W554 Back Stamps Available but Scarce

Advertising variations of this rare W-Card issue are tough to find

W554 09 KleinThe W554 cards area pretty rare set. Even though it contains only 18 cards, it’s hardly an easy set to complete. They are rare and, with 13 of the 18 cards in the set being Hall of Famers, it’s mostly comprised of only stars.

First things first. These aren’t really cards, per se. Instead, the W554s are 5″ x 7″ photographs. But they are pursued by card collectors in large part because they are classified in the American Card Catalog.

The set is headlined by Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig but includes many other popular players from the late 1920s and the 1930s. In addition, there are two different types – a sepia-toned version and a black and white version.

But while the W554 photos are tough to find, an even rarer type exists as some of them have been found with back advertisements.

W554 Advertising Variations

That advertisements are found on some of these photos is hardly shocking. Several other W-Card issues (W514, in particular) featured advertisements on the backs. Essentially, these were blank-backed card sets that didn’t belong to any particular company. Thus, they were used by many businesses, who added their own company name on the back to advertise a particular business or product.

And as I’ve written before, this is actually how the first Fleer baseball cards were created back in the 1920s.

A few different back advertisements on the W554 cards are known to date. Pictured here are a couple that were in the collection of Leon Luckey of the Net54 site. Thus far, there seem to be two companies with back stamps.

W554 Bonemery ConfectioneryW554 Lucky Back Stamp Yo YoThe first is for a company called A. Bonemery Ice Cream Confectionery. As stated on the backs, they offered ice cream and box candies.

The Bonemery cards also offer a glimpse of where these cards could have been distributed from. Their address is listed in Springfield, Massachusetts and, while we can’t deduce that all W554s originated from that point, we can say that that least the Bonemery cards probably would have.

Of note in this case is that the W554 photos used the same pictures as found in other sets, including the R316 Kashin photos. Those are believed to have been offered by Maurice Kashin, who operated a movie theater on Broadway in New York. So, on the surface, we’ve got what looks to be a northeastern U.S. issue.

The second is for a company named Lucky … or at least that was the name of the promotion mentioned. There are a few different versions of the Lucky coupons. One offered a Yo-Yo if a movie star (presumably, a card or photo) was found inside of a candy wrapper. Other types of the Lucky back stamps offered a more vague ‘Big Prize,’ as shown here.

Obligatory Rarity and Pricing

So how rare are the back stamps? No one can say for sure but I’ve seen only a handful. The important thing to remember here is that these are not cards – they were 5″ x 7″ photos. Since we can’t say for sure how these were even distributed, it’s possible that the Lucky advertising variations were only used as display items, promoting a prize.

Also, keep in mind that the W554 photos are already rare as it is. To date, only about 200 combined have been graded by PSA and SGC, according to their population reports. Thus, finding, say, only about a dozen of these so far doesn’t seem that strange.

Based on that, how much are these worth? As is the case with any scarce issue, you can expect selling prices to fluctuate quite a bit. But an ungraded Mickey Cochrane with a Bonemery stamp recently sold on eBay for about $275. By comparison, a Cochrane without a back stamp would sell for a little less than half that.

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