Winston Churchill W545 Strip Card Offers a Mystery

A recently-acquired Winston Churchill strip card showed up in the mail and I’ve got questions

As I get more into collecting non-sports cards, I’m learning about all kinds of new sets. Many of these I’ve heard of before but collecting them first-hand really pushes me to really dig into them a bit more.

I recently picked up a nice lot of W545 strip cards from the fantastic Vintage Non-Sports Auction. Because I’m still mostly a sports card collector, my spending in those auctions is mostly held in check. But this time around, I couldn’t resist a large lot of these cards and when they arrived, I was even happier with the purchase that included a pretty unique find.

The W545 strip cards are dated to the 1920s (like several strip issues, pinning a specific year of issue on them has been difficult). It’s one of the larger strip releases for sure. The popular W514 baseball strip card set is seen as massive as it includes 120 cards. But this issue far exceeds that one with a grand total of 200 cards. The set contains a wide mix of world leaders, military leaders, war scenes, and military insignias. While strip cards are typically on the less expensive side (that includes this set with commons starting at only a few bucks in low-grade condition usually), I can’t imagine there are too many of these assembled sets floating around out there just because of the large size.

The cards, too, may not be rare. But you do not see them all that often, despite the large checklist. That means that finding specific ones can be a definite drag.

As I sorted through the large lot I purchased, few names were familiar. For starters, about half of the cards were, as expected, insignias or military scenes. Fewer than half of the set as a whole consists of actual named subjects/portraits, so I figured on getting a good number of those, even if the lot was a diverse mix (which it was). And I’m not up on my history enough to know the names of most military figures from World War I — even if they were somewhat famous.

But one card stood out over the others as it featured Winston Churchill. Churchill would go on to become Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, of course. But he didn’t rise to that position until 1940 and his card here presents him only as Lord of England.

Shown abovee is the front and a very odd back of Churchill’s card. A few things make this one different from the others in the lot.

First, the card is printed on much thicker cardstock compared to the others, which are more traditional. It feels roughly twice as thick, if not even slightly more. while the others bend and tear easily, this one feels more like a 1950s Topps or Bowman card.

Second, the card is much whiter than the others. The picture here is admittedly low-quality and was just a quick snapshot from my phone. But it shows the difference in border color compared to the other cards. It’s a very bright white compared to the dull beige color of the others.

Third and finally, there’s that back. All of the cards in this set are blank-backed but this one has some sort of red ink picture on the reverse. It’s clearly cut from a full sheet that had a much larger picture. But what that picture was or what other cards it is on is unknown. Most importantly, the card was not mounted to a separate piece of cardboard. It was printed directly onto it.

There was one other card in the lot that bore a similar resemblance to the Churchill card. That one was also on very thick cardstock and had the matching white borders. It does not, however, have another part of the red ink drawing and is simply blank.

After doing some digging online, I was pleased to find another example with a bit of a twist. There’s a Churchill W545 in this collection, too, graded by PSA, that has part of the red drawing on the back. But it’s a different part of the picture from my Churchill, which could mean all sorts of things, really. But, if nothing else, that proves that there are two different ‘types’ of these cards floating around out there. It is worth noting that PSA did not distinguish between that card and on the label and on the label of the ‘regular’ W545s. That one is not marked any differently.

The cards do not appear to be album cuts. They are similar to the N284 Buchner Gold Coin poster cards. Those, too, were thicker and were part of a larger overall design poster. They were printed in full sheets with a large advertisement on the front and that is, if I had to guess, what we’ve got here, too — only with the print on the back.

As always, when it comes to this type of stuff, I’d love to hear from any W545 experts out there that might be familiar with this second ‘type’ of card. With enough input, maybe we could even gather what type of image or text was printed on the back.

UPDATE: Well, that was fast! Since this post, we’ve now got some more clarity on this issue. The cards are indeed part of some larger poster/display. Daniel Hollandbeck responded to my post on Facebook shortly after the post and indicated these cards are part of some sort of a Valentine’s display. The complete imagine is not known, but the display reads, in part, “To My Valentine” and “Valentine Greeting.” The display also includes red and white hearts. According to Daniel, a collector of the W545 cards, the first 40 cards in the set can be found with the Valentine backs.

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