Tuesday, January 26, 2021

1919-21 Universal Toy & Novelty Co. boxing strip cards #5, Lew Tendler (related to W529-1)

Back in 2014, I profiled this W529 boxing #5 as my toe-in-the-water for collecting type cards beyond baseball. Tendler's straightforward look and $2 price tag appealed to me.

W529-1 #5 Lou (Lew) Tendler, normal IFC © 

Little did I know that Lew stood on an iceberg of variations. Consider the W529-2 boxing set, identical to W529-1, with reversed images and checklist numbering. Just like looking in a mirror.

W529-2 #6, reversed image and IFC ©

Why these flipped cards and number changes? I assume it proved more efficient for its maker to print two sheets at once, one normal and another backwards.

Side-by-side strips show our W529-1 and W529-2 end result. #1 Johnny Dundee on one sheet becomes #10 on the other and faces left instead of right.

(The lower strip's miscut from a larger sheet, with names above instead of below)

W529-1 variations extend beyond mirroring. Some of Lew's left-facing cards show a UNIVERSAL title, telling us who printed this set.

His #5 card starts a phrase, 'UNIVERSAL "FIGHTERS MATCHING CARDS" SERIES 1.'

"Universal," in this case, means the Universal Toy & Novelty Company of Indiana and Illinois.

Universal made many mid-century toys, like this tank kit with paper body parts and wooden wheels. Most of their products squeezed fun from a small box of low-cost materials.

Universal paper-wood tank with box and instruction sheet

There's more to learn from Tendler's card itself.

That "IFC ©" marker near Lew's right foot tells us these photos came from a service. Can we figure out which one?

Tendler promo photo (autograph dated 1922)

Lew's management arranged for Fowler Photo to take his studio photos and made them available to the press, which could be where IFC got involved.

Fred Fulton's #6 card came from this workout shot, tagged "International" in vertical type along its left edge.

Undated Fred Fulton photo

Fred's trunks and footwear match the pre-fight photo below, implying 1919 as the right date for his W529 shot.

1919 Fulton & Carter promo

I believe those IFC and "International" tags originate with the William Randolph Hearst-owned International Film Company, one of his many media outlets. Hearst tended to bulldoze over smaller competition, so who can say if IFC licensed their photos from Fowler by legitimate means or just sold them as their own.

Cataloging smaller issues like these boxers proves challenging a century after-the-fact. W529, a set of ten boxers, contains at least eight variations by text style and type of picture. These Jack Brittons show difference within that larger group.

Of that larger group, the W529-1 subset uses handwritten names and normal IFC © symbol. While all of the Universal-titled cards use low-gloss rag paper about the weight of playing cards, just #5 Tendler, #6 Fulton, and #7 Leonard can include Universal's top-border text.

While that makes all Universal boxing cards a subset of W529-1, you must intuit which #1-4 and #8-10 cards match their card stock. The reassembled strip above shows what I mean.

It also remains tough to nail down how W529 strip cards reached collectors. I've heard about candy store owners trimming them off one-by-one, vending machines selling full strips for a nickel, and so on. Universal itself used another method that suited its toy line.

Some (and perhaps all) of their strips came in variety "surprise boxes" like this one. Note the small line of faces on its lid at lower-left, alongside a bevy of other paper toys.

There's much more to say about Universal's strip card contributions. As a coda to our IFC discussion, some other sets sourced photos from Hearst's International Film Service (IFS), as on the Dorothy Dalton below.

1919-21 Universal actors strip card #15, Dorothy Dalton

Upcoming posts will dig deeper into those subjects, which run a gamut from Hollywood to baseball to the funny pages.

Value: While Lew cost me $2 a few years ago, many strip cards rose to $10+ since then, even in low grade.

Fakes/reprints: The crude nature of strip cards makes it easy to fake Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, and other big baseball names. Universal's strips use rag paper about the thickness of playing cards. Anything with a high-gloss finish or bright white stock should be suspect. While boxers might not get the same treatment, I recommend seeking lesser names as type cards to reduce your risk of buying a bad one.