Debating the Ugliness of the W512 and W515 Ty Cobb Strip Cards

One of the greatest players of all time has two very ugly cards

Strip cards, by nature, are often ugly. That is particularly true in the cases of the ones with player depictions instead of real photographs. And while Ty Cobb is a player worthy of only the best when it comes to artistic baseball cards, two of his strip issues have to rank among the ugliest produced.

An honorable mention of sorts can go to Cobb’s W551 strip card. That one isn’t pretty but also doesn’t have the level of ugliness that two other Cobb strips do — his W512 and W515 cards.

W515 Strip Card

Ty Cobb W515 StripCobb’s first truly ugly strip card came in 1923. While the W515 strip cards have a later catalog designation in Jefferson Burdick’s American Card Catalog, they were actually produced first.

This set included a total of 60 baseball cards and ten boxers were also produced. The card is not particularly cheap and, even in low-grade, you’ll usually pay starting prices of around $500 for it. Cobb’s is hardly the only one to get poor artwork and most of the cards in the set, in fact, are really underwhelming. But I simply don’t even get this card or what it’s supposed to represent.

This, of course, has nothing to do with the ruby red lips Cobb is sporting in the set. After all, that feature appears on many strip cards. It’s not great but you live with it because that’s a characteristic of these types of cards. But the image really looks nothing like Cobb and instead has the likeness of, oh, a creepy neighbor or a professional clown that is out in public without his makeup.

And here’s the thing. Not only does the picture not really look like Cobb, I’m not even sure what is happening in the background of this card with the large, mysterious black cloud. This type of cloud appears on other W515s and it looks just as bad on every single one of them.

The card also appears to have a typo as the team name is spelled as ‘Tygers.’ However, as a collector pointed out to me, the team was sometimes known as that when Cobb was the manager of the team.

Still, this Cobb card is a loser from top to bottom.

W512 Strip Card

W512 03 CobbAnother loser of a Cobb card is this weird looking W512 issue.

This Cobb card is part of a particularly brutal set of strip cards. While only 50 cards are found in the W512 set, the complete set really continues with W513 as those cards picked up with No. 51, running through No. 100. The two sets are really one large issue that spanned from 1925 through 1928. The set included baseball players, boxers, a few tennis players, and some other athletes, along with non-sports personalities.

Cobb’s card is second to that of only Babe Ruth in terms of value. Similar to his W515, even low-grade cards will generally cost you around $400-$500.

This one sheds the strange cloud in the background in lieu of a solid red one. Reasonable. But the rest of the image is downright horrifying.

This card was first issued in 1925, a couple of years after the last one. We have the red lips again, a hastily drawn jersey, and more importantly, another pretty bad image. Now, I won’t say this bears zero resemblance to Cobb. A few of the features look within range, I suppose. But it’s another really bad drawing when you add it all together, taking the sum of the parts.

Part of the shame of these cards is that they are among Cobb’s easier ones to find and his more affordable ones. But it’s hard to counter collectors who insist they’re taking a pass on these. They’re just very difficult to look at and get excited about unless you happen to be a Cobb collector and want to get as many of his cards as possible.

Which is worse? Beats me. I’ve asked myself that same question and have flip-flopped on the answer as badly as I do when someone asks me what my favorite card is. The answer, really, is irrelevant. No matter how you slice it, these are two incredibly ugly cards of a truly special player.

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