Little Will-Burr One of Least Known E-Cards
A rare E-card is mostly overlooked by sports collectors
Ask most collectors to identify some common E-Card issues and you’ll probably get the usual smattering of E90, E91, etc. Those baseball issues are widely collected and, while some collectors might get some of the identifications mixed up a bit, most pre-war collectors will at least know of the particular designations and/or the candy companies that issued what we have come to know as E-Cards.
But one rare E-Card doesn’t attract much attention from sports card collectors. Given its nature, that is understandable. But it can be considered loosely a sports card and few could tell you anything about it.
The card in question is for a character named ‘Little Will-Burr.’ It was issued by a company called H.O. Wilbur and Sons, Inc, which distributed it as an advertisement for their Wilbur’s Cocoa product. H.O. Wilbur and Sons also distributed least one other set for its cocoa product. That one included cards of soldiers and is classified in the American Card Catalog as E252 (called Soldiers of the Allies).
At first glance, it is difficult to tell what Little Will-Burr is exactly. The card looks like a book mark and features a boy holding barbells. The idea is that Will-Burr is ‘strong and healthy’ (hence the barbells) because he drinks Wilbur’s Cocoa. The back provides further information as to why he is only wearing undergarments.
This card is designed to be more like a paper doll. Paper dolls were common in the pre-war era and there were a couple of different types. One type, like the popular Enameline College Colors Paper Dolls set, featured children with outfits printed directly on them. Another type allowed kids to cut out a ‘template’ of a child and then outfit him/her with various costumes that were separate. The Will-Burr type is the latter.
This card would not typically be considered a sports card. However, one of the six outfits mentioned on the back is for a baseball uniform, making it desirable to some sports collectors. The other outfits available for Will-Burr included a sailor outfit, aviator outfit, soldier outfit, play clothes outfit, and night clothes outfit.
Another reason the card draws some interest is that it is also listed in the American Card Catalog as E268. That E-Card designation might be a bit of a stretch since the card was distributed by a cocoa maker. Other cocoa issues, such as the E92 Croft Cocoa cards, for example, are listed as E-Cards, too. Cocoa was classified as more of a candy than an actual food. But some collectors could classify these as a Food issue (F-Card), Trade issue (H-Card), or as a Paper Doll (Z-Card).
One thing we don’t know about the card is its age. I have seen this card as advertised as anything from an early 1900s issue to a 1930s issue. Jefferson Burdick gives no indication of its age in the American Card Catalog and I’ve not seen any real consensus on just how old it is. We do, however, have an idea thanks to the company’s own website.
Wilbur’s Cocoa was produced by H.O. Wilbur and Sons, as indicated on the back. That name was not used prior to January 1909 so that is the earliest it could have been produced. And in February 1928, the company merged with another, discontinuing the H.O. Wilbur and Sons name. Thus, we’re left with a card that was almost certainly produced sometime between 1909 and 1928.
Unfortunately, narrowing the date further would be difficult.
Rarity and Pricing
The Will-Burr card is somewhat rare but not impossible to find. eBay, for example, typically has a few of them. But what I have not been able to locate are the baseball outfits. Frankly, I haven’t seen any of the outfits advertised on the back.
The Will-Burr card without any of the outfits typically sells in the $15-$30 range. But if one emerged with the baseball uniform, it would likely sell for more.