W590 Strip Cards with Numbers on Sides are a Unique Find

About the W590 Strip Card Set


The W590 strip cards were printed starting in 1925 and ending in 1931. How many years they were produced in between that time is unknown. But what we do know is that they were printed a few different times to reflect players switching teams and other changes.

While the set is known for its baseball cards, it also includes stars in other sports, including football, golf, tennis, and boxing. Also found in the set are some non-sports figures like First Ladies and even the legendary Betsy Ross. Both male and female athletes are included.

The cards had a straightforward design. Real black and white pictures were used with simple names and captions on the bottom. As was the case with most strip card issues, the backs are blank.

The set is known for its numerous variations and typos of big name athletes. But one of the quirks surrounding it is a series of numbers that are found on the left borders of some of the cards.

For a while, these numbers likely remained a mystery. But as uncut strips and sheets were discovered, it started to be believed that they indicated the rows on a printing sheet.

About the Numbers

W590 - George KellyAs they were used for only cards that appeared at the left edge of a row, not every card is found with the numbers. Full strips had ten cards in a row but it is not known how many rows were printed.

Further, there are two interesting things that stick out as we try to determine which cards had the numbers printed on them.

First, the interesting thing is that, even in the cases of cards that are capable of having a number on them, many do not. The reason for that is because the numbers were not really intended to be included when the cards were cut or torn from the strip. They merely indicated (presumably) the row of cards and weren’t necessary to be left on the cards. In fact, most distributors probably tried not to include them so as not to confuse customers who might mistake them for a card number. Plus, including them would make the left border wider than the right border, which would have been less than ideal.

Second, some cards that were the first in a row and should theoretically have numbers may not. This is evident because many (but not all) of the cards were laid out very closely on a sheet with almost no space in between them and the only cards that would have large borders on the left or right would be the cards that were printed either first in the row (thus, creating a larger left border) or last in the row (a large right border). Cards have been found with large left borders to indicate they would have been printed as the first card in a row but surprisingly did not have a number present. Thus, we can determine that not every row even had a card with a number on it.

In short, finding the cards with the numbers is hard and only a few cards will have them.

How few?

How Many Exist?

To date, PSA and SGC have combined to grade somewhere in the neighborhood of 600 total W590 cards. But to date, I know of only eight different W590 cards that can have numbers printed on the sides – George Burns, Charlie (spelled Charley on his card) Grimm, George Kelly, and Ross Youngs (spelled Young), as well as boxers Joe Lynch and George Calzo.

It should be pointed out, too, that Bucky Harris and Frankie Frisch have what appears to be a number in between their cards. However, all copies I have seen have proven inconclusive as to if it is an actual number or merely an ink mark. If it is a number, it appears as if it could be 3, 5, or 9.

Those players are key to figuring out a survival rate, even if other players exist with numbers on them. So far, of those approximately 600 cards, about 35 cards were for these athletes mentioned above. Just throwing things out there, let’s say about 15-20 graded examples with the numbers showing. Could easily even be lower than that.

Now, there are, of course, ungraded cards out there. In fact, most, I imagine would fall into this raw category. But the total amount of cards on them has to be pretty low. If I had to guess, I’d say the number is fewer than 50. I’ve personally seen only about a dozen different ones and that is from scouring the internet.

One caveat here is that this number assumes only the six athletes listed here have numbers on them. If others do, the number would increase, albeit probably not by many

Cards with the Numbers

As stated, the cards I’ve seen either individually or as part of an uncut sheet are the six below (Plus Harris and Frisch). I have not seen others, though they may certainly exist.

  • Bucky Harris (Possible Unknown Number)
  • Frankie Frisch (Possible Unknown Number)
  • George Burns (#10)
  • George Calzo (#17) (Boxing)
  • Charlie Grimm (#11)
  • George Kelly (#12)
  • Ross Youngs (#15)
  • Joe Lynch (#16) Boxing

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