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By Peter J. Nash

June 28, 2013

PSA/DNA includes a bogus signature of Cap Anson on its "Autograph Facts" page. The cabinet card shown is also stolen from the NYPL's Spalding Collection.

Last winter a monumental PSA/DNA error was exposed after the authentication company included a bogus signature of Hall of Famer Smilin’ Mickey Welch as an exemplar on its online “Autograph Facts” section intended to aid and educate collectors.

In addition, it was also determined that the signature displayed wasn’t just bogus (it was a period identification not a signature) it was also written on an 1888 Stevens cabinet photo that was stolen from the New York Public Library’s famous Spalding Collection.

The Welch card had a handwritten numeral “9″ written on its reverse and the remnants of a defaced NYPL ownership stamp. The “9″ (written by researcher Charles W. Mears) signified the card was once housed in “Box 9″ of the library’s photo archive before it was stolen in the 1970s along with several other Stevens cabinet photographs. After the report was published, PSA/DNA removed the Welch signature and cabinet card from the Welch “Autograph Facts” page.

In our report we illustrated all of the NYPL Stevens cabinet photographs including the missing Welch example and four cards that had been recovered by the NYPL of Buck Ewing, Roger Connor, Mike Tiernan and Danny Richardson.  Another missing Stevens cabinet of Cap Anson was illustrated and when displayed together all of the examples revealed that none of the cards were signed by the players, rather the cards featured fancy script period identifications of the subjects on the backs of the Stevens cabinets.

This illustration was included in our report from early 2013 showing that a Mickey Welch cabinet card was stolen from the NYPL and that it was not signed by Welch. The handwritten names on the cards are identifications, not signatures.

Despite having illustrated that all of these signatures are non-genuine, a review of the current PSA “Autograph Facts” page for Adrian “Cap” Anson reveals that PSA/DNA has also included the handwritten identification of Anson on the stolen cabinet card as an authentic exemplar of Anson’s signature.

The Cap Anson cabinet photo illustrated by PSA on its "Autograph Facts" page has the same handwritten "9" written on its reverse along with a script identification of Anson, not a signature. The larger space circled in red shows evidence of the removal of the NYPL ownership stamp which can be seen more clearly on the PSA website (inset).

The handwritten identification was clearly placed on the Anson card by the same person who placed the identifications on the Welch, Connor and Ewing cards.  It is definitively non-genuine, and stolen property to boot.

Vaudeville theatre contracts alleged to have been signed by Cap Anson appear on PSA's "Autograph Facts" page and have been sold at auction with PSA LOA's.

The PSA problems on Anson, however, do not end with the identification on the stolen Stevens cabinet photo.  PSA also includes a signature exemplar found on a vaudeville theatre contract which is also a non-genuine example.  The contract bears a secretarial signature signed by someone other than Cap Anson and has long been considered non-genuine by a majority of dealers and collectors until PSA/DNA began issuing LOA’s for the questioned documents.

In the early 1990’s, Bill Mastro purchased a large cache of documents from Anson’s granddaughter including genuine personal correspondence written by Anson to family members as well as many secretarial examples executed on documents related to Anson’s work as a Chicago City Clerk.  Also purchased in the group were the secretarial signed vaudeville contracts which Mastro sold in his auctions as authentic as early as 1997 in a Mastro & Steinbach sale.

Most of the Anson documents (authentic and secretarial) were purchased from Anson's granddaughter by Bill Mastro. Mastro sent the letter (above) to this writer in the early 1990's revealing his purchase and the discussion of the "various styles" of his signature.

Some of the Anson secretarial signatures exhibit similarities to authentic examples, but they are easily identified by experts and dealers familiar with Anson’s very distinctive handwriting.  Author Ron Keurajian examines Anson’s signature in his book, Baseball Hall of Fame Autographs: A Reference Guide, and notes that “Anson signed many letters and documents as city clerk.  The majority are secretarialy signed.”  Keurajian also comments on the theater contracts saying, “The contracts are signed “Captain Anson and Daughters.”  I have seen two of them.  Both were signed by someone other than Anson.”

On the left appear known authentic signatures of Anson ranging from (top to bottom) 1871 Rockford BBC contract (Illinois Hist. Society); 1883 (Chicago BBC Pay receipt), 1894 (Halper Hotel ledger), 1897 (ALS), 1906 Chicago clerk (ALS); 1906 (Herrmann Papers, NBL); and 1906 signature on card. To the right illustrated are known non-genuine and secretarial examples of Cap Anson's signature including (top to bottom:1889 Membership to Marlybone Cricket Club; NYPL Stevens cabinet photo; (2) c 1906 Chicago city court documents; (3) 1918 theater contract signatures; City Court document cut-2004 Topps card.

To illustrate Keurajian’s point it is useful to examine known genuine Anson signatures side-by-side with known secretarial examples.  One noteworthy characteristic that appears to be found in almost all Anson signatures, regardless of the era in which it was signed, is the way Anson never closed his “o” at the end of his last name.  The slant ans spacing between letters is also very consistent throughout his lifetime.

Upon close review, it is our opinion and the opinion of several experts we consulted with that the alleged signature on the stolen NYPL cabinet photograph and the alleged signatures on the 1918 theater contracts were not executed by Cap Anson.  The prevalence of flawed authentications of Anson secretarial signatures is best illustrated by a 2004 Topps cut signature card featuring a non-genuine Anson cut from one of the Chicago City Clerk documents purchased by Bill Mastro.  The non-genuine signature sold for close to $5,000 on eBay in 2004.

An authentic cut signature of Anson was used for an Upper Deck trading card (left). A non-genuine Anson secretarial signature was used for a 2004 Topps Tribute-Cut Signature Edition trading card. The bogus signature cut from a Chicago court document sold for $4,504 on eBay in 2004.

Considering our prior report about the alleged Mickey Welch signature on another stolen Stevens cabinet and PSA’s removal of that item from its “Autograph Facts” page, we can only surmise that Joe Orlando and Steve Grad actually believe the signature is an authentic Anson.  Other PSA authenticators like Mike Gutierrez have even written letters of authenticity stating as much in the past.  In 2005, Gutierrez certified the signature as authentic for his own MGA authentication company.

For the Anson signature on the NYPL’s Stevens cabinet to be authentic, the identifications and inscriptions on all of the other Stevens cabinets at NYPL would have to have been executed by Anson as well, for every single one is written in the same hand.  A comparison of each of those examples of handwriting illustrates this assertion definitively.  None of the cabinet photos bear the signatures of the players depicted.

The alleged Cap Anson autograph authenticated by PSA was written by the same person who inscribed all of the NYPL Stevens cabinets as evidenced by the distinctive "C" found on the reverse of each cabinet photo. The evidence strongly suggests the person who inscribed the cards was not Cap Anson.

The key to identifying the hand that executed each inscription is found in the distinctive capital “C” which is found in the alleged Anson signature and every other Stevens cabinet from the NYPL Spalding Collection.  While PSA/DNA or Mike Gutierrez may argue that the writing on the back of the Anson cabinet is his actual signature, that opinion  would have a better chance of being embraced if the other Stevens examples did not exist.  It is likely PSA would argue that there are points of similarity in the Anson inscription and some authentic exemplars, but when examined in the totality of the multiple inscriptions it is clear that the handwriting bears no resemblance to the actual hand of Anson which can be examined thoroughly in surviving letters and correspondence.

PSA’s authentication of the Anson secretarial signature and its continued support of its flawed opinion suggests that the authentication company continues to present counterfeit items as legitimate because prior sales were based upon a PSA opinion.  Admissions of errors by the authentication company would likely result in a chain reaction of unhappy buyers and sellers requesting refunds and other relief via litigation.  Sources indicate that PSA continues to support problematic opinions to protect its bottom line and its relationship with big clients like eBay and PSA advertisers who operate the major auction houses.

Back in 2011, a report was published on this site alerting collectors that the Anson cabinet photo was stolen and asking anyone with information about the current whereabouts of the card to contact us.  The article,Wanted By The FBI: Cap Anson, also reported that the signature on the card was not an authentic Anson and included an image of Mike Gutierrez’ LOA from 2004.  Reports that the stolen Anson cabinet is still in private hands illustrates how ineffective the FBI’s four-year investigation into the NYPL thefts has been.

Albert G. Spalding’s Stevens cabinet card featuring his pal Cap Anson is the quintessential hobby “hot-potato” and its journey through the hobby will be chronicled further in this writer’s upcoming book which will shed additional light on how this baseball treasure has passed through the hands of Spalding, the NYPL, Rob Lifson, Barry Halper, George Lyons, Lew Lipset, Walter Handelman, Mike Gutierrez, Dave Kohler of SCP Auctions and two others who returned the card to sellers when they found out the card was stolen. Those two parties were told the cabinet card was to be returned to the NYPL.  Only the person currently in possession of the card knows if additional names can be added to this “Who’s Who” list of hobby notables.

We asked NYPL President Tony Marx and Director of Media Relations Angela Montefinise if the stolen Anson cabinet has been returned to the library by the FBI or any other party.  Late yesterday, Montefinise responded, “I am working on it right now.”

By Peter J. Nash
June 20, 2013

So-called experts Steve Grad and Jimmy Spence battle it out over one of the greatest muffs in authentication history.

Self-proclaimed authentication heavyweights Steve Grad of PSA/DNA and Jimmy Spence of JSA have lots of explaining to do for boxing autograph aficionados now that they’re engaged in a battle of opinions over a controversial Rocky Marciano letter which was consigned to the current auction at Lelands.

The letter appearing as lot 110 in the Lelands catalog was just withdrawn last night by the auction house even though it has a JSA sticker affixed to its reverse representing its alleged authenticity and attesting that Marciano signed the letter on what appears to be the boxer’s official stationary and letterhead. Lelands’ removal is likely related to the withdrawal of a similar letter on the same stationary back in March of 2012 by Paragon Auctions.  In its lot description Paragon specifically noted, “JSA has informed us that these letters are secretarial.”

Asked about the withdrawal, Josh Evans, of Lelands said, “I just don’t feel comfortable.  I’d rather err on the side of caution.”  Evans said he first learned of the controversy from a client a few days ago.

JSA’s determination that the document was not actually signed by the boxing champ who hailed from Brockton, Massachusetts, is at odds with Spence’s own prior authentications and numerous sales of similar letters sold at auction with accompanying letters from Steve Grad and PSA/DNA, including another current auction offering on eBay. But boxing autograph expert Travis Roste has recently determined that the alleged Marciano signatures are not even secretarial and that the letters themselves are bogus and feature fantasy commentary attributed to Marciano voicing his opinions on Muhammed Ali, Sonny Liston and others.

PSA/DNA illustrates the bogus Rocky Marciano autograph as an authentic exemplar.

What is astounding, but by no means surprising considering PSA/DNA’s track record, is that Steve Grad and PSA President Joe Orlando feature one of the bogus Marciano signatures on the company’s “PSA Autograph Facts” page as an authentic Marciano exemplar. So, in a nutshell, JSA is battling its own contradictory opinions, while PSA/DNA marches on blindly promoting a forgery as a genuine signature on an item that has sold on average for over $2,000.  Travis Roste told us, “There’s a lot of people who bought those letters who are going to want refunds.  What’s Joe Orlando going to do?”

He might not do much, as PSA has recently ignored other monumental blunders including an authentication of an alleged photo and autograph of Baseball Hall of Famer Jimmy Collins.  Despite a report illustrating definitively that the man featured in the PSA-authenticated photo is not Jimmy Collins and that the alleged signature on the photo was misspelled “Jimmie” instead of “Jimmy,”  PSA/DNA has continued to display the item as an authentic exemplar on the PSA Autograph Facts page. The company’s inaction in removing and correcting its flawed authentication is now being viewed as PSA engaging in what some see as outright fraud with intent since PSA has full knowledge they are deceiving their customers and the general public.  PSA did remove non-genuine signatures of Smilin’ Mickey Welch and Candy Cummings after exposed them in additional reports, however, PSA has continued to misrepresent the bogus Jimmy Collins photo as the real-deal.

A suited-up Alfred E. Neuman (center) resembles the real Jimmy Collins more than the bogus Collins photo (left). PSA head Joe Orlando (right) continues to fraudulently represent that the non-Collins photo is authentic.

Travis Roste provided us with several authentic examples of Marciano’s signature from his website and they starkly contrast the signatures featured on the alleged letters being sold to collectors as legitimate examples.  When compared side by side it is evident that the questioned letters exhibit a more uniform look spanning over the period of an entire decade while the authentic versions show changes over time in Marciano’s signature and exhibit certain characteristics that are not found on the letters.

Illustrated above on the left are authentic Marciano signatures (including contracts and legal documents) ranging from 1959 to 1969 (top to bottom. To the right are examples of the questioned Marciano signatures on the "Reinmuth Letters" ranging from 1960 to 1969 (top to bottom).

One of the most prevalent differences between the authentic examples and the signatures on the questioned letters is the way the ending “o” in “Marciano” is constructed.  After examining a large group of letters Travis Roste told us, “You look at the end of the “o” in Marciano in the fakes and they are all the same, they meet up perfect with the circle. In the real Marciano’s, a lot of them flip over the top back to the left.  You don’t see that even once in ten years of the signed letters.” Another element that is problematic relates to the formation of letters in his first name “Rocky.”  Roste added, “In all the fakes, the “o” and “c” in Rocky are super small, 1/10 the size of the capital “R.”  Some are barely visible but in real Marciano signatures, as shown, the “o” and “c” are normal size, about 1/4 to 1/5 the size of the capital “R” in Rocky. And all the fakes over the ten year purported period are all very small and all look the same. This is a huge red flag.”

We agree with Roste and are of the opinion that all of the Marciano signatures on the Reinmuth letters were executed in a hand different than that of Rocky Marciano.

Beyond the actual signatures, the problems with the letters extend to the factual content and even the identity the recipient himself.  All of the questioned letters are dated between 1961 and 1969 and are all addressed to an alleged writer named William H. Reinmuth Jr. from a magazine called “Sports Quest.”  In 2011, a selection of the letters made their way to John Cameron the author of the biography Redemption: The Life and Death of Rocky Marciano.  On his website, Cameron first said he thought the letters were “remarkable, offering Marciano’s own insights into his career” but soon after thought that “there is something about them that sits wrong.”  Cameron could not verify the authenticity of the letters because he could not verify the source.  Cameron could not confirm the existence of “Sport Quest” and in relation to Reinmuth could only verify that the address on the letters did exist.  Cameron even asked Rocky Marciano’s brother if he had heard of Reinmuth or the magazine and was told by Marciano that the letters “may not be legit.”

PSA and JSA have been authenticating the Marciano-Reimuth forgeries for years. To the left is the letter just pulled by Lelands and to the right is a PSA LOA issued in 2006 for a similar letter sold in 2013 at Juliens Auctions.

On his blog in 2011, Cameron wrote, “If these letters are fakes, then the author knows his stuff for on the surface the contents seem to shed little light on Rocky himself, yet with a little digging, the information is not that remarkable, most can be culled from research, biographies, interviews and the like.”  Our own research reveals that a William H. Reinmuth was a professor of Chemistry at Columbia University and died in 1983 at the age of fifty-one.  The New York Times reported that Reinmuth was survived by “his wife Joan, a daughter, Amy, and two sons, Jared and Kriston.”  In one of the suspect letters Marciano wishes Reinmuth a Happy New Year in 1967 writing, “May you, Connie and little Eric enjoy.” contacted Cameron for his reaction to Leland’s pulling the Marciano letter from its current auction and the author said, “Just to let you know, I dug as deep as I could into these letters and I do not believe they are genuine.”  Cameron added,  ”Another thing that made me seriously contemplate the authenticity of these letters was the letterhead on each.  Sure, Rocky had paper with a letterhead, it was his trademark in correspondences to writers and journalists. I have seen several letters from Marciano to other journalists plus some private correspondences and the letterheads on these are not the same as (those) purported letters, plus over the years the letterhead was prone to change, whereas those on the letters, regardless of claimed date, remained constant.”

Considering the serious problems with the handwriting itself and the questions regarding the authenticity of the source and the identity of the recipient, William Reinmuth, how could PSA/DNA and JSA have authenticated so many of these dubious documents? How could Jimmy Spence of JSA determine that they were “secretarial” letters rather than outright forgeries?  The situation is reminiscent of the determination of Spence and JSA that a Babe Ruth letter accompanying an alleged lock of Ruth’s hair was a “non-malicious secretarial” when it was, in fact, an outright forgery which matched another Ruth forgery found on Barry Halper’s famous 500 Home Run Club signed sheet.  The sheet featuring the forged Ruth signature was sold at Sotheby’s in 1999 by Rob Lifson and Halper for over $57,000, while the bogus hair and the letter authenticated by Spence was sold by Lifson and Robert Edward Auctions in 2007 for $38,000.

Despite being notified of their error, PSA still displays a bogus signature of boxer Bob Fitszimmons (bottom left) on its "PSA Autograph Facts" page (right). A genuine Fitszimmons (top left) bears no resemblance to the PSA certified fake.

The ineptitude of Spence and JSA assisted Lifson in selling bogus Babe Ruth hair to a customer who put his faith in Spence’s opinion just as another bidder had when Lifson and Robert Edward Auctions sold one of the forged Marciano letters in 2006 with a JSA LOA for $2,610.  That letter was also authenticated by Steve Grad and Mike Gutierrez for PSA/DNA.  PSA has a history of authenticating boxing forgeries as evidenced further on its PSA Autograph Facts page where the company also illustrates a forged/secretarial signature of boxing champ Bob Fitzsimmons as an authentic exemplar.  An outspoken critic of PSA, Travis Roste has shown publicly that the signature on the website is not genuine and was executed by the boxers wife, but PSA and Joe Orlando have ignored that evidence and have continued to present the bogus signature as authentic.  The non-genuine signature bears no resemblance whatsoever to other authentic signatures also appearing on the PSA Autograph Facts page dedicated to Fitzsimmons’ autograph.

Considering that PSA’s Steve Grad is the new authenticator for the History Channel show Pawn Stars, it would be interesting to see what he would say now if one of these letters walked into the Las Vegas store.  Will PSA and Grad admit they have made astounding authentication blunders spanning over several decades or will they commit fraud as they have in the cases of the company’s authentications of the bogus Jimmy Collins and Bob Fitzsimmons signatures (just to name a few)?  Since both PSA and JSA have authenticated so many of the bogus Marciano letters already, the revelation that they are forgeries will surely have collectors asking auctioneers and dealers for refunds and compensation.  The entire episode will also serve as additional evidence for agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation who have been keeping a close eye on the business practices of both of the embattled authentication outfits.  In addition to instances of “authentication malpractice” and mistakes, the FBI has spoken to several dealers and collectors who allege that both PSA and JSA have also committed outright fraud and have engaged in racketeering.

One hobbyist who asked not to be named summed it up like this, “I used to think that they were innocent mistakes, but its becoming painfully obvious that these mistakes are intentional, which crosses the line from stupid to illegal.”

Another collector said, “This Marciano mess shows that PSA and JSA just don’t know what they’re doing.  They’re either not examining the items at all or they are just exposing their lack of skill.  They are not experts.”

UPDATE (Sat. June 22): has obtained copies of several of the forged letters from Rocky Marciano to William Reinmuth and here are some excerpts revealing more about the content:

“My opinion is that Liston took this kid Clay too lightly and didn’t respect his ability in any way.  In the fight game you can never do this.  No matter how much any opponent bragged or yelled before our fight I never took him for granted.  Maybe Liston learned something the other night that could help him in the rematch.  Take care and Keep punching.”- February 28, 1964

“To me a man’s religious choice is his own personal decision and should stay that way.  I will tell you that I was as shocked as everybody else by Clay being so publicly loud about it.  I don’t agree with the way he uses an opportunity to promote his religion and an upcoming fight all at the same time.  I believe that just like politics and religion, a fighter shouldn’t use his popularity and fame to try and spread the word and influence others about his religious beliefs.  It should be kept separate from fighting.” – January 9, 1967

“You are right about the growing public disgust for Clay regarding his decision not to fought in the “White mans’ army.”  Yes I did take offense at that and some of his other statements……..I spoke with Joe Louis again the other day and he told me that he reminded Clay that he wound up as better and prouder American as a result of his hitch in the army.  He said that Clay just went on about not being treated equal in his own country and that he wouldn’t take part in killing on foreign soil and that he would fight on this soil so that his people would be recognized as equals here.” -May 16, 1967

“Received Ali’s letter yesterday regarding his situation.  He asked if I would be willing to write a letter of support for his Judge at the upcoming court date.”-September 19, 1967

“Received a call from the great Mickey Mantle yesterday and he had me doubled over laughing.  He said I should have held out for more money and that I should have taken less money as long as I would go down in the history books as having a win over Ali.  But you know that Mickey has a way of putting things in his own hysterical way!”- May 24, 1969

Above is a selection of some of the the forged Marciano letters that have appeared for sale at public auction.

By Peter J. Nash
June 13, 2013

This 1948 letter sent by HOFer Joe Tinker to Hall President Paul Kerr sold for $4,800 at auction but is believed to have been stolen from the NBL in Cooperstown.

The archives of the National Baseball Library are immense and include over 2.5 million items ranging from the 19th century paychecks of ballplayers like Mike “King” Kelly to the day to day correspondence between Hall of Fame officials, ballplayers and ballplayers’ relatives.

Over the years Hall of Fame librarians and executives have attempted to track down everything from memorabilia to cemetery plot documents in order to compile player files that contain as much information as possible for researchers and historians to utilize in their work. Whenever an item would come to the library related to a particular player it would undoubtedly end up in that players file for all to see.

Napoleon Lajoie’s relatives sent letters regarding the proper pronunciation of his last name; Ty Cobb’s relatives sent in documents about their grandfather’s career as a Georgia politician; Lou Gehrig’s widow sent letters about moving her late husband’s remains to Cooperstown; and lots of Hall of Famers sent thank you notes and requests to Hall of Fame Presidents and officials like Ernest Lanigan, Sid KeenerBob QuinnPaul Kerr and Ken Smith.

Ty Cobb wrote to Paul Kerr about travel plans for Induction Day while Joe Tinker thanked him for his “beautiful plaque.” “Home Run” Baker apologized for missing an Induction Day due to illness while “Wahoo” Sam Crawford confirmed that he and his wife would arrive in Cooperstown on a Monday before the 1957 Inductions. Most all of the correspondence that was received at the Hall’s New York City and Cooperstown offices was date stamped “RECEIVED” and afterwards made its way into some of the 16,000 general player files housed in the National Baseball Library. Although these documents were placed in the library files by dutiful historians and librarians like Lee Allen and Cliff Kachline, it appears that the only ones remaining in the archives today are the documents with relatively little monetary value.  Meanwhile, the more valuable documents featuring the signatures and autographs of Hall of Fame inductees are gone—vanished from the files.

As part of our investigation into the multi-million dollar thefts of documents and photographs from the National Baseball Library we only had to look at completed auction sales to see where they all went.  Since the early 1990s these very letters, all property of New York State the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, have been sold off by several dealers and auction houses.  A 1948 letter written by Joe Tinker to the Hall sold for $4,800 at Legendary Auctions in 2008.  In the letter Tinker expressed his gratitude for his Hall of Fame plaque and said, “My heart will still be with the Hall of Fame.”

Huggins & Scott is offering a 1946 letter sent by HOFer Nap Lajoie to the Hall of Fame requesting postcards (left). A Horner photo of Lajoie was stolen from the HOF library and sold at auction with the HOF ownership marks defaced.

Another one of those documents is currently being offered by Huggins & Scott Auctions which also recently sold several items believed to have been stolen from the Hall’s Frederick Long Papers Collection.  This time they are selling a 1946 letter sent by Nap Lajoie to the Hall requesting some souvenir plaque postcards.  Lajoie writes: ”Hall of Fame: Cooperstown N.Y.-Please send me cards for the amount of enclose checks would like some of the brown cards if you have them.”

Shouldn’t someone at Huggins & Scott have asked, “How did a letter addressed to the Hall of Fame from a Hall of Famer get out of the Hall of Fame?”  In other cases shouldn’t auctioneers have asked, “Hey, how could a letter sent to the President of the Hall of Fame regarding Hall of Fame business and date stamped as received by the museum end up in an auction?”  Did the auctioneers and authenticator Jimmy Spence of JSA ask these questions before this document was entered into this sale?  Apparently not.

A letter sent by HOFer "Wahoo" Sam Crawford stamped "Received" by the HOF in 1957 was sold by Mastro in 2006 (left) but appeared first in a 1994 "Mr. Mint" auction. Alan Rosen (top right) sold a group of letters addressed to the HOF including the Nap Lajoie letter in the Huggins & Scott sale.

The letter currently up for sale and the others previously sold at auction were not consigned to the sales by the family members of the Hall Presidents and executives, either.  In fact, the consignors and sellers of these items can show no provenance whatsoever related to the documents which all appear to have been swiped from the Hall of Fame files at some time in the 1980s as part of a massive heist of Hall history.   The main targets of the thefts were the NBL’s August Herrmann Papers archive; Ford Frick and National League Papers; Frederick Long Papers and the internal files of the institution itself.  Even player photo files have been looted as evidenced by a $20,000 Nap Lajoie Horner cabinet card that was offered for sale recently by Heritage Auction Galleries until we published an article at Deadspin identifying the stolen artifact.

Hall of Famer Ty Cobb was known as a prolific letter writer and the Cooperstown files were once filled with scores of missives sent from the “Georgia Peach” to Paul Kerr and other Hall Presidents including Stephen C. Clark.  Cobb letters written to Kerr (some several pages long) have been appearing at major auctions for decades and chronicle Cobb’s travel itineraries for Induction Day, his health problems and his plans to bring his young grandsons to Cooperstown.  The Cobb letters sent to Kerr have sold for thousands of dollars at public auctions including Memory Lane, Mastro, Lelands and Hunt Auctions.  One of the earliest appearances of a Cobb letter to Kerr appeared as Lot #6 in Mike Gutierrez’ 1996 “World Series Auction” and also included Kerr’s carbon copy letter to Cobb from the Hall of Fame files in the Hall’s New York City office.

In 1996 a Ty Cobb letter to HOF President Paul Kerr (along with Kerr's carbon copy answer) was sold by Mike Gutierrez with his own LOA.

In 1989, it was Gutierrez who sold auctioneer Josh Evans of Lelands a Babe Ruth autographed photograph that was stolen to from the National Baseball Library and had the Hall of Fame accession number on the reverse covered with white-out.  The incident kicked-off an FBI investigation into thefts at the Hall and Gutierrez became the prime suspect having also been accused by a person who accompanied him on a trip to the library with wrongfully removing documents from the Hall’s August Herrmann Papers.  The anonymous eyewitness told the hobby newsletter The Sweet Spot and Josh Evans that he saw Gutierrez “steal a Nap Lajoie letter from the (August) Herrmann archive.” Evans has said that the witness described how Gutierrez,  ”Would take ten original letters, photocopying them, returning nine originals and putting one original and nine photocopies in his briefcase.”

Ex-Hall of Fame library employee Bill Deane has said in a prior report, “After Tom (Heitz) brought it to the attention of the brass, they said  (Gutierrez) is not allowed here.”  The ex-Hall of Fame official we spoke with stated that Gutierrez was banned from the National Baseball Library but the Hall refused to file charges or follow through with prosecution.  At the time Hall officials had no idea how much material had been stolen from the library, including the letters to Kerr and other officials.

In 1994, Alan "Mr. Mint" Rosen sold a small group of documents addressed to the HOF and officials Paul Kerr and Ernest Lanigan.

Another significant group of these Hall of Fame documents appear to have surfaced in a 1994 SCD telephone auction conducted by Alan “Mr. Mint” Rosen.  In his February 28th auction Rosen featured letters written to Paul Kerr from “Home Run” Baker in 1961, Sam Crawford in 1957 and “Kid” Nichols in 1949 and another 1946 letter addressed to Hall historian Ernest Lanigan from Joe Tinker.  Rosen also sold the same 1946 Nap Lajoie letter that Huggins & Scott is currently offering in their online auction.  In his lot description Rosen noted the scarcity of Lajoie letters which he thought were, “Certainly worth more than a Jordan rookie.”

The letter written to Lanigan by Joe Tinker has superb historical content and in the auction description Rosen called it, “A fabulous letter that sends chills up and down my spine every time I read it.”  Tinker tells Lanigan that he can not locate several trophies he had won since “most were given to my boys” and in addition to describing how he started playing ball in Kansas in 1889 for $35 a week he added, “I feel highly honored to be voted into the Hall of Fame along with my two pals, Evers and Chance.”  The Hall of Fame files do still retain other letters written to Lanigan who regularly corresponded with players for biographical and statistical information in the capacity of the Hall’s historian.  One such document that is still in the NBL files is a letter from Hall of Famer Hugh Duffy stating his belief that his Boston Nationals of the late 1890s were, “the greatest club ever put together–barring none.”

Another large group of twenty letters addressed to Kerr were sold by Richard Galasso Auctions in 1994 including letters written by Tom Yawkey, Billy Evans, Clark Griffith and one lot including twenty letters written to Kerr as Hall president from various MLB team executives and the Commissioner’s office.

The letter from Joe Tinker to HOF historian Ernest Lanigan (left) was stamped "Received" at the Hall of Fame offices in 1948 but it sold in a Mr. Mint auction in 1994. Still in the HOF files are many other letters to Lanigan like the one from Hugh Duffy (right).

According to the NBL’s ABNER database, the library still retains correspondence sent to Museum officials from Hall of Famers.  A 1966 letter to Hall Director Ken Smith from Jackie Robinson shows he was unable to attend an Induction ceremony and a 1947 letter from Clark Griffith to President Stephen C. Clark thanked him for a birthday card.

The letter (above, left) written by "Kid" Nichols to HOF President Paul Kerr sold at auction in 1994. The letter to the right is also adressed to Kerr from Cy Young's neighbor offering to sell the HOF Young's jewelry. The letter is stamped "Received" and is currently part of the NBL archive.

When Stephen C. Clark died in 1960, Hall secretary and long-time Clark Estates employee, Paul Kerr, was named President and assumed that position until he retired in 1977.  Over the years Kerr received correspondence from all sorts of people connected to the game of baseball and others who were related or acquainted with ballplayers and had artifacts or objects  the museum desired.  Looking through the general player files in the National Baseball Library there are hundreds of letters addressed to Kerr dealing with everything from acquisitions of artifacts to day to day Hall business.

The NBL files include hundreds of letters sent to Hall official Paul Kerr including one from an attorney investigating moving the remains of Lou Gehrig to a crypt in the Museum and other letters to Kerr from Gehrig's widow, Eleanor. (National Baseball Library, Cooperstown, NY.)

Strangely enough, the more desirable and valuable letters from the Hall of Famers he interacted with, including Ty Cobb, are no longer found in the Cooperstown files.  Examples of letters to Kerr still found at the Hall range from offers of Cy Young’s jewelry from one of his neighbors to missives from Lou Gehrig’s widow and her attorney contemplating an offer to actually move Gehrig’s cremated remains from a cemetery to a proposed crypt in the museum at Cooperstown.

HOF Presidents and Directors (l to r): Stephen C. Clark; Paul Kerr; Ken Smith; & current President Jeff Idelson

Added to the growing population of documents which appear to have been stolen from the NBLs Herrmann, Frick, National League and Long collections, the internal documents addressed to the Hall of Fame presidents and officials make the scope of the 1980s heist of the Cooperstown archive even more remarkable. In light of the clear and convincing evidence, the question that must now be asked is what other donated materials outside of these collections have been looted as well?

We asked dealer Alan “Mr. Mint” Rosen if he recalled where he got his stash of Hall of Fame documents for his 1994 auction and he responded, “That was 20 years ago, I have no idea.”

Huggins & Scott VP, Josh Wulkan, says the Lajoie letter he is currently selling came “from an estate of a long time collector who passed away.”  This past February the auction house revealed that it was selling the collection of former employee Barry T. Malkin who died in October of 2012.  Sources indicate that the Lajoie letter is from Malkin’s collection and that Malkin likely acquired the letter in the 1994 Mr. Mint auction or from a more recent purchaser.  Lajoie letters have been known to sell in range of $2,000 to $5,000.  When asked how Hall of Fame correspondence ended up in private hands or if he knew of the Hall of Fame selling their internal documents in the past, Wulkan declined to answer.  Recently, Wulkan also failed to provide any answers regarding the provenance of two lots in his last auction which appear to have been stolen from the Hall’s Frederick Long Collection.

Hall of Fame spokesperson, Brad Horn, declined comment and current Hall President, Jeff Idelson, was unavailable for comment and travelling on business in California.

An advanced collector who is also a customer of Huggins & Scott told us, “I don’t know why they don’t just pull it, its addressed to the Hall of Fame for Christ’s sake.   It should just be stamped “stolen” on it.  Why do they even take something like that on consignment?”

UPDATE (June 13 9:30AM): Huggins & Scott VP, Josh Wulkan, responded in regard to the Lajoie letter and our report regarding the consignor and said, “The collection was not from Barry Malkin. His collection was sold in February.”

UPDATE (June 14 12:00AM): The Napoleon Lajoie letter suspected to have been stolen from the Baseball Hall of Fame was not withdrawn from the Huggins & Scott auction and sold earlier this evening for a hammer price of $2,100.

Earlier today, another Huggins & Scott employee contacted and took issue with the inclusion of the name of the deceased collector identified in our report by sources as the former owner of the Lajoie letter.

At approximately 2PM on Wednesday we asked Huggins & Scott VP Josh Wulkan via email if the Lajoie letter was the former property of the deceased collector identified by our sources yesterday but Wulkan did not respond to our inquiry.  Wulkan did respond, however, at 9:10AM after our story was already published on Thursday morning to inform us that the deceased collector identified in our report did not own the Lajoie letter.  Wulkan claims the letter was owned by another long-time collector who was also recently deceased.  We updated our report with that correction at 9:30AM. Explaining why he did not respond to our inquiry on Wednesday Wulkan said,  ”I was traveling all day yesterday and the WiFi on the plane was not working.”

By Peter J. Nash

June 6, 2013

Alleged expert, Steve Grad, of PSA/DNA brings his skills to History Channel's hit show Pawn Stars this month.

Steve Grad may be the new on-air autograph authenticator for the History Channel’s hit show Pawn Stars, but a few decades ago he was better known for chasing down celebrities for their autographs and for working in the mail room for Federally indicted hobby big-wig Bill Mastro at Mastro Fine Sports Auctions in Chicago.

Grad actually started his career in radio as a sidekick known as “Psycho Steve the Slob” on “Mancow’s Morning Madhouse” show on WRCX 103.5 FM in Chicago.  After quitting Mancow’s show in 1996, Grad had another short stint on the One-On-One Radio Network but left the broadcasting business to establish his own autograph and sportscard business.

Grad’s career as a dealer, however, was also short-lived and highlighted by his removal from the floor of the 1998 National Sports Collectors Convention in Chicago.  Grad was accused of attempting to sell forgeries from a push-cart and according to an eyewitness account was escorted from the Rosemont Exhibition Center by convention security.  When asked about the incident in a court ordered deposition related to a 2006 lawsuit filed against Bill Mastro’s auction house, Grad did not deny the incident happened but instead stated he did not recall being ejected from the show.

In 1999, Grad gave up his business and went to work for Bill Mastro in his auction house mail room focusing on cataloging and research and in no time the hobby-kingpin was grooming Grad as an in-house autograph authenticator.  Grad worked with other alleged experts like Mike Gutierrez and Jimmy Spence examining items submitted to Mastro for his blockbuster auctions. In a short time Grad, himself, was considered a full-fledged expert by Mastro and by 2002 moved on to work exclusively for Mastro’s preferred authentication company, PSA/DNA.  By 2004, Grad was still authenticating Mastro catalog material including lots like this one:

Steve Grad Autographed Celebrity 8 x 10 Photo Collection (59)

Most of today’s hobby enthusiasts know Steve Grad in his current role as an autograph authentication expert for PSA/DNA. Very few people in the hobby know Steve in his past role as a very aggressive young man who haunted hotel lobbies, train stations, sporting and concert events, getting leading Hollywood and sports personalities to sign items for him (lying, pleading, begging… you name it, nothing is out of bounds when in-person signatures are ultimate goal). These 59 signed 8″ x 10″ photos are among some of Steve’s favorites. All are NM to NM/MT photos (49 color and 10 b/w) with bold “9-10″ Sharpie signatures. Seven of the photos are professionally framed and matted. Highlights include: Bob Hope, Jimmy Carter, Shirley Temple, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Milton Berle, Phil Hartman, Clayton Moore (Lone Ranger) and Charlton Heston. LOA from James Spence & Steve Grad/PSA DNA.

Steve Grad authenticated his own signed 8 x 10 collection for a Mastro auction in 2004.

With an accompanying Letter of Authenticity (LOA) issued by himself and his PSA authenticating partner, Jimmy Spence, the auction lot sold for $1,730.  Mastro’s lot description suggests that Grad acquired every one of the signatures himself, so, the LOA was a no-brainer.  It’s not known what Spence brought to the table in this particular authentication.  What more did PSA/DNA need other than employee Grad’s word?

Grad’s claim that the signatures were from his own personal stash of “over 100,000 in-person autographs” was about all he really had to offer, having no formal training whatsoever in either handwriting analysis or forensic document examination.  Even Grad admits on the PSA website, “It is not an exact science.  You can’t earn a degree in autograph authentication. In this business, knowledge is acquired one way – experience. I have a passion for autographs.”

On the PSA website Grad also pays tribute to Mastro for putting him on at MastroNet without any credentials.  Says Grad, “I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Dan Knoll and Bill Mastro.  If it hadn’t been for them, I may have never had the chance to do what I’m doing today.”  Despite Mastro’s support and vote of confidence as a hobby “expert,” Grad and Spence went on to leave their own marks with some memorable instances of authentication malpractice including a “magically appearing Honus Wagner autograph” on a 1939 Hall of Fame First Day Cover offered by Mastro in 1999.  The item was first authenticated by Spence and Gutierrez for Mastro when the alleged Wagner signature was so light it was barely visible to the naked eye,  but by the time it reached another Mastro/REA sale in 2001 Spence (for PSA) and Gutierrez and Grad (for Mastro) certified and graded the Wagner signature an 8 out of 10- as bold as can be.   Was it magic or just some good-old hobby fraud?

Steve Grad poses with Bill Mastro (left). The magically appearing Honus Wagner autograph (certed by PSA) surfaced on an REA lot (center) two years after it was not visible on the same item authenticated by Spence and Grad in 1999.

Moving forward another decade Grad and Spence parted ways as Spence started his own authentication outfit known as JSA, thus leaving behind Grad as the top autograph guru at PSA’s main offices in Newport Beach, California.   Today, Grad is known as PSA’s “Principal Authenticator” and is regularly featured in company-produced video clips showing off his alleged authentication skills for current and prospective customers pointing out forgeries of Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams and other more obscure Hall of Famers. Just last year Grad appeared in one such clip called, “PSA/DNA’s Steve Grad Uses Technology To Help Expose A Baseball Autograph Forgery.”  In the video, Grad uses what PSA/DNA describes as , “different types of high-tech tools to help expose a Jesse Burkett autograph forgery.”  In the clip PSA says that, “Grad shows the viewers one technique used to alter baseballs, in hopes of tricking an unsuspecting buyer – re-painting.  In this video, Grad exposes the lengths some people will go to for a buck and illustrates why credible 3rd-party authentication is so important.”

Burkett’s signature is exceedingly scarce in any form with some of the only verifiable exemplars found in the Baseball Hall of Fame’s library as part of the August Herrmann Papers Collection. That being said, the alleged Burkett autograph appearing on the ball Grad was examining could have easily been identified as a forgery by any advanced dealer or collector without access to PSA’s “Pro-Scope” magnifier.  Grad, however, wanted to show with the aid of his apparatus that the ball the forger used was one that dated to c. 1970 and had once featured the signatures of the New York Mets, which had been concealed and painted over.  Grad wanted to prove 100% that the ball he examined was a forgery and he accomplished his goal.  He didn’t, however, plan on opening a huge can of worms in the process regarding his prior authentications of alleged Jesse Burkett autographs.

Steve Grad examines on a video monitor what he thinks is an authentic exemplar of Jesse Burkett's signature. The signature is a forgery based upon an authentic example found on an 1890 pay receipt (inset). It is clear that the forged signature on the ball was modeled after the exemplar on the genuine document.

In evaluating the Burkett forgery on the ball Grad illustrates on his video monitor what he considers to be an authentic exemplar of the 19th century star’s signature on another baseball.  It features a jet-black Burkett signature on a ball dating to the 1920’s that was sold at Robert Edward Auctions in 2007 for over $26,000 and accompanied by a PSA/DNA letter of authenticity written by Grad and Jimmy Spence.

There’s just one big problem with this Burkett ball:  The exemplar used by Grad to out the other forgery is a forgery itself.  Grad used a fake to uncover a fake, so to speak.  Grad, Spence and the companies they represent have never been able to properly identify an authentic Burkett signature and have thus helped forgers flood the market with expensive bogus signatures of the man known to his Worcester, Massachusetts, friends as “The Crab.”

The forgery sold by REA features a style of signature Burkett would have penned in the 1890's, three decades removed from the time he could have signed the c 1920's baseball which would bear a much different signature if authentic.

The Burkett forgery sold by REA was based upon a known signature attributed to Burkett dating to 1890 and found on a New York Giant payroll receipt believed to have been signed by Burkett to collect his salary.  It is the earliest known signature of the Hall of Famer who only played for the New York during one season in 1890 before he was picked up by Cleveland the next season.

The 1890-style Burkett signature bears little resemblance to his later autograph found on letters and documents dated close to twenty years after Burkett joined the Giants.  (The 1890 Burkett pay receipt is an authentic document and has been identified as an item stolen from the National Baseball Library in Cooperstown, New York.  Hall of Fame records show the document was donated in 1970.)

The placement of the 1890-style autograph on a baseball which appears to have been created decades later should have been a big red flag in the authentication process.  The alleged Burkett signature is signed on a Tober “International League” ball that was likely manufactured in the 1920s.  When asked whether the date of the ball’s manufacture was in the 1920s expert Brandon Grunbaum told us, “I would say more 1920’s, I wouldn’t say any earlier.”

Another point of reference that Grad and PSA should have utilized were authentic Burkett signatures signed in close proximity to the period the ball was manufactured.  In his book, Baseball Hall of Fame Autographs:  A Reference Guide, author Ron Keurajian includes a genuine Burkett exemplar he tracked down in the files of Holy Cross College in Worcester, Mass.  The signature was found on Burkett’s contract to coach the Holy Cross baseball team in 1917 and bears little resemblance to the alleged signature placed on the REA ball.  Considering the stark contrast, how could the REA ball ever have been issued a letter of authenticity?  The signature on the ball also differs greatly from a 1908 example of Burkett’s signature illustrated on PSA’s website in an article devoted to Burkett’s autograph published on April 27, 2004.  The other exemplar illustrated in the PSA article was the 1890 payroll receipt.

In the article, PSA also states:

“Only one lucky collector covets the sole front-signed check (name your price) drawn on The New York (Giants) Base Ball Club. Burkett actually signed this anomaly after the signature of Harry J. Boyle was scratched out. Occasionally, a signed Albertype (Artvue is impossible) plaque postcard ($2800 and increasing in value) is pried out of someone’s collection but beware of forgeries. This would be a prime target of the counterfeit hand. Signed bats, gloves and other exotic forms of signed memorabilia should be dismissed having but an astronomical chance of being valid.”

PSA left out the medium of signed baseballs as prime targets for forgery.  Both Steve Grad and his former partner, Jimmy Spence, appear to have no idea what Burkett’s authentic signature or handwriting actually looks like.  To demonstrate this point it is necessary to examine verifiable authentic exemplars of  ”The Crab.”

A study of Burkett signatures from 1890-1923: (Top to Bottom) 1. 1890 NY Giant Payroll Receipt; 2. Letter to August Herrmann 1908; 3. 1923 Letter to August Herrmann; 4. 1917 Coaching Contract with Holy Cross College.

Burkett’s signature from the time period of 1908 to 1934 appears to be rather uniquely formed and carefully constructed.  The capital “J” is formed in several different unusual forms and the last name “Burkett” shows more consistency.  In his book, Ron Keurajian describes his handwriting as “pensive” with some “shakiness” and notes that “his signature evidences average flow without a rapid appearance.”

Jesse Burkett filled out a Sporting News information questionaire (above) in the 1930s and his genuine handwriting on that document shows the increasing illegibility of his signature.

In September of 1935, the New York Times reported that Burkett was working for the State Highway Dept. “flagging traffic on a highway job” in Southbridge, Massachussets, when he was “struck by (a) car.”  Burkett was severely injured and hospitalized with what the Hartford Courant described as “severe bruises and a possibility of internal injuries.” From the time of his recovery in 1935 until his death two decades later Burkett’s signature is believed to have further deteriorated although it is very difficult to identify authentic examples.  Post-accident Burkett signatures exhibiting a very shaky scrawl are easy to replicate for forgers and numerous alleged examples have entered the marketplace with PSA LOA’s.  Keurajian notes in his book his inability to locate a Burkett signature “penned later in life.”  He adds, “It is safe to say that nearly all of the signatures offered for sale are forgeries.”

James Spence authenticated the alleged B&W HOF plaque of Burkett signed in a very tremulous hand (top, left). Steve Grad and PSA authenticated another B&W plaque (top, right and bottom, left inset) that bears no resemblence to an authentic Burkett figure from the time period these cards were issued. Mike Gutierrez authenticated a similar plaque in his own auction (bottom, right).

In its 2004 signature study of Burkett’s autograph, PSA also focused on the likelihood that Burkett could have signed B&W Hall of Fame Plaque-postcards issued by the Albertype Company.  PSA said such an acquisition would only be possible if, “a signed Albertype (Artvue is impossible) plaque postcard ($2800 and increasing in value) is pried out of someone’s collection but beware of forgeries. This would be a prime target of the counterfeit hand.”

But when it comes to the authentication of Albertype Black & White Plaques, PSA/DNA’s lack of expertise is most apparent.  The plaque postcards of Burkett were produced only between 1946 and 1952, so Burkett could only have signed them in the seven year period leading up to his death on May 27, 1953.  As indicated by PSA in its own article, “For several years, he (Burkett) was confined to his bed suffering from hardening of the arteries.”  In his book Ron Keurajian references the plaques stating, “Forged Hall of Fame postcards are common.”

A signed Black & White Albertype is a great rarity and in 2008 an example authenticated by Grad and PSA/DNA sold at Heritage Auction Galleries for $22,705.  Another sold at Hunt Auctions a year earlier for $33,000 and was slabbed and certified authentic by Jimmy Spence and JSA.  Both examples commanded top dollar but both of the signatures bear virtually no resemblance to each other.  The signature Grad certified looks nothing like an authentic Burkett signature and Spence’s has some resemblance but is so tremulous and shaky that it is almost illegible.  How Grad and Spence could definitively state authenticity and write a supporting LOA for either Burkett is a mystery.  All of this, when author Ron Keurajian states in his book that he has never seen “a signed Hall of Fame plaque postcard of any kind.”

$33k Burkett vs. $22k Burkett: How could these two alleged Burkett signatures have been signed by Burkett between 1946 and 1953? Steve Grad authenticated the bottom example, while Jimmy Spence (right) LOA'd the signature on top.

The authentications of both Burkett signatures on the Albertype plaques by Grad and Spence illustrate what some observers claim is outright fraud being committed by PSA and JSA.  Many times the certifications appear based upon who submits the item and not on the merits of the item itself.

An individual who was interviewed recently by the Federal Bureau of Investigation about PSA’s business operations told us, “When they fail a first item they previously authenticated for another seller one could wonder if they were just incompetent.  When the 50th one happens it’s not just incompetence (it’s) racketeering and collusion.”  The same individual, who asked to remain anonymous, also confirmed that the FBI is interested in PSA’s authentication of questionable and bogus material for preferred customers and that the FBI specifically mentioned Grad and his boss Joe Orlando.  He added, “The alleged authenticators constantly use forged or non-authentic exemplars while attempting to authenticate material submitted to them.  This is just one reason why so many authentic autographs are deemed not genuine.”

Considering the illustrations we’ve provided of unquestionably authentic Burkett signatures it is even more troubling to have found other alleged Burkett items authenticated by Steve Grad and PSA/DNA.  How does Grad justify authenticating this one:

This PSA/DNA authenticated "Jesse Burkett Cut" sold at Legendary in 2007 for.

Additionally, having certified the above as genuine, how does Grad justify his authentication of this one:

PSA certified this "Burkett Cut" as genuine when it was sold at Legendary in

While the second example at least resembles an authentic Burkett signature, the first is not even close.  How could Grad and PSA have authenticated both?

When the PSA/DNA authenticated items are gathered for examination and compared against each other it becomes even more apparent that Grad is either incompetent or passing bogus items with criminal intent.

In selecting Grad as their new authenticator for the new season of Pawn Stars, the History Channel is likely hoping to avoid some of the embarrassing mistakes made previously on the show by alleged experts Drew Max on FDR, PSA’s John Reznikoff on Al Pacino and JSA’s Herman Darvick with “Shoeless” Joe Jackson.

Little do Rick or Chumlee know about Grad’s expensive authentication blunders on Ed Delahanty, Albert Spalding, Mickey Welch, Ty Cobb, Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, Candy Cummings, Jimmy Collins, Rocky Marciano, and a host of others.  Grad and PSA have even authenticated signatures on items manufactured after the alleged signers died including a letter dated ten years after WWII Admiral Nimitz passed away.

Considering Grad’s track record the producers of the show have reason to be nervous as Grad’s first episode is slated to air tonight on June 6.  Hopefully, a Pawn Stars customer won’t walk in the shop with a photo signed by Babe Ruth to Gary Cooper or a $20,000 autographed photo of Hall of Famer Jimmy Collins.  Grad authenticated a Collins photo for PSA but the signature did not resemble a genuine example; was misspelled “Jimmie”; and was not even a photograph of the actual player Jimmy Collins, bearing no resemblance to the all-time best Red Sox third-baseman.  Grad also authenticated the Ruth and Cooper signed photo despite the fact that expert Ron Keurajian opined it was a fake and Cooper’s granddaughter stated the family never had such a photo in their possession.

Grad appears with the Pawn Stars on the History Channel (left)(Photo- Left Field Pictures). Grad authenticated a bogus photo of Jimmy Collins (center). The real Jimmy Collins (right) bears no resemblance to the man in the photo Grad authenticated.

Despite being notified of these facts via a past report, Grad and PSA have chosen to keep the bogus autograph and photo up on its PSA Autograph Facts page which is alleged to be a service for customers who can view “authentic exemplars” of famous and collectible sports legends.  Despite having knowledge the item is bogus, Grad and his boss Joe Orlando continue to commit fraud by exhibiting the photo to the general public as being genuine.  PSA just can’t admit they’ve made a mistake, or is it more than that?

The PSA authenticated Burkett forgery which was sold at REA for close to $30,000 (bottom left) was used as a template for another Burkett forgery on a straw hat sold by Coaches Corner. The forged Burkett baseball pictured to the right was featured in the PSA video

In authenticating the forged Burkett ball that sold for close to $30,000 at REA, Grad and PSA have created an environment in which this forged version of Burkett’s signature has become a template for others which show up regularly in the infamous Coaches Corner auctions.  The REA-PSA Burkett style forgery has even surfaced on an alleged “Jesse Burkett autographed straw hat” at Coaches Corner.

Travis Roste, a vocal critic of Grad and a boxing expert from, has witnessed the legitimization of forged exemplars.  In relation to the Burkett forgeries he told us, “Grad used other exemplars to authenticate the REA ball, and issued an LOA for it, then when he made the video, he uses that same ball as an exemplar.  So, a specimen submitted for authentication by an auction house then becomes the exemplar. That’s how “exemplar creep” comes into play.”

Roste added, “A authenticates B. B then authenticates C. C authenticates D, and then D authenticates E.  But if you compare A and E, they look nothing like each other even though each authentication in between might look somewhat similar.  PSA just doesn’t know when to stop.”

Watch out Pawn Stars.  If you’re not careful, you just might get bit by Steve Grad and PSA/DNA.