The 1923 W515 strip cards are an interesting set. There are a total of 60 cards in the set and it features some heavy hitters in Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, and Walter Johnson, among others.
One of the interesting distinctions is that there are two different types of W515 cards. Many pre-war card collectors are aware of that fact but what a lot of people do not know is that the images and cards themselves were slightly different beyond just the size.
Two Types of W515 Cards with Cropped Photos
The two types of W515 cards are classified as W515-1 and W515-2. W515-1 cards are the smaller version while W515-2 cards are larger.
W515-2 cards will often have part of the phrase, ‘The Little Wonder Picture Series’ at the top. Both types appear to be available in about the same quantities, although sometimes collectors will pay a little more for the Little Wonder Picture Series cards as they are a bit unique.
Most collectors probably assume that the images are the same just shrunk down on the smaller cards. But while the pictures are basically the same, the smaller version (at least on some cards) is actually a cropped down image from the larger picture.
An example here can be seen with Jack Scott’s two cards. His W515-1, pictured on the right is easily the smaller card, which is easy to spot. His larger W515-2 is off to the left. But if you look closely, you can see the two pictures vary. The larger W515-2 card includes a portion of his red undershirt beyond the sleeve of his jersey. The smaller card has that portion cropped out entirely.
Note that the degree of cropping seems to vary a little, actually.
Here’s another example, this time of the cards of Hall of Famer Casey Stengel. His smaller W515-1 card (on left – note, these are not to scale as the Scott cards are) has the image cropped, too. But it doesn’t seem to be quite as drastic as the Scott and is harder to spot.
Here, though, you can see the difference in Stengel’s hands and his bat. His hand on the larger W515-2 card to the right is shown more. Additionally, we also get more of his bat in the picture on that card as well.
The photos aren’t the only things distinguishing the two cards.
These cards are the work of Underwood and Underwood wire service. Well, at least that’s where the pictures came from.
The cards have a small U&U giving credit to the company on them. The placement of the U&U varies from card to card. But more specifically to this article, the U&U location can actually be different on the two types of the same cards.
If you look at the Stengel cards again, for example, in the W515-1 card on the left, the U&U is printed in the lower right portion of the card. But in the W515-2 example on the left, it’s up near the top.
This does not hold true for every card in the set, though. Some cards, like Babe Ruth’s, do not have the U&U copyright anywhere, inferring that either an error was made there or that his picture was not taken from one of their wire photos. In addition, the placement of the U&U is actually the same or very close to it on some W515-1 and W515-2 cards of the same player.
Distinguishing the Two
The problem is that for picky set collectors that want only the same type of card, it can be hard to tell if you’ve got a W515-1 or W515-2 card. One way, of course, is the Little Wonder Picture Series text at the top on some cards is only found on W515-2 issues. If you see that, you’ve got a W515-2 on your hands. Unfortunately, letters from that phrase does not exist on every W515-2 card.
Aside from that, you might need to see pictures of the known examples online to see which one you’ve got. There is a size difference with W515-2 cards measuring slightly larger. But as they are strip cards, many of these have been trimmed down or not cut properly and that makes it harder to tell if a card is truly smaller or if it’s simply been cut wrong.
If you’re looking for a specific type or simply want to know which one you have, your best bet is to always look for an image online to compare it to. The cropped photos actually come in handy in that regard as there is a clear difference between them.