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By Peter J. Nash

April 29, 2014

Goldin Auctions sold what PSA/DNA said was Ted Williams' last glove.

He had been giving away his gloves and bats and had grudgingly consented to a sentimental ceremony today.”

So wrote John Updike about Ted Williams in the New Yorker on October 22nd, 1960.  Now, almost fifty-four years after those words were written, one of the gloves alleged to be Williams’ last was just sold on the auction block.  But was it the real deal?  And why did one of the experts who authenticated it say he never claimed it was Ted’s last glove when his letter of opinion said it was?  Are Goldin Auctions and glove authenticators PSA/DNA just hell-bent for leather?

Updike sat in a wooden seat in the Fall of 1960 in the ballpark he described as a “lyric little bandbox” to witness Williams’ last major league game, and the essay he wrote, Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu, became what Roger Angell would later call the “most celebrated baseball piece ever.”

That being said, this is likely the first piece that has paid any attention to Updike’s mention that the “Splendid Splinter” had been giving away his bats and gloves in the weeks leading up to his inevitable retirement. It’s something that caught my eye after Goldin Auctions recently claimed they had the actual sacred relic that Williams pounded his fist into on that late September day in 1960. It was the glove that the “Kid”, himself, would bid adieu to as he hung up his spikes and called it a career.

The finality of the day Updike wrote about in 1960 gives this Williams artifact an aura of immortality and the memories of him hitting that homer into the right-field grandstand in his last at-bat just makes this glove all the more noteworthy and iconic.  As Americans we seem rather obsessed with the firsts and the lasts of all sorts of endeavors, so when you say, “this is Ted Williams’ last glove,” it resonates with us and seems profound.  For auctioneers, having such firsts and lasts in their possession is like issuing themselves a free pass to make the rounds on the network and cable newscasts.  If you happen to have that last glove caressing your own hand today in 2014, it’s something that could be extremely valuable.  You might even say it would be worthy of a museum display in Cooperstown.

Sometime before he passed away, Ted Williams actually donated his 500th home run bat and ball from the 1960 season to the Baseball Hall of Fame and they’ve been on display ever since.  Ted’s alleged last glove, however, was up for grabs at Goldin Auctions, but how could they be sure it’s really the one he wore on September 28, 1960? And considering Updike’s mention that Williams had been gifting away his tools of the trade, how could you ever be sure which glove was which?  Williams likely used dozens of baseball gloves during his career that spanned from 1939 to 1960, so how could anyone know definitively that one was worn in a particular game, let alone his very last?

Ted Williams wore many gloves during his career (l to r): Williams in 1939; 1954; undated photo from the 1950s; and on July 4, 1960.

According to Goldin’s catalog, Williams gave the alleged “last glove” as a gift to John Donovan an ex-Red Sox bat boy who went on to become a Red Sox VP and the teams general counsel in the 1980s.  The lot description states, “This one-of-a-kind glove was given to Donovan by Ted Williams upon his retirement in 1960. It was given to a mutual friend of Ted’s and John’s shortly thereafter, and has remained in the family possession for 50 years.”  But when Goldin first announced he was selling the glove, Sports Collectors Daily reported, “The auction house says Donovan told them Williams gave him the glove upon his retirement in 1960.”

Sports Collectors Daily reported that Goldin Auctions received the consignment of Ted Williams' alleged "last glove" from a Red Sox executive.

Ken Goldin told us that his consignor was not Donovan or his family, but rather another unnamed individual who he passed the glove along to.  Goldin was not willing to reveal the identity of the owner and he had no direct evidence he could offer to prove that the glove was actually used by Williams in his last game.  What he did have was a letter of opinion from PSA/DNA signed by glove expert Denny Esken and bat expert John Taube claiming that it was “the very last glove the baseball great ever used as a player and the only one ever authenticated by PSA/DNA.”

You’d think that Esken as an expert would also have hard evidence to support such a claim including a photo or video clip of Williams wearing the same glove or at least the same model glove on Sept. 28, 1960.  If not that direct evidence, perhaps he might have pictures of Williams wearing the same glove at other times during the 1960 season, but he didn’t have that either.  All Goldin offered as further proof was the additional claim that, “This piece of history has been photographed and featured in numerous books and articles on Ted’s storied career.”

Denny Esken (right) made similar claims that a glove offered by Steiner Sports (center) was "photo-matched" as the last glove Robinson ever wore. But a photo from 1956 (left) reveals that Robinson wore different gloves as evidenced by the "42" he wrote on the strap (see red highlights).

It’s not the first time Esken has made a spectacular claim without supporting evidence as he did the same thing last year when he authenticated what he claimed was Jackie Robinson’s last glove from 1956 (and the glove he wore during the 1955 and 1956 World Series).  Esken claimed to have “photo-matched” Robinson’s glove from an image taken during Spring Training in 1956, but that didn’t prove Robinson wore the glove in his last game or in the World Series and, as it turned out, the glove he authenticated was not a “photo-match.”  It was a different glove.

Despite PSA/DNA's claims that Williams' glove was a Wilson A-2000, this photo from July 4, 1960, shows Williams wearing another glove with a different heel construction. The glove depicted in the Boston Globe photo shows close to nine metal eyelits whereas the Goldin glove has only six.

In a report published in the summer of 2012, Hauls of Shame presented several photos of Jackie Robinson during the 1956 season and during spring training that clearly showed him wearing a glove different from the Esken authenticated glove that was offered by Steiner Sports.  Despite Esken’s false claim, Steiner went on to sell the glove for over $373,000 without posting an addendum reflecting the misrepresentation of the glove to bidders.

As was the case with the Robinson glove, we also found a few photographs of Ted Williams wearing different gloves during the 1960 season.  The first photo we encountered appeared in the Boston Globe from a Red Sox game played on July 4, 1960, and clearly illustrated Williams wearing a different model glove.  The heel construction in the Globe photo showed at least nine different metal eyelets for lacing while the Goldin auction glove featured approximately six.

This AP photo from July 9, 1960, (top left) shows Williams wearing a different glove with a rectangular label contrasting with the oval Wilson logo alleged to have been Williams' last (bottom right). An undated Wilson A-2000 glove ad from Williams' personal scrapbooks c1959-60 (top right) shows his glove as different from the Goldin lot. Also pictured is a 1961 Wilson ad for the A-2000 (bottom left).

In addition, a second photograph we located was published by the Associated Press on July 9, 1960, and showed Williams posing with Roger Maris wearing a different glove which appeared to have been manufactured by Spalding.  The glove was constructed with a rectangular label sewn onto the strap as opposed to the circular stitched “Wilson” logo which is visible on the strap of the Goldin glove.

In the Goldin lot description Esken offers additional information about the A-2000 Wilson glove itself stating:

“The Wilson 11 3/4″ “Shooting Star Palm” fielder’s glove shows the “344A” pro code under the wrist strap which confirms this glove was manufactured specifically for Williams himself. Made from premium Chicago leather, it boasts a Solid X-Lace Web, a new innovation at the time, making this style of glove closer to the modern version in use today than the ones available at the beginning of Williams’ career…”

Goldin and Eskin give the impression that the “344A” pro code was a specific designation for Williams, but others say it represents the code Wilson used for gloves made for MLB players in general.

In the past few decades only a few gloves have been sold as either “game used” or “attributed to” actual game use by Williams.  Two of those gloves were sold by Heritage Auction Galleries in Dallas, Texas, and were accompanied by letters of opinion written by another recognized glove expert named Joe Phillips who operates an outfit called “The Glove Collector.”  Philips noted that one of the gloves had a “3″ mark on the underside of the wrist strap and noted that a “344A” stamp was used on gloves that were considered “pro stock.”  Based upon the characteristics of the gloves and two letters of provenance written by people who claimed to have received the gloves directly from Williams in the 1950’s,  Philips wrote that the one glove was “very likely worn by Ted Williams during the mid-1950’s.”  Heritage sold both gloves as “game used” and “game worn” by Williams.  In 2004, when Heritage sold its first Williams glove, they noted that the only other known “game used” Williams gloves were one at the Baseball Hall of Fame and another with a “Boston area doctor who still holds it in his collection.”

Heritage has sold two other gloves said to be "game used" by Ted Williams (l to r) a c. 1955 glove given to a Williams friend and another from the 1950s attributed to Williams. A third glove resides at the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. A Wilson ad from 1956 shows that Williams used Wilson products.

Before we actually interviewed auctioneer Ken Goldin and the experts at PSA/DNA it was rather easy to establish that Ted Williams wore a glove (or gloves) during the 1960 season that differed from the example being sold as his “last glove.” Reading John Updike’s New Yorker essay, it was even easier to establish the possibility that Williams was actually giving away multiple gloves in his possession in the weeks leading up to his last game at Fenway on September 28, 1960.  In fact, it appears that Updike may have heard about Williams giving away his equipment in an article published in the Boston Herald on September 29, 1960 which reported, “Ted has been giving away bats and gloves the last few weeks, leaving little doubt but that he was sincere about his retirement that became official yesterday.”

John Updike (right) likely read that Williams was giving away his bats and gloves in a Boston Herald article (right) published the day after his last game on September 28, 1960 (ticket, center).

So, what could Goldin or PSA/DNA provide that would somehow support their lofty claims and present the lot description as something that was supported by actual evidence?  What could separate this alleged glove from other outright frauds that hobbyists have been deceived by recently like the “Shoeless” Joe Jackson “game used” bat offered for sale at Robert Edward Auctions with a fraudulent letter of opinion by PSA/DNA?

When I presented Ken Goldin with all of the information I had discovered, he proceeded to investigate the situation on his own and by Monday morning April 22nd he had posted a new PSA/DNA letter of opinion which described the glove as “One of the Last Gloves Used by Williams in the Major Leagues.”  PSA experts John Taube and Dennis Esken were still claiming the glove was used by Williams during his last season, just not in his legendary last game as depicted in the actual auction catalog.  The actual auction lot description was changed from Williams’ “very last glove” to “one of the very last gloves.”

PSA/DNA replaced its original opinion of this glove's "game-use" in Ted Williams' last game to his "last season" based on information Hauls of Shame passed along to auctioneer Ken Goldin.

Based on the track record of the PSA experts Esken and Taube, however, was this downgrade of the letter of opinion from “game use” in Williams’ last game to just his “last season” credible?

According to the website VintageBaseball, the Wilson A-2000 model glove featured a rectangular logo on the wrist strap up until at least 1963 and the round “W” logo appeared circa 1964, almost four years after Williams’ last game.  If that information is correct, that would mean it was impossible for the Goldin glove to have been used by Williams in his last season or at any other time in his baseball career.  It would mean that the opinion of “game use” rendered by Taube and Esken of PSA/DNA was entirely wrong.  What type of research did PSA/DNA conduct to determine the glove was genuine?

The PSA website includes an online feature called “PSA Card Facts” which lets users view hi-resolution scans of every Topps baseball card ever issued since 1951, including Williams’ last season in 1960.  The players posing for those cards sometimes wore their gloves and in some cases revealed the actual brand of glove they chose to use on the ball field.  We decided to scan all of the cards issued from 1960 to 1967 to determine when the Wilson A-2000 glove (which was first introduced in 1957) changed its logo on the wrist from a rectangular shape saying “Wilson” to the oval “W” logo.  The results of this review were quite remarkable.

PSA Card Facts shows that in Topps cards issued from 1960 through 1964, the oval Wilson logo "W" doesn't appear until 1964 on the card of Wes Stock. All Wilson glove appearing on cards before 1964 have the rectangular "Wilson" logo affixed to the wrist strap.

According to the photographs used by Topps on its card products in the 1960’s, the first time a Wilson glove appears with an oval “W” logo is in 1964 on the baseball card of pitcher Wes Stock of the Baltimore Orioles. Topps would use photos of players taken in the previous season or during Spring Training of the year of issue, so the photo of Stock wearing the Wilson glove with the oval “W” logo could have been taken as early as 1963.  If the Topps photos are an accurate representation of how Wilson introduced the new style of “W” logo into the Major Leagues, that would again make it impossible for the Goldin Williams glove to have been used in a game during the 1960 season.   It isn’t until the seasons of 1965 and 1966 that the oval “W” logo appears with great frequency in the player photographs published by Topps.

The Topps cards of Red Sox pitcher Jack Lamabe illustrate best how Wilson introduced the oval "W" logo on its glove products. In his 1963 and 1964 cards he is wearing gloves with rectangular logos and in 1965 and 1966 the logo has changed to the oval "W" version.

Reviewing the Topps cards from this era on the PSA website also helped to establish the progression of Wilson products in reference to particular players, including Boston Red Sox pitcher Jack Lamabe.  Lamabe is shown in his 1963 and 1964 cards wearing a Wilson glove with a rectangular logo on the strap while his cards from 1965 and 1966 show him wearing a Wilson A-2000 glove featuring the oval “W” logo just like the Williams glove up for auction.  In addition, the Wilson product catalogs do not incorporate the oval “W” logo until the 1964 Spring issue and they continued through the 1960’s including the 1966 catalog which appears to include the exact same model A-2000 glove as the alleged Williams glove (“last game” & “last season”) authenticated by PSA/DNA.

Hauls of Shame spoke with PSA/DNA’s glove expert Dennis Esken to make some sense of the Williams glove controversy.  When asked how he could justify writing an LOA saying the glove was from Williams last game Esken said, “I never said it was from his last game that wasn’t me.   That’s a facsimile signature not mine.  I said it was from his last season so that’s how it changed.”  When asked who wrote the letter Esken said, “It was John Taube in his office and he really doesn’t know gloves like I do.  They want me to look at the gloves coming to PSA because there are so many bad gloves people are trying to get by them,” said Esken.  Esken also made a point to say he doesn’t work for PSA for the money but, rather, “to help the FBI” and weed out the bad gloves.  Taube did not respond to our inquiry for comment on his PSA/DNA letter.

The Ted Williams glove alleged to be from his last season in 1960 is identical to a Wilson A-2000 model that appears in the 1966 Wilson catalog (left).

When asked what evidence he had that the Williams glove with the oval “W” logo was from 1960 (when it appears that such a glove first appeared in the Major Leagues in 1963), Esken said, “It was a prototype glove made for Ted.  Twenty years ago I spoke to the Wilson guy who made the glove and he told me it was (made) for him.”  In an email to Goldin Esken added, “There is a special number stamped under the wrist strap (344A). I was told by these designers that there was a number stamped to verify whose glove it was. That number matched their records for Ted Williams 1960!”

When we asked Esken if those numbers were simply codes for “pro model” gloves he replied, “These glove guys just don’t understand.  Joe Phillips is emailing Goldin and saying the glove could only be from 1963 but he’s wrong, its a prototype.”  Phillips did not respond to an email request for comment.  Esken said he spoke to the Wilson designer over twenty years ago and said his name was Ted Javor.  Esken said he was referred to Javor by another Wilson employee named Earl Malone who has operated a glove repair business in his post-Wilson days.  Hauls of Shame attempted to contact Malone for comment but was unsuccessful.  When we asked Esken where the Wilson documentation for the “344A” code was now and if he could provide contact information for Ted Javor he replied, “No, that was a long time ago, he’s probably dead by now.”

The Goldin Williams A-2000 glove has "344A" stamped on the inside wrist strap (left). Another A-2000 displayed on a collector website has a "241A" stamp.

If Esken’s claim that the Williams glove was a prototype were true, it would mean that a glove that appeared in the 1966 Wilson catalog was given to Ted Williams six years earlier.  We asked Esken why there is no photographic evidence showing players wearing Wilson gloves with the oval “W” logo before 1963 and he said, “It was just for Ted, only he had it.”

Esken also revealed that the consignor and owner of the glove was Dr. David L. Pressman of Chelsea, Massachusetts, and when asked how he could know which glove Pressman had considering reports of Williams giving glves away Esken said, “I know he was giving away his gloves and Dr. Pressman knew Ted and wanted his last glove and he got it.  Donovan got the glove for him from Ted. Donovan hardly had the glove, the Doctor has had it for like 54 years.  I found out about the glove from the Doctor over twenty years ago when I checked it out.”  Esken added that Pressman couldn’t go to Fenway Park to get the glove that day because he had class in medical school at Harvard and sent Donovan to get that particular glove because it was “the nice one” he wanted as opposed to another glove that he said wasn’t in good shape.

Dr. Pressman's Williams glove appeared in a bok written by Bill Nowlin and Jim prime as a "game used" glove with no mention of "last game" or "last season." PSA/DNA authenticator John Taube (center) issued a letter alleging it was from his last game. The company headed by Joe Orlando (right) has since issued a replacement letter alleging game use in 1960.

Esken’s hearsay account contradicted Goldin’s description of John Donovan’s acquisition of the glove and, as a result, Goldin told us, “We rely on the consignor as well as the authenticator in instances like the Ted Williams glove where it is not part of an MLB authentication or similar program.  Our consignor was a longtime friend of Ted Williams (a point that is without dispute) and has written to us confirming that he received the glove from Donovan on behalf of Ted Williams and was told it was a game used glove from his final season (1960).”  Pressman, however, did not provide for Goldin any of the details Esken described.

Pressman has been quoted in several articles written about Williams after his death and his glove was featured as just a “game-used” glove in a 2002 book written by Bill Nowlin and Jim Prime called, Ted Williams:  The Pursuit of Perfection.  In 2001, Pressman was also critical of Williams’ son and told the LA Times, “John Henry needs a good Irish kick in the (rear).  He’s not what you’d expect from Ted Williams whose word was golden.”

In regard to the glove, Esken’s claims boil down to his own credibility.  If you examine Esken’s claim that the current glove in the Goldin auction was a prototype issued to Willliams three to six years before it began appearing on the field with MLB players, you must confront the actual hard evidence that exists in the form of actual photographs of Williams wearing what are clearly two different gloves on July 4th and July 9th, 1960.  In addition, you must also confront the existence of the c.1960 Wilson advertisement which shows Williams holding an A-2000 glove with a rectangular logo patch.

Wilson A-2000 gloves appeared in catalogs and print ads but were used by some players beforehand. The A-2000 also incorporated several different design elements between 1961 (left) 1964 (center) and 1966 (inset catalog picture). The Goldin Williams glove matches the A-2000 in the 1966 Wilson catalog exactly in construction and graphics.

Esken also can’t explain why the alleged “protoptype” glove matches exactly the Wilson A-2000 glove that appears illustrated in the 1966 Wilson catalog.  It has been demonstrated that there is a lag-time involved between the time gloves are designed and constructed and when they actually appear in catalogs and print ads.  Those gloves also can get into the hands of MLB players well before they are made public and in some cases it has been shown that certain designs could be “game used” even a year before the glove has been made an official model.  But the A-2000 model incorporated a host of contrasting design elements from year to year during the time period between 1960 and 1966.

Ted Williams was a member of Wilson's advisory board and had visited the Wilson glove factory early in his career (inset). In 1956 (the season before the A-2000 was introduced), Williams appeared in an ad wearing another Wilson glove model. In another 1959 ad (right) an illustration of the A-2000 was revealed.

Would an alleged prototype glove be more likely to resemble gloves that are a year or two removed from a catalog appearance or six years like the alleged Williams glove?  And what would be the odds that the Williams glove would match the 1966 glove exactly if they really were separated by six years of designs and improvements?  Did it actually take six years for that design to enter the market?  Then consider that all of the visual evidence flies in the face of Esken’s claims that the Williams glove was a prototype sent only to him.  Based on the story that the glove came directly from Williams, the evidence suggests that this glove was more likely used by him as an instructor, coach or manager after his playing days.

The Boston Globe published a photo of Williams wearing his last glove on the field during his last game (left). Williams continued with the Red Sox as an instructor in 1961 (center) and used other gloves when he instructed players in his role as a coach and as a manager with the Washington Senators (right).

Auctioneer Ken Goldin relies on the authentication companies for opinions and assumes that the companies are competent enough to consider these issues.  Goldin responded to our inquiries and stated, “The authenticator, PSA/DNA, not only provided an LOA on the glove, but at my request provided additional information to me, in writing, regarding the glove.”  As for the confusion about how and when the glove was acquired by Pressman, Goldin added, “To ensure there is no confusion as to the chain of custody on the glove, we edited out (the) description regarding that.”

Dr. Pressman could not be reached for comment and neither Esken or Goldin were willing to provide his contact information. Goldin did, however, provide us with a statement Pressman prepared on Friday for the auction house in which he mentions his inclusion in Ben Bradlee Jr’s recent Williams biography, The Kid, and says, “I first met Ted Williams in 1948 and had a close personal relationship with him most of his life.”  Of the acquisition of the glove Pressman says, “Ted Williams gave John Donovan his game used glove from the 1960 season with instructions to get it to my family. I retrieved the glove from John.  I was told by John and Ted it was his game used glove from his final season. It has been in my family’s possession since we received it.”

Pressman, however, did not indicate exactly when he acquired the glove in his statement and when we asked Ken Goldin whether Pressman could address what the date or even the year was he replied, “He only wrote what he 100% remembered from over 50 years ago. No speculation or “I think(s).” He didn’t remember the exact date so he did not include it.  I got the impression it was shortly after.”

The date issue is also notable because Pressman wasn’t even living in Boston at the time Williams retired.  He was attending medical school at Columbia University in New York City from 1958 through 1961.  Considering his claims of having a close relationship with Willaims and Esken’s story that he was able to choose which glove he wanted as a gift, it would appear that this would be more difficult to do while living in Manhattan in 1960.

Esken says that Pressman sought him out to show him the glove about twenty years ago.  Of Pressman’s glove Esken told us, “That glove was his baby.  He once offered it to me for $200,000 based on what that Mantle glove sold to Billy Crystal for.  I thought it was too much.”

The glove sold on Friday night for $88,157. Someone out there thought it was at least worth that, but can the winning bidder ever really know for sure it was used by Ted Williams in 1960?

By Peter J. Nash

April 23, 2014

The 2014 Spring Auctions are in full swing and so is our auction fraud alert.

It’s that time of year again when the REA catalog sniffers wax poetic about the Springtime auction offerings, but Heritage Auction Galleries, Huggins & Scott, Goldin Auctions and SCP have also put together an impressive array of materials from the world of baseball memorabilia we refer to as “the hobby.”

But, as usual, there are numerous items in the Spring sales that collectors shouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole.  We devoted our last two reports to the fraudulent “Shoeless” Joe Jackson “Black Betsy” bat being offered at REA and we’re glad that the high bidder at $55,000 appears to have been able to retract his high-bid. The bat has been willfully misrepresented by REA and PSA/DNA has issued a deceptive letter of opinion stating that the bat was game used by Jackson although there is no definitive evidence to support such a claim.

In response to our report, PSA/DNA’s bat expert, John Taube, issued a three page missive on the REA website in an attempt to defend his position that the Jackson bat was “game used.” Taube writes that Hauls of Shame is “not qualified to comment on the specifics of the authentication process of a game used bat” but ends up backtracking on his original opinion of actual game use by alluding to what he now calls “the probability of game use.”

All Taube does in his letter is reinforce the fact that he has no solid proof to justify a determination of game use by Joe Jackson.  Taube actually says, “We know that Jackson did not receive many bats throughout his career adding further weight to the probability of game use.”   He says that he “knows” this despite the fact there are no Hillerich &Bradsby records to support his claim and Taube still fails to address the only surviving document detailing an actual Jackson bat order from H&B shows that he received six bats of differing weights in September of 1915.  According to Taube, the determination of Jackson’s game-use is based solely on his comparing bats to the vault marked “J-13″ example that sold for close to $1 million at Heritage.  He claims that the “J-13″ is unique and was not used by the other players shown swinging the same style bat in period photos.   It appears that the primary basis for this opinion is that he has never examined the bats used by other players.  Because Taube has never encountered them as a dealer and authenticator, he believes they did not exist.  Taube’s letter further illustrates that the process and criteria he uses for determining game use of Dead-Ball era bats is fatally flawed.

In addition to Taube’s letter, REA also posted its consignor’s original invoice from Steve Jensen’s 2004 Vintage Authentics auction.  Although Jensen told Hauls of Shame he recalled selling the bat for “about $20,000″ the invoice shows he actually sold it for close to $48,000.  So, now we at least know why REA placed a $50,000 reserve on the bat.  The seller doesn’t want to risk the misrepresented bat selling for less than his original purchase price.  One new question arising from REA’s invoice revelation is whether the Jackson bat opening bid at $50,000 is a legitimate one?  All that being said, REA and Lifson are still pimping the bat hard with their last email telling prospective bidders:  ”Was this the bat actually used by Joe Jackson in the 1919 World Series?  It’s possible, but we’ll never know for sure.”

REA mind as well ask prospective bidders if the “Black Betsy” bat in the sale was also used by Bob Fothergill or Bill Killefer who were pictured swinging lumber that Taube claims was unique to Joe Jackson.

John Taube claims that the REA Joe Jackson bat (bottom) is a unique model only used by Joe Jackson and denies photographic evidence of other MLB players like Bob Fothergill (left) and Bill Killefer (right) using the same "Black Betsy" style bat. If either of the pictured bats were 35.5 inches long, they could become Joe Jackson gamers.

The alleged Jackson bat is the most stunning deception of the 2014 auction season, but here are some other selections that experts and Hauls of Shame readers have pinpointed as problematic:

-Goldin Auctions has another high-profile artifact with alleged “game use” and a PSA/DNA letter of opinion.  Lot #1 in Goldin’s “Opening Day Auction” is the highly-touted “Last Glove Worn By Ted Williams.”  PSA’s John Taube teamed up on this LOA with glove expert Dennis Esken to determine that the Goldin glove was worn by the “Splendid Splinter” at Fenway during his last game in 1960.  According to the auction catalog description its the “only PSA/DNA authenticated Ted Williams glove in existence” and Esken also says, it is the “finest Williams glove in existence.”  Goldin Auctions adds, “We dare anyone to differ.”

PSA says Goldin Auctions is selling Ted Williams' authentic last glove from 1960. But photos from 1960, like this one from July 4th (right) show Williams wearing a different glove with a different heel constriction for the lacing (see red highlights).

Last week, a reader asked us to check out the auction’s claims and, as a result, we researched some photos from the 1960 season. The first image we found on the Boston Globe website pictured Williams on July 4, 1960, at Fenway Park wearing a different glove than the one appearing in the auction.  The heel of the glove is visibly different than the Wilson A-2000 model that PSA/DNA authenticated as Williams’ last glove in that it features several more circular metal eyelets for the lacing and two which actually appear to the left of the seam on the thumb.  The Goldin glove has no eyelets to the left of the seam on the thumb.  Is it possible that Williams wore multiple gloves in 1960?  Perhaps.  But how could Taube and Esken know for sure its the one from his last game?  Adding to the intrigue is John Updike in his famous New Yorker essay about Williams’ last game.  In “Hub Bids Kid Adieu” Updike says that Williams had been giving away his bats and  gloves in the weeks leading up to his final game.

Goldin says the glove has “solid provenance” and was a gift from Williams to Red Sox executive John Donovan.  But the auction house also says it was later passed along to another friend and has “remained in the family possession for 50 years.”  It could very well be a glove Williams gave Donovan, but is it the last one he ever wore?  Does PSA/DNA have actual proof to back up their claim?

We presented the information we discovered to Ken Goldin and asked him how PSA/DNA could have issued an LOA claiming game use in Williams’ historic last game.  To his credit, Goldin proactively researched the issue on his own and on Monday morning posted a new replacement LOA from PSA/DNA which now identifies the glove as “One of the Last Gloves Used By Williams in the Major Leagues.”

The Williams glove currently has a bid of $46,585.  Look out for a more in-depth report on this glove coming soon.

-Heritage Auction Galleries raised some eyebrows in the preview for its upcoming May auction when they posted several forgeries and non-genuine signatures of rare Hall of Famers Ed Delahanty, King Kelly, Buck Ewing, Josh Gibson and John Ward. The non-genuine Delahanty signature was at least spelled correctly and found on a 2-page letter executed in pencil from the collection of Tom Steinhardt and the Kelly signature was an amateurish forgery in pencil appearing as a signed return address on a period envelope which was executed in ink. It appears that the gurus at JSA and PSA caught these forgeries because most of them vanished from the HA website preview.

Non-genuine signatures of Ed Delahanty, King Kelly, Josh Gibson and John M. Ward appeared on the HA auction preview. Which ones will appear in the actual auction catalog with JSA or PSA LOA's?

The John Ward signature, however, actually made it into the Heritage catalog. The Ward letter is of particular interest in that Heritage says it comes with a “Full LOA from PSA/DNA”.  The signed letter was featured last summer in our “Worst 100 Authentications” as number 46. The Ward signature is a secretarial and in no way resembles his genuine signature which is documented on numerous other documents.  In fact, this exact same letter was offered in a Mastro auction in 2004 and was removed from the sale after it was reported to the auction that it was not genuine.  What is most troubling about this example is that sources indicate that PSA/DNA authenticator Kevin Keating had recently attempted to sell this same non-genuine autograph to a collector for over $25,000.  If that weren’t enough, the letter is also believed to have been stolen from the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Herrmann papers Archive.  The fact that this letter made it into the Spring sale is a monumental embarrassment for both Heritage and PSA/DNA.

PSA/DNA has authenticated a non-genuine secretarial signature of HOFer John M. Ward. The same item was removed as lot 543 from a 2004 Mastro auction. Illustrated avbove are several Ward secreterial sigs (center) found in the HOF's Herrmann papers Archive. Authentic Ward sigs from the same collection appear to the far right and have no resemblance to the Heritage signature with the PSA/DNA LOA.

Another signature that appears to have made the cut at Heritage is a bogus example of 19th century boxing champ James J. Corbett which comes with a JSA LOA. Boxing expert Travis Roste tells us, “It’s signed by his wife and even says ‘Mrs. James Corbett.’  How could Heritage trust JSA on boxing?”  What’s worse is that the Corbett signatures executed by his wife have been widely recognized as non-genuine in the hobby and among boxing collectors.

-Heritage also has its share of questionable single-signed baseballs in its Spring auction including examples attributed to Charles Comiskey and Miller Huggins which appear to have been enhanced or gone over.  Other alleged forgeries of Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth also appear in the auction.

Experts say that each of these baseballs feature non genuine signatures of Hall of Famers (l to r): Charles Comiskey; Ty Cobb; Miller J. Huggins and Babe Ruth.

-Robert Edward Auctions has other questionable baseballs that experts claim are not authentic. The most stunning of all is a signed Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig ball that one top expert has opined is a forgery.  That being said, JSA and Jimmy Spence authenticated the ball and it is now being touted as one of the premier lots in the auction with a current bid of $35,000.

Experts opine that all of these baseballs in the current REA sale are non-genuine

According to one expert we spoke with: “It lacks the fluid handwriting of Ruth and Gehrig on both autographs. It was just signed too slow and its my opinion it is not genuine.” REA is no stranger to offering fake Babe Ruth material as evidenced last year when they removed nearly a dozen signed photos that experts deemed forgeries while they ignored expert Ron Keurajian’s opinion and sold another non-genuine Ruth signature on a photo inscribed to actor Gary Cooper.

Several experts are of the opinion that this 1927 Yankee ball being offered by SCP is not genuine.

-Sports Cards Plus Auctions (SCP) recently got their Spring auction preview up online and the most troubling item pointed out by readers was another one of the green ink 1927 New York Yankee balls featuring what are believed to be forgeries of Ruth, Gehrig and some of their Yankee teammates.  Experts we spoke with noted that the pen pressure is oddly uniform and that the ball resembles the similarly suspect 1927 ball sold for over $300,000 at Heritage in 2013.

Legendary sold a forged Ty Cobb single signed ball in Feb. (left); REA is selling alleged fakes on a 1910 Tiger team ball (center) and a 1955 single (right).

-Legendary Auctions sold a forged Ty Cobb single-signed ball back in February which was authenticated by Jimmy Spence and JSA, and now REA adds two more to that population.  One is a 1910 Cobb on a Tiger team ball and the other is a 1955 ball that appears to be signed “Ty Coob.”  Despite REA’s claims of provenance from an original owner collection, that fact does not make the signature on the 1955 ball genuine.  In fact, it appears that many of these balls have been enhanced and gone over in a different hand.  REA also notes this in the description for a Walter Johnson signed ball that one expert has called “downright ugly.”

Ugly also describes an alleged single-signed Dizzy Dean ball touted by Ken Goldin at Goldin Auctions as the “Nicest One on Earth.”  The ball, which is featured as a premier lot in the auction with a current bid over $16,000, comes with an LOA from PSA/DNA dated January 31, 2014.  Its described by Goldin as “One of the most difficult single signed Hall of Fame baseballs to obtain on the sweet spot” since Dean was known to sign almost exclusively on the side panels of baseballs.

This ball illustrates just how tough it is to determine whether a single signed baseball is authentic. Upon review, the signature lacks the fluidity of Dean’s autograph and was signed in a slow and laborious hand.  Experts we spoke with said they would not be able to certify the ball as genuine.  The signature appears unfaded and is signed on a gem-mint ONL ball with the original box.  The ball has all the tell-tale signs that should raise red flags for any authenticator and clearly contrasts the single-signed example illustrated on the PSA “Autograph Facts” page for Dean exemplars.  When we asked Ken Goldin about the ball he noted that the ball was sold for over $20,000 this past January by Lelands (without a PSA LOA) as part of the “Red” Schoendienst Collection.  Did Steve Grad & Co. write the letter for this ball based upon its merits as a Dean signature or because of its provenance?  How many other experts would certify this one genuine without that provenance?  Another Dean single-signed ball that has been questioned in regards to its authenticity appears in the SCP Auctions preview with an “auction LOA” issued by PSA/DNA. None of the experts we spoke with would definitively opine that that ball is genuine.  We are assuming that “Red” isn’t forging Dizzy Dean balls and that the Goldin ball is authentic but it is not representative of Dean’s handwriting. We include an image of both balls for our readers to decide for themselves.

Experts have questioned the authenticity of Dizzy Dean balls in Goldin Auctions (top) and SCP (bottom right). They come with a PSA/DNA LOA and the Goldin ball originated from the Red Schoendienst Collection. The Dean ball on the bottom left corner appears on the PSA "Autograph Facts" page as a genuine Dean exemplar.

-REA and Rob Lifson misrepresent another item they claim “could be” one of the only known 1911 Home Run Baker celluloid pins.  They say it “could be” the first pin of its kind to surface but Lifson and his consignor, Dr. Paul Muchinsky, know full well that the item was not manufactured as a pin but rather as a pocket mirror.  It is clear that the mirror broke and at some point a period pinback was added to the button transforming it into the new phony rarity that Lifson and Muchinsky are advertising as the real deal.  When Lifson and Muchinsky were recently called out for this misrepresentation by collector Al Simeone on Net54 Muchinsky stated he was not involved in the REA write up of the item although he was the consignor and added, “I made no representation to REA of it being a pinback.”  Simeone summed up the situation best by telling Lifson, “I think your write up is just a little creative as to what this is.  It puts doubt in someone’s mind that hey maybe it is a RARE one of a kind pin when in fact its not.  Spin it any way you want, bottom line its just like a broken piece with a great front.”

Neither REA or Muchinsky have amended the lot description to reflect that there is no chance this item was manufactured as a pinback.

The 1911 Frank "Home Run" Baker celluloid pocket mirrors (top) are well known in the hobby, but REA is trying to pass off a broken mirror with a pin replacement (bottom) backing as a newly discovered rarity.

-David Maus, a noted ticket expert and collector, pointed out another misrepresentation on two tickets REA alleges are 1903 and 1904 Boston Americans tickets (lot 1085).  REA and Lifson advertise the alleged 1904 ticket as an opportunity for collectors to have a 1904 ticket for a run of World Series tickets, being as there was no Series played in ‘04 and Boston won the AL Pennant.  In the case of the alleged 1903 ticket, REA says its a chance for collectors who can’t afford a rare and expensive 1903 WS ticket, to acquire a much cheaper alternative.  What REA fails to mention is that the 1904 ticket is actually from 1905 as evidenced by the Rye Whiskey contest on its reverse which is featured in the team’s 1905 season score cards.  The 1903 ticket is actually from 1904 as evidenced by the rain check disclaimer which states, “Void after 4 1/2 Innings” which conflicts with the “5 Innings” inclusion on a genuine 1903 WS ticket.

A 1903 WS ticket proves that REA's alleged 1903 ticket is from 1904 (left). A 1905 Boston score card includes a contest featured on the back of REA's alleged 1904 ticket, thus making it from 1905.

-David Maus also identified another ticket REA is selling as an original NY Giant game ticket from May 28, 1951, the day Willie Mays hit his first Home Run at the Polo Grounds. But Maus says the ticket is actually a proof ticket with no section or box indicated.  REA listed another proof ticket for a ticket they claimed was from Bobby Thompson’s “Shot Heard Round the World” game, but that was also only a proof-ticket.  REA has since added an addendum on that lot, noting the ticket was never used by or sold to fans.

REA is selling two New York Giant tickets from historic games at the Polo Grounds, but they are only proof tickets never intended for use. The tickets are missing the numbers denoting the section or seats.

-Dave Grob, already pointed out in the comments section of our Black Betsy bat report that REA also misrepresented several Brooklyn Dodger satin jerseys as special “one year” uniform introductions when they were actually used for several seasons.  Grob told Hauls of Shame readers, “Rather a shame that such little care and attention was given to some of the uniform items in this auction as well” and added sarcastically, “I suspect it would have all but been impossible to find this information since if (you) go to Google and type in a search for “Brooklyn Dodgers White Satin Home Uniforms,” this article is only the #3 reference you would have been pointed to.”  Grob was referring to his own article on the subject published on the MEARS website which illustrated that the Dodgers wore satin uniforms in 1944, 1945, 1946, 1949 and 1950.

After Grob’s post, REA did add an addendum to the 1948 Carl Furillo jersey they had said was a one year satin style but couldn’t admit to use in other years stating, “Please note that we have been told that these Brooklyn Dodgers white satin jerseys may have been worn sporadically in other years as well. According to the official uniform database of the Baseball Hall of Fame, the Dodgers’ introduced their white satin jerseys in 1948. However, if they were indeed used in subsequent years, we have no evidence to indicate that brand-new white satin jerseys were issued in each of those following seasons.”

Grob’s article was published in 2008 and specifically addressed the fact that the Baseball Hall of Fame’s “Dressed to the Nines” uniform database was not accurate in regard to the Dodgers’ game use of satin uniforms.

REA called its 1948 Carl Furillo satin jersey a "rare one-year style" but Dave Grob pointed out the Dodgers wore them in several other seasons including 1949.

-REA has also facilitated the return of yet another ghost-signed copy of Christy Mathewson’s Won in the Ninth book.  Armed with a 1911 letter sold by Hunt Auctions, REA and JSA claim the letter and the bookplates were signed by the same hand.  Unfortunately for REA the majority of autograph aficionados seem to agree with Ron Keurajian’s assessment in his book, Baseball Hall of Fame Autographs: A Reference Guide, that all of the books were secretarial signed.  The recent sale prices of the books tend to show that these secretarial examples are losing value since the record-high sales at Heritage for $20,315 in 2012 and $16,590 at Legendary in 2010.  The last copy that sold at REA went for $7,702 in 2013.  The bid on the copy in REA’s current sale is $4,750.

The secretarial Mathewson signature on the REA bookplate contrasts the authentic signature found on a previous 1912 Mathewson book signed by Matty. A signature found on a copy of a 1911 letter sold by Hunt Auctions is offered by REA with the lot as evidence the Won in the Ninth copies are genuine.

-Huggins & Scott has had lots of items stolen from the NYPL and the Baseball Hall of Fame appear in previous sales and another one showed up in their Spring auction.  The auction house sold an 1892 ledger page signed by Harry Wright which was ripped from one of the NYPL’s Wright Correspondence or Account Book volumes.  The page was auctioned-off for only $1,700 and it was the same document that was sold last year at Premier Auctions for $2,244.  It appears to be a “hobby hot-potato” losing its value.  If it were legitimate, the Wright document would command a sale price exceeding $5,000.

The signed Harry Wright document sold at Huggins & Scott originated from the NYPL's famous Spalding Baseball Collection. A page from the NYPL inventory appears to the left.

-Heritage Auction Galleries has yet another item believed to have been stolen from The Hall of Fame’s August Herrmann Papers Collection which includes the files for the National League’s protested games from 1902 to 1926.  The Heritage offering is a 1924 letter written to NL President John Heydler by Pirate owner and HOFer Barney Dreyfus in regard to a protested game played against Philadelphia.

The Heritage letter written by Barney Dreyfus to John Heydler in 1924 (left) was once part of the HOF file that still includes many other Dreyfus letters to NL Presidents (including Heydler) in regard to protested games (right).

-Robert Edward Auctions also has several documents suspected of being swiped in its current sale.  The auction features three ultra-rare handwritten letters by Roy Campanella in 1946.  The letters have incredible content with Campanella reporting back to Branch Rickey’s assistant Robert Finch with scouting reports on other black players like Larry Doby, Joe Black and Junior Gilliam.  REA lists no provenance whatsoever for the three letters and states, “We can only recall having seen two other examples at auction in the past fifteen years.”

REA is selling three handwritten letters by Roy Campanella in 1946. Sources indicate that the letters were swiped from the Dodger team files in Los Angeles.

For each letter, REA says that “the historical significance of this letter cannot be overstated” and the auction house points to a 2013 sale of a similar letter by Heritage Auction Galleries.  That letter, addressed to Branch Rickey, included a scouting report on Larry Doby and sold for $23,900.  How such historic documents made their way into the the REA and Heritage sales is not addressed by either auction house.  The Library of Congress is in possession of the Branch Rickey Papers, but that collection does not include Rickey’s files from the Brooklyn Dodgers which remain part of the Dodger archive maintained in Los Angeles by the current ballclub.  Sources indicate that a file of Campanella letters addressed to Rickey and his employees including Harold Parrott, Robert Finch and Al Campanis were wrongfully removed from the Dodger team files in the 1980’s.  Stay tuned for in-depth coverage of the dubious Campanella letters in an upcoming report.

REA claims to be selling Pistol Pete Maravich's 1974 "game used" warm up (left) with a MEARS LOA. In 2007 MEARS wrote an LOA for a different warm up as being from the same year (center). REA fails to mention that their lot was found in a thrift shop and there is no evidence to support claims of Maravich game use. In addition photos from the 1974 season (inset) show that the Jazz wore different warm ups. Maravich only wore #44 in 1974 (right).

Last but not least, we venture back into the jungle that is known as “game-used” uniforms and equipment and REA’s current offering of an alleged 1974 “game-used” warm up jacket supposedly worn by none other than “Pistol Pete” Maravich.  Not only is there no supporting evidence showing Maravich ever wore such a warm up in 1974, 1975 or any other year for that matter, but REA conveniently fails to mention the rock-solid provenance of the garment, having been sold on eBay in 2010 as a “find” in a thrift store.  What’s worse is that authentication company MEARS and Troy Kinunen purchased the item at the time after it was pulled from eBay for $4,000 and then proceeded to authenticate the item as game used with no evidence—despite being aware of conflicting info from another warm up they had authenticated previously.  In addition, AP photos and NBA game footage from 1974 were posted online where the fraud was disputed at in a discussion titled MEARS Mumbo Jumbo.  REA, however, makes no mention whatsoever of the controversy and the conflicting information feeling comfortable in selling the warm-up as “game used” with its MEARS LOA.  And even though several photos showing the 1974 warm ups have since been published, REA now adds, “MEARS states that it was unable to find a photo of any New Orleans Jazz player wearing a warm-up jacket during the 1974 season.”  After MEARS purchased the warm up in 2010 for $4,000 they turned around and then valued it at $20,000.  REA lists the estimated value now as “$2,500+” and the garment has a current bid of $1,200.

Step right up to REA and get some “Pistol Pete” or “Shoeless Joe.”  Mumbo-Jumbo indeed.

REA identifies several T-206 PSA-8 graded cards (above) as being trimmed. Recently it was revealed in the Mastro case that veteran dealer Lew Lipset wrote a letter to the presiding Judge alluding to the past history of Mastro and Rob Lifson as card doctors (see excerpt inset).

On a final note, REA identifies several PSA-8 graded T-206 cards in its current sale as being trimmed.  REA’s Rob Lifson states in several listings for cards including those of Addie Joss and Hugh Jennings, “In our opinion, this card has a very slight trim along the top border, though someone else may have a different opinion.”  Lifson’s opinion and disclosure to bidders is interesting considering a recent letter sent to Judge Ronald Guzman in the Mastro case by veteran dealer Lew Lipset.  The letter was recently made public in Federal Court and in the letter Lipset describes Mastro as “dispicable” and as a known trimmer of cards.  Lipset also mentions Lifson, alluding to the REA President’s own past as an alleged card trimmer with his old partner, Bill Mastro.  In the letter Lipset recalled a time when Mastro was viewing cards at a dealer table in the 1980’s.  Lipset recalled Mastro telling the dealer, “…these look a little short (i.e. trimmed), did you get them from me or Robert (Lifson)?”  Lipset added for the Judge, “Bill’s tendency to trim cards was widely known throughout the hobby.”  In interviews with Lipset for our upcoming book, The Madoff of Memorabilia, he also stated that Lifson’s trimming of cards was also well known throughout the hobby.

By Peter J. Nash

April 17, 2014

After attempting to sell an alleged “Game Used” Shoeless Joe Jackson Black Betsy bat without mentioning specifically that MEARS and PSA/DNA were at odds over whether it was actually game used, REA and Rob Lifson posted an addendum to the premiere auction lot in its current sale stating that, “No game use can be determined.”

REA and Lifson now try to say that they can’t be “100% sure” that the bat was game used by Jackson but they fail to note that there isn’t even 1% of a chance Jackson ever held the bat in his hands.

Lifson and REA have now backtracked from their claims of “Game Use” made on ESPN and appear to now be at odds with the letter opinion provided by PSA/DNA.  The reversal of REA’s original position, however, does not address the fact that PSA/DNA still has no evidence whatsoever to support its claims of game use by Jackson. So, although REA now claims that Jackson game use cannot be determined, they still see fit to keep the bat in the auction.  In addition, by leaving the lot in the sale, REA and Lifson are violating their own auction rules and regulations by selling an item that has two conflicting letters issued by authentication companies.

As presented in the REA catalog as rule number “17″ devoted to “Grading, condition, authenticity and warranty of lots,” REA and Lifson state:

There will always be experts that will have differing opinions. In many cases more than one authentication service has reviewed a given item. As has always been the case at REA, in all cases where the retained authenticators were not in unanimous agreement regarding authenticity, those items were not accepted for auction.

Based upon their own rules, REA should never have allowed the Jackson bat into the auction in the first place.  But not only did they accept the consignment, they also falsely claimed in the lot description that MEARS and Troy Kinunen had agreed with John Taube and Vince Malta of PSA/DNA that the bat was “game used” by Jackson.  That claim by REA was entirely false and appears to have been written in a manner to deceive bidders.  By posting an addendum to the lot REA does not go far enough in addressing the authenticity issues with this bat and REA’s violation of its own rules and regulations.

All of this comes from Lifson and REA who also claim in their auction rules to be interested in “protecting the integrity of the auction process.”

In addition to concealing the true opinion of MEARS in the original lot description, REA also concealed the provenance of the “Black Betsy” style bat which is also accompanied by a third expert letter of opinion issued by SCD Authentic in 2004.  That letter, which REA chose not to include on the auction site, accompanied the bat in 2004 when it was sold by Vintage Authentics which is operated by Steve Jensen, the dealer who was recently convicted in a Federal case that charged him with selling fake “game used” memorabilia.

The Jackson bat currently for sale at REA appeared in a 2004 Vintage Authentics auction graded A10 by SCD and was featured (and illustrated) in an SCD article written by Dave Bushing.

Jensen and Vintage Authentics appeared linked to the same Black Betsy bat in a 2004 article published in Sports Collectors Digest and written by bat and equipment expert Dave Bushing.  In the article Bushing describes the bat (which is also illustrated) and never indicates “game use” by Joe Jackson stating that, “There (was) no player name on the barrel and no provenance aside from photographs of Jackson with the exact style bat.”  The bat was scheduled to be part of Jensen’s Fall 2004 auction which specialized in game used items.  Jensen told Bushing at the time, “Since they (SCD Authentic) started grading all of their game used bats, the amount of game used material in our auction has tripled.”  At the time, Bushing and Troy Kinunen were the bat experts working for SCD Authentic.

Hauls of Shame contacted Jensen at his Vintage Authentics offices in Minnesota and he remembered having the same bat and was surprised that PSA was now claiming “game use” by Jackson.  Jensen said the bat sold in his 2004 auction for “about $20,000.”  Said Jensen, “It would be a big leap of faith to say that.  It (the bat) didn’t have anything written on it, no Jackson name to say it was game used or even his.”  Jensen sold the bat with the SCD Authentic letter that accompanies the bat in the REA sale today. It appears that the dealer who is currently serving three years probation for his recent guilty plea is more on point in his analysis of the bat than REA and the so-called experts John Taube and Vince Malta at PSA/DNA.  Jensen added in disbelief, “So, somehow this bat got another letter and became game used?”

PSA/DNA’s current letter of opinion stating that the bat was game used by Jackson is dated September 23, 2013, and it is unclear if it was submitted by the consignor or REA for its current auction.  Both PSA and PSA/DNA have faced accusations that they give big clients and major auction houses preferential treatment when it comes to issuing high grades and determinations of authenticity and game use.  The letter of opinion issued for this Black Betsy bat is representative of what many identify as PSA/DNA’s questionable business practices.  The fact that there is no clear-cut evidence whatsoever supporting PSA’s claim of game use for Jackson just supports the worst fears of many hobby insiders and collectors who rely on PSA opinions.

PSA President Joe Orlando (left) says that his experts would never "stretch the truth" but that's exactly what John Taube (center) did with the Black Betsy bat consignment to REA.

REA’s submission of the bat to PSA/DNA in itself is problematic when considering all of Rob Lifson’s claims that his auction house is above board and beyond reproach in virtually every category.  In this case, by the time the bat was consigned, Lifson was already aware of the MEARS opinion stating that the bat was nothing more than a professional model H&B bat with a Black Betsy finish.  Knowing this, Lifson did exactly what he said his auction house would never do, shop for a positive opinion on an item.  In REA’s own auction criteria they claim:

REA does not compromise on the quality of authentication for the sake of “getting items in the auction.” We use only the best authenticators, and do not “work the authentication system,” shopping for a positive opinion on items (what we call “the mix ‘n match” approach to authentication). Inferior and deceptive “authentication” practices, which are so common in the industry, can reflect poorly on all items in the auction, including yours. Robert Edward Auctions does not cut corners on authentication. Bidders know this and appreciate this. REA’s approach to authentication on all items reflects positively on all lots in the auction.”

Not only have REA and Lifson violated their own regulations regarding conflicting opinions but they also have, in essence, done what they said they would never do, shopped for an opinion that would turn a generic pro-model H&B bat into one of the hobby’s holy grails— a “Shoeless” Joe Jackson game used  bat.  PSA/DNA appear to have been only too happy to oblige in providing a fraudulent letter of opinion alleging game use by Jackson.

Perhaps experts Taube and Malta should read their boss Joe Orlando’s blog post from 2009 entitled Stretching the Truth.  On the subject of misrepresenting artifacts, Orlando wrote:

“Keep in mind that there are great items that are wonderful on their own merit AND they come with great provenance or significance. They do exist but, since they are rare, the greed factor is pushing some sellers into misrepresentation. They want to make a great item even better and more appealing than it already is. Sometimes, when things get tough, people get desperate. Is the tough economy possibly playing a role? It certainly isn’t helping matters but I am sure there may be a lot of factors at work. As a lifelong hobbyist, it is frustrating to see this occur. It not only helps devalue the truly great items in the marketplace but it also may scare off new people from collecting altogether. The reality is that there are plenty of incredible and completely authentic items to buy if you are interested in starting a collection. Sure, some items are incredibly scarce but that is no excuse for sellers to stretch the truth and ruin a good thing.”

Orlando signed off on his post saying, “Never get cheated.”  That’s fitting, because his own expert employees Taube and Malta are the culprits who have stretched the truth here and, in turn, have cheated the current high-bidder on the Black-Eye Betsy bat still for sale at REA.

Any way you slice it, it’s $50,000 down the drain.

By Peter J. Nash

April 4, 2014

(Scroll to end of article for updates)

Heritage Auctions recently sold a game-used Hillerich & Bradsby baseball bat they say was swung by “Shoeless” Joe Jackson in 1911 when he hit .408 as a rookie. Sources indicate that movie mogul Thomas Tull was the buyer of the bat which has the name “Joe Jackson” burned into its barrel and also side-written in grease pencil by H&B employees.  Tull dropped close to a million bucks for the historic lumber that the bat experts at PSA/DNA call, “The only Joe Jackson bat in existence that is factory documented as being game used.”

Now, just a month after that record-breaking sale, Robert Edward Auctions is selling another alleged Jackson artifact with game use—one of his famous “Black Betsy” bats.  This bat, however, doesn’t have Jackson’s name burned into the wood or written in grease pencil.  To the naked eye, its just a prototype of a Dead-Ball era bat with a “black betsy” finish administered to its surface.

Despite that fact, the experts from PSA/DNA say this one was owned by Jackson and REA’s president, Rob Lifson, goes even further suggesting that Shoeless Joe may have used the bat in the infamous World Series of 1919.  Lifson even sent his employee Brian Dwyer on to the set of ESPN’s “Mint Condition” to show it off and tell host Cary Chow that, “He (Jackson) could have very well used it in the 1919 World Series.”  Chow responded, “Which I assume has got to boost the value?”

REA's Brian Dwyer brought the alleged Joe Jackson "Black Betsy" bat on to the set of ESPN's "Mint Condition" and made unfounded claims the bat was game used by Jackson.

Bingo!  Dwyer told Chow the bat was “game used” just like the million dollar Heritage bat.  The REA offering also comes with a letter of authenticity from PSA/DNA bat experts John Taube and Vince Malta who claim the war club was “authentic and game used by Jackson.”  The PSA opinion catapults this bat into an exclusive category far removed from examples which can only be “attributed to Shoeless Joe Jackson.”  These “attributed” examples that have been examined by PSA/DNA have historically fetched prices in the $10,000-20,000 range—a far cry from Heritage’s million-dollar Jackson gamer.

But although REA and PSA/DNA have christened the bat as “game used,” it significantly differs from the Heritage bat which was actually cracked via game-use by Jackson and sent back to the Hillerich & Bradsby factory in Louisville, Kentucky.  Unlike the alleged Black Betsy featured in the REA catalog, the Heritage bat has an H&B provenance and was handled by an H&B employee who added the “Joe Jackson” name on the barrel and the vault marking “J13″ on the knob and barrel head.  The rest is memorabilia history.

The 1911 Jackson bat sold by Heritage came with a PSA/DNA letter detailing two "J13" vault markings and the "Joe Jackson" name burned into the barrel. In contrast, the alleged Jackson bat being offered by REA is blank without the "J13" marks or Jackson name.

Although the 1911 Jackson rookie-bat is said to be one of the rarest baseball artifacts in existence, REA is hoping that their bat follows in its footsteps with a blessing from the boys at PSA/DNA.  According to the experts, the REA bat is “one of only six Joe Jackson game used bats in private hands known to exist” and auctioneer Rob Lifson claims in the lot description that “the offered bat is VIRTUALLY IDENTICAL to what is generally regarded as the finest Joe Jackson pro-model bat in the hobby,” the 1911 bat that just sold at Heritage for $956,000.  In addition, Lifson says that Troy Kinunen of MEARS, who also filed a report on the bat, states that the bat is a “100% verifiable game-used Black Betsy bat.”

But how could the bat be “VIRTUALLY IDENTICAL” if it doesn’t even feature “Shoeless” Joe’s name or the H&B factory vault markings?

It ain’t so.  And it’s not even close.

Upon reviewing the images of the bat and reading the fine print in the REA catalog, its clear that this “Black Betsy” offering has no verifiable provenance and no identifying markings that show the bat was made for or used by Jackson.  There is no script or block-letter name burned into the barrel or even a grease pencil factory notation with Jackson’s name written upon its return to the H&B factory.

Period photos show that "Shoeless" Joe Jackson used the two-tone "Black-Betsy" style bat during his entire MLB career from 1908 to 1920. The bat appearing below the photos is an H&B Jackson "Black Betsy" signature model that originated from a 1980's "find" at the Louisville Slugger factory.

In an attempt to minimize the lack of a Jackson identification on the bat, REA notes in its lot description: “Both PSA/DNA and MEARS emphasize in their respective letters (sic) that aside from Jackson, few other major league players used a “Black Betsy” bat, and of those who did, their bat specifications (size, weight, knob, barrel dimensions etc.) were noticeably different than Jackson’s.”  PSA also added, “The ‘Black Betsy’ finish, though not unique to Jackson, was very rare on professional players’ bats.”

Despite the confidence the auction house has in PSA/DNA’s definitive assertions, Hauls of Shame couldn’t get past this particular claim of “Black Betsy” game use without further examining the veracity of REA’s claims.  We’re not sure what resources the companies utilized in preparing their reports, but in one day of reviewing auction websites,, the Library of Congress photo archive and even the MEARS website, we found substantial photographic evidence illustrating that many players other than Joe Jackson used what appears to be the exact same “Black Betsy” style bat.

Researcher and Joe Jackson historian, Mike Nola, who operates, told us, “I am not sure how anyone can attribute the REA (bat) as having been game-used by Joe Jackson.  There were many players during that era that ordered Jackson style bats with thick handles and darkly stained.”

Other players used what appears to be a "Black Betsy" style bat including(Clockwise): Bob Fothergill; a White Sox batboy; Bob Killifer; Glenn Killinger(NY Giants); Carl Mays; Buck Weaver; Rabbit Maranville; Joe Jackson; Nap Lajoie & Walton Cruise (St Louis); Ray Schalk; Dave Robertson; Maranville and Swede Risberg.

Nola provided us with an image of Jackson’s teammate, Buck Weaver, using such a bat and even PSA/DNA has stated that they’ve examined two bats with a “Black Betsy” finish attributed to Hank Gowdy and Chick Gandil.  However, the PSA/DNA “Leter of Grading and Authenticity” says that Gowdy and Gandil “did not use the J13 model and both players had endorsement contracts with Hillerich & Bradsby, indicating bats produced for them bearing their branded facsimile signature on the barrel.”  In conclusion, PSA claims, “This bat (in REA) was manufactured for Joe Jackson.”

In addition to Joe Jackson, his White Sox teammates Hap Felsch and Swede Risberg also used Black Betsy style bats. PSA notes that they have examined another similar finish on a Chick Gandil bat they previously authenticated.

How could the experts at PSA/DNA make such a definitive claim considering all of the images existing of players other than Jackson who were swinging what appears to be the same model bat? In regard to H&B player endorsements, Louisville Slugger Museum curator Nathan Stalvey told us that the Museum and H&B factory have only one document related to Joe Jackson and its his 1915 endorsement contract for his own branded signature on bats.

And speaking of Jackson’s White Sox teammate, Chick Gandil, what about additional photos we found showing that his other teammates Hap Felsch and Swede Risberg appear to be holding (along with Jackson) the same two-tone Black Betsy style bats as well?

Back in 2011, Robert Edward Auctions offered a different Black Betsy style bat which sold for a modest $18,800 because it was advertised only as a “1916-1917 “Black Betsy Bat Attributed to Joe Jackson.”  The same bat was also sold by Mastro Auctions in 2008 for over $25,000.  The bat had something in common with the current REA Jackson bat offering in that it also had no identifiable markings that linked the lumber to ownership or game use by Jackson.

In the lot description REA sang a different tune clearly stating nothing more than attribution: “Because there are basically no available H&B records predating 1920, and the fact that Jackson’s name is not stamped on the barrel (there is no barrel stamping as this is how Jackson’s “Black Betsy” models were produced), MEARS has conservatively graded and evaluated this bat as a “Black Betsy” bat with attribution to Joe Jackson.”

The REA Black Betsy "attributed" to Shoeless Joe Jackson sold for $18,000 in 2011 while a "Game Used" version currently being offered by REA has a reserve price of $50,000. Both bats are nearly identical and have no markings linking then to Jackson.

As far as we could tell, there is virtually no discernible difference between this 2011 REA offering “attributed” to Jackson and the current REA bat being offered as a “Black Betsy” gamer.  In fact, the MEARS letter posted on the current REA auction site identifies the bat as a “Professional Model” that is only “attributed to Joe Jackson.”

In their letter of opinion, MEARS never says the bat was game used by Jackson and when we asked Troy Kinunen what he thought about the “game-used” claim made by PSA he replied, “The title of the item in my letter (of opinion) speaks for itself.”  Kinunen believes the bat is a 100% authentic “Black Betsy” model, but by no means a 100% authentic bat actually swung by Jackson.

Kinunen’s letter of opinion for the 2011 REA “Black Betsy” bat is also consistent with his current stance.  He said, “There are no known catalogs, records, or ledgers showing other players being offered the Black Betsy model bat in these dimensions with a blank barrel, but it is possible.  We know that other players did use bats with the black betsy finish, but those examples were found with the players name stamped on the barrel.”

Again, Kinunen’s statements do not address the recent photographic evidence we have compiled showing that many more MLB players utilized the same dark finish on their own Black Betsy style bats, including Jackson’s own teammates.  Unlike PSA/DNA, however, Kinunen does not claim that he can put the bat in Jackson’s hand at any time between 1919-1922.

Troy Kinnunen of MEARS (left) says the REA bat is just "attributed to" Joe Jackson while John Taube (center) and Vince Malta (right) of PSA/DNA say it was "game-used by Jackson. Vince Malta of PSA/DNA has authored a reference guide for Louisville Slugger bats.

MEARS clrearly states that the current REA bat is a game used pro-model “Black Betsy” that could have been used by any Major Leaguer, but Rob Lifson chose to highlight Kinunnen’s  statement that it is “a 100% verifiable game used Black Betsy bat.” In what can only be described as an exercise in deceptive creating writing, Lifson attempts to couple Kinnunen’s statement with the PSA opinion to elevate the bat to game-used status without ever mentioning that the actual MEARS letter fails to say the bat was ever game used by Jackson.

When Lifson sold the 2011 bat that was merely “attributed to Joe Jackson” bidders and collectors had the final word and the bat sold for only $18,800.  Meanwhile, the current alleged “game used” Black Betsy bat in the REA auction has a hefty reserve and opening bid price of $50,000. Why?

It’s that one line in the PSA/DNA report where Taube and Malta say REA’s bat “was game used by Jackson during the referenced labeling.”  With one sentence, it appears that the PSA experts have transformed a rather generic relic from the Dead-Ball era into one of the hobby’s holy grails.

It appears that PSA/DNA is relying solely on their comparisons of this bat to other alleged authentic Jackson “Black Betsy” bats they have examined, including the million dollar Jackson “rookie bat.”  PSA/DNA in its letter states that the bat itself is a “J13″ model although “no model number appears on the bat.” But PSA also states that “the handle, knob, and barrel dimensions conform to the vault marked and side written J13 Joe Jackson bat that appears in our database.”  In addition, PSA reveals that they also factored in their opinion that “the length of the bat (at 35.5 in.) matches the vault marked J13 and the weight at 40.1 ounces today is in the range of weights of the three Jackson bats noted below.”  Having compared the bats they conclude that “the dimensions as well as the “Black Betsy” finish also duplicate three Joe Jackson professional model bats in our database.”

This 1915 letter sent to Joe Jackson by H&B shows that Jackson requested bats at a reduced weight.

But with no factory records available, how can there be any definitive determination made based upon the length, width and weight of the suspect bats?  While there are no known period records at H&B for pre-1920 Jackson orders, there does exist one letter sent to Jackson from H&B in 1915 which actually shows that Jackson was changing the weight of his bats during that season.  The document shows that Jackson requested three bats to be made at a lesser weight than his previous orders (the actual weight is not specified in the letter.)   In response, H&B sent him those bats but noted it was “a very hard proposition to get good driving wood in the weights that (Jackson) asked for.”  So, in addition, the bat company also sent Jackson, via Wells Fargo Express, three bats which were made “from the weight that (Jackson) formerly used.”  H&B suggested that if Jackson would “continue to use this weight bat,” as opposed to his recent order of reduced weight bats, he would ultimately have “much better results.”

We don’t know what Jackson chose to do after he received that order of reduced weight bats.  We do not know what his ordering preferences were from 1911 to 1915, nor do we know the changes he may have requested later in his MLB career from 1916 through 1920.  The existence of this letter underscores the fact that the bat authenticators at PSA/DNA can’t be sure of anything when it comes to pre-1920 H&B player bats.  While Taube and Malta have made considerable research contributions that help collectors date H&B bats and determine whether bats are professional or store models, most of their conclusions regarding game-used bats are nothing more than guess work and hyperbole.  Joe Jackson could have used hundreds of H&B bats during his baseball career and its virtually impossible for the bat experts to say with certainty that a bat they’ve examined was actually held in his hands in the course of a baseball game.

Based upon their research, PSA experts Vince Malta and John Taube have established the manufacturing date of the current REA Jackson bat as “1919-1922″ and the “attributed” Jackson bat sold at REA in 2011 as dating from “1916-1917.”  Since both of those bats do not have Jackson’s name burned in the barrel, both PSA/DNA and MEARS have theorized that Jackson’s bats during this period were blank.

What is even more troubling about these more recent determinations by the bat experts is a report they filed in 2008 when they authenticated another Jackson “Black Betsy” bat for SCP Auctions and Sotheby’s.  That offering is proof that John Taube already knew of the existence of a professional autograph model of Jackson’s “Black Betsy” bat.  That same bat was offered with a PSA/DNA report as a “1917-1921″ H&B pro model featuring Jackson’s name burned into the barrel appearing as a script “Joe Jackson” signature with a trade mark designation underneath.  The bat had long been considered the only known authentic Jackson “Black Betsy” bat in existence dating back to its first public sale by Lelands in 1994 as part of the Dennis Goldstein Collection.

Although PSA and MEARS are currently certifying blank barrel H&B "Black Betsy" bats as Joe Jackson gamers, the autograph model offered by Lelands in 1994 and SCP in 2008 stands in direct conflict with their opinions.

The Lelands catalog described the bat as the “only authentic Joe Jackson bat from his Major League playing days ever to be offered for public sale. The true Black Betsy is a Louisville Slugger 125 with dot-dash-dot labeling.”  Lelands also noted that the 35.5 inch and 40 ounce bat actually had a verifiable provenance and “came directly from the famed Hillerich & Bradsby find” in 1979.  Lelands said the bats were “discovered in the yard of Hillerich & Bradsby and sold by a company executive.”  The bat was sold to current SABR VP and author Bill Nowlin as “the only known verifiably authentic Joe Jackson game used bat.”

At the time the “Black Betsy” sold in 1994 there was no recognized entity that authenticated bats outside of hobby equipment experts Dan Knoll and Dave Bushing.   It was during that time period that Joe Jackson bats became a prime target for forgery and fraud.   At the time, New York Yankee partner and collector Barry Halper claimed to own a game used Jackson “Black Betsy” and said he purchased it from the sluggers widow at her home in the 1950’s along with his 1919 White Sox jersey.  Both of those items were sold by Halper to MLB and the Baseball Hall of Fame as part of an $8.5 million acquisition of Halper’s top artifacts in 1998, but after a Hauls Of Shame investigative report was published in 2010, it was determined that the jersey was a forgery constructed with elements produced after Jackson’s playing days and the alleged “Black Betsy” was nothing more than a Spalding store model bat that was never used or owned by Jackson.

Barry Halper claimed to own Jackson's Black Betsy bat but the example he sold to MLB and the Hall of Fame was bogus and nothing more than a Spalding store model bat. Halper had Billy Martin swing the bat in a film about his collection and the 1998 purchase of the bat was celebrated in the press by Bill Madden of the Daily News (Inset)

If the Hall of Fame had done their due diligence, they would have discovered that by 1998, the only recognized authentic Joe Jackson bat belonged to Rounder Records founder, Bill Nowlin.  Nowlin’s bat was even publicly displayed as the only known Jackson example along with others from his collection at the Ted Williams Museum in Florida.  The bat was displayed at the museum for several years until Nowlin decided to sell the bat for close to $300,000 in the 2008 SCP/Sotheby’s auction.  At the time of that sale PSA/DNA issued a report and letter of authenticity for the bat SCP/Sotheby’s described as “one of only two known bats and the only full name signature model manufactured by Louisville Slugger Inc. that can be attributed to being used by Joe Jackson during his active Major League career.”  The other bat referenced was the 1911 side written bat sold at Heritage.

Now, in 2014, Robert Edward Auctions says that the “rarity of an authentic Joe Jackson bat cannot be overstated” and that both PSA/DNA and MEARS now claim that there are “six Joe Jackson game used bats in private hands.” According to Lifson and the experts, the population of this ultra rare “game used” artifact has tripled since the sale of Bill Nowlin’s Black Betsy model  at SCP/Sotheby’s just six years ago.

Bill Nowlin shows Ted Williams his Jackson "Black Betsy" in a story by SCD. The bat was exhibited for several years at the Ted Williams Hitters Museum in Florida. Nowlin believed that his bat was the only on verifiably "game used."

To illustrate just how far the auctioneers and authenticators are willing to push the envelope in the unregulated memorabilia industry we point to Rob Lifson’s own 2005 endorsement of SCD Authentic’s “Grading Scale For Bats.”  Lifson’s views on game used bats nine years ago starkly contrast his current stance working with PSA/DNA and MEARS.  Back then, Lifson believed that although the bats he was offering his customers “were most likely game-used bats, there was no way to know with certainty the precise history of any given game bat.”  Lifson added that, “There was no way to know if perhaps a given bat was used only in batting practice, or given away as a gift, having never been used at all, or borrowed by another player for use.”  Lifson was correct in his determination that, “It can often be very difficult or impossible to distinguish game-used bats from those intended for use but never actually used by the player in a Major League game.”  Nine years later, Lifson and REA are willing to say that the Joe Jackson style bat has verifiable game use and suggest that he may have used it in the 1919 World Series.

In his 2005 endorsement of SCD Authentic's bat grading services, REA's Rob Lifson expressed views on "game used" bats that starkly contrast his current auction policies.

Knowing that he has conflicting reports issued by two experts with different opinions, Lifson has done everything in his power to conceal that fact from the general public who have seen the bat touted on ESPN as an unquestioned Shoeless Joe gamer.  Like all auctioneers, Lifson and REA will ultimately hide behind the opinion of their third-party authenticator and plead ignorance when it comes to the process of evaluating bats and explaining the conflicting opinions of his two expert reports.  REA does include slightly out of focus and grainy images of the MEARS letter of opinion on its website, so collectors who read the information carefully can see the fraud that REA is attempting to perpetrate with the aid of PSA/DNA.  Yes, for PSA and REA to say the bat being offered is a game used Jackson bat is outright and intentional fraud.  Neither PSA or REA have any evidence to back up their claims and the existence of the MEARS opinion should have put both on notice that a “game-used” designation would be highly problematic.

The REA bat for sale is not a new hobby discovery as it was publicly displayed at the MEARS booth at the National Convention in 2012 as a consignment to MEARS and comes with an c.2005 LOA from SCD Authentic that REA does not post on its auction site. Troy Kinunen told Hauls of Shame this week that the bat was consigned to MEARS but never sold.  ”We never owned or purchased that bat and we returned it to the consignor.” MEARS issued their letter of opinion on July 27, 2012 and the owner at that time was fully aware that Kinunen had determined that the bat was not game used by Jackson.  It wasn’t until the bat was submitted to PSA/DNA on September 23, 2013, that the bat transformed into an iconic baseball artifact.

REA fails to mention that the MEARS letter of opinion for the Jackson "Black Betsy" fails to cite "game use." The bat first surfaced as a consignment to MEARS at the 2012 National where it was displayed at the MEARS booth.

Hauls of Shame contacted PSA/DNA expert John Taube to ask for an explanation of his determination that REA’s Black Betsy style bat was actually used by Jackson in Major League games, but he did not return calls for comment.  We also contacted Vince Malta at his San Francisco realty office, but Malta did not return our calls requesting an interview.

Like the other bat authenticators including Troy Kinunen and Dave Bushing, John Taube also buys and sells bats as a dealer and is the owner of J. T. Sports, a company he founded in 1991, before he started working for PSA/DNA.  Taube was originally authenticating bats for Grey Flannel Auctions when PSA entered an agreement with the company to start a bat authentication division.  Bats were sent to Grey Flannel for authentication by Taube and Vince Malta who would issue a PSA/DNA  letter of authenticity.  At the time PSA President Joe Orlando told SCD, “The combination of PSA’s brand name, John Taube and Vince Malta’s expertise and Grey Flannel’s hobby presence form an unrivaled service.”

PSA/DNA issued an LOA stating that REA's Black Betsy bat was "game used" by Joe Jackson. PSA authenticator John Taube (center) also buys and sells bats through his company J.T. Sports.

Having buyers, sellers and dealers in positions as the “experts” who are also authenticating their own material is a system riddled with conflicts of interest.  PSA stipulated that their autograph authenticators divest their interests as dealers but they have not made the same request with Taube and Malta.  It’s a dangerous proposition for experts to be in such a position to make or break artifacts that could be worth upwards of a million dollars with their seal of approval.  The current REA Jackson bat is a prime example of the big flaws in the system and clear-cut evidence of bats being fraudulently authenticated and sold.  One industry source told us the REA Jackson bat could have ramifications beyond this one sale.  He said, “This has the very real potential to call into question the value of both collections and personal and professional reputations.”

When it comes to bats, collectors put their faith in the experts and auction house executives expecting they are not being taken advantage of.  When Bill Nowlin bought his own Black Betsy at Lelands in 1994 he relied solely on Lelands’ representation that the bat was genuine and that it came from the original 1980’s Louisville Slugger “find.”  Nowlin, a renowned SABR baseball researcher, never thought to research the bat himself and looking back now says, “I should have asked for more information at the time.”  Nowlin got lucky picking up his own Black Betsy since it appears to be the genuine article, but he wasn’t as lucky with others.  ”I later learned that one or two other bats I bought from dealers were not legitimate,” says Nowlin.

This H&B pro model black betsy style bat was purchased at a yard sale and is the spitting image of the bat REA is currently offering. It's further proof that the experts at PSA/DNA have no evidence to claim the REA bat is "game used." (Courtesy

While writing this article we were contacted again by Mike Nola at and he passed along some images that were sent to him of a Black Betsy style bat that was purchased in a yard sale and looks exactly like the bat being offered by REA.  Nola told us. “The yard sale bat has about as much potential as being used by Joe Jackson as the REA bat does.  They both are Joe Jackson style bats, with blank barrels, both appear to be professional model bats, both have similar specs to a Joe Jackson gamer, but so do other bats ordered by players other than Joe Jackson.”  For Nola and many other collectors we spoke with the PSA/DNA determination of game use lacks any credibility.  Nola summed up the situation saying, “There is just too much reasonable doubt here for me or anyone else in their right mind to pay more than $1,500 or so for either of these bats.”

At the time this article was published the fraudulent REA Jackson bat already had two bids and stands at $55,000.  Calls to REA president Rob Lifson for an explanation as to why he and PSA/DNA are trying to pass off the generic Black Betsy as game used were not returned.

Who knows, maybe the yard sale purchaser can send his bat into REA on consignment.  We hear they can turn “Shoeless Joe” stuff into gold.

UPDATE (Mon. April 7th):  High Bid of $55,000 Retracted on  REA’s Fraudulent Shoeless Joe Jackson Bat; REA Said MEARS Expert Certed Black Betsy Bat As “Game Used” When He Didn’t; When Will Misrepresented Bat Be Removed From Sale?

Since the time this article was published last week, the high bid of $55,000 appears to have been removed or retracted for Robert Edward Auction’s premier lot, the alleged “game used” Shoeless Joe Jackson bat.  A call to the auction house this morning for details on the lot’s downward turn was not returned.

REA not only tried to conceal the fact that the PSA/DNA and MEARS reports clashed, they lied outright and said MEARS called the bat "game used" when they didn't.

A Hauls of Shame reader also pointed out that REA and Rob Lifson didn’t just attempt to conceal the fact that the PSA/DNA and MEARS reports clashed, they actually lied and wrote that MEARS certified the bat as “game used” along with PSA/DNA when they did not in their 2012 letter of opinion.  MEARS expert Troy Kinunen did not return calls and emails requesting comment on REA’s false claim regarding his opinion.  REA officials did not respond to our inquiry as to whether the bat would be removed from the sale.

UPDATE (April 7th 4:25 PM): Auction Adds Addendum to Joe Jackson Bat Lot; REA Now Says No Way To Prove Game Use:

Late this afternoon REA posted this addendum on Lot 3, the alleged Shoeless Joe Jackson “game used” bat:

While MEARS has authenticated and graded this bat as a “Game used Black Betsy model bat attributed to have been used by Joe Jackson” and PSA DNA has authenticated and graded the bat as a “Black Betsy professional model bat that is “authentic and was game used by Jackson during the referenced labeling”, REA does not believe there is any way to prove with certainty (as is the case with virtually all vintage bats attributed to use by any player) actual game use by Joe Jackson.

The addendum represents a 360-degree turn-around for REA and Rob Lifson who appear to be siding with the more conservative determination made by MEARS as opposed to the fraudulent determination made by PSA/DNA that the bat was “game used” by Joe Jackson.  PSA/DNA has no evidence whatsoever that can put the bat in Jackson’s hands at any time during his career.  Although REA has posted the addendum, they have still not corrected the line in the lot description which falsely claims that MEARS said the bat was game used by Jackson and one of only six game used examples known to exist.