By Peter J. Nash
October 27, 2014
-Bill Mastro, Doug Allen and Mark Theotikos had a status hearing on October 15th in US District Court in Chicago as they await sentencing based on their guilty pleas entered earlier this year. According to papers filed in Chicago, all three men are scheduled to appear in court again for another status hearing on November 14th.
-Dan Scheinman, a minority owner of the San Francisco Giants and a prominent uniform collector, recently wrote a letter to Judge Ronald A. Guzman in regard to the Mastro case which was published last week in Chicago Federal Court. In the letter, Scheinman has some choice words for Bill Mastro and his partner Doug Allen telling the Judge:
“My view is that the scope and nature of their activities are much deeper and broader than they have admitted in public. My purpose in writing today is actually not too rehash the harm done by shill bidding or by alteration of items, but instead to seek your help as you approach sentencing. My current belief is that each of these men has significant information pertaining to the authenticity of many items, and that to date, they have not been completely open with regard to that information. I would welcome them both being honest about which items they have sold where the items have dubious authenticity (or came from dubious sources).”
-Scheinman closed out his letter telling the court that while jail time was necessary he believes that “a more honest telling of their story might be worth a reduction of their time.”
-Forbes published a profile of Scheinman in 2012 showing a jersey in his collection attributed to Bobby Thompson from the “Shot Heard Round The World” game in 1951 as well as others with game-use attributed to Dizzy Dean and Chuck Klein. Forbes mentioned his ownership of other jerseys attributed to several 1927 Yankees players, Lou Gehrig, Jackie Robinson, Stan Musial and Ted Williams and also noted that Scheinman’s first significant purchases were made at the 1999 Barry Halper sale at Sotheby’s. Some of Scheinman’s jerseys have made the rounds through the auction and show circuit with previous sales from “dubious sources” including Wolfers Auctions, Grey Flannel, REA, Barry Halper, Lou Costanza and MastroNet. Scheinman has purchased several jerseys that have passed through Mastro auctions including Dutch Reuther’s 1927 Yankee road uniform and Christy Mathewson’s c1901 New York Giants jersey (sold by REA/MastroNet in 2000). Scheinman, a life-long Giant fan who purchased his stake in the club in 2001, declined comment on whether he is questioning any specific Mastro-sourced jerseys in his collection.
-Barry Halper’s dubious and fraudulent jerseys sold in 1999 do resurface in the marketplace and his Bill Bevens jersey is on the block again at Heritage Auctions. In 2012, uniform expert, Dave Grob, confirmed that this Halper jersey sold at Sotheby’s as Bevens’ 1947 Yankee road jersey was misrepresented as evidenced by its button placement. (REA sold the same jersey again in 2001 for $4,591 and Mastro sold it years later in 2006 for $3,361.) When REA sold the jersey they highlighted a letter of authenticity from Bevens, himself, stating that he wore the same jersey when his ho-hitter was broken up by Cookie Lavagetto. But as Grob illustrated in a photographic plate (above), the Halper jersey was not the one that Bevens and the three auctioneers said it was. What is most amazing about the original offering of this jersey is that Halper and REA President Rob Lifson illustrated a photo of Bevens in the Sotheby’s catalog showing that the button placement was wrong but still sold it as the actual jersey worn for that game. Now Heritage and Chris Ivy are selling the jersey and stating: “Though originally marketed as the uniform sported by Bevens that fateful day, due in large part to a letter from Bevens himself claiming this association, period photography disproves the contention and identifies this as a different, authentic road set. As the MEARS A10 rating illustrates, the uniform is 100% original and unaltered…”
-Dave Grob, the MEARS senior uniform authenticator, told us he did not examine the Bevens jersey for the Heritage sale. Readers may recall similar authenticity issues with a baseball Barry Halper sold as the actual ball that broke up Bevens’ no-hitter during that same game in the 1947 Series.
-Troy Kinunen, President of MEARS, told us that the authentication was done by Dave Bushing who wrote the jersey LOA in 2006. Kinunen says that the MEARS letter does not identify the garment “as a World Series jersey.”
-Forbes writer Eric Savitz quoted Dan Scheinman calling his collecting focus as the “murky world of jerseys” and, from our perspective, it looks like Scheinman may have avoided scores of fakes and frauds that were offered by Halper and Lifson at Sotheby’s in 1999. Scheinman’s MLB partners, however, were not as lucky when Bud Selig passed along their money to the Baseball Hall of Fame to purchase millions of dollars worth of fake items from Halper including jerseys fraudulently attributed to “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, Mickey Mantle, Jackie Robinson and Buck Leonard. Ironically, in his report, Savitz identified several other fraudulent Halper items as being genuine including Lou Gehrig’s last glove, Mickey Mantle’s c 1960 glove and Ty Cobb’s dentures (which are believed to be an Al Stump created fake).
-Upper Deck’s “Pieces of History” Babe Ruth game-used bat relic card sold for $1,200 in REA’s auction last week and the buyer could probably benefit from the types of revelations Scheinman would like to hear from Bill Mastro. As indicated on the back of the card Mastro was the seller of the alleged game used Ruth bat that was cut up and destroyed by the trading card company. The card reads: ”On the front of this card is an Authentic piece of bat used by Babe Ruth. This bat was obtained from Mastro Fine Sports one of the most highly acclaimed experts of baseball memorabilia in the industry industry.” Sources indicate that Mastro and other auction executives (and experts) supplied the trading card companies with questionable and problematic game-used bats which did not feature the size and weight specifications that would pass as “game-used” in their own auctions and sales. In addition, the bat illustrated on the Upper Deck card sold at REA does not appear to be one ever sold in a Mastro auction. We compared the bat depicted to all of the Mastro bat sales dating back to 1997 and could not locate it.
-Heritage Auctions is currently offering a Babe Ruth relic card alleged to house a piece of the Bambino’s actual game used pants. It would be nice to know which Ruth pants were used to create this card and how the card company determined the pants were authentic and actually worn by the Bambino. Heritage says the uniform fragment is “a swatch of grey flannel that once served as part of Ruth’s road uniform.” The current bid on the PSA-graded card is $1,700 with a “$3,000 and up” estimate.
-eBAY is currently offering for sale on its auction site many fraudulent “relic-cards” produced by Panini (and Donruss), Upper Deck, Topps and Leaf. Like the two bat cards offered by REA and the Ruth “pants card” being offered by Heritage, the offerings show that the card companies have done little due diligence before creating and marketing these products to consumers. Amazingly, these fraudulent materials (many of which originated with former MLB minority partner Barry Halper) have been endorsed by the Baseball Hall of Fame and Major League Baseball and are currently playing a role in an on-going case of consumer fraud. In the course of our own on-going investigation into fraud related to “relic cards” we have confirmed that Heritage Auctions has sold a significant number of cards made from these bogus materials. Look out for more on this in our upcoming reports.
-PSA was scheduled for depositions last week according to the website for the class action suit filed against RR Auctions. But an update to the site late last week indicates that PSA’s “Custodian of Records” and the company’s lawyers from Attlesey & Storm (also the lawyers for Bob Eaton and RR) failed to show up for the court-ordered proceedings “in violation of a duly served civil subpoena.”
-Michael Johnson, the collector who is the plaintiff in the lawsuit declined comment on the case but said that the lawsuit website would be updated with new information early this week.
-Robert Edward Auctions sold a Babe Ruth single-signed ball for close to $40,000 last week despite the fact that several experts questioned its authenticity. The ball was signed on an American Association ball bearing the facsimile signature of the league president George Trautman and a reader sent us images of four other Trautman-Ruth balls that have sold at auction since 1998 at Mastro & Steinbach; Huggins & Scott; Mastro Auctions and a second example at REA. We presented the images of all the balls together to several experts and others we consider sharp on Ruth’s signature and several of them indicated they were of the opinion that all of the balls were signed in the same hand and that the hand was not that of Ruth. One expert told us, “I’d agree the same forger did them all, particularly if all of them just came to the market in the past 16 years.” If you have knowledge of any other Trautman-Ruth balls please send images to us at: Tips@haulsofshame.com
-Barry Halper’s alleged Babe Ruth suitcase sold for $5,000 in the REA sale last week despite the fact that HOS called it out as a fraud without any verifiable provenance. One reader pointed out that the embossed “Babe Ruth” name in gold leaf was applied to the leather luggage over pre-existing damage and wear and tear. As one of our readers commented, “A fool and his money are soon parted.”
-Linda Ruth Tosetti, the Babe’s granddaughter, is very skeptical of the suitcase sold by REA and told us she has a genuine Ruth suitcase that has been in her family since the 1940s and shows consistent wear. There is no existing evidence to support Halper’s claims that he purchased items directly from the Ruth family and as readers may recall it was Halper who lied about purchasing Ruth’s 1927 World Series ring from Tosetti’s mother, Dorothy Ruth-Pirone.
-The National Baseball Hall of Fame has still not honored our FOIA request for documents related to the stolen 1909 Pirate photo that was pulled from the recent Huggins & Scott sale. In addition to that incident being investigated by the local Cooperstown Police, another item stolen from the Hall’s National Baseball Library appeared in Heritage’s current sale but was pulled after HOS identified it as a stolen item on Twitter. The letter was slated as Lot #82800–a 1917 letter written by Branch Rickey to August Herrmann as the Vice President of the St. Louis Cardinals.
-Jimmy Spence and JSA have been in the news lately since the company was linked to authentications of large groups of autographed items signed by college football stars Jameis Winston of Florida St. and Todd Gurley of Georgia. JSA, however, has had an easier time rubber stamping items they witnessed being signed right under their own noses than they have authenticating a football dating back to the pioneer days of the NFL. (Although JSA also denies witnessing the Heisman trophy winner’s signing sessions.)
-MEARS Auctions just sold a football alleged to have been signed by the 1931 Green Bay Packers and authenticated by Jimmy Spence and JSA. The ball was advertised by the auction house as the “Finest Known Example Extant.”
-Hauls of Shame readers tipped us off about the 1931 Packer ball and one of them said: ”Not many authentic autographs on this football. Some of the autographs appear to have been written by a grade school child (e.g., that of Johnny “Blood” McNally or Bo Molenda). Another key autograph, that of Curly Lambeau, is almost completely wrong. I don’t see any evidence where Lambeau added quotation marks around Curly that early in his coaching career, nor should there be a break between the “m” and “b” in Lambeau. Also, the “L” is very unusual and unlike any other I have seen. Other autographs such as those penned by Arnie Herber and Cal Hubbard are also very different from known authentic examples. There are many more deviations from the signatory norm with some of the players’ names (Dick Stahlman, Hurdis McCraray, Arnold Herber) being written by the same hand (the “H” in Herber perfectly matches the “H” in “Hurdis”).” Two experts we showed this ball to echoed our reader’s sentiments calling the ball “a joke” and one added, “These are not autographs but someone chiseling in names on an old football. No way can someone call these autographs. What exemplars did they use? I can’t find any that match.” The other expert who is very familiar with the handwriting of Lambeau and Hubbard said, “I couldn’t get beyond the Cal Hubbard and Curly Lambeau signatures, total fakes.”
-Troy Kinunen, of MEARS, told us that when JSA issued its full LOA for the 1931 Packer football, the alleged signature of Arnie Herber was identified as a secretarial.
-A Hauls of Shame reader may have given us the quote of the year in regard to the TPAs: “Two people control a billion dollar industry and both of them were put on their pedestal by the guy who is about to go away to prison for committing some of the hobby’s greatest frauds.”