Breaking News

By Peter J. Nash

July 31, 2015

The Hall of Fame pitcher nicknamed the “Christian Gentleman” may be rolling over in his grave tonight as Goldin Auctions sells off what PSA and JSA have certified as an authentic baseball bat alleged to have been “game-used” by Christy Mathewson in the 1905 World Series and signed and dated by his manager, John J. McGraw. But there is no proof whatsoever that suggests Mathewson ever swung the $500,000 bat and several experts have opined that the signature of McGraw is a poorly executed forgery. The authentication of the bogus signature by Steve Grad and Jimmy Spence is yet another prime example of why both authentication companies are facing allegations of fraud, incompetence, racketeering and operating a monopoly in three federal anti-trust lawsuits filed by Nelson Deedle, Todd Mueller and Michael Johnson. Sources indicate that several collectors have alerted the FBI about the sale.

Author Ron Keurajian told Hauls of Shame he is of the opinion that the inscription and signature of McGraw is a forgery and added, “Whatever moron buys that bat deserves to get burned.” When compared to authentic examplars of McGraw’s signature executed between 1900 and 1910, the signature on the bat exhibits tell-tale signs of forgery as if the autograph was drawn slowly. Supporting Keurajian’s analysis is additional information of the bats alleged provenance which shows that the previous owner of the bat, Terrence Zastrow, prepared a sketchy sworn affidavit with virtually no detail documenting that the bat actually was owned at one time by Mathewson. Making matters worse is information submitted to Hauls of Shame detailing how Zastrow was once indicted for counterfeiting coins and was caught on wiretaps admitting how he defrauded the US Government. When Hauls of Shame asked Ken Goldin if he knew of Zastrow’s indictment and counterfeiting history the auctioneer said, ” If you are referring to something from 1972 I think many people have a past, yourself included. If you wish to discuss the bat, you should talk to MEARS who researched it extensively and awarded it an A-10 their highest grade, or PSA who awarded a GU-10 their highest grade.”

The McGraw signature on the Goldin Auctions bat has been identified as a forgery by several experts who claim the handwriting contrasts genuine examples executed between 1900 and 1910. In addition, the written date "Oct. 14 '05" significantly contrasts how McGraw wrote "Oct." and the number (5).

When we spoke to Troy Kinunen of MEARS he admitted that he authenticated the bat after the autograph was certified authentic by the third party company and that he assumed the signature and inscription were real.  Because of that assumption he told us, “I was able to attribute it to Mathewson because the bat had no name on it and that’s way the bats from 1905 would appear.  The fact that the writing on the bat had the exact date placed it at the World Series.”  When asked if he had seen any evidence that could unequivocally show that Mathewson owned the bat he said, “No, but I was told that the bat was given to a family by Mathewson.” Incredibly, both MEARS and PSA claim that another reason the bat is authentic is because Mathewson did not sign the bat.  In the PSA letter of authenticity John Taube writes, “players don’t sign their own equipment.” MEARS says, “The fact that the bat was signed by teammates, not Christy Mathewson himself, lends to the fact this was Mathewson’s bat which was signed by his teammates and intended to be a keepsake…”

It’s hard to believe both PSA and MEARS actually believe this and it’s interesting to note that they both make the same point as if MEARS based their 2015 letter on the 2013 letter by PSA. If this were actually true, the majority of “game used” items both companies have authenticated would not exist.

This sworn affidavit prepared and signed by Terrence Zastrow reveals nothing about the actual provenance and authenticity of the alleged Mathewson bat. Hobby sources are asking how PSA and MEARS could consider the affidavit when Zastrow is known as an admitted counterfeiter of US coins.

But what is most stunning about the PSA, MEARS and JSA authentications is the sworn affidavit of Terrence Zastrow.  Hauls of Shame requested the affidavit referenced in the Goldin lot description but Goldin would not furnish a copy of the document which states that Zastrow was the owner of the bat as of July 24, 2013 and that when Zastrow “came into possession oof said bat” he was “told that said bat had been given to Christy Mathewson by his team mates on October 14, 1905.”  Zastrow states that “Mathewson gave said bat to a member of a Chicago family” but fails to identify the family or the individual. He then adds that the bat was in the possession of the alleged family “until June 2013.”

In a nutshell, there is no verifiable evidence in Zastrow’s affidavit that supports either the Mathewson ownership or “game use” of the bat.  In fact, MEARS, on its web page states the criteria to render an “A-10″ grade on a bat.  MEARS says, “A bat being graded A-10 matches known factory production details, exhibits significant signs of player use, has unquestionable provenance or an abundance of unique and player specific traits in combination with manufacturer’s characteristics proving that the bat could only have been used by the examined player.”

It appears that both MEARS and PSA simply accepted the autograph authentications by PSA/DNA and JSA in addition to the claims of direct provenance and ownership by Mathewson to elevate the bat to a $500,000 museum quality artifact.  The truth of the matter is that MEARS and PSA can only identify the bat as a vintage and authentic Hillerich bat from the turn of the century.  Neither outfit provides any convincing evidence that shows otherwise, including photographic evidence which shows Mathewson holding a bat in 1908.

A photo sold this year by Heritage shows Mathewson holding his bat during the 1905 World Series (left). The handle of the bat appears to be thicker than the bat being sold by Goldin (right).

Last week, a major collector contacted Hauls of Shame and provided us with an actual authentic photo of Mathewson holding his bat during the 1905 World Series.  The collector noted that the knob and handle “looked thicker than the bat that Goldin is selling.” The image is not clear enough to reveal the exact details and wood grain but it does cast more doubt on Goldin’s alleged treasure.

Additional views of the alleged Goldin Mathewson bat (left) next to the genuine bat shown being held in Mathewson's hands during the 1905 World Series.

The image was just recently sold by Heritage Auctions as part of the estate of Mathewson’s catcher Roger Bresnahan and was readily available to PSA, MEARS and JSA. The 1905 image does, however, show that the bat in Matty’s hands does not have large piece of wood missing from the knob. One industry executive we spoke with said, “That photo shows a bat without any wood loss on the knob.  If it was such a keepsake and retired after the 1905 Series how would that have been damaged?  That’s a problem, but not as big a problem as having no evidence it was Matty’s bat.”

Ken Goldin acknowledged Zastrow’s past as a counterfeiter but also stated, “My consignor is not Zastrow or a relative.  This bat has been in an esteemed private collection for two years.”  Based on Goldin’s response it appears that Zastrow sold the bat to the collector and it is interesting to note that Goldin includes another letter addressed to Marshall Fogel referencing a different family that owned a Mathewson jersey they received as a gift.  That letter has absolutely nothing to do with the Zastrow bat and appears to be included in an attempt to deceive bidders.  Several sources told Hauls of Shame that the consignor of the bat is New Jersey collector Dr. Richard Angrist.  Angrist’s name appears on the copy of the Fogel letter which is included in Goldin’s 23 page report on the bat.

Terrence Zastrow was indicted for counterfeiting US coins in 1973 and was caught admitting to creating and selling fake coins on a wiretap as noted in the 1973 indictment (excerpts above).

Hauls of Shame contacted Zastrow’s son, Justin Zastrow, to ask whether his father could explain his affidavit but he did not respond to our voice mail.  The Zastrow family owns and operates Authentic Investment Inc. which is described as “a family owned company.”  PSA, Joe Orlando and John Taube have a long history of not responding to our requests for comment.

Troy Kinunen of MEARS told us he stands behind his authentication of the bat and that he only heard of Zastrow’s past as a coin counterfieter a few days ago.  Kinnunen said he had done business with the Zastrow’s previously. A private detective we spoke with told us, ” I found that the Zastrow case isn’t online, but it is in a box in the Federal Records Center or the National Archives and Records Administration. It’s case 553, case number 1:1973-cr-553, U.S. District Court, Northern Illinois, Chicago location.”

The current bid on the alleged Mathewson bat at Goldin’s sale in Chicago is $140,000 with five alleged bids.

UPDATE (SAT. Aug. 1st): According to Goldin Auctions the alleged Mathewson bat sold for $218,700.  In addition, Ken Goldin contacted HOS and wanted to clarify one issue about the Fogel letter included with the lot.  Goldin told us: “Goldin did not supply anything regarding Marshall Fogel. When the item was consigned to us it came with 23 pages of documents handed to us by the consignor. The letter regarding Fogel was not something that we supplied, but is part of the authentication papers of PSA DNA.” Goldin also stated that the sale of the bat at $218,700 was a real sale and that the bat met its reserve price although it sold for less than half of the $500,000 Goldin expected.

(This is the first of a two-part Special Report from the National Sports Collectors Convention in Chicago, look for our follow up report after the Goldin Auctions sale tonight)


By Peter J. Nash
July 26, 2015

Letters to HOF founder Stephen Carlton Clark, an heir to the Singer Sewing Machine fortune, appear to have been stolen from the NBL. His granddaughter, Jane Forbes Clark (inset), the current Chairman of the HOF, has been silent on the issue of the thefts.

It’s been a few years  since a Haulsofshame.com investigation revealed that a large cross-section of papers donated to the Baseball Hall of Fame by Commissioner Ford Frick had been wrongfully removed from the National Baseball Library and were subsequently sold on the “black market” for baseball artifacts. That being said, there was no mention of that scandal in the glowing profile about Hall Chairman Jane Forbes Clark published yesterday in the New York Times.

In his Times profile, writer Richard Sandomir failed to mention anything about the massive thefts and also chose not to reference another 2013 report about the Hall of Fame thefts which uncovered additional proof showing that documents from Cooperstown’s internal files have also been compromised. Our report showed evidence in past auction offerings of  letters addressed to Hall of Fame officials including one written in 1946 by Hall of Famer Nap Lajoie, which was sold by Huggins & Scott.

Earlier this year, Clark and Hall President Jeff Idelson failed to respond to our Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request related to the sale of a stolen 1909 Pittsburgh Pirate photo and now a new discovery shows that yet another letter sent by Lajoie to the Hall of Fame appears to have been stolen from the museum’s internal files. This letter, however, was sent to Jane Clark’s own grandfather and Hall of Fame founder, Stephen Carlton Clark.

The letter Lajoie wrote in 1947 was a thank you for a birthday telegram that had been sent to him by Clark, an heir to the Singer Sewing Machine fortune and one of the richest men in America. The letter appeared in a 2006 Hunt Auctions sale of baseball memorabilia and sold for close to $2,000. The significance of the letter went unnoticed at the time, but its inclusion in the auction was clear-cut evidence suggesting that files related to the Hall’s founder have also been compromised as part of the multi-million dollar heist of baseball documents from the National Baseball Library in Cooperstown.

Clark financially backed the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum concept after it was presented to him by his employee, Alexander Cleland, in the Spring of 1934, and his own baseball artifacts and lithographs served as the nucleus of the fledgling institution’s early collection. With the assistance of Cleland, Clark enlisted the support of Ford Frick and organized Baseball itself, and the museum formally opened during Baseball’s Centenial celebration in the Summer of 1939. When the museum first opened its doors it attracted thousands of visitors but by the time Clark passed away in 1960 the institution was hosting hundreds of thousands of visitors making pilgrimages to what had become known as baseball’s shrine in the tiny village of Cooperstown.

In addition to founding the Hall, Clark was also a world renowned collector of art who, along with his brother, Robert Sterling Clark, amassed one of the finest collections of paintings ever held in private hands. Clark helped found the Museum of Modern Art in New York City with Nelson A. Rockefeller and also served as MOMA’s Chairman of the Board.  Clark also served as a trustee at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where he bequeathed a large portion of his collection which would today be valued at close to a billion dollars. The remainder of his collection was left to Yale University including the famous Van Gogh painting, The Night Cafe, which alone is currently valued at close to $150 million. However, despite his renowned philanthropy and collecting, when the New York Times published his obituary in 1960, he was remembered more for having put on display the misshapen and time-worn ball that was said to have been used by Abner Doubleday on what the Times then reported was the “field where baseball is believed to have originated in 1839.”

Most recently Clark’s name has been in the news regarding another theft-related issue in which his acquisition of Van Gogh’s The Night Cafe has been the subject of litigation.  Clark has been accused of originally obtaining the painting illegally as looted artwork via a money laundering scheme.  Pierre Konowoloff, a descendant of Russian industrialist Ivan Morozov filed a lawsuit against Yale University claiming that the Van Gogh painting Clark bequeathed to the school in 1960 was stolen from his family by the Bolsheviks during the Russian revolution. Konowaloff claims that Clark was aware the painting was stolen property when he purchased it from the legendary Knoedler Galleries in New York City in 1933.  (In 2011, Knoedler closed its doors after several lawsuits were filed accusing the gallery of selling fakes.)  Yale also filed suit against Konowaloff to block him from claiming ownership of the famous painting.  In March of 2013, Konowoloff’s attorney, Allen Gerson, filed an affidavit stating he was approaching Russian officials to see “whether the sale of The Night Cafe to Stephen C. Clark conformed to then prevailing Russian law and policy” and whether the controversy over the painting would have any impact on the Russian Federation’s “relationship with the United States.”

This letter written by HOFer Nap Lajoie was sent to millionaire Stephen C. Clark in 1947 and then sold in 2006 at Hunt Auctions in Exton, PA.

In stark contrast to his multi-million dollar artworks, the $2,000 purloined letter sent to Clark by Hall of Famer Napoleon “Larry” Lajoie was simply a thank you letter to the officers and directors of the museum for sending him a birthday telegram.  The letter appeared as lot 742 in Hunt Auctions’  February 2006 sale and sold for a hammer price of $1,600.  Hunt’s auction description mistakenly described it as “regarding an invitation to the Hall of Fame.”  Such a letter, written to the then Hall of Fame President would be maintained in the files of either the National Baseball Library or the family papers of Jane Forbes Clark.  To the best of our knowledge, Clark has not sold or dispersed her grandfather’s papers and such a letter written to the president of the Hall of Fame would be property of the museum and library, which operates as a 501 (c) (3) educational institution and public trust under the jurisdiction of the Attorney General of New York State.

In the past, Jane Clark has actually reclaimed and purchased Hall of Fame correspondence that had ended up in private hands.  In 2007, she purchased at Sotheby’s several letters written by Hall of Famers to her grandfather’s employee, Alexander Cleland, which were once part of an archive preserved by his family known as The “Cleland Papers.”  After he retired in the early 1940s, Cleland took his files that contained documents and letters related to the founding of the Hall.  The entire collection, consisting of hundreds of documents, sold at auction in 1996 but the 2007 offering included only a handful of letters.

Those letters were written to Cleland by Lajoie and fellow Hall of Famers like Honus Wagner, Cy Young, Tris Speaker, and Ford Frick and were purchased personally by Clark for close to $60,000. Clark paid $6,600 for the one lot featuring a Lajoie letter. Clark told reporters after the sale, “My grandfather founded the Hall of Fame, and these papers are important to my grandfather, and to the Hall of Fame in terms of being some of the original documents that began the Hall of Fame as we know it today.”  When asked by Sports Collectors Digest how these documents ended up into private hands in the first place Clark responded, “We’re not entirely sure, but we think that when Mr. Cleland left he took boxes of documents with him.  And those have been, we think, with his family and we are very happy to get them.”  Clark’s response appeared to suggest that it was the Hall’s contention that Cleland had no right to remove those papers from his office when he retired in 1941.

Hall of Fame Chairman, Jane Forbes Clark, purchased several letters related to the founding of the Hall of Fame for over $60,000 at Sotheby's in 2007.

Before the entire Cleland collection was sold at auction at Christie’s in 1996, author James Vlasich utilized them as a resource for his book,  A Legend For The Legendary and presented a complete copy of the Cleland Papers to the National Baseball Library where they are now available for historians and researchers.  We have verified that the 1947 letter from Lajoie to Stephen C. Clark was never part of the Cleland Papers collection.

Haulsofshame.com has also obtained a copy of another letter sent to Stephen Clark by Ty Cobb in 1948.  The body of the letter was written by Cobb’s wife but signed by Cobb, himself, and thanks Clark for sending him a framed photograph of his Hall of Fame plaque.  In addition, Cobb mentions to Clark his regrets in not being to donate more “mementos, uniforms, shoes etc.”  He wrote, “I was unable to do what I would like to have for I had just given them away to boys who had asked for them, also the moths got some of the uniforms.” The letter does not currently appear on the NBL’s ABNER database as part of the correspondence collections and is also suspected to have been wrongfully removed from the institution.  The NBL files at Cooperstown still include other letters sent to Clark from Japanese baseball fans and one from J. G. Taylor Spink of The Sporting News asking Clark to induct President Franklin Delano Roosevelt into the Hall of Fame.

Ty Cobb wrote a letter to Stephen Clark in 1948 (left) and scores more to Hall President Paul Kerr (right).  It is believed that all og these letters were stolen from the museum's internal files.

Ty Cobb sent letters to Stephen Clark (left) and Hall President Paul Kerr (right). All of the letters are missing from the Hall and believed to have been stolen from the museum's internal files.

The Cobb letter sent to Clark is similar to other letters Cobb wrote to his right-hand man, Paul Kerr, who became Hall President after his death in 1960.  The Cobb letters to Kerr, which were usually lengthy missives, have appeared for sale in virtually every major baseball auction dating back to the early 1990s.  Like the letters to Clark and the scores of other letters written to other Hall officials, the Kerr letters are believed to have been stolen from the NBL.

We called Jane Forbes Clark several times earlier this year at her Clark Estates offices in Rockefeller Center to inquire whether her family had ever sold or liquidated any of her grandfather’s correspondence or personal papers, and whether the family maintains a collection of papers that have never been made available to the public. There were no special provisions in Stephen C. Clark’s will to seal or restrict access to his surviving papers and letters.  We also called Clark to inquire as to whether the handful of letters appearing on the NBLs ABNER database were the only Clark related documents housed at the Hall of Fame.  Clark did not respond to our inquiries.

We also called and sent emails to Hall of Fame’s Director of Communications, Brad Horn, to see if he had any explanation as to how an internal museum document like the Clark letter could end up in a Hunt Auctions sale?  Horn did not respond to our multiple inquiries either.

The Clarks of Cooperstown by Nicholas Fox-Weber is the definitive biography of Stephen C. Clark. Clark owned Van Gogh's painting, "The Night Cafe" and left it to the Yale University Art Museum.

Correspondence either to or from Stephen Clark is exceedingly scarce and only a very limited quantity of documents have been made available to researchers and authors.  Clark’s biographer, Nicholas Fox Weber, author of The Clark’s of Cooperstown, told us that the only correspondence he found in the course of his research was found in the files of the Museum of Modern Art, the Clark Institute and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  In particular, the Met’s archive notes specifically on its website its objective to “preserve in perpetuity” the “official correspondence of the Museum, to make the collection accessible and provide research support, and to further an informed and enduring understanding of the Museum’s history.”  Considering Clark was involved intimately with both institutions, it appears the Cooperstown archive did not adhere to the same standards as the Met.

When Weber inquired of long-time Clark representative, and former Hall president, Ed Stack, as to whether the family maintained their own archive of Clark papers, Stack “politely declined his request.”  Weber did, however, have the rare opportunity to interview Clark’s granddaughter Jane.

Although Clark cooperated with Weber, some controversy ensued when the book was released and the Met chose not to include it in the museum bookshop.  According to The New York Times, Weber’s editor was told “that some eyebrows at the museum had been raised by the book’s undercurrents of gay behavior.”  Publishers Weekly reported, “Someone at the Museum didn’t like the references to Alfred (Corning) Clark’s double life.”  Weber’s research of Jane Forbes Clark’s great-grandfather revealed that Alfred Corning Clark engaged in several homosexual relationships while still married and raising a family. Weber told the Times the Met’s actions qualified “completely as censorship” and added, “Why the Met in 2007 would be so put off by this element of the book is astonishing.”

Clear cut evidence of the magnitude of the HOF thefts are these three rare cabinet photos which were identified as HOF property when offered at auction. Sources indicate that at least two of these gems featuring HOFers Christy Mathewson, Nap Lajoie ans Smilin' Mickey Welch have been returned to Cooperstown. Each photograph has an estimated value between $10-20,000.

Jane Clark’s silence related to the Hall of Fame thefts is stunning considering the findings of investigations conducted by Haulsofshame.com over the course of the past three years illustrating the magnitude of the heist of documents and photographs from the NBL.  In a 2012 article published by Deadspin, we identified another Lajoie-related item that was stolen from the Hall of Fame and offered for sale at Heritage Auction Galleries in Dallas, Texas.  It was a rare Carl Horner cabinet photograph of Lajoie that had a vandalized library accession number and other identifying marks showing it was Cooperstown’s property.  At the time the article was published the photo already had a bid of $4,250 and Heritage estimated it would sell in excess of $15,000.  Heritage withdrew the photograph from the sale less than an hour after the article was published.  Other stolen photographs of Christy Mathewson and Smilin’ Mickey Welch valued at over $10,000 each were identified in sales at Mastro Auctions and Robert Edward Auctions and have since been returned to Cooperstown.

In addition to the 1947 Lajoie letter addressed to Stephen C. Clark, documents and correspondence originating from the August Herrmann Papers and Frederick Long Papers collections have also appeared for sale both publicly and privately.  The appearance of these documents for sale, with no mention of provenance whatsoever, illustrates further how severely the National Baseball Library’s collections have been compromised.  The sale of the Lajoie letter has been reported to the Cooperstown Police Department and an incident report has been filed along with several others recently filed by Chief Michael Covert for stolen items ranging from an 1870 CDV photograph of the Philadelphia Athletics to an 1886 cabinet photograph of the New York Giants.


By Peter J. Nash

July 23, 2015

Heritage Auction Galleries in Dallas, Texas, removed a valuable 1869 Red Stockings Peck & Snyder trade card from its upcoming sale at next weeks National Convention after Hauls of Shame published a report showing that the card was stolen from the New York Public Library’s famous Spalding Collection. The card, owned by Net54 moderator Leon Luckey, was purchased at a 2000 MastroNet auction conducted by partners Bill Mastro and Rob Lifson and represents only one of several copies of the same card that have made their way out the front door of the Fifth Avenue branch of the library.

Luckey recently locked a thread about the scandal on his collector internet forum as members were highly critical of his conduct in offering the card for sale while knowing it was suspected to have been stolen from the library.  Based upon Heritage’s lot description, which mentions that the card shows evidence of a stamp on the reverse, it is clear that both Luckey and Heritage were aware that the card was very likely stolen property, yet failed to inform prospective auction bidders.  In fact, one source familiar with the FBI investigation into the provenance of the card told Hauls of Shame that Luckey was actually informed that the card was stolen when it was returned to him at the convention last year.

Leon Luckey posted a high resolution scan of the back of his 1869 P&S card from 2007 to 2010 (left) but intentionally reduced the resolution by at least 30% in 2010 (right). The reduction in the image quality made it impossible to identify the remnants of the NYPL ownership stamp.

In addition, Hauls of Shame has uncovered evidence which shows that Luckey also removed high-resolution scans of the back of his card from his website in May of 2010 after we published several follow-up articles about the NYPL thefts first highlighted in the New York Times in July in 2009. Luckey reduced the resolution by at least 30% rendering it nearly impossible to identify the NYPL ownership stamp on the reverse.

Heritage’s removal of the card made national news when the New York Daily News reported that the “FBI is working with NYPL officials to determine if (the) rare 1869 trade card that had been offered by the Texas auction house was stolen from the library’s  Spalding Collection decades ago.”  Daily News reporter Michael O’Keeffe failed to acknowledge that Hauls of Shame broke the story first based upon visual evidence posted in our last report. O’Keeffe also quoted Heritage’s Chris Ivy as saying, “Heritage Auctions has no interest in selling stolen material.” Heritage has previously removed two other items stolen from the NYPL, an 1879 player contract of Ezra Sutton and an 1894 season pass which once belonged to baseball pioneer Henry Chadwick.

The 1869 card removed from the Heritage sale was sold to Luckey by Mastro and Lifson in 2000 but it was also sold previously by Lifson in another Robert Edward Auctions sale in 1997.  O’Keeffe and the Daily News failed to report that fact and that they had published an article in 2009 about the NYPL thefts in which Lifson lied to O’Keeffe and stated he never stole materials from the NYPL collection. Lifson, however, later admitted on SI.com that he had been caught stealing from the Spalding Collection when he was a student the Wharton School of Business at UPenn.  Lifson also oversaw the sale of scores of other stolen items from the NYPL when he acted as the consultant to Sotheby’s 1999 Barry Halper Collection sale. Lifson was a long-time supplier and a close confidant of Halper who has also been accused of masterminding the NYPL heist in the 1970s.

Halper, the deceased former New York Yankee partner, was also a close friend of New York Daily News reporter Bill Madden who acted as his personal PR representative and published dozens of articles and personal profiles of the collector spanning from the 1970s through 1999 when Halper sold a portion of his collection to MLB and the Baseball Hall of Fame for $8 million. Several million dollars of that material, however, including a jersey and bat attributed to “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, were exposed as fakes by Hauls of Shame in 2010, and since that time Madden, O’Keeffe and editor Teri Thompson have protected both the deceased Halper and his associate Lifson. O’Keeffe even published an article recently lauding the disgraced Halper as a collecting inspiration for Hall of Fame pitcher Randy Johnson.

Bill Madden revealed Halper's ownership of the stolen Harry Wright correspondence in his 1977 TSN column and the KC Star reported that Halper allegedly paid $3 for his 1869 Reds Peck & Snyder card (inset right).

Madden wrote about Barry Halper’s ownership of a framed 1869 Red Stocking photograph in a 1977 Sporting News article that also identified Halper as the owner of the Harry Wright Correspondence Collection which had been stolen from the NYPL’s Spalding Collection. Three large scrapbook volumes filled with thousands of letters addressed to Wright vanished from the library and ended up in Halper’s possession in 1977 as evidenced in Madden’s report. Six years later in 1983, an article published in the Kansas City Star highlighted Halper’s Peck & Snyder card and quoted him stating how he allegedly acquired his copy of the card.  The Star stated, “Halper paid $3 for the first baseball card ever printed, a picture of professional baseball’s first team–the Cincinnati Red Stockings.”  Said Halper, “It was just sitting there at an antique sale.  I don’t think there’s another one. It may be  worth more than $10,000 today.”  Halper also told the writer, “I try to get what I want.”

By 1983 there were only a few documented examples of the rare 1869 Reds card known to exist and two of them belonged to Rob Lifson’s top clients Halper and George Lyons. Lyons revealed his 1979 acquisition of the card in his Trader Speaks column along with a rare 1873 Victoria card of the Boston Red Stockings which is also believed to have been stolen from the Spalding Collection. Lyons’ acquisition of both cards took place just months before Rob Lifson was apprehended stealing items from the NYPL. A third Peck & Snyder card was offered for sale in a Trader Speaks auction in 1980 by New Jersey dealer Rick Barudin who claimed that the card was one of “only 7 known to exist.” That card re-appeared for sale in a 1995 Bill Mastro “Best of Yesterday” auction published in Sports Collectors Digest. Oddly enough, Mastro notes in his lot description that the back of the card had “some deliberate places of unexplained wear.”

The NYPL currently has four Peck & Snyder trade cards of the 1869 Reds. 1.) Pasted in Harry Wright's scrapbook. 2.) Recovered by FBI c. 2009 with no visible stamp on the reverse. 3.) A trimmed copy pasted into Henry Chadwick's scrapbook. 4.) A trimmed copy with no visible NYPL stamp on the reverse which appears on the NYPL website.

Back in 1985, dealer Lew Lipset claimed in his Old Judge newsletter that he had knowledge of “10 to 12″ existing 1869 Reds cards. Today there are approximately 35 copies of the Peck & Snyder Red Stocking trade card known to exist and the New York Public Library currently has four examples in their possession. The library once had at least seven copies in its collection including three examples that were stolen, one of which being the Heritage auction lot in Leon Luckey’s possession.  The second stolen copy was removed from a Legendary auction in 2012 and is currently in the possession of dealer JC Clarke.  The third stolen copy has never surfaced publicly since it was credited to the NYPL in the 1960 book Baseball: The Early Years by Dr. Harold Seymour and Dorothy Seymour Mills. The library also recovered another stolen copy via the FBI in 2009, but prior sales of that example are unknown.

This NYPL copy of the 1869 Reds card was documented as library property in the 1960 book Baseball: The Early Years ny the Seymours. The card has never surfaced publicly since the book was published in 1960.

The example that was withdrawn from Legendary Auctions at the 2012 National Convention was traced back to the estate of a deceased post card collector from New York City. As reported in our last article, Leon Luckey’s card can be traced back to Lifson’s 1997 Robert Edward Auctions sale and a Christie’s sale in 1996. Lifson’s 1997 lot description made no mention of the ink spots on the back of the card and called it “one of the finest examples of this great rarity known to exist.” When the same card was offered at Christie’s in September of 1996 it did not sell as bidders failed to meet the high reserve price.

A source with intimate knowledge of the Barry Halper collection back in 1996 tells Hauls of Shame he believes Halper consigned the 1869 Reds card to his friend Don Flanagan, at Christie’s, and then after it failed to sell consigned it to Lifson’s sale in 1997.  In that same REA sale, Halper also consigned his most prized possession, the uniform Lou Gehrig wore when he made his “Luckiest Man” speech at Yankee Stadium.  Lifson, however, made no reference to Halper’s ownership of the uniform in his lot description. In the mid-1990s Halper sold many choice items in his collection after his family business, Halper Brothers Paper Products, went bankrupt and he was embroiled in litigation with his cousins who owned the company with him. Halper claimed to have acquired the Gehrig uniform directly from the slugger’s widow in her apartment but, as will be revealed in our upcoming book The Madoff of Memorabilia, Halper’s acquisition story was a total fabrication.

In 1999 Halper sold a different 1869 Reds Peck & Snyder card when Lifson worked as the special consultant to Sotheby’s for the Halper Collection sale.  That example of the card is also under suspicion as being stolen from the NYPL and in the Sotheby’s catalog Lifson did not show an image of (or describe the condition of) the back of the card which sold for $9,775.

The stolen 1869 Reds trade card appeared in REAs 1997 sale (top left) after it failed to sell in a 1996 Christie's auction (top right). A source claims that Barry Halper consigned the card to his friends Don Flanagan (bottom left) and Rob Lifson (center). Current owner Leon Luckey (bottom right) is left holding a very expensive bag.

If Leon Luckey’s card traces back directly to both Halper and Lifson, it will represent more damaging evidence suggesting that both men worked together to rob millions in treasures from the NYPL collection in the 1970s.  Our source added, “Why doesn’t Luckey demand that Lifson produce the consignment records for that 1997 lot?  REA doesn’t destroy bidder and consignor records, so it should take only seconds for Lifson to show that Halper did or did not consign that stolen item to REA.  Lifson admitting to selling Halper the card in the first place is another story. Good luck with that.”

Net54 members that have been very critical of Luckey’s actions in selling the stolen card feel as if they’ve been censored by their moderator and have let him know as much in the comments section of our previous report.  Very few of the Net54 members, however, have mentioned Lifson’s name and his well known past as the only library thief ever apprehended in the act at the 5th Avenue branch of the NYPL.  One Net54 member told us, “They are all afraid of getting banned from his auctions or being harassed by his lawyers.”  Another Net54 member came to Luckey’s defense telling us, “Compared to Lifson Leon is a saint.  He didn’t rob the NYPL and he’s an amateur compared to Lifson in terms of having doctored and altered baseball cards during his career as a dealer.”

The NYPL did not respond to our inquiry asking for an update on the status of the recovery of Luckey’s stolen card.  Sources indicate that the card is still in the Net54 moderator’s possession.  The NYPL also failed to respond to our inquiry asking to explain why they had recently filed a lawsuit and were pursuing criminal prosecution against a woman who tried to sell a Benjamin Franklin manuscript stolen from the library.

In the comments section of our last report Harry Wright’s great-great granddaughter, Pam Guzzi, expressed her family’s dismay with the NYPL scandal stating:

“How “lucky” for Mr. Luckey that he can count on profits from these stolen goods to send his children to college while most of the rest of us have to work hard at earning an honest living and our children have to take out loans to do the same. And some these artifacts at one point belonged to my ancestor, Harry Wright. Too bad they ended up at they NYPL only to be stolen for some criminals and an auction house with no integrity to benefit from. Even if my family had them in our possession, they would not end up at auction so I could pay for my own children’s college! These items belong in, and were intended to remain in the public eye for all to see and learn about. They are a part of American History. Too bad my great-great grandfather didn’t pass them along to family to care for. I am sure he felt he was preserving important baseball history by doing what he did. It is a beyond shameful what can happen to the intentions of such an honorable man!”

Keep an eye out for our upcoming “NYPL Hot 100 List” featuring the top 100 artifacts stolen from the Spalding Collection (Leon Luckey’s stolen card is in the Top 10). If you have additional information about Luckey’s stolen Peck & Snyder card or any others stolen from the NYPL please contact us at: tips@haulsofshame.com


By Peter J. Nash

July 13, 2015

Last year at the National Sports Collectors Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, an FBI agent took possession of an 1869 Red Stocking trade card owned by Net54 moderator Leon Luckey suspecting that the relic had been stolen from the New York Public Library’s famous Spalding Collection. Sources indicate that the agent wanted to examine the back of the card for evidence of an NYPL stamp and that after examining it, the card was returned to Luckey, the co-owner of Brockelman & Luckey Auctions.

During the convention, a collector inadvertently posted on YouTube a video which caught Luckey talking to his partner Brockelman about the card in question as the collector was filming the materials displayed in Luckey’s showcases. That same card which was returned to Luckey is now appearing in the current Heritage auction as part of the sale of his type-card collection. Heritage, however, has posted a high-resolution scan of the back of Luckey’s 1869 card and the image clearly reveals an NYPL stamp featuring one of the library’s sculpted marble lions which are named patience and fortitude and have stood guard at the entrance of the 5th Avenue branch since it opened in 1911. The evidence of the stamp on the back of the card is unimpeachable evidence that Luckey’s prized possession was stolen from A.G. Spalding’s collection which has been housed at the library since 1921. The library has suffered staggering multi-million dollar losses as a result of a 1970s heist that has been reported on in the New York Times and the New York Post.

Leon Luckey's 1869 P&S trade card of the Red Stockings shows the remnants of a red stamp on the reverse.

Why the FBI returned the stolen relic to Luckey last year after examining it is unclear. What is clear, however, are the remnants of the red NYPL stamp that definitively document it as property of the City of New York. When we examined the scan of the back and viewed it as a negative image (similar to an x-ray) the word “Library” from the oval NYPL stamp was clearly visible along with the circle that follows the word.

A closer x-ray view of the back of the HA card (left) reveals the word "Library" and a following circle that match the NYPL oval stamp (right) exactly.

Hauls of Shame also sent the Heritage back scan to a skilled SABR member who overlayed it on top of an NYPL stamp found on another card in the Spalding Collection. The result was an exact match for every visible point of emphasis on both the Peck & Snyder card and the oval NYPL stamp.

An oval red stamp that appears on the backs of other NYPL Spalding photos (left) appears to show points of emphasis which are identical to the remnants left on the card being sold by Heritage (right).

The remnants and the full stamp exhibit the exact same lettering, graphics and lion outline and definitively prove that Heritage is, yet again, selling property stolen from one of the nation’s most prestigious research libraries.

When the NYPL lion stamp is overlay-ed on the image of the surface on the reverse of Leon Luckey's card, the result shows an exact match confirming that the Heritage auction lot was stolen from the NYPL.

Luckey’s card is an 1869 trade card issued by the Peck & Snyder sporting goods company and depicts the members of the champion Cincinnati Red Stockings who went undefeated that season.  The card is one of several examples that were stolen from the NYPL including another card which was confiscated by the FBI at the National Convention in 2012 when it was being sold by Legendary Auctions.  The FBI examined the card under an ultraviolet light which revealed another blue rectangular stamp used by the library to document ownership of Spalding items.  That card was offered for sale by auctioneer Doug Allen who has recently plead guilty to charges of wire fraud in an FBI probe into corruption in the memorabilia industry.  The stolen card currently for sale at Heritage was also previously sold by Allen and his former partner Bill Mastro at MastroNet in 2000.  Mastro has also plead guilty to wire fraud in the same case and Luckey’s stolen card can be traced back to Mastro’s former partner, Rob Lifson, who sold the stolen card in his own Robert Edward Auctions sale in 1997.

The stolen 1869 P&S card was sold by Rob Lifson (left) at REA in 1997 and again by Lifson and Bill Mastro (center left) at MastroNet in 2000, Net54 moderator Leon Luckey (center right) allegedly purchased the card from MastroNet and consigned it to Chris Ivy (right) of Heritage in 2015.

Lifson, of course, is notorious as the only individual to ever be apprehended while stealing similar 19th century photographs and cards from the NYPL’s Spalding Collection.  When Lifson was caught stealing in 1979 TIME Magazine reported that he had $5,000 cash on his person and that the thief claimed to have made that cash selling cards in “just one day.” Many of the stolen NYPL relics ended up in the collection of Lifson’s top client Barry Halper and sources indicate that the current card for sale at Heritage was offered at Christie’s in 1996 and prior to that was part of the Halper Collection.

Luckey and Chris Ivy of Heritage Auction Galleries were hoping that the 1869 rarity would fetch a six-figure price considering the auction house calls the card the highest graded example in existence. But after Hauls of Shame alerted the NYPL and the FBI of the presence of the library stamp on the reverse their plans to cash in on the stolen treasure began to unravel.  In fact, sources indicate that both Luckey and Ivy were aware that the card had the NYPL stamp and was stolen property as Ivy and Heritage noted in the lot description: “Fragments of some type of red stamp appear on the upper part of the verso. There is surface marring or erasure on the back in the same upper quadrant. This could be a library stamp, a collector stamp or the mark of some retailer.”  There is no question that the stamp is a library stamp—an NYPL stamp featuring a lion. Heritage’s false claims that the ink remnants could be from a “collector” or “retail” stamp are wholly disingenuous and demonstrate what appears to be outright consumer fraud.

Further suggesting that Luckey had prior knowledge his card was stolen is evidence that shows the Net54 moderator had displayed the back of his card with a high resolution scan until May 2010 when he intentionally changed the scan to a low resolution image that made it impossible to examine the remnants of the red stamp on the reverse. Luckey basically admits his knowledge that the card is stolen in the course of his 2014 conversation with his partner Scott Brockelman that was posted by collector Jerry Spillman on YouTube. In that conversation Luckey states that the FBI agent (who he referred to as a “Private detective, NYPL”) was “confident” that his card was stolen from the library. Luckey and his partner also allude to knowing who stole the card originally in this exchange:

“Luckey: He (the FBI Agent) is like, man, you don’t really have to worry about it, you didn’t steal it. (unintelligible)

Brockelman:  Well, I know, but they obviously know who did. I have a pretty good idea.  I’m sure they probably do.”

Luckey also references a conversation he had with New York defense attorney and collector Jeffrey Lichtman stating: “Lichtman says no way they (the FBI) could take it, he says it’s been way too long.” Luckey also claims that dealer Kevin Struss owned the card previously stating, “Well, Kevin Struss had it, he sold it to Montgomery in ‘97. Just talked to Kevin, he said he can’t remember exactly where he got it. He says he might, he probably has a record of where he got it (unintelligible), he didn’t know offhand. Kevin sold it to him…”  Struss likely bought the card after it was sold by Rob Lifson in the 1997 REA auction.

The 2014 conversation between Leon Luckey and his partner was posted on YotTube (left) and mentions the 2012 FBI seizure of another stolen 1869 trade card with an NYPL stamp. The stamp was defaced but an ultraviolet light revealed that it was NYPL property (right).

Luckey also references the FBI seizure of the other 1869 Reds card from Legendary’s 2012 auction stating:

Take a picture of the back and bring out, like they did at the last  (unintelligible)  a few years ago.  Where I saw, they had a Peck and Snyder, from JC, it had a faint mark on the back, and they put it under some kind of instrument, and it brought it out perfectly.  It said NYPL, I did not see that.  So, some kind of infrared, so...”

The “JC” that Luckey refers to is J.C. Clarke who apparently was the consignor of the other stolen card to the Legendary sale.  The card was pulled from the sale and then returned to Clarke and it is unclear if it was ever actually returned to the NYPL.

We sent the transcript of the conversation to one of the nation’s top card collectors who is also a Net54 member and he responded to us stating, “The Brockelman paranoia in that transcript is startling. For such beacons in the hobby (Luckey and him) seem most concerned about keeping a stolen card. No mention of any loss by the NYPL.”

Angela Montefinise, the NYPL’s Director of Communications said she could not comment on the current FBI investigation into this particular card but a source familiar with the probe said the library is aggressively pursuing recovery of the six-figure Spalding treasure.

Hauls of Shame asked Chris Ivy of Heritage Auctions for comment on why he was selling another item stolen from the NYPL but the auction house’s sports director failed to respond to our inquiry. Heritage has a long history selling stolen goods from the NYPL including the 1879 player contract of Ezra Sutton signed by Harry Wright and Henry Chadwick’s 1894 NY Giant season pass.

Leon Luckey has  recently come under fire from some members of his Net54 forum after he stated he “appreciated” a recent gift he accepted from Bill Mastro and that he would not be writing a “victim letter” to the Judge who will decide how long Mastro’s prison sentence will be.  In years past Luckey has been a staunch supporter of both Bill Mastro and Doug Allen and has also been accused of bidding on his own items in Mastro auctions as a co-conspirator in Mastro’s shill-bidding schemes. New York defense attorney Jeffrey Lichtman recently called out Luckey on his forum stating, “Hey, don’t blame me for holding up a mirror to your face and forcing you to eat your own words. You complain about fraud in the hobby and yet when push comes to shove you’ve defended Mastro and Allen for years. For years.”

Ironically, Luckey has his own criminal record as a confessed drug dealer and convicted felon who was caught distributing narcotics in 1986 as well as having 5-50 lbs of marijuana in his possession. He had also been arrested for distributing narcotics three years earlier. Luckey, however, has responded to his critics like Lichtman stating on Net54, ” I venture to guess I do more than 99.9% of the people in the hobby (you are right there too) to weed out fraud. I can’t stand it. Not sure if you have ever seen where I have said, ‘If you are doing something bad in the hobby I will be your worst friend,’ but I have said it many times. I have helped numerous authorities to work fraud cases in the hobby….Secret Service, Dept. Of Homeland Security, Postal Agents, Postal Inspectors, local authorities etc.”

Despite the overwhelming visual evidence showing that the card was stolen from the NYPL and his own words captured on the video at the National, Luckey responded today to criticism from forum member John McDaniel who told him, “There’s the whole Peck & Snyder card mess that’s traveling the hobby rumor circles of you potentially having a card connected to Mastro that may have been stolen from the NYPL.”

Luckey responded stating, “The Peck and Snyder card has been examined and no mark is discernible. Just like it says in the description. “There is surface marring or erasure on the back in the same upper quadrant. This could be a library stamp, a collector stamp or the mark of some retailer.” It has been examined and whatever was erased can’t be made out with any known equipment today. It has been tested. I only know where I got it and have an invoice for it. If you know more please let us know. I know the provenance of it for the last 25 yrs and that is all.”

Apparently selling stolen property donated to institutions doesn’t phase Luckey and with his 1869 card still for sale on the Heritage website it appears he isn’t willing to help the FBI (who he claims to have on his speed dial) recover this particular stolen treasure.

Here is the full transcript of the Luckey-Brockelman conversation referenced in the article:

Transcript: Leon Luckey and Scott Brockelman at National Convention in 2014 from video posted on YouTube by collector Jerry Spillman

Luckey:      Brian said ‘I will bring you a picture.’

Brockelman:  Huh?  for What?

Luckey:      Peck and Snyder.

Brockelman:  What do you mean?

Luckey:      Picture of the back.  (lowered voice)  (unintelligible) NYPL.  Oh you didn’t hear?

Brockelman:  Well I knew, I mean, what’s, I didn’t know he’s, what, we are bringing this guy around, what, inspecting everybody’s cards now?

Luckey:      I don’t know, if I want to say to him, I can say no. So he looked at it.  Thinks it.  (lowered voice) Private detective,  NYPL.

Brockelman:  Well, when, it was first. If he thinks that he certainly has the equipment.

Luckey:      He says he’s confident.

Brockelman:  Why wouldn’t he have (unintelligible) the picture with him forever.

Luckey:      Well he’s going to do it now.

Brockelman:  And I was thinking…

Luckey:      Take a picture of the back and bring out, like they did at the last  (unintelligible)  a few years ago.  Where I saw, they had a Peck and Snyder, from JC, it had a faint mark on the back, and they put it under some kind of instrument, and it brought it out perfectly.  It said NYPL, I did not see that.  So, some kind of infrared, so…

Brockelman:  But, why wouldn’t you have already had that with you, obviously they knew they were coming here to do that.

Luckey:      He had no idea, no, they weren’t coming here to do that. He just said ‘Can I see it?’

Brockelman:  No, no, they were coming here to do that. Unintelligible…

Luckey:      Maybe, maybe.

Brockelman:  Unintelligible…

Luckey:      Maybe

Brockelman:  So they just took it away from you?

Luckey:      Well I gave it to  (unintelligible) to look at under a…

Brockelman:  Well they sure as hell not going to give it back to you. I would, they would need to have a form from the library that says uh, that we are…..

Luckey:      Well, no, no. I think I will get it back for now, I just don’t know the long term prognosis.

Brockelman:  Well…

Luckey:      Lichtman says no way they could take it, he says it’s been way too long.

Brockelman:  I don’t know.

Luckey:      I don’t know. 10k is what I have into it.  I don’t know, it’s a little unsettling the whole thing.

Brockelman:  No, I don’t think they just happen to come over here and say ‘look at that’.

Luckey:      Maybe not.

Brockelman:  I think they already have…

Luckey:      Although he didn’t bring his stuff. He’s borrowing somebody else’s so I don’t know.

Customer:    Do you have any cabinet cards.

Woman:       Cabinets, (unintelligible)

Luckey:      He’s like, man, you don’t really have to worry about it, you didn’t steal it. (unintelligible)

Man’s voice:  You taking pictures, huh?

Brockelman:  Well, I know, but they obviously know who did. I have a pretty good idea.  I’m sure they probably do.

Luckey:      Well, Kevin Struss had it, he sold it to Montgomery in ‘97. Just talked to Kevin, he said he can’t remember exactly where he got it. He says he might, he probably has a record of where he got it (unintelligible), he didn’t know offhand. Kevin sold it to him (unintelligible)

Brockelman:  (Unintelligible)

Luckey:      Mastro

Brockelman:  (Unintelligible)

Luckey:      (Unintelligible)

Brockelman:  I’m….I just can’t believe that they just happen to come up to your table.  (Unintelligible)

Luckey:      Well, they just found one, one or two years ago, last year…..

Voice:       Hey Frank, what’s going on.

Frank:       How are we doing?

Voice:       Good.

Frank:       Leon, how are you?

Luckey:      Good

UPDATE (July 14th 4:50 PM): Heritage has withdrawn the stolen Peck & Snyder card from its current sale.