Breaking News

By Peter J. Nash

Nov. 29, 2012

This letter addressed to Reds owner August Herrmann is believed to have been stolen from the National Baseball Library.

-Clean Sweep Auctions has already sold several  letters believed to have been stolen from the National Baseball Library in Cooperstown, NY, and with the offering of  ”Lot 490″ in its current auction ending December 13th, it appears that history is repeating itself.  The auction house is selling a letter written by Boston Braves owner Emil Fuchs to Cincinnati Reds owner and National Commission Chairman, August Herrmann. The letter appears to have originated from the Hall of Fame’s August Herrmann Papers Collection and was also sold previously by Clean Sweep back in 2009.

-Steve Verkman, President of Clean Sweep Auctions has been notified on several occasions that letters written to Herrmann from NL President John Heydler, St. Louis Cardinals owner Sam Breadon and Emil Fuchs corresponded to similar documents in the Hall’s massive Herrmann Papers archive which contains over 45,000 documents and letters that Herrmann received during his career in baseball, which spanned from 1902 to 1928.  The last document sold by Clean Sweep was a letter from Sam Breadon and was originally part of a file of Breadon’s correspondence to Herrmann from 1920 to 1926.

-Brad Horn, a spokesperson for the Baseball Hall of Fame, did not challenge the prior sales of the alleged stolen documents from the National Baseball Library and according to auctioneer Verkman said,“There is insufficient information for us to unequivocally state that these were stolen from the Hall of Fame.” Verkman added, “The Hall of Fame also distinctly did not ask for it back in any way, or for it to be removed from the auction, only that they welcome it, along with anything else of potential historic value as a donation as they are the main repository of baseball history in the U.S.”

-Clean Sweep and Brad Horn did not respond to inquiries about the Herrmann letter currently being offered for sale.

Unlike the Clean Sweep offering, these two letters written by Fuchs to August Herrmann are still part of the National Baseball Library's collection in Cooperstown, NY.

Jane Forbes Clark, the current Hall of Fame Chairman, and her predecessors have failed to properly investigate the considerable losses from the Hall of Fame collections and have also failed to pursue the recovery of  property and prosecution of at least one known suspect believed to have been involved in the robberies, Mike Gutierrez, of Heritage Auction Galleries.  In the late 1980s Gutierrez sold auctioneer Josh Evans a signed photograph of Babe Ruth that had a Hall of Fame accession number covered with white out.   In 1998, an anonymous source told hobby newsletter The Sweet Spot that he had accompanied Gutierrez on a visit to the National Baseball Library and said of Gutierrez:  “He would go to the photocopy machine, make copies of some of the documents; he made neat stacks of copies,” the witness said. “For every 10 items he’d take to the machine, however, nine originals would return to the file. One original would be mixed in with the copies and they would go directly into his briefcase. That briefcase would never leave his side.” The eyewitness  also indicated that the documents Gutierrez was copying were from the Hall’s Herrmann Papers collection.

-Hall of Fame officials have recovered several rare photographs stolen from the NBL including images of Mickey Welch, Christy Mathewson and Nap Lajoie offered for sale by Robert Edward Auctions, Mastro and Heritage.  These recoveries were made only after and Deadspin published reports illustrating that these photos had evidence of HOF ownership marks and accession numbers.  The confirmation that these photos were stolen from the Hall is just the tip of the iceberg.

This rare 1869 Red Stocking trade card was credited to the Hall of Fame's collection in Mark Rucker's 1988 book, Base Ball Cartes, but is currently missing from the National Baseball Library. (Photo from Base Ball Cartes, (Rucker 1988)

-Mark Rucker’s book Baseball Cartes (1988) included the Hall of Fame’s copy of the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stocking trade card by Peck & Snyder, but sources indicate that the rare card valued at over $25,000 is currently missing and believed to have been stolen from the NBL.  Several copies of this same card have been stolen from the New York Public Library including one that was recovered at this years National.

The letter being offered by Clean Sweep originated from the files of August Herrmann, now housed at the NBL in Cooperstown, New York.

-Legendary Auctions‘ current sale includes a few suspect items that may have originated from the New York Public Library’s Spalding Collection including a MacIntyre cabinet of Harry Wright and an 1882 cabinet photo of the Providence Base Ball Club.  The library has multiple copies of the 1882 cabinet- all stamped on the lower portion of the card’s reverse.  The location and size of the paper loss on the reverse of the cabinet being offered by Legendary suggests it may have an NYPL provenance.

The placement of the NYPL stamp on the 1882 Providence cabinet (Left) is strikingly similar to the size and shape of the paper loss on the 1882 Providence cabinet being sold by Legendary. (Right)

-A Kalamazoo Bat cabinet photo of Charles Bastian and Denny Lyons also being offered by Legendary fits the description of many other missing NYPL items but appears to be one of only three  Kalamazoo Bat cabinets of Philadelphia Nationals players legitimately in private hands.  These three cabinets bear no NYPL marks or identifications and originated from the collection of the late hobby legend Don Steinbach. Besides these three examples of Bastian/Lyons; Fogarty and Clements, we know of no other cabinets of Philadelphia National players that did not originate from the NYPL or Baseball Hall of Fame collections.

-Harry Wright donated all of his personal photographs to the National League before his death and they ended up at the NYPL in 1921 as a donation from the widow of A. G. Spalding.  Missing from the collection are several MacIntire cabinet portraits of Wright.  The paper loss on the reverse of the current Legendary offering is suspicious, but not as definitive as the example sold by Robert Edward Auctions (REA) in 2009, which exhibits the removal of the NYPL stamp and handwritten numeral originally placed in the upper left-hand corner.  That same Wright cabinet was also sold by Barry Halper at Sotheby’s in 1999.

This MacIntire cabinet photo of Harry Wright sold by REA in 2009 exhibits tell-tale evidence of the removal of NYPL ownership marks and identifications.

-Dennis Schrader’sLittle Cooperstown Collection” of 5,000 alleged authentic signed baseballs has received a lot of media coverage lately after an official endorsement by the Guinness Book of World Records as the “Largest Collection of Baseballs Signed by Major League Players.”

The collection claims to include incredible rarities including single-signed balls by 19th century HOFers like Pud Galvin, John Clarkson and Old Hoss Radbourn, however, all of these so called rarities are actually poorly executed forgeries.  Here’s a Pud Galvin forgery from the collection:

Here’s an authentic signature of Galvin from 1879:

-Pud Galvin signatures are extremely rare and only two authentic examples are known to exist on letters the hurler wrote to an executive of the Buffalo Bison Base Ball Club in the late 1870s.  Both of these authentic signatures are utilized as exemplars in Ron Keurajian’s new autograph handbook published by McFarland.  Schrader, Guinness and the St. Petersburgh Museum of History should pick up a copy of the book and educate themselves on the subject of HOFer signatures.  It would save them from exhibiting forgeries to the general public who are also being solicited to contribute funds for a permanent exhibit at the museum in the future.  As it stands, the collection also includes forgeries of Babe Ruth, “Shoeless” Joe Jackson and many others.

-Ron Keurajian covers baseball’s “black market” and the issue of institutional thefts in his new book, Baseball Hall of Fame Autographs: A Reference Guide.  Of the Baseball Hall of Fame’s collection he writes:  ”The amount of signed material  in these collections is mind boggling.  These collections contain many rare and unique pieces.  It appears that these collections were pillaged and many rare signatures were stolen, in particular the Herrmann Collection and the Frederick Long Collection.”

In regard to Herrmann letters in particular Keurajian warns collectors:  ”Today, any letter or document addressed to Herrman, the National Commission, Tom Lynch, Ban Johnson, Harry Pulliam, Frank Navin, John Heydler, John Tener, John Brush or Nick Young should be considered suspect and its origins must be investigated carefully as it may be stolen.”

UPDATE: Bill Mastro Will Plead Guilty to Fraud: Former auction heavyweight, Bill Mastro, has agreed to change his not-guilty plea to a plea of guilty, according to the the United States Attorney’s office for Northern Illinois.

Papers filed in Illinois indicate that prosecutors are seeking to change Mastro’s plea hearing for a date in February. Mike Monico, Mastro’s attorney, said his client will not oppose the request to change the date of the hearing.  Monico also said that his client “is cooperating with the government.”

The New York Daily News also reports: “Mastro will apparently acknowledge at the February hearing that he altered the world’s most valuable trading card, a Honus Wagner T206 that has fetched millions of dollars in a series of high-profile transactions, including a 1991 sale for $451,000 to NHL legend Wayne Gretzky and former Los Angeles Kings owner Bruce McNall.”

By Peter J. Nash
Nov. 16, 2012

Joe DiMaggio autographs toy trucks at a private signing with his attorney Morris Engelberg (far right). An authentic DiMaggio signature from the private signing (Top).

As if there wasn’t enough controversy surrounding the 1951 World Series rings attributed to “Joltin” Joe DiMaggio, expert Ron Keurajian now says it’s his opinion that the signed DiMaggio note authenticating the ring that sold for close to $40,000 at Sotheby’s is not genuine.

When asked to comment on the authenticity of the DiMaggio note that accompanied the alleged World Series ring sold in 1999 by Barry Halper, DiMaggio’s long-time attorney, Morris Engelberg, did not reference the note specifically, but added, “I consider the entire ’signed’ memorabilia business on par with Bernie Madoff.”

After published an article about the DiMaggio ring offered last weekend by Hunt Auctions in Louisville, KY., a collector and former New Jersey dealer named Chris Jacks, left a comment suggesting that the DiMaggio signed card featured in the post might not be authentic. After looking at the genuine autographed photo featured in the same article, Jacks compared it to the index card and told us, “Not written by the same hand, in my opinion.”

In response to the observations made by Jacks, we contacted several dealers and authenticators very familiar with DiMaggio’s handwriting and the result involved each party responding that the handwriting was either not DiMaggio’s or “unusual”. The one expert willing to go on the record with his opinion was Ron Keurajian, who is also the author of a recently released book that is described by his publisher, McFarland, as a collector’s handbook to Hall of Fame signatures. Keurajian told us, “In my opinion the handwriting and signature featured on that index card is not Joe DiMaggio’s. It is my opinion that note is not genuine.”

When the alleged DiMaggio ring and note sold at Sotheby’s in 1999, Mike Gutierrez, a current JSA authenticator, was hired to examine all autographed materials for the auction house. When the ring sold again a few years later at Mastro Auctions it was not accompanied by a PSA or James Spence letter of authenticity.

Joe DiMaggio allegedly inscribed this index card for Barry Halper to serve as a letter of authenticity for the alleged 1951 World Series ring attributed to DiMaggio Expert Ron Keurajian is of the opinion it is a forgery.

We also showed Keurajian another note that DiMaggio allegedly executed for Halper in order to authenticate a glove that was also sold at Sotheby’s as one of DiMaggio’s first gloves used in the Major Leagues. Of that note, Keurajian told us, “In my opinion that second inscribed and signed index card appears to be authentic and signed by DiMaggio.”

This index card LOA executed by DiMaggio for Halper is considered authentic by experts.

The glove was sold at Sotheby’s in 1999 as one that the “Yankee Clipper” wore in the first years of his career, but it turned out to be problematic as glove experts showed that the glove wasn’t manufactured until much later in DiMaggio’s career.

Keurajian includes an in-depth study of DiMaggio’s signature in his book along with analysis of every other Baseball Hall of Famer. On its website, McFarland says of its new release available to the public since November 1st:

“The book provides experts and beginning collectors alike a definitive guide to authentication of Baseball Hall of Fame autographs. Richly illustrated with examples of genuine and forged signatures, the studies provide examples across the players’ lives.”

DiMaggio’s autograph is featured prominently in the book and the publisher also states that, “The section on known forgeries gives detailed descriptions of common and well known forgeries. The level of detail is such that a collector will be able to compare signatures in their collection to the description in the book and determine if they own a forgery. No previous book has ever remotely approached the level of detail to be found in this book.”

Keurajian hopes that his book will help educate buyers and sellers as they navigate through the treacherous waters of autograph collecting. When asked what percentage of higher-end Hall of Famer autographs on the market are forgeries Keurajian told us, “Probably ninety-percent of the material, in my opinion, is not genuine.”

Expert Ron Keurajian's reference guide for Hall of Famer autographs is being published by McFarland and was just released earlier this month.

Keurajian’s opinion that the index card accompanying Barry Halper’s alleged 1951 DiMaggio World Series ring is not genuine has fueled even more speculation about the authenticity of the 10K ring he sold in 1999 alongside scores of other bogus and stolen artifacts that have made their way into the marketplace.

From his offices at the Joe DiMaggio building in Hollywood, Florida, Morris Engelberg answered our inquiries about the alleged World Series ring  stating, “All I can tell you is that the 1951 ring was stolen from Joe DiMaggio’s hotel room which is well documented (via a police report).” Hauls of Shame has requested a copy of that police report.

As for Halper, Engelberg says, “I was advised by Barry Halper that he purchased it while Mr. DiMaggio was alive. It was shocking to Mr. DiMaggio and me that Mr. Halper never offered it back to Mr. DiMaggio after all the years he played off the name “DiMaggio.”

In regard to the conflicting stories and the appearance of the ring in Hunt Auctions Engelberg responded, “Whatever else happened after that is “trash talk,” everyone having their own story, usually without any valid written proof other than hearsay.”

Engelberg also made a point to state that “The purchaser of stolen property, with full knowledge that the property was stolen, takes no better title to that property than the theif.” Engelberg added that Joe DiMaggio never pursued legal action to recover his property and told us, “The industry would have played it off. Mr. DiMaggio’s image was more important and stood above all else.”

By Peter J. Nash

Nov. 9, 2012

Joe DiMaggio and collector Barry Halper were close friends until a falling out in the early 1990s. Halper claimed to own DiMaggio's 1951 WS ring and the Yankee Clipper authenticated it for him with a signed index card.

Last week the New York Post reported that Hunt Auctions is offering Joe DiMaggio’s 1951 World Series ring in its annual auction at the Hillerich & Bradsby Company in Louisville, Kentucky. According to the Post, the ring being offered by Hunt has stirred up a long-standing controversy over the alleged theft of most all of DiMaggio’s World Series rings from a New York hotel room in the 1960s. DiMaggio was wearing his 1936 World Series ring at the time of the incident, however, the “Yankee Clipper” claimed that all of the other rings had vanished from the Lexington Hotel.

The Yankee World Series ring being offered by Hunt this weekend, with an estimated value of $100,000,was consigned by the family of an executive who worked for the ring manufacturer Dieges & Clust. The family claims that the ring was originally DiMaggio’s and was given to their relative soon after it was made for DiMaggio in 1951. According to Hunt, “The senior salesman of Dieges & Clust had been working with Joe DiMaggio and another Yankees player during such a visit, when according to family history, DiMaggio had indicated he would prefer to have another award from the firm such as either a hunting rifle or custom made fishing rod with solid gold engraved handle…” Hunt says the ring was given to the executive “who retained it and wore it proudly for the remainder of his career until his passing and subsequent bequeath to his family.” The ring is engraved on the inside band “Joe DiMaggio” and bears the Dieges & Clust hallmark along with a mark designating the ring as “14K.”  The ring currently has a bid of $29,586 and will be auctioned off this weekend at a live event at the Louisville Slugger Museum.

Hunt Auctions is currently offering this 1951 Yankee World Series ring attributed to Joe DiMaggio at an auction in Louisville, KY.

The New York Post report, however, did not indicate that there is at least one collector in the country who believes he has already purchased DiMaggio’s 1951 World Series ring.  He paid $37,043 for the ring when it sold at Mastro Auctions in February of 2001 accompanied by what Mastro described as a “note, handwritten and signed by DiMaggio, on an index card which reads simply: “My 1951 World Series ring (signed) Joe DiMaggio.”  The ring was described by Mastro as “One of the prizes of The Halper Collection.”  The ring originally sold at Sotheby’s in 1999 for $37,375 and also appeared on the PSA “Top 200 Sports Collectibles Sold in the 2oth Century” list.

However, just because an item was signed and identified by DiMaggio for Halper, does not necessarily mean the item is authentic.  A case in point was when Halper had DiMaggio sign what he claimed was the Yankee Clipper’s genuine 1936 rookie road jersey with the number “9.”  Halper later sold that jersey to the Baseball Hall of Fame and MLB as part of a $7.5 million transaction.  In 1998, Halper told the press the DiMaggio rookie jersey was purchased by MLB along with his Mickey Mantle rookie jersey bearing the number “6,” however, both of those jerseys would later be returned to Halper by Hall officials who questioned their authenticity.  Both jerseys ended up for sale at Robert Edward Auctions in 2007 having been consigned by Halper’s widow after his death.  REA sold both jerseys as “vintage style replicas” that were “created with vintage materials” and failed to disclose that the jerseys were outright forgeries previously returned to Halper by the Hall of Fame.  ( and uniform expert Dave Grob exposed the Mantle jersey as a forgery in the 2010 article “From Relic to Replica?”) REA also falsely claimed that the bogus DiMaggio rookie jersey was a replica “made to commemorate DiMaggio’s rookie season.”  REA also stated that the jersey would never “fool an expert” despite the fact that it did, in fact, fool MLB and the Hall of Fame at the time it was purchased from Halper.

Hunt Auctions does not mention in its current lot description the existence of the controversial Halper-DiMaggio 1951 ring and note that has been the subject of several articles published in the New York Daily News and described in detail in the biography written by Richard Ben Cramer Joe DiMaggio: The Hero’s Life.

In the biography Cramer described the DiMaggio ring thefts and the ring sold by Mastro and Barry Halper:

“In the house, Barry showed Joe everything he had–like Joe’s ‘51 World Series ring.  Joe had traded that away to an L.A. hotelier, in exchange for lodging.  Barry had bought it from that guy’s son.  Now, Barry offered to give the ring back to Joe.  But Joe didn’t want it.  He signed a paper for Barry, affirming that was his ring.”

The account Cramer described in his book was based solely on an interview with Halper with no input from the then-deceased DiMaggio, and after the book was published DiMaggio’s attorney Morris Engelberg disputed the information Halper had conveyed to Cramer claiming that all of DiMaggio’s rings were stolen, not “exchanged for lodging.” Both Cramer and Engleberg, however, did not dispute the fact that the Yankees presented DiMaggio with a set of replica World Series rings at Joe DiMaggio Day in 1998.  Cramer claims in his biography that the presentation of the replica rings were not George Steinbrenner’s idea, but rather Halper’s.  Halper had fallen out of favor with DiMaggio in the mid 90s and the presentation was what Cramer describes as an attempt by Halper “to get back with Joe.”

When he was 83, and recovering from a bout with pneumonia, DiMaggio described his own story about the rings to George Vescey of the New York Times who wrote:

” When I visited him in Florida a few weeks later for a five-hour interview, I noticed the gold diamond-encrusted ring glistening on the third finger of his left hand — his 1936 World Series ring, his rookie year.

”My other World Series rings were stolen,” he said.

While on a business trip in the early 60’s, he explained, his eight other World Series rings, along with some cuff links and tie clasps, were stolen from his Lexington Hotel suite. But when he was honored on ”Joe DiMaggio Day” late last season, he was presented with replicas of those stolen World Series rings, a gift from George Steinbrenner.”

This 10K ring attributed to Joe DiMaggio was sold by Barry Halper at Sotheby's in 1999.

In 1999, Barry Halper offered his alleged 1951 DiMaggio World Series ring at Sotheby’s as part of the $20 million liquidation of his collection and  the New York Daily News reported that Morris Engleberg disputed the sale:

” Halper got a nasty letter. In it, Engelberg insinuated that DiMaggio’s 1951 World Series ring, which Halper had purchased from another dealer, had been stolen. Halper says he once offered to give the ring back to DiMaggio gratis, but Joltin’ Joe declined, and instead gave Halper a handwritten note authenticating the ring as his. He told Halper that he’d given the ring away to a friend, and that it was never stolen. Engelberg’s mention of the ring is interesting, since Engelberg himself has been publicly flaunting DiMaggio’s 1936 World Series ring, the only one of nine Series rings still in DiMaggio’s possession when he died. “He gave me that ring on his deathbed,” Engelberg said Friday. “I’m never taking it off my finger.”

In 2003, Morris Engleberg wrote his own tell-all book disputing many of the claims made by Cramer in his DiMaggio biography and the New York Daily News reported:

Engelberg also accuses legendary memorabilia collector Barry Halper, a longtime DiMaggio friend and business associate, of shady dealings: Engelberg says he tried, unsuccessfully, to stop Halper from selling DiMaggio’s 1951 World Series ring after the Yankee Clipper’s death. Engelberg says the ring – and seven others later obtained by Halper – were stolen from a hotel.

“As far as we’re concerned, they were improperly sold,” Engelberg says. “They are stolen property. They are still his (DiMaggio’s) property.”

Halper declined to discuss Engelberg’s book; Cramer’s book says Halper bought the 1951 ring from the son of a Los Angeles hotelier, who got it from DiMaggio in exchange for lodging. “

In the most recent New York Post article related to the controversy, Engelberg claims that the Halper ring was one of the items stolen from Joltin’ Joe’s hotel room.

However, the ring Halper alleged was DiMaggio’s from1951 has a 10K mark as well as an engraved “Joe DiMaggio” on the inside of the ring band.  Hunt Auctions claims in its auction description of its current 14K offering, :….the 14K gold manufacture is proper with relation to actual World Series rings of the period as opposed to the lesser quality salesman sample rings of 10K consistency.”  So, was Halper’s alleged DiMaggio ring not stolen, as Engelberg claims, and rather a salesman’s sample?  Unlike the current Hunt offering,  Mastro sold Halper’s ring in 2001 with no mention that the ring had the Dieges & Clust hallmark.  Or could Halper’s ring have been a counterfeit?  Other Halper rings have been controversial, including his alleged 1927 World Series ring attributed to Babe Ruth and currently owned by actor Charlie Sheen.  (An article we wrote for Deadspin details the claims alleging that Halper’s Ruth ring could also have been either stolen or not genuine.)

Joe DiMaggio inscribed this index card for Barry Halper to serve as a letter of authenticity for the alleged 1951 World Series ring attributed to DiMaggio.

We asked ring aficionado and dealer, Scott Welkowsky, of Out of This World Memorabilia, for his opinion regarding the authenticity of both alleged DiMaggio rings.  Welkowsky has been in the championship ring business for several decades and has handled many Yankee World Series rings from the 1950 era.  After examining photographs of the ring being offered by Hunt Auctions Welkowsky said he had no doubts that the ring was an authentic Dieges & Clust ring made for the 1951 Yankees.  Welkowsky said, “With the concave cupping on the inside of the ring and the design on the outside, I have no question it is authentic from that era.  The fact that it is a 14K ring with the Dieges & Clust Hallmark also supports that it was a ring made for the Yankees.”

We also asked Welkowsky whether it could be an authentic salesman’s sample ring from the era? “Most salesman sample rings I’ve seen from that period are 10K, but I have also seen them made in 14K,” said Welkowsky.  But Welkowsky also stressed that the only way to determine if a ring was actually presented to or made for a player was to examine the name engraved inside the band.  Welkowski said, “Sample rings from that era were not engraved with player names and the engraving on this ring in these photos appears to be vintage.  The ring also looks like it was polished outside and inside, too.”  Welkowski said one of the best ways to determine if a ring is genuine is to compare it with other known authentic exemplars. In this case he compared the hand-engraving on the DiMaggio ring with the engraving on Casey Stengel’s 1951 ring which was sold by his family at Sotheby’s/ SCP Auctions in 2007.  The ring was engraved “Casey D. Stengel” in the same style as the Hunt ring and Welkowski noted that the “D’s” on both examples matched perfectly.  Welkowski, however, could not comment on whether he believed the ring was actually worn by DiMaggio or gifted to the Dieges & Clust executive.  It is quite possible that the “family history” detailed by the consignor could be true, but there is no way to be sure.

Casey Stengel's authentic 1951 World Series ring was sold for $180,000 in 2007 by Sotheby's and SCP with an LOA from the Stengel family.

We also had Welkowsky examine photographs of Halper’s alleged 1951 DiMaggio ring and he said, “This ring also looks authentic but the fact that it is 10K makes it very unlikely that it was the ring presented to DiMaggio in 1951.”  Welkowsky noted that the “Joe DiMaggio” engraving on the inside band of the Halper ring matched the hand engraving on the Hunt ring almost exactly.  ”I think both DiMaggio names were hand engraved by the same person at Dieges & Clust.  The “gg” on one ring  is a bit higher and on the other it comes closer to the edge of the bottom of the shank.  Aside from that they are almost identical.  It would be very difficult to be that close in style if it were not authentic.”  Welkowsky added, “It’s nice that it has the note from DiMaggio saying it was his ring, but its not likely his actual ring. It could have been a replacement made for him at a later date.”

Welkowski confirmed that Hunt Auctions had asked him for his opinion of the ring and in its lot description Hunt echoed his opinion stating:  ”…it is consistent in every fashion with an authentic Joe DiMaggio 1951 World Series ring.  It is also certainly plausible that this, in fact, was the only 1951 ring manufactured for DiMaggio in 1951 and was never part of the group of rings stolen from the Lexington Hotel.”

The DiMaggio ring mystery raises far more questions than answers:  Why would DiMaggio inscribe a note saying Halper’s ring was his from 1951 if he had gifted the actual ring to the Dieges & Clust executive?  Was Halper’s ring a replacement for the stolen example or a replacement for the ring allegedly gifted to the Dieges & Clust executive?  Or could it actually be the stolen ring that DiMaggio and Engelberg claimed to have been swiped from the Lexington Hotel?  We may never know.

Perhaps someone will walk into an auction house in the future with all of DiMaggio’s  missing rings minus the 1951 example.  Then, and only then, might the mystery  actually be solved.  For now, bidders in the Hunt Auction in Louisville will have to take a leap of faith and believe in the story of the family of the anonymous Dieges & Clust executive who received a substantial gift from the notoriously frugal “Yankee Clipper.”  Hunt Auctions has also announced that the consigning family will be donating a portion of the proceeds of the sale to the Joe DiMaggio Hospital in Florida. contacted both David Hunt, President of Hunt Auctions, and DiMaggio’s former attorney, Morris Engelberg,  for comment.  Hunt responded but declined comment while Engelberg did not  respond to our inquiry.  Hunt would not disclose the identity of his consignor for the Post story which reported:  ”According to one story, DiMaggio — who had several other Yankee World Series rings — passed on the first design of this particular ring. “Joe told the salesman, ‘I want something else,’ ” said Hunt.

UPDATE: David Hunt, President of Hunt Auctions, issued a statement for us this morning after this article was published:

“Simply stated, I can only comment on our ring as obviously that is the only one we are handling or that I have personally inspected. As stated in our catalogue description, it is quite clear as to the origins and history of our ring having remained in the family of the Dieges & Clust executive since it was obtained in the 1950s. Without repeating it here (only as it is lengthy) we have also laid out very succinctly within our description as to what we can guarantee about the offered ring with relation to its age and materials.”

“ I am certainly aware of the other ring but frankly given the fact it was listed as a 10K example and having been given as a gift by DiMaggio (according to the catalogue) as ordered secondarily it actually has no bearing nor relevance to this ring at all. Having not inspected it in person at all I would have no opinion as to exactly what it was or its origins but presuming their catalogue description was accurate then it can be eliminated as being an original 1951 World Series ring of the appropriate caliber and materials in comparison to other documented exemplars. That in and of itself does not at all suggest it is a “fake” but again really has no relevance to the offered ring in any fashion.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: For clarification, the catalog description for the Halper ring sold at Mastro stated: “The fact that this is a 10K gold ring, as opposed to a 14K gold ring (like most other Yankee rings of the era) leads us to suspect that this may have been a second ring ordered by Joe to give as a gift.”

UPDATE (Saturday): The 1951 DiMaggio World Series ring did not sell earlier today at the Hunt Auction held at the  Louisville Slugger Museum.  It appears the bid did not meet the reserve set by the auction house.

(Readers will be able to learn more about the relationship and feud between Barry Halper and DiMaggio in this writer’s upcoming book; Hauls of Shame:  The Cooperstown Conspiracy and The Madoff of Memorabilia.)