Breaking News

By Peter J. Nash

Jan. 24, 2013

Kerry Pinette (inset) offered the CDV on eBay. Says he's not the picker.

A Maine auction house predicts that a rare  CDV photograph of the 1865 Brooklyn Atlantics will fetch over $100,000 when its offered for sale in February.  The CDV was allegedly found at a yard sale in a moldy photo album in a cardboard box or a trunk in a woodshed or a garage by an anonymous picker who put it on eBay through another guy, then sold it to another picker who sent it to a big auction house that allegedly said it was fake.  That guy then got a refund and returned the card to the original picker who sent it as a consignment to Saco River Auctions in Biddeford, Maine.  Collectors questioned the auctioneer whether the photo affixed to the card was real, so he took it to an expert in Boston who says it likely is.  The Boston Globe erroneously called it the “first baseball card”  and the auctioneer says it’s the rarest of rare cards with only one other known to exist at the Library of Congress.  Follow all that?

The CDV-find by the anonymous antique picker could be one of  the greatest discoveries ever made in the state of Maine since Saco River Auction’s manager and ex-cop, Troy Thibodeau, was in the news when another rare card was discovered– George W. Bush’s DUI arrest record, found in Kennebunkport before the 2000 election.

Saco River Auctions has also been the beneficiary of another “amazing find” made by another antique picker in Kennebunkport this past summer.  In August, Saco River sold a group of seven consigned Old Judge cabinets, including a rare cabinet card of “King” Kelly that sold for $62,000.  Like the current Atlantic CDV find, the picker who discovered the Old Judge cards wished to remain anonymous.  The astounding finds that have made their way to Saco River Auctions, as opposed to one of the many major sports auction houses, has prompted Saco River to add this language to its website:

“Saco River Auction is continuing to garner national and worldwide press. We are quickly becoming the go-to auction hall to get seller the highest amount possible. Click here to consign today. Lightning has struck twice already…isn’t it time you help us to strike again?”

On New Years Day, Saco River struck again when they sold yet another extremely rare 19th-century cabinet card of baseball player Charlie Ferguson shot by Gray Studios in Boston as a proof for the Old Judge cabinet issue by Goodwin & Co. The Ferguson card was first sold on eBay in 2011 and afterwards collected by the FBI under suspicion of being stolen from the New York Public Library’s famous A.G. Spalding Collection.

Saco River Auctions just sold this SGC-graded Gray Studio cabinet card of Charlie Ferguson on New Years Day. The card was in the FBIs possession, suspected to have been stolen from the NYPL. The NYPL is missing at least two Philadelphia player cabinets by Gray. Outside of the 43 they still have, none were known to exist outside the NYPL until the Saco River offering surfaced.

Aside from the Old Judge cards, Saco River has only had a few significant nineteenth-century baseball consignments in its history as an auction house and it just so happens that the Gray Studio cabinet card fit the description of items known to exist exclusively at the NYPL.  The 1922 inventory of the Spalding Collection documented 45 Gray Studio cabinet cards featuring Philadelphia NL players, but only 43 remain.  Two are definitely missing and there are only a handful of legitimate non-Philadelphia players known to exist including cards of Jack Glasscock and Billy Nash.  The Ferguson card sold by Saco River is believed to be one of the two missing cards.  Oh yeah, the $100,000 CDV of the Atlantics shares something in common with that card, too, and hasn’t been mentioned in articles published by USAToday, The Boston Globe, Yahoo Sports, the Portland Press Herald and scores more via the Associated Press and Fox Business News.  It also fits the exact description of one of the items on the New York Public Library’s, “Spalding Collection Missing List.”

This is how the 1865 Brooklyn Atlantics CDV appeared when Kerry Pinette offered it for sale on eBay in June of 2012. The card appears to include an albumen image that may not have been original to its Williamson mount.

As indicated in “Part One” of this series, none of those reports revealed that the Atlantic CDV is suspected to have originated from the NYPLs  Spalding Collection, which at one time included a Williamson photograph of the same Atlantic team with the players listed in the exact same positions, left to right.  That rare card appears on the NYPL’s inventory published in the 1922 guide to the Spalding Collection.

The first reporter to cover the current offering for Maine’s Portland Press Herald, Gillian Graham, was not aware that the card was under suspicion of being stolen from the NYPL.  When she interviewed Saco River Auctions representative, Troy Thibodeau, he did not tell her about questions posed to him regarding the card’s title.  Haulsofshame.com sent a copy of NYPL’s missing list to Thibodeau before he was interviewed by Graham.  Thibodeau responded by stating, “I do not and will not believe that this card is stolen.  The card was legitimately found in far Eastern Maine in September 2012 in an old moldy photo album.”

In addition, sources indicate that the card’s title is currently being investigated by the New York office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation as part of its nearly four-year probe into the thefts from the NYPLs Spalding Collection, which commenced at the same time an article was published in the New York Times in July of 2009.

This excerpt from NYPL's "Spalding Missing List" describes the two Williamson photos once housed at the library.

In addition to Thibodeau failing to divulge the issues about the card’s title to reporters, there are now serious questions about the veracity of Thibodeau’s public statements made regarding the discovery of the valuable CDV.  On collector forum Net54, Thibodeau stated that the card was discovered by an anonymous antique picker who “listed it on eBay” and was “bombarded with emails and offers and decided to pull it down.”   Then, says Thibodeau, the picker who discovered the card and listed it on eBay, “Decided to sell the card to a gentleman who he picks with.”  Then, after it was refused as a consignment at New York auction house, Lelands, the buyer, Thibodeau says,  ”Requested his money back” and “the seller gave his partner the money back and mailed me (Saco River Auctions) the card for further inspection.”

The eBay seller who originally offered the CDV for sale last summer on eBay was Kerry Pinette, of Calais, Maine, a neighboring town eleven miles from Baileyville, where the rare card was allegedly discovered at a yard sale.  Pinette uses the name DownEast as his eBay seller handle and has most recently offered old coins and one 19th century stereoview.  Haulsofshame.com contacted Pinette at his home and confirmed that he was the eBay seller of the card but he denied that he has ever owned the card or had any financial interest in it.  Said Pinette, “I just listed it for the guy who found it and I don’t know anything about a partner or somebody buying it.”  Pinette would not divulge who gave him the card to list on eBay and directed Haulsofshame.com to contact Saco River Auctions for any other inquiries.

However, if  Troy Thibodeau’s story on behalf of the auction house is true, it was Kerry Pinette who discovered the card, ran it on eBay, sold it to his friend, (who sent it to Lelands)  then got the card back from his partner, refunded his partner’s money (when Lelands returned the card) and submitted it to Saco River Auctions, not mentioning Lelands had already returned it as a “so-called fake.”  Pinette’s denials beg the questions;  Who is telling the truth, and why would anyone fabricate or lie about these details?  Why the great mystery over who the alleged lucky picker is?

Adding to the speculation is a confirmation by a source who told Haulsofshame.com that it was Kerry Pinette who originally sent the card to Leland’s.  The source also confirmed that when Pinette sent the CDV to the auction house it was accompanied by the original photo album it was originally found in which “contained family photos that were not linked to Brooklyn or New York City.”

These two CDVs of Andrew Peck and Harry Wright were stolen from NYPL and recovered by the FBI. Each shows the defaced and altered NYPL stamp . (An unaltered stamp appears at the lower left).

The FBI has kept a close eye on the offerings of rare 19th century images, especially CDVs.  The FBIs heightened scrutiny is a direct product of its recoveries of other rare CDV photographs that were also listed as missing from the NYPLs Spalding Collection .  The tell-tale sign on those stolen CDVs were the NYPL ownership stamps which had been obscured, altered and defaced to conceal the NYPL Spalding Collection provenance.  Enough press has been generated by the current FBI investigation into the NYPL thefts that anyone in possession of one of the hundred or so rare photos still missing from the library would know that they could never sell such an item at auction without it being confiscated.

This c1860s Williamson CDV and mount was sold in January on eBay for $5.99.

The only other way to sell or dispose of such an item would be to switch the original NYPL mount, (with evidence of the theft on its reverse),  to a clean period mount attributed to the same photographer.  CDV’s from the Williamson Studios are regularly offered for sale on eBay and through numerous other outlets.  A similar Williamson mount sold on eBay this month for $5.99.

The back of the Atlantic CDV (left) appears clean and devoid of any NYPL ownership marks, unlike the reverse of a CDV of player John Goldie in the NYPL collection (right).

One CDV recovered by NYPL  featured sporting-goods king Andrew Peck and was found in 2006 in the home of collector Barry Halper, by his widow, along with other items stolen from the Boston Public Library.  Another recovered CDV pictured Harry Wright and was offered on eBay in 2000 and identified by the library as NYPL property.  The Gray Studios cabinet photo of Philadelphia player Charlie Ferguson that was sold by Saco River Auctions on January 1st also appeared on ebay in 2011 and was identified as another item possibly stolen from the NYPL collection.  After it sold for over $900, the FBI took possession of that photo to further investigate claims that the card was stolen from the library which houses the largest single assortment of Gray Studios cabinets of the Philadelphia NL team managed by Harry Wright.  Those photos were originally part of Wright’s personal archive.  That cabinet photo was sold on eBay by Henry Withers under the name HankDog1939 and was returned to the buyer by the FBI after they held onto and examined the card for close to a year.

This page from NYPLs Chadwick score books features raw cdv-sized albumen photographs of 1860s teams pasted onto a score book page. (NYPL, Spalding Collection).

The FBI has also seen evidence that shows how original albumen photographs, letters, documents, season passes and other ephemera have been wrongfully removed from Spalding Collection scrapbooks and score books with sharp objects and razors.  It is believed that other original albumen photos may also have been removed from the NYPL manuscript holdings and reattached to period mounts.  In just one score book once owned by Henry Chadwick, there are over ten rare albumen CDV-sized photographs of the Excelsior, Washington National, Mutual, Red Stocking and Chicago teams along with an ultra-rare photo of Jim Creighton.

The issue of how the actual albumen photograph is attached to the mount has been a point of contention for several high-end collectors of 19th century items.  Several collectors have also gone as far to suggest that the card may be a fake. Troy Thibodeau, of Saco River, has publicly made this claim about the card’s authenticity:

“Lelands kept the card for two months and then mailed it back(no other communication like a courtesy call) was made and the card was mailed back stating that it was fake, made by an inkjet printer. The “expert” at Leland’s claimed that the period mount it is attached and claimed the dot pattern of the mount is indicative of a inkjet printer and no mention of the actual image was made.”

Last week a source told Haulsofshame.com that Lelands’ concerns regarding authenticity were “based on irregularities, not of it being made by use of a copy machine.”  It appears that auctioneer Troy Thibodeau approached 19th century photo conservator Paul Messier with his primary goal being to prove that the photograph was an albumen print and not created with a laser printer.  That “laser-copy” claim  may not have been made by Lelands. Lelands declined comment at this time. Thus, Saco River’s selective report only deals with that singular issue and not the issues relating to whether the photo was original to the mount or whether the binder or glue was authentic for the period.  The report does not rule out the possibility that the image was re-affixed to a clean mount to conceal its possible NYPL provenance.

The CDV being sold by Saco River Auctions appears to have had a prior image affixed to it as evidenced by the remnants of binding material visible above the "Williamson" name.

Supporting these concerns, is the evidence that suggests the CDV being offered for sale may have had a prior photograph attached to the mount.  The tell-tale evidence suggesting this is visible to the human eye at the far right side just above the “Williamson” graphics.  Remnants of adhesive material appear to extend in a straight line along the right side border.  The residue is most visibly defined on the left hand corner.

The Williamson CDV mount shows evidence of another image having been affixed to the card.

One of the collectors interested in bidding on the CDV if it is legitimate is Jay Miller of Darien, Connecticut.  Miller, who is also the co-author of,  The Photographic Baseball Cards of Goodwin & Company 1886-1890, told us, “The glue to the right of the photograph on the CDV begs the question as to whether the photograph is original to the mount or was added on at a later date. Because of this, I think it is necessary to examine the binder to see if it is consistent with materials used in 1865.”  Miller added, “If it is not, then we have proved that the piece is not period. If the binder is consistent with materials used in 1865 we have not proved that the CDV is period, simply that it is less likely that it is not period.”

Miller has also noted that if it was created in 1865, the CDV would likely have a US revenue stamp on its reverse, or evidence that such a stamp was affixed to the back at one time.  Miller says, “Between August, 1864 and August, 1866 photographs were taxed, requiring a revenue stamp to be attached and cancelled on the back of the photograph.”   The current Atlantic CDV does not appear to have had one.

Haulsofshame.com consulted with another photographic expert, Gawain Weaver, head conservator at Gawain Weaver Conservation of San Anselmo, California, and presented him with several images of the Atlantic CDV by Williamson.  Weaver, who completed a two year fellowship at the George Eastman House in 2007, examined the images we provided  and said, “The images you supplied of the Brooklyn Atlantic CDV do raise questions about whether or not the mount is original to this image. However, it would be very difficult to determine this one way or the other. The darker stain or residue to the right of the image may be a remnant of a prior mounting. It can be said that CDVs do not typically show such residues, but it is not unheard of either. The print could have been mounted or re-mounted in this manner in the 1860s or relatively recently.”  As to his opinion as to whether analysis of the adhesive itself could yield a more definitive answer Weaver said,  ”Assuming that the print and mount are from the 19th century, analysis of the adhesive would be necessary to determine when the print was mounted, but it is unlikely that a large enough adhesive sample could be removed from the print for a successful analysis.”

The albumen photograph also appears to be irregular in its size, significantly shorter in length for traditional albumen images mounted on CDVs and it also appears to have been cut in an irregular fashion with the photograph extending over the Williamson mount’s interior border.  One dealer we spoke with told us, “I can’t say I’ve ever seen a CDV from a well known photographer mounted so sloppily, maybe they exist, but I haven’t seen them.  It just looks like its been re-mounted.”

A prominent collector of 19th-century photos from the Midwest went as far to send us this comment via email; ”When did Saco River auctions become the 19th century baseball memorabilia hotbed? And they sold the Ferguson cabinet? Somebody call bullshit on this already. Some auction house I never heard of sells the Old Judge cabinet find, the Ferguson cabinet, the 1865 Brooklyn Atlantics card…. (by) a bunch of anonymous pickers?  You’re not buying any of this are you?”

We contacted Troy Thibodeau to ask if he’d been contacted by the FBI and whether Kerry Pinette was in any way involved in the current sale of the card.  When asked if he would answer some questions Thibodeau replied, “No need to,” and refused to entertain our inquiry.

The NYPLs Spalding Collection features several card issues included in the "Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards." Several of those issues are almost exclusive to the library's collection, including the Gray Studio cabinets.

NYPLs head of public relations, Angela Montefinise, has kept a close eye on the investigation into the Spalding thefts but to date has been unable to comment on specifics of the case.  She responded yesterday stating, “I just got a call that the lead investigator is out till next week. So I don’t have anything right now.”

Haulsofshame.com has learned that the New York office of the FBI is currently investigating Saco River’s Brooklyn Atlantics CDV as part of the almost four-year probe into the library thefts.  Special Agent Jim Margolin, from the FBIs New York City press office confirmed that the investigation into the NYPL thefts is active and on-going, however, added, “I cannot comment on anything specific about the investigation or the item in the Maine auction.”

Margolin also said he could not comment on why the FBI sent the Gray Studios cabinet photo back to its owner to sell at Saco River after it was in the Bureau’s possession for nearly a year.  Sources indicate that it was returned because the card did not show evidence of an NYPL ownership stamp, however, not all Spalding Collection items were stamped.  The decision to send the card back was made by the US Attorney’s office and not the FBI.  Sources also indicate that despite the card’s return, neither the NYPL, FBI or US Attorney have made any admission that the Gray Studio cabinet was not NYPL property.

The FBIs Spalding Collection investigation has dragged on for close to four years, however, several significant recoveries have been made during the course of the probe.  Heritage Auctions recently withdrew Ezra Sutton’s 1879 Boston Baseball contract and Henry Chadwick’s 1894 NY Giant season pass; Legendary Auctions withdrew a rare Peck & Snyder trade card of the Cincinnati Red Stockings that was once in the collection of a reclusive collector named Abe Samuels; and the FBI has taken possession of over fifty documents originating from the Harry Wright correspondence at the NYPL as well as cabinet card photos of Harry Wright and Kid Gleason.

In the FBIs defense, the recovery of baseball relics is hardly a high priority when compared with other investigations involving murders, gangs and organized crime and the time devoted to the NYPL situation is hamstrung by those constraints.  The same New York office of the FBI looking into the Atlantic CDV and the NYPL thefts just broke up an organized crime ring of 32 mobsters, including Genovese family associate,  Carmine “Papa Smurf” Franco, as part of a multi-year investigation into organized crime’s control of the garbage-hauling industry in New York City and New Jersey.

One FBI agent all too familiar with both organized crime and the NYPL probe has said,  ”It’s easier getting information and cooperation from mobsters than from baseball card and memorabilia collectors.”

Stay tuned for part three in this series which will examine common links between these artifacts with suspected NYPL provenance….

UPDATE: Brooklyn Atlantic CDV sold for hammer price of $80,000 ($92,000 with premium) at Saco River Auctions in Maine. Buyer is Jason LeBlanc of Newburyport, Mass. LeBlanc Also Bought Old Judge Card of Billy Nash at Saco River Last Year

In a bidding frenzy that befuddled many long-time 19th century collectors, a relatively unknown 36-year-old aficionado of 19th century cards named Jason Leblanc, from Newburyport, MA., was the winning bidder of the rare c 1865 CDV of the Brooklyn Atlantics at Saco River Auctions in Biddeford, Maine. Including the buyers premium, LeBlanc dropped $92,000 on the rare CDV that received widespread media coverage before the sale and according to LeBlanc his phone has been ringing off the hook with calls from media outlets as far away as Los Angeles. In a telephone interview after the sale this evening, LeBlanc told Haulsofshame.com, “Someone said I might be bidding against Charlie Sheen, I’m just really glad I got it.” LeBlanc said its not the first time he bid in a Saco River Auctions sale and also revealed he was the winner back in August of the Old Judge cabinet card of Boston player Billy Nash. Said LeBlanc, “I wanted the Billy Nash because it was the highest graded card and that King Kelly card was just too pricey.” LeBlanc added, “I just like collecting 19th century baseball items.”

When we asked LeBlanc if he was aware that the rare Atlantic CDV he just purchased was under suspicion of being stolen from the New York Public Library’s Spalding Collection and that it fit the exact description of a missing Williamson photo of the Atlantics listed on the NYPLs original 1922 inventory he responded, “No. I have no idea. I haven’t heard anything like that at all. I just heard it was a different photo from the one at the Library of Congress.” When informed of speculation that the albumen photo of the Atlantics could have been re-mounted on a “clean” CDV mount with no trace of NYPL stamps or ownership marks and that the FBI has an open investigation into the Spalding thefts LeBlanc said, “I’d be more than glad to have them take a look at the card and check it out.”

LeBlanc also sells on eBay and recently put his Billy Nash Old Judge cabinet up for sale with a Buy-it-Now for $7,500. eBay shows that LeBlanc received 11 offers on the card and that the offering was “ended by the seller because the item is no longer available.” In his description LeBlanc said of the card, which is also under suspicion of being a missing item from the Boston Public Library, “I HAVE THE GREAT PLEASURE OF BRINGING THIS SCARCE CARD TO MARKET,” and “PLEASE KNOW THAT THIS CARD CAN BE PULLED AT ANY TIME. I DO HAVE A STORE AND MY ITEMS SELL QUICKLY.” LeBlanc told Haulsofshame.com that he plans on reselling the Atlantic CDV for a profit as well.  ”Hopefully, I can double my investment on this card,” he said.  LeBlanc indicated that his 4-year old son had some physical challenges and that the profit generated from a future sale of the Atlantic CDV could really help him.

UPDATE Saturday Feb. 9: In a report published by NPR after the sale of the Brooklyn Atlantics CDV on Wednesday, writer Tanya Ballard Brown identified Saco River Auctions auctioneer, Floyd Hartford as the anonymous “antique picker” who originally discovered the rare cdv at a yard sale in Baileyville, Maine bordering Canada.  She references and links to a New York Post article that does not mention Mr. Hartford.  Haulsofshame.com has contacted NPR to confirm the report that states:

The New York Post reports that a 148-year-old Brooklyn Atlantics baseball
card was discovered late last year in a photo album Floyd Hartford purchased
among other things at a yard sale. Initially the card was thought to be one
of two in existence since the Library of Congress has one in its collection.
It turns out, though, that the two cards are similar but not quite the same.
They were printed from different negatives.

Saco River Auctions auctioneer Floyd Hartford was named by NPR as the "antique picker" who discovered the $92,000 card.(PressHerald.com photo)

UPDATE Monday Feb. 11: NPR responded to a Haulsofshame.com inquiry about its report that Saco River auctioneer, Floyd Hartford, was the antique picker who discovered the 1865 Brooklyn Atlantic CDV at a Yard sale in Baileyville, ME.  NPR editor, Tanya Ballard Brown,  informed us this morning via Twitter saying:  ” I realize now that I was wrong! I have added a correction the post. Sorry for any confusion”  .


By Peter J. Nash
January 9, 2013

The champion Brooklyn Atlantic's of 1865.

It appeared last summer on eBay, offered by a New England antique picker as a miraculous garage find in a cardboard box–It was a rare carte-de-visite photograph produced by the Williamson Studios of  Brooklyn depicting the 1865 Atlantic Base Ball Club, the champions of America.  High-end nineteenth century baseball collectors took note of the alleged gem and within no time the listing had been removed from eBay, rumored to have been taken down by the seller who had likely received private offers for the card that could be worth more than $50,000, if genuine.  The picker probably had a better chance of finding a T206 Honus Wagner in that box or a winning lottery ticket for that matter.  This CDV of the champion Atlantics was an astounding find and a staggering rarity.  The discovery even caught the attention of the local press in the Portland Press Herald.

According to an auctioneer in Maine the eBay seller discovered the card while, “Picking through a wood shed that held old furniture and coke bottles.”  He said the card was found in a cardboard box that contained books, ephemera and a photo album.  After offering his “find” online, the seller de-listed it from eBay and, according to the auctioneer, “Sold the card to a gentlemen who he picks with.”   The sale price was not revealed and the new owner then sent it off to Lelands auction house on Long Island as a consignment that would reach most everyone interested in adding an Atlantic CDV to their collection.  However, the owner was disappointed when Lelands, after holding onto and examining the card for a few weeks, sent it back to Maine indicating they could not accept it as a consignment. In Lelands’ opinion it was a fake and when sending the card back were fully aware that if the card were real they would probably have made at least a $10,000 commission upon its sale.  Rumors circulated in the hobby that the CDV was a fake and it was quickly written off as a non-entity.

Interested observers were then blindsided when the same auctioneer, Troy Thibodeau, operator of Saco River Auctions, announced on collector forum Net 54 that the same card Lelands said was bogus had been examined by the baseball card grading company Sports Card Guarantee (SGC) and was encapsulated in a graded holder and marked “authentic.”  The auction house then announced that the card would appear in its Febraury 6, 2013, auction.  Several collectors, however, still questioned the cards authenticity and despite the fact that SGC had proclaimed it genuine, these same collectors called for an expert of 19th century albumen photography to examine the CDV and render the final verdict.  Collector Jay Miller suggested the auction house enlist the services of expert Paul Messier of Boston and the auctioneer subsequently arranged for an examination.

The Atlantic photograph was authenticated and encapsulated by SGC in direct opposition of the Lelands opinion that the card was a fake.

On January 7th, Messier issued a report to the auction house confirming that the CDV exhibited characteristics of a 19th century albumen photograph and a period Williamson mount.  The conclusion of Messier’s report revealed that additional examination (not authorized by the seller) could have rendered a more definitive opinion.  The report states:

“Based on this examination, the photograph is consistent with a 19th century albumen print. The photograph and printing on the mount are dissimilar to contemporary printing processes such as inkjet or laser printing. Additional work to confirm the process could include identification of the final image material, an assessment of paper fibers and an analysis of the binder.”

Collectors have also commented that scans of the CDV appear to suggest that the albumen photograph may not have been original to the Williamson Studios mount.  Messier’s report did not address this issue and what appears to have been a possible removal of a prior image close to the gilded Williamson identification.  Messier removed the card from its SGC-graded holder for his examination and would have been able to determine if the albumen photograph was original to the mount if asked to do so.  Messier declined comment on that issue stating he was not authorized by his client to speak beyond what is contained in his written report.

Collectors and the auctioneer might now be somewhat relieved to hear that the components of the rare card have been found by Messier to be “consistent with a 19th century albumen print,” however, this determination does not rule out the possibility the card is a forgery which utilized the albumen process.  To date, there has been quite a bit of talk as to whether the CDV is a forgery, however, in none of those discussions was it ever considered or mentioned that the card could actually be genuine and perhaps stolen from the New York Public Library’s famous A. G. Spalding Baseball Collection.

Ever since the library’s photo collection was looted of over one hundred rare 19th century baseball images in the 1970s , NYPL officials have been able to ascertain, in part, what images were lost based upon the original inventory taken in 1921 and a subsequent inventory taken in 1986.  On a document known as the “Spalding Missing List” three photographs of the Brooklyn Atlantics were determined missing and one identified specifically as having been photographed by the Williamson Studio in Brooklyn with the players listed in the exact same formation as depicted on the Maine “find.” While some observers are still unsure that Saco River’s CDV is authentic, it also fits the description of a photograph still missing from the most celebrated collection of nineteenth century baseball photography.  The missing Spalding photographs are currently the subject of an on-going FBI investigation that was commenced almost four years ago.

Original photographs of the Atlantics are rare, extremely rare.  In fact, when SABR published its 19th century review of baseball photography in 1983 it was believed that only two original photographs of the team had survived and resided in the collections of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, and the Library of Congress in Washington, DC.  In his 1983 book, Base Ball Cartes, author Mark Rucker reported that one of the photographs was previously unknown before its “discovery in a box of odds and ends at the Library of Congress.”  That photo appeared in 1997 as one of 240 objects in what the New York Times described as the LOCs “largest permanent exhibition it has ever presented.”  The LOCs Atlantic photograph was displayed with an impressive group of artifacts including Thomas Jefferson’s rough draft of the Declaration of Independence.

This card found at the Library of Congress was a prototype for a CDV produced by the Williamson Studios in 1865.

The Baseball Hall of Fame’s copy was a mammoth print also shot by Williamson and mounted to a board designating in ornate calligraphy that the Atlantic’s were “Champions of America: 1864, 1865, 1866, 1868, and 1870.”  The LOC image was a smaller prototype for a Williamson carte-de-visite of the club produced in 1865.   It wasn’t until 1993 that another mammoth image by Williamson surfaced and appeared for sale at Sotheby’s which stated incorrectly in its lot description; “Only one other photo exists of this team, it was found in the Library of Congress and now resides in the National Baseball Library.”  The Sotheby’s photo was offered with an estimated value of  $50,000 to $60,000.

The mammoth plate Atlantic photo at the HOF (left) features a Williamson photo of the team nearly identical to the mammoth plate offered at Sotheby's (right) in 1993, identified on the mount, "Atlantic Ten."

The Sotheby’s photo was purchased by 19th century collector Corey Shanus and it is apparent that neither Shanus nor the NYPL conducted any serious due diligence to determine if the Sotheby’s offering was one of the missing items from the Spalding Collection.  Sotheby’s had already highlighted the rarity of the photo and considering two photos of the Atlantics fitting the description of the auction offering were documented on the NYPL missing list, red flags should have been raised.  The fact that Sotheby’s and its auction consultant, Bill Mastro, made no mention of the rare photo’s provenance should also have intensified the scrutiny.

This excerpt from NYPL's "Spalding Missing List" describes the two Williamson photos once housed at the library.

After the NYPL conducted its 1986 inventory it successfully located one mammoth albumen photograph identified as missing on its list, an 1868 Atlantic team portrait that was also used on the famous Peck & Snyder trade cards in 1870 and 1871.  The photograph was clearly marked on the reverse as the former property of Hall of Famer Henry Chadwick who had left a large portion of his personal archive to his employer A. G. Spalding in 1908.

This 1868 mammoth plate photo of the Atlantics once owned by Henry Chadwick still resides at the NYPL

The missing NYPL photo designated, “Atlantics of Brooklyn. “Champions of 1864, 65, 66, 68, 70,”  appears to be another mammoth photo by Williamson and fits the description of both the Hall of Fame and Sotheby’s examples.  The Sotheby’s example, now owned by Shanus, was likely matted in its frame because the board was damaged similar to the 1868 Atlantic photo still found at the library.  At the time of the auction, Sotheby’s declared that the photo was housed in its “original frame with new matting” despite the unknown provenance.  Recently Shanus has revealed that his photograph is a salt print, not an albumen print.  The photograph was included in the 2005 book Smithsonian Baseball and also appears to have undergone a significant cleaning.

This mammoth Matthew Brady photo of the 1869 Red Stockings is also missing from the NYPL but was photographed in the 1920s before it was stolen.

Adding to the probability that the Sotheby’s offering is NYPLs property is the fact that several other mammoth-sized prints have been documented as missing from the Spalding Collection including similar over-sized team portraits of the Cincinnati Red Stockings, Forest City, Knickerbocker and Excelsior Base Ball Clubs.  Most of these photos feature a wash or paint silhouetting the figures against a uniform grey background.  This process was used for publication purposes and also for inclusion in Spalding’s 1911 book, America’s National Game, as well as for a 1920s book series known as The Pageant of America, and its fifteenth volume, The Annals of American Sport, published in 1929.

This Williamson photograph of the Atlantics appeared on page 154 of Spalding's "America's National Game" and appears to be the reverse image of the Sotheby's/Shanus example. A tear or damage on player Pratt's arm (far right) is visible.

Spalding’s 1911 book offers an image of one of the missing Atlantic photographs on page 154 and it appears to be a reverse-negative image of the Sotheby’s/Shanus example.  It is the reverse of the exact same pose featured on the mammoth print of that example and not the Hall of Fame’s mammoth copy.  The fading of the image on the legs of catcher Frank Norton appears to match the Sotheby’s/Shanus example.

This image of the Sotheby's/Shanus mammoth plate shows the same fading on catcher Norton's leg (bottom right) that is found on the reverse image illustrated in Spalding's 1911 book. The section of Pratt's arm (far left) which exhibits damage in the ANG image is covered by the modern matting in the frame.

In contrast, the same type of fading (or vignette) on the Hall of Fame example begins on the carpet and not on Norton’s leg.  When both images are examined side by side, it appears that they are the same image, only in reverse due to the reverse printing of the negative used to create the image in Spalding’s book.

This cropped wire photo documents that NYPL loaned this photo of the Atlantics to the Museum of the City of New York for the 1952 exhibition called, "Play-Ball."

In 1952 the New York Public Library loaned one of its Atlantic photographs to the Museum of the City of New York for a baseball exhibition called “Play Ball.”  A promotional wire photo produced in conjunction with this event is found at the National Baseball Library and reveals several interesting facts including a designation of the photograph that identifies it as “reversed.”  The cropped image of the NYPL original itself appears to be the same photograph used in Spalding’s book and the same as the Sotheby’s/Shanus example with the same imperfections.  It is interesting to note that the area that exhibits a tear or crease on player Pratt’s arm (far right on both Spalding’s image and the 1952 wire photo) is covered by modern matting and obscured on the Sotheby’s/Shanus example on the far left.

This CDV of the 1865 Atlantics was found in a garage but fits the description of one of the missing photos in the NYPLs Spalding Collection.

The other missing photo on the NYPL list is designated specifically as a Williamson photograph and the inventory entry lists all of the players in the exact positions as found on the newly discovered CDV  found in Maine.  From left to right it lists players, “F. Norton, Syd. Smith, Pearce, Start, C. Smith, Chapman, Selwin (Galvin), P. O’Brien, Crane, Tom Pratt. Brooklyn, Williamson.”

What are the odds that the Sotheby’s/Shanus Atlantic photograph is one of the NYPLs two missing Atlantic photographs?

Now that Paul Messier has issued his report is it more likely that the Saco River CDV is authentic and quite possibly the other missing NYPL example?

An alternate pose of the Atlantics shot by Williamson is illustrated in another photo housed at the NBL in Cooperstown (top) and another with a Brown Brothers credit (bottom).

Adding to the mystery (and confusion) related to the Williamson Atlantic portraits is an alternate pose depicting the team which is also found at the National Baseball Library in Cooperstown as well as another example credited to Brown Brothers.  This version of the team portrait shows player Pratt holding up a baseball in his hand.

Haulsofshame.com informed Saco River Auctions that the Atlantic CDV being offered for sale fits the description of a photograph believed to have been stolen from an institutional collection and also forwarded a copy of NYPLsMissing List” for its Spalding Collection.  Auctioneer Troy Thibodeau responded, “We fully intend to sell this card(barring law enforcement intervention) on February 6 2013. I do not and will not believe that this card is stolen. This card was legitimately found in far Eastern Maine in September 2012 in an old moldy photo album. I understand that you love to create controversy and make waves in the hobby, but we are not going to partake in this or give you a forum to play your games.”

When asked if the man who found the card was available for an interview Thibadeau indicated that both the seller and the individual who discovered the CDV wanted to “remain private and out of the spotlight.”

Sources indicate that the FBI is aware of the Saco River Auction Atlantic CDV offering.  On January 1st the auction house sold a Gray Studios cabinet of Philadelphia player Charlie Ferguson that was previously sold on eBay and afterwards was in the possession of the FBI under suspicion of being a card stolen from NYPL.  The FBI returned that card to the owner after it was determined the reverse of the card did not have traces of an NYPL stamp.  In that same auction Thibodeau offered what he advertised as an “original” 19th century photograph of the Boston Beaneaters in an old frame.  When Haulsofshame.com asked for a scan of the back of that alleged original, the auctioneer revealed that the photo was a modern reproduction.  The auction house withdrew the photo before its New Years Day sale.

Stay tuned for part II of the “Long-Lost Atlantics of Brooklyn”………….


By Peter J. Nash

Jan 2, 2013

PSA/DNA just released its “Most Dangerous Autographs of 2012″ list on the company website and although Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig were the top choices for forgers of vintage signatures, Ty Cobb, “The Georgia Peach”, was curiously absent from the list. Wonder why?  All three Hall of Famers are headliners on our own “Worst Authentications” of 2012, the year that kicked off with reports that eBay’s Fraud Division had stated in a Dec. 11, 2011, email: “…PSA sucks…so does JSA”  For the first time, JSA-certified items were removed from eBay, however, it appears that  eBay has since dropped the ball on monitoring the leading TPAs.

After viewing this list, we hope collectors, dealers, auctioneers and law enforcement (specifically the FBI) will ask themselves, “If the TPAs can get these wrong, how can we believe anything they certify as authentic?”  In its current report, PSA/DNA claims to have authenticated 350,000 autographs in 2012 and 3 million since 1998.  The company has come a long way since Bill Mastro and MastroNet Inc. crowned PSA/DNA king of a third-party authentication system developed to shield auction houses from liability if they sold fakes.

Earlier today, news came from Chicago that Mastro has cut a deal with the Feds and on February 12th is scheduled to plead guilty to fraud and will supposedly confess to trimming the now infamous T206 Gretzky-McNall Wagner card.   Mastro’s confession will likely implicate PSAs card grading division as being complicit in that fraud and speculation in the hobby is that Mastro’s plea-deal could extend to the autograph authentication division that was first launched with Mastro employee Steve Grad and Jimmy Spence at the helm in the late 1990s.  How many of the LOAs issued by them since then are worth the paper they are printed on?

Adding to our Top 10 Stories of 2012, here are…..

THE WORST AUTHENTICATIONS of 2012:

1.   The $300,000 Babe Ruth Single Signed Record-Breaker PSA-10:


According to papers filed in Chicago, Bill Mastro will plead guilty to fraud on February 12th and confess that he altered the infamous PSA-8 T206 Honus Wagner card and implicate authentication giant PSA as a company founded upon a fraud.   PSA also hitched its reputation to this alleged gem-mint single signed Babe Ruth ball in the late 1990s when the company started authenticating autographs.  The ball has appeared on the cover of the Collector’s Universe stockholders annual report and in numerous company adds heralding its expertise.

PSA and the ball have close ties to Bill Mastro as the ball was previously sold by MastroNet in a 2002 auction for $61,000. The ball was authenticated by James Spence and Steve Grad of PSA/DNA and by Mike Gutierrez for MastroNet. The same ball first appeared at auction in 2000 and was sold by David Hunt of Hunt Auctions in Exton, PA for a then-record price of $72,600. The record price surpassed the sale of another very similar Ruth ball sold by Mastro Fine Sports for $55,660.

At the time the record was broken Mastro told the Maine Antique Digest, “We set the table when we sold a Babe Ruth ball for over thirty thousand dollars back in June at our West Coast auction, and that was considered miraculous. Then a ball sold at Sotheby’s Barry Halper sale in September for nearly fifty thousand, and that set the table for us to get almost sixty thousand last November and more than sixty thousand for our Ruth and Gehrig ball. There is a frenzy for these big-ticket mint Babe Ruth balls. Does a better one exist? Probably. There is always a better one.”

The Hunt auction description said their Ruth single-signed ball “was acquired on the set of the Babe Ruth Story in California and given by Claire Ruth to a United Artist publicist. It is being consigned by his family and will be accompanied by a detailed letter of provenance from the family along with a letter of authenticity from Michael Gutierrez.” The ball was sold with what was said to be its original Reach box as well.

After selling multiple times and escalating in price to the stratosphere this record-breaking Babe Ruth single was sold at Heritage in 2012 for over $300k.

Despite the alleged letter of provenance, autograph expert and author Ron Keurajian, told us, “In my opinion the signature on that ball is not genuine.”

Stephen Koschal, first questioned the authenticity Ruth ball and noted its inclusion on the cover of the CU annual report in a report published on Autograph Alert in 2011.

Authenticator and dealer Richard Simon has long been suspicious of the ball and told us this past summer, “I always wanted to have it in hand, for a real examination, because I was never sure if it was good, I am not saying it is not good, I just would like to see it in person and study it.”

The record-breaking Ruth ball, along with several others, has long been the subject of controversy and has been part of our continuing Operation Bambino investigations.

2. The $110,000 Alleged Babe Ruth Blazer from the early 1920s Appears to be a Well-Executed Forgery Exposed in the 1990s:

Despite being identified by hobby experts as a long-standing forgery dating back to the early 1990s Heritage wrote this in its October 2012 catalog:

“……none have surfaced that could compete with the aesthetics of this one, which properly garners a 9/10 autograph grade from the folks at PSA/DNA, and a rather stingy 8/10 for the ball itself, presumably based mainly on the slightest hint of toning well clear of the ball’s focus. Our catalog imagery should properly indicate that the ball presents effectively “as new” from any reasonable viewing distance. The “Wilson Official League” ball convincingly mimics the appearance of period Official models with its two-toned stitching, another factor adding to the gorgeous early aesthetics.”

These 1996 offerings from California Sports Investments were all forgeries created by an East-Coast forger and were all authenticated by Jimmy Spence at one time. The Wilson ball allegedly signed by Ruth and Gehrig illustrates that the 2012 Heritage offering was a forgery executed in the same hand.

Other Wilson balls featuring identical forgeries appeared for sale on the West Coast at California Sports Investments in 1996 along with other forgeries featuring 1919 Chicago Black Sox signed balls with Joe Jackson and single signed balls for each of the “Eight Men Out.”  One of the Ruth forgeries on a Wilson ball was coupled with a forged Lou Gehrig signature and was sold at Mastro Auctions.  These highly skilled forgeries fooled many until the forgers work was viewed in its entirety in the mid-1990s.  Despite the exposure of this forgers work, Heritage’s current consignment director, Mike Gutierrez, included this exact same ball in his 2005 MGA auction sale.

After Hauls of Shame questioned the Ruth ball’s authenticity during the auction it failed to reach Heritage’s hidden reserve price and did not sell.

Our conclusion: Considering the skill that Ruth forgers have exhibited over the past two decades, how sure can anyone be that their JSA or PSA certified Ruth ball is authentic?

3. Rotten Peach: The Laser Copy Ty Cobb Cut Signature That Got Certified and Encapsulated by PSA:

This one appeared for sale on eBay and was discovered and identified as a forgery by author and Cobb expert Ron Keurajian who actually owned the authentic original government postcard that the forger used to copy with what appeared to be a laser printer.  Keurajian had posted the Cobb signature as an exemplar in an article he had written online several years earlier.  The man who submitted the autograph to PSA and defended its authenticity, Donovan Aribe, has since vanished from the autograph scene.

4. “Candy Cummings” Throws a Curve to PSA/DNAs new “Autograph Facts”:

After making a big deal out of what a great resource its “Autograph Facts” section would be for collectors visiting the PSA website, 19th century pitcher, “Candy” Cummings helped illustrate the deficiencies in the company’s expertise and skill in evaluating rare signatures.  PSA/DNA included the alleged exemplar above as an ultra-rare and authentic Cummings signature that would likely command over $25,000 if genuine.  However,  the signature is bogus and is merely a secretary’s handwriting from the office of the Buffalo Base Ball Club in the late 1870s.  The secretary wrote Cummings’ name on the back of an actual letter he sent to the club and also on the group of additional letters posted below-all in the same hand as the alleged Cummings signature.

What’s even worse is that PSA also posted an example of Cummings’ authentic signature (below) from one of the actual letters he sent to Buffalo—and they still got it wrong.  The secretarial style signature appears on three existing Cummings letters addressed to the Buffalo BBC.

Above is the authentic Cummings signature that also appears on the PSA site.  Its hard to believe a company holding itself out as a leader in the industry and trying to protect collectors couldn’t ascertain which example was written by the man alleged to have thrown the first curve-ball.

5. The Ty Cobb Single Signature Blazer on a Little League Ball Made After He Died

This ball appeared pre-certified by PSA and JSA on Heritage Auction Galleries website and we reported it for Deadspin: ” The auction house and the authenticators PSA/DNA and JSA seem to have overlooked the “Leather Cover” stamp on the ball manufactured by Wilson. Baseballs used to be made strictly of horsehide until the mid 1970s when companies changed over to cowhide. Sean Flynn from Wilson told Deadspin that the company’s baseball manufacturing engineer confirmed that the ball allegedly signed by Cobb in 1959 was actually “made in the 1970s.”

Despite the fact that Heritage took the ball as a consignment and posted it on its auction preview calling the Cobb ball, “Perhaps the finest we’ve ever encountered,” Chris Ivy claimed that the ball had never been examined by any experts. This despite the online auction listing stating, “Full LOA from PSA/DNA. Auction LOA from James Spence Authentication.”  As a result of the embarrassing episode for the auction house,, Ivy stated, “We intend to change our policy and figure out a way to add the “authentication tags” only after authenticator’s visits.”   It should be noted that in-house Heritage employee, Mike Gutierrez, is an authenticator for JSA.

6.  The Cy Young Autograph Signed on a Giles NL Ball Made After He Died.

Ball expert Brandon Grunbaum of Historyofthebaseball.com exposed this gem as a fraud after it was certified authentic by Pawn Stars authenticator Drew Max.  The signature, alleged to have been signed by Young, was signed on a National League ball manufactured when Warren Giles was league president and after Young had passed away.  Case closed.

7.(Tie) David Wells’ Single-Signed Christy Mathewson Ball and Huggins & Scott’s “Magical Mathewson Ball”

SCP Auctions offered this questioned Christy Mathewson ball with an LOA from only one of the major TPAs and did something remarkable for an auction house; they stated that another company said they would not authenticate it.  SCPs catalog disclosed:

“Includes a full LOA from JSA.

NOTE: This ball was submitted to PSA/DNA who rendered an opinion of Not Authentic.”

PSA said it was a forgery and JSA certified it.  This was, to the best of our knowledge, the first time an auction house has publicly disclosed such information to bidders.

One thing about Mathewson PSA and JSA can agree upon is their belief that bookplates for Mathewson’s book “Won in the Ninth” were actually signed by the Hall of Fame pitcher.  Several copies with JSA and PSA LOAs were sold at auction in 2012 despite the fact that expert Ron Keurajian has repeatedly illustrated that the signatures are secretarial and not in Matty’s hand.  Several auctioneers including Mike Heffner, of Lelands, agree with Keurajian’s opinion.

8.  The Walter Johnson “Train-Wreck” Single-Signed Ball Removed From eBay by its Fraud Division:

This ball showed up on eBay with a sticker price of almost $80,000 as a Buy-it-Now.  The 80-grand was due in part to the fact the ball was accompanied by an LOA from Jimmy Spence of JSA.  But eBay’s fraud division disagreed with Spence’s determination when they took the listing down due to “authenticity issues” with the ball.

From our story:

“The Walter Johnson autograph appearing on the alleged 1920s to 1930s baseball that was offered for sale doesn’t resemble the authentic signature of the Hall of Fame pitcher nicknamed “The Big Train.” When shown the image of the ball appeared on the eBay website expert Ron Keurajian told us he was already aware of the ball and noted that the Johnson signature was “apocryphal”. He added, “In my opinion the signature on that ball is a forgery.” Hauls of Shame shares that opinion about the signature that lacks the fluidity and feel of Johnson’s handwriting and appears to be labored and executed in a not-so-steady hand.
The signature, originally authenticated by JSA in 2010, was touted by the seller as “The Finest Walter Johnson Single Signed Baseball in the Hobby JSA,” however, it appears that the eBay seller may be another victim of authentication malpractice committed by a third-party authenticator.”
The Johnson ball appeared on SportsMemorabilia.com for $108,798.64 with its JSA LOA.

9. The David Wells Negro League Signed Baseball With Alleged Sigs of Josh Gibson and “Candy Jim” Taylor:

This Negro League baseball from 1942 allegedly signed by Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige and a host of other obscure and rare legends from the Homestead Grays and K.C. Monarchs was offered in 2012 by SCP Auctions who wrote: ”Our research indicates that this ball was most certainly game used from one of those teams classic battles during the 1942 season.” But the ball is clearly not an official Negro League baseball from that time period and several experts we spoke with doubted the authenticity of all the signatures on the ball. The signatures appeared to be at odds with exemplars from a period document signed by Homestead Grays players that is part of the Newark Public Library’s “Effa Manley Collection”and document from that collection cast further doubt on David Wells’ alleged 1942 Negro League signed baseball. The document is a receipt for payments made to players for the 1944 Negro East-West all-star game. All of the players and coaches receiving payments for that game had to sign the document, including “Candy Jim” Taylor who is featured on the ball.  The Taylor signature and others discovered at the library by author Ron Keurajian suggest that the Wells ball is a forgery.

10. The Lou Gehrig “Stunning Jet-Black Forgery” Certified Authentic by JSA and PSA:

This Lou Gehrig ball was sold at Legendary’s 2012 sale and was billed as a “stunning jet-black high-grade signature” of the Iron Horse.  It is jet black, but it is a labored and slowly drawn signature that bears all the characteristics of a non-genuine Gehrig.  With its two fancy LOAs from JSA and PSA it sold for close to $30,000.

The letters collectors receive with their auction purchases bear the signatures of authenticators James Spence and Steve Grad who formerly worked together at PSA after Bill Mastro and MastroNet first formulated and instituted the third-party authentication process in 1999.

11. Rocky Marciano’s $25,000 autographed Boxing Gloves are Withdrawn from Auction after being Exposed as a Forgery by Boxing Expert:

Boxing collector and expert Mark Ogren of FightToys.com posted the alleged Rocky Marciano gloves on Net54 and revealed that the signature was nothing close to Marciano’s handwriting and actually resembled the handwriting of a restaurant owner named Mario, who had written a second letter of authenticity in addition to the LOA from PSA and Steve Grad.  Auctioneer Ken Goldin withdrew the gloves from the sale.

12.  The Cooperstown Baseball Centennial Program Featuring Genuine and Fake Signatures:

Forged 1st Day Covers and programs have proliferated the marketplace and a good example this year was Robert Edward Auctions (REA)offering of this program featuring forgeries of several Hall of Famers.  Experts told us the signatures in black or dark ink executed by Clark Griffith, Cy Young and Postmaster Farley were genuine, but all of the signatures in blue were not authentic, including Ty Cobb, Eddie Collins, Tris Speaker and Connie Mack.

Experts also identified another similar Induction program riddled with HOFer forgeries that sold for close to $10,000 at Heritage in May.  Heritage noted the item came with a: “Full LOA from PSA/DNA. Auction LOA from James Spence Authentication.”

13. The Lou Gehrig “Not-So-Sweet-Spot” Ball Authenticated by JSA and PSA:

Author and expert Ron Keurajian goes into detail about his opinion of Lou Gehrig balls signed on the sweet spots of period baseballs in his new autograph handbook. Keurajian notes in his Gehrig signature study:  ”A common forged ball (of Gehrig) is signed on the sweet spot with an overly large signature.  Gehrig signed in a confined hand.  A genuine signature is small and takes up very little space on the sweet spot.”  The Heritage ball had a big signature and fetched a big price of over $44,000.  Keurajian adds, “The forged Gehrig signatures, on the other hand, take up the entire sweet spot and are twice as large as a genuine signature.  If you examine one of these balls with a large signature on the sweet spot, study it carefully as it is likely a forgery.  Most Gehrig single-signed balls are signed and inscribed on the side panel.”

14.  The PSA Authenticated and Slabbed Rocky Marciano 3×5 that wasn’t Rocky Marciano:

This egregious error was also spotted on eBay by boxing expert Mark Ogren, of FightToys.com The signature is clearly that of Rocky Graziano, but had a clipping of Rocky Marciano’s name attached to it.  Looks like PSA looked at the Marciano clipping and not the signature itself, or maybe they looked at the signature and their skills are just that bad.

The signature above is a genuine Marciano and  even novices could not mistake the encapsulated signature for that of the champion.

15.  PSA and JSA Authenticator Herman Darvick Fools Pawn Stars with Fake” Shoeless Joe” Jackson; PSA Shoots Down His LOA:

Herman Darvick sold a few bogus Joe Jackson cuts a few decades ago and at some point authenticated a book allegedly signed by “Shoeless Joe” on the inside page.  The Jackson signature is an obvious forgery and it allegedly fooled Rick Harrison of the Pawn Stars who purchased it for $15k.  If you think Pawn Stars is real too, Rick lost 15 big ones because of Darvick’s shoddy work and worthless LOA (below).

When the book was taken to PSA, the company Darvick works for shot down the opinion of their own authenticator and his  LOA deeming the Jackson autograph non-genuine.  The PSA letter to the Pawn Stars (below) states, “we regret to report that your item did not pass PSA/DNA authentication.”

16.  JSA Certifies as Authentic a Vaudeville Contract that was never signed by Cap Anson, but maybe by his Daughters:


These Cap Anson contracts have been around for decades ever since Bill Mastro acquired them from the Anson family.  While that trove included many authentic Anson signatures to use as exemplars, somehow Jimmy Spence and others have authenticated these documents despite the fact that Anson never signed on the dotted lines of these theater contracts.

Authentic Anson signatures like the one above illustrate that the theater contracts bear no resemblance whatsoever to Cap Anson’s handwriting.  SCP sold the contract for over $3,000.

17.  A Very Shaky (Restored) Mel Ott Single with LOAs From Jimmy Spence and PSA:

This Mel Ott ball was sold in Heritage’s Fall 2012 sale with LOAs from JSA and PSA as well as a disclaimer that the ball had been “restored” with several previous signatures removed from the ball.  Every expert we consulted with stated they could not certify this problematic ball as authentic.

18. A Jimmy Spence Authenticated $29,999 Single-Signed Goose Goslin Ball is Removed by eBay’s Fraud Division:

The eBay fraud division’s withdrawal of the $29,999 Goose Goslin single signed ball was due to “authenticity issues.”  James Spence has a checkered history authenticating signatures alleged to have been signed by Goose, especially yellow Hall of Fame plaques as reported in the past on Autograph Alert.

19. Couple Buys A Pile of Crap Authenticated by Drew Max at “Pot o’ Gold” Auctions in Vegas:

A couple contacted Hauls of Shame earlier this year to report their purchases of several Drew Max LOAd items including baseballs allegedly signed by Ruth, Mathewson and others.  The couple paid over $25,000 at several Pot O’ Gold sales before they realized they were buying outrageous fakes that even PSA or JSA wouldn’t authenticate.  All of them, however, came with the Drew Max seal of approval, including the horrid Christy Mathewson forgery illustrated above.

20.PSA/DNA Says Autographs Peyton Manning Signed For His Own Foundation Are Fakes:

Here’s a letter we received from a reader and his experience with PSA and his Peyton Manning autographs:

“What I am about to tell you is almost unbelievable. I am authorizing you to publish this under one condition. I want you to just state the facts. I think when someone just slams a company and bad mouths them the reader loses interest. I have two goals ultimately. One to make sure that collectors out there know that Mr. Gretzky and Mr. Manning are actually signing fan mail that they receive. Two, to draw attention to the fact that PSA is not trained to indeed judge if any autograph is indeed authentic or fake.

I have been collecting autographed cards for many years. I recently acquired several Peyton Manning autographed cards by way of the PeyBack Foundation. I also have sent to Wayne Gretzky and received several cards, books, pucks, etc back from him c/o of his business.

In April, I sent in 20 cards to PSA to be authenticated. 6 Peyton Manning, 13 Wayne Gretzky, and 1 Michael Jordan. In May I received back my submission. PSA concluded that 19 of the 20 items I sent in were not authentic. The only one that was “real” was one of the Wayne Gretzky cards.

I sent off an email to the PeyBack Foundation regarding how I was very upset about receiving back cards signed by someone other than Peyton. To my surprise I received a response from Pat Breen at the PeyBack Foundation. She/He said they were Peyton’s personal assistant and that no one other than Mr. Manning signed the cards that were sent into the foundation. I was floored. She was even so kind as to send us two autographed 8 x 10 photos.”

BONUS: THE BEST AUTHENTICATION OF 2012:

The Ed Delahanty signed envelope from 1903-

After authenticating a signature not signed by Big Ed Delahanty and also misspelled D-e-l-e-h-a-n-t-y, JSA finally got it right and authenticated a genuine postal envelope executed in the hand of Hall of Famer Ed Delahanty.  The envelope appeared at Legendary’s auction at the 2012 National and the Delahanty signature was spelled correctly.  The postal cover addressed to Delahanty’s wife in his hand originates directly from the Delehanty family and even has a period notation written by Del’s wife indicating that the cover was written in her husband’s hand.

Contrary to its prior authentication of the misspelled secretarial signature executed by Delahanty’s manager, Billy Shettsline (above), JSA appears to have come to its senses and actually certified the genuine article.  Of course, both PSA and JSAs mistakes led Hunt Auctions to sell the misspelled example for over $35,000 and a similar c.1899 Philadelphia signed team sheet also executed by Shettsline.  JSAs website says that “Delehanty” letter is still “under review.”

The authentic Delehanty autograph, however, only sold for half the price of the bogus, misspelled “Delehanty” secretarial letter.  Maybe that’s because Legendary Auctions noted in its lot description that although JSA issued an LOA, Steve Grad and PSA declined to write an LOA for the rare item.  Legendary said:  ”Although PSA/DNA could not render an opinion due to the paucity of Delahanty exemplars, this extraordinary offering is accompanied by the provenance of a full LOA from JSA.”

It should also be noted that back when the non-genuine and misspelled “Delehanty” letter sold for $35,000 Hunt Auctions was given for comparison purposes a copy the very same signed envelope as well as Delahanty’s personal betting ledger for 1903.  The ledger contained over forty pages of the sluggers genuine handwriting.