Breaking News

By Peter J. Nash

October 14, 2015

-Bill Mastro was sentenced to 20 months in a Federal prison over the summer and his former IT director, William Boehm, was sentenced to probation and house arrest for lying to FBI agents about destroying Mastro’s auction records in an attempt to conceal the auction house’s long-running shill bidding schemes during an FBI investigation that commenced back in 2008.

-William Boehme is scheduled for a deposition in the next 60 days related to the California lawsuit filed against RR Auctions.  When Boehm left Mastro Auctions after lying to FBI agents he went on to work as the IT director at RR Auctions and shill bidding allegations have also been made against that auction house dating back to an affidavit written by deceased RR employee Karen Burris in 2008.

-Judge Donna Geck recently issued a preliminary ruling in the Michael Johnson v. RR Auctions lawsuit in Santa Barbara, California, and the court’s website includes a document that contains some bombshell information revealing that RR Auctions and its founder, Bob Eaton, have admitted to destroying bidding records which “pertain to allegations of shill bidding” made by Johnson.

Convicted ex-Mastro IT director, William Boehm, is scheduled for a deposition in the Johnson v RR Auctions.

-Joe Orlando and Steve Grad, of PSA/DNA, are scheduled for their own depositions in the Johnson case but sources indicate their attorney Keith Attlesey (also the lawyer for RR Auctions) is concerned about Johnson posting the videos of the depositions on the RR Auction Lawsuit website and has forced Johnson’s attorneys to file motions to compel their testimony.

-Steve Grad appeared in person last summer at the Chicago Federal Courthouse where his former boss and mentor Bill Mastro was sentenced to prison time.  Grad was showing support for the man who elevated him to expert status after being promoted from the mail room at Mastro Auctions in the late 1990s.

-Collectors Universe recently released its quarterly report to stockholders and indicated that the current lawsuits filed against PSA/DNA and JSA by Todd Mueller and Nelson Deedle would not adversely effect the public company’s bottom line.  The report under the title of “Legal Proceedings” says, “We are named from time to time as a defendant in lawsuits that arise in the ordinary course of business. We do not believe that any of such lawsuits that are currently pending are likely to have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition or results of operations.”

-Doug Allen and Mark Thoetikis, co-defendants and former employees of Bill Mastro, had their sentencing postponed again in Chicago Federal Court.  The sentencing is now set for December.

Michael O'Keeffe (left) survived firings at the NYDN; Brad Horn (center) is out at the HOF; and Steve Grad (right) of PSA//DNA is still certing forgeries

-New York Daily News owner Mort Zuckerman recently cleaned house at the struggling NY newspaper by letting go of many long-time sportswriters including the late Barry Halper’s good friend and publicist Bill Madden.  Also let go by the paper was Sports editor Teri Thompson who co-authored the hobby-themed book The Card with News sportswriter Michael O’Keeffe.  Unlike Thompson and Madden, O’Keeffe was not relieved of his duties at the paper which has been rumored to be contemplating publishing the paper only a few days a week.  Reports claim the Daily News is losing $30 million annually. One prominent journalist and card carrying member of the BBWAA told us, “If you can believe it, it looks like that SOB (O’Keeffe) avoided the ax.”

-Baseball Hall of Fame Communications Director, Brad Horn, recently denied reports that he was leaving the Hall but an inside source tells us that the HOF brass has informed employees that Brad will be leaving in May.  Horn is known throughout the hobby for his “no-comments” regarding the massive thefts from the Cooperstown shrine. Horn is also known for appearing on the Collectors Universe website with a testimonial on behalf of the Hall stating, “We see the fans that collect cards and who have their own memorabilia collections come to Cooperstown with a tremendous respect for the preservation component of what we do. Our relationship with PSA and PSA/DNA has helped us give the fans the opportunity to connect with that love and passion. There is a great synergy between those who visit the Hall of Fame and those who collect and use the services of PSA and PSA/DNA.”  Perhaps Horn’s successor will do a better job addressing issues like how the Hall defrauded patrons when they publicly exhibited Ken Kendrick’s trimmed T-206 Honus Wagner card and heralded it for its condition despite having information stating the card was a hobby fraud.

-Rob Lifson and Robert Edward Auctions are keeping their streak alive for offering and selling bogus autographs at auction in their new Fall 2015 sale.  One of the most egregious fakes being sold is an alleged Cap Anson autograph on a vaudeville contract. Even autograph novices realize that these signatures are secreterial and have no resemblance whatsoever to genuine examples of Anson’s signature. Not surprisingly, the bogus lot comes with an LOA from PSA/DNA.

An HOS report in 2013 identified the alleged Anson vaudeville contract signatures as bogus secreterial examples that exhibited virtually no resemblance to the HOFers own handwriting (top left). Despite knowledge of this published report, auctioneer Rob Lifson of REA (right) continues to sell bogus materials.

-HOS readers will remember another fake Cap Anson signature certed by PSA and featured on our “Worst 100 Authentications of PSA and JSA.” That alleged signature was a period identification of Anson on the back of a cabinet card stolen from the New York Public Library’s Spalding Collection.  The fake currently being sold by Lifson and REA was highlighted in a previous HOS report in 2013 that illustrated various genuine exemplars of Anson’s signature vs. the “vaudeville secreterials.”

The bogus Anson signatures appearing in our 2013 report and the current REA sale were authenticated by PSA despite having no similarity to an authentic Anson signature.  The slant is even in the opposite direction on the two documents signed at different times. PPSA even authenticated the REA lot after the HOS report was published in 2013.

The Anson fake being sold by REA (bottom right) and the fake featured in our 2013 report were both authenticated by PSA/DNA despite having no resemblence to the authentiic example illustrated in Ron Keurajian's book (top right). PSA certed the REA fake 2 months after our report was published.

-REA had another big-ticket fake in its current auction catalog, a single-signed Frank Chance ball authenticated by JSA and Jimmy Spence. The ball was previously sold by Rob Lifson’s ex-partner, Bill Mastro and REA says the consignor bought the ball in a Mastro sale in 1999 for $21,836.99. The alleged signed gem has been identified by several experts as a forgery that hardly resembles the handwriting of Chance who died in September of 1924. In addition, we were told that the baseball the Chance signature was forged on was manufactured after Frank Chance died. After we posted that info on Twitter it appears that this gem has been “withdrawn” from the REA sale.

-Frank Chance’s alleged signature is on a “Tober International League” baseball and we couldn’t help but notice that is the same type of ball that had another big ticket forgery sold by Lifson and REA– a $60,000 Jesse Burkett single-signed ball.  Experts we spoke with believe the signatures of Chance and Burkett were penned by the same forger.  It’s probably just a wild coincidence that a few of the only surviving “Tober International League” balls in excellent condition happen to feature the signatures of two of the rarest Hall of Famers. One astute observer was amused by the REA offering saying, “Take a Chance on Chance.”

Experts say these two forgeries of Frank Chance and Jesse Burkett were done by the same forger. We were also told that Frank Chance died before this Tober ball was manufactured and posted the info on Twitter (inset).

-Tober was a company that manufactured baseballs in Springfield, MA, and Hartford, CT, at the turn of the century and through the 1920s. We’re told that the ball featuring Chance’s signature was manufactured in Manchester, CT after the Cub’s “Peerless Leader” passed away.  We’re also told that if the ball was signed during Chance’s lifetime it would likely be on a “Bob-Tober” ball.  Look out for more on this issue in future reports.

-REA is also offering a Babe Ruth signed book that experts say is not genuine and is an easily identifiable fake.  The book, which REA says originated from the Barry Halper Collection, features a forgery on the cover which resembles another Ruth forgery on a book that was recently rejected by PSA/DNA when it was submitted for a Heritage Auctions sale. JSA and Jimmy Spence authenticated the forgery on the Ruth book currently in the REA sale despite the fact that the signature has all the tell-tale signs of a bogus Babe.

The alleged Ruth signature on the Ruth book featured in the REA sale (center) has been identified as a forgery similar to a slew of fakes previously identified in HOS reports. PSA/DNA recently rejected a similar fake when it was submitted for inclusion in a Heritage sale (left).

-JSA authenticated several other items experts have identified as forgeries in the current REA sale including: an exhibit card signed by Negro Leaguers (including Oscar Charlston), a signed T-206 “Home Run” Baker card; and a Jimmie Foxx cut signature in an Upper Deck product.

The alleged signed T-206 by "Home Run" Baker (center) has been identified as a forgery by experts and REA is selling it despite warnings in Ron Keurajian's book which features a genuine post-stroke signature of Baker (right). The real autograph was sent to a collector by Mrs. Baker in 1962 (right).

-Frank “Home Run” Baker may have signed some T-206 cards but experts say the example in REA’s sale is also a phony.   Supporting that claim is author Ron Keurajian’s book which illustrates a genuine “post-stroke” signature that was sent by Baker’s wife to a collector in 1962.  Signed T-206’s are very popular and valuable but many on the market are fakes including this Baker which is laughable but currently has an “honest-auto bid” of close to $5,000.  As some say, “There’s a sucker born every REA catalog.” We’re guessing REA has a copy of Keurajian’s book and that just makes these offerings even more pathetic.

REAs Al Reach letter lot includes a portrait of the pioneer that fits the description of an example stolen from the NYPL (center). A negative of the stolen photo (right) helped prove that the middle example was stolen.

-REA also has one curious item in a lot featuring a signed letter by baseball pioneer Al Reach.  Auctioneer Rob Lifson and REA are quite vague as to whether the letter is accompanied by a genuine cabinet photo of Reach or a modern reproduction of an original.  This is curious because the image REA features on its website is too small to enlarge but appears to be a cabinet photo of Reach that was stolen from the New York Public Library and sold previously by Barry Halper, Mastro and Wolfers Auctions. HOS has written about the stolen Reach photos extensively and also about Rob Lifson’s history as a library thief.  Hopefully, REA will reveal whether the photo is an original and post a hi-res image of the Reach portrait.