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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

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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.


By Peter J. Nash
April 15, 2016

Willie Ratner unknowingly founded this exclusive club as a youth when he secured his copy of the card straight out of a pack of Sweet Caporal cigarettes. Jefferson Burdick gained entry when he received one as a gift from a friend and then afterwards donated his treasure to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. A 19-year-old Bill Mastro became a member when he paid a world-record price of $1,500 for his first one in 1972, only to resell it shortly thereafter to buy a new car.  Lew Lipset entered the club after pooling his entire savings of $35,000 to buy a collection from a Navy doctor that included a near pristine example. Hockey legend Wayne Gretzky partnered with his boss Bruce McNall to join the club when they paid $451,000 for an alleged pristine example at Sotheby’s in 1992.

In 2007, Arizona Diamondback owner Ken Kendrick dropped $2.8 million for Gretzky’s former card so that he could join the hobby’s most exclusive assemblage of high-rollers.  Unfortunately for Kendrick, his Wagner has been certified a fraud by the FBI who revealed through wire-taps that the card had been fraudulently trimmed by the recently incarcerated Bill Mastro.

That being said, here’s a never before published look at the current and past owners of the fraudulent and legitimate cards that have afforded their owner’s entrance into the exclusive: “T206 Wagner Club.”

Ken Kendrick's PSA-graded and fraudulently trimmed Wagner (center) is currently on display at the Phoenix Museum through April 24. The museum's display gives no disclaimer for visitors regarding the fraudulent nature of the card.

As reported by Hauls of Shame in 2013, there are at least sixty copies of the storied tobacco card known to exist and there are even more individuals who can boast of once owning an actual Honus–It’s surely not the rarest card, but it is by far the most desirable and most valuable slice of cardboard known to man.  The combined value of the 60-plus existing specimens easily exceeds $25 million.

The T206 Honus Wagner has become a legendary piece of American folklore and some might argue the face of the billion dollar baseball memorabilia industry.  The allure of the Wagner has also given rise to the commission of crimes ranging from Bill Mastro’s trimming of the Gretzky-McNall copy to a heist executed by a group of thieves who stole actor Charlie Sheen’s Wagner when it was on display at ESPN’s “All Star Cafe” in Times Square back in 1996.

Still, many others have joined the club simply by chance, chalking up their membership through an inheritance or a lucky draw in a sweepstakes give-away. The stories of the past and present members of the club and how they acquired each and every one of the “Holy Grails” are noteworthy and sometimes notorious. The allure and mystery surrounding the card is such that Forbes columnist David Seideman has even suggested that some of the owners like Mastro and McNall may have been cursed by their ownership of the hobby’s greatest prize.

The sixty or so Wagner cards known to exist have been possessed by multiple collectors who’ve owned the card dating back to the days when kids collected them out of cigarette packs in the Dead-Ball era.  Ever since the Wagner cards were produced and subsequently withdrawn from the T206 set by the American Tobacco Company in 1909, the legend of the Honus Wagner card has grown and taken on a life of its own.

The past & present members of "The Wagner Club" have been showing off their "Holy Grails" since the 1930s.

The collectors who have been drawn to the Wagner card and the notoriety it brings are a diverse and eclectic group of men (and women) with one thing in common:  They have either willingly or unwillingly become a part of hobby history.

THE CURRENT MEMBERS OF “THE WAGNER CLUB”:

The Wagner Club is led by (l. to r.): Arizona Diamondbacks owner Ken Kendrick; OakTree Capital's Richard Masson; ESPN's Keith Olbermann and the family of deceased hobby pioneer Larry Fritsch.

1. Ken Kendrick- Owner of the Arizona Diamondbacks and owner of the infamous PSA-8 Mastro-Wagner. Even though his Wagner card was trimmed by Bill Mastro to enhance its condition, PSA graded it a NM-MT 8 despite having knowledge it was trimmed. And although Mastro’s fraud played a part in his recent criminal conviction, Kendrick is currently showing off the controversial card at the Phoenix Art Museum with no disclaimer to museum visitors that they are viewing a miniature crime scene as the tainted cardboard still sits in its original fraudulent PSA holder. The museum still identifies the card for patrons as “the famous PSA 8 NM-MT.” In reality, the fraudulently trimmed card should have been re-holdered by PSA with a designation as “Altered-Authentic.”

2. Thomas Tull- Movie producer and newly minted billionaire whose company, Legendary Entertainment, released the Jackie Robinson biopic 42 in 2013 as well as the Hangover films and the recent Batman films.  Tull also owns a minority stake in the Pittsburgh Steelers and recently purchased Bill Mazerowski’s 1960 World Series-winning bat and uniform at Hunt Auctions. and also purchased Don Spence’s PSA-registered card collection for what has been rumored as a figure topping $10 million. Tull claims to own a 1912 Wagner game-used jersey and he purchased the “Dreier Wagner” after it was brokered by Legendary Auctions for over $1.2 million.  Tull’s Wagner was said to have been originally owned by an Irish immigrant living in Harlem who acquired it in the 1910’s.

3. Richard Masson- Masson keeps a low-profile in the hobby and has run under the radar of most despite the fact that he owns what is perhaps the finest baseball card collection in the world

4. Corey Shanus- The hobby’s premier 19th century collector owns a raw/ungraded example in excellent condition,  His Wagner was sold in a Trader Speaks auction by Richard Gelman the son of hobby legend Woody Gelman. There is speculation that Shanus’ card has a Piedmont back.

5. Keith Olbermann- The ESPN broadcaster at one time owned three copies of the Wagner card, but sources indicate that he unloaded one of them.  Olbermann has made his way into several MLB dugouts showing off his trimmed SGC-Authentic copy to Braves pitcher Tim Hudson and several Washington Nationals players.

Current Wagner owners include (L to R): Thomas Tull, Legendary Entertainment; Gary Cypres; Joel Platt, Sports Immortals Museum; The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

6. Mark McCrae- West-Coast collector who acquired via Bill Mastro a high-grade Wagner that once belonged to Dr. Robert Goode of Columbus, Indiana.

7. The Fritsch Family- Legendary collector and dealer Larry Fritsch acquired his high-grade Wagner from the same find as the Mastro-McCrae copy.  When Fritsch passed away in 2010 his Wagner was bequeathed to his surviving family members.

8. Unknown Buyer- Hobby veteran and dealer Mike Wheat acquired this copy from Ken Blazek via a Lew Lipset auction. Blazek acquired the card originally from Bill Mastro in 1974 and told the Sport Fan: “I showed it to my wife, expecting her to respond with a great number of complimentary and congratulatory comments.”  Instead, Blazek said when she saw the Wagner all she said was, “It’s creased.”  Wheat sold the card to in a private transaction to a buyer who he would not identify by name.

9. Gary Cypress- the CEO of the Banner Finance Co., his ungraded and trimmed copy of Wagner card is on display at the private Sports Museum of Los Angeles which he also owns and operates.

10. Joel Platt- The legendary collector who acquired Wagner artifacts from the Flying Dutchman’s widow in the 1950s tracked down his copy of the Wagner in the mid-1980s in New York City.  Platt recalls, “I may very well be the only collector who was offered two different Wagners in two days.”  Platt chose the second offering which was accompanied by an Eddie Plank.  ”I paid between 20 and 30,000 for the pair from Bill Hognach at a show.”  The Wagner is currently stored in a vault at Platt’s  Sports Immortals Museum in Florida.

Current Wagner owners (L to R): Dr. Nick DePace; Tri-Star winner "Scott J."; Levy Bleam (w/Joe Orlando); and Scott Brockelman

11. Dr. Nick DePace- The New Jersey cardiologist purchased the example sold by the Sisters of Notre Dame order at Heritage Auctions after the winning bidder reneged on his commitment to buy the card for $220,000. After he purchased the card he told The Philadelphia Inquirer:  ”This is the most famous Honus Wagner card now because it’s going to help thousands of people, and that’s more than any other Honus Wagner card has ever done.”

12. Paul Dunigan Jr.- His Wagner was inherited from his deceased father Paul Dunigan Sr. a prolific collector of 19th century cabinet photos and other rarities and the former owner of an adult entertainment empire in Massachusetts.

13. Bill Heitman- the hobby pioneer inherited his Wagner from his father who acquired it in the early days of the hobby.

14. Levi Bleam- a veteran hobby dealer who operates 707 Sportscards in Pennsylvania, once auctioned off the “1/2 Wagner” in an SCD ad.  That Wagner was missing the right side of the card but was encapsulated by PSA.  In addition to selling that example, a source told us Bleam held onto another “keeper” in much better shape which he had acquired years ago, making the PSA Registry winner a member of the Wagner Club as well.

15. Scott Ireland- his high-grade copy of the Wagner card was also part of the August Jacobs find that included the cards that ended up with Fritsch and McCrae.

16. The Metropolitan Museum of Art- The Met received Jefferson Burdick’s Wagner as part of his donation to the institution in the 1950s and 1960s.

Wagner owners include (L to R): Bill Heitman, Paul Dunigan Jr., Scott Ireland's PSA-5 Wagner and baseball legend Joe Garagiola.

17. The New York Public Library- The NYPL joined the club when Leopold Morse Goulston donated his T206 cards to the library in the 1940’s.  Despite losing millions in baseball artifacts from the 1970s heist from the Spalding Collection, the Honus Wagner card survived.  The fact that Jefferson Burdick documented the card as being in the NYPL collection, likely protected the card from theft.

18. The Baseball Hall of Fame- The Cooperstown institution owns two copies of the Wagner card that were once owned by Barry Halper, Lew Lipset and Bill Mastro. The first card was donated by Halper in the 1980s and the second was purchased from Halper in 1998 along with bogus uniforms attributed to  “Shoeless” Joe Jackson and Mickey Mantle. At least the Wagner was real and unaltered, although it was an over-sized example with unusually thick borders.

19. The British Museum- The UK ended up with the donation of Sir Edgar Wharton-Tigar’s collection which included a Wagner that originated from the collection of legendary collector Charles Bray.

21. Joe Garagiola- the ex-MLB player and broadcaster who passed away last month acquired a copy of the Wagner card from Bill Heitman in a legendary 1980’s trade. It is unclear whether he retained the card or sold it and sources indicate his estate may hold the answers to his ownership of the card.

22. Scott J. (from Lake Benton, FL)- the semi-anonymous “Scott J” won his Wagner in a Tr-Star Entertainment sweepstakes in 2005 when he pulled a redemption coupon out of a pack of baseball cards in the “Hidden Treasure” promotion.

23. Scott Brockelman- a dealer and auctioneer (Brockleman Auctions/Brockelman & Luckey Auctions) joined the club after buying his copy in a Memory Lane auction for close to $250,000.

24. The Anonymous “Jumbo Wagner” Owner- An individual from the world of finance who, according to Ken Goldin, asked for anonymity, when he purchased the high grade “Jumbo Wagner” from Goldin Auctions in April of 2013 for $2.1 million.

25. The Anonymous Hoboken Resident- In 2012, an article in Hoboken Magazine revealed the Wagner of an owner living in the New Jersey city who inherited his card from a grandfather who “Had an affiliation to the Major League Baseball” and acquired the card “around 1953.”  The secretive club member says he’ll never sell his card and added, “Nobody knows I have it except for a handful of people, and I prefer to keep it that way.”  At least he shared an image.

FORMER MEMBERS OF THE WAGNER CLUB:

Wagner Club originals include (L to R) Willie Ratner; Woody Gelman; Jefferson Burdick; Charles Bray; Frank Nagy and Irv Lerner.

THE OLD TIMERS-

Dating back to the Dead-Ball era when some were just kids, the first members of the club gained entry at a much more affordable level.  Willie Ratner, owner of the “Original Wagner” showed his treasure off in a Newark newspaper in 1930 while Jefferson Burdick documented his in the American Card Catalog in 1939.  Other early members included Sgt. John P. WagnerCharles Bray, Preston OremFrank Nagy, Wirt GammonTed Colzaretti, Sir Edward Wharton-Tigar, Dr. William Lowell, Dr. Hubert Heitman, Irv Lerner, Dick Herring, and others.

Dealers who have owned and sold Wagners include (L to R): Lew Lipset; Rob Lifson; Josh Evans of Lelands; J.P. Cohen of Memory Lane; and David Kohler of SCP (far right) pictured with former Wagner owner David Finkelstein (2nd from left).

THE DEALERS-

When the hobby became as much a business as it was a pastime in the 1970s qnd 1980s, a new generation of hybrid collector-dealers arrived on the scene who began unearthing and wheeling and dealing Wagners like they were going out of style. Bill Mastro and Rob Lifson led the way while Alan “Mr. Mint” Rosen and Josh Evans followed their lead.  Between the five auctioneers, they accounted for over 50% of the Wagner sales and discoveries in that era.  Also contributing to that phenomenon were other dealers who owned and sold Wagners including Buddy Kurzwiel and Rick Barudin of the Sports Corner, Lew Lipset, Jay Barry, Richard Gelman, Bill HognachGeorge Lyons, Duane Garrett, Mark Friedland, Jerry Zuckerman, David Kohler, Ken Goldin, Greg Manning, Steve Verkman, John Brigandi.

THE COLLECTORS-

The true card collectors naturally gravitated to the Wagner card in a quest to complete what hobby pioneer Bill Heitman called “The Monster”–the T206 set.  Other collectors were drawn to the Wagner as it became the ultimate status symbol in the hobby.  Barry Halper led the way in the late 1970s through the 1980s acquiring multiple copies while others followed his lead acquiring their own copies including Bill Haber, Larry Fritsch, George Lyons, John CinquegranaTom Collier, Jay Barry, Joe and Karen Michalowicz, Dr. Robert Goode, Lew NewmanWally Snitko, Scott Winslow, Stephen Soloway, Mike Cramer, Mike Gidwitz, David Finkelstein, Dentist Paul Kahan, and Steve Miceli.

Former Wagner owners include (L to r): Steve Miceli; Wayne Varner; Vincent Russo; Mike Aronstein and Keith Olbermann.

THE COLLECTOR-DEALERS-

Throughout the years collectors who set up tables at shows and operated small businesses and auctions found themselves in the Wagner Club and sometimes their tenure was short.  Fitting this description is Pittsburgh’s Wayne Varner who won the well-known Wagner scrap or strip sheet that surfaced in the late 1970s when he and partners Bob Zipplemann, Ken Blazek and Mike Wheat acquired the relic from a man they said purchased material from Honus Wagner’s former residence.  The four men decided they would let the luck of the draw determine which one of the four would own the relic.  It was Varner’s lucky day.  Other collectors who owned Honus for a short time include: Alan RayMike Aronstein, Fred McKie, Barry Sloate, Herman Kaufman, John Cinquegruana, David Festberg, Joe Esposito, Vin Russo, Tom Catal, Mike Wheat.

More former Wagner Club members: Ken Goldin (Goldin Auctions); the son of a Wagner owner; Bill Goodwin (Goodwin & Co.); Mike Cramer

THE CELEBRITIES-

Wayne Gretzky set the bar high for high profile Wagner Club members when he purchased his with Bruce McNall for $451,000 at Sotheby’s in 1991.  By the time he sold his interest in the card after McNall went to prison, actor and Hollywood bad-boy Charlie Sheen had purchased his own Wagner via Josh Evans at Lelands.  Sheen’s copy was later stolen from ESPN’s All-Star Cafe in Times Square where it was on loan.  Ex-MLB star knuckleballer Tom Candiotti purchased Gretzky’s former Wagner for $2 million in 2004 and then resold the same card to Arizona Diamondbacks owner Ken Kendrick for $2.8 million in 2007.  Only one notable celebrity trumped the alleged quality of Gretzky’s Wagner as former ESPN and MSNBC commentator Keith Olbermann at one time owned three copies of low-grade Wagner cards. Sources indicate Olbermann still has two copies in his collection, one of which is a trimmed copy that sold at Mastro Auctions in the early 2000s.

Prominent CEO's bought into the "Wagner Club" including (L to R) Jim Copeland; Brian Seigel, Chad and Doug Dreier; and ex-MLB knucleballer Tom Candiotti.

THE HEAVY HITTERS-

CEOs and captains of industry heading Fortune 500 companies and other large corporations  have also come to the table for entry into baseball collecting’s most exclusive club.  The first so-called “Whale” to venture into the hobby was West-coast sporting goods magnate Jim Copeland who purchased the most notorious Wagner from Bill Mastro in 1987.  Brian Seigel, the CEO of an asset management company, bought Copeland’s Wagner in 2000 for $1.26 million.  Another well-heeled collector in the club was the “Southern Gentleman” collector Jim Montgomery who was followed by Chad Dreier, the CEO of Ryland Homes,  who purchased a high-grade copy with his son Doug Dreier, in 2004.  Others who have snagged Wagners include John Rogers of the now defunct Rogers Photo Archive who purchased the “Jumbo Wagner” for $1.6 million in 2002 and ex-MLB knuckleball pitcher Tom Candiotti who purchased the fraudulent Gretzky-McNall Wagner from Brian Seigel for $2.35 million in 2007.

Postal employee Patricia Gibbs (left) won the Gretzky-McNall Wagner in a Wal-Mart Sweepstakes and sold her card at Christie's; An previously unknown Wagner (center) was inherited by a NJ man and was revealed in a 2012 magazine article; Another Wagner appeared on the Shop at Home Network in 1997 as a proposed prize.

GOLDEN TICKETS AND INHERITANCES-

Postal worker Patricia Gibbs became the second woman to join the “Wagner Club” when she won the Gretzky-McNall copy in a 1995 Wal-Mart Sweepstakes spearheaded by Treat Entertainment.  Score Board Inc. purchased a Wagner to be included in a “golden-ticket” promotion to give away a Wagner on the Shop at Home Network via Don West in 1997.  In 2002, the Shop at Home Network also purchased and gave away the T206-Wagner Proof Strip as a prize to 15-year old Jordan Marquez of Bakersfield, California.  The Marquez family sold the card at REA.  The Pearsall Family and the Jacobs Family of Long Island inherited their Wagners from a relative (August Jacobs had three Wagners).  Two other (anonymous) families consigned the inherited “Wallet Wagner” and “The Long Island Wagner” to Lelands.

No Dice: Wagner fakes have included (left to right): A Joe Strong of Hamilton Ontario, thought he found one; The State of West Virginia thought they discovered one in a safe deposit box; The Cobb-Edwards Wagner has been the most controversial fake; DuMochelles Auction house in Detroit sold a fake in 1991 for $14,000.

WAGNER CLUB REJECTIONS: FAKES, FRAUDS AND COUNTERFEITS-

Reports of alleged Wagner discoveries have been covered in the hobby and mainstream press for the past several decades as the popularity of the Wagner card and its legend has grown.  Most of those reports, however, ended up with disappointed people who thought they had hit the Wagner lottery when in reality all they had were worthless reprints or counterfeits.  In one instance, Joe Strong of Hamilton, Ontario, claimed he discovered a Wagner in a group of cards he paid $800 for.  He and card grader Guy Stoppard offered the card online for $15,000, but it was clear the offering was a reprint.  The state of West Virginia once discovered an alleged Wagner in an abandoned safety deposit box but found out their card was a reprint as well.

Despite the fakes and frauds, the legend of the Wagner endures and the exclusive club of owners changes over each decade as collectors pass away or pass along their treasured cardboard to new generations of collectors.

If you have any factual corrections for this report or additional information about the current whereabouts of Wagner cards mentioned (or unmentioned) in this article, please email us at: Tips@haulsofshame.com

UPDATE (April 16): One of our readers provided us with an image of an old news clipping showing that Darren Prince (“The Prince of Cards”) from Livingston, NJ, owned a Wagner.

According to this news clipping, Darren Prince of Livingston, NJ, owned a Wagner card c. 1988.

Yet another Wagner owner was identified by one of our readers; Rochester, MI, attorney E. Powell Miller is the owner of the card known as the”Connecticut Wagner.”

Attorney E. Powell Miller owns the "Connecticut Wagner."

If you know of any others please email us at: Tips@haulsofshame.com


By Peter J. Nash

February 1, 2016

All hell has broken loose in the hobby now that the Mastro shill bid list was released in Doug Allen’s court filings for his upcoming sentencing in Chicago Federal Court. The list was originally generated by the Government in its case against Bill Mastro and his shill bidding henchmen.  The list includes the names of several prominent hobby figures who are identified as shill-bidders and consignors of lots that were illegally shill-bid by friends or associates.

-Mastro Auctions executives Bill Mastro, Doug Allen, Mark Theotokis and William Boehme appear all over the list which includes auction sales spanning from 2007 to 2008 with a small section devoted to auctions in 2002.  In the course of the FBI investigation of Mastro it was revealed that the auction company had destroyed previous bidding records before 2007.

-Dan Knoll, a former Mastro associate, appears on the list shilling several auction lots.  One source familiar with the Mastro case suggested that Knoll’s shill bidding may have given the government extra leverage against him to make him wear the wire that picked up Mastro’s admission that he had, in fact, fraudulently trimmed the now infamous Gretzky-McNall T206 Honus Wagner card.

-REA Auction head Rob Lifson, who knew Mastro had trimmed the Wagner card and committed fraud when he sold the same card at auction with Mastro in 2000, appears on the list as consigning his own property to a 2002 Mastro sale which was shill-bid by Andrew “Flip” Filipowski.  At the time Lifson was an owner of MastroNet Inc. and a fellow board member with Filipowski. After the list was made public, Lifson posted on Net54 stating he had no knowledge of the shill-bidding: “I (as the consignor) had nothing to do with the shill bidding, did not work with anyone to get my lot shilled, and most certainly did not want my lot shilled. There is much additional fascinating information about this lot and the case in general which I choose not to share here (as this is not the time and place) but I will add this: The consignor-portion of the funds stolen by Mastro Auctions via shill bidding against the high left bid on this lot were sent to me against my wishes and were immediately returned by wire (as opposed to check as my attorney said he was concerned they might just not cash the check) and the FBI was given all information, and this played a significant role in launching the entire investigation. As I have said, there is much additional information, but please excuse that I will not be posting more about this right now.”

-Rob Lifson was scheduled to appear as a witness for the government in the Mastro trial before plea deals were accepted by all of the indicted parties.  It is well known within the hobby that Lifson ratted-out his former partner, Bill Mastro and avoided prosecution for his own alleged involvement in illegal activities (including fraudulently advertising and promoting the condition of the Wagner card) while working as an executive at MastroNet.  The shill bidding list also revealed that Lifson purchased one of the shilled items consigned by his partner Bill Mastro in the 2002 auction.  Lifson paid $1,321.35 for a 1910 “Won In The Ninth” pinback button which was shill bid by “Frank DiRoberto.” Lifson is not listed as a victim by the government on that lot.

-Keith Olbermann was listed as the victim and buyer of Lifson’s consigned lot and appears to have been victimized on several other Mastro purchases.  Also appearing as a buyer and victim on several lots was director Penny Marshall and New York Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner who lost over $30,000 bidding on baseball card sets.

-Net54 moderator, Leon Luckey, appears on the list as a victim but several sources have disputed his “victim” status. One source who is familiar with the Mastro case told us that Luckey, a convicted felon and former drug dealer, was a serial shill-bidder in sales that Mastro destroyed the bidding records for.  As for the items on the released list, Luckey bought shilled lots that were consigned by Net54 member JC Clarke.  Another source told us he believes Luckey was involved in Clarke’s shill-bid scheme and said, “The government determined him to be a victim because someone bid before his last bid. Nothing more. However the fact that the only lots he won were Clarke lots — combined with his almost delusional protection of Clarke, one of the worst fraudsters the hobby has ever seen, seems to lead to the unmistakable conclusion that he was buying the lots back for JC.”  Our readers will also recall that Luckey and Clarke have something else in common: they both attempted to sell 1869 Peck and Snyder trade cards that were stolen from the NYPLs Spalding Collection. The FBI thwarted both sales.

Other Net54 members who were implicated on the list include attorney Peter Spaeth, Ron Goldberg, Greg Schwartz, Peter Garcia and Frank Foremny.  Net54 members have been tough on Spaeth but as one former 54 member told us, “Oddly enough there seems to be a code of silence on calling JC Clarke on the carpet.” That’s probably because Luckey has banned most every member who has pointed out his hobby indiscretions.

The Mastro shill-bidding list includes PSA expert John Reznikoff (far left); Heritage employee Peter Calderone (2nd left); PSA expert Kevin Keating (center). Victims on the list include Keith Olbermann (right) and NY Yankee owner Hal Steinbrenner (far right)

-John Reznikoff, a PSA employee who is listed on Collectors Universe’s “board of experts” was exposed as a serial shill bidder and the consignor of scores of items which were shill bid in tandem with Mastro and his employees. Reznikoff is currently under fire in the Michael Johnson vs. RR Auctions litigation where allegations of shill-bidding have been leveled against RR Auction owner Bob Eaton.  Sources indicate that Reznikoff’s shill bidding activity at RR is similar to his conduct with Mastro and even worse. One source who says he has knowledge that Reznikoff is currently being investigated by the FBI told us, “Rez is in deep trouble.” As Hauls of Shame reported last year, a deceased RR Auctions employee named Kay Burris executed a sworn affidavit before her death describing illegal shill-bidding at the auction house which she claimed involved Bob Eaton and John Reznikoff.  In regard to Reznikoff Burris stated:

“A major consignor (to) R&R is allowed to bid on his own items to move up bids to the point that he is willing to sell the item. A special procedure was designed by Bob Eaton to permit collusion on prices, bid rigging; and profits for items placed into R&R auctions by Reznikoff.  Reznikoff’s bidder number is 204.”

In 2015 we reported, “Burris went on to describe further how Eaton and John Reznikoff engaged in shill bidding activity similar to the actions that took down auction kingpin Bill Mastro and Mastro Auctions.”

The Burris affidavit also stated:

“In any given auction, if Reznikoff “wins” his own item in a particular auction because he or Eaton could not max-out the bidding on that item with an unknowing bidder (or bidders), it is processed internally by Bill White differently than all other winning bids are processed- there is no sales invoice generated for him and the item shows as unsold on the “after auction profit list.” This system was designed by Bob Eaton, in direct collaboration with Reznikoff , so that Reznikoff was guaranteed a profit to his personal liking on any particular item; and a “no sale-no commission” policy so that he would continue to supply a higher quality (supposedly) number of items when R&R couldn’t get or didn’t have enough in any given auction. I know of numerous instances of this occurring over the past five years. Reznikoff consigns to almost every auction and has usually 10 or more items in each. Monthly consignor checks to Reznikoff range in value from $100’s to $100,000 each month.  He bids on his own items with the full knowledge and consent of Bob Eaton and Carla Eaton.”

-Zach Rullo, another Collectors Universe employee who works as a PSA/DNA authenticator with Steve Grad was also exposed for shilling lots in the Mastro sales. Rullo and Grad were close with Bill Mastro who was instrumental in giving both of them their start in the authentication business with Mastro Auctions and PSA.

-Kevin Keating, a West Point graduate and another expert employed by PSA appears on the list as a shill-bidder placing bids with Mastro executive Doug Allen on items owned by the auction house under the name “Historical Collectibles.”

-Dave Forman, the President of SGC is also identified on the list as having multiple lots shilled by his brother. Back in 2010, Forman filed a counterclaim against Mastro alleging that the auction house shill-bid items and used his account to place unauthorized bids.

President Obama sits in the bus alleged to be the actual vehicle Rosa Parks launched the civil rights movement from. Convicted felon Bill Mastro and Rob Lifson sold the bus to the Henry Ford Museum for $492,000 but its authenticity has been challenged. To the right is the cover of author Ron Keurajian's new book, "Collecting Historical Autographs."

-Goldin Auctions owner Ken Goldin is implicated on the list along with Daryl Abromowitz for shilling multiple lots in the Mastro sales as is Heritage Auctions employee Peter Calderone who was a Mastro employee at the time he shilled auction lots.  It is interesting to note that many of the illegal shilling techniques administered at Mastro auctions in Illinois are currently utilized by Heritage legally in Texas. Another Heritage employee included on the list as a shill bidder was Nicholas Dawes who also appears on the PBS TV show Antiques Roadshow as an appraiser. Other veteran auctioneers and dealers identified on the list include Ron Oser, Jerry Zuckerman, Andy Imperato and Irv Lerner.

The shill-bidding list was a hot topic in hobby circles over the weekend and one of the best observations we heard on the situation came from author and prominent Michigan attorney Ron Keurajian who told us, “There appears to be a continuing pattern of shill bidding, fraud, racketeering, and strong-arm tactics by the same core group of auctioneers, dealers, and authenticators all in an attempt to monopolize the sports memorabilia trade. Criminal prosecution under the RICO Act should be pursued by government and those who have been victimized should consider civil actions also allowed by the act.”

-Rob Lifson announced last week that he is retiring from the auction business and allegedly selling REA to his employee Brian Dwyer. In a statement released on the REA blog Lifson said one thing that caught our eye: “I am just retiring from auctions, not dying! My health is great and I am fortunate to have been very successful financially for many decades. I still enjoy the field very much and may actually expand my involvement in some ways, as well as become more involved with other types of collectibles (I have a special interest in political and civil rights collectibles, among other areas, for example).” Lifson’s interest in Civil Rights collectibles is notable in that when Lifson was partners with Bill Mastro he claimed to have discovered the actual bus that made civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks famous.  That bus was authenticated and offered by MastroNet in 2002 and purchased by the Henry Ford Museum for $492,000.  Independent investigations conducted by Hauls of Shame, however, have indicated that there was no credible evidence to support such a claim by Lifson and Mastro who are believed to have committed outright fraud in representing the bus was the vehicle that Parks refused to give up her seat on. In addition, several sources have told Hauls of Shame they believe that both the Smithsonian and the Henry Ford Museum were shill bid when competing for the bus in the MastroNet auction.  Lifson, however, did not report Mastro’s shill bidding to the FBI in that instance. With the shilling so rampant at MastroNet, as evidenced in the government document, it is very likely that the auction house victimized the two deep-pocketed institutions.  As Lifson allegedly retires from the auction business he leaves a legacy as the auctioneer who has sold the most bogus baseball material in auction history and is the only auctioneer ever to be caught stealing rare artifacts from a public institution.

Ending this CHIN MUSIC episode on a rare positive note:

-Ron Keurajian recently completed a new book for collectors on how to spot forgeries of non-sports and historical autographs. Similar to his excellent book on the signatures of Baseball Hall of Famers, Keurajian lends his expertise to the examination of the signatures of historical figures ranging from Abraham Lincoln to Barak Obama. Collecting Historical Autographs: What To Buy, What To Pay and How To Spot Fakes will be available to collectors this Summer and is being published by McFarland and Co..


By Peter J. Nash
December 18, 2015

Hobbyists and autograph experts have for years alleged that the proliferation of Babe Ruth forgeries in the marketplace has been bolstered by the shoddy work of the authentication companies PSA/DNA and JSA. In the six previous installments of our “Operation Bambino” investigation, Hauls of Shame has illustrated how both companies have authenticated perhaps millions of dollars in fake Ruth signatures for decades. Now, in Lelands current auction we have identified yet another bogus Ruth that further exposes an entire group of big ticket single-signed baseballs as forgeries created by what several experts believe is the same forger. When Hauls of Shame informed Lelands of the possible fake and showed the auction house four other Ruth forgeries almost identical to their offered lot, the auction house pulled the alleged treasure from its sale.

In part 2 of our special investigation we identified several different handwriting styles of forgers creating bogus Ruth single-signed baseballs and one of those styles was identified by illustrating different baseball that had sold in Mastro, REA and Grey Flannel auctions.  One of the balls identified by us ended up in Lelands current sale and when compared to the other similar baseballs it is clear that both PSA/DNA and JSA have been authenticating forgeries of Ruth signatures that have fetched anywhere between $20,000 and $300,000 at auction.

This style Babe Ruth forgery appears on at least seven big-ticket auction lots that have been sold with either JSA or PSA/DNA letters of authenticity. The ball pulled from the Lelands sale appears highlighted in red.

Representatives from Lelands agreed with our determination and proceeded to remove the alleged forgery from the current sale. Our second installment of the “Operation Bambino” series had already identified these balls as forgeries in a distinctive handwriting style of a specific forger that contrasted two other styles of Ruth forgeries.  Even when viewed by hobbyists without any background in handwriting analysis it is quite evident that these style signatures are highly problematic.

This group photo appeared in our second part of the Operation Bambino series and identified each of these baseballs as Ruth forgeries. The ball pulled from the Lelands sale appears on the left side of the middle row.

Each signature is executed methodically and appears almost identical to every other example. The signatures are also placed on the same section of each ball’s “sweet spot.” But what’s even more troubling is that PSA/DNA declined to write an LOA for one of these forgeries when it appeared in a Mastro auction back in 2008.  In its lot description Mastro said:

“We emphatically assert that this is truly one of the finest Babe Ruth “singles” in the hobby. (The relic’s legitimacy is so certain, in our view, that Mastro Auctions is presenting the Mint-condition gem without a PSA letter, as that company declined to provide one.)”

The bogus ball was authenticated, however, by James Spence Authentication (JSA).

This Ruth forgery was sold by Mastro in 2008 with an LOA from JSA. PSA/DNA declined to authenticate the ball at the time, thus suggesting that PSA may have known these balls were forgeries as early as 2008. The "mint" ball sold for just under $20,000 in the Mastro sale.

We asked Lelands, “Have they (PSA/DNA) been aware these are fake since at least 2008?  Please ask, because they surely won’t give answers to me or any customers of theirs.” Mike Hefner of Lelands responded saying, “I have not spoken with Steve Grad for over a year.” Leland’s founder Josh Evans thanked us for informing him about the fake and said, “We are pulling it.” Lelands could not divulge who the unlucky consignor/victim is.

The ball that was being sold by Lelands was accompanied by a PSA/DNA LOA dated in 2003 and signed by both James Spence and Steve Grad at a time when both were employed as experts by the company that operates under the Collectors Universe umbrella. The same authenticated ball appeared in a May 2004 auction conducted by Grey Flannel where it sold for $41,672. Grey Flannel describe the ball as “a blazer.”

This is the PSA/DNA LOA that accompanies the forged Babe Ruth baseball appearing in Lelands current auction catalog. The LOA was signed by both James Spence and Steve Grad.

We showed the entire group of forgeries to several experts, dealers and collectors we respect and asked for their observations and opinions. They responded stating:

-”So where were these (Ruth balls) the last 4 decades ? Even back in the 1970’s & 80’s when SS Ruth balls were selling for a couple grand I NEVER even remembered anything in this condition being offered for sale by any dealer or auction company.”

-”It certainly appears they are all done by the same hand. Amazing, (I) never really saw a nice clean ball signed by Ruth until the 90’s.”

-”The signature on that ball is a very poor forgery of Ruth. It’s a joke that PSA or JSA authenticated it but not surprising.”

-”Can you imagine how many flat items this forger has created and flooded the market with?”

Our on-going investigation has revealed many more troubling aspects of the third party authentication system first orchestrated by Bill Mastro, MastroNet Inc. and PSA way back in 1999. No doubt there are likely millions of dollars in forged Ruth balls in private hands accompanied by worthless (and perhaps fraudulent) LOAs issued by both PSA and JSA.  Mastro just began serving a prison sentence which resulted from an FBI investigation into fraud at Mastro Auctions and Legendary Auctions. One collector told us, “If you own a high grade Ruth ball, you gotta be very nervous. If you bought one from Mastro you’re living on the edge.”

Experts allege that this group of Ruth "blazers" is full of fakes and forgeries. These balls have broken auction sales records and have all been authenticated by PSA and JSA. These balls, when compared to the forgery pulled from Lelands, illustrate the handwriting of an additional forger who is fleecing collectors.

As illustrated by our previous Bambino reports many of the record-breaking Ruth balls that have sold for several hundred thousand dollars have been forged in a hand different than the ball pulled from Lelands.  Each of these Ruth forgeries was executed in a distinct and contrasting hand, different than Ruth, himself, and also different than the other multiple forgers.

We informed Babe Ruth’s granddaughter, Linda Ruth Tosetti, about the PSA-certed Ruth forgery pulled from the Lelands sale and she told us, “I am always telling people to stay away from these guys. People are buying their sales pitch and getting ripped off. I have now come to the point to tell fans to beware of all Babe Ruth autographs.  It is a sad state of affairs. People will not buy a piece unless it is PSA-DNA certified.” Ruth-Tosetti has been outspoken about the Ruth-forgery epidemic and has been in touch with the FBI in an attempt to help clean up the troubled autograph authentication industry. Ruth- Tosetti added,  ”This PSA-DNA has dirtied the collecting market. What a shame. I applaud the FBI in their continued help in bringing these guys to justice. To my grandfather’s fans, BUYER BEWARE! Do your homework and know who you are dealing with.”

Linda Ruth-Tosetti (left) has strong words for PSA President Joe Orlando and his senior authenticator Steve Grad (second from right). James Spence of JSA (far right) authenticated the fake Ruth ball withdrawn from the current Lelands sale.

Both of the embattled authentication companies are also currently fighting lawsuits filed by dealers Nelson Deedle and Todd Mueller alleging both fraud and racketeering.  In addition, in another lawsuit filed against RR Auctions by Michael Johnson, PSA President Joe Orlando and senior authenticator Steve Grad had been avoiding service of subpoenas compelling testimony in that case, but have since been served papers to appear at depositions. Since being served, however, their attorney Keith Attlesey has refused to produce both clients for their scheduled depositions.  Sources indicate that PSA is concerned that Grad’s steady authentication of fraudulent materials will be a topic of interest in the depositions. Despite his shortcomings as an authenticator and his well-documented history of certifying fakes as genuine, Grad also serves as the on-air autograph expert for the popular cable TV show Pawn Stars on the History Channel.  One industry executive told us, “Grad is a hack but he seriously thinks he’s a TV star now.  I’ve heard he’s got too big for his britches even with PSA.  I wouldn’t be surprised if PSA cans him before the authorities have a shot at putting him out of commission.”

Neither PSA or JSA have ever responded to Hauls of Shame’s inquiries about forgeries their so-called “experts” have certified authentic.  The one time PSA did respond to HOS was in 2013 with a letter from attorney Keith Attlesey threatening a lawsuit for a report we published stating that the company was “founded on a fraud.” Our statement, however, was based upon the fact that the first baseball card they graded (the Gretzky-McNall T-206 Wagner) had been trimmed by auctioneer Bill Mastro and that the PSA employee grading the card, Bill Hughes, knew it had been trimmed.  Shortly after Attlsey sent us his cease and desist letter, Mastro admitted to fraudulently trimming the now infamous T-206 Honus Wagner card as part of a plea agreement with the government.  It should be noted that while PSAs card division was, in fact, founded on a fraud, its autograph division was also founded on a similar fraud based upon the company’s authentications of gem-mint Ruth single-singed balls that are considered forgeries by many experts in the field. Sources we spoke with could not confirm whether the FBI is currently investigating PSA and JSA for their ties to fraudulent Babe Ruth memorabilia.


By Peter J. Nash

November 13, 2015

Scroll to bottom for Update:

Net54 moderator Leon Luckey wants out and according to several collectors who have spoken with him, he is trying to unload the collector forum he owns and moderates for lots of cash. According to several sources Luckey wants to sell his forum to Beckett, the privately held company that offers card grading services and operates as a collectibles industry media outlet and publisher. Luckey resides close to Dallas, Texas, and Beckett’s main offices are also located in Dallas.

Luckey, 54, has been the focus of hobby drama for the past few months since Hauls of Shame broke the story that he was selling a rare Peck & Snyder trade card that was stolen from the New York Public Library.  Despite a recent article published in the New York Daily News, which attempted to portray Luckey as a generous collector who willingly returned the stolen property to the library, several of his Net54 members called him on the carpet for his hypocrisy and alleged shady dealings with Heritage Auctions after it was revealed that he knew the card had been stolen before he entered it in the sale.

In response to the onslaught of criticism, Luckey banned member John McDaniel (known as Wonka) and just yesterday banned another member who has been very critical of his dealings, the New York defense attorney and collector Jeffrey Lichtman.  Lichtman and McDaniel publicy scolded and exposed Luckey and as one investigator familiar with the NYPL theft case told this writer “they shamed him into returning the stolen card to the NYPL.” Lichtman has also been very critical about Luckey’s long-time support of disgraced auctioneer Bill Mastro who was recently sentenced to a 20-month prison term.

Luckey lost out on a six-figure payday when Hauls of Shame publicly exposed his card as stolen property and his members also called him out for falsely portraying the reason for the sale of his collection being to pay for his daughter’s college education. Luckey’s collection sold for close to $1 million (before HA commissions) even after returning the stolen card to the Spalding Collection in New York City. Yesterday morning, a source with inside information contacted us with the exclusive story confirming that Luckey is attempting to sell Net54 to Beckett for a possible $650,000 which would constitute another big payday for the former drug dealer who amassed a sizable baseball card collection in the years after receiving two drug convictions.

Our source, a Net54 member in contact with several hobbyists who have spoken directly with Luckey, is disturbed by the potential sale but not surprised that Luckey is attempting to cash out.  ”He’s a twice convicted drug dealer who hasn’t worked in years since he was fired from his last job. It’s his last chance to make some real money in his lifetime. He hated moderating the board, he’s tired of people talking about his stolen Peck and Snyder card and his lying about selling his collection solely to fund his daughter’s college education–as opposed to what was stated in the Heritage catalog,” said our source.

After HOS exposed Leon Luckey's 1869 Reds card as being stolen from the NYPL, Net54 member John McDonald (inset known as "Wonka") further highlighted Luckey's hypocrisy as a self-proclaimed hobby fraud-fighter and was quickly booted off the forum by Luckey.

Luckey has posted a slew of false and libelous statements about Hauls of Shame including claims that the comments section is not real, that our sources are non-existent and that this writer has actually set up Net54 accounts under fictitious names that post on his site.  In reality, a good portion of our commentors and readers are actually members of Net54 just like our very real source featured in this report.

As for Luckey’s banning of prominent members on his board who were critical of him, our source told us, “He’s gotten so angry and bitter that he’s banning people left and right and now Net54 is populated by idiots and crooks and rarely do you see a post from a longtime knowledgeable collector with a significant collection. And when he’s not talking about which collector he is going to assault when he sees him, he’s talking about Beckett buying Net54, he can’t believe they are going to pay $650,000 for it. That’s what he’s telling people, why do you think he’s all of a sudden talking about Beckett? He was the same with Heritage when he was begging them for a job. But, of course, they wouldn’t hire him and if he knew how the Heritage people actually talk about him he’d have a heart attack. They know he’s a low life, all the experienced collectors know it, too. So, he’s left with novices who hang on his every word. But where else can an unemployed twice convicted drug dealer get anyone to listen to him?”

Chris Olds of Beckett Media did not respond to our request to confirm or deny Beckett’s interest in purchasing Net54.

UPDATE: Luckey Responds and Source Provides Additional Information About The Banishment Of Prominent Net 54 Member

Leon Luckey responded to our report today with a post on Net54 stating, “Pretty close to the only thing true is he spelled my name correctly. I have told many close friends there would be some repercussions to the actions that needed to be taken. I will agree that unfortunately it had gotten to be about the money (somewhat) and I didn’t take these steps sooner. So far so good.”

Another source familiar with Luckey’s recent banishment of longtime Net54 member and prominent collector, John McDaniel, forwarded us the post that pushed Luckey over the edge and caused him to ban him from his forum.  Several Net54 members have been publicly and privately equating Luckey’s proclivity to banish members who are critical of his actions to a form of censorship.  The post that got McDaniel banned was removed by Luckey and our source saved it as a screen shot before it vanished from the website. In the post McDaniel questions Luckey’s honesty in particular regarding exchanges both had with an FBI agent working the case to recover Luckey’s stolen Peck & Snyder card.  Here is the full post:

A Net54 member saved the post that got John McDaniel banned from the forum before Leon Luckey removed it from his website.

(Editor’s Note: Upon receiving information in our comments section from a reader, it appears that Chris Olds recently left Beckett.  Our email was not bounced back and we will contact Beckett for comment again.)


By Peter J. Nash

October 14, 2015

-Bill Mastro was sentenced to 20 months in a Federal prison over the summer and his former IT director, William Boehm, was sentenced to probation and house arrest for lying to FBI agents about destroying Mastro’s auction records in an attempt to conceal the auction house’s long-running shill bidding schemes during an FBI investigation that commenced back in 2008.

-William Boehme is scheduled for a deposition in the next 60 days related to the California lawsuit filed against RR Auctions.  When Boehm left Mastro Auctions after lying to FBI agents he went on to work as the IT director at RR Auctions and shill bidding allegations have also been made against that auction house dating back to an affidavit written by deceased RR employee Karen Burris in 2008.

-Judge Donna Geck recently issued a preliminary ruling in the Michael Johnson v. RR Auctions lawsuit in Santa Barbara, California, and the court’s website includes a document that contains some bombshell information revealing that RR Auctions and its founder, Bob Eaton, have admitted to destroying bidding records which “pertain to allegations of shill bidding” made by Johnson.

Convicted ex-Mastro IT director, William Boehm, is scheduled for a deposition in the Johnson v RR Auctions.

-Joe Orlando and Steve Grad, of PSA/DNA, are scheduled for their own depositions in the Johnson case but sources indicate their attorney Keith Attlesey (also the lawyer for RR Auctions) is concerned about Johnson posting the videos of the depositions on the RR Auction Lawsuit website and has forced Johnson’s attorneys to file motions to compel their testimony.

-Steve Grad appeared in person last summer at the Chicago Federal Courthouse where his former boss and mentor Bill Mastro was sentenced to prison time.  Grad was showing support for the man who elevated him to expert status after being promoted from the mail room at Mastro Auctions in the late 1990s.

-Collectors Universe recently released its quarterly report to stockholders and indicated that the current lawsuits filed against PSA/DNA and JSA by Todd Mueller and Nelson Deedle would not adversely effect the public company’s bottom line.  The report under the title of “Legal Proceedings” says, “We are named from time to time as a defendant in lawsuits that arise in the ordinary course of business. We do not believe that any of such lawsuits that are currently pending are likely to have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition or results of operations.”

-Doug Allen and Mark Thoetikis, co-defendants and former employees of Bill Mastro, had their sentencing postponed again in Chicago Federal Court.  The sentencing is now set for December.

Michael O'Keeffe (left) survived firings at the NYDN; Brad Horn (center) is out at the HOF; and Steve Grad (right) of PSA//DNA is still certing forgeries

-New York Daily News owner Mort Zuckerman recently cleaned house at the struggling NY newspaper by letting go of many long-time sportswriters including the late Barry Halper’s good friend and publicist Bill Madden.  Also let go by the paper was Sports editor Teri Thompson who co-authored the hobby-themed book The Card with News sportswriter Michael O’Keeffe.  Unlike Thompson and Madden, O’Keeffe was not relieved of his duties at the paper which has been rumored to be contemplating publishing the paper only a few days a week.  Reports claim the Daily News is losing $30 million annually. One prominent journalist and card carrying member of the BBWAA told us, “If you can believe it, it looks like that SOB (O’Keeffe) avoided the ax.”

-Baseball Hall of Fame Communications Director, Brad Horn, recently denied reports that he was leaving the Hall but an inside source tells us that the HOF brass has informed employees that Brad will be leaving in May.  Horn is known throughout the hobby for his “no-comments” regarding the massive thefts from the Cooperstown shrine. Horn is also known for appearing on the Collectors Universe website with a testimonial on behalf of the Hall stating, “We see the fans that collect cards and who have their own memorabilia collections come to Cooperstown with a tremendous respect for the preservation component of what we do. Our relationship with PSA and PSA/DNA has helped us give the fans the opportunity to connect with that love and passion. There is a great synergy between those who visit the Hall of Fame and those who collect and use the services of PSA and PSA/DNA.”  Perhaps Horn’s successor will do a better job addressing issues like how the Hall defrauded patrons when they publicly exhibited Ken Kendrick’s trimmed T-206 Honus Wagner card and heralded it for its condition despite having information stating the card was a hobby fraud.

-Rob Lifson and Robert Edward Auctions are keeping their streak alive for offering and selling bogus autographs at auction in their new Fall 2015 sale.  One of the most egregious fakes being sold is an alleged Cap Anson autograph on a vaudeville contract. Even autograph novices realize that these signatures are secreterial and have no resemblance whatsoever to genuine examples of Anson’s signature. Not surprisingly, the bogus lot comes with an LOA from PSA/DNA.

An HOS report in 2013 identified the alleged Anson vaudeville contract signatures as bogus secreterial examples that exhibited virtually no resemblance to the HOFers own handwriting (top left). Despite knowledge of this published report, auctioneer Rob Lifson of REA (right) continues to sell bogus materials.

-HOS readers will remember another fake Cap Anson signature certed by PSA and featured on our “Worst 100 Authentications of PSA and JSA.” That alleged signature was a period identification of Anson on the back of a cabinet card stolen from the New York Public Library’s Spalding Collection.  The fake currently being sold by Lifson and REA was highlighted in a previous HOS report in 2013 that illustrated various genuine exemplars of Anson’s signature vs. the “vaudeville secreterials.”

The bogus Anson signatures appearing in our 2013 report and the current REA sale were authenticated by PSA despite having no similarity to an authentic Anson signature.  The slant is even in the opposite direction on the two documents signed at different times. PPSA even authenticated the REA lot after the HOS report was published in 2013.

The Anson fake being sold by REA (bottom right) and the fake featured in our 2013 report were both authenticated by PSA/DNA despite having no resemblence to the authentiic example illustrated in Ron Keurajian's book (top right). PSA certed the REA fake 2 months after our report was published.

-REA had another big-ticket fake in its current auction catalog, a single-signed Frank Chance ball authenticated by JSA and Jimmy Spence. The ball was previously sold by Rob Lifson’s ex-partner, Bill Mastro and REA says the consignor bought the ball in a Mastro sale in 1999 for $21,836.99. The alleged signed gem has been identified by several experts as a forgery that hardly resembles the handwriting of Chance who died in September of 1924. In addition, we were told that the baseball the Chance signature was forged on was manufactured after Frank Chance died. After we posted that info on Twitter it appears that this gem has been “withdrawn” from the REA sale.

-Frank Chance’s alleged signature is on a “Tober International League” baseball and we couldn’t help but notice that is the same type of ball that had another big ticket forgery sold by Lifson and REA– a $60,000 Jesse Burkett single-signed ball.  Experts we spoke with believe the signatures of Chance and Burkett were penned by the same forger.  It’s probably just a wild coincidence that a few of the only surviving “Tober International League” balls in excellent condition happen to feature the signatures of two of the rarest Hall of Famers. One astute observer was amused by the REA offering saying, “Take a Chance on Chance.”

Experts say these two forgeries of Frank Chance and Jesse Burkett were done by the same forger. We were also told that Frank Chance died before this Tober ball was manufactured and posted the info on Twitter (inset).

-Tober was a company that manufactured baseballs in Springfield, MA, and Hartford, CT, at the turn of the century and through the 1920s. We’re told that the ball featuring Chance’s signature was manufactured in Manchester, CT after the Cub’s “Peerless Leader” passed away.  We’re also told that if the ball was signed during Chance’s lifetime it would likely be on a “Bob-Tober” ball.  Look out for more on this issue in future reports.

-REA is also offering a Babe Ruth signed book that experts say is not genuine and is an easily identifiable fake.  The book, which REA says originated from the Barry Halper Collection, features a forgery on the cover which resembles another Ruth forgery on a book that was recently rejected by PSA/DNA when it was submitted for a Heritage Auctions sale. JSA and Jimmy Spence authenticated the forgery on the Ruth book currently in the REA sale despite the fact that the signature has all the tell-tale signs of a bogus Babe.

The alleged Ruth signature on the Ruth book featured in the REA sale (center) has been identified as a forgery similar to a slew of fakes previously identified in HOS reports. PSA/DNA recently rejected a similar fake when it was submitted for inclusion in a Heritage sale (left).

-JSA authenticated several other items experts have identified as forgeries in the current REA sale including: an exhibit card signed by Negro Leaguers (including Oscar Charlston), a signed T-206 “Home Run” Baker card; and a Jimmie Foxx cut signature in an Upper Deck product.

The alleged signed T-206 by "Home Run" Baker (center) has been identified as a forgery by experts and REA is selling it despite warnings in Ron Keurajian's book which features a genuine post-stroke signature of Baker (right). The real autograph was sent to a collector by Mrs. Baker in 1962 (right).

-Frank “Home Run” Baker may have signed some T-206 cards but experts say the example in REA’s sale is also a phony.   Supporting that claim is author Ron Keurajian’s book which illustrates a genuine “post-stroke” signature that was sent by Baker’s wife to a collector in 1962.  Signed T-206’s are very popular and valuable but many on the market are fakes including this Baker which is laughable but currently has an “honest-auto bid” of close to $5,000.  As some say, “There’s a sucker born every REA catalog.” We’re guessing REA has a copy of Keurajian’s book and that just makes these offerings even more pathetic.

REAs Al Reach letter lot includes a portrait of the pioneer that fits the description of an example stolen from the NYPL (center). A negative of the stolen photo (right) helped prove that the middle example was stolen.

-REA also has one curious item in a lot featuring a signed letter by baseball pioneer Al Reach.  Auctioneer Rob Lifson and REA are quite vague as to whether the letter is accompanied by a genuine cabinet photo of Reach or a modern reproduction of an original.  This is curious because the image REA features on its website is too small to enlarge but appears to be a cabinet photo of Reach that was stolen from the New York Public Library and sold previously by Barry Halper, Mastro and Wolfers Auctions. HOS has written about the stolen Reach photos extensively and also about Rob Lifson’s history as a library thief.  Hopefully, REA will reveal whether the photo is an original and post a hi-res image of the Reach portrait.


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