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By Peter J. Nash

November 26, 2013

Since its opening in the 1930s, the Baseball Hall of Fame has suffered its share of losses due to theft and vandalism.

The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum and the National Baseball Library in Cooperstown, New York, house the world’s most comprehensive collections of artifacts, documents and photographs related to our “National Pastime.”  There are over 2 million items that have been generously donated to the institution since it first opened its doors in the 1930s thanks to the brainstorm of a Manhattan social-worker named Alexander Cleland.

Incredibly, all of the objects and documents in its collection are donations from the general public and men and women connected with the game in some way, shape or form. The Hall does not purchase items for its collections and it does not sell or liquidate items previously donated for any other purposes. Thanks to the the generosity of American baseball fans, the Hall of Fame now boasts of a collection that could very well be valued at a billion dollars, and is nothing short of spectacular.

Spectacular as it is, the collection at the Hall and its library have been easy prey for thieves over the past few decades who have somehow made their way in and out of Baseball’s Mecca with smuggled baseball treasures worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Some artifacts have been boldly removed from display cases during regular museum hours with the aid of a screwdriver while most others were smuggled out of the National Baseball Library in a brief case or secreted away in between photocopies made at the library. In 1983, it was also discovered that an employee in Commissioner Bowie Kuhn’s office had sold scores of donated World Series programs out of his Long Island garage after they were loaned from the Hall of Fame. The Sporting News broke the story and the New York Post ran a headline: Scandal Hits the Baseball Hall of Fame with reporting by gossip columnist Cindy Adams.

This headline appeared in the New York Post in 1983 after TSN broke the story of the HOF/Joe Reichler scandal.

Bill James described the scandal in his book Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame in more detail:

“With the collectors market burgeoning, the Hall of Fame was already finding it more difficult to get people to donate items of historic significance. The scandal increased those difficulties sevenfold. The officials at the Hall of Fame were desperate to put the whole thing behind them; the Commissioner, after the public revelations promised a vigorous in-house investigation.”

On the day that the BBWAA reveals who will be on the ballot to get into the Hall for 2014, here’s our list of what’s already got out. We present to you the Top 100 items (or groups of items) that appear to have vanished from the archives of the Baseball Hall of Fame and, since the Hall’s leadership is in denial and prone to cover-ups, we include many items that were stolen and have since been recovered and returned to Cooperstown:

1. The Walter Johnson Presidential Baseball Collection- William Howard Taft and Calvin Coolidge signed these two balls for HOFer Walter Johnson.  Johnson housed these balls and others in a wooden presentation box which was donated to Cooperstown by his family.  The Johnson family found out the balls had been stolen years after the thefts occurred when relative Hank Thomas requested to see them on a visit to the museum. (Recovered)

Walter Johnson's collection of first pitch baseballs signed by US Presidents were stolen from the HOF in the 1970s and were recovered by the FBI in 2001.

2. Woodrow Wilson autographed baseball to Walter Johnson. (Recovered)

3. Warren Harding and Herbert Hoover autographed baseballs inscribed to Johnson. (Recovered)

4. Harry Wright 1887 Kalamazoo Bat cabinet card.

5. 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings Peck & Snyder trade card.

This rare card considered by many the first commercially released baseball card was credited to the HOF in a 1983 book and is currently missing from the HOF.

6. World Series Program Collection-dozens of WS programs on loan to Bowie Kuhn’s office were sold to Long Island dealer Bob Sevchuk by Kuhn’s aide, Joe Reichler.  TSN broke the story that became known as the 1980s “Reichler Scandal.”

7. George Davis signed affidavit for protested game in 1905.

8. World Series Press Pin Collection- a thief removed the glass from a Hall display case with a screwdriver and made off with many press pins.

9. New York Knickerbocker Base Ball Club Dinner Receipt- from 1847 signed by Alexander Cartwright and donated by the Cartwright family in the 1930s.

10. New York Knickerbocker Base Ball Club Dinner Receipt- from 1845, donated by the Cartwright family and was on display in the museum for decades before vanishing.

This rare 1847 dinner receipt signed by Alexander Joy Cartwright Jr. was donated to the HOF in the 1930s by his grandson Bruce Cartwright but was stolen from the NBL in the 1980s.

11. Buck Ewing autographed New York Giant salary receipt from 1888.

12. Roger Connor autographed New York Giant salary receipt from 1888.

13. John M. Ward autographed letter to National Commission in 1905.

14. Philadelphia Athletics of 1870 team portrait CDV by artist Gihon.  Credited to the NBL in SABR’s “National Pastime.”

15. 1886 New York Giants cabinet photo by J. Wood.

16. Mickey Welch autographed New York Giants salary receipt.

17. Amos Rusie autographed New York Giants salary receipt.

This 19th century pay receipt signed byu New York Giant pitcher and HOFer Mickey Welch was received at the Hall in 1970 and by 1991 was auctioned off in San Francisco.

18. Vic Willis autographed letter to Ford Frick from 1935.

19. Henry Chadwick autographed letter to August Herrmann in 1907.

20. Harry Wright autographed letter to Frederick Long in 1879.  Part of the donated papers of the 19th century Boston team executive.

21. Harry Wright autographed letter to J. B. Billings in 1888

22. 1897 Boston Baseball Club with Rooters at Baltimore cabinet photo by Elmer Chickering. (Recovered)

23. Christy Mathewson autographed letter to August Herrmann in 1917

#23. January 1917 Mathewson letter to August Herrmann (left) that was once part of the HOF collection along with other Matty letters to Herrmann also from January of 1917.

24. George Wright autographed letter to Ford Frick in 1936.

25. James O’Rourke 1916 autographed letter to August Herrmann requesting World Series tickets.

26. Jimmy Collins autographed letter to Ford Frick in 1935.

27. Sliding Billy Hamilton autographed letter to Ford Frick.

28. George Wright autographed letter to Ford Frick, 1935.

29. Jake Beckley autographed Cincinnati Reds salary receipt.

30. Christy Mathewson autographed letter related to protested game 1923.

The Nap Lajoie Horner cabinet (left) had a vandalized NBL accession number and a "PD" mark on the reverse just like the Christy Mathewson cabinet reverse pictured to the right.

31. Napoleon Lajoie cabinet photo portrait by Carl Horner.

32. Joe Kelley letter to Ford Frick from 1935.

33. Christy Mathewson cabinet photo portrait by Falk. (Recovered)

34. Miller Huggins autographed letter to August Herrmann in 1909.

35. 1894 New York Giants team cabinet photograph.

36. Roger Connor cabinet photo portrait by Jos. Hall

37. 1917 New York Giant team autographed request for World Series share to the National Commission.

38. John Evers 1908 sworn affidavit related to protested game and play similar to the infamous “Merkle” play.

39. Joe Tinker 1908 affidavit related to same protested game.

40. Joe Tinker 1948 letter to HOF president Paul Kerr.

41. 1902 August Herrmann check used to Purchase the Cincinnati Reds for $146,462.34.

This check was used by August Herrmann and his partners to purchase the Reds in 1902. The HOFs Herrmann archive's Box 1, Folder 3, includes documents related to the "Sale of Cincinnati" including the agreement that references this very check.

42. Jesse Burkett autographed New York Giant salary receipt 1890.

43. John J. McGraw autographed letter for protested game 1911.

44. Hughie Jennings autographed letter to August Herrmann.

45. Napoleon Lajoie autographed letter to HOF President Stephen C. Clark, 1947.

46. Napoleon Lajoie autographed letter to August Herrmann.

47. Ty Cobb 8-page autographed letter to HOF President Paul Kerr.

48. Fred Clarke autographed letter related to a protested game in 1909.

49. Babe Ruth autographed photograph.

50. Tim Keefe cabinet photo portrait by Jos. Hall.

51. Ty Cobb two page autographed letter to HOF president Paul Kerr in 1953.

This letter sold by REA was written by Harry Wright to Frederick Long and appears to have been wrongfully removed from the HOFs Long Papers Collection.

52. John J. McGraw autographed letter related to protested game 1908.

53. “Smilin” Mickey Welch cabinet photo by Jos. Hall 1890. (Recovered)

54. Jake Beckley cabinet photo portrait.

55. Miller Huggins autographed Cincinnati Reds salary receipt.

56. John J. McGraw cabinet photo portrait by Horner.

57. Jesse Burkett autographed letter to August Herrmann (secretarial signature).

58. Wahoo Sam Crawford autographed letter to HOF Pres. Paul Kerr.

59. “Home Run ” Baker autographed letter to HOF Pres. Paul Kerr 1961.

60. Napoleon Lajoie autographed letter to Hall of Fame offices in Cooperstown.

61. Joe Tinker autographed letter to HOF historian Ernest Lanigan in 1946.

This collage of stolen items includes: Hugh Jennings letter to Herrmann; 1897 Chickering cabinet of Boston BBC and Rooters; 1902 Reds Articles of Inc.; Mickey Welch cabinet by Jos. Hall; Joe Tinker 1908 affidavit; John J. McGraw protest letter; Roger Connor cabinet by Jos. Hall; 1902 JT Brush Promissory Note; Jake Beckley cabinet photo (center).

62. “Kid” Nichols autographed letter to HOF President, Paul Kerr in 1949.

63. 1903 Boston Base Ball Club (NL) Season Pass issued to Frederick Long.

64. Jack Chesbro cabinet photo portrait.

65. John T. Brush autographed promissory note to Cincinnati Reds in 1902.

66. Amos Rusie cabinet photograph by Jos. Hall.

67. Wilbert Robinson autographed letter related to protested game in 1928.

68. 1876 Boston Base Ball Club Season Pass that was part of the Frederick Long Papers Collection at the National Baseball Library.

69. Billy Evans autographed letter to HOF Pres. Paul Kerr

70. Charles Comiskey autographed letter to August Herrmann 1913.

71. Ed Abbatichio W-600 Sporting Life cabinet card. (Recovered)

This W600 Sporting Life cabinet of Pirate Ed Abbaticchio was sold at auction but had HOF ownership marks on its reverse. The buyer returned the card to the Hall.

72. Napoleon Lajoie letter to HOF director.

73. 1902 Articles of Incorporation of the Cincinnati Reds from the Herrmann Papers collection.

74. Bill Klem autographed letter related to protested game, 1920.

75. John T. Brush letter to Reds Board of Directors in 1902.

76. Clark Griffith autographed letter to HOF President, Paul Kerr.

77. Bill Klem autographed letter related to protested game 1909.

78. Jack Glasscock autographed New York Giants salary receipt 1888.

79. John J. McGraw autographed letter for protested game 1912.

80. Jesse Burkett autographed letter to Ford Frick from 1935.

81. Jesse Burkett autographed letter to Ford Frick (secretarial).

82. Boston Red Sox team autographed request for World Series money share to National Commission in 1915.

These two World Series check requests from the 1915 Red Sox and 1917 Giants for players' shares were sent to August Herrmann's National Commmission and are believed to have originated from the HOFs Herrmann Papers archive which includes similar documents.

83. Kenesaw Mountain Landis autographed letter to Larry McPhail in 1935.

84. Ban Johnson autographed letter to August Herrmann 1914.

85. Ed Barrow autographed letter to August Herrmann from 1914.

86. Ban Johnson autographed letter to August Herrmann in 1912.

87. Ban Johnson autographed letter to August Herrmann in 1905.

88. Kenesaw Mountain Landis autographed letter to August Herrmann from 1926.

89. Joe Tinker autographed letter addressed to August Herrmann.

90. John Heydler autographed letter addressed to August Herrmann.

91. Barney Dreyfus autographed letter for protested game in 1909.

92. Barney Dreyfus autographed letter for protested game in 1924.

93. Sam Breadon autographed letter to August Herrmann.

The letter written to Ford Frick by Nap Lajoie (left) is in a prvate collection while the Lajoie letter to Frick on the right is part of the NBLs Frick correspondence file.

94. Emil Fuchs autographed letter to August Herrmann.

95. George Stallings autographed letter for protested game in 1916.

96. John Ganzel autographed letter to August Herrmann from 1912.

97. Fred Tenney autographed letter to Reds manager, Ned Hanlon.

98. Napoleon Lajoie autographed letter to Ford Frick from 1935.

99. Charles Ebbets autographed letter to August Herrmann 1913.

100. Tom Yawkey autographed letter to HOF President Paul Kerr.

This rare cabinet photo of Jim Mutrie's 1886 NY Giants was documented as HOF property during a SABR photo shoot at the Hall in 1983. In 2006 it was sold by Heritage Auctions for over $10,000.


By Peter J. Nash

November 15, 2013

An HOS investigation into the population of T206 Honus Wagner cards reveals that there are at least 64 examples known to exist. Illustrated above are twenty of the earliest documented examples. (Correction: The first Wagners in the 3rd and 4th rows are the same card).

When Wayne Gretzky and Bruce McNall purchased their T206 Honus Wagner at Sotheby’s in 1991, it was the king of all cards.  After they had it graded by PSA it then served as the foundation for a business model that would change the hobby forever giving birth to a generation of collectors who were attracted to collecting cards slabbed in plastic tombs with condition grades scaled from 1 to 10.

But now that Bill Mastro has fessed up to trimming it with a paper slicer in the 1980s that same card is now a PSA- certified fraud sitting in the collection of Arizona Diamondbacks owner Ken Kendrick who acquired it in a private sale in 2007 for close to $3 million. PSA supporters and customers still believe Kendrick’s card will retain its value because of its infamous history but others claim the card is forever tainted since its been exposed as a monumental hobby fraud.

So, which Honus Wagner card will replace the trimmed Mastro example as the king of the hill? And how many Wagner cards actually exist? Hauls of Shame has been keeping track of Wagner cards for a few decades and just recently concluded an investigation into the actual population of Wagner cards known to exist.

ESPN recently published incorrect and erroneous population totals stating that there are “about three dozen” Wagner cards known in private hands and institutional collections. What the Hauls of Shame investigation has uncovered is 61 actual images of existing Wagners and the confirmation of at least three other examples not yet supported by visual evidence. That puts the total at 64 (at a minimum). Further evidence suggests that there are possibly another ten unverified Wagner cards in private hands.  A conservative combined value of the Wagners illustrated in this article exceeds $25 million–all for 60 pieces of cardboard.

Some Wagners are housed in museum collections while others are stashed away in the holdings of former major league ballplayers, millionaires, sportscasters, auctioneers, Hollywood stars and even the descendants of the original owners who acquired them right out of cigarette packs in 1910.  The existing cards have passed through a multitude of hands and each of them has its own unique story of provenance .  In the next 12 months Hauls of Shame will publish a series of articles chronicling the travels of the existing Honus Wagner cards and also profiling the collectors who have owned them.

The HOS investigation documented 64 known examples of the T206 Wagner card. This image includes number 1 through 40 representing the first forty documented Wagner cards in the hobby.

The Wagner cards we have documented begin with the first examples that appeared in the press in the 1930s and 1940s and were identified as the toughest T206 cards to acquire.  Of course, that story includes the Wagner  that legendary card-collecting pioneer Jefferson Burdick acquired from Sgt. John Wagner when he donated his trove to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1947.  It also includes the Wagner donated to the New York Public Library in 1946 by Leopold Morse Goulston in memory of his good friend Leo J. Bondy, a former vice-president of the New York Giants.

Then there are all of the Wagner cards that have assumed their own identities over the years distinguishing themselves from other specimens with their lofty titles and gimmicky nicknames :  The Die-Cut Wagner; The Wallet-Wagner; The Charlie Sheen-All-Star Cafe Wagner; The Sisters of Notre Dame (Nuns) Wagner; The Half-Wagner; The Jumbo Wagner; The Long Island Wagner; The Beckett Wagner; The Orem-Nagy Wagner; The Cooperstown Wagner; The Hoboken Wagner, Sgt. Wagner’s Wagner etc.

The existing Wagner examples numbering from 41 to 60 appear above in a wide range of conditions ranging from trimmed examples to the high grade "Jumbo Wagner" in the top row.

When it comes to the buyers and sellers of Wagner cards over the years, their own personal stories are sometimes as notable as the cards themselves:

Bill Mastro- Ironically, the Godfather of Wagner acquisitions and sales is the man who admitted to trimming the most celebrated copy. Mastro claims to have handled and sold more Wagners than any of his former competitors and was snagging the rarities as early as 1972.  By the age of 19 he had completed his own T206 set and in 1981, he told Bill Madden of The Sporting News he’d already owned three Wagners.  Said Mastro, “The first one I had I sold when I was a senior in high school.  I got it from a priest who found it in his attic.  Later I bought another Wagner for $1,500 which was then a record price.”

Jefferson Burdick- The hobby pioneer could never get his hands on a Wagner until his friend and fellow collector Sgt. John Wagner (no relation to Honus) gifted him one to include in his collection bequeathed to the Met. Burdick wrote in his Card Collectors Bulletin:  ”Big news this month is that due to the generosity and public spiritedness of John D. Wagner the Metropolitan collection will include a copy of that much wanted T206 Honus Wagner card. ”  Burdick also noted that only “one or two others were known to exist at the time, and added, “the card remains in such demand that several copies could easily be sold at the catalog value of $25 or more.”

Bill Haber- The Assistant Sports Director for Topps Chewing Gum, Haber acquired his first Wagner on June 1, 1970 from legendary collector Wirt Gammon.  Recalling the acquisition in his “Haber Hi-Lites” column in The Ballcard Collector Haber recalled, “I made a cash offer to all I knew had the card. Wirt Gammon accepted my offer and I bought his.”  The price was $500.

Existing Wagner cards have passed through the hands of several notable hobby figures including (clockwise): Bill Mastro; Rob Lifson; The New York Public Library; Brian Seigel; Bill Haber and Jefferson Burdick.

Rob Lifson- The auctioneer who purchased the infamous Gretzky-McNall Wagner with Bill Mastro for $25,000 (before it was trimmed) claims to have handled a multitude of Wagners.  When he purchased back the Gretzky-McNall Wagner for $641,000 at Christie’s in 1996 Lifson told the Maine Antique Digest, “I’ve handled 16 or 17 of them.”  He called the trimmed and altered Wagner “The Mona Lisa of cards.”

Alan “Mr. Mint” Rosen- The self proclaimed “Million-Dollar Dealer” claims on his website to have been involved in “Purchases of nine different of the thirty five Honus Wagner T206 cards known to exist.”  By 1991, he had already “bought and sold seven different (Wagners)” which he considered, “the Mona Lisa of the business.”

Barry Halper- The Yankee limited partner donated one of his multiple Wagner cards to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in 1984.  At the time Hall President Ed Stack told reporters, “Its introduction to our collection adds immeasurably to the Hall of Fame’s prestige and it has quickly become one of our most celebrated exhibits.”

Lew Lipset- The dealer and hobby scribe sold his high-grade Wagner to Bill Mastro in an SCD auction in 1981 for over $25,000.  On why he sold his prized Wagner, Lipset said that his decision was based on the “lack of interest in the card.” In SCD Lipset wrote, “Only one valid bid was received, a sorry showing for what is considered the ultimate collectible in the hobby.”

John Cinquegrana- The New Jersey collector purchased a pile of 200 T206 cards for $600 in 1982 ($3 bucks each) and didn’t look through them until a few months later.  When he finally did rummage through the group, he found a rare Eddie Plank card among others.  He told SCD, “I went through about 20 more cards, and there it was—in poor condition, but a genuine Honus Wagner.  I realized my ship finally came in.”

Brian Seigel- After buying the fraudulent T206 Gretzky-McNall Wagner from Mastro and Lifson for $1.26 million at Robert Edward Auctions in 2000, Seigel provided copy for PSA print adds stating:  ”When I found out the finest T206 Honus Wagner in existence was coming up for sale, I only had one major question: ‘Was it graded by PSA?’  The truth is that I would have never considered bidding on the card without PSA’s seal of approval.”

The high grade "Jumbo" and "Hall of Fame" Wagner cards (top, left to right) would likely end up in the same condition (or better) than the trimmed Mastro-PSA Wagner (bottom left) owned by Ken Kendrick (top right). PSA used Brian Seigel's endorsement in their print ads in 2001 (bottom right).

Now that the Mastro-PSA Wagner has been exposed as a fraud there are several candidates to assume the position of the hobby’s “Holy Grail.”  Still, there are some PSA supporters who say that Ken Kendrick’s trimmed Wagner has retained its value and perhaps has even increased in value despite Bill Mastro’s guilty plea in a Chicago Federal Court.  In that camp are PSA apologists like Net54’s Leon Luckey who has been actively disseminating the PSA talking points in hobby circles.  After the Mastro indictment Luckey went on the record in The New York Daily News stating, “Cards that are found to be trimmed are worth 10 or 15 percent of their value.  But that Wagner is still the best Wagner in the hobby, and there are some who will still pay big money for it.”

Chris Ivy, sports director of Heritage Auctions, is a big customer and advertiser of PSA’s services and he also told the New York Daily News, “It’s still the finest example of a T206 Wagner in the hobby and the demand for it is still high.  It’s still well-known – notorious, if you will.”

If the observations of Luckey and Ivy have merit, could collectors endorse similar trimming of Wagners with other “over-sized” high-grade examples known to exist? If the collector who recently purchased the “Jumbo Wagner” for $2.1 million  at Goldin Auctions decided to trim his card it would equal or exceed the condition of the Mastro-PSA Wagner owned by Kendrick as would the Hall of Fame’s copy purchased from Barry Halper in the 1998 MLB purchase on behalf of the Hall.  When Lew Lipset sold that copy to Mastro in 1981 he indicated that the card could be trimmed to attain mint condition status.

Bill Mastro shows off his $25,000 over-sized and untrimmed Wagner card that he bought in a 1981 Lew Lipset auction. The card (inset) ended up in Cooperstown.

Hauls of Shame asked several hobby insiders for their opinion of the trimmed PSA-8 Mastro- Wagner and also asked which Wagner they now consider the “Holy Grail”?

Ken Goldin (Goldin Auctions)- “If the 8 was out I’d have to say the “Jumbo Wagner.” I don’t get excited by just seeing cards, but holding that Wagner in my own hands I was like, “wow”.  The way it was over sized and miscut just solidified the fact it is original and unaltered.  And the image is so incredibly clear”  (Goldin once owned another legendary T206 Honus Wagner card, the proof-strip unearthed in Pittsburgh in the 1970s.)

Jimmy Leiderman (collector and photo historian)- “I’m not sure I can give an opinion. A 50% drop in price and I’m probably being optimistic. I don’t know much about other T206 Wagners…but I’d go with the Wagner proof strip.”

Jay Miller (author & collector)- “I don’t think the card has lost any value. Everyone already knew it was trimmed. It is still the “Holy Grail” if there is such a thing.”

Dan McKee (longtime T206 collector)- “You know, even though it is trimmed and a complete fraud in that slab at that number, I still consider it the Holy Grail as it is that gorgeous of a card.  Only the psycho slab heads would care if it is trimmed.”

Rob Bertrand (radio host-writer/Voice of the Collector)- “Unfortunately in the uber-elite collecting community that can afford such items, I don’t think the value will change. At this point I believe “The Card” is just that, something referred to in quotations; The myth, lore and story have exceeded the intrinsic value of the card itself.”

Rhys Yeakley (RMY Auctions)- “I think it devalues it, but its iconic and storied status still makes it the most valuable in the hobby.  I would venture to say that 95% of the PSA8-10 T206 cards are trimmed anyways so it is par for the course when dealing with high grade cards from that issue.  I would personally rather have the PSA5 that sold a few years back if given the choice.”

Joshua Evans (Lelands)- “It is surprising to me based on the truth that is out there but the card continues to earn its title as the “Teflon Wagner.”  Bottom line, the card would sell for MORE than the last buyer paid for it. It’s fame outpaces its infamy.”

George Vrechek (Writer-SCD & OldBaseball.com)- “Why would a card be altered? – to increase its value, provided the trimming wasn’t disclosed. Logic would lead one to conclude that if a card was quietly altered, it was because knowledge of trimming would decrease the value. Trimming is not equivalent to a cleaning or removal of foreign substances like scrapbook paper. It is designed to alter the original. The $2.8 million Wagner was valued before it was widely known that it had been trimmed.”

“It seems to me that no matter what the current value of the Wagner is (even if it were $3 million), that it is now worth less than it would be if it were not trimmed. Premiums are realized because collectors are looking for those samples which have survived the ravages of time to remain in the best condition possible. The premium is due to the rarity. Trimming takes a card out of the “rare”air. Some other Wagner gets to be the “Holy Grail.”

Mike Mango (card dealer)- “If you trim a card in today’s market to make it a better grade and you make it undersized the grading card companies will reject it and it is deemed trimmed but if you take a card that was over sized and trim it to the specifications that the manufacturer had originally intended to correct his first time error why is it such a big deal if you bring it to the correct specs?

Travis Roste (collector)- “I think it has less prominence now and is worth less.  If it went to auction it might fetch more only from a couple of bidders who have loads of money and have to own it, so its split. I think hobbyists and collectors consider it tarnished. I would consider any of the cards that grade 5 or above, as the leading contender. I think the two graded 5 and 5mk “Jumbo,” lead the way among graded cards.”

Doug Allen (Legendary Auctions)- “I still believe the PSA NM-MT 8 Honus Wagner is the Holy Grail of cards. It is my understanding that the current owner was well aware of the book The Card when he purchased the card and since then has been offered in excess of $2.8 million so it has not lost its value or its significance. I believe now that memorabilia and specifically game used jerseys are rising in prominence and value it may not be the Holy Grail of Collectibles or the Hobby. That honor would be bestowed upon the finest unrestored Babe Ruth Jersey in Existence. I believe a Babe Ruth Jersey will be first collectible to eclipse the $10 million mark.”

A long time hobbyist who did not want his name revealed said, “This was the card that launched an industry segment and brand name, and if that was flawed and tainted at the outset, what does that suggest about subsequent work and the impact that has had on everything else that passed through the same system? If they are “card guys” they are inextricably wedded to this card.  Any negative comment from them is tantamount to an indictment of their collections and the value of the same.”

One other opinion that casts a considerable shadow over the Mastro-Wagner and the PSA grading of the trimmed card is that of hobby pioneer Bill Heitman, the author of the 1980s pamphlet about the storied T206 series called The Monster.  Heitman heils from a family of card collectors who got their start opening packs of Old Judge and Sweet Caporal cigarettes from the 1880s through the 1910s.  From his vantage point, Heitman says, “Had the world known that the card was trimmed, back 20 plus years ago, and if PSA had done the right thing and refused to grade the card, I don’t think it would have ever meant that much to the hobby.  But thanks largely to the little piranhas, the card has managed to stay front and center and drag the values of all Wagners up along with it. Now, I think the value should go down considerably, especially if honest people are handling the transaction and I just don’t think there is a “holy grail” for card collectors.”

Correction (Nov 25): The first Wagner cards depicted in the first panel of the Wagner montage (rows 3 and 4) are the same card.  The paper loss in the top left hand corner of the card in the fourth row was distorted to look larger than it was on the actual card.  The Wagner shown above that card is the same card and currently owned by Keith Olbermann (sold by Lew Lipset in 1988 and at Mastro Auctions in 2004).  The Wagner located beneath it was used for the 1977 Dover reprint Wagner card.  It appears the card is the same one discovered by Mike Aronstein in 1972 and was later sold by Lipset in 1988. Since publishing this article we did receive an image of yet another Wagner card which we will add to our illustration.  If you know of any other genuine Wagner cards or have images of other examples not included in this article please let us know at: tips@haulsofshame.com


By Peter J. Nash

November 8, 2013

Goldin's "Shoeless" Joe Jackson card fell short of the $250,000 estimate broadcast on Bloomberg TV.

-Ken Goldin’s M101-6 “Shoeless” Joe Jackson card (the one he was promoting as a the only known copy) sold for $37,784.48 last Friday.  As reported last week, Goldin was promoting the card as unique even after he was informed another example had been sold at Lelands in 1994.

-Chris Cavalier, (Goldin Auctions consignment director), posted a video of Goldin appearing on Bloomberg TV hyping-up the Jackson card even after he’d been informed of the 1994 sale by Dennis Goldstein, the seller of the other known copy of the card. Goldin took a page out of his “Shop at Home” days with Don West as he told the Bloomberg Television host he expected the card to sell for over $250,000. Goldin told “Money Moves” host Deirdre Bolton, “We have another item today, that’s an item that previously was unknown to exist, that somebody actually found in a post card store.”

-Goldin had been notified of the Lelands sale back in September but the Bloomberg TV interview was taped on October 25, and shows that Goldin continued to represent the Jackson card as the only copy known again telling the Bloomberg host, “This card was previously never known to exist.  It was part of a set that existed and somebody found it in  a post card store in the Midwest.  We get it authenticated.  It is now the only one known to exist.”

Goldin then went back to his old “Shop at Home” repertoire and added, “This card is probably the biggest wild card in the auction—as you know we sold the Honus Wagner for over $2 million—you know this (Jackson card) is fifty times rarer( than a Wagner).  The bidding right now is $32,000, it would not surprise me if it goes well over a quarter million dollars.”

-Joe Jackson’s card, however, failed to get another bid above $32,157 after Hauls of Shame published a report last Friday which prompted Goldin to delete company statements posted on Twitter falsely identifying the Jackson as the “rarest baseball card in the world.”

-Ken Goldin used to appear on the Shop at Home Network with Don West as “Kenny on the phone” representing his now bankrupt company, Score Board.  You can see Ken in action on this YouTube video clip with Don West.

Ken Goldin appeared on Bloomberg TV on October 25 promoting the Joe Jackson card as the only copy known with an estimated value exceeding $250,000. On October 24 Goldin tweeted that the card was the "rarest in the world."

-Goldin Auctions sold the “Jumbo” copy of the T206 Honus Wagner last year for $2.1 million, but Ken Goldin also got his start with Wagner’s hawking an example of the rarity as a prize in a Score Board sweepstakes with Don West on the Shop at Home Network.  In the surviving video West tells his audience “less than 50″ copies of the Wagner card existed at the time, which was in the ballpark (estimates indicate there are over 70 known).  Click here: to see Kenny and Don in action.

Heritage is selling several suspect Babe Ruth signed items including a 1933 Goudey card (left) and a single signed ball (right).

-Heritage Auctions’ current sale includes several Babe Ruth items that experts believe are highly suspect including another signed 1933 Goudey card and single-signed baseballs.  While there are some great forgeries that have been fooling both JSA and PSA/DNA there are others that expose the utter lack of skill some have in authenticating Ruth items.  The Ruth ball illustrated here is a perfect example.  It’s up on the block tonight at Heritage and has a current bid of $7,000.  The Ruth Goudey card has a bid of $8,500.

Heritage is offering suspect single signed balls of Christy Mathewson (left) and Grover Cleveland Alexander (right).

-Christy Mathewson forgeries have appeared in several auctions with JSA and PSA/DNA LOA’s and Heritage continues that trend with yet another Matty single-signed ball that experts we spoke with believe is a forgery.  The HA example has a reserve of $65,000 and is signed on a c. 1923 American League ball.  Another highly suspect offering of a Hall of Famer is a single-signed ball of pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander.  Perhaps Grover was drunk when he signed this one.

The alleged Lloyd Waner Perez Steele signed card in Heritage's November auction (far left) is at least the fourth such card authenticated by PSA/DNA (top right examples). JSA authenticated another that sold at Coaches Corner (bottom). Experts say all of them are forgeries.

-Lloyd “Little Poison” Waner autographs on Perez-Steele Hall of Fame postcards are exceedingly rare considering Waner died in July of 1982 shortly after the card set was released in 1981.  Expert Ron Keurajian says in his book, Baseball Hall of Fame Autographs: A Reference Guide: “Waner is the rarest of all Perez-Steele cards to obtain signed.  The total population is unknown.  I have seen many signed but none of them I believe were genuine.” Heritage has yet another alleged Waner signed Perez-Steele card slabbed authentic by PSA/DNA, but experts tell us that this example appears to be forgery just like the other examples PSA has slabbed in addition to the example illustrated on the “PSA Autograph Facts” page on the company website.  The current bid on the suspect Heritage offering is $8,000.  The current Heritage lot appears to be a much better forgery than the previous examples slabbed by the company.  Another forged Waner Perez-Steele was sold at Coaches Corner and later appeared in a Huggins & Scott auction with a JSA LOA.  Experts believe all of these were signed with a  ”poison pen” never used by “Little Poison” himself.

Experts are questioning the authenticity of the 2013 Topps 1/1 Babe Ruth Ultimate Chase Autograph.

-Topps and Beckett made lots of noise about the new 1/1 Babe Ruth Ultimate Chase Autograph/ bat relic card product that was released earlier this year.  Now, a video posted by the woman who pulled the alleged Babe Ruth signature card out of a 2013 Topps Series One box has made the rounds creating even more interest (and scrutiny) in the card.  Despite the enthusiasm of the woman from Georgia who received the prize, experts we spoke with are of the opinion that the Ruth signature is a forgery.  The signature appears labored and slow and according to one expert “not in the hand of Ruth.”  If that wasn’t bad enough, how do collectors know the bat fragment included in the card is authentic?  With the recent Jersey-Gate scandal and considering all of the alleged Ruth bats floating through the hobby that cannot be proven as Ruth gamers, what is Topps doing to insure that their relic-related products are authentic?  Additionally, who is conducting the due diligence for Beckett, the company that slabbed the card and graded it?  Does the card still get a 9.5 if the autograph is fake?

Coaches Corner has recently offered these forgeries of Joe Jackson, Alexander Cartwright, Jesse Burkett, Babe Ruth, Christy Mathewson and Lou Gehrig.

-Coach’s Corner continues to amaze with its proliferation of forgeries and fakes authenticated by  .  The latest gems offered by CCA include balls signed by “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, Alexander Cartwright, Jesse Burkett and Christy Mathewson.  Its rumored that many Coach’s Corner fakes made their way into the Guinness Book approved “Little Cooperstown” collection of Dennis Schrader which was recently unveiled at the St. Petersburg Museum of History with considerable controversy in the local press.

-Huggins & Scott auctions removed a T206 card of Frank Bowerman they alleged may have been located next to a Honus Wagner card on an original T206 printing sheet.  The card had a $5,000 reserve price and a Piedmont reverse which was miscut.  H&S was making the outlandish claim that the card might include a “partial” sliver of a Honus Wagner card.  Also, kudos to Huggins & Scott for conducting an auction that does not include any material stolen from the National Baseball Hall of Fame or the New York Public Library.


By Peter J. Nash

November 1, 2013

Goldin Auctions said this rare card of "Shoeless" Joe Jackson is the only one known, but veteran collectors disagree.

UPDATE: (Scroll to bottom for image of 2nd Jackson card)

The auction catalog description says it’s an SGC 20 “One of One” 1917-20 M101-6 Felix Mendelsohn Joe Jackson exhibit card graded Fair 1.5.  All of that information is totally accurate. It’s the only such card ever graded by SGC and auctioneer Ken Goldin says that PSA’s Joe Orlando verified that his company has never graded or encapsulated an example of the rarity.

The bid on the rare card at the Goldin Auctions website currently stands at $32,157.

But Goldin  isn’t just offering the rare card as the only known graded Mendelsohn of “Shoeless Joe.” Goldin’s auction house posted a tweet on Twitter last week stating it was the: “Rarest baseball card in the world, “Shoeless” Joe Jackson one of a kind.”   The tweet included a link to the online auction lot which further describes the Jackson card as being so rare that it “hasn’t been officially documented (or authenticated) until now.” Goldin also adds that collectors of this series claim “they have never even seen a photo of this card” and states unequivocally, “We have the first known example of this ultra-rare card of Joe Jackson, in an image never before seen…”

But it ain’t so.

When veteran collector Dennis Goldstein saw Goldin’s press release revealing the card back in September he was surprised to hear him claim the card was unique considering that he had owned another copy of the same card and sold it in a major auction at Lelands in November of 1994.  Josh Evans offered the card as part of “The Goldstein Collection”  and it appeared as lot 610 in the sale listed as an”M101-6 Sporting News Joe Jackson” card indicating its “clean corners” and “minor wear.”  The card’s provenance was attributed to veteran collector Tom Collier, one of the founders of TCMA.

Back in 1994, the M 101-6 Mendelsohn set was incorrectly identified as a “Sporting News” issue.  That being said, the Lelands listing establishes that at least one other rare Jackson card has been sold and was part of a prominent collection.  The card’s previous owner, Dennis Goldstein, is known to have one of the finest collections in the world and in the past has been a contributor to numerous research projects including the Ken Burns BASEBALL documentary on PBS.

Lelands' 1994 catalog featuring the Goldstein Collection included the sale of another copy of the M101-6 Joe Jackson card.

Hauls of Shame reached out to Goldin earlier this week and informed him that another card sold in 1994 and also told him of another M101-6 Jackson owned by another collector.  Goldin stated he had been contacted by Goldstein but said he did not provide him with a photograph of his card.  Goldin also told Hauls of Shame he called Mike Heffner of Lelands but he couldn’t recall the sale of the card.  Lelands Chairman Josh Evans was unavailable for comment.  Goldstein said he gave Goldin the sale date, lot number, description and sale price of his card but did not send him a scan of the actual Lelands catalog description.

After Ken Goldin was told about the Lelands sale of another Jackson Mendelson card he continued to promote it on Twitter and in the press as being the only known example.

Goldin, however, chose not amend his auction catalog description to include a mention of Goldstein’s copy of the card after promoting the card in the press and on Twitter as the only one known to exist.  Goldin even went as far as stating his auction would represent, “The first sale of a lost treasure from a historic player like Jackson.”

Despite his documented promotion of the card as the “world’s rarest,” Goldin responded to our inquiry on October 29, stating, “We are not saying it is the only one produced or that exists today.  We are saying it is the only authenticated and documented one.”  That was not what Goldin was saying in his description and on Twitter.  In addition, his card was also not the first “documented one.”

When Goldin was asked why he didn’t include the Lelands sale in his description he responded, “How do we even know that card was real if it wasn’t even graded by SGC or PSA?”  Then, after being called out for his failure to reveal the Lelands sale and the card’s solid provenance, Goldin agreed to amend the auction lot description to include the information about the existence of the card sold at Lelands.  On Tuesday evening, Goldin updated his lot description to read:

“After publication of our feature catalog, and subsequent press releases, we were informed an M101-6 Felix Mendelsohn Joe Jackson card was listed in an auction catalog nearly 20 years ago. However, as of Wednesday, October 30, 2013, we have yet to be provided with any evidence including any image of said card. Goldin Auctions researched this card and issue extensively, and found several long-time M101-6 collectors who had yet to even see an image of this card until this offering. In addition, the two most prestigious third-party grading services, SGC and PSA, have yet to authenticate or even see any other M101-6 Joe Jackson card.”

Goldin’s amended description, however, still failed to disclose the details of the Lelands sale specifically and actually stated that he had not been presented with evidence supporting the existence of the second card.  In fact, Goldin continued to selectively post information in his possession as he had also been informed that the card had sold for $1,900 in 1994.  Goldin’s editing on the lot description also includes no highlighting or alerts to bidders that the description has been amended.

Another ultra-rare Joe Jackson card appeared in the same 1994 Lelands auction as a consignment from Dennis Goldstein who had collected the largest group of Boston Garters known at that time.

The Goldstein Collection also included another Joe Jackson card sold as one of the truly “rarest” Jackson cards in the same 1994 Lelands sale.  Lelands sold as lot 603 a 1914 Boston Garter card of Jackson with an estimate of $8,000 to $10,000 and noted that the provenance of the card traced back to the “Al Price collection.”  Says Goldstein, “As far as I know, one of the rarest Joe Jackson cards is the Boston Garter, not the Mendelsohn.”  Examples of the Boston Garter Jackson slabbed by SGC have sold at Legendary in 2007 for $207,000 (SGC Ex +5.5); Mile High’s 2008 auction for $86,975 (SGC-A); and one went unsold at Heritage in 2007 (SGC-10 Poor 1).  Mile High said in their lot description “A half dozen of these cards known to exist.”

While Goldin's auction description states the Jackson image is "never before seen" the same image has been showcased on BlackBetsy.com since at least Feb. 2003 as captured on the Internet Wayback Machine screen-shot.

In addition Goldin’s claims that the image itself represented on the card is “an image never before seen” is also inaccurate.  The exact same image has been showcased on Mike Nola’s popular Joe Jackson tribute website, BlackBetsy.com,  for close to a decade dating back to 2003.

By late afternoon on Wednesday October 30, Goldin further edited his addendum to remove the terms “any evidence”; “first known example” and “only documented example”  from the lot description, but chose not to identify Lelands auction house and the $1,900 sale of Goldstein’s example of the card.  Goldin also changed the phrase, “never before seen photographic image” to “never before published photographic image,” which is inaccurate since the image has been published on the Internet since 2003.  Goldin also chose not highlight the changes or note at the beginning or end of the lot description that the information was edited to acknowledge his card is not the first known example and not the only existing copy.

Earlier this afternoon Hauls of Shame Tweeted an image of the 1994 Lelands auction page showing the sale of Goldstein’s card so that interested bidders would be fully informed about the actual population of Jackson Mendelsohn cards.  In response, Goldin Auctions proceeded to block the Hauls of Shame account on Twitter.

There are many cards as rare or rarer than the Joe Jackson card in the Goldin sale including (l. to r.) 1893 Just So Cy Young; N172 Old Judge Cap Anson (In Uniform); 1887 N690 Kalamazoo Bat John Ward; 1920 Frederick Foto Babe Ruth; 1922 T231 Frank Baker

There’s no doubt that Goldin’s offered card of Jackson is a rare and important example from a very scarce set, its just not the rarest of all cards and not the only known copy of Jackson’s.  Along with the handful of 1914 Boston Garter Jackson cards, the three documented Jackson Mendelsohn cards (and two others not yet verified at the time this article was published) should be considered the rarest cards depicting “Shoeless Joe.”  In comparison, the famous Honus Wagner card, considered a rarity for many years by collectors far outnumbers these two Jackson issues. Hauls of Shame has documented 59 images of existing Wagner cards and verified three others to put the total population of Wagner cards at 62 examples (there are surely other Wagners out there that will likely be added in the future).

Auctioneer Ken Goldin has been very proactive when it comes to editing or removing problematic lots from his auctions including items from the Barry Halper Collection and a pair of forged boxing gloves attributed to Rocky Marciano.  While he accommodated some of the requests made to correct inaccuracies in his description after over-exaggerating the rarity of his lot, he decided to hold back the details of the 1994 auction and the claims that other cards also existed.  It will be up to card collectors to determine if he went far enough or if he’s just another auctioneer long on hyperbole and short on full disclosure to his clients.

After deleting the Jackson related Tweet Goldin sent Hauls of shame a response that did not answer any of the questions we asked earlier this evening including:  ”Why you have held back the details of the 1994 Lelands sale and the claims that another third example exists based upon Mr Goldstein’s information from his veteran collector friend? Why have you not highlighted your addendum to show the description has been updated as most all auctions do? Why did you Tweet the card was the “rarest” in the world when you obviously knew it was not at the time?”

Goldin’s response, in its entirety, states:

“In response to the information you provided us this week, we amended our description in multiple places, and added the below paragraph to our description.  In addition, an email was sent with the below paragraph to all bidders on the item:

After publication of our feature catalog, and subsequent press releases, we were informed by an old time established collector that an M101-6 Felix Mendelsohn Joe Jackson card was listed in an auction catalog in 1994 (listed as a 1919 image). However, as of  Friday, November 1st, 2013, we have yet to be provided with  any image of said card. Goldin Auctions researched this card and issue extensively, and found several long-time M101-6 collectors who had yet to even see an image of this card until this offering. In addition, the two most prestigious third-party grading services, SGC and PSA, have yet to authenticate or even see any other M101-6 Joe Jackson card.”

UPDATE: Image of Second Copy of M101-6 “Shoeless” Joe Jackson Card Surfaces; In Collection of Vetaran Collector

A second copy of an authentic existing M101-6 Mendelsohn “Shoeless” Joe Jackson card was sent to us by one of our readers.  It was one of the cards we referred to in our original article and has been in the possession of a veteran collector for many years.  Our thanks to them for making it possible to share this image with our readers:

The Joe Jackson M101-6 that sold at Goldin Auctions (left) is joined by a second copy of the Mendelsohn issue in superior condition (right).