1928-29 Stevens-Davis Men of America Booklets Full of Color Variations

The Stevens-Davis Men of America booklets have numerous color variations

The 1928-29 Stevens-Davis Men of America booklets aren’t exactly well-known by many collectors. But even the collectors that are familiar with them might not know that the set includes numerous color variations.

Truth be told, the variations are so little-known that there aren’t really price premiums associated with them — even if some are rarer than others.

If you’re unfamiliar with this set, the 1928-29 Stevens-Davis Men of America booklets were distributed by companies. Some sources cite them as being given to salesmen. Other possibilities exist, too, however. The booklets feature famous men in the United States in a variety of professions. They tell their ‘story’ and offer inspiration. That was the point, anyway, as mentioned on a promotional flyer included with the sets.

Jefferson Burdick catalogued these as trade cards, giving them the designation of H572 in his American Card Catalog. Interestingly, he classified them as a ‘modern’ issue in the book, meaning he believed they were from 1930 or later. However, they are clearly copyrighted as 1928 and 1929 inside of the booklets. Perhaps, Burdick had good reason to believe some were printed beyond those dates.

I’m somewhat intrigued by this set of oddities. I’ve got about 150 of them with two complete sets. It’s a set I’ve studied a bit but really dived into a bit more this past year. As I recently discovered, some of the booklets have back stamps on them for newspapers and it’s possible these could have been given to other types of company employees, or even customers.

The booklets were probably designed to be viewed one week at a time. We can determine that because there are a total of 52 in a set (55 if you count three distinct variants). While those variations (Thomas Jefferson and Independence Day sharing No. 11, Myles Standish and William Bradford sharing No. 19, and two variations of Haley Fiske’s No. 42) are generally well-known by those collectors familiar with the issue, in reality, a master set of these booklets expands well beyond the checklisted 55, if you count all of the color variations.

Exactly how many variations exist is up for debate. I have only just begun tracking them and have already documented about 20. Many subjects, I have found, have at least two. Famous aviator Commander Richard Byrd has three (as shown above).

It is worth noting, too, that the biggest booklet in the set also has a variation. That booklet, which usually starts in the $50-$60 price range, features Hall of Fame golfer Bobby Jones on the front and Hall of Fame baseball star Rogers Hornsby on the back.

Dubbed American Athletes, this booklet is one of the few to focus on sports. Separate booklets feature Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis, who became baseball commissioner (his booklet is sometimes viewed as a ‘rookie card’) and College Football Hall of Famer and legendary coach Walter Camp.

The Jones/Hornsby booklet has variations with purple and green at the bottom, as shown here.

Why the variations exist is a complete mystery. But note that they were not created to indicate years of production. The booklets were printed in both 1928 and 1929, but I have seen the same color variations printed in both of those years. I have not determined any sort of rhyme or reason associated with the different colors.

A final note is worth mentioning, too.

While many legitimate color variations are in the set, some that appear to be true color variations probably are not and could be simply the result of varying ink levels.

Take, for example, these two booklets of president Teddy Roosevelt. One of the cards has a clear yellowish frame around Roosevelt’s portrait while the other appears to have one more orange in color. The backgrounds, too, vary — one is blue and the other is green.

Is this one a true variant? That’s kind of tough to say. The booklet on the left has a blue background. The one on the right has a background that is green That would seem to indicate the one on the left might have yellow ink missing — but the bright yellow border throws that theory out the window, seemingly. In short, who knows?

I don’t know how many true color variations exist. But if I was able to find nearly 20 with relatively limited research, that tells me there are probably many more out there.

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