Breaking News

By Peter J. Nash

Dec. 15, 2018

Author Ron Keurajian recently updated his must-have Hall of Fame autograph compendium and its new publication by McFarland gives collectors even more information to help them navigate the dangerous waters of acquiring genuine signatures of Hall of Famers. The new edition features chapters on the Black Sox as well as the top 50 signatures of players who have never been enshrined in Cooperstown.  The publication also coincides, however, with a current scandal that Keurajian appears to have been way ahead of the curve on; the authentication and sale of numerous forged HOFer (and non HOFer) signatures on T206 cards. The very public smoking-gun evidence related to the new scandal has again exposed the hobby’s Third Party authenticators for their ineptitude and alleged fraudulent business practices. That being said, author Keurajian has been preaching for years that, “Close to 100% of all signed T206 cards in the marketplace are forgeries.”

This particular scandal commenced recently when a collector named Clifford Franklin purchased at Clean Sweep Auctions what he believed was a genuine T-206 card signed by Hall of Famer Rube Marquard. The card fetched $1,516.80 and was certified authentic by James Spence of JSA who allegedly authenticated the card in person at the Clean Sweep offices. But when the buyer sent the card out to be encapsulated by SGC, that company declined to authenticate the suspect signed card. What ensued was an episode of sleuthing in which it was discovered through sales records on Worthpoint and past eBay sales that the exact same Marquard card was previously sold on eBay as an unsigned card on February 7, 2018. It was smoking gun evidence that the Marquard was a fake.

Had the same collector followed the advice offered by Keurajian in his autograph guide, he would have been more suspicious of buying any signed T206 cards in the first place. When we contacted Keurajian for comment he told us, “Marquard seems to be a common target. Forgeries abound. A genuine signed Marquard T206  should be considered rare to very rare and I suspect the total market population  to be somewhere between five and ten genuine specimens.”  Keurajian added, “Should you choose to collect signed T206 cards be warned you are stepping into a minefield.” His current take on these cards is no different from the advice he’s provided for collectors via his guide book for the past six years :

Many collectors have tried to secure signed T-206 cards or other early tobacco issues but their efforts have been in vain. My advice to collectors that wish to collect signed T-cards is: Don’t. Signed T-cards are very rare and limited to those players who lived into the late 1960s. By this time most of the players featured on these cards had passed away. You will not be able to find more than a handful of genuinely signed T-cards. Sam Crawford, who died in 1968, is very rare, as I have seen only two genuine specimens in my 35 years of searching. Larry Doyle, Fred Snodgrass, Rube Marquard, and a select few other players are available but that is it. If you are looking for signed T-cards of John McGraw, Cy Young, Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers, and the other long deceased players you will unequivocally fail. There may be the occasional rarity that surfaces but for all practical purposes signed cards of these legends should be considered non-existent.
For years forgers have been buying up the low-grade T-cards and applying fake signatures upon them. I have seen “signed” T-206 cards of Tinker, Waddell, Young, Chesbro, Germany Schaefer, Wild Bill Donovan, and Walter Johnson for example. With just two exceptions, I have yet to see a genuine signed T-206 card of any Hall of Famer that died before 1968
.”

It appears that many more collectors have ignored Keurajian’s warnings and have instead chosen to buy up an alarming number of fakes which have appeared more recently in the marketplace. These same collectors also have a false sense of security knowing that these T206 cards have been authenticated by James Spence and JSA, SGC and PSA/DNA.

The T-206 Baker card was originally slabbed by SGC but later cracked open and forged with a bogus Baker signature that brought $24k at auction. The forgery was authenticated by PSA/DNA.

After the Marquard fake was exposed (and as a direct result of the new signed T206 scandal) numerous additional forgeries have been uncovered by collectors who post on the Net54 collector forum.  One member named “Manny” who posts under the alias”Setbuilder” helped expose and chronicle several phony signatures including those of Billy Sullivan, Fred Parent, Bob RhoadesPaddy Livingston, Elmer Flick, Heine Zimmerman, Wid Conroy, Jap Barbeau, Nap Rucker, Jesse Tanehill, Larry Doyle, Red Murray and infamous Black Sox pitcher Eddie Cicotte.  One card, however, blew all the others away as it sold at auction for over $24,000.  The T206 card of Hall of Famer Frank “Home Run” Baker falls precisely in the wheelhouse of cards Keurajian advised collectors to avoid as Baker passed away in 1963. Like the other cards, an image of an unsigned and slabbed example of the exact same Baker card was located, thus exposing the fraud.

Although most all of these signed T206 cards, similar to the Baker, are fraudulent, there are some rare exceptions according to Keurajian; Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker. In his book Keurajian states:

The exceptions are Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker. Cobb was such a giant of the game that even back when sports memorabilia was worthless, people were collecting Cobb material. All the way back in 1910 fans were saving items of the Georgia Peach. Cobb was the one player from the Dead Ball Era that was presented with T-cards to sign. Today the handful of genuinely signed Cobb T-206 cards that exist are true gems of the hobby. I have examined four genuine specimens. Exhibit 1 is a nicely signed T-206 specimen. These are very rare and have an estimated value of $25,000 to $30,000, but in an auction could go much higher. A rare T-202 triple fold card of Cobb and George Moriarty signed by Cobb sold for $7,300 in 2009…

(Far Left) Authentic T206 signed Tris Speaker card sold at 2018 REA sale; (Center) 2- Ty Cobb signed T206s considered authentic by Ron Keurajian (Right) A bogus T206 Cobb sold at REA for $32,000.

Recently, alleged signed T-206 specimens of Cobb and Speaker appeared in a Robert Edward Auctions sale.  According to Keurajian, the Speaker signature was genuine, however, while Keurajian declined to offer an opinion on its authenticity, the Cobb appears to HOS be a forgery. The genuine Speaker sold for a mind-blowing $36,000; the alleged fake Cobb sold for $39,000.

According to author Ron Keurajian, these three T206 cards bear the genuine signature of Ty Cobb.

The popularity of signed T206 cards in recent years is evident on the website of a Net54 member who highlights his own collection of signed cards and also delves into the history of collecting signed tobacco cards in general.  The website called www.signedt206.com is operated by Paul Mifsud who has been collecting signed T206 cards over the past two decades.  Mifsud claimed to have one of the most extensive collections of signed T206’s but is now a victim of the current T206 forgery scandal having purchased several specimens which have been exposed as forgeries and since removed from his website. One of his fakes was a T206 Billy Sullivan card which he purchased in a 2016 Robert Edward Auctions sale for $6,600 (REA has already reimbursed Mifsud). In examining Keurajian’s book and his opinions on genuine signed T206 cards, it appears that Mifsud’s website may be cluttered with many other forgeries. One prominent collector and Net54 member told us, “While anyone with a brain could see that the proliferation of signed T206s over the years raised the biggest of red flags, Paul kept snatching up these “little treasures” as he called them while the rest of us choked out a laugh.” The Net54′er requested anonymity for fear of being banned from the forum by its moderator Leon Luckey who recently banned all links from HOS on his site. According to Luckey, the convicted felon, former Mastro Auctions shill bidder, alleged card-doctor and staunch defender of numerous hobby criminals: “There is 100% certainty that a lot of the stuff on that site (Hauls of Shame) is just made up lies from out of freaking nowhere.”

Hauls of Shame recently asked Mifsud if he was aware of Keurajian’s opinions and the advice offered to collectors regarding signed T206s in the two editions of his book.  Mifsud responded that he is a “proud owner of Ron Keurajian’s book” and added that he has “always assumed a certain percentage of autographs in (his) collection were not the genuine article.” Mifsud, however, stated clearly that he does not agree with Keurajian’s opinions.  Mifsud told us, “I found Keurajian’s research interesting but I remember disagreeing fundamentally with some of his conclusions when I read it. The reason for this is because to concur with him would be to challenge everything that Jeff Morey ever told me, showed me, and sold me from and about his autographed pre-war card collection.”

Jeff Morey is the veteran autograph collector from Syracuse, New York, who has been publishing his own collector newsletter, The Autograph Review, since the 1970s. Morey was well-known for acquiring signatures of dead-ball stars through the mail and in an interview featured on the T206 Collector website, Morey told Paul Mifsud that he acquired six signatures of Ty Cobb in person while the Georgia Peach was eating breakfast during the 1959 Hall of Fame induction festivities. Morey told Mifsud, “He (Cobb) signed a tobacco card, a Caramel card, a Callahan Hall of Fame card, an exhibit card and a Hall of Fame plaque and two baseballs.” Morey added, “I felt bad because his eggs were getting cold.”

(Top l to r) Ty Cobb signatures on a T206 card; Caramel card and Callahan HOF card alleged signed in person for Jeff Morey in 1959. (Bottom l to r) Authentic Cobb signatures from letters penned from 1959-1960.

As evidenced in his guide book, Keurajian does not believe that Morey’s T206 or Caramel cards of Cobb were actually signed by the “Georgia Peach.” Aside from being an author Keurajian is also the country’s foremost authority on Cobb’s handwriting and signatures. In regard to Jeff Morey’s story about having Cobb sign his items in person, Keurajian’s book frowns upon using “provenance to authenticate signatures.” Keurajian says, “It’s merely a crutch used by those who really don’t understand signature analysis. The study of signatures is based on the physical construction of the autograph and nothing more.”

Jeff Morey did respond to Hauls of Shame after this article was published and stated, “Let it be known I did indeed meet Ty Cobb and he signed in person. Check the India ink used on the cards, I don’t think others ever did the same.”

We asked Keurajian for his opinion of the current T206 scandal and he responded, “In general, signed T206 cards are few and far between and only a scarce handful of genuine examples exist. ” As any old-time or veteran collector will tell you, signed T206 cards of players who died in the fifties and early sixties were almost non-existent. One of those collectors told us, “Show me the old Trader Speaks issues with all these signed T cards and candy cards for sale. It’s just a collectors fantasy.” The top item in this “fantasy”category is an alleged signed M-116 Honus Wagner card which mirrors and resembles the famous T206 Wagner pose.  Paul Mifsud claims to have an authentic signed example of this card and his website describes the Wagner card stating:

I may never be able to own even an unsigned T206 Honus Wagner, the price being too high for any reasonable wallet to part with. But this T206 mirror image, with Mr. Wagner’s name scripted by his own hand, certainly fills a hole in my signed pre-war card collection incapable of ever being filled…”

Based upon his book, Keurajian and other knowledgeable collectors do not share Mifsud’s enthusiasm about his alleged signed Wagner card. When asked about the background of the card Mifsud told us he had information which he was “not at liberty to share publicly.” Mifsud did, however, share some information on the public Net54 website stating he acquired the Wagner from an “old time collector of baseball and music autographs in North Carolina in 2016.”  Mufsid added that he was “connected through Jeff Morey’s autograph magazine” and that after helping him consign his collection to Brian Dwyer and REA, “he sold me a handful of signed prewar cards, including this Baker and my Lajoie and M116 Wagner.” The Lajoie card Mufsid purchased is also described in detail as a forgery in Keurajian’s book.

The t206Collector.com website boasts of this signed Wagner card but experts consider it a poorly executed forgery.

Unfortunately, the Wagner signed card also appears to be a collecting hole that could likely never be filled. Any collector’s desire to acquire such a treasure sets the table for the forger (or forgers) who have flooded the market with similar fraudulent deadball-era cards. Cards which have been turned into gold via the third-party authenticators like Jimmy Spence.

It seems that collectors only realize the sham of the authentication system when there are smoking gun examples which expose the frauds.  Seldom do they listen to the opinions of someone like Keurajian or utilize his book as a tool to educate themselves and steer clear of the fakes and frauds.

A closer look at the T206Collector website reveals even more problematic signatures that Keurajian had alerted collectors of in his book.  Slabbed examples of HOFers Cy Young, Walter Johnson, Elmer Flick, Nap Lajoie and Fred Clarke all appear to be highly questionable autographs of players who died before 1968. Keurajian includes signature studies of Clarke and Lajoie related to T206s and describes these forgeries in detail. Keurajian describes in detail several of the cards featured on the T206 Collector website and offers collectors his views on the “tells” to look for.

Here are the Keurajian excerpts:

LAJOIE STUDY: There are many lesser grade forged T-206 tobacco cards in the market.  The target cards are typically the batting and throwing cards.  A forgery is placed vertically to the right of the head and a forged date is added to the left side of the head.  “Best Wishes” or “Yours Truly” is signed across the arm or leg. These are rather nonsensical but I have seen at least one slabbed and certified as genuine.”

The T206Collector.com website features signed T206s (l to r) of Walter Johnson, Cy Young, Nap Lajoie and Fred Clarke. All of these signatures have to be considered forgeries based upon author Ron Keurajian's signature studies. Keurajian's book describes Lajoie and Clarke forgeries in detail.

CLARKE STUDY:Known Forgeries: Due to the many breaks in Clarke’s hand and lack of rapid flow, his signature is very easy to forge. Well executed forgeries exist in quantities. About 25 years ago the market was flooded with forged Hall of Fame plaque postcards. Clarke was a target of this forger. They are fairly well executed. Many of these postcards were signed in red ink so proceed with caution.  There are a handful of forged T206 cards in the market.  As expected the cards are lower grade and signed across the top edge in either ball point or fountain pen in a sloppy hand where certain letters are omitted.  Some are signed in red ink. Overall, a rudimentary forgery.  I have never seen a genuinely signed T206 card.

Hauls of Shame reached out to Paul Mufsid for further comment but he declined to respond after publishing our entire initial inquiry on the Net54 website. In his initial response Mufsid voiced his disagreement with Keurajian’s opinions and added that he relies much more on the fact that Jeff Morey “took selfies with so many of these old-timers as they signed their cards for him.” He added, “A book that purports to summarize the state of signed T206 collecting that is inconsistent with my experiences with Jeff Morey is of limited probative value to me. I’ll take Morey’s account over everyone, which is one of the reasons I have recorded my interviews with him…”  To sum up his own opinion of Keurajian’s opinions Mufsid ended his response stating, “For my purposes, this iron clad provenance that you just never find in the pre-war autograph world, and I trust it explicitly.”

A T206 bearing a forgery of pitcher Eddie Cicotte sold for $11,000 at auction, but a discovery of the unsigned version of the same card exposed the fake. The red highlights point out the creases and imperfections found on both cards.

Morey’s public claim that Cobb signed for him personally, however,  cannot be accepted without proper examination considering the similar claims made by once legendary collectors like Barry Halper.  For years Halper claimed to have acquired the signatures of Babe Ruth and Jimmy Foxx in person on the same sheet of paper which would become his now infamous “500 Home Run Club” signed sheet.  Despite Halper’s claim of personal acquisition, both of those signatures were proven to be forgeries in an investigative report published by Hauls of Shame in 2011.

As stated previously, author Keurajian puts more weight on the analysis of the actual signatures, rather than the stories told by the owners of such items. According to Keurajian the best forgery in the group is the bogus autograph of Eddie Cicotte. While most all of the current T206 forgeries are poorly executed signatures attempting to resemble the tremulous handwriting of the elderly, the Cicotte forgery is a masterful one and could easily fool authenticators.

Of the Cicotte forgery Keurajian says, “The Cicotte T206 Sweet Caporal 150 card contains what I believe to be a very well executed forgery and displays itself very accurately. The work product of this forger evidences a high degree of skill. A genuine Cicotte-signed tobacco card of any kind would be an extreme rarity. I personally have never examined one.”

JSAs embarrassing authentication of fake Sal Bando autographs (inset) has been topped by Jimmy Spence's LOAs issued for bogus signed T206 cards like Rube Marquard (right).

Although this latest scandal has revealed flawed authentications by most all of the major TPAs, the biggest loser is Jimmy Spence and JSA who have authenticated most of the forgeries.  After being exposed for making so many other “smoking gun” errors on this website, many collectors view Spence’s involvement in this scandal as the last nails in the coffin for the beleaguered and self-proclaimed expert.

Hauls of Shame, auctioneers, authenticators and even collectors now know the identity of the buyer of the raw T206 cards which were later forged, however, law enforcement has asked that the identity not be revealed publicly.  The same individual and possibly an associate are suspected to be the forger (or forgers) of the T206 cards. Hauls of Shame has also found evidence linking the same individuals to fraudulent items sold at the infamous Coaches Corner auctions. Stay tuned for more.

(Correction: In an earlier version of this article, Hauls of Shame incorrectly reported that a known signed T206 card of Cy Young was once part of Jeff Morey’s collection and was sold as part of that collection at MastroNet in 2001.  Jeff Morey has informed this writer that the card was never part of his collection and we have removed that statement from this report. The Young card did, however, appear as part of Lot 1378 in a 2002 MastroNet sale. The lot description stated: “An incredibly rare group of signed baseball cards, with many in this group from the collection of famed autograph collector Jeff Morey. LOAs from Mike Gutierrez/MastroNet and James Spence/PSA//DNA.”)


By Peter J. Nash

October 4, 2018

(Scroll to bottom for Update) Throughout the past few decades, astute dealers and knowledgeable collectors alike have surmised that the alleged autographed copies of Christy Mathewson’s 1910 book, Won in the Ninth, were not actually signed by the Hall of Fame pitcher, but rather by a secretary.

The issue came to a head in 2004 when author Ron Keurajian took issue with the signatures in an SCD article and in 2005 when a copy of the book was offered at Sotheby’s and became the subject of a news report in the New York Daily News. As a result of the controversy, Sotheby’s removed the problematic lot from the auction even though it had sold three months earlier in an R&R auction for $10,655.19. For some in the hobby, Keurajian’s analysis was the final nail in the coffin for the bogus signatures found within the Matty books.

But this, however, was not the case for the TPA’s like PSA/DNA and JSA who had for years been generating LOAs for scores of Matty books sold for big bucks via their auction house clients. The TPAs, including James Spence Jr., ignored Keurajian’s analysis and further denied the evidence illustrating that the Matty signatures were bogus including the “Case Against Matty’s Won in the Ninth“ investigative reports published in 2011 by Hauls of Shame. (JSA has also been exposed by HOS in reports illustrating how Spence has certified many fake Matty single signed baseballs as genuine.) Despite all of the evidence illustrating that the Matty signed book-plates are fakes, some collectors continued to buy them as evidenced by a May 2017 sale by Huggins & Scott for $7,000.

But then in November of last year, the embattled authenticator, Jimmy Spence of JSA, published an admission on his company website stating that he actually agreed with Keurajian and Hauls of Shame.  Although the controversy over the Matty signatures has been brewing for decades Spence falsely describes the controversy as recent and specifically states that these signatures are bogus by adding his own analysis of the ghost-signed scrawls:

1910 book plates adhered to the inside front covers of Won in the Ninth have recently come under scrutiny for their controversial legitimacy. These number(ed) (appr. 500) presentational copies have a type written name added with a large and spurious secretarial black fountain pen manuscript. Observe the low initial stroke of the “M” and the oversized lower case letters and the unusual “t-h” combination that is heavily retraced. Overall, this vintage ghost signed anomaly is far more pointed than his other versions….

But although Spence made this public admission, which he had previously fought for years, he has continued to issue fraudulent LOAs for the non-genuine Matty book-plates. Case in point is an LOA he issued for dealer Steve Wolter in February of 2018 for one of the bogus Matty signatures.  Wolter, like other dealers who have paid for fraudulent LOAs, offered the book for $9,500 on eBay with the certification signed by James Spence Jr.

Spence signed a fraudulent LOA for a bogus Matty signature on February 15, 2018 (left); Other copies accompanied by fraudulent JSA LOAs keep appearing for sale on eBay (right) and at major auction houses.

That copy went unsold on eBay along with another specimen which was posted this past summer. Wolter’s book, however,  reappeared in a Steiner Sports auction accompanied by the JSA LOA issued after Spence’s public admission. That bogus copy of the book received 25 bids and sold for $10,760.40 on May 6, 2018.

The JSA website shows that Jimmy Spence issued this certificate numbered "Z61708" on February 15, 2018, several months after he admitted the Matty signatures were bogus.

Spence’s company website also shows this fraudulent LOA they issued with a certification number of “Z61708″ and the date of February 15, 2018, several months after Spence identified the Matty signatures as fakes.

Adding to the controversy are additional copies featuring the bogus signature which continue to appear at auction with JSA letters of authenticity. It appears that Spence has either not informed his auction house clients or has conspired with them to continue selling the fraudulently authenticated autographs to the general public. The most recent appearance of a problematic Mathewson book accompanied by a fraudulent JSA LOA is in the current Goldin Auction as lot number 199.  The LOA for the book numbered “346″ is signed by Spence and is dated September 26, 2014. The lot currently has a bid of $4,000 and appears to be the same copy that went unsold for $12,500 on eBay this past summer.

When notified yesterday of the situation regarding his problematic consignment Ken Goldin responded to us stating, “I will contact JSA.” JSA will have to explain how they could publicly denounce the Matty book-plate signatures as forgeries and then continue to issue LOAs for the same items.  Most collectors we spoke with asked why JSA and PSA/DNA wouldn’t recall all of their prior certifications of Matty books.  Others wonder how a self-proclaimed expert like Spence couldn’t recognize these signatures were bogus for the past 25 to 30 years. Another collector had a different take stating, “Spence knew they were bad, but he wrote so many good LOAs for bad items that would sell for $10,000. Do the math, Spence is a hobby whore. It’s another example of the TPAs turning garbage into gold for a fee.”

Self proclaimed expert James Spence (left) admits that the Matty signed book plates (inset) are fakes on his JSA website (right).

Hauls of Shame also asked the man who first identified the Matty book-plates as fakes for his take on JSAs Mathewson debacle.  Ron Keurajian, the author of Baseball Hall of Fame Autographs told us, “For many years it was well known that presentation copies of Won in the Ninth were secretarially signed. Over the years authenticators, with little knowledge or skill, began to authenticate the signatures as genuine. Today, most in the industry now recognize this and copies of the book are little more than worthless novelties. A genuine signed Mathewson book of any kind would be an extreme rarity.”

James Spence Jr. claims on his website that he “has built a world wide reputation as the premier autograph authenticator in the world.”  Spence’s claims have been bolstered by the sports auction houses and other outlets like eBay which endorse and in some cases pay for his services. These associations have deceptively bolstered his credibility in the industry. Spence’s profile was first boosted by disgraced auctioneer and convicted felon Bill Mastro who did the same when he elevated Spence’s status as the primary authenticator for Mastro Auctions and PSA/DNA between 1998 to 2002.

Spence also makes claims that his services are used by the FBI, IRS and the U. S. Postal Service, however, sources affiliated with the FBI have confirmed several times over the past few years that Spence has been the subject of on-going investigations into the third-party authentication business. In addition, Spence has lied about his lack of formal training claiming to have worked with the late autograph guru Charles Hamilton and has been implicated for stealing images of a specific collector’s items and intellectual property which he usurped for his own exemplar files.  Spence also falsely claims that he has “an exemplar library which is second to none in the autograph industry.” Spence also claims to have 700,000 files of exemplars. It’s now safe to say his file on Christy Mathewson includes dozens upon dozens of forgeries from Won in the Ninth.

UPDATE: Spence & JSA Scrub All Evidence From Website Showing Admission That Matty Sigs Are Bogus

After Hauls of Shame published its report yesterday showing that James Spence Jr. and JSA had admitted that the Christy Mathewson signatures found on copies of the book Won in the Ninth are not genuine, that information appears to have been removed from the “In the News” section of the JSA company website.  The original Mathewson blog post authored by Spence and published back in November of 2017 no longer exists among other featured articles in which Spence offers analysis of autographs of select Hall of Famers. The site still features his posts on Derek Jeter, Charles Comiskey, Earle Combs and others.

Jimmy Spence removed from the JSA website his Nov. 2017 admission that Mathewson signed books are fakes. After HOS published an article yesterday exposing Spence, his entire analysis of Matty signatures has vanished. Shown above are screen shots of the Spence post before he removed it.

According to one source, the Mathewson post was removed in such a fashion that not even the Wayback Machine could now recover it. All that appears now is a brief description of the original post when the subject is searched on Google.

After its removal by Spence, the only evidence left of his admission on the Internet is this Google search result.

Spence and JSA appear to be backtracking towards their original position in support of the many fraudulent LOAs they have issued in the past regarding the books with the bogus signatures.  Ken Goldin of Goldin Auctions has still not responded with any answers from JSA and the bogus book still appears as lot 199 in the current Goldin sale.


By Peter J. Nash

May 2, 2018

The Spring auction season is here and so continues the proliferation into the marketplace of fakes authenticated by PSA/DNA. The most stunning examples are two forged checks touted to have been signed by ultra-rare HOFers John M. Ward and Eddie Plank which appear in the current Robert Edward Auctions catalog.

If they were genuine, both checks would be holy grails for collectors who specialize in collecting signed or endorsed checks. One of the top check collectors in the country told Hauls of Shame he’d consider paying up to $50,000 for a Plank check and up to $20,000 for a Ward. In its lot description REA claims that both examples of Plank and Ward are the only examples they have ever seen or are known to exist and are encapsulated and authenticated as genuine by PSA/DNA, the subsidiary of Collectors Universe (CLCT), which is headed by Joe Orlando. Both checks, however, are frauds.  The Ward check is a vintage yet worthless check from 1896 which features a forged John Ward signature (from the wrong era) as an irregular double endorsement. The Plank check (which is also laminated) is totally fraudulent as the forger merely typed Plank’s name on the front of the check and then forged his signature in pencil on the reverse. The check also includes a “smoking-gun stamp” which appears to further prove it is fraudulent.

The two bogus checks in the current REA sale were authenticated by James Spence (left) and Steve Grad (center) when they worked for Joe Orlando (right) at PSA/DNA.

Over the years, both phony checks have been authenticated by Steve Grad (now of Beckett Authentication) and James Spence (now of JSA Authentication) while they were both employees of PSA. These two checks would easily make the cut in an updated version of our Worst 100 Authentications by PSA and JSA.

Here’s why both checks are bogus:

John M. Ward

Ward’s handwriting changed after his playing career as his signature was signed quicker with a smaller size exhibited in all of the letters aside from the capital letters in his first, middle and last names. In the 1890s, however, Ward’s handwriting and signature contrasted later examples with fancier well constructed and flowing strokes with flourishes. Existing signatures of Ward on legal documents and correspondence. The forger of the Ward check in the REA auction made a critical mistake as he attempted to replicate Ward’s signature from the post 1910 era on a check dated from 1896. Authenticators at PSA should have easily detected this immediately but even if they didn’t they should have also detected that the later version signature exhibited many tell-tale signs of forgery when compared with genuine Ward signatures from 1910 through 1920. Authentic examples of Ward’s earlier handwriting only came to light in the past few decades and even Ron Keurajian’s autograph guide only illustrates examples of Ward’s later signature.

Here are authentic Ward signatures from the 1890s vs. the REA forged check:

The forged Ward signature from REA (bottom) features the attempted replication of Ward's post-1905 handwriting. The authentic exemplars (top) show how Ward's signature would look circa 1896. The contrast is considerable and should have been easy to detect for the PSA authenticators.

Here are some more examples:

More 1890s Ward signatures (including a legal document) show the striking contrast between genuine Ward signatures vs. the amateurish forgery certed by PSA.

This alleged Ward signed check first appeared in a MastroNet auction in 2000 with an LOAs from PSAs authenticators James Spence and Steve Grad and from Mike Guiterrez. Mastro claimed that it was the only Ward check known to exist. It was also during this time period that these same authenticators were also certifying secretarial signatures of Ward as genuine.

The bogus Ward check appeared previously in a Mastro sale c.2000 with an LOA from Jimmy Spence and Steve Grad from PSA.

Here are genuine Ward signatures from the 1905-1920 era which further expose the REA/PSA Ward as a forgery:

Authentic Ward signatures from the 1905-1920 era vs. the Ward forgery appearing for sale at REA.

After examining all of the bonifide authentic examples of Ward’s signature vs. the alleged Ward signature on the 1896 vintage bank check made out to someone other than John M. Ward, we conclude that the signature certified genuine by PSA is a forgery.

Eddie Plank

REAs Plank check was once a vintage blank bank check from the Pacific Bank in New York City. The check is similar to two other bogus Plank checks which were offered for sale in the 1990s. Both of those checks featured a similarly typed Plank name on the front of the check with a forged Plank signature on the back. The REA Plank check, however, should have recieved even more scrutiny from PSA being that the alleged Plank signature is signed in pencil which is highly irregular for an endorsement on a financial instrument.

The alleged Plank check features a red bank stamp from the Chelsea Exchange Bank at 1600 Broadway in NYC. The NY Times website, however, shows that the branch of the bank at 1600 Broadway was not operational until late June 1921 (Bottom). The Plank check shows a date in December 1920.

Furthermore, a check of the New York Times data base reveals that the stamped endorsement on the back of the Plank check proves beyond a shadow of a doubt the check is a forgery.  According to the Times, the Chelsea Exchange Bank branch at 1600 Broadway wasn’t operational until June of 1921, while the alleged check made out to Plank is dated December 16, 1920.

Despite all of this information, however, PSA only needed to compare the REA lot’s signature to the authentic Plank signatures on its Autograph Facts website to determine it is a forgery.

(Top) Forged Eddie Plank signature on REA check. (Bottom) Genuine Plank signature from a banquet program featured on the PSA Autograph Facts website page.

In addition, they could have easily compared the signature to the authentic examples from Plank’s 1915 last will and testament and 1917 draft card illustrated in Ron Keurajian’s book.

(Top) The alleged Plank signature on the REA check. (Middle) Plank's signature on his 1915 will. (Bottom) Plank signature on his 1917 draft card.

The Plank signature on the back of the REA check bears little resemblance to other verified genuine Plank signatures.  The REA example is signed slowly with hesitation and with the formation of letters uncharacteristic of Plank’s hand.  The forgery is so amateurish the forger likely utilized a non-genuine Plank signature as his exemplar to replicate the autograph.

These are two Eddie Plank endorsed check forgeries that were offered for sale to collectors in the 1990s. They are made out to Plank in typewritten form as is the bogus REA Plank check.

In particular, the forgery lacks the bold strokes and fluidity of Plank’s hand and the sharp, angular construction of letters exhibiting the distinctive slant Plank would execute.

PSA/DNAs authentication of this bogus Plank signature is another monumental embarrassment for the company operated by the public corporation Collectors Universe which has recently seen its stock price drop considerably by at least 50%.

Plank forgeries that have appeared in the infamous Coaches Corner auctions (above) are more well executed than the current PSA-certed Plank fake in the REA Spring sale.

The PSA authentication of the Plank forgery is an even greater embarrassment considering that the notorious Coaches Corner has sold forgeries which in comparison to the REA example look like forged masterpieces. This new episode just solidifies more the contention that anyone collecting rare HOFer autographs has to seriously question how many forgeries they have in their own collections which are accompanied by a PSA/DNA letter of authenticity. The fact that these items were considered authentic for decades, despite all of the red-flags suggesting forgery, is another great example of the house of cards that is third-party authentication.

PSA President Joe Orlando did not respond to our inquiry about his two controversial company authentications.  Robert Edward Auctions President and new owner, Brian Dwyer, also did not respond to our inquiry which included specific details regarding the two forgeries up for auction this weekend.  Dwyer has not pulled either lot with a $2,250 bid on the Plank check and a $3,750 bid on the Ward check.


By Peter J. Nash

February 27, 2018

(UPDATE)

In October of 2017, Hauls of Shame published the first installment of our 3-part report detailing the auction appearances of internal Brooklyn Dodger documents at public auction. Also detailed were allegations that these artifacts including team correspondence, scouting reports and contracts were wrongfully removed from the Dodger offices in Los Angeles decades ago. At the time of that first report, Goldin Auctions had scheduled the sale of Jackie Robinson’s first two contracts with the Dodger organization which have also been questioned as artifacts believed to be property of the LA Dodgers. After the report was published the auction house cancelled its initial sale dates in November and December but recently rescheduled the sale for tonight. The sales were originally advertised as taking place at the site of the planned Jackie Robinson Museum but that location appears to have been nixed as well.

The auction house headed by Ken Goldin is selling the contracts in a one-lot auction allegedly in association with the Jackie Robinson Foundation with a minimum opening bid of $15 million. The contracts were appraised at $36 million by autograph dealer Seth Kaller and (according to Goldin Auctions) insured for that same figure by CHUBB despite the fact that the current owner of the contracts, Mykalai Kontilai of Collectors Cafe, purchased the contracts for approximately $1.5 million less than a decade ago when the contracts were the subject of a heated litigation in Probate Court as part of the estate of Wall Street financier Martin Zweig. According to the Goldin website the contracts already have an opening bid of $15 million.

Auctioneer Ken Goldin (left) has been promoting the sale of the Jackie Robinson contracts with consignor Mykalai Kontilai (right) who also promoted the contracts with Larry King (center).

For the past year auctioneer Goldin and consignor Kontilai have been promoting the contracts and providing the press and the general public with conflicting stories of the provenance of the Robinson contracts. In 2016, the consignor told Darren Rovell of ESPN that the contracts were originally owned by “a Brooklyn historian” who acquired them “perhaps from Robinson himself.” He also stated the historian had died and that his estate sold the contracts to a collector and that subsequently that collector, who also died, sold the contracts to the consignor’s company, Collectors Cafe. The consignor also told Rovell that “neither of the previous owners wanted to be publicly identified.”

In September of 2017, auctioneer Ken Goldin was interviewed by ESPN and Rovell reported, “The contracts were originally owned by Robinson but eventually became the possession of the Brooklyn Historical Society.”  The BHS, however,  could not confirm this claim and BHS spokesperson, Jean Hodesh told HOS that they “had no recollection or any records documenting that the Robinson contracts were ever in its possession.”

More importantly, Goldin and Kontilai’s claims that the two contracts were owned by Jackie Robinson as his personal copies are contradicted by the actual 1947 contract itself which is clearly the Dodger team copy as evidenced by the National League’s date-stamped approval on the historic document. As illustrated by the sales of several player estates from the late 1940s and 1950’s, the contracts retained by players of that era were not stamped or approved by the league. A previous Goldin sale of Mickey Mantle contracts originating from the Mantle family illustrate this point well as his 1957 contract is signed by only Mantle and the Yankee GM, Lee MacPhail, without any stamp or signature from the American League.

Goldin Auctions previously sold Mickey Mantle's personal copy of his 1957 Yankee contract which originated from the Mantle family. Unlike the 1947 Robinson contract it is not date stamped and signed/approved by the American League.

Other contracts originating from the estates of Robinson’s teammates including Dan Bankhead and Pee Wee Reese are also un-stamped and unsigned by the National League. Bankhead’s historic 1947 contract lacks a league date-stamp and signed approval with only the signatures of Bankhead and Branch Rickey.  This is significant because it is from the same year as the Robinson contract and according to the seller, REA, the contract originated “from the Bankhead family.”

Dan Bankhead's family sold his copy of his 1947 Dodger contract and, unlike the Goldin Robinson contract, it is unsigned by the NL and lacks the League date-stamped approval.

In addition, Pee Wee Reese’s 1948 and 1950 player contracts sold at auction by the Reese estate were also signed only by Reese and Branch Rickey, while the Goldin Robinson contract was stamped and bears a secretarial signature of NL President Ford Frick.

Pee Wee Reese's own 1950 contract (top) is unsigned by the NL while the Goldin Robinson contract is date-stamped, signed and approved by the NL. This contract illustrates that the Robinson copy was part of the Dodger team files and was never owned by Robinson personally.

The most damning proof that the Goldin contract belongs to the Dodgers, however, is one of Robinson’s own contracts which was originally sold by his widow Rachel Robinson at Lelands.  That 1949 contract is unstamped and unsigned by the National League. Many of Robinson’s other contracts ended up at the Library of Congress and the Robinson family does not know what happened to Jackie’s personal copies of his original agreements.

Goldin Auctions does not address the primary issue regarding the contract’s execution by the National League, which is what some consider smoking-gun proof that the contract originated from the Dodger archives.  It appears that sometime in the early 1960s both Leagues required both contract copies to be approved by the respective offices of the Presidents, but in 1947 and throughout the 1950s the evidence shows this was not the case.  Hauls of Shame reached out to MLBs Official Historian, John Thorn, and business of baseball writer, Maury Brown, to see if they knew the year that MLB required approval of both contracts, but neither was aware of the League protocol.

The earliest contract retained by Robinson and his widow is his 1949 contract which was sold by Rachel Robinson at Lelands. Unlike the Goldin contract, it is unsigned and un-stamped by the National League

The  Goldin auction website currently gives a flowery description of Robinson’s career and the historical importance of the contracts as civil-rights artifacts, however, under the heading of provenance Goldin now includes no information regarding the actual “provenance” of the documents. Why?

In our last report we asked HOS readers to contact us with any information they might have related to the alleged thefts from the Dodgers franchise and several did.  One reader reiterated a long-standing hobby rumor and stated, “The Dodger items were taken from the archives that were inside the stadium. Wes Parker was the person most responsible for their theft.”  The reader also said they would be willing to elaborate with more information providing that the discussion was confidential.

Wes Parker appears on an episode of The Brady Bunch while he was playing first base for the Dodgers.

The reader did not follow up with additional information but the accusation echoed the sentiments of other hobby figures including one prominent autograph dealer who told us, “I heard he (Parker) emptied the Dodger offices.” Another veteran hobby executive, however, went a step further when he disclosed that he had interactions with the former Dodger first-baseman and had even unknowingly offered items for sale in the 1990s which are now believed to have been stolen from the Dodger storage.  The source told us, “I only know that he (Parker) got into the storage area of Dodger Stadium and took a huge amount of stuff.”  He detailed that Parker had allegedly removed “lots of documents and photos” and when we asked specifically if he had knowledge of the former MLB player possessing and selling Dodger contracts the source told us he had “tons” of contracts. The source confirmed that he offered for sale several contracts that allegedly trace back to Parker including; Don Newcombe’s 1949 Montreal Royals/Dodgers contract and his Dodger assignment; Carl Erskine’s 1946 Danville Dodgers contract; Sparky Anderson’s 1956 Montreal contract; and Charley Neal’s 1955 contract. The veteran hobby source also claimed that the Dodgers were aware of the thefts and that the owner at the time, Peter O’Malley, was very upset about the situation. The source also added that Parker was “very close” with Heritage Auctions consignment director Mike Gutierrez who is the prime suspect related to similar massive thefts from the National Baseball Library in Cooperstown during the 1980s.

Examples of documents suspected to have been stolen from the Dodger team archive and sold at public auction. Included are a rare letter from Roy Campanella and several player contracts for Brooklyn and Montreal.

Wes Parker denies the accusations made against him and told us, “I’m not the guy.” Parker says that he’s been a collector and dealer of memorabilia since the days he set up a table at the National Convention in the early 1980s but states further, “I could see how people would say I got stuff from the Dodgers because I worked for the Dodgers as a roving instructor in the early 1980s and I would buy some memorabilia from a guy by the name of Campbell who was the Dodger souvenir guy.  I got some pictures and original paintings of me that were used for memorabilia sold at the Union 76 gas stations.”  Parker added that he never owned or sold any of the questioned documents that have appeared at auction including the early scouting reports and correspondence to the Dodgers from Roy Campanella. He did, however, tell us, “I did buy some old Brooklyn Dodger correspondence from Campbell too.” Parker added,  “I’ve also consigned things to Lelands, Heritage and Mastro over the years and I did buy some other Dodger correspondence from Buzzy Bavasi but that’s it.”  When asked if he had owned or sold Dodger contracts he said, “I did buy a bunch of old blank contracts from Campbell and then I had Erskine and Snider and others sign them along with Buzzy (Bavasi) when I saw him in San Diego.” Parker denied that those contracts were ever sold by him as vintage original Dodger team contracts.

The claims of thefts from Dodger Stadium and the accusations leveled by our sources against Parker, in addition to the unverified provenance and evidence of Dodger ownership, make the current sale tonight of the historic Robinson contracts by Goldin even more problematic. Regardless of how the Dodger documents were removed from the team facility, the evidence still shows that the Robinson contracts appear to be Dodger property.  In addition, whoever did remove the documents would likely never be prosecuted based on the statute of limitations. There is, however, precedent for MLB to intercede and stop the sale of its official documents as sources indicate lawyers for Baseball stopped the sale of the manuscript of the National League Constitution at SCP Auctions last year. MLBs public relations , Matt Bourne, did not respond to our inquiry as to MLBs stance regarding the historic Robinson contracts.

Hauls of Shame reached out to Ken Goldin for comment but the auctioneer did not respond to our inquiry. Goldin also did not respond to our recent inquiries regarding his sale of documents stolen from the Baseball Hall of Fame and the New York Public Library which appeared in his last online auction. Goldin did appear on Fox and Friends this past Saturday promoting the Robinson sale.

Hauls of Shame has also communicated with representatives of Peter O’Malley and we are currently waiting for a response to our inquiry from the former Dodger owner.  When we called the offices of the Los Angeles Dodgers for comment media representatives claimed that all staff with the ability to issue a statement were currently at Spring Training.

The Jackie Robinson Foundation had no comment regarding the claims that the Robinson contracts appear to be Dodger property or confirm whether the Foundation was agreeing to receive 100% of the buyers premium as indicated in the Goldin auction description.  Media representative Gary Mendez told us he was checking with the Foundation’s President for authorization to issue a statement.

Please check in for continuing coverage of the “Dodger Document Dilemma” in our next and final installment of this special report.

UPDATE: The live Auction at Goldin ended without a sale although Goldin reported a $15 million opening bid and made no reference to the contracts failing to reach a hidden reserve price after the auctioneer was unable to attract a bid topping the alleged $15 million bid.

After the auction, however, Goldin responded on Twitter to ESPN reporter Darren Rovell and stated, “Reserve was in excess of $16 million and cannot be publicly disclosed.” Sources tell HOS that the $15 million was not legitimate.  One long-time hobbyist told us, “If the reserve was set higher than $16 million then your cat could have bid $15 million.”


By Peter J. Nash
Feb. 15, 2018

When Steve Grad was the senior authenticator at PSA/DNA he was responsible for numerous authentications of bogus materials which were featured in our Worst 100 Authentications report in 2012. Since that report was published, Grad has moved on to become the senior authenticator at Beckett Authentication Services, however, his certification of fakes has continued.

Back in 2014 we also published a report detailing how Grad and PSA/DNA had certified numerous forgeries of the rare and valuable signature of the Baseball Hall of Famer Jesse Burkett on baseballs, B&W Hall of Fame plaques and other mediums.  In the report entitled, Bit by the Crab, we highlighted Grad’s ineptitude and his fraudulent authentications of items which were known to be, in fact, bogus.  This fraudulent activity has apparently followed Grad to Beckett as he has authenticated yet another Burkett forgery which, oddly enough, was also stolen from the collection of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

The letter dated in 1935 is from Burkett to National League President Ford Frick thanking him for the gift of an MLB Lifetime Pass.  The letter was originally part of the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Ford Frick file which contains scores of similar letters thanking Frick for these passes. In 2012, HOS published an in-depth report regarding the thefts of dozens of these documents signed by Hall of Famers from the National Baseball Library.  Oddly enough, the majority of the Frick letters that remain in the HOFs Library collection were penned by non-Hall of Famers which are far less valuable.  The collection once had two thank you letters to Frick from Jesse Burkett and they both somehow ended up in the collection of the late collector Barry Halper.  Halper was the owner of scores of items stolen from the Baseball Hall of Fame, New York Public Library and Boston Public Library which all appeared in the 1999 Sotheby’s sale of his collection. In the catalog for that sale is also the ultimate proof demonstrating that the letter currently being sold by Ken Goldin of Goldin Auctions (authenticated by Steve Grad and Beckett) is not genuine and merely a secretarial signature of the baseball legend who hailed from Worcester, MA.

Lots 1069 and 1220 in the Halper sale were both sold as genuine Jesse Burkett signed letters. One was a handwritten authentic example and the second was the letter currently being sold by Goldin Auctions and authenticated by Steve Grad and Beckett as authentic.  The contrast between the two Burkett signatures is striking and should have raised red flags for even an amateur authenticator.  Burkett was known to utilize secretarial signatures throughout his career and it appears that the Goldin Auctions example is nothing more than a secretarial example of the baseball legends scrawl. Any alleged expert could have determined this simply by examining the 1999 Sotheby’s catalog. When we showed both Burkett letters to author Ron Keurajian he said of the Goldin letter, “It appears to be just a secratarial signature.”  The Burkett letters in the Halper sale were authenticated by Mike Gutierrez (currently of Heritage Auctions) who is the prime suspect in the thefts of documents from the National Baseball Library in Cooperstown. The secretarial Burkett letter Gutierrez certified authentic was just one of scores of fakes and frauds sold at Sotheby’s by Halper and his auction consultant Rob Lifson.

Here is the authentic Burkett letter from the Halper sale:

Lot 1220 from the 1999 Sotheby's Halper Sale- an authentic signed letter by Jesse Burkett

Here is the secretarial signed letter in the current Goldin Auction:

Lot 1069 in the 1999 Sotheby's Halper Sale- a letter with a secreterial signature of Jesse Burkett

In our previous Burkett report we went into great detail illustrating the history of the flawed and fraudulent authentications of Burkett material by both Steve Grad and Jimmy Spence of JSA. For the purposes of this report in illustrating Grad’s current flub, it was only necessary for us to refer to Ron Keurajian’s book, Baseball Hall of Fame Autographs: A Reference Guide (McFarland 2012), which clearly identifies what a genuine Burkett signature would have looked like later in his life between 1917 and 1935.  One of the exemplars utilized by Keurajian in the book is a 1917 employment contract between Burkett and the College of the Holy Cross.  The signature on this document is clearly in the same hand as the Burkett letter sold as lot 1220 in the 1999 Halper sale and bears no resemblance to the signature featured on the letter authenticated by Grad and Beckett.

Here is the 1917 Burkett signature found in the Holy Cross Archives:

This is an authentic Jesse Burkett signature on his 1917 employment contract with Holy Cross. (Courtesy of the Archives of the College of the Holy Cross)

Beckett and Grad could have avoided this authentication error by purchasing a copy of Ron Keurajian’s book which provides iron clad exemplars of the Burkett signature.  It is suspected, however, that with the evidence so overwhelming that the Goldin example is bogus, that Grad and Beckett may have fraudulently authenticated an item which they know is a fake in order to aid a friendly consignor and auction house in completing a sale. The authentication of this item also illustrates the problem of collusion between auctioneers and authenticators. Many of Goldin’s authenticators have also ignored iron-clad evidence of forgery in the past, one good example being the sales of a bogus letters of boxer Rocky Marciano. The Goldin auction also includes another Grad authenticated baseball that appears to be non-genuine- an alleged Lefty Grove signed ball.  There is also what appears to be a forgery of a Cy Young signature on a ball with an LOA signed by Grad’s old boss at PSA/DNA, Joe Orlando.

Authentic Jesse Burkett letters are extremely rare and the majority of genuine examples are housed in the HOFs August Hermann Papers Collection.  Several other secretarial examples of Burkett’s signature are found in the Herrmann Papers and some of those examples have also been stolen and made there way into the market via dealers like Mark Jordan who is also a consignment director at Heritage Auctions.

Ron Keurajian's book includes verified examples of Jesse Burkett's signature that expose Steve Grad's flawed and perhaps fraudulent authentication of the letter being sold by Ken Goldin.

When asked for further comment Keurajian directed us to passages regarding secretarial Burkett signatures in his book which states, “Burkett made liberal use of secretaries to sign his name. They look nothing like the illustrated specimens.” Keurajian confirmed that this is specifically the case with the example being sold at Goldin Auctions.

Top: Secreterial Burkett Signature Middle: Genuine Burkett signature on 1935 letter. Bottom: Genuine Burkett signature on 1917 contract.

Goldin Auctions did not respond to our inquiry for comment regarding Beckett’s authentication of the bogus Burkett signature.

Grad has long been a controversial figure in the hobby having claimed that his mentor was Bill Mastro the disgraced auctioneer who was recently released from prison after doing time for engaging massive auction fraud.  As chronicled in our previous reports on Grad he is also infamous for fabricating his own resume and for lying under oath in hobby related court-ordered depositions. Beckett Authentication Services did not respond to our request for comment. The Beckett LOA accompanying the bogus Burkett letter also lists Brian Sobrero as a Beckett authenticator.

The stolen 1875 letter being sold as lot 11 at Goldin Auctions (left). The research notes of historians Dr. Harold Seymour and Dorothy Mills (right) proved the letter was once property of the NYPL.

STAY TUNED for another report regarding Lot 11 in the current Goldin sale which was stolen from the New York Public Library’s famed Spalding Collection. The letter was torn from one of the missing volumes of Harry Wright Scrapbooks and is documented as NYPL property by the original research notes written by Dr. Harold Seymour and Dorothy Mills when they held this same letter in their hands at the NYPL in the 1950s, before it was stolen.  The 1875 letter has been featured on our “10 Most Wanted Missing Baseball Treasures List” since 2010.

UPDATE: A report published at AutographPlanet.com by Stephen Koschal chronicles some recent authentication blunders made by Steve Grad at a show in California.


By Peter J. Nash

Oct. 5, 2017

Back in 2014, Hauls of Shame launched an investigation into allegations that rare letters and documents chronicling the integration of Major League Baseball via Branch Rickey, Walter O’Malley and the Brooklyn Dodgers had wrongfully made their way onto the baseball memorabilia market. What raised a red flag in 2014 was an online auction appearance of a trio of 1946 letters penned by Hall of Famer Roy Campanella which detailed the machinations of the Dodger’s earliest attempts to break baseball’s color barrier.

In each of its lot descriptions, Robert Edward Auctions stated of each Campanella document: “The historical significance of this letter cannot be overstated.” REA also described that the content of each letter consisted of scouting reports for Branch Rickey’s assistant, Robert Finch, concerning other black players including Larry Doby, Junior Gilliam, Joe Black, Ed Romby as well as other Negro League stars. REA added that the letters “concern the potential recruitment of other black ballplayers by the Dodgers prior to Jackie Robinson’s historic Major League debut the following spring.” REA claimed that all of the letters originated from “the same remarkable Dodgers collection” without any further detail. Two of the letters were date stamped “Received” by the “Brooklyn Ball Club” evidencing that the letters were once part of the Dodger team files.

These three letters handwritten by Campanella, however, were not the only such suspicious internal Dodger documents to surface in the marketplace as REA referenced another 1946 Campanella scouting report of Larry Doby addressed to Branch Rickey which sold at Heritage Auctions for $23,900 in 2013. Heritage described the letter as “extraordinary” and “among the most important and desirable Heritage has ever had the privilege to handle.” Heritage also made no mention whatsoever of the provenance of the document.

The (3) 1946 Campanella letters were date stamped "Brooklyn Base Ball Club, Received" documenting that the letters were once property of the team and maintained in the club's business files.

In addition, REA and its partners MastroNet and Mike Gutierrez sold two more letters in 2000 and 2001 which were written in 1947 and 1948 by Roy Campanella to Branch Rickey and Dodger official Al Campanis. The auction house described one of the letters regarding a salary dispute as having “significant historical import to the famed executive who is most responsible for engineering the shattering of the color barrier in organized baseball.” That letter sold for $6,828 despite having no reference to the document’s provenance in the lot description.

In 2000 and 2001, REA and MastroNet sold two Campanella letters addressed to Dodger officials (left and middle) while in 2013 Heritage sold another 1946 Campy letter sent to Branch Rickey (right).

All of these rare Campanella letters, however, were not the only Dodger documents to have surfaced as there have been numerous sales of examples of other internal company documents between Dodger President Branch Rickey and owner Walter O’Malley.  In 2010, REA offered one of these missives on Dodger letterhead detailing a trade of second baseman Eddie Stanky to the NY Giants in order to free up roster space to accommodate young players like Jackie Robinson.  In the lot description REA states, “Given the content and the historical implications of the trade, this is certainly one of the finest Rickey letters we have ever offered.”

REA sold this letter written by Branch Rickey to Walter O'Malley in 1948 detailing a trade of Eddie Stanky to the NY Giants. It appears to be an internal document from the Dodger files as evidenced by the holes punched on the letterhead and the pen notations.

Further research of past auction catalogs reveals that these historic documents have been appearing in sales dating back to at least the early 1990s. In 1996 Lelands sold a similar 1946 Campanella letter to Dodger employee Harold Parrot and in 1992 Richard Wolfers Auctions sold another Campanella letter written to the Dodger farm club in Montreal in 1947. In that letter, Campanella acknowledged receiving a $2,200 salary advance and a $300 loan from the Dodgers.  This lot was accompanied by an unsigned carbon copy file letter written to Campy by Branch Rickey who suggested he use the loan to take care of his divorce settlement.  This file copy is further evidence that these documents once resided in the Dodger team files.

In 1992 Richard Wolfers sold a 1947 Campanella letter to the Montreal Royals accompanied by Branch Rickey's unsigned carbon copy letter, suggesting that the documents originated from the Dodger team files.

So, how did all of these documents make their way into private hands and why wouldn’t the Los Angeles Dodgers have retained these historic records in their organizational files? The papers of Branch Rickey are presently part of the Library of Congress and they do not include the volume of his Brooklyn Dodger correspondence which is believed to have stayed with the Dodgers. The O’Malley family retains some correspondence received by the former Dodger owner but it is believed the bulk of his correspondence remained in the Dodger archive in Los Angeles. Hauls of Shame presented copies of the suspect Dodger documents to one prominent baseball researcher who surmised, “The only reasonable conclusion is that these were pilfered from the Dodgers’ archives.”

For several decades rumors and unverified stories have circulated throughout the hobby stating that the Los Angeles Dodger organization retained an archive of the Brooklyn Dodger team files ever since the club moved west in 1958.  Last month, Hauls of Shame contacted Dodger team historian, Mark Langill, to ask for the scope and contents of the team document archive.  Langill responded, “We do not have a comment on the archives at this time. It is currently being processed by Heritage Werks.”

Langill also forwarded to us a recent Street & Smith’s article about Heritage Werks with some details related to the Dodger archives.  The article began stating, “For years, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ considerable heritage lay aging inside rusting file cabinets in forgotten rooms at Dodger Stadium, or gathering dust in cardboard boxes at off-site storage warehouses…” In the article, Dodger executive vice president and chief marketing officer, Lon Rosen, stated, “We had what I called ’stuff’ but a lot of other people called ‘junk’.”

The LA Dodgers recently retained Heritage Werks to preserve and digitize its archives. It is believed owner Walter O'Malley moved the Brooklyn archive into his new stadium, however, many documents from his files have mysteriously appeared at auction (bottom).

Three years ago Rosen and the Dodgers hired Heritage Werks to cart off “two moving vans stuffed with Dodger artifacts and documents” to its headquarters in Atlanta to be digitally documented and preserved.  The article revealed how Rosen and the company discovered “forgotten treasures” including Sandy Koufax’s original scouting report and a wheelchair used by Roy Campanella. The result of the three year project appears to be an impressive data base and the report adds, “the Dodgers have the contents of all those musty boxes and rusty file cabinets digitized and accessible.” Heritage Werks has since done similar work for the Atlanta Braves and the St. Louis Cardinals.

In the course of our investigation we interviewed several hobby executives and dealers who shed light on how they believe these rare Dodger documents entered the marketplace and we will report our findings in the next installment (Part 2) of this special report. In addition we will address the speculation and allegations that the historic 1945 and 1947 Jackie Robinson contracts being offered for sale by Goldin Auctions in November originated from the Dodger team archive and were not Robinson’s own personal copies of the documents as alleged by the consignor and the auction house. In 2016, the consignor told Darren Rovell of ESPN that the contracts were originally owned by “a Brooklyn historian” who acquired them “perhaps from Robinson himself.” He also stated the historian had died and that his estate sold the contracts to a collector and that subsequently that collector, who also died, sold the contracts to the consignor’s company, Collectors Cafe. The consignor also told Rovell that “neither of the previous owners wanted to be publicly identified” despite the fact that they are now both deceased. Sources tell HOS that the collector was the late finance whiz Martin E. Zweig who predicted the 1987 stock market crash.

Back in September auctioneer Ken Goldin was interviewed by ESPN and Rovell who reported, “The contracts were originally owned by Robinson but eventually became the possession of the Brooklyn Historical Society.”  HOS contacted the BHS to confirm this claim, however, BHS spokesperson, Jean Hodesh stated that the Brooklyn institution “had no recollection or any records documenting that the Robinson contracts were ever in its possession.”

The two Jackie Robinson contracts appraised at $36 million are being sold by Goldin Auctions but questions regarding their provenance have led to allegations that the documents were pilfered from the Dodger files in Los Angeles.

The consignor of the documents, Mykalai Kontilai, claims the contracts are worth $36 million based upon a questionable appraisal rendered by autograph dealer Seth Kaller of Seth Kaller Inc. Although the Robinson contracts are important and historic documents the $36 million appraised value is almost $14 million more than the sale price of the Magna Carta which sold at a Sotheby’s auction in 2007 for $21.3 million.  Auctioneer Josh Evans recently criticized Kaller’s appraisal in the Sweet Spot Newsletter stating, “Although it is undoubtedly a great piece and something anyone would love to own, regardless, this is still grossly irresponsible.  It is simply a ludicrous figure with no foreseeable rationale behind it.”  Supporting Evans’ statement is the fact that sources indicate the two most recent sales of the Robinson contracts ranged from figures below $1 million and well under $2 million.  Adding the controversy over the actual provenance of the documents, the appraisal figures might be the least of the consignor’s and the auction house’s problems. Stay tuned for Part 2 and Part 3 of this special investigative report.

If any readers have information regarding the thefts of documents and photographs from Dodger Stadium and the Dodger team files in the 1980s please email us at: tips@haulsofshame.com


By Peter J. Nash

June 30, 2017

Scroll Down For Update:

The Messy History of Charlie Sheen’s “Winning Ring” just got a bit messier with evidence mounting and suggesting that the alleged 1927 Babe Ruth World Series ring being sold at auction tonight is a fake. The authenticity of the media-hyped Ruth ring (with a current bid of $895,429) is also coming under fire because Lelands Auctions is fraudulently claiming that the ring was originally acquired from Claire Ruth (Babe’s widow) by disgraced and now deceased collector Barry Halper. The auction house has also made claims that the “G. H. Ruth” engraving inside the ring “perfectly matches the few other original player rings” of 1927 Yankee players.  Upon close examination, however, the engraving on the alleged Ruth ring greatly contrasts other genuine 1927 player rings.

Even the Bambino’s own grandaughter, Linda Ruth Tosetti, has chimed in regarding the visible differences in the engraving stating, “You’d have to be blind to not see that Sheen’s ring was engraved by someone else. It isn’t even close to the real ones I was shown that belonged to my grandfather’s teammates.”

The authenticity of the alleged Ruth ring has been in the spotlight since this writer published  investigative reports for Deadspin and Hauls of Shame back in 2011. Now, nearly six years later, HOS and several hand engravers are taking a close look at the Ruth engraving and comparing it to other genuinely engraved Yankee rings. None of the serious questions regarding the ring’s authenticity and provenance, however, have been referenced in any of the national media reports claiming that the bogus ring is a “Holy Grail” of the National Pastime. After thoroughly examining the evidence, it appears that Sheen may join Director Penny Marshall, ex-MLB Commissioner Bud Selig and Baseball Hall of Fame Chairman Jane Forbes Clark as a high profile individual who was swindled and defrauded by George Steinbrenner’s former New York Yankees partner, Barry Halper.

As we described in detail in the previous reports about the controversial ring, the engraving found on the inside of the gold artifact would shed the most light on its authenticity.  Until Lelands revealed the engraving on its website recently the authenticity of the ring could only be speculated upon because the ring itself is undoubtedly an authentic example created by jeweler Dieges & Clust in 1927 for the Yankees and Major League baseball.  The examination of the personalized engraving, the only aspect of the ring that would make it the Bambino’s own personal trophy, is perhaps the only characteristic of the ring that can determine its ultimate authenticity. With the postings of the actual engraving on Leland’s website it is clearly evident that the “G.H. Ruth” greatly contrasts other genuine rings which have been sold at auction over the past few decades. In particular the rings of manager Miller J. Huggins and utility player Mike Gazella illustrate the differences best as they incorporate the similar capital letters “H” and “G” just like the alleged Ruth example.

The engraving found on the genuine rings of Miller Huggins and Mike Gazella (right) contrasts the questioned "G. H. Ruth" engraving on the left. In particular the capital "G" engraved on the Gazella and the capital "H" on the Huggins illustrate that the Ruth ring does not "perfectly match" other player rings as claimed by Lelands.

One owner of a genuine 1927 Yankees World Series ring noticed the contrast and told Hauls of Shame, “The H in the Ruth ring looks amateurish and careless with none of the deep embellishments which characterize the font style of the capital letters of the other rings and especially not of the capital “H” of the Huggins.” In addition he stated, “Although the initial “G” in the Ruth ring has the same general lines and curves as the Gazzella ring, it also looks amateurish and uneven in strokes and pattern.”

Hand engravers and another owner of a genuine 1927 WS ring all agree that Sheen's Ruth ring engraving does not match that of the Huggins and Gazella rings, in particular, the capital "H" and "G" on all three rings highlighted in red on this black and white image of the three examples.

The same owner of the other 1927 ring also astutely noted that the “G.H. Ruth” engraving appeared to have been worn down in some manner but also noticed the almost pristine condition of the exterior of the alleged Ruth ring.  He added, “My ring has considerable wear (on the exterior) but the engraving is still deep and visible.” One hand engraver told us that the wear on the inside of the ring would likely not occur and could be just light engraving, contrasting the deep engraving on the real D&C rings.

HOS presented to several hand engravers this image of the Ruth ring vs. the contrasting examples of genuinely engraved Yankee player rings of (top to bottom) Miller Huggins; Mike Gazella; Earle Combs; and Bob Shawkey

Hauls of Shame presented several hand engravers of fine jewelry with images of the Ruth ring engraving alongside the other genuinely engraved examples. All of the engravers noted the differences between the Ruth ring and the genuine exemplars and some noted that the Ruth appeared to have been engraved by a different instrument than the other Yankee rings. While it is always more accurate to examine such characteristics in person (if possible) the differences between the Ruth ring and the others is so distinct that speculation regarding its authenticity should be seriously considered.

Since the time HOS presented the hand engravers with the above referenced exemplars, images of two additional genuine rings were forwarded to us by a veteran collector. Those two rings of Herb Pennock and Bennie Bengough also show engraving that matches the authentic rings but distinctly contrasts the Ruth example being sold by Sheen.

Two additional genuine rings have surfaced showing engraving that contrasts Charlie Sheen's alleged Ruth ring. The rings of Bennie Bengough (left and top right) and Herb Pennock (bottom right) further suggest that the Ruth ring 's engraving is fraudulent. The bengough ring shows severe wear on the exterior of the ring while the engraving appears to be bold like every other known example except for the questioned Ruth ring.

There have been close to a dozen genuine 1927 Yankee rings offered at public auction since the 1990s including the Huggins, Gazella, Combs, Pennock, Bengough and Shawkey examples as well as others presented to Dutch Ruether, Joe Dugan, and Pat Collins (all of which did not show the engraving in the sale catalogs). Recently the Dieges & Clust internal company  documents related to the 1927 Yankee ring order surfaced at auction.  The auction lot included the actual engraving sheet with the names of every player to be engraved along with the ring sizes.  Babe Ruth was identified with a ring finger size of 11 1/2, but Lelands does not mention the current size of the ring. Lelands includes a letter of authenticity for the ring from London Jewelers in Manhasset, NY, but that letter only addresses the legitimacy of the ring itself.  It appears that the jeweler was not even asked to examine the engraving on the alleged Ruth ring or compare it to other legitimate examples.

Close ups of the engraved capital letter H on the Ruth ring (left) show the distinct differences in engraving with the Herb Pennock (center) and Miller Huggins (rignt) rings. The Ruth H is light and amateurish with what appear to be stops and hesitations in the engraving, not wear and tear.

If the serious issues with the Ruth engraving weren’t enough, there’s the additional issue of the apparent fabricated provenance story that was provided by Halper to Lelands founder and CEO, Josh Evans back in 1990.  In his Sports Collectors Digest “Balls in the Attic” column Evans interviewed Halper who claimed he acquired the 1927 ring from Babe Ruth’s only blood-daughter, Dorothy Ruth Pirone. But in its current catalog Lelands has changed that story and now states that Halper acquired the ring from Ruth’s widow.  Lelands even goes as far to state, “The ring was slightly sized sometime after the Babe’s death in 1948 for Claire to wear as an homage to her late husband.” Despite the documentation of multiple provenance stories and the lack of any verifiable evidence to support their claims, Lelands appears to have resorted to fraudulent misrepresentations to promote the auction lot.  Hauls of Shame reached out to Lelands CEO Josh Evans and Mike Heffner in multiple emails and phone calls to see if the auction house could offer any proof to support their claims and to address the issues with the problematic engraving of the Ruth ring.  Evans and Heffner both failed to answer the emails or return any of the phone calls.  One prominent collector told us, “I’m disappointed that Josh is so blatantly lying about everything.”

Linda Ruth Tosetti is not pleased with Lelands’ actions and told us, “Lelands should be ashamed of themselves but I guess the saying is true, there’s a sucker born every minute.” She has also taken issue in the past with Barry Halper’s false claim that he purchased the ring from her mother.  Ruth-Tosetti added, “My mother said in her 1988 autobiography that all of Babe’s rings had vanished from the family. She never had it or sold it to Barry Halper. Halper lied in 1990 when he said he bought it from her.  This lie was (made) after my mother died.”  That being said, the Babe’s granddaughter would like to know how in the world Lelands could know if Halper acquired the ring from Claire Ruth? As far as she is concerned, “It’s another Halper fake that’s as phony as a 3 dollar bill.”

The 1927 Yankee WS ring engraving order form (left) shows the Ruth ring with a size of 11 1/2 and lists all of the player names engraved at the same time by Dieges & Clust. Barry Halper (center) lied about the ring's provenance and sold it to Josh Evans of Lelands (right)

Evans has a long history as a client and dealer for Barry Halper and in the current Charlie Sheen lot catalog descriptions refers to Halper as a “groundbreaking baseball collector” and “the most important collector in baseball memorabilia history.”  In showering Halper with accolades, however, Evans has ignored the deceased Yankee partner’s documented history as a con artist and fraudster.

Halper has been implicated for selling bogus materials to Major League Baseball and the Baseball Hall of Fame including “Shoeless” Joe Jackson’s 1919 jersey and Mickey Mantle’s 1951 Yankee rookie jersey.  Officials from the Hall of Fame admitted to returning the Mantle jersey and in October of 2011 revealed that testing on Halper’s Jackson jersey proved it was a fake, showing that it was created with materials including substances that weren’t in existence until the 1940s and 50s.

The Jackson fake is similar to Sheen’s Ruth ring in that it was also  sold with a phony provenance story. It is clear that Halper knowingly defrauded Major League Baseball and the Hall of Fame based upon the conflicting acquisition stories he made up for the Jackson jersey.  In 1985 he told The Sporting News it was a recent acquisition from ”Jackson relatives,” but at the time of the sale to MLB he said he purchased the jersey directly from Jackson’s widow in the 1950’s on a visit to her home in Greenville, South Carolina.  Halper said at the time he purchased Jackson’s jersey, “Black Betsy” bat, glove and engraved pocket watch from his widow, Katie, for $150. All of the items, including the engraved pocket watch were counterfeits.

Many of Halper’s most spectacular items, like Sheen’s Ruth ring, were accompanied with equally spectacular stories of his acquisitions. However, under further scrutiny Halper’s stories have unraveled and mirror the Joe Jackson jersey controversy. A similar problematic item that Halper sold was Lou Gehrig’s glove from his last game which turned out to be fraudulent as well.  Gehrig’s genuine last glove is on display at the Baseball Hall of Fame and was donated by his mother.  Halper sold the glove with a dubious provenance story for over $300,000, the highest price ever paid for a baseball glove. Halper also sold another 1927 World Series ring attributed to Lou Gehrig even though the Hall of Fame owns and displays Gehrig’s genuine ring which is part of a charm bracelet given to his wife.

Complicating things further, Halper even fabricated acquisition stories for legitimate items like the other big ticket item Sheen is selling at Lelands. Lelands claims that the Babe Ruth sale agreement to the Red Sox was acquired by Halper from the family of Yankee owner Jacob Ruppert.  Halper claimed in magazine interviews that he bought them from Ruppert’s grandson in the attic of his former home.  This story has been exposed by HOS as a total fabrication based upon email transmissions from the actual seller of the Ruth sale documents that have been circulating in the hobby since the 1990s. The seller had absolutely no relation to Ruppert and found all of the Ruth documents in a shoe box in a NYC office building.  The man who found the shoe box sold the documents to Halper in the 1980s for approximately $25,000 to pay for his daughters wedding. There was never any link to Jacob Ruppert, yet Lelands falsely states there was, even after being informed of this by HOS.

Problems with the engraving and the controversy regarding the origins and phony provenance of the Ruth ring have not scared bidders away. One bidder could be Hollywood mogul Thomas Tull who recently purchased Babe Ruth’s 1920 uniform from Lelands for over $4 million. Tull, who is also a board member at the Baseball Hall of Fame, has been scooping up some of the games most historic items for his personal collection.  Will the suspicion that the ring is a fake scare him off? As the alleged Babe Ruth ring approaches the $1 million mark at Lelands, will Barry Halper break another record with a fraudulent artifact and a fabricated provenance tale? Only time will tell.

UPDATE: Lelands Sells Sheen Ring For Over $2 Mil While Even More Evidence Surfaces Suggesting It’s A Ruthian Fake

Despite all of the evidence suggesting that the alleged 1927 Babe Ruth World Series ring was fraudulently engraved to pass it off as the Bambino’s own, Lelands Auction house went ahead and sold it for $2,093,927 on Friday night.  The auction house failed to address any of the concerns about the ring’s authenticity and also failed to withdraw its fraudulent claim that deceased collector Barry Halper had acquired the ring “directly from Claire Ruth” who died in 1976. When the sale was reported by ESPN’s Darren Rovell, however, the Sheen bling was described as only being “attributed to Babe Ruth” due to the serious issues regarding the ring’s authenticity.

The red arrows point to periods placed by the Dieges & Clust engraver after the capital letter initials of every Yankee player. The alleged Ruth ring (top row, left) features no periods after the amateurishly engraved "G" and "H".

On Friday evening, Hauls of Shame posted on Twitter additional evidence illustrating that the much-hyped ring could very well be a fake. It was noted that the engraving of every genuine player ring from 1927 featured periods placed after every upper case initial in each name and that the alleged Babe Ruth ring was engraved with no punctuation.

Via Twitter, Hauls of Shame alerted collectors and the media of another "tell" that the Sheen ring is likely a forgery. The alleged forger appears to have forgotten to place periods after the Ruth initials.

In addition to what has been described by hand engravers and veteran collectors as juvenile and amateurish “light” engraving, the lack of periods on the alleged Ruth ring is yet another tell that a forger created the attribution of Ruth ownership. The forger, however, made tell-tale mistakes that should have been recognized by Lelands and its jewelry appraiser, London Jewelers. But Lelands never showed the appraiser, Mark Reyman, any other examples to compare the engraving to and after posting the London appraisal report on its website, Lelands made another false statement claiming that the engraving on the alleged Ruth ring “exactly” matched the other known rings.

Calls to Lelands went unanswered last week but Hauls of Shame did speak with London Jewelers appraiser Mark Reyman who declined comment on the controversial ring but did confirm that Lelands never asked him to examine the engraving on the ring or to compare it to any other known examples offered at previous auction sales. Neither Reyman or a London Jewelers spokesperson were available for comment after the sale.

The buyer of Charlie Sheen’s controversial ring has not yet been revealed but when that person or organization is identified, the cloud of controversy regarding the legitimacy of the ring will likely follow.


By Peter J. Nash

April 25, 2017

In 1921, the widow of Albert Goodwill Spalding donated his voluminous archive of baseball photographs, manuscripts and books to the Astor-Lenox and Tilden Foundation of the New York Public Library. Spalding assembled the collection in conjunction with his release of the 1911 book America’s National Game and it was comprised of his own personal papers and scrapbooks and the personal archives of baseball pioneers Harry Wright and Henry Chadwick.

Chadwick gave Spalding his baseball library in 1907 and a year later via his last will and testament, he bequeathed the remainder of the archive. Chadwick’s collection also included the records, score books and rule books of the pioneer Knickerbocker Base Ball Club which he acquired from former club president James Whyte Davis.

Harry Wright, in similar fashion, bequeathed his entire baseball archive to the National League in 1895 as part of his last will and testament where he noted specifically his wish for his baseball library to serve as “a nucleus or beginning of a historical collection” to preserve the history of the game. Spalding likely acquired the trove when he served as the National League President in 1902 and until his death in 1915 maintained Wright’s archive of photographs, scrapbooks, diaries, financial ledgers, correspondence, score books and rule books documenting Wright’s affiliations with the Cincinnati and Boston Red Stockings and the Philadelphia Nationals from 1868 through 1894.

(L to R) A.G. Spalding; Harry Wright; Henry Chadwick; Dorothy Seymour Mills; and John Thorn.

The Spalding Collection constituted the most significant holding of 19th century baseball artifacts and documents in existence and from 1922 through the 1970s the collection served as an important resource for historians like Charles Mears, Robert Henderson, Dr. Harold Seymour and Dorothy Seymour Mills. Access to the collection also helped to establish the formal endeavor of baseball scholarship with Dr. Seymour’s 1955 dissertation at Cornell University and the release of the ground-breaking book Baseball: The Early Years published by Oxford in 1961.

In the early 1980s, members of the Society For American Baseball Research (SABR), including author and historian John Thorn, continued to utilize the Spalding Collection for research purposes and in 1983 Thorn spearheaded a campaign with SABR and The Sporting News to preserve and microfilm the manuscript materials.  In the course of microfilming the collection, however, Thorn realized that a significant number of manuscripts and scrapbooks were missing from the library’s Fifth Avenue Branch.  Three of the scrapbook volumes missing included the incoming correspondence of Harry Wright between 1868 and 1894 and included thousands of documents dealing with Wright’s day to day operations. The NYPL staff documented the missing manuscripts in a 1983 report and four years later they conducted another inventory of the Spalding photographs and discovered a large portion of that collection was missing as well.

Barry Halper owned thousands of items stolen from the NYPL and his dealer Rob Lifson was caught stealing at the NYPL in 1979. The New York Post published a 2013 report about the NYPLs failed recovery efforts.

Most all of the Spalding Collection artifacts were stolen in the mid to late 1970s as part of a well-orchestrated heist said to have been masterminded by late collector and Yankees minority partner Barry Halper and his associate Rob Lifson of Robert Edward Auctions. In 1977 Halper showed off his acquisition of Harry Wright’s correspondence collection to Bill Madden in his collectibles column published in The Sporting News and in 1979 Lifson was caught stealing a cache of rare CDV photos and cabinet cards in an incident that was reported in TIME Magazine.  From 1977 through 1999 the majority of stolen Spalding items were either sold by or in the possession of Lifson and Halper and Lifson’s other top customer, a stock broker named George Lyons. In 1999, Halper and Lifson sold scores of stolen items at Sotheby’s as Halper liquidated his entire collection. Although Lifson publicly denied having ever been caught stealing items from the Spalding Collection he confessed to SI.com in 2009 and admitted he was apprehended while “secreting” two 19th century photos at the NYPL.

In July of 2009, a group of letters removed from Harry Wright’s missing scrapbooks surfaced in an MLB All-Star Game auction conducted by Hunt Auctions.  The New York Times published three articles showing that historian Dorothy Seymour Mills had cited some of the letters in her own work and the letters were subsequently removed from the sale and turned over to the FBI as evidence in an on-going investigation into the 1970s heist.  To date, only a handful of items have been recovered by the FBI and returned to the NYPL, including a rare 1869 Red Stockings trade card that was returned by Net54 moderator Leon Luckey.

Hauls of Shame recently requested that the NYPL reveal which artifacts have actually been recovered by the institution, however, library official Angela Montefinise declined comment. Last year the NYPL also denied a FOIA request made by HOS for all internal library files regarding the collection and the thefts.   That being said, items stolen from the NYPL continue to appear in auctions and in private sales on the black market.  An 1884 Harry Wright signed telegram draft was offered in an SCP sale and one well known dealer has offered or sold a stolen Al Reach letter addressed to Harry Wright and a cabinet photo of A. G. Mills which still had remnants of the NYPL ownership stamp on its reverse .  Although SCP did not reveal it to bidders at the time, the NYPL claims that they contacted the auction house and the stolen item was pulled from the sale. It’s sad to say, but there is so much material missing from Spalding Collection that the rare signed Wright document (valued at $10,000) didn’t even make the list we’ve compiled and call the NYPL HOT 100:

The Top 100 Artifacts Stolen & Missing From The A. G. Spalding Baseball Collection & The Donated Archives Of Henry Chadwick & Harry Wright:

1.) 1846 score sheets from June 19, 1846 Knickerbocker BBC match vs. New Yorks; 2.) 1848 Knickerbocker BBC By-Laws and Rules.

1.) 1846 Knickerbocker Base Ball Club Score Sheets from June 19 match versus the New York Club. Long considered baseball’s 1st game before recent scholarship has unearthed earlier contests. These sheets were cut out of the NYPL Knick score books with a sharp object and were discovered missing by MLBs official historian John Thorn.

2.) 1848 Knickerbocker Base Ball Club By-Laws and Rules once owned by James Whyte Davis (along with the 1866 Knick BBC By-Laws and Rules) The 1848 By-Laws were originally sold to Barry Halper by Rob Lifson (although Halper lied to Connoisseur Magazine in 1990 and said a collector who had no idea what the booklet was “threw it in” to close a deal). In the 1990s Halper sold the By-Laws in a private sale brokered by Lifson to collector Corey R. Shanus.

3.) Harry Wright's Correspondence Scrapbook Vol. 1 1866-1877 (about 50 letters/documents removed from this volume appeared for sale in the 2009 MLB All Star Auction conducted by Hunt Auctions.

3.) Correspondence Scrapbook of Harry Wright Volume 1- 1868-1877. Many letters removed from this volume appeared in a 2009 Hunt Auctions/MLB auction. The FBI took possession of the letters and later returned them to the consignor who sold the entire group to an auction house owner. Each of the three missing Wright volumes are believed to have included over 1,500 documents.

4. Henry Chadwick's score sheets from the 1858 Fashion Course Matches that were found in the NYPLs Chadwick Scorebooks Vol. 20

4.) Henry Chadwick’s personal score-pages for the Fashion Course Matches of 1858-Removed from NYPL Chadwick Score Book Vol. 20. Brooklyn dealer Barry Sloate noted his “discovery” of these pages in VBBC in 1995 and sold them to collector Corey R. Shanus.

5 and 6.) Harry Wright Correspondence Scrapbook volumes 2 and 4. In 2009, the NY Times published articles showing that letters removed from these volumes were for sale in an MLB/Hunt auction.

5.) Harry Wright’s Correspondence Scrapbook 1884-1889. This missing volume once included several thousand letters, contracts, telegrams and other pieces of ephemera. Most all of these items ended up in the collection of NY Yankees minority owner Barry Halper.

6.) Harry Wright’s Correspondence Scrapbook 1889-1894. Many of the documents in this scrapbook were removed and sold off by collector Barry Halper.  The documents were scattered all over the country in various different collections.

7.) 1/2 of Henry Chadwick's score book Vol. 20- 1858-1859. Including Jim Creighton games with Star of Brooklyn.

7.) Half of Henry Chadwick’s personal score book volume from 1858 and 1859.  Also “discovered” by Brooklyn dealer Barry Sloate, this 1/2 volume is the companion to the NYPL’s Chadwick scrapbook vol. 20.  Sloate’s 1/2 volume even included the glossary for the entire volume including the sheets remaining at the 5th Avenue library branch.

8.) A. G. Spalding’s personal scrapbook spanning from 1868 to 1874.  This entire volume is believed to have contained original CDV and cabinet photographs, scorecards, letters, contracts and other priceless artifacts that have since been dismantled and sold on the black market of baseball artifacts.

9.) 1859 panoramic Photo of Knickerbocker and Excelsior Base Ball Clubs by Williamson, Brooklyn.

9.) 1859 Photograph of the Knickerbocker and Excelsior Baseball Clubs by Williamson. A letter at the Baseball Hall of Fame suggests that this photo was loaned to Cooperstown in 1938 but its whereabouts are currently unknown.

10.) Autographed Hastings cabinet photo of John Clarkson inscribed to Henry Chadwick.

10.) Autographed cabinet photograph of John Clarkson inscribed to Henry Chadwick. This cabinet photo was owned by Barry Halper and collector George Lyons and had the “Henry Chadwick” inscription removed to conceal its NYPL provenance.

11.) 1859 Knickerbocker Challenge Letter sent to the Eagle BBC from Knickerbocker Correspondence Scrapbook Vol 1. The letter shows evidence of beind ripped from another page and the jagged edges fit perfectly with the second page of the letter still pasted in the scrapbook at the NYPL.

11.) 1859 Knickerbocker Base Ball Club Challenge letter to the Eagle BBC.  This letter was sold at the 1999 Barry Halper sale and shows definitive evidence that the letter was wrongfully removed from the NYPL Knick Correspondence scrapbooks. The second page of the letter is still pasted in the Knick Scrapbook at the library.

11.) 1879 player contract of Ezra Sutton with Boston BBC, signed by Harry Wright. This contract was documented as NYPL property in letters sent to Dr. Harold Seymour in 1953 (inset). The contract was in the collection of Barry Halper and was hung on the wall in his office from 1977 to 1999 (inset left).

12.) Ezra Sutton’s 1879 Boston BBC player contract signed by Harry Wright.  This contract was sold at Sotheby’s in 1999 by Barry Halper but NYPL documents show it was taken from Harry Wright scrapbook volume number 2 and cited in Dr. Harold Seymour’s work. (Offered for sale by Heritage Auctions in 2011)

13.) 1858 CDV photograph of the Brooklyn Eckfords Base Ball Club

14.) 1861 CDV photograph of the Brooklyn Atlantics by Williamson

14.) 1858 CDV of the Eckford Base Ball Club of Brooklyn;15.) CDV of the Brooklyn Atlantics by Williamson

15.) 1887 Autographed Tintype Photograph of Tommy McCarthy (Sold by Lelands in 1993)

16.) 1887 Letter from Ed Delahanty to Harry Wright (Owned by Barry Halper and sold at Christie’s in 1994)

17.) Alexander Cartwright c 1890 cabinet photo by Tabor. (Sold after Barry Halper’s death by Rob Lifson and REA as a “unique” artifact)

15.) Tommy McCarthy autographed tintype photo; 16.) Ed Delahanty letter to Harry Wright 1887; 17.) Alexander Cartwright Tabor cabinet photo; 18.) 1874 autographed Harry Wright Warren cabinet.

18.) 1874 Harry Wright autographed Warren cabinet photograph (Sold by MastroNet/REA in 2000)

19.) Imperial photo of Brooklyn Atlantics “Champions 1864,65,66,68,70″

20.) 1875 letter presenting the Championship Pennant to the Boston BBC signed by Harry Wright and Morgan Bulkeley (Sold at Sotheby’s Halper Sale in 1999)

21.) 1874 4-page letter from A. G. Spalding to Harry Wright from England and Boston BBC and Phila. BBC World Tour (Sold by Mastro and Robert Edward Auctions)

20.) 1875 letter to Harry Wright presenting Boston the 1875 Pennant (documented as NYPL property in Dr. Seymour's research notes (center). 21.) 1874 AG Spalding letter to Harry Wright from World Tour in England.

22.) 1869-70 Peck & Snyder Trade Card of the Cincinnati Red Stockings. (Appears with NYPL credit in 1961 book by Dr. Seymour)

23.) Matthew Brady Imperial Photograph of the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings

24.) Imperial Photograph of the 1860 Brooklyn Excelsiors

22.) 1869 Reds P&S trade card with credit in Seymour's "Early Years"; 23.)1869 Imperial cabinet photo of Red Stockings by Matthew Brady; 24.) Imperial cabinet photo of the 1860 Brooklyn Excelsiors (in wash)

25.) 1887 Kalamazoo Bat Cabinet Photo of Harry Wright

26.) Harry Wright’s membership certificate to the Cincinnati Red Stockings 1868 (Sold by Mastro Auctions)

27.) Harry Wright’s 1863 resignation letter from the Knickerbocker BBC

28.) 1866 Brooklyn Excelsiors By-Laws and Constitution

25.) 1887 Harry Wright Kalamazoo Bats cabinet; 26.) Harry Wright's signed 1868 Red Stocking Membership; 27.) 1866 Brooklyn Excelsiors By-Laws; 28.) Vandalism shows theft of Harry Wright's 1863 Knick resignation letter.

29.) 1873 Boston Red Stockings CDV/cabinet photo by Richardson (Sold by Rob Lifson and Mastro Auctions)

30.) 1870 CDV photograph of the Forest City BBC w/A.G. Spalding

31.) 1877 Jim Devlin letter to Harry Wright (Sold at Sotheby’s 1999 Halper Sale)

32.) 1872 George Wright autographed Warren CDV photograph (Sold by MastroNet/REA in 2000)

28 & 29.) 1873 Boston BBC CDV photo by Richardson; 30.) 1877 Jim Devlin letter to Harry Wright; 31.) 1872 autographed George Wright Warren CDV

33.) 1866 Knickerbocker BBC By-Laws and Constitution

34.) 1860 Star Base Ball Club response letter to Knickerbocker BBC challenge

35.) 1860 Brooklyn Excelsior BBC response letter to Knickerbocker BBC challenge

36.) 1874 A. G. Spalding Warren cabinet photo (Sold by Lelands in 2009)

34.) 1860 Star of Brooklyn Challenge Letter 35.) 1860 Excelsior BBC Challenge letter to Knickerbocker BBC 36.) Warren cabinet photo of A. G. Spalding

37.) 1874 Boston Red Stockings team cabinet photograph by Black (Sold by Mastro Auctions)

38.) 1879 Chicago White Stockings cabinet photo from California Tour

1874 Boston BBC cabinet photo by Black. 1879 Chicago White Stockings California Team

39.) 1877 Harry Wright autographed cabinet photograph by Randall (Owned by Barry Halper and sold by REA)

40.) 1869 CDV photo of the Forest City BBC

41.) Cap Anson 1888 Stevens cabinet photograph (Sold by George Lyons and Mike Gutierrez)

41.) Cap Anson cabinet photo by Stevens 42.) Harry Wright autographed cabinet photo by Randall

42.) 1889 Chicago All-Americans World Tour cabinet photograph

43.) 1887 Buffalo BBC cabinet photo with Frank Grant (Sold by MastrNet/REA in 2000)

44.) 1871 Mort Rogers Boston BBC score card of Harry Schafer (Sold by Lew Lipset)

45.) Harry Wright 1871 Warren CDV photograph (Sold at Sotheby’s 1999 Halper Sale)

46.) 1858 Knickerbocker challenge letter response from Hamilton BBC

47.) Charlie Pabor 1860 CDV photograph

48.) 1869 Imperial Photograph of the Forest City BBC

Harry Schafer 1871 Mort Rogers Score Card; 1860 Charlie Pabor CDV by Grotcloss; 48.) 1869 Imperial cabinet photo of the Forest City BBC w/Spalding

49.) 1859 Brooklyn Excelsior BBC response letter to Knickerbocker BBC challenge

50.) 1859 Star Base Ball Club response letter to Knickerbocker BBC challenge

51.) 1860 Knickerbocker BBC challenge letter to Excelsior BBC Muffins

52.) c.1860 Knickerbocker BBC challenge letter to Continental BBC

Challenge letters stolen from NYPL Knickerbocker BBC correspondence scrapbook (l to r): 1859 Excelsior to Knick; 1859 Star to Knick; 1869 Hamilton to Knick; Continental to Knick (still at NYPL).

53.) A.J. Reach autographed cabinet photograph by C. M. Gilbert (Sold by Wolfers and Mastro Auctions)

54.) George Wright 1874 Warren cabinet photograph

55.) 1875 Philadelphia Athletics cabinet photograph

56.) Ross Barnes autographed 1872 Warren CDV; 57.) Cal McVey autographed 1872 Warren CDV; 59.) 1875 Hartford BBC CDV w/Candy Cummings

56.) 1872 Ross Barnes autographed Warren CDV photograph (Sold by MastroNet /REA 2000)

57.) 1872 Cal McVey autographed Warren CDV photograph (Sold by MastroNet/REA 2000)

58.) 1866 Unions of Morrisania CDv photograph by Grotcloss

59.) 1875 CDV photo of Hartford BBC w/Candy Cummings (Sold by MastroNet/REA 2000)

60 & 61.) 1877 Jim Devlin Letters to Harry Wright (Offered by Hunt Auctions in 2009)

62.) 1868 letter to Harry Wright confirming election as “Honorary Member”  of the Cincinnati BBC (Offered by Hunt Auctions in 2009)

1877 Jim Devlin letter to Harry Wright documented as NYPL property in Dr. Harold Seymour's notes (center) Andrew Peck 1873 autographed cabinet photograph

63.) 1877 Contract of “Pop” Snyder signed by Snyder and Nick Young (Offered by Hunt Auctions in 2009)

64.) 1877 Boston BBC cabinet photograph

65.) Andrew Peck autographed cabinet photograph April 1873 (Owned by Barry Halper and sold by REA in 2007)

66.) 1886 Harry Wright cabinet photograph by MacIntire Studios (Owned by Barry Halper and sold at REA in 2007)

67.) Harry Wright 1889 handwritten letter to Ambrose (Sold at Sotheby’s 1999 Halper Sale)

68.) Harry Wright 1886 tintype photograph, Cape May, NJ (Sold by dealer Barry Sloate)

69.) Harry Wright legal documents and power of attorney (Sold at Sotheby’s 1999 Halper Sale)

70.) 1884 AG Mills letter to Harry Wright re: Rule Changes/Bases on Balls (Sold at Sotheby’s 1999 Halper Sale)

66.) Harry Wright cabinet photo by MacIntire; 67.) 1887 Harry Wright Letter; 68.) Harry Wright Tintype, Cape May NJ; 70.) 1884 AG Mills letter to Harry Wright

71.) 1880s Henry Chadwick studio portrait by Pearsall (Sold at Sotheby’s 1999 Halper Sale)

72.) A. G. Spalding inscribed and autographed page to Fred Thayer 1911 (Sold at Sotheby’s 1999 Halper Sale)

73.) 1877 letter from A. G. Spalding to Harry Wright (Owned by Barry Halper and Sold by Mike Gutierrez)

74.) 1875 Alfred Wright letter to Harry Wright re: standings of 1875 season (Offered by Hunt Auctions in 2009)

75.) Harry Wright CDV photograph by Petty, New Orleans

76.)  Harry Wright cabinet photo by Balch, Boston

Henry Chadwick cabinet photo by Pearsall; 1877 AG Spalding letter to Harry Wright; 1868 CDV photo of Harry Wright by; 1879 Balch of Boston cabinet photo of Harry Wright

77.) Nick Young 1888 autographed cabinet photo (Sold by Mike Gutierrez)

78.) Harry Wright tintype photograph by Heiss, Cape May NJ.

79.) Kalamazoo Bats cabinet photo of Jim Fogarty and McGuire

80.) 1891 Boston BBC mounted albumen photo on score card.

81.) 1887 albumen photograph “Brooklyn vs. St Louis-Washington Park Decoration Day”

82.) 1870 White Stockings CDV photo-card by Cannon, Poughkeepsie

83.) Deacon White 1872 Warren CDV photograph

Harry Wright tintype photo; 1887 Brooklyn vs. St. Louis panoramic photo; Deacon White CDV photo by Warren; 1891 Boston BBC photo on scorecard.

84.) Harry Wright account ledger page autographed (Sold by Huggins & Scott)

85.) Harry Wright account ledger volume page (Sold by Huggins & Scott)

86.) George Wright cabinet photograph buy McCormick, Boston (sold by MastroNet/REA 2000)

87.) 1888 Mickey Welch cabinet photograph by Stevens, Chicago

88.) 1859 copy of the Base Ball Players Pocket Companion

89.) Henry Chadwick’s 1894 NY Giants Season Pass (Offered by Heritage Auctions in 2012)

Signed ledger page from Harry Wright scrapbook; Signed page fragment from Harry Wright ledger book; 89. Henry Chadwick's 1894 NY Giant Season Pass

90.) Al Reach cabinet photograph portrait by Chillman Studios Phila. (Sold on eBay in 2011)

91.) Harry Wright handwritten letter draft (Owned by Barry Halper and sold by Wolfers Auctions)

92.) George Stallings 1889 4-page letter written to Harry Wright (Sold at REA 2009)

93.) 1887 Charlie Ferguson contract amendment signed by Harry Wright.(Sold at Sotheby’s 1999 Halper Sale)

94.) 1889 Al Reach letter to Harry Wright (Sold by Huggins & Scott)

90.) AJ Reach cabinet photo by Chillman, Phila.; 91.) 1887 Harry Wright letter draft; 94.) 1889 AJ Reach letter to Harry Wright

95.) 1894 John M. Ward cabinet photograph

96.) 1894 photographic program for banquet to Harry Wright

97.) Andy Leonard 1871 Mort Rogers Score Card (Sold by MastroNet/REA in 2000)

98.) A.G. Mills signed cabinet photo

99.) 1876 Ross Barnes cabinet photo inscribed to Henry Chadwick

100.) 1884 A.G. Spalding signed typed letter to Harry Wright re: player Gross transaction. (Sold by Hunt Auctions)

95.) John M. Ward 1894 cabinet photo; 1876 Ross Barnes cabinet photo; 1884 AG Spalding letter to Harry Wright re: player deal

As a result of  the 1970s heist, the NYPL’s A. G.  Spalding Collection has been significantly diminished and the NYPL has failed to recover scores of items residing in several private collections.


By Peter J. Nash

June 10, 2016

A few years ago a controversy commenced involving Charlie Sheen’s alleged 1927 Babe Ruth World Series ring in an article published at Deadspin which revealed how a collector had lied about acquiring the ring from the Bambino’s daughter.  The Babe’s own granddaughter, Linda Ruth Tosetti, confirmed that her mother never sold the ring to Yankee partner and super-collector, Barry Halper, who later sold the Ruth ring to auctioneer Josh Evans for $150,000.  Evans purchased the ring in order to re-sell it to Sheen in the 1990s for $225,000 but, prior to those transactions in 1990, Halper had told Evans in a Sports Collectors Digest interview that he acquired the ring from the Babe’s daughter, Dorothy Ruth-Pirone. However, in a 1988 book that Pirone co-wrote about her father in entitled, My Dad, The Babe, she contradicted Halper’s story stating that the Babe’s World Series rings had vanished from the family years earlier.

Her co-author, Christopher Martens, confirmed in an interview the details of her story and added, “Dorothy did not have any World Series rings during the two year period we wrote the book and said they had disappeared years earlier.  I might add that based on my time with her it is almost an impossibility that she would have sold anything she had related to her father.  One room in her home was dedicated to him as a shrine and contained various items and memorabilia.  She definitely didn’t need the money and she was very sick suffering from emphysema at the time.”  Other than Sheen’s alleged 1927 ring, no other Ruth World Series ring has ever surfaced. The Baseball Hall of Fame doesn’t even possess one and Claire Ruth made a significant donation to the museum after her husband’s death.

At the time Sheen was showing off his alleged Ruth ring, the Babe’s granddaughter also made an observation about another 1927 World Series ring which once belonged to Babe’s teammate, Lou Gehrig.  At a 1999 Sotheby’s sale, Halper also sold what he claimed was Gehrig’s 1927 World Series ring for a hammer price just shy of $100,000.  Tosetti, however, told us, “I saw the cap of Lou’s 1927 ring at the Hall of Fame on a bracelet he made for his wife, so how could Barry Halper have sold it if its been at the Hall of Fame all these years?”

It was a great question, and considering the myriad of fraudulent items documented in the Halper Collection, it deserved further investigation.

Sometime after Gehrig’s death, his widow, Eleanor Gehrig, made a significant donation to the Baseball Hall of Fame including baseball artifacts and mementos once owned by the famous Yankee.  Last year, current Hall of Fame curator Tom Sheiber and former spokesperson Brad Horn would not answer our inquiries about the details of the Gehrig donation, but back in 1989 Hall of Fame officials told the Chicago Sun-Times that Gehrig’s widow made the donation to the Hall after her death in 1984, as part of her last will and testament.

Eleanor Gehrig wore her charm bracelet to Old Timers Day at Yankee Stadium in 1960 next to the widows of Babe Ruth (center) and John J. McGraw (left). (Courtesy of Dave Grob)

One of the most spectacular items donated was Mrs. Gehrig’s charm bracelet made from what appears to be most all of her husband’s World Series Rings, MVP awards, and All-Star Game medals.  The Hall of Fame claims that Gehrig made the charm bracelet as a gift for his wife and in order for Gehrig to create the bracelet, it appears that a jeweler removed the actual diamond encrusted “caps” of Gehrig’s World Series rings and fashioned them into charms.  The bracelet clearly features Gehrig’s 1927 and 1928 ring caps, which were identical in design.  Mrs. Gehrig also donated one ring that was fully in tact, Gehrig’s 1939 ring from his last season as a champion.  It appears that Gehrig’s 1939 World Series ring was the only one not fashioned into a medallion for inclusion on the presentation bracelet as it was presented to Eleanor Gehrig before her husband received the award.

The bracelet was also featured in the movie Pride of the Yankees in a scene with Gary Cooper presenting the actual bracelet (now at the Hall of Fame) to actress Teresa Wright. The scene further documents that the bracelet was a gift Gehrig fashioned especially for his wife, Eleanor. (Further research reveals, however, that Gehrig created the bracelet at an earlier date as evidenced in a Dieges & Clust artist’s rendering and an undated news photo (below) that Haulsofshame.com recently located).

This undated news photo from c.1938 (top) and Dieges & Clust company artistic rendering (bottom) document that Gehrig first presented the charm bracelet to his wife almost two years before the 1939 presentation which included additional ring caps and medallions from more recent World Series and All-Star appearances.

In the film, just before leaving their house to attend Lou Gehrig Day on July 4, 1939, Cooper, playing the role of Gehrig, presents the bracelet to his screen-wife and says, “I had that made with some of the hardware I’ve collected, you like it honey?”

Eleanor Gehrig served as a consultant on the film and loaned her precious bracelet for use in the scene with Cooper.  Reports indicate that the bracelet was “locked up in a safe at the Goldwyn studios every night after filming” and was returned to Gehrig’s widow when filming ended.

Uniform historian Dave Grob discovered and passed along to us an interview reprinted in the Waterloo (Iowa) Sunday Courier on June 7, 1942, in which Mrs. Gehrig spoke fondly of her bracelet.  “It is made up of all the diamond studded rings and pins given Lou after each successful game.  He then had them mounted as a bracelet and presented to me shortly before his death,” she said.

In newspaper articles spanning from 1939 to 1969, Mrs. Gehrig recounted the story of her bracelet featuring the World Series rings of her husband. (Courtesy of Dave Grob)

Grob also found another report from May 15, 1939, in the Vidette-Messenger, of Valpariso, Indiana, which stated:

“Mrs. Lou Gehrig has a bracelet that cannot be duplicated….it is made up entirely of rings and medals awarded her famous husband as mementos of seven World Series and six All Star games in which he has played.”

Most of the reports about Mrs. Gehrig’s bracelet were the product of her loaning it for a sports exhibit at the 1939 New York World’s Fair.  On May 4, 1939, just two days after Lou Gehrig removed himself from his 2,130th consecutive game, The Sporting News reported:

“Mrs. Lou Gehrig has loaned the New York World’s Fair her unusual bracelet for the sports exhibit.  It consists of diamond rings and emblems Lou has received from his World’s Series and All-Star game participation.”

In a May, 4, 1939 issue of The Sporting News the "Fanning with Farrington" column described how Mrs. Gehrig's bracelet was made from the actual rings awarded to Lou Gehrig for appearances in the World Series and All-Star Games..

The reports suggest that the bracelet was most likely made from Gehrig’s own original World Series rings and not replicas or duplicates of those rings.  The inclusion of the bracelet in the movie, Pride of the Yankees also documents how important the bracelet was to Mrs. Gehrig and how dearly she treasured the gift from her husband.

The bracelet Lou Gehrig made from his World Series rings and other medals was presented to his wife Eleanor as a gift. The same bracelet was presented by Gary Cooper to the actress playing Mrs. Gehrig in the movie "Pride of the Yankees." This image shows the bracelet in a frame from the original movie. The bracelet was donated to the Hall of Fame.(Courtesy of Dave Grob)

So, with Gehrig’s 1927 ring already documented on Mrs. Gehrig’s famous bracelet, how could Barry Halper have claimed to have the same ring and sell it for $96,000 at Sotheby’s?

Considering that recent investigations into the Halper Collection  have revealed that the deceased Yankee limited-partner sold (at Sotheby’s) counterfeit jerseys and other artifacts stolen from the New York and Boston Public libraries, the questions about the alleged Gehrig ring are more than warranted.

Halper has also been implicated for selling bogus materials to Major League Baseball and the Baseball Hall of Fame including “Shoeless” Joe Jackson’s 1919 jersey and Mickey Mantle’s 1951 Yankee rookie jersey.  Officials from the Hall of Fame admitted to returning the Mantle jersey and in October of 2011 revealed that testing on Halper’s Jackson jersey proved it was a fake, showing that it was created with materials including substances that weren’t in existence until the 1940s and 50s.

Speculation that Halper knowingly defrauded Major League Baseball and the Hall of Fame arises from Halper’s conflicting acquisition stories for his Jackson jersey.  In 1985 he told The Sporting News it was a recent acquisition from ”Jackson relatives,” but at the time of the sale to MLB he said he purchased the jersey directly from Jackson’s widow in the 1950’s on a visit to her home in Greenville, South Carolina.  Halper said he purchased Jackson’s jersey, “Black Betsy” bat, glove and pocket watch from his widow, Katie, for $150.

Many of Halper’s most spectacular items were accompanied with equally spectacular stories of his acquisitions, however, further scrutiny into his stories has yielded several instances that mirror the Joe Jackson jersey controversy.  Another Gehrig item that Halper sold as the Iron Horse’s game-used glove from his last game turned out to be fraudulent as well.  Gehrig’s genuine last glove is on display at the Baseball Hall of Fame and was donated by Gehrig’s mother.  Halper sold the glove with a dubious provenance story for over $300,000, the highest price ever paid for a baseball glove.

In 1990, Halper told Sports Collectors Digest another story that he had purchased Lou Gehrig’s 1927 World Series ring “from an ad in the New York Times.”

Barry Halper sold what he alleged to be Lou Gehrig's 1927 World Series ring in his 1999 Sotheby's sale. The ring sold for $96,000 and the lot description made no mention of the Hall of Fame's Gehrig bracelet which includes the cap from Gehrig's 1927 ring.

It was Josh Evans, of Lelands, that Halper told his Gehrig “newspaper ad” acquisition story to for his SCD “Balls in the Attic” column.  Evans recently told us that a New Jersey dealer of political memorabilia named David Frent was the original source of Halper’s 1927 Gehrig ring.

Online research of classified ads in the New York Times and 13 other major newspapers failed to yield any advertisements involving a ring attributed to Lou Gehrig.  The search did, however, show the sales of dozens of World Series rings including ones presented to John DeLorean (1977 Yankees) and hit-king Pete Rose.

Hauls of Shame contacted Frent and he confirmed that Halper’s story was partially accurate and that he sold him the alleged Gehrig ring after purchasing it from a New York Times classified ad located in the Arts & Entertainment section. Frent recalled that the ring was sold by an antiques dealer in New Jersey, but did not have any further details or documentation related to the seller.

Evans, who purchased Halper’s 1927 Babe Ruth ring and later sold it to Charlie Sheen in the 1990s, has handled several 1927 Yankee rings.  In addition to the alleged Ruth ring, his auction house has sold examples attributed to Yankees “Dutch” Reuther and “Jumpin” Joe Dugan, as well as another ring attributed to Yankee clubhouse manager Pete Sheehy.

But the examples attributed to Reuther and Dugan were not original 1927 rings.  Lelands stated in their lot descriptions that the Reuther ring was acquired directly from his estate and was a ”brass” copy of his original ring.   Lelands said the Dugan example “may have been made by him a bit later after the original was either lost of worn out.”  The Dugan ring was a 10k ring while all of the Yankee original rings were made with 14k gold by Dieges & Clust.  The other 14k Dieges & Clust ring that Lelands sold in 2005 was sold as ”a gift given to a Chicago sportswriter by legendary Yankee clubhouse manager Pete Sheehy.”

Dieges & Clust was the official manufacturer of World Series rings for the Major Leagues and has since been acquired by another company known as Herff Jones, of Providence, R.I.   A few years ago we inquired if the company had records dating back to the Yankee ring orders of 1927. “I don’t think the company retained those records, but we will look and see if there are any records still available,” said company rep Brian Smith.

Lou Gehrig's original 1927 World Series ring (#4) appears to have been included on the charm bracelet he gave to his wife Eleanor. The bracelet was donated to the Baseball Hall of Fame by Gehrig's widow and has been one of the most popular items ever exhibited at the Cooperstown shrine.

A few other genuine Yankee rings from 1927 and 1928 have surfaced in public auction sales over the past few decades.

David Hunt, president of Hunt Auctions, sold an authentic 1928 Series ring that was consigned directly by the family of Yankee Hall of Famer Tony Lazzeri.  Hunt, with decades of hobby experience under his belt told us, “I have actually never seen another (‘27 ring) or know of any, although, I am sure there must be a few out there.”  Hunt also said he was not aware of Lazzeri relatives having a 1927 ring.

In 2014, the 1927 World Series ring retained by the grandson of Yankee Hall of Famer, Earle Combs, sold at Heritage Auctions for $155,350. In the auction description Heritage referred to the alleged Charlie Sheen Ruth ring as a genuine artifact.

In addition, the now defunct Legendary Auctions sold an authentic 1927 Yankee World Series ring that once belonged to Hall of Fame manager Miller J. Huggins.  The Huggins ring sold for $204,000 in Legendary’s August, 2007, auction.

In 2011, former Legendary President, Doug Allen, told us in an interview that World Series rings from 1927 were exceedingly rare and that in his opinion it was “doubtful that players back then would have an additional copy made.”  Allen, who is currently serving a prison sentence stemming from the FBIs Mastro fraud investigation, also urged collectors to be careful with rings stating, “They are much easier to fake than cards and other vintage memorabilia.”

Miller Huggins' genuine 1927 WS ring sold at Legendary Auctions for over $200,000. The only physical attribute linking the ring to the Hall of Famer is the interior engraving (shown above).

Forgeries of World Series rings are nothing new to the hobby with the 1927 Yankee ring being the crown jewel.  In a 1995 edition of Cincinnati Magazine, convicted forger Randy Marshall admitted to creating one, himself, and included the ring he attributed to pitcher Waite Hoyt as one of the top ten items he’d ever forged. Hoyt’s authentic 1927 ring is believed to be in the collection of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

If Halper’s Gehrig ring was originally an authentic ring presented to one of his teammates, one would only need a skilled engraver to remove the existing  name and replace it with “H. L. Gehrig” in the same style. Since so few authentic ‘27 rings have surfaced, there would have been several candidates ripe for enhancement.

The Halper ring could also have been a knock-off from an original.  A recent search on eBay for 1927 Yankee World Series rings yielded several replica rings being offered for sale including one advertised as a replica of the Bambino’s 1927 ring for $350.

In 2003, Heritage Auctions of Dallas, Texas, offered what they described as a “replica” of a 1927 Yankee ring, and in 2009 offered another 10k replica . In its lot description Heritage stated: “We must note that the ten-karat gold construction of the ring does differentiate it from the fourteen-karat content of those issued at the time, suggesting that this is a later incarnation. Several other ten karat player rings have surfaced in recent years, issued as replacements when the originals were lost or damaged.”

The Gehrig bracelet has been an important showpiece of the Hall of Fame's massive collection. Here it is pictured in a Hall of Fame publication along with Gehrig's donated 1939 World Series ring.

Halper’s ring that was sold at Sotheby’s was advertised as a 14k example, however, without a thorough examination of that ring by an experienced jeweler it is purely speculation as to how and when the ring was actually created.

As for the Gehrig ring-cap in Cooperstown, however, new information, has recently come to light with the publication of the book, Inside The Baseball Hall of Fame, which features the Gehrig bracelet and quotes from a letter Gehrig wrote to Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis regarding to the charm bracelet.  In a letter written by on November 15, 1937, Gehrig confirms the origins of the rings incorporated into the bracelet stating, “It is made up of all my World’s Series rings and All-Star Game emblems.”  Gehrig asks Landis’ permission for Dieges & Clust to honor a special request so that he can “add this years championship emblem to the bracelet.”  Gehrig added that he wanted Dieges & Clust to “make the emblem for the bracelet instead of in the form of a ring for me.”

This 1937 letter written by Gehrig to Judge Landis is the strongest evidence showing that Lou Gehrigs authentic 1927 WS ring was dismantled and incorporated into his wife's baseball charm bracelet now on display at the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Gehrig’s own letter is the strongest evidence suggesting that all of the World Series emblems incorporated into the bracelet originated from his own championship rings and awards.  It also confirms that any special requests made by players with the jeweler Dieges & Clust apparently had to be approved by the American League and the Commissioners Office. In addition, records recovered from Dieges & Clust that were recovered from a trash bin by a former company employee confirm that Gehrig’s request was honored and the company created a pendant, instead of a full ring, for $100.

The existence of the Gehrig letter and the jeweler’s internal records cast even greater doubt on Halper’s alleged 1927 Gehrig ring. Considering that Gehrig is saying, in this very letter, that the ring was added to the bracelet now on display at the Baseball Hall of Fame, it is highly unlikely that Gehrig’s 1927 ring was not the source for the pendant on the bracelet.

Another document originating from the Dieges & Clust files that were recently sold by Rob Lifson of REA (the same auctioneer who sold the alleged 1927 WS ring at Sotheby’s in 1999) shows that Gehrig did receive a full ring in 1927 and all evidence suggests that this size 12 ring was the example transformed into the pendant for Mrs. Gehrig’s bracelet years later. In contrast, when the Halper ring was sold, Sotheby’s described it stating: “A small segment of the band has been removed by a jeweler to facilitate sizing to any finger.”

Newly discovered documents from the files of Dieges & Clust show that Gehrig received a size 12 WS ring in 1927 (left) and a pendant (instead of a ring) in 1937. The records suggest that Mrs. Gehrig's bracelet includes the emblem of her husband's original 1927 WS ring.

Further supporting this theory is the fact that the only surviving Gehrig World Series rings and All-Star medallions are from 1939 and were presented to him after he gifted the bracelet to his wife.  Thus, it is almost certain that Gehrig’s authentic 1927 World Series ring was modified by a jeweler and became a part of the bracelet for his widow. The artist rendering of the bracelet found in the Dieges & Clust files also suggests that it was their jewelers who were commissioned by Gehrig to fashion the bracelet from his old awards.

All of the evidence available to us today suggests that the magnificent bracelet on display in Cooperstown was a gift from Gehrig to his wife and featured all of his actual baseball awards, including the cap from his genuine 1927 World Series ring, not a replica of that award. As for the alleged Gehrig ring sold by Barry Halper in 1999, there is no supporting evidence or provenance that can justify Sotheby’s and auctioneer Rob Lifson offering Halper’s ring as the genuine article at the same time Mrs. Gehrig’s bracelet was on public display at Cooperstown. Unfortunately for the Sotheby’s buyer, the 1927 ring that was purchased is just another example highlighting the multi-million dollar misrepresentations and frauds perpetrated by the deceased Yankee partner.


By Peter J. Nash

April 24, 2016

As Bill Mastro sits in a Federal jail cell, the now infamous Honus Wagner card that played a part in putting him there is on display in all its trimmed and fraudulently graded glory at the Phoenix Art Museum. The card is on loan courtesy of MLB owner, Ken Kendrick, the Chairman of the Arizona Diamondbacks, who purchased the card for $2.8 million several years ago despite the fact that many in the hobby had stated publicly their belief that Mastro had deceptively trimmed the card to enhance its condition and value in the 1980s.  Mastro confessed to the crime that others had accused him of in recent times after the government caught him admitting to master-minding the trim-job on wire taps made possible by his longtime friend and business associate Dan Knoll.

Despite the fact that Mastro’s card doctoring has exposed the memorabilia industry as a mine field of fraud and deception, there is no reference to these realities visible to those who bought a ticket for the “The Ultimate Collection” exhibition of Kendrick’s PSA-graded baseball cards at the Phoenix Art Museum. The card has been on display since March 9th and ends its public display today. According to the museum’s Communications Director, Nikki DeLeone, there is no disclaimer identifying the Wagner card’s sordid past and its fraudulent status as a mini-crime scene. In fact, the museum exhibition signage visible to patrons still refers to the card as a legitimate PSA graded “NM-MT 8.”

The Phoenix Art Museum's display of Kendrick's fraudulent & trimmed Wagner (left) presents it to the public as a legitimate "PSA NM-MT 8" with no mention of its sordid past.

That’s because Collectors Universe (CLCT), the public company that is accused of fraudulently grading the card in the 1990s, hasn’t done anything to rectify its fatally flawed authentication of the card that the company built its reputation upon and falsely advertised for decades as the hobby’s most pristine and famous baseball card.

MLB owner Ken Kendrick has no incentive to point out PSA’s on-going perpetration of the Wagner fraud since he’s considered the PSA-poster boy for its grading services which constitute a near monopoly in the industry.  According to a recent Collectors Universe annual shareholders report, the company graded over 1.2 million baseball cards in 2014.  Kendrick boasts of having the highest graded PSA-graded cards in existence, including his Wagner and has bought into PSA’s marketing model of collecting the highest graded cards for premium prices.  In PSA’s 2011 Sports Market Report Kendrick revealed how he has fallen victim to PSA’s marketing schemes as he stated:

I’m proud to have this high-caliber collection. I’m a competitive guy. I wouldn’t be doing what I do if I wasn’t a competitive person, so I have been competitive with other collectors to make my collection the best of its type. Don’t get me wrong, there are other folks out there who have extraordinary collections. But, if you look at the top 20 most desirable cards, and look at the grading of my top 20 cards, I can say that this collection is the best one that exists in the world.”

Kendrick also made a similar statement in PSA President Joe Orlando’s book, Top 200 Sportscards, stating that he owns every one of the top ten cards in the highest grades known to exist. Kendrick’s statement, however, is patently false, as collectors believe his fraudulently graded T-206 Wagner should be re-holdered and graded “Altered and Authentic.”  This designation, however, would likely cause the now infamous Wagner card to plummet in value as Kendrick finds himself at the end of a PSA-Mastro orchestrated Ponzi-scheme.

Sales of the fraudulent Wagner have been orchestrated with the involvement of Bill Mastro, Rob Lifson, David Kohler and J.P Cohen. Sources say all parties committed fraud when they sold the trimmed card as a "PSA NM-MT 8."

Previously, this scheme worked perfectly because Mastro and his ex-partner Rob Lifson were involved in every transaction from 1991 to 2000 and since that time PSA has been involved in every other sale with the involvement of PSA supporters David Kohler of SCP Auctions and J. P. Cohen of Memory Lane. One hobby source told us that in working together all of the parties were able to orchestrate sales of the card from collector to collector with every one of them making a profit on the sales which either Mastro or PSA operatives played a part in the transaction.  The source added, “They were all just waiting for a sucker like Kendrick to come along and fleece him. They always wanted big bucks guys to come in who would bury the card. Looks like Kendrick was a dream come true for them.”

Supporting this claim is the fact that Brian Seigel bought the card from Mastro and Lifson and later stated in PSA advertisements that he would never have bought the card “without PSAs seal of approval.” Seigel allegedly kept the card in PSAs possession during his ownership which ended when Kohler orchestrated a private sale to ex-MLB knuckleballer Tom Candiotti. According to a report published by the Associated Press, Kohler and SCP also claimed they had purchased a small interest in the card along with Candiotti. A source tells Hauls of Shame, however, that Candiotti had already sold his PSA-graded card collection to Ken Kendrick and was possibly a front for the PSA-backed Kohler and SCP. Candiotti now works for Kendrick as a color-commentator on Diamondbacks telecasts.

After that $2.35 million transaction, the card was purchased by Kendrick with Kohler and Cohen involved in the sale according to a  PSA profile of Kendrick which states: “Having been offered the opportunity to acquire the Wagner card through the combined efforts of David Kohler at SCP and J. P. Cohen at Memory Lane, Ken said that when he became the official owner of the most revered card in the hobby, he simply felt that it completed his elite grouping.”

The extent of Kendrick’s relationship with the convicted felon and auctioneer J. P. Cohen is unclear but, like Kohler, Cohen has been a long-time customer and supporter of PSA’s grading services.  Sources also indicate that Kohler has told SCP consignors that he is close with PSA management and that he can get cards graded at higher levels than his competitors. That being said, PSA also appears to have gone out of its way to avoid correcting its flawed grading of the card since PSA operatives have liability and prior ownership interests in the card.  As a result of PSA’s inaction, Kendrick is claiming his card hasn’t lost any value.

Kendrick recently said as much to an Arizona Republic writer who reported: “The Wagner card, incidentally, was shaved along its borders by an auction-house owner to improve its appearance. When artwork or valuable collectibles are altered, their values tend to drop, but Kendrick said he doesn’t think his card’s worth was diminished.”  That’s easy for Kendrick to say when his card is still displayed in its “PSA NM-MT 8″ holder. Kendrick has also vowed to never sell the card which will be passed along to his kids.

Some have speculated that PSA and Kendrick have worked out a deal to keep the card in the “NM-MT 8″ holder because under the Collectors Universe guarantee, the company would have to reimburse Kendrick for a grading that was flawed. This scenario was publicly aired in 2014 by Collectors Universe coin grader and former Collectors Universe stockholder, Steve Cyrkin, who posted a comment on his Autograph Magazine Live website stating, “Not only was the (Honus Wagner) card graded by PSA way back in 1991, PSA offered to buy it back from the current owner (Ken Kendrick) for what he paid for it, $2.8 million.”

Collectors Universe coin grader Steve Cyrkin made public statements claiming that PSA offered to buy back the trimmed Wagner from Ken Kendrick.

Posting his comments after Bill Mastro’s trimming admission was revealed by the Government, Cyrkin wrote, “PSA guarantees the authenticity of sports cards, so I can’t understand why would management knowingly create a huge liability. It (the Wagner card) was worth almost half a million dollars when they graded it.”

Despite Cyrkin’s statements, Bill Hughes, the PSA employee who originally graded the card has already admitted that he knew the Wagner card had been trimmed by Mastro. In response, Collectors Universe founder David Hall publicly stated that Hughes was lying but several hobby insiders knew for sure it was trimmed because Mastro actually told them he had altered it. Hall also called Bill Mastro a liar but a 2006 Mastro video recently posted on YouTube shows PSA President Joe Orlando singing the praises of Mastro and comparing PSA to his company. While that same auction house was found to have been engaging in rampant shill-bidding and assorted other fraudulent activities Orlando says, “When you go through all the elements of running an auction house, really I think just one word—quality—expresses how I would describe Mastro Auctions.”

Josh Evans, founder of Lelands auction house in New York City, says he knew first-hand about the trimmed Wagner card.  According to Evans, Mastro told him directly that he’d trimmed the card after he purchased it with his ex-partner Rob Lifson in Bob Sevchuk’s card shop in 1985.  In a prior interview Evans recalled, “He (Mastro) told me on several occasions and then he’d say, ‘Now just shut up and stop talking about it’.” Lifson also knew the card was trimmed and committed fraud when he sold the card with Mastro in 2000 to collector Brain Seigel for $1.2 million.  Lifson, however, avoided any penalty for his participation in the fraud when he ratted out Mastro to the Feds for shill-bidding after both men terminated their business partnership over a decade ago.

Hauls of Shame reached out to Ken Kendrick to address Cyrkin’s claims and to ask why he is still publicly exhibiting the tainted card in its fraudulent PSA holder. Arizona Diamondbacks PR director, Josh Rawitch, responded to our inquiry and stated that Kendrick would “respectfully decline comment” on the status of the card’s grade and the alleged offers to buy the card back by PSA.

SCP Auctions did not respond to our inquiries to verify the Associated Press reports stating that SCP had an ownership interest in the Wagner card with Tom Candiotti and whether they retained ownership upon the sale to Kendrick.  SCP’s Dan Imler did, however, respond to our unrelated inquiry regarding their current offering of a Harry Wright document that was stolen from the New York Public Library’s Spalding Collection. Imler responded stating, “I never heard back from the FBI agent.  Can you provide some proof that this was stolen from NYPL? We want to do the right thing and help get it back to whom it belongs but I need someone in Law enforcement to give me some information on this matter.”

Speaking of the FBI, sources indicate that in the wake of the Mastro convictions the FBI is still following the exploits of PSA and Collectors Universe regarding card grading and the PSA/DNA autograph authentications. Sources also indicate that the FBI will likely have further interest in video depositions taken of PSA President Joe Orlando and alleged authenticator Steve Grad in the Johnson v. RR Auctions case. Court filings at the Santa Barbara Superior Court indicate that the depositions of the PSA employees may be available to view on the RR Auction Lawsuit website as early as next Friday.  Previously RR Auctions lost a motion for a protective order to take video depositions down from the site. PSA’s attorney (who also represents RR) filed a similar motion to block the videos from being posted. Our readers might recall that attorney, Keith Attlesey, being mentioned in a previous Hauls of Shame report threatening litigation when we reported that PSA was founded on a fraud with the grading of the trimmed Wagner. That lawsuit was never filed since Bill Mastro confirmed that our published statement was true and accurate.


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