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By Peter J. Nash
January 21, 2014

Willie Ratner's Wagner first appeared in a newspaper in 1930 and later in "The Complete Book of Baseball Cards" in 1976 (above).

It was in the November 6, 1930, edition of the Newark Evening News that the legend was born. Writer Fred J. Bendel published an article about the baseball card collection of fellow News scribe Willie Ratner, a nationally renowned boxing writer who started working at the newspaper as a copy boy in 1912.  Ratner was about 15 years old when the famous T206 tobacco card issue was commercially distributed in cigarette packs.

Illustrated in the newspaper that day in 1930 were an assortment of Ratner’s private stash of T205 and T206 baseball cards and in the top row, appearing for the first time in the press, was the card featuring the portrait of the great Honus Wagner. The byline of the article read: “Cards That ‘Were Hard To Get’ And Old Honus Was The Hardest.”

It appears to be the first time the Wagner card (and its scarcity) was recognized anywhere in a public forum and three decades before Jefferson Burdick noted its rarity in a later edition of the American Card Catalog in 1960 when he assigned a value of $50 to the slice of cardboard.  In the December 2000 issue of VCBC, collector Keith Olbermann noted how hobby pioneer Burdick and his friend Sgt. John Wagner had “confirmed the existence of the Honus Wagner card in the mid-1930s.”  In addition, writer George Vrechek, who has researched Burdick extensively and has published several important pieces on the hobby’s early days, was able to identify Burdick’s first reference of the Wagner in his Card Collectors Bulletin of 1941.  Publishing a T206 checklist created by Howard Myers, Burdick remarked, “The scarcest cards are Plank and Wagner. Amounts of 50 cents and $1.00 are being offered for these.”

The Wagner card was actually first mentioned decades earlier in the Charlotte-Observer in August of 1909, just as the cards were showing up in packs of Piedmont Cigarettes in the South.  The article claimed that the cards were “more sought after than gold” by young boys who purchased packs of cigarettes for the pictures of “baseball men” and then “peddled the smokeables to passers on the streets.”   The report noted that the cards of Ty Cobb and Honus Wagner were especially desired but that “only a few pictures of Cobb had been found” until a shipment arrived at the Wilson Drug Store and 13 more Cobb’s surfaced.  No mention was made of a Wagner card being discovered.

Sportswriters Wirt Gammon (left) and Willie Ratner (right) both collected T206 cards when they were issued commercially in tobacco products. By the time Ratner had sold his Honus Wagner to Gammon, the Tennesean was selling T206 cards in the "Ballcard Collector" for just 45 cents.

Similar to the kids down South, Willie Ratner was collecting the same tobacco cards up North in New Haven, Connecticut, until he moved to Newark in 1912 with his baseball card collection in tow.  It’s likely Ratner had snagged his Wagner right out of a pack of Sweet Caporal Cigarettes a few years earlier.  No doubt Ratner was caught up in the same collecting hysteria that was described in Charlotte in 1909 when it was reported in detail how kids started flipping T206 cards competitively.  By the looks of Ratner’s Wagner with its creases and rounded corners its possible he was a fan of the pastime which had kids challenging each other to acquire more cards. “While the picture is flying in the air, one of the boys calls the side it will fall on, face up or down, ” the Observer reported.  The writer added, “If in his guess he is correct, the picture goes to him, otherwise he has lost one of his own pictures.”  In some cases a winning kid could walk away “exultant with the entire collection of his friends in his hands.”

An article published in the Charlotte Observer in August of 1909 described the popularity of T206 cards and the affinity kids had for them. The article describes early "card-flipping" which likely contributed to the condition of Willie Ratner's Wagner (center).

By all accounts Ratner treasured the baseball cards he had amassed in the card-flipping battles of his youth and he maintained the collection well into adulthood when he shared them with his readers in Newark in 1930. His colleague Fred J. Bendel wrote, “These pictures are but a few of the collection which Willie Ratner, News boxing writer, began collecting years ago.”

In addition to covering boxing matches in his “Punching the Bag” column, Ratner not only collected the pictures of baseball players on cards, he also commiserated with real-life sports legends and stars of the silver screen like Jack Dempsey and the child actor Jackie Coogan, who he met on a cruise to Paris in 1924.  Ratner even rubbed elbows with underworld crime figures and in 1929 was notably assaulted by racketeers for his “sarcastic reporting” of several “fast ones” pulled on boxing fans in Newark, which was known as a “sucker town” on the fight circuit.  Luckily for Ratner, the gangsters didn’t take his Honus Wagner as a hostage.

Willie Ratner's Honus Wagner first appeared in the Nov. 6, 1930, edition of the Newark Evening News (NBL).

Ratner held onto his collection through the Great Depression and also through his tenure with the newspaper which spanned from 1912 to 1972. During this long stretch of time Ratner repeatedly turned down offers for his Honus Wagner from aspiring hobbyists like Wirt Gammon from Chattanooga, Tennessee.   Gammon was a fellow newspaper writer who also published and wrote for the early hobby newsletter The Ballcard Collector and after making several offers to Ratner for the hard-to-get card decided to take a chance and send him a blank check in the mail.  To his surprise, Ratner fulfilled his request for the card.  According to The Complete Book of Baseball Cards, “Ratner wrote in only the original sum offered by the Tennessean—a mere pittance compared to later offers.  Ratner had not been holding back, he told the buyer– he had simply wanted to keep the card.  In effect he gave the card away.”

Wirt Gammon had wanted a Wagner ever since he was a little kid.  In his “Gammon’s Corner” column in 1970 he fondly recalled how he collected T206 cards soon after they were released in cigarette packs sold by the American Tobacco Company.  Gammon wrote, “When T205 and T206 began around 1910, I was five years old and I can remember back when I was about seven that these cards began to appear everywhere.  Many smokers collected them.  If not, their children collected the bright colored pictures, often begging parents to buy a pack.”  Gammon recalled how he only had one relative who was a smoker and that, much to his dismay, his uncle smoked a brand that didn’t include baseball cards.  Gammon also recalled that many smokers simply discarded the cards after opening their pack and he wrote, “It was nothing to walk along the street and see a baseball cigarette card on the sidewalk or the edge of the road or edge of a yard.”  So that’s how he collected them.  He added, “The best I could hope for was to find a card or two along the sidewalk, where some smoke-stained-fingered guy had discarded it as he opened his pack.”  Gammon, however, never found a Wagner in the gutter and had to wait several decades until Willie Ratner was willing to part with his prized possession.

Wirt Gammon placed want-ads for Wagners as early as 1953 in The Sporting News (inset from "Bob Lemke's Blog"). Gammon sold his Wagner to Bill Haber in 1970 and Haber showed off the card in a 1971 issue of The Trader Speaks.

Gammon had been searching for years for his own Wagner via want ads he placed in The Sporting News and other publications with no luck until he finally acquired his “Holy Grail” from Ratner.  Little did Gammon realize that like his fellow scribe he was merely a temporary caretaker of the T206 treasure and he ended up parting with the rarity when a young Brooklynite named Bill Haber offered him $500 for the card on June 1, 1970. Haber was working as the baseball director for the Topps Chewing Gum Company and was responsible for the player bios and facts found on the backs of baseball card issues. He was also one of the sixteen founding members of the Society For American Baseball Research in 1971 and according to the current SABR website he was, “considered one of the greatest biographical researchers” in baseball research history.

But Haber’s other passion was baseball cards and he was a dedicated collector who by 1970 had assembled near-complete sets of the T205, T206 and T207 issues.  According to Haber it took him 19 months to assemble the sets and in his “Haber Hi-Lites” column in The Ballcard Collector, he said his “greatest stroke of luck occurred when (he) found a non-collector who had a (Eddie) Plank, and (he) bought it from him for $6.”  That left Haber with only the Honus Wagner on his wish list and he then proceeded to “make a cash offer to all (he) knew had the card.”  Haber recalled, “The going price when I was looking was $250.  I decided it was worth $500 to me.”  Wirt Gammon accepted Haber’s cash offer and after the collector “borrowed $350 from (his) wife” Gammon shipped the Wagner card up north to Brooklyn where it remained in Haber’s collection for several decades until the mid-1990’s.

Bill Haber's "Ratner-Gammon Wagner" was reproduced by Woody Gelman in one of the first Wagner card reprints in 1975 (center). (From: Old Cardboard, Issue #23, Summer 2010)

When Haber was profiled in the “Collector of the Month” feature in The Trader Speaks in February of 1971, he was pictured holding his Wagner which was still affixed to a scrap book page with other T206 cards arranged alphabetically. Based upon that image it is possible that Ratner or Gammon had maintained their original collection in a scrapbook and that a full page, including the Wagner, was passed along to Haber.  By the time Haber acquired the card in 1970 it was still affixed to that page which had been removed from a larger volume.  Gammon had told Haber the card was “creased and stained” but the card’s condition was an afterthought.

Haber only knew of “6 or 8″ collectors who had one at that time.  In June of 1973, Haber told Dan Dischley in The Trader Speaks that his Wagner was scheduled to be featured on a TV show “dealing strictly with collecting” and hosted by Joe Garagiola before his “Monday-Game-of-the-week” telecast. (Its unclear if that show ever aired.) Haber’s Wagner was also reproduced by Woody Gelman’s company, the Nostalgia Press, in 1975 to create one of the earliest Wagner reprint cards. The card has always been easily identifiable on account of its unique creases and imperfections.

After Bill Haber's death in 1995, his Wagner appeared for sale in an SCD auction conducted by Pat Quinn and Bill Mastro of The Sports Collectors Store in Chicago.

Haber did business with most all of the prominent collectors in the 1970s and 80s including other Wagner owners like Bill Mastro and Mike Aronstein. In fact, it was a 17 year-old Mastro who attended with Haber what was considered one of the earliest card “conventions” held in Aronstein’s basement in Upstate New York in 1970.  Traveling from all over the country, collectors like Mastro and Haber joined Dennis Graye, Dan Dischley, Tom Collier, Bill Zekus, Bob Jasperson, Irv Lerner, Bill Himmelman, Fred McKie and other notables in a makeshift “convention hall” located in Aronstein’s downstairs den.  Haber brought along his Honus Wagner card to show off and after impressing the group tried to “get the trading wheels going.”  As the room filled up, Mastro, Jasperson and Graye were described as the only attendees “under voting age” and, according to the Ballcard Collector, Haber traded Tom Collier for some 1949 Bowman PCL cards and Mastro was able to trade with Graye for a T206 Sherry Magie error card.  There’s no doubt that when Mastro saw Haber’s own Wagner he wanted one for himself.

By the time he turned 19, Mastro had acquired not just one, but two Wagners.  In 1972 he purchased one for a record price of $1,500 and got lucky with another as “part of an unsorted collection.” Mastro told Collectibles Illustrated, “I found the Wagner card in it and it turned out to be a freebee.”  In 1981 Mastro also told Bill Madden of The Sporting News that one of his Wagners came from a priest who “found it in his attic” and that he had to sell another Wagner to finance the purchase of a car, “in a hurry.”

Bill Haber (center) purchased his Wagner from Wirt Gammon for $500 in 1970 and by 1973 a young Bill Mastro had paid a record-breaking $1,500 for another Wagner.

In contrast, Bill Haber is said to have been offered a second Wagner card for $1,000 which was in much better condition than Willie Ratner’s former card.  But Haber, never obsessed with the condition of his cards, declined.  In 2012, this story was recounted in response to a tribute to Haber written by Keith Olbermann and published on the Topps Archive blog.  Collector Marc Seligman commented that Haber wasn’t keen on upgrading his Wagner because he “said he didn’t need doubles.”  Seligman added,  ”Some might have found that foolish but he wasn’t in it for the greed.  He was in it for the history.” Haber’s old friend and Chicago dealer Pat Quinn echoed that sentiment more recently when he told us, “Bill never cared about the condition of his cards, they could have been chipped or even had a corner missing as long as he could complete a series or set.”

Bill Mastro, on the other hand, went on to become the country’s preeminent card dealer with an uncanny knack for tracking down multiple Wagner cards in high-grade condition and turning hefty profits.  By 1981 Mastro said he had already seen twenty Wagner cards in person during his collecting career and by 1985 he’d purchased two more Wagner cards for $25,000 each.  One of those cards was the now infamous Gretzky-McNall Wagner which Mastro recently admitted he’d altered and trimmed before he sold it to Jim Copeland for $110,000 in 1987.  While Mastro was keeping tabs on all of the Wagners in the hobby and contributing to their skyrocketing value, Bill Haber was content to sit on his own Wagner and his completed set of T206 with no intention of selling.

Pat Quinn (shown above at the 1981 National Convention) met Bill Haber on the card show circuit in the 1970s and the relationship secured him the consignment of Haber's collection in 1996. (Sept. 1981. The Trader Speaks)

Unfortunately, Bill Haber passed away unexpectedly in 1995 after a fatal asthma attack and his widow ended up calling Pat Quinn of the Sports Collectors Store in LaGrange, Illinois, to sell his Honus Wagner card and the remainder of his collection.  Quinn offered Willie Ratner’s old Wagner for sale in a telephone auction published in Sports Collectors Digest in March of 1996 and the time-worn card Haber had once paid Wirt Gammon $500 for ended up selling for close to $50,000.  That’s an appreciation of close to one hundred times the purchase price in just twenty six years.  In the SCD lot description Quinn wrote that the offering was, “A seldom seen opportunity for you to join the most exclusive club in sports collecting–”The Wagner Club”–it has few members and many aspirants.”

Quinn isn’t sure who ended up joining the ever so exclusive “Wagner Club” after his auction in 1996.  ”I can’t remember who bought that Wagner in the SCD sale, it was such a long time ago and it was one of my last auctions,” said Quinn.  It’s also unknown whether Willie Ratner’s Wagner has changed hands again since the time of Quinn’s auction or whether its been graded by either PSA or SGC. SGC President, Dave Forman recalled seeing the card in 1996 and told us, “I remember the auction but have no idea where it is now.” One things for sure, however.

Whoever the current owner is, he possesses the “Original Wagner” and an important piece of baseball and hobby history.  It represents the true essence of collecting more than a near-mint condition Wagner ever could.  There are other Wagners more valuable and pleasing to the eye, but this Wagner transcends its own imperfections.  It’s the original.

(Editors Note: This is the first installment in a Hauls of Shame series that will document the history of all the 64+ T206 Honus Wagner cards known to exist.  If you know of any others with notable provenance drop us a line at:Tips@HaulsofShame.com )


By Peter J. Nash

January 13, 2014

Gerry Schwartz purchased a T206 Magee on eBay (left) under handle of "PSA-Card." That same card appeared in June 2013 as the "Magie" error variation (right) at the Mile High Card Co.

Earlier this month we published a report about the two bogus T206 Sherry Magie error cards that were authenticated and encapsulated by PSA and then offered for sale at Mile High Card Co. and in Probstein123’s eBay auction.  Joe Orlando of PSA bought back the fake sold at Mile High for over $16,000 while Rick Probstein withdrew the other fake from his sale and sent it back to the PSA offices in California.

Now new evidence has emerged showing that both of the bogus cards were originally purchased as common T206 “Magee” variations on eBay by dealer Gerry Schwartz of Shirley, New York. In addition, a source tells Hauls of Shame that one of Schwartz’ Magee cards was also submitted to Sportscard Guaranty (SGC) as an altered “Magie” error variation.

After the card was identified as a fake by SGC graders, the card was then submitted to PSA at a later date and slabbed as a genuine Magie error card.  That same source specified that the card given to SGC originated with Schwartz and when asked how sure he was about Schwartz’ links to the card he replied, “It’s gospel.”

In an interview with Hauls of Shame, the President of SGC, Dave Forman, said he could not reveal customer information publicly but added, “My graders did examine a Magie card that exhibited sophisticated alteration.”  Forman said, however, he could not definitively identify that card as one of the two originally purchased by Schwartz on eBay and later cracked out of their PSA and SGC holders to become “Magie” error cards.  Some in the hobby have claimed that Forman was once a partner with Schwartz and when we asked him to describe his relationship Forman stated, “I did several deals with Gerry between 1993 and 1995 but there was never a formal partnership.”

One of the T206 Magie fakes ended up selling for over $16,000 in a Mile High Card Co. auction in June.  When asked if Gerry Schwartz was the consignor of the fake card sold in his auction Brian Drent said, “I can neither confirm or deny whether Schwartz was the consignor of the Magie card sold in our auction.”  Drent added, “After Joe Orlando contacted us and bought the card back from our buyer in Australia, that’s the last I heard about this card.”  Drent indicated that when he was first made aware of the situation by Orlando, the PSA President already knew the identity of his consignor.  ”I assumed that Joe was already in contact with the consignor and was dealing directly with him, I just don’t know what actually happened after Joe and I spoke.”

Hauls of Shame contacted Gerry Schwartz by phone and email and asked if he could comment or offer any additional information as to how the cards he purchased on eBay ended up being submitted to PSA as T206 Magie error cards.  Schwartz did not respond to our inquiry.  Schwartz purchased the two Magee cards under the eBay ID “psa-card” and has also used the ID “syzygy3.14″ dating back to 2001.

Gerry Schwartz has an eBay ID history using the names "psa-card" and "syzygy3.14" SGC President Dave Forman (right) says his graders recently examined and rejected a sophisticated Magie forgery.

Sources indicate that Schwartz has business relationships with many of the major auction houses and dealers in the country.  It is also known throughout the hobby that allegations have been made by collectors who claim that Schwartz has sold altered and trimmed cards that were purchased on eBay and that in the past PSA has returned cards submitted by Schwartz because they were determined to have been trimmed.  In one particular instance a creased 1916 “Holmes to Holmes Bread” Joe Jackson card that Schwartz purchased on eBay later appeared in a Robert Edward Auctions sale with its creasing much less visible than it was in its original eBay listing.  Despite these controversies Net54 moderator Leon Luckey publicly vouched for Schwartz in 2009 calling him a “recommended seller.”

In addition to buying the two Magee cards on eBay Schwartz is said to have also purchased a T206 “Joe Doyle, NY” card which some believe could be similarly transformed into an ultra-rare “Joe Doyle NY Nat’l” variation.  Several Doyle cards in the hobby are suspected to be fakes dating back to the example ESPN’s Keith Olbermann purchased from dealer Alan Rosen back in 1999.  Olbermann purchased the card from Rosen and was refunded $21,000 when it was determined that the card was an altered counterfeit.  Olbermann said in an article he wrote for VCBC, “Someone had clipped the word “Nat’l” off another T206 card and affixed it somehow to an ordinary Joe Doyle, N.Y.”

The new Magie fakes are far more sophisticated than the Doyle forgeries uncovered in the past like the Olbermann example.  Back then a more professional Doyle forgery was encapsulated and deemed authentic by PSA and appeared in a company published coffee-table book called Collecting Sports Legends-The Ultimate Hobby Guide.  At that time collector Corey R. Shanus asked other collectors on the Net54 collector forum: “If the entire player/team lettering on the bottom of the card is erased, can that erasure be detected?  I ask because it occurs to me that if it cannot, then what’s to prevent a skilled crook from erasing a “Magee, Phila. Nat’l” and replacing it with a “Magie, Phila. Nat’l”?”  Shanus asked that question five years ago and the only thing that prevented these two fakes from retaining their fraudulent authentic status was the vigilant eye of several collectors.

In 2000 SCD reported on a fake T206 Doyle purchased by Keith Olbermann (left) and years later a more sophisticated Doyle forgery was illustrated in a PSA coffee-table book from 2009 (right).

The news that Schwartz was the eBay buyer of both Magee cards was met with reactions by dealers and auction executives ranging from statements of “Wow” and “Holy sh–t” to “Keep me out of this” and “This is now a criminal matter.”  One major auctioneer claimed he didn’t know Gerry Schwartz and another source prominent in the hobby told us, “My guess is that for sure there is another party (other than Schwartz) involved in the Magee fiasco but I have no idea who it is.”

Schwartz has also been associated in the past with dealer Gary Moser who claims he “was one of the first dealers to send (his) cards out and allowed a third party to determine grade.”   In the past Moser has also been accused of selling altered and trimmed cards to collectors.  In one such case, collector Marc Schoenen claimed that Moser had sold him, “A large number of high-grade GAI 1955 Bowman baseball cards that were independently verified later as having been trimmed, re-glossed, or a combination of both.”  Schoenen confronted Moser on the Net54 board in 2008 and asked him,  ”Are you planning on letting us all in on the secrets as to how you managed to perpetrate these alterations and get them past a professional grading company?”  We asked Schoenen if he ever had similar problems with Schwartz and he replied, “My problems were always with Moser, specifically, but I believe they’re a tag team.”  Schoenen also said he plans on having his own T206 Magie card re-examined to make sure it is authentic.

One other person who was willing to go on the record about Schwartz was outspoken collector Dan McKee who told us, “Since it seems Gerry was the buyer of the 2 Magee commons used to make the errors, then he should at least be able to tell us who he sold them to so that a trace can be started.”

Hauls of Shame has not been able to confirm whether the two T206 Magie fakes are currently being investigated by either local law enforcement or the New York office of the FBI.

(If you have any additional information on the two T206 Magie fakes or others, please contact us at: Tips@Haulsofshame.com )


By Peter J. Nash
January 6, 2014

PSA graded and authenticated two T206 Sherwood Magee cards that were fraudulently altered and transformed into bogus "Magie" error card rarities.

In a recently published report Hauls of Shame confirmed there are at least sixty-four T206 Honus Wagner cards known to exist including the trimmed PSA-8 Mastro example and the PSA-2 copy currently up for sale at Lelands.

The Wagner card along with another T206 of HOFer Eddie Plank are two of the traditional “Big Three” cards highlighted in the storied tobacco card set dubbed “The Monster” by hobby pioneer Bill Heitman. The third is the “Sherwood Magie” error card which depicts player Sherry Magee and was misspelled in early production before being corrected, thus creating another rarity with just over 100 copies known to exist.

Over the past several decades PSA has graded dozens of the three celebrated cards but with the revelations in Federal Court that hobby kingpin Bill Mastro trimmed and altered the PSA-8 Honus Wagner card, the company founded by David Hall and headed by president Joe Orlando has come under fire as the evidence suggests PSA was founded on a fraudulent authentication of an iconic artifact.  Many PSA customers and supporters, however, have claimed that the authentication of the Wagner card back in 1991 was an anomaly and that the grading company is both qualified and competent maintaining its status as the leader in the field along with SportsCard Guaranty (SGC).

But now PSA is dealing with another grading scandal to add to its list of failures after collectors uncovered two altered and bogus T206 Sherwood Magie error cards that the company authenticated, graded and encapsulated in 2013. One example sold for over $16,000 at a Mile High Cards auction in June and another was removed from eBay in November when it was exposed as a fake by collector Chris Browne. Browne uncovered images of the exact same cards in their prior PSA and SGC graded holders showing the cards with the correct “Magee” spelling before they were fraudulently altered and transformed into the “Magie” error rarity.

PSA & SGC authenticated and graded the two "Magee" cards to the left before they were removed from their holders and altered to become "Magie" error cards which were both graded and slabbed by PSA (right)

The news that such fakes could bypass the PSA experts decades after they graded the trimmed PSA-8 Wagner suggests that the services rendered by PSA may be flawed to a level almost beyond belief for collectors, dealers and auctioneers who are invested in PSA product.

PSA has had a poor track record with the T206 issue and the Magie error card in particular.  In 2003, longtime T206 collector Dan McKee filed suit against PSA after the company lost his Magie error card which he had sent to the company for grading.  In 2004, a California court in Orange County ruled against PSA and awarded McKee damages of $4,852.  In a press release issued by McKee’s attorney, Adam Warshaw, it was also revealed that the trial testimony of Joe Orlando showed that PSA “does not take any steps to independently monitor its receivers when they open packages submitted to PSA.”

In addition to past security issues, even more prevalent are allegations that PSA has graded and encapsulated scores of altered and trimmed cards that trace back to Bill Mastro and the T206 set sold by Jim Copeland at Sotheby’s in 1991.  That T206 set ended up in the collection of coin collector Kirk Harris and was subsequently given high grades by PSA who identified the near-mint cards on the PSA flips as coming from “The Harris Collection.”  Harris’ T206 set was advertised by the company as the “first pedigreed T206 set” in the PSA set registry.

The recent PSA authentications of the two Magie fakes take claims of authentication malpractice and alleged fraud by the company to a new level.  Considering only one-hundred or so genuine examples of the Magie error card exist, questions are now being asked as to how PSA failed to detect the alterations and turned a $200 common card into a $16,000 treasure.

EBay seller Rick Probstein (inset) offered the doctored T206 Magie error card and then withdrew it after collectors exposed it as a fake.

Several collectors had questioned the authenticity of one of the Magie error cards when it was offered last November in an eBay sale by seller Rick Probstein and at the same time another collector questioned the Magie that had been sold at Mile High in June.  The Magie cards were then proven to be bogus by collector Chris Browne of Calgary, Ontario, who was able to locate the sales of the exact same cards in their previous holders as the “Magee” variations before being transformed into rarities.  Browne posted his findings on collector forum Net54 and the eBay seller Probstein123 promptly removed the card from his eBay auction.   Probstein also posted his reaction on the same forum and stated, “I’m still in shock that such a high profile card could get holdered, very upsetting.”  When Hauls of Shame contacted Probstein he said, “I’m not surprised something like this could happen, there are a lot of crooks out there doctoring up cards.”

In his interview with Hauls of Shame Probstein said he was alerted to the problem by one of his consignors and that after reviewing Browne’s discovery and having a conversation with a grader from SGC, he ended the auction.  Probstein added, “Joe Orlando contacted me and asked for the card so we shipped it back to PSA overnight.”  Probstein said he has not heard back from Orlando and when asked who consigned the card to his auction he said, “That information is private.”  According to Chris Browne, the same buyer purchased both of the graded cards on eBay before they were doctored.  Browne added, “Joe Orlando is looking into it.”

Brian Drent, owner of Mile High Cards, told us that the bogus Magie card sold in his auction was consigned by the same person who consigned the other fake to Probstein’s eBay auction.  Said Drent, “All I know is what he told me and he said he bought both cards in a group of stuff and that he’d been duped himself.”  According to Drent his buyer was overseas and the card had been shipped out of the country by the time it was identified as a fake.  After learning about the card’s problems Drent said, “I spoke with Joe Orlando and he immediately contacted our buyer and bought the card back from him.”  Drent added, “Joe was very disturbed and very upset about it.  But he took care of our buyer immediately.”  In regards to the quality of the doctoring performed on the Magie card Drent said, “It wasn’t an easy thing to pick up there in the holder and it wasn’t a high-grade copy.  I didn’t pay sufficient attention to it, it just never crossed our mind.  I should have looked closer than I did.”

PSA founder David Hall (inset top left) and President Joe Orlando (inset top right), advertise that they can "turn your cardboard into gold." They delivered on that promise to a submitter of (2) T206 fakes exposed by Chris Browne (inset bottom).

The critical question now is who bought the two fakes when they were still “Magee” cards and who actually submitted them to PSA as altered “Magie” rarities.  Chris Browne says the same person also purchased a T206 Doyle card which could also be altered to create a rarity.  Hauls of Shame has not been able to determine the name of the consignor of both bogus cards and Brian Drent said his card came from a client who, “Consigns to Mile High infrequently.”  Rick Probstein said he was not aware that his consignor was selling both fake cards and added, “I didn’t talk to my consignor about it, I just sent it back to PSA after Joe Orlando contacted me.  My consignor hasn’t even contact me about his card.  I’m sure Joe Orlando has contacted him.” Despite the fact that both fakes went undetected by PSA graders Probstein said, “Their work is impeccable.”

Allegations that PSA gives preferential treatment and higher grades to auction house executives and high-volume customers has fueled even more speculation about who actually submitted both Magie fakes for encapsulation.  Sources indicate that the FBI is aware of this current situation and has also been looking into PSA business practices for both card and autograph authentication. The fact that one of the bogus cards was actually graded previously by PSA as a Magee “Ex 5″ and ended up a “Magie” with a lower grade of “Good 2″ is also problematic.  PSA President Joe Orlando did not respond to our inquiry for comment on who submitted both fakes to his graders and how those graders failed to identify the counterfeit cards.  Considering the scarcity of the T206 Wagner, Plank and Magie cards, submissions of these examples are far from everyday occurrences at PSA.  One would think the company’s most experienced graders would be responsible for examining such cards.  Identifying and outing who submitted the fakes to PSA could help uncover a sophisticated forgery ring and also shed more light on other fakes that have infiltrated the marketplace.

In 1991, PSA failed when they graded and legitimized Bill Mastro’s trimmed T206 Wagner and now twenty three years later they are encapsulating T206 cards that have had their original graphics removed and reapplied fraudulently.  How much confidence can PSA customers have in the company and the PSA product found in their own collections?

Dan McKee has seen his share of Magie error cards in his collecting career and the recent revelations regarding PSA’s  grading of the two fakes has him very concerned.  Says McKee, “These recent T206 Magie error fakes have got to make you wonder if the one you are holding is good.  I have a friend with seven of them and he is checking them with a fine tooth comb.  His were all acquired within the last ten years unlike the one I have in my set which I found in the mid 1980s.”

In contrast to his feelings about PSA’s negligence when they lost his own Magie card back in 2003, McKee feels some empathy for the company.  He added, “About the quality of these fakes and them getting by PSA I can only say that with the naked eye and large scans they look darn scary!  Now PSA gets paid to protect us from this but these are the best I have ever seen.”

Not surprisingly, despite the major ramifications of this story, it has not been covered anywhere in the so-called “hobby press” since the time the fakes were exposed back in November.