1924 Willard’s Sports Champions Set (V122)

‘It’s In The Details’

Title V122 Willard’s Sports Champions
Year 1924
Size 1 3/8″ x 3 3/8″
Images Black and White
Type Canadian
Number in Set
56

V122 Willard’s Sports Champions Overview

v122-39-cobb

The Willard’s Chocolate Company produced individual baseball and hockey card sets. But in 1924, they took a stab at a multi-sport card set called “Sports Champions.” The modest 56-card set includes a variety of sporting greats around the world. It is not quite discussed as much other pre-war multi-sport sets. However, a deeper dive into it shows it to be one of the more important such releases.

The most popular of the cards are easily the three baseball players that were included – not just because they were of baseball players, but who those players were, in Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Eddie Collins. All three were Hall of Famers and Ruth and Cobb were arguably the two biggest names in the sport.

v122-52-munroBut there’s more than baseball here. Hockey and basketball are important fixtures in this set, too. American football is the lone sport not represented of the major four.

There are cards of three members of Canada’s Olympic hockey team as well as NHL player Dunc Munro. In addition, there’s one of the few pre-war basketball cards as a team card – that of the Edmonton Grads, billed as the women’s World’s Champions in 1924. The Grads have one of the highest winning percentages for any pro team in North America of all time. The card of the Grads is one of only two major cards ever printed for them and is a hot commodity for fans of early basketball cards.

The cards are black and white and a bit oddly shaped. At less than 1 1/2″ wide, they are thinner than even the small standard candy and tobacco cards of the era. And at nearly 3 1/2″ tall, they are bigger in terms of height, too. Backs of the cards are blank. The print on the front is not a common one with the use of all capital letters and appearing as if it was handwritten.

The cards are quite rare — to date, PSA has graded only about 600 total cards in the entire set.

V122 Willard’s Sports Champions ‘Others’

V122 Willard Strangler Lewis WrestlingAside from the players in the major sports, there are some interesting cards of athletes in other sports, too.

Some of the bigger names are golfer Gene Sarazen and tennis champions Bill Tilden and Helen Wills. The card of Wills is sometimes referred to as her rookie as her earliest known card, though with the large number of obscure international issues, I am not sure that has ever been entirely proven. Still, her card is bought and sold as a rookie and one of the more important cards in the release.

In addition to those, collectors will find a champion sculling/rowing team, Jim Regan and Jack Kelly. Kelly (whose name was John but also was known as Jack) was the father of famous actress Grace Kelly. Boxing and wrestling are also represented here as well. Wrestler Strangler Lewis is featured on one of his few early issues. Other sports represented include soccer, auto racing, track and field, cycling, swimming/diving, lacrosse, rugby, cricket, billiards, and more. One of the more unique cards is one for cricketer Muriel Maxted, a female bowler.

The set wasn’t even just limited to people. Other ‘champions’ in the release included horses and speed boats.

V122 Willard’s Sports Champions Checklist

  1. Vince of Varsity
  2. Eddie Collins (Baseball)
  3. William Johnston
  4. Arthur Havers (Golf)
  5. Babe Ruth (Baseball)
  6. Cap Fear
  7. Anders Haugen and Hans Hansen
  8. Garrett Gilmore
  9. Helen Wainwright
  10. Gertrude Ederle
  11. Helen Wills Moody (Tennis)
  12. Tommy Walker
  13. Johnny Weismuller
  14. Duke Kahanamoku (misspelled Kahamenoku)
  15. Rainbow Boat
  16. Jim Regan and Jack Kelly
  17. Adieu Boat
  18. Tracey Lewis
  19. Glenna Collett
  20. Gene Sarazan (Golf)
  21. Willie Hoppe
  22. Norman Ross
  23. Charles Jewtraw
  24. Gladys Robinson
  25. E.E. Myers
  26. Captain Walters
  27. Bill Tilden (Tennis)
  28. Jimmy Murphy
  29. Syracuse Rowing
  30. Loren Murchison
  31. Charlie Querrie
  32. Papyrus Horse
  33. Jimmy Blouin
  34. My Own Horse
  35. Strangler Lewis (Wrestling)
  36. James Graham
  37. Gordon Thom
  38. Ponton
  39. Ty Cobb (Baseball)
  40. Belyea
  41. Orlando Piani
  42. Edmonton Grads (Basketball)
  43. Harry Watson (Hockey)
  44. Muriel Maxted
  45. Ernie Collett
  46. Collins
  47. Hooley Smith (Hockey)
  48. Art Staff
  49. Buck Johnson
  50. Washington Rowing
  51. Pancho Villa
  52. Dunc Munro (Hockey)
  53. Batstone
  54. Bobby Lavery
  55. William Sim
  56. Suzanne Lenglen (Tennis)

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