As if there wasn’t enough controversy surrounding the 1951 World Series rings attributed to “Joltin” Joe DiMaggio, expert Ron Keurajian now says it’s his opinion that the signed DiMaggio note authenticating the ring that sold for close to $40,000 at Sotheby’s is not genuine.
When asked to comment on the authenticity of the DiMaggio note that accompanied the alleged World Series ring sold in 1999 by Barry Halper, DiMaggio’s long-time attorney, Morris Engelberg, did not reference the note specifically, but added, “I consider the entire ’signed’ memorabilia business on par with Bernie Madoff.”
After Haulsofshame.com published an article about the DiMaggio ring offered last weekend by Hunt Auctions in Louisville, KY., a collector and former New Jersey dealer named Chris Jacks, left a comment suggesting that the DiMaggio signed card featured in the post might not be authentic. After looking at the genuine autographed photo featured in the same article, Jacks compared it to the index card and told us, “Not written by the same hand, in my opinion.”
In response to the observations made by Jacks, we contacted several dealers and authenticators very familiar with DiMaggio’s handwriting and the result involved each party responding that the handwriting was either not DiMaggio’s or “unusual”. The one expert willing to go on the record with his opinion was Ron Keurajian, who is also the author of a recently released book that is described by his publisher, McFarland, as a collector’s handbook to Hall of Fame signatures. Keurajian told us, “In my opinion the handwriting and signature featured on that index card is not Joe DiMaggio’s. It is my opinion that note is not genuine.”
When the alleged DiMaggio ring and note sold at Sotheby’s in 1999, Mike Gutierrez, a current JSA authenticator, was hired to examine all autographed materials for the auction house. When the ring sold again a few years later at Mastro Auctions it was not accompanied by a PSA or James Spence letter of authenticity.
We also showed Keurajian another note that DiMaggio allegedly executed for Halper in order to authenticate a glove that was also sold at Sotheby’s as one of DiMaggio’s first gloves used in the Major Leagues. Of that note, Keurajian told us, “In my opinion that second inscribed and signed index card appears to be authentic and signed by DiMaggio.”
The glove was sold at Sotheby’s in 1999 as one that the “Yankee Clipper” wore in the first years of his career, but it turned out to be problematic as glove experts showed that the glove wasn’t manufactured until much later in DiMaggio’s career.
Keurajian includes an in-depth study of DiMaggio’s signature in his book along with analysis of every other Baseball Hall of Famer. On its website, McFarland says of its new release available to the public since November 1st:
“The book provides experts and beginning collectors alike a definitive guide to authentication of Baseball Hall of Fame autographs. Richly illustrated with examples of genuine and forged signatures, the studies provide examples across the players’ lives.”
DiMaggio’s autograph is featured prominently in the book and the publisher also states that, “The section on known forgeries gives detailed descriptions of common and well known forgeries. The level of detail is such that a collector will be able to compare signatures in their collection to the description in the book and determine if they own a forgery. No previous book has ever remotely approached the level of detail to be found in this book.”
Keurajian hopes that his book will help educate buyers and sellers as they navigate through the treacherous waters of autograph collecting. When asked what percentage of higher-end Hall of Famer autographs on the market are forgeries Keurajian told us, “Probably ninety-percent of the material, in my opinion, is not genuine.”
Keurajian’s opinion that the index card accompanying Barry Halper’s alleged 1951 DiMaggio World Series ring is not genuine has fueled even more speculation about the authenticity of the 10K ring he sold in 1999 alongside scores of other bogus and stolen artifacts that have made their way into the marketplace.
From his offices at the Joe DiMaggio building in Hollywood, Florida, Morris Engelberg answered our inquiries about the alleged World Series ring stating, “All I can tell you is that the 1951 ring was stolen from Joe DiMaggio’s hotel room which is well documented (via a police report).” Hauls of Shame has requested a copy of that police report.
As for Halper, Engelberg says, “I was advised by Barry Halper that he purchased it while Mr. DiMaggio was alive. It was shocking to Mr. DiMaggio and me that Mr. Halper never offered it back to Mr. DiMaggio after all the years he played off the name “DiMaggio.”
In regard to the conflicting stories and the appearance of the ring in Hunt Auctions Engelberg responded, “Whatever else happened after that is “trash talk,” everyone having their own story, usually without any valid written proof other than hearsay.”
Engelberg also made a point to state that “The purchaser of stolen property, with full knowledge that the property was stolen, takes no better title to that property than the theif.” Engelberg added that Joe DiMaggio never pursued legal action to recover his property and told us, “The industry would have played it off. Mr. DiMaggio’s image was more important and stood above all else.”