Breaking News

By Peter J. Nash

October 4, 2018

(Scroll to bottom for Update) Throughout the past few decades, astute dealers and knowledgeable collectors alike have surmised that the alleged autographed copies of Christy Mathewson’s 1910 book, Won in the Ninth, were not actually signed by the Hall of Fame pitcher, but rather by a secretary.

The issue came to a head in 2004 when author Ron Keurajian took issue with the signatures in an SCD article and in 2005 when a copy of the book was offered at Sotheby’s and became the subject of a news report in the New York Daily News. As a result of the controversy, Sotheby’s removed the problematic lot from the auction even though it had sold three months earlier in an R&R auction for $10,655.19. For some in the hobby, Keurajian’s analysis was the final nail in the coffin for the bogus signatures found within the Matty books.

But this, however, was not the case for the TPA’s like PSA/DNA and JSA who had for years been generating LOAs for scores of Matty books sold for big bucks via their auction house clients. The TPAs, including James Spence Jr., ignored Keurajian’s analysis and further denied the evidence illustrating that the Matty signatures were bogus including the “Case Against Matty’s Won in the Ninth“ investigative reports published in 2011 by Hauls of Shame. (JSA has also been exposed by HOS in reports illustrating how Spence has certified many fake Matty single signed baseballs as genuine.) Despite all of the evidence illustrating that the Matty signed book-plates are fakes, some collectors continued to buy them as evidenced by a May 2017 sale by Huggins & Scott for $7,000.

But then in November of last year, the embattled authenticator, Jimmy Spence of JSA, published an admission on his company website stating that he actually agreed with Keurajian and Hauls of Shame.  Although the controversy over the Matty signatures has been brewing for decades Spence falsely describes the controversy as recent and specifically states that these signatures are bogus by adding his own analysis of the ghost-signed scrawls:

1910 book plates adhered to the inside front covers of Won in the Ninth have recently come under scrutiny for their controversial legitimacy. These number(ed) (appr. 500) presentational copies have a type written name added with a large and spurious secretarial black fountain pen manuscript. Observe the low initial stroke of the “M” and the oversized lower case letters and the unusual “t-h” combination that is heavily retraced. Overall, this vintage ghost signed anomaly is far more pointed than his other versions….

But although Spence made this public admission, which he had previously fought for years, he has continued to issue fraudulent LOAs for the non-genuine Matty book-plates. Case in point is an LOA he issued for dealer Steve Wolter in February of 2018 for one of the bogus Matty signatures.  Wolter, like other dealers who have paid for fraudulent LOAs, offered the book for $9,500 on eBay with the certification signed by James Spence Jr.

Spence signed a fraudulent LOA for a bogus Matty signature on February 15, 2018 (left); Other copies accompanied by fraudulent JSA LOAs keep appearing for sale on eBay (right) and at major auction houses.

That copy went unsold on eBay along with another specimen which was posted this past summer. Wolter’s book, however,  reappeared in a Steiner Sports auction accompanied by the JSA LOA issued after Spence’s public admission. That bogus copy of the book received 25 bids and sold for $10,760.40 on May 6, 2018.

The JSA website shows that Jimmy Spence issued this certificate numbered "Z61708" on February 15, 2018, several months after he admitted the Matty signatures were bogus.

Spence’s company website also shows this fraudulent LOA they issued with a certification number of “Z61708″ and the date of February 15, 2018, several months after Spence identified the Matty signatures as fakes.

Adding to the controversy are additional copies featuring the bogus signature which continue to appear at auction with JSA letters of authenticity. It appears that Spence has either not informed his auction house clients or has conspired with them to continue selling the fraudulently authenticated autographs to the general public. The most recent appearance of a problematic Mathewson book accompanied by a fraudulent JSA LOA is in the current Goldin Auction as lot number 199.  The LOA for the book numbered “346″ is signed by Spence and is dated September 26, 2014. The lot currently has a bid of $4,000 and appears to be the same copy that went unsold for $12,500 on eBay this past summer.

When notified yesterday of the situation regarding his problematic consignment Ken Goldin responded to us stating, “I will contact JSA.” JSA will have to explain how they could publicly denounce the Matty book-plate signatures as forgeries and then continue to issue LOAs for the same items.  Most collectors we spoke with asked why JSA and PSA/DNA wouldn’t recall all of their prior certifications of Matty books.  Others wonder how a self-proclaimed expert like Spence couldn’t recognize these signatures were bogus for the past 25 to 30 years. Another collector had a different take stating, “Spence knew they were bad, but he wrote so many good LOAs for bad items that would sell for $10,000. Do the math, Spence is a hobby whore. It’s another example of the TPAs turning garbage into gold for a fee.”

Self proclaimed expert James Spence (left) admits that the Matty signed book plates (inset) are fakes on his JSA website (right).

Hauls of Shame also asked the man who first identified the Matty book-plates as fakes for his take on JSAs Mathewson debacle.  Ron Keurajian, the author of Baseball Hall of Fame Autographs told us, “For many years it was well known that presentation copies of Won in the Ninth were secretarially signed. Over the years authenticators, with little knowledge or skill, began to authenticate the signatures as genuine. Today, most in the industry now recognize this and copies of the book are little more than worthless novelties. A genuine signed Mathewson book of any kind would be an extreme rarity.”

James Spence Jr. claims on his website that he “has built a world wide reputation as the premier autograph authenticator in the world.”  Spence’s claims have been bolstered by the sports auction houses and other outlets like eBay which endorse and in some cases pay for his services. These associations have deceptively bolstered his credibility in the industry. Spence’s profile was first boosted by disgraced auctioneer and convicted felon Bill Mastro who did the same when he elevated Spence’s status as the primary authenticator for Mastro Auctions and PSA/DNA between 1998 to 2002.

Spence also makes claims that his services are used by the FBI, IRS and the U. S. Postal Service, however, sources affiliated with the FBI have confirmed several times over the past few years that Spence has been the subject of on-going investigations into the third-party authentication business. In addition, Spence has lied about his lack of formal training claiming to have worked with the late autograph guru Charles Hamilton and has been implicated for stealing images of a specific collector’s items and intellectual property which he usurped for his own exemplar files.  Spence also falsely claims that he has “an exemplar library which is second to none in the autograph industry.” Spence also claims to have 700,000 files of exemplars. It’s now safe to say his file on Christy Mathewson includes dozens upon dozens of forgeries from Won in the Ninth.

UPDATE: Spence & JSA Scrub All Evidence From Website Showing Admission That Matty Sigs Are Bogus

After Hauls of Shame published its report yesterday showing that James Spence Jr. and JSA had admitted that the Christy Mathewson signatures found on copies of the book Won in the Ninth are not genuine, that information appears to have been removed from the “In the News” section of the JSA company website.  The original Mathewson blog post authored by Spence and published back in November of 2017 no longer exists among other featured articles in which Spence offers analysis of autographs of select Hall of Famers. The site still features his posts on Derek Jeter, Charles Comiskey, Earle Combs and others.

Jimmy Spence removed from the JSA website his Nov. 2017 admission that Mathewson signed books are fakes. After HOS published an article yesterday exposing Spence, his entire analysis of Matty signatures has vanished. Shown above are screen shots of the Spence post before he removed it.

According to one source, the Mathewson post was removed in such a fashion that not even the Wayback Machine could now recover it. All that appears now is a brief description of the original post when the subject is searched on Google.

After its removal by Spence, the only evidence left of his admission on the Internet is this Google search result.

Spence and JSA appear to be backtracking towards their original position in support of the many fraudulent LOAs they have issued in the past regarding the books with the bogus signatures.  Ken Goldin of Goldin Auctions has still not responded with any answers from JSA and the bogus book still appears as lot 199 in the current Goldin sale.