Card of the Day: 1923 W515 Babe Adams

Today’s Card of the Day features the man who ranks first among all Pittsburgh Pirates in WAR while with the team. Babe Adams accumulated 53.0 WAR during his time in Pittsburgh, slightly edging out Wilbur Cooper for those honors. While I wouldn’t call him the best pitcher in team history, he’s definitely in the all-time five-man rotation. Adams played 18 seasons for the Pirates, which is a number surpassed only by Willie Stargell in team history. Today’s daily history article has an extended bios for Adams that is worth checking out.

Today’s featured card is from the W515 set that was produced in 1923. If you’re looking for a card set with eye appeal, I’d suggest you check somewhere very different. This era had strip card sets that were produced cheaply to help sell products. The artwork and quality of the cards are extremely poor. Strip cards are good for collectors on a fixed income, who want cards of star players, without paying the prices of star players. These cards were in strips that were bought cheap, then hand-cut into individual cards. The cutting jobs on most of the surviving examples are atrocious to say the least. I found a good scan for today’s article though, so let’s get into the card.

Here’s the front of the card. The back is blank, so I didn’t include a scan.

I left a little added space from around this card so I could point something out on the border. This particular card is graded a PSA 8, which is about as high as you will see with a strip card. If you look at the bottom of the right side border, you will see remnants of a dotted line. That would be the guide line that was on the card. Whoever cut this one did an impressive job compared to the average results we see. Most strip cards you find now will have part of a guide line showing, or they will be cut to the point that they are too small to get a number grade from a grading company (many “authentic” grade examples are out there).

This picture of Adams appears to be from one of his more famous photos. The uniform style tells you that the photo was taken in 1921. That’s the only season for that jersey. The “P” there was actually blue, but these strip cards didn’t do a good job of capturing team colors. I’ll note that Adams looks mad here, but the original photo shows a smile or sorts, as shown here in this Getty Photo.

As I said earlier, the artwork in this set was poor. This is honestly one of the better examples, and it’s still pretty bad. It’s interesting that they used the nickname on the card. It was used commonly for him, but they didn’t always use nicknames on cards back then.

If you’re interested in this card, I’ll note one thing about the set title. This is called the W515 set, but it’s broken down into W515-1 and W515-2. You really can’t tell a difference between the sets because it’s a size difference that caused it to be split into two sets. With these cards being hand-cut, the sizes you will find for this card are all over the place, so you could easily find a W515-1 that is bigger than the W515-2 set, yet it’s supposed to be the other way around. So I wouldn’t worry about the 1/2 part of the set name and just get one you like. This one shown above is $550, which is a huge price for a strip card “common” player, but you won’t find these in PSA 8 often. The prices on the other four available are between $38 and $134, and they reflect the conditions of the card.