“Fixing” The Confusing 1929 W560 Strip Card Set

The popular playing card style of strip cards has been a point of confusion for many years

Walter Johnson SGC 9 W560 Strip CardThe W560 strip card set is probably one of the more collected strip issues of the 1920s.

For starters, the ‘strip card’ name isn’t technically accurate. That name hints that the cards were printed in strips and they were not. W560 cards were actually printed in sheets of 16. Some of these sheets still exist in uncut form today and some have been cut in recent years, which has probably helped to yield some high-grade cards, like this Walter Johnson SGC 9 in my collection.

And in terms of a set, there are actually two different W560 sets. One is a set of 64 cards using single ink colors of either red or black. 32 of the cards were printed with red ink while the other 32 were printed with black. The other set used both red and black ink on all 64 cards. The double ink color set is certainly the rarer of the two.

Part of the reason I love the set is because of its odd variety of subjects. Baseball players are the predominant subjects but also included are early college football cards, and a few other subjects from golf, tennis, aviation, and movies. The college football cards do not get the sort of recognition they probably deserve because there are so very few of those types of early cards featuring real players fro that sport that are not postcards.

But there are some issues with the set and it’s not been entirely understood by many folks (including me) so I wanted to take a deeper look at it.

Thomas Thevenow, a Cowboy, and a Dating Disaster

Tom Thevenow W560 Strip Card

While the set is commonly called a 1927 set, I recently saw cards listed as 1928 or 1929 issues, which got me thinking. After digging more, I stumbled upon a Net54 post that seemed to sum it up pretty well.

You can read that thread for yourself here but the key piece of information is found in a single card, really — that of Thomas Thevenow.

Thevenow was not a star player as his two career home runs and .247 batting average will attest. Though, it should be pointed out, Thevenow’s defensive ability is cited on his SABR page. Offensively, he was only a modest producer but he went nuts in the 1926 World Series, helping the St. Louis Cardinals to the championship. He batted .256 that season, hitting the only two home runs of his 15-year career. But in the World Series against the New York Yankees, he batted a blistering .417 collecting ten hits (including a home run).

In W560 land, Thevenow’s card barely matters from a price standpoint. It’s a common and in raw condition, generally under $20. But his card is critical to the dating of the set.

See, Thevenow played 1927 and 1928 with the St. Louis Cardinals — not the Philadelphia Phillies, which is the team mentioned on his card. Thevenow didn’t join the Phillies until December 13, 1928, according to Baseball Almanac. With only a few weeks before 1928 ended, that means the set is almost certainly from 1929 at the earliest. For it to have been a 1928 issue, it would have literally had to be printed within about 2 1/2 weeks’ time — and with a Christmas holiday in between, that seems even more far-fetched.

Now, as that Net54 thread indicates, the two sets were likely printed at two different times. We can say that because of a few odd looking designs on the cards.

W560 00 WalbergHoot Gibson W560For example, on the double ink color set, there’s a card of actor Hoot Gibson. Gibson was a wild west character that was also a real rodeo performer to boot (pun intended). His card, shown here, has his picture, along with a cartoon cowboy character at the top and bottom. This is one of the Joker cards found in the set. That same design was used in the single ink color set and was occupied by baseball player Rube Walberg. A total of 24 subjects in the double ink set were replaced by different subjects in the single ink set. Walberg is one of those replacements.

We can theorize, then, that the double ink set was almost certainly printed first because the cowboy design was kept for Walberg’s card even though it doesn’t really fit while it does fit Gibson’s card. The printer simply kept that layout (likely to keep costs down, of course) and plopped a baseball player’s picture in the middle instead for the second set. Walberg’s card would not have been printed with a cowboy first with that design kept for Gibson, an actual cowboy.

So the double ink color set was issued earlier. Could that one have been printed in 1927?

Nope.

Back to Thevenow now because, as I said, he’s the key to dating this thing. Thevenow is one of 40 subjects found in both the single ink color set and the double ink set — both as a member of the Phillies. His card in the double ink set shows him with the Phillies so that set is almost certainly a 1929 set, too.

Jimmie Foxx Rookie Debacle

Jimmie Foxx W560 Strip CardOne of the more interesting snafus with the new dating is found on the card of a Hall of Famer.

Jimmie Foxx and his 534 home runs is one of the great power hitters of all time. He also won three Most Valuable Player Awards and is among the best players of all time.

Foxx’s career began in 1925 but he played only part time in 1925 and 1926. Even in 1927, he only played in 61 games. Foxx is found in an Exhibits card set that spanned from 1925-31 but his rookie card has largely been viewed as the W560 just because of the long held view it was definitively issued in that year. Now, however, that isn’t the case.

Still, the card is still technically a rookie because of the unwillingness to include Foxx in other sets. According to Old Cardboard, Foxx didn’t have another card issued until 1929, anyway. So even with this as a 1929 set, it’s still viewed as a rookie issue. It just shares the spotlight with a few other cards that could possibly stake that claim as well.

64 Cards? Not by a Long Shot

The dating isn’t the only issue with this set. See, it’s often listed as having a total of 64 cards in both the red/black set and the two-color set. But that, as we discussed earlier, is not the case. Instead there are a total of 24 additional subjects on top of the 64 subjects, giving us a total of 88 different subjects.

And if you’re a master card collector, you can count even more cards, technically. There are the 64 cards in the red/black double ink color set. 40 of those subjects repeat in the red/black single ink color set. Then there are the 24 different subjects in that single ink set that replaced cards from the double ink set. If you count both the single ink cards and the double ink cards as different variations, add it all up and you get 128 different cards.

Some collectors may mention that different card stocks were used to print these cards — and that is true. I’ve got several of these different card stocks in my collection. But I wouldn’t consider those different variations. They weren’t likely intended to be different cards — rather, printers probably just used whatever stock they had available. Some may disagree but I don’t consider those to be true checklist variations. because the ink colors did not change and nothing else on the card is different.

Complete Checklist

With that said, here’s the full 128-card checklist.

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