Breaking News

By Peter J. Nash

August 15, 2012

This NYPL stamp was revealed on the reverse of the Red Stocking trade card offered at auction.

-The Feds confiscated a circa 1869-70 Red Stockings Peck & Snyder trade card (estimated to be worth $20,000 to $40.000) from Legendary Auctions’ sale at the National in Baltimore. It was examined after it was reported that the reverse of the card exhibited a faint remnant of a New York Public Library stamp as well as evidence of a faint numeral handwritten in the corner denoting its storage box number at the Fifth Ave. branch of the library.

(Correction: Legendary Auctions has informed us that the card was not confiscated.  It was sent back to the consignor who will deal directly with the authorities regarding the return to the library.)

-Jimmy Spence actually assisted as the authorities took time off scrutinizing his work to use JSAs spectrograph contraption to confirm that the NYPL stamp was on the reverse, as it reportedly “lit up” under the lights (see image of stamp discovered on reverse).

So far, this is the second Red Stocking trade card that the FBI has recovered for the NYPL.  Another was recovered a few years ago that had no evidence of a stamp on the back of the card. That card was returned, as well as a CDV of sporting goods king Andrew Peck and a cabinet card of Harry Wright (both showing traces of vandalized NYPL stamps on the reverse, as well as the handwritten box number numerals.)

-Angela Montefinise, a spokesperson for the NYPL, told us this about the recovery:  ”Our ultimate goal is to recover all of our missing items – whether they are stamped or not – and make them available to our patrons. We have cooperated fully with the FBI and have done everything possible to help investigators identify those items that belong to The New York Public Library. We have complete faith in them, and know they are aggressively pursuing every lead.”

The NYPL stamp was faintly visible on the reverse of the Red Stocking trade card and was exposed under JSAs machinery (inset). The stamp was originally placed on the center area of the card.

-Dr. Harold Seymour and Dorothy Seymour Mills’ classic, Baseball: The Early Years in (Oxford, 1960) proves there is at least one more Reds trade card missing as that example was documented as an illustration in the ground-breaking book of baseball scholarship.  The card has imperfections which can help identify it as NYPL property beyond just the ownership stamp.  Anyone seen this one?

WANTED BY THE FBI: This 1869 Red Stocking trade card was stolen from the NYPL and is still missing. It appeared in Seymour's 1960 book with a credit to the Spalding Collection.

-Al Reach is in the news again. Collectors trying to hold onto their stolen treasures from The NYPL’s Spalding Collection appeared to be elated when the FBI returned a cabinet card of Al Reach to an eBay seller after it was turned over last year for analysis.

The Al Reach cabinet (inset) bears a number "3" written on its reverse just like all of the other cards still housed in the Spalding Collection's box 3. The Reach cabinet is also documented on NYPL records as being stored in box 3 and is the only such cabinet card of reach known to exist.

The rare cabinet card featuring a portrait of Reach is the only example known to exist and clearly has a handwritten numeral “3″ written in the upper left corner, designating that it was once stored in NYPL box number 3 of the famous Spalding Collection.  As illustrated in the above photo the Reach cabinet is marked exactly like all of the other cards currently housed in NYPL Spalding box number three.  Because the mount of the card was so dark, it appears that NYPL never stamped the card which is also documented on the original 1922 inventory of the collection. Although the Reach card was returned to the eBay seller and sold for over $1,300, the card will be recovered by the FBI on behalf of the library.  Stay tuned for more information on this additional recovery.

Heritage Tweeted an image of this photo featuring an oval mark that appeared to resemble a Boston Public Library ownership stamp (inset,top).

-Heritage Auctions Tweeted a photo of the 1887 Detroit team commenting on their mustaches and an oval blur in the center of the photo appeared to be an obscured and vandalized ownership mark from the Boston Public Library’s McGreevy Collection.

Another Detroit team photo stolen from Nuf-Ced’s treasure trove at BPL was recovered a few years ago after it was sold by both Barry Halper and Bill Mastro.

This BPL photo was sold by MastroNet in 2000 and features a vandalized mark that resembled the oval spot on the image Tweeted by Heritage. As it turned out, the Heritage spot was likely just water damage.

Other recovered photos including a large cabinet of the 1882 and 1891 Boston teams have similar defaced surfaces.  Chris Ivy responded to our inquiry about the photo and clarified the issue.  As it turns out the oval blur appears to be water damage and the oval shape and appearance just coincidental.  Ivy also said the oval area on the Heritage cabinet was a different size than the BPL marks that we provided him with.  Ivy added, “The issue of stolen material is of great concern to us, and Heritage has a well established track record of cooperating with authorities on the rare but inevitable occasions that such material has crossed our desks.”

This SABR contact sheet from a 1980s photo shoot documents a rare 1870 Philadelphia A's CDV that appears to have been stolen from the National Baseball Library.

-Baseball Hall of Fame officials still have not recovered a stolen 1870 Philadelphia A’s CDV that was documented in a SABR photo shoot from the 1980s.  We wrote about it recently at the Hall of Very Good.  The stolen card was sold by Robert Edward Auctions in 1994.  The image of the card (featuring a unique scratch on the albumen print) was captured on a SABR Kodak contact sheet marked “HOF-9″ on the reverse and HOF on the front above the image.

-Bill Mastro’s recent indictment and talk of a plea deal with the Feds has some speculating that as part of a deal he might offer information about the 1970s heist at the NYPL and the parties involved.  When his close friend and former business partner Rob Lifson was  apprehended stealing rare CDV cards from the library’s Spalding Collection in 1979, Mastro was a close confidant of the then teenage “card scholar.”  Mastro has been curiously mum on the subject for years.

This rare Warren cabinet was stolen from the NYPL's Spalding Collection and was sold in MastroNet's Nov. 2000 sale. The exact same card appeared in a book by Robert Smith with a credit to the NYPL.

-MastroNet’s November, 2000, sale conducted when Lifson and Mastro joined forces featured the largest assortment of stolen materials from the NYPL and BPL next to the 1999 Sotheby’s Halper sale.  Other stolen items sold were rare autographed CDVs of Cal McVey, Ross Barnes and George Wright.  The Ross Barnes and Cal McVey CDVs have been definitively traced back to the Halper Collection thanks to a 1980s SABR photo shoot at Halper’s residence in Livingston, NJ.

These CDV's stolen from the NYPL were documented in the Halper Collection in a 1980s SABR photo shoot. The Ross Barnes CDV is the same one that appeared in the 2000 MastroNet sale.

-Sources indicate that most all of the stolen materials were consigned by collector Jim Montgomery.  The Wright cabinet first appeared on our “Ten Most Wanted Missing National Baseball Treasures List” over two years ago, however, in all that time, neither the Wright cabinet nor any of the other nine items on the list (all confirmed stolen and missing from institutions) have been returned or recovered.

What a Hobby!


  1. In order to save his ass, he will probably sing like a canary,” Sammy The Bull ” style and implicate everyone and the list will probably astonish all.Names come out of the wood work when the pressure is applied to save ones ass.

    Comment by Herbie Buck — August 15, 2012 @ 7:15 pm

  2. What a hobby indeed, so many people out there crossing their fingers hoping they aren’t remembered. Hobby needs a shower – 15 years since operation bullpen is too long to wait.

    Comment by TRAVIS R0STE — August 15, 2012 @ 10:56 pm

  3. Operation Foul Ball is still in exisitence and slowly the idiots are falling prey to it,one by one.

    Comment by Herbie Buck — August 16, 2012 @ 3:02 pm

  4. I’m sure the reason none of those stolen items have been returned is because the current owners are really non-collectors who don’t know about this website and don’t even know what the internet is.

    Comment by Chris A. — August 16, 2012 @ 11:37 pm

  5. that barry harper’s name comes up alot in this scandal ridden hobby … god rest his fraudulent soul …

    Comment by chris — August 19, 2012 @ 3:16 pm

  6. It is coincidental that one of the Boston Public Library’s top priorities concerns the return of some of their stolen baseball memorabilia. The New York Times should publish an article on what’s been stolen and recovered from the NYPL and the BPL baseball exhibits. What I’m saying is this involves everybody in NYC, Boston, and America seeing as how the sport of baseball is the country’s favorite pastime, and not just the people mentioned in Pete’s article.

    Brendan Ryan

    The Brendan Ryan Company
    Houston, Texas

    Comment by Brendan Ryan — October 11, 2012 @ 2:35 pm

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