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By Peter J. Nash

April 24, 2016

As Bill Mastro sits in a Federal jail cell, the now infamous Honus Wagner card that played a part in putting him there is on display in all its trimmed and fraudulently graded glory at the Phoenix Art Museum. The card is on loan courtesy of MLB owner, Ken Kendrick, the Chairman of the Arizona Diamondbacks, who purchased the card for $2.8 million several years ago despite the fact that many in the hobby had stated publicly their belief that Mastro had deceptively trimmed the card to enhance its condition and value in the 1980s.  Mastro confessed to the crime that others had accused him of in recent times after the government caught him admitting to master-minding the trim-job on wire taps made possible by his longtime friend and business associate Dan Knoll.

Despite the fact that Mastro’s card doctoring has exposed the memorabilia industry as a mine field of fraud and deception, there is no reference to these realities visible to those who bought a ticket for the “The Ultimate Collection” exhibition of Kendrick’s PSA-graded baseball cards at the Phoenix Art Museum. The card has been on display since March 9th and ends its public display today. According to the museum’s Communications Director, Nikki DeLeone, there is no disclaimer identifying the Wagner card’s sordid past and its fraudulent status as a mini-crime scene. In fact, the museum exhibition signage visible to patrons still refers to the card as a legitimate PSA graded “NM-MT 8.”

The Phoenix Art Museum's display of Kendrick's fraudulent & trimmed Wagner (left) presents it to the public as a legitimate "PSA NM-MT 8" with no mention of its sordid past.

That’s because Collectors Universe (CLCT), the public company that is accused of fraudulently grading the card in the 1990s, hasn’t done anything to rectify its fatally flawed authentication of the card that the company built its reputation upon and falsely advertised for decades as the hobby’s most pristine and famous baseball card.

MLB owner Ken Kendrick has no incentive to point out PSA’s on-going perpetration of the Wagner fraud since he’s considered the PSA-poster boy for its grading services which constitute a near monopoly in the industry.  According to a recent Collectors Universe annual shareholders report, the company graded over 1.2 million baseball cards in 2014.  Kendrick boasts of having the highest graded PSA-graded cards in existence, including his Wagner and has bought into PSA’s marketing model of collecting the highest graded cards for premium prices.  In PSA’s 2011 Sports Market Report Kendrick revealed how he has fallen victim to PSA’s marketing schemes as he stated:

I’m proud to have this high-caliber collection. I’m a competitive guy. I wouldn’t be doing what I do if I wasn’t a competitive person, so I have been competitive with other collectors to make my collection the best of its type. Don’t get me wrong, there are other folks out there who have extraordinary collections. But, if you look at the top 20 most desirable cards, and look at the grading of my top 20 cards, I can say that this collection is the best one that exists in the world.”

Kendrick also made a similar statement in PSA President Joe Orlando’s book, Top 200 Sportscards, stating that he owns every one of the top ten cards in the highest grades known to exist. Kendrick’s statement, however, is patently false, as collectors believe his fraudulently graded T-206 Wagner should be re-holdered and graded “Altered and Authentic.”  This designation, however, would likely cause the now infamous Wagner card to plummet in value as Kendrick finds himself at the end of a PSA-Mastro orchestrated Ponzi-scheme.

Sales of the fraudulent Wagner have been orchestrated with the involvement of Bill Mastro, Rob Lifson, David Kohler and J.P Cohen. Sources say all parties committed fraud when they sold the trimmed card as a "PSA NM-MT 8."

Previously, this scheme worked perfectly because Mastro and his ex-partner Rob Lifson were involved in every transaction from 1991 to 2000 and since that time PSA has been involved in every other sale with the involvement of PSA supporters David Kohler of SCP Auctions and J. P. Cohen of Memory Lane. One hobby source told us that in working together all of the parties were able to orchestrate sales of the card from collector to collector with every one of them making a profit on the sales which either Mastro or PSA operatives played a part in the transaction.  The source added, “They were all just waiting for a sucker like Kendrick to come along and fleece him. They always wanted big bucks guys to come in who would bury the card. Looks like Kendrick was a dream come true for them.”

Supporting this claim is the fact that Brian Seigel bought the card from Mastro and Lifson and later stated in PSA advertisements that he would never have bought the card “without PSAs seal of approval.” Seigel allegedly kept the card in PSAs possession during his ownership which ended when Kohler orchestrated a private sale to ex-MLB knuckleballer Tom Candiotti. According to a report published by the Associated Press, Kohler and SCP also claimed they had purchased a small interest in the card along with Candiotti. A source tells Hauls of Shame, however, that Candiotti had already sold his PSA-graded card collection to Ken Kendrick and was possibly a front for the PSA-backed Kohler and SCP. Candiotti now works for Kendrick as a color-commentator on Diamondbacks telecasts.

After that $2.35 million transaction, the card was purchased by Kendrick with Kohler and Cohen involved in the sale according to a  PSA profile of Kendrick which states: “Having been offered the opportunity to acquire the Wagner card through the combined efforts of David Kohler at SCP and J. P. Cohen at Memory Lane, Ken said that when he became the official owner of the most revered card in the hobby, he simply felt that it completed his elite grouping.”

The extent of Kendrick’s relationship with the convicted felon and auctioneer J. P. Cohen is unclear but, like Kohler, Cohen has been a long-time customer and supporter of PSA’s grading services.  Sources also indicate that Kohler has told SCP consignors that he is close with PSA management and that he can get cards graded at higher levels than his competitors. That being said, PSA also appears to have gone out of its way to avoid correcting its flawed grading of the card since PSA operatives have liability and prior ownership interests in the card.  As a result of PSA’s inaction, Kendrick is claiming his card hasn’t lost any value.

Kendrick recently said as much to an Arizona Republic writer who reported: “The Wagner card, incidentally, was shaved along its borders by an auction-house owner to improve its appearance. When artwork or valuable collectibles are altered, their values tend to drop, but Kendrick said he doesn’t think his card’s worth was diminished.”  That’s easy for Kendrick to say when his card is still displayed in its “PSA NM-MT 8″ holder. Kendrick has also vowed to never sell the card which will be passed along to his kids.

Some have speculated that PSA and Kendrick have worked out a deal to keep the card in the “NM-MT 8″ holder because under the Collectors Universe guarantee, the company would have to reimburse Kendrick for a grading that was flawed. This scenario was publicly aired in 2014 by Collectors Universe coin grader and former Collectors Universe stockholder, Steve Cyrkin, who posted a comment on his Autograph Magazine Live website stating, “Not only was the (Honus Wagner) card graded by PSA way back in 1991, PSA offered to buy it back from the current owner (Ken Kendrick) for what he paid for it, $2.8 million.”

Collectors Universe coin grader Steve Cyrkin made public statements claiming that PSA offered to buy back the trimmed Wagner from Ken Kendrick.

Posting his comments after Bill Mastro’s trimming admission was revealed by the Government, Cyrkin wrote, “PSA guarantees the authenticity of sports cards, so I can’t understand why would management knowingly create a huge liability. It (the Wagner card) was worth almost half a million dollars when they graded it.”

Despite Cyrkin’s statements, Bill Hughes, the PSA employee who originally graded the card has already admitted that he knew the Wagner card had been trimmed by Mastro. In response, Collectors Universe founder David Hall publicly stated that Hughes was lying but several hobby insiders knew for sure it was trimmed because Mastro actually told them he had altered it. Hall also called Bill Mastro a liar but a 2006 Mastro video recently posted on YouTube shows PSA President Joe Orlando singing the praises of Mastro and comparing PSA to his company. While that same auction house was found to have been engaging in rampant shill-bidding and assorted other fraudulent activities Orlando says, “When you go through all the elements of running an auction house, really I think just one word—quality—expresses how I would describe Mastro Auctions.”

Josh Evans, founder of Lelands auction house in New York City, says he knew first-hand about the trimmed Wagner card.  According to Evans, Mastro told him directly that he’d trimmed the card after he purchased it with his ex-partner Rob Lifson in Bob Sevchuk’s card shop in 1985.  In a prior interview Evans recalled, “He (Mastro) told me on several occasions and then he’d say, ‘Now just shut up and stop talking about it’.” Lifson also knew the card was trimmed and committed fraud when he sold the card with Mastro in 2000 to collector Brain Seigel for $1.2 million.  Lifson, however, avoided any penalty for his participation in the fraud when he ratted out Mastro to the Feds for shill-bidding after both men terminated their business partnership over a decade ago.

Hauls of Shame reached out to Ken Kendrick to address Cyrkin’s claims and to ask why he is still publicly exhibiting the tainted card in its fraudulent PSA holder. Arizona Diamondbacks PR director, Josh Rawitch, responded to our inquiry and stated that Kendrick would “respectfully decline comment” on the status of the card’s grade and the alleged offers to buy the card back by PSA.

SCP Auctions did not respond to our inquiries to verify the Associated Press reports stating that SCP had an ownership interest in the Wagner card with Tom Candiotti and whether they retained ownership upon the sale to Kendrick.  SCP’s Dan Imler did, however, respond to our unrelated inquiry regarding their current offering of a Harry Wright document that was stolen from the New York Public Library’s Spalding Collection. Imler responded stating, “I never heard back from the FBI agent.  Can you provide some proof that this was stolen from NYPL? We want to do the right thing and help get it back to whom it belongs but I need someone in Law enforcement to give me some information on this matter.”

Speaking of the FBI, sources indicate that in the wake of the Mastro convictions the FBI is still following the exploits of PSA and Collectors Universe regarding card grading and the PSA/DNA autograph authentications. Sources also indicate that the FBI will likely have further interest in video depositions taken of PSA President Joe Orlando and alleged authenticator Steve Grad in the Johnson v. RR Auctions case. Court filings at the Santa Barbara Superior Court indicate that the depositions of the PSA employees may be available to view on the RR Auction Lawsuit website as early as next Friday.  Previously RR Auctions lost a motion for a protective order to take video depositions down from the site. PSA’s attorney (who also represents RR) filed a similar motion to block the videos from being posted. Our readers might recall that attorney, Keith Attlesey, being mentioned in a previous Hauls of Shame report threatening litigation when we reported that PSA was founded on a fraud with the grading of the trimmed Wagner. That lawsuit was never filed since Bill Mastro confirmed that our published statement was true and accurate.


By Peter J. Nash
April 15, 2016

Willie Ratner unknowingly founded this exclusive club as a youth when he secured his copy of the card straight out of a pack of Sweet Caporal cigarettes. Jefferson Burdick gained entry when he received one as a gift from a friend and then afterwards donated his treasure to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. A 19-year-old Bill Mastro became a member when he paid a world-record price of $1,500 for his first one in 1972, only to resell it shortly thereafter to buy a new car.  Lew Lipset entered the club after pooling his entire savings of $35,000 to buy a collection from a Navy doctor that included a near pristine example. Hockey legend Wayne Gretzky partnered with his boss Bruce McNall to join the club when they paid $451,000 for an alleged pristine example at Sotheby’s in 1992.

In 2007, Arizona Diamondback owner Ken Kendrick dropped $2.8 million for Gretzky’s former card so that he could join the hobby’s most exclusive assemblage of high-rollers.  Unfortunately for Kendrick, his Wagner has been certified a fraud by the FBI who revealed through wire-taps that the card had been fraudulently trimmed by the recently incarcerated Bill Mastro.

That being said, here’s a never before published look at the current and past owners of the fraudulent and legitimate cards that have afforded their owner’s entrance into the exclusive: “T206 Wagner Club.”

Ken Kendrick's PSA-graded and fraudulently trimmed Wagner (center) is currently on display at the Phoenix Museum through April 24. The museum's display gives no disclaimer for visitors regarding the fraudulent nature of the card.

As reported by Hauls of Shame in 2013, there are at least sixty copies of the storied tobacco card known to exist and there are even more individuals who can boast of once owning an actual Honus–It’s surely not the rarest card, but it is by far the most desirable and most valuable slice of cardboard known to man.  The combined value of the 60-plus existing specimens easily exceeds $25 million.

The T206 Honus Wagner has become a legendary piece of American folklore and some might argue the face of the billion dollar baseball memorabilia industry.  The allure of the Wagner has also given rise to the commission of crimes ranging from Bill Mastro’s trimming of the Gretzky-McNall copy to a heist executed by a group of thieves who stole actor Charlie Sheen’s Wagner when it was on display at ESPN’s “All Star Cafe” in Times Square back in 1996.

Still, many others have joined the club simply by chance, chalking up their membership through an inheritance or a lucky draw in a sweepstakes give-away. The stories of the past and present members of the club and how they acquired each and every one of the “Holy Grails” are noteworthy and sometimes notorious. The allure and mystery surrounding the card is such that Forbes columnist David Seideman has even suggested that some of the owners like Mastro and McNall may have been cursed by their ownership of the hobby’s greatest prize.

The sixty or so Wagner cards known to exist have been possessed by multiple collectors who’ve owned the card dating back to the days when kids collected them out of cigarette packs in the Dead-Ball era.  Ever since the Wagner cards were produced and subsequently withdrawn from the T206 set by the American Tobacco Company in 1909, the legend of the Honus Wagner card has grown and taken on a life of its own.

The past & present members of "The Wagner Club" have been showing off their "Holy Grails" since the 1930s.

The collectors who have been drawn to the Wagner card and the notoriety it brings are a diverse and eclectic group of men (and women) with one thing in common:  They have either willingly or unwillingly become a part of hobby history.

THE CURRENT MEMBERS OF “THE WAGNER CLUB”:

The Wagner Club is led by (l. to r.): Arizona Diamondbacks owner Ken Kendrick; OakTree Capital's Richard Masson; ESPN's Keith Olbermann and the family of deceased hobby pioneer Larry Fritsch.

1. Ken Kendrick- Owner of the Arizona Diamondbacks and owner of the infamous PSA-8 Mastro-Wagner. Even though his Wagner card was trimmed by Bill Mastro to enhance its condition, PSA graded it a NM-MT 8 despite having knowledge it was trimmed. And although Mastro’s fraud played a part in his recent criminal conviction, Kendrick is currently showing off the controversial card at the Phoenix Art Museum with no disclaimer to museum visitors that they are viewing a miniature crime scene as the tainted cardboard still sits in its original fraudulent PSA holder. The museum still identifies the card for patrons as “the famous PSA 8 NM-MT.” In reality, the fraudulently trimmed card should have been re-holdered by PSA with a designation as “Altered-Authentic.”

2. Thomas Tull- Movie producer and newly minted billionaire whose company, Legendary Entertainment, released the Jackie Robinson biopic 42 in 2013 as well as the Hangover films and the recent Batman films.  Tull also owns a minority stake in the Pittsburgh Steelers and recently purchased Bill Mazerowski’s 1960 World Series-winning bat and uniform at Hunt Auctions. and also purchased Don Spence’s PSA-registered card collection for what has been rumored as a figure topping $10 million. Tull claims to own a 1912 Wagner game-used jersey and he purchased the “Dreier Wagner” after it was brokered by Legendary Auctions for over $1.2 million.  Tull’s Wagner was said to have been originally owned by an Irish immigrant living in Harlem who acquired it in the 1910’s.

3. Richard Masson- Masson keeps a low-profile in the hobby and has run under the radar of most despite the fact that he owns what is perhaps the finest baseball card collection in the world

4. Corey Shanus- The hobby’s premier 19th century collector owns a raw/ungraded example in excellent condition,  His Wagner was sold in a Trader Speaks auction by Richard Gelman the son of hobby legend Woody Gelman. There is speculation that Shanus’ card has a Piedmont back.

5. Keith Olbermann- The ESPN broadcaster at one time owned three copies of the Wagner card, but sources indicate that he unloaded one of them.  Olbermann has made his way into several MLB dugouts showing off his trimmed SGC-Authentic copy to Braves pitcher Tim Hudson and several Washington Nationals players.

Current Wagner owners include (L to R): Thomas Tull, Legendary Entertainment; Gary Cypres; Joel Platt, Sports Immortals Museum; The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

6. Mark McCrae- West-Coast collector who acquired via Bill Mastro a high-grade Wagner that once belonged to Dr. Robert Goode of Columbus, Indiana.

7. The Fritsch Family- Legendary collector and dealer Larry Fritsch acquired his high-grade Wagner from the same find as the Mastro-McCrae copy.  When Fritsch passed away in 2010 his Wagner was bequeathed to his surviving family members.

8. Unknown Buyer- Hobby veteran and dealer Mike Wheat acquired this copy from Ken Blazek via a Lew Lipset auction. Blazek acquired the card originally from Bill Mastro in 1974 and told the Sport Fan: “I showed it to my wife, expecting her to respond with a great number of complimentary and congratulatory comments.”  Instead, Blazek said when she saw the Wagner all she said was, “It’s creased.”  Wheat sold the card to in a private transaction to a buyer who he would not identify by name.

9. Gary Cypress- the CEO of the Banner Finance Co., his ungraded and trimmed copy of Wagner card is on display at the private Sports Museum of Los Angeles which he also owns and operates.

10. Joel Platt- The legendary collector who acquired Wagner artifacts from the Flying Dutchman’s widow in the 1950s tracked down his copy of the Wagner in the mid-1980s in New York City.  Platt recalls, “I may very well be the only collector who was offered two different Wagners in two days.”  Platt chose the second offering which was accompanied by an Eddie Plank.  ”I paid between 20 and 30,000 for the pair from Bill Hognach at a show.”  The Wagner is currently stored in a vault at Platt’s  Sports Immortals Museum in Florida.

Current Wagner owners (L to R): Dr. Nick DePace; Tri-Star winner "Scott J."; Levy Bleam (w/Joe Orlando); and Scott Brockelman

11. Dr. Nick DePace- The New Jersey cardiologist purchased the example sold by the Sisters of Notre Dame order at Heritage Auctions after the winning bidder reneged on his commitment to buy the card for $220,000. After he purchased the card he told The Philadelphia Inquirer:  ”This is the most famous Honus Wagner card now because it’s going to help thousands of people, and that’s more than any other Honus Wagner card has ever done.”

12. Paul Dunigan Jr.- His Wagner was inherited from his deceased father Paul Dunigan Sr. a prolific collector of 19th century cabinet photos and other rarities and the former owner of an adult entertainment empire in Massachusetts.

13. Bill Heitman- the hobby pioneer inherited his Wagner from his father who acquired it in the early days of the hobby.

14. Levi Bleam- a veteran hobby dealer who operates 707 Sportscards in Pennsylvania, once auctioned off the “1/2 Wagner” in an SCD ad.  That Wagner was missing the right side of the card but was encapsulated by PSA.  In addition to selling that example, a source told us Bleam held onto another “keeper” in much better shape which he had acquired years ago, making the PSA Registry winner a member of the Wagner Club as well.

15. Scott Ireland- his high-grade copy of the Wagner card was also part of the August Jacobs find that included the cards that ended up with Fritsch and McCrae.

16. The Metropolitan Museum of Art- The Met received Jefferson Burdick’s Wagner as part of his donation to the institution in the 1950s and 1960s.

Wagner owners include (L to R): Bill Heitman, Paul Dunigan Jr., Scott Ireland's PSA-5 Wagner and baseball legend Joe Garagiola.

17. The New York Public Library- The NYPL joined the club when Leopold Morse Goulston donated his T206 cards to the library in the 1940’s.  Despite losing millions in baseball artifacts from the 1970s heist from the Spalding Collection, the Honus Wagner card survived.  The fact that Jefferson Burdick documented the card as being in the NYPL collection, likely protected the card from theft.

18. The Baseball Hall of Fame- The Cooperstown institution owns two copies of the Wagner card that were once owned by Barry Halper, Lew Lipset and Bill Mastro. The first card was donated by Halper in the 1980s and the second was purchased from Halper in 1998 along with bogus uniforms attributed to  “Shoeless” Joe Jackson and Mickey Mantle. At least the Wagner was real and unaltered, although it was an over-sized example with unusually thick borders.

19. The British Museum- The UK ended up with the donation of Sir Edgar Wharton-Tigar’s collection which included a Wagner that originated from the collection of legendary collector Charles Bray.

21. Joe Garagiola- the ex-MLB player and broadcaster who passed away last month acquired a copy of the Wagner card from Bill Heitman in a legendary 1980’s trade. It is unclear whether he retained the card or sold it and sources indicate his estate may hold the answers to his ownership of the card.

22. Scott J. (from Lake Benton, FL)- the semi-anonymous “Scott J” won his Wagner in a Tr-Star Entertainment sweepstakes in 2005 when he pulled a redemption coupon out of a pack of baseball cards in the “Hidden Treasure” promotion.

23. Scott Brockelman- a dealer and auctioneer (Brockleman Auctions/Brockelman & Luckey Auctions) joined the club after buying his copy in a Memory Lane auction for close to $250,000.

24. The Anonymous “Jumbo Wagner” Owner- An individual from the world of finance who, according to Ken Goldin, asked for anonymity, when he purchased the high grade “Jumbo Wagner” from Goldin Auctions in April of 2013 for $2.1 million.

25. The Anonymous Hoboken Resident- In 2012, an article in Hoboken Magazine revealed the Wagner of an owner living in the New Jersey city who inherited his card from a grandfather who “Had an affiliation to the Major League Baseball” and acquired the card “around 1953.”  The secretive club member says he’ll never sell his card and added, “Nobody knows I have it except for a handful of people, and I prefer to keep it that way.”  At least he shared an image.

FORMER MEMBERS OF THE WAGNER CLUB:

Wagner Club originals include (L to R) Willie Ratner; Woody Gelman; Jefferson Burdick; Charles Bray; Frank Nagy and Irv Lerner.

THE OLD TIMERS-

Dating back to the Dead-Ball era when some were just kids, the first members of the club gained entry at a much more affordable level.  Willie Ratner, owner of the “Original Wagner” showed his treasure off in a Newark newspaper in 1930 while Jefferson Burdick documented his in the American Card Catalog in 1939.  Other early members included Sgt. John P. WagnerCharles Bray, Preston OremFrank Nagy, Wirt GammonTed Colzaretti, Sir Edward Wharton-Tigar, Dr. William Lowell, Dr. Hubert Heitman, Irv Lerner, Dick Herring, and others.

Dealers who have owned and sold Wagners include (L to R): Lew Lipset; Rob Lifson; Josh Evans of Lelands; J.P. Cohen of Memory Lane; and David Kohler of SCP (far right) pictured with former Wagner owner David Finkelstein (2nd from left).

THE DEALERS-

When the hobby became as much a business as it was a pastime in the 1970s qnd 1980s, a new generation of hybrid collector-dealers arrived on the scene who began unearthing and wheeling and dealing Wagners like they were going out of style. Bill Mastro and Rob Lifson led the way while Alan “Mr. Mint” Rosen and Josh Evans followed their lead.  Between the five auctioneers, they accounted for over 50% of the Wagner sales and discoveries in that era.  Also contributing to that phenomenon were other dealers who owned and sold Wagners including Buddy Kurzwiel and Rick Barudin of the Sports Corner, Lew Lipset, Jay Barry, Richard Gelman, Bill HognachGeorge Lyons, Duane Garrett, Mark Friedland, Jerry Zuckerman, David Kohler, Ken Goldin, Greg Manning, Steve Verkman, John Brigandi.

THE COLLECTORS-

The true card collectors naturally gravitated to the Wagner card in a quest to complete what hobby pioneer Bill Heitman called “The Monster”–the T206 set.  Other collectors were drawn to the Wagner as it became the ultimate status symbol in the hobby.  Barry Halper led the way in the late 1970s through the 1980s acquiring multiple copies while others followed his lead acquiring their own copies including Bill Haber, Larry Fritsch, George Lyons, John CinquegranaTom Collier, Jay Barry, Joe and Karen Michalowicz, Dr. Robert Goode, Lew NewmanWally Snitko, Scott Winslow, Stephen Soloway, Mike Cramer, Mike Gidwitz, David Finkelstein, Dentist Paul Kahan, and Steve Miceli.

Former Wagner owners include (L to r): Steve Miceli; Wayne Varner; Vincent Russo; Mike Aronstein and Keith Olbermann.

THE COLLECTOR-DEALERS-

Throughout the years collectors who set up tables at shows and operated small businesses and auctions found themselves in the Wagner Club and sometimes their tenure was short.  Fitting this description is Pittsburgh’s Wayne Varner who won the well-known Wagner scrap or strip sheet that surfaced in the late 1970s when he and partners Bob Zipplemann, Ken Blazek and Mike Wheat acquired the relic from a man they said purchased material from Honus Wagner’s former residence.  The four men decided they would let the luck of the draw determine which one of the four would own the relic.  It was Varner’s lucky day.  Other collectors who owned Honus for a short time include: Alan RayMike Aronstein, Fred McKie, Barry Sloate, Herman Kaufman, John Cinquegruana, David Festberg, Joe Esposito, Vin Russo, Tom Catal, Mike Wheat.

More former Wagner Club members: Ken Goldin (Goldin Auctions); the son of a Wagner owner; Bill Goodwin (Goodwin & Co.); Mike Cramer

THE CELEBRITIES-

Wayne Gretzky set the bar high for high profile Wagner Club members when he purchased his with Bruce McNall for $451,000 at Sotheby’s in 1991.  By the time he sold his interest in the card after McNall went to prison, actor and Hollywood bad-boy Charlie Sheen had purchased his own Wagner via Josh Evans at Lelands.  Sheen’s copy was later stolen from ESPN’s All-Star Cafe in Times Square where it was on loan.  Ex-MLB star knuckleballer Tom Candiotti purchased Gretzky’s former Wagner for $2 million in 2004 and then resold the same card to Arizona Diamondbacks owner Ken Kendrick for $2.8 million in 2007.  Only one notable celebrity trumped the alleged quality of Gretzky’s Wagner as former ESPN and MSNBC commentator Keith Olbermann at one time owned three copies of low-grade Wagner cards. Sources indicate Olbermann still has two copies in his collection, one of which is a trimmed copy that sold at Mastro Auctions in the early 2000s.

Prominent CEO's bought into the "Wagner Club" including (L to R) Jim Copeland; Brian Seigel, Chad and Doug Dreier; and ex-MLB knucleballer Tom Candiotti.

THE HEAVY HITTERS-

CEOs and captains of industry heading Fortune 500 companies and other large corporations  have also come to the table for entry into baseball collecting’s most exclusive club.  The first so-called “Whale” to venture into the hobby was West-coast sporting goods magnate Jim Copeland who purchased the most notorious Wagner from Bill Mastro in 1987.  Brian Seigel, the CEO of an asset management company, bought Copeland’s Wagner in 2000 for $1.26 million.  Another well-heeled collector in the club was the “Southern Gentleman” collector Jim Montgomery who was followed by Chad Dreier, the CEO of Ryland Homes,  who purchased a high-grade copy with his son Doug Dreier, in 2004.  Others who have snagged Wagners include John Rogers of the now defunct Rogers Photo Archive who purchased the “Jumbo Wagner” for $1.6 million in 2002 and ex-MLB knuckleball pitcher Tom Candiotti who purchased the fraudulent Gretzky-McNall Wagner from Brian Seigel for $2.35 million in 2007.

Postal employee Patricia Gibbs (left) won the Gretzky-McNall Wagner in a Wal-Mart Sweepstakes and sold her card at Christie's; An previously unknown Wagner (center) was inherited by a NJ man and was revealed in a 2012 magazine article; Another Wagner appeared on the Shop at Home Network in 1997 as a proposed prize.

GOLDEN TICKETS AND INHERITANCES-

Postal worker Patricia Gibbs became the second woman to join the “Wagner Club” when she won the Gretzky-McNall copy in a 1995 Wal-Mart Sweepstakes spearheaded by Treat Entertainment.  Score Board Inc. purchased a Wagner to be included in a “golden-ticket” promotion to give away a Wagner on the Shop at Home Network via Don West in 1997.  In 2002, the Shop at Home Network also purchased and gave away the T206-Wagner Proof Strip as a prize to 15-year old Jordan Marquez of Bakersfield, California.  The Marquez family sold the card at REA.  The Pearsall Family and the Jacobs Family of Long Island inherited their Wagners from a relative (August Jacobs had three Wagners).  Two other (anonymous) families consigned the inherited “Wallet Wagner” and “The Long Island Wagner” to Lelands.

No Dice: Wagner fakes have included (left to right): A Joe Strong of Hamilton Ontario, thought he found one; The State of West Virginia thought they discovered one in a safe deposit box; The Cobb-Edwards Wagner has been the most controversial fake; DuMochelles Auction house in Detroit sold a fake in 1991 for $14,000.

WAGNER CLUB REJECTIONS: FAKES, FRAUDS AND COUNTERFEITS-

Reports of alleged Wagner discoveries have been covered in the hobby and mainstream press for the past several decades as the popularity of the Wagner card and its legend has grown.  Most of those reports, however, ended up with disappointed people who thought they had hit the Wagner lottery when in reality all they had were worthless reprints or counterfeits.  In one instance, Joe Strong of Hamilton, Ontario, claimed he discovered a Wagner in a group of cards he paid $800 for.  He and card grader Guy Stoppard offered the card online for $15,000, but it was clear the offering was a reprint.  The state of West Virginia once discovered an alleged Wagner in an abandoned safety deposit box but found out their card was a reprint as well.

Despite the fakes and frauds, the legend of the Wagner endures and the exclusive club of owners changes over each decade as collectors pass away or pass along their treasured cardboard to new generations of collectors.

If you have any factual corrections for this report or additional information about the current whereabouts of Wagner cards mentioned (or unmentioned) in this article, please email us at: Tips@haulsofshame.com

UPDATE (April 16): One of our readers provided us with an image of an old news clipping showing that Darren Prince (“The Prince of Cards”) from Livingston, NJ, owned a Wagner.

According to this news clipping, Darren Prince of Livingston, NJ, owned a Wagner card c. 1988.

Yet another Wagner owner was identified by one of our readers; Rochester, MI, attorney E. Powell Miller is the owner of the card known as the”Connecticut Wagner.”

Attorney E. Powell Miller owns the "Connecticut Wagner."

If you know of any others please email us at: Tips@haulsofshame.com