 Paulin Chambers #6, William Roberts

Paulin Chambers, a Winnipeg candy company, used this touched-up version of William's photo, cropped above his sweet Fishermen logo.

1920s Selkirk Fishermen Jersey

Paulin Chambers and Crescent both offered "complete set exchange" promotions for their confections from day one. Later sets added redemption for a hockey stick. They each short-printed at least one card number to minimize complete sets (and thus, prizes given away).

Crescent: Ice Cream for complete set
Paulin: Chocolate or hockey stick for complete set

Several baseball sets popped up in Canada during the 1920s, featuring players from many levels of competition. Pre-War Cards provides a list and commentary, including Goudey's well-known partnership with Ontario-based World Wide Gum.

This relative boom in 1920s sets from north of the border reflected radio's growing impact, bringing MLB games to the ears of Canadian fans within broadcast distance of USA cities. More listeners meant more ways to advertise products and more advertising meant more reasons to print baseball cards.

1922 Neilson's (V61) echoing American Caramel (E120)

Few 1920s Canadian card-makers broke new ground in design. Some, like 1922 Neilson's Chocolate above, just copied a stateside look to capitalize on baseball excitement without spending more money than needed.

Crescent's 1924 medallion-style baseball cards do resemble 1920 Peggy Popcorn, itself a Winnipeg-based company that also offered redemption prizes for complete sets.

1920 Peggy Popcorn #1, Joe Dugan

All said, Canada's unifying 1920s baseball theme appears to be prize-swapping and that spirit carries on in modern pack redemptions. At least 21st-century collectors know they face long odds to pull something as cool as a hockey stick was to kids in those days.

Value: While few Crescent baseball cards exist in the hobby, a smattering of modern sales help estimate cost. Hake's auctioned a near set (13/14) for $462 in 2012 and several low-grade singles sold on eBay in 2019 for $50-200 each. With so few available for purchase, prices fluctuate based on the handful of collectors seeking specific cards. I expect to pay $50-100 for #5, if one appears.

Fake / reprints: On one hand, simple design and layout leaves this set open to counterfeits. On the other, with no stars and few aware of its existence, it'll be hard to fool its niche collectors with fakes and none exist in the marketplace to my knowledge.