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This 1920 W516 used an out-of-date original photo, with RED SOX left-to-right on his chest, four years after Speaker moved from Boston to Cleveland in 1916.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.


Mark Hoyle said...

Nice collection of Speakers. I have one of these. Not positive which one

Jason said...

You chose an expensive number to collect! Did you ever consider being Number 726 Type Collector? 🤣

Matthew Glidden said...

Sure should've taken your advice, 15 years ago! Perhaps that can be my modern type followup.

Anonymous said...

Great post