Universal Toy and Novelty Strip Playing Card Set and Checklist

‘It’s In The Details’

Title Universal Toy and Novelty Strip Playing Cards
Year Unknown
Size Varies by Cut
Images Black and White
Type Strip
Number in Set
Unknown

Universal Toy and Novelty Strip Playing Card Overview

Universal Toy and Novelty Red Background Strip

Universal Toy and Novelty Red Background 2

This interesting strip card set includes baseball players and other celebrities. Fronts have a playing card design while the backs are blank.

The images on the cards, like many strip issues, aren’t that great. In most cases, the sketches only lightly resemble the actual subject. In addition to a player drawing incorporated onto the playing card design, his name and team are also present.

Universal Toy and Novelty is the producer of these cards. That is evident by one, Jim Elliott, that has been found with the Universal Toy and Novelty Manufacturing Company name/icon on it. That company was famous for other strip cards, including the more popular W504 strip card set.

While the set is speculated to be a late 1920s issue, the exact date of production isn’t known. Cards also appear to have been printed in sheets as a card for Doug McWeeny is known that was miscut and shows the edges of other cards to his right and beneath him.

It isn’t known how many cards there in the entire set. Eight baseball players are known to date but other sports/non-sports personalities are known to exist, too. Assuming a full playing card deck was printed, there would be 52 cards in the set.

Images of the cards can be seen here.

A New York Giants Mystery

As Old Cardboard mentions, several of the players cited on the cards as being members of the New York Giants did not play for the team during the estimated date of printing. Not only that, but they didn’t even suit up for that team during their careers.

Card sets, especially hastily-created strip issues, were known to make mistakes on cards. But what could be the reason for that many errors? No one can say for sure, of course. However, given that the cards all either had the Giants, Dodgers, or no team listed for the Yankees players), it appears as if this was possibly intended to feature only New York players.

What went awry is anybody’s guess. But it is possible that the company intended to feature only New York players but had to switch gears and perhaps forgot to change the team names.

Proofs?

My personal belief is that the cards were only proofs of some sort. The company could have been experimenting with different players/layouts and they got into the public when that wasn’t the intention.

The cards being proofs would explain several things.

First, utilizing a playing card design, there would have theoretically been at least 52 cards in the set to comprise a complete deck. So far only about ten cards are known. For such a large set, if these were actually distributed into the public, it would seem like more should exist.

That, of course, doesn’t mean it’s an open and shut case. Lots of cards, including those printed on the exterior of candy boxes, had low survival rates. But the small amount of cards that have been found compared to the number that could/should be included in a set is worth nothing.

Next, it would help solve the mystery of the New York Giants cards. It is unfathomable to think that of the six known baseball cards with a team name printed, four were incorrect. There’s making mistakes and then there are printing disasters. If this was a proof issue, the company was perhaps simply exploring different layouts/drawings and just chose the Giants name randomly.

Finally, if it was a proof set not intended for distribution, it would help explain the reason Elliott’s card has a completely different design. Elliott’s card does not have a number and is the only one with the Universal Toy and Novelty name/logo in the Old Cardboard examples.

1929 Universal Toy and Novelty Strip Overview

Below is a list of the baseball subjects in the set.

  1. Earl Averill
  2. Jim Elliott
  3. Lou Gehrig
  4. Charles Gelbert
  5. Shanty Hogan
  6. Roy Johnson
  7. Doug McWeeny
  8. Babe Ruth

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