Breaking News

By Peter J. Nash

Jan. 18, 2011

Babe Ruth’s 1925 seperation agreement

Babe Ruth’s Separation Papers; 1865 Letter from Knickerbocker Pioneer; and Rare Hall of Famer Autographs Top List; Only Ten of the 100 Recovered

In 2009, submitted reports to the FBI, New York Public Library, Boston Public Library  and National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum detailing the black market sales of stolen and suspected stolen artifacts from each institution.  The reports included close to 1,000 pages of data and the following list is based upon the research found in those reports.  Many of the stolen items featured in the reports once spent time in the collection of Barry Halper.

For several decades, these artifacts have been sold at public auction and also privately on the black market.  The known total sales prices of items appearing on this list exceeds $500,000.  It is likely that the total revenue generated from the sale of these materials has exceeded $1,000,000.  Unfortunately, only ten of these 100 stolen items have been recovered and returned to their rightful owners.  The FBI, as a result of their investigation into the thefts at the NYPL, has information as to who the current owners of many of these items are.  However, since the FBI investigation commenced in 2009, none of these items appear to have been seized and returned to the NYPL.  

(Each item on the list includes: The institution/owner, and the auction that the last known sale of item occurred. The Boston Public Library and New York Public Library are denoted (BPL) and (NYPL); Baseball Hall of Fame (HOF); others are noted by name.  If known, the last public sale price is also included.)

 Here’s the “Halper HOT 100″:

1. 1925 Babe Ruth Separation Agreement from 1st Wife (NY Court) (Unknown)
2. 1875 Championship Letter to Harry Wright (NYPL) (Sotheby’s, 1999) ($14,950)

(Top) #3. The 1865 Cartwright Letter as it appeared at Sotheby's in 1999, with page number and Archives of Hawaii mark removed. (Bottom) The same letter as it appeared with stamp at the State of Hawaii Archives in 1989. The document has been trimmed to remove the ownership mark and the page number indicating its location in a bound volume at the Archives of Hawaii.

3. 1865 A.J. Cartwright Letter to C. DeBost (Archives of Hawaii) (Sotheby’s, 1999) (REA, 2001) ($129,000) 

(Left) #4. This 1874 signed Warren cabinet card of Harry Wright is on the NYPL's "Missing List" and was sold at public auction in 2000. (Right) This same photograph (with same tell-tale abrasion in lower left corner) was credited to the NYPL in Robert Smith's 1961 book, "Baseball in America."

4. 1874 Harry Wright Signed Warren Cabinet (NYPL) (Mastro/REA, 2000) ($10,582)
5. 1922 Last Will and Testament of Tommy McCarthy (Boston Court) (Unknown)
6. John Clarkson Signed Hastings Cabinet Photo (NYPL) (Private Sale) ($10,000)
7. 1889 Ed Delahanty Letter to Harry Wright (NYPL) (Christies, 1993) ($13,000)
8. 1920 Court affidavit signed by Babe Ruth (NY Court)   (Legendary, 2009) ($4,800)
9. 1887 Tommy McCarthy Signed Tin-Type Photo (NYPL) (Lelands, 1996)
10. 1873 Andrew Peck Signed CDV Photo (NYPL) (Recovered by FBI)

(Left) #10. The reverse of the inscribed 1873 CDV of Andrew Peck. Found in Barry Halper's house after his death and consigned to REA by his widow in 2006. Reverse shows vandalized ownership stamp of NYPL. (Middle) #15. April 1, 1873 inscribed cabinet photo of Andrew Peck. Consigned to auction by Halper's widow and sold by REA in 2007. Photo is on NYPL's "Missing List." (Right) #9. Signed Tin Type photo of Hall of Famer Tommy McCarthy, sold at Lelands in 1996 and listed on NYPL's "Missing List."

11. 1882 Buffalo Baseball Club Cabinet Photo (BPL) (REA) (Recovered by BPL)
12. 1891 Boston Base Ball Club Oversized Cabinet Photo (BPL) (REA) (Recovered by BPL)
13. 1877 Harry Wright Signed Randall Cabinet Photo (NYPL) (REA, 2007)  ($21,150)
14. A.J. Cartwright Tabor Cabinet Photo (NYPL) (REA, 2007) ($4,993)
15. Andrew Peck Signed Photo (April 1/73) (NYPL) (REA, 2007) ($1,410)
16. 1884 A.G. Mills Base on Balls Rule Letter to Harry Wright (NYPL) (Sotheby’s, 1999) ($5,462)
17. 1859 Knick Challenge Letter (NYPL) (Sotheby’s, 1999) ($4,600)
18. Henry Chadwick  Photo by Pearsall (NYPL) (Sotheby’s, 1999) ($2,500)
19. 1888 Kid Gleason Gilbert & Bacon Cabinet Card (NYPL) (Recovered by FBI)
20. 1877 James Devlin Letter to H. Wright (NYPL) (Sotheby’s, 1999) ($8,050)
21. 1879-80 Ezra Sutton Contract (NYPL) (Sotheby’s, 1999) ($4,312)
22. 1887 Harry Wright Signed Contract Amend. (NYPL) (Sotheby’s, 1999) ($9,487)
23. 1884 A.G. Mills Letter to Harry Wright (NYPL) (Sotheby’s, 1999) ($2,300)
24. 1889 Jim Mutrie Letter to Harry Wright (NYPL) (Sotheby’s, 1999) ($2,300)
25. 1887 Harry Wright Unsigned Draft of Letter (NYPL) (Sotheby’s, 1999) ($2,300)
26. A.J. Reach Letter to Harry Wright (NYPL) (Sotheby’s, 1999) ($2,875)
27. A.J. Reach Letter to Harry Wright (NYPL) (Sotheby’s, 1999) ($2,875)
28. Harry Wright CDV Photograph (NYPL) (Sotheby’s, 1999) ($5,000)
29. Harry Wright signed legal document (NYPL) (Sotheby’s, 1999) ($6,500)
30. 1889 Letter written by Harry Wright (NYPL) (Sotheby’s, 1999) ($4,312)
31. 1887 James Delahanty Letter to Harry Wright (NYPL) (Sotheby’s, 2000)
32. 1910 Pitt. Pirates Composite Cabinet Photo by (Recovered by HOF) ($2,000)

(Clockwise) #34. 1882 Oversized Cabinet Photo of Boston BBC. Ownership mark of BPL was defaced, but recovered by library. #96. 1897 Chickering cabinet photo of "Chick Stahl." This image was from a contact sheet of a 1983 SABR photo shoot at Halper's home. The BPL ownership mark has been removed/defaced. #35. 1904 Photo of Jimmy Collins and John L. Sullivan. This image was captured by the BPL before the original photo was stolen. Barry Halper sold the stolen photo at Sotheby's. #36. 1901 Holsinger photo of the Boston Americans w/Jimmy Collins. The BPL marks were altered to conceal library ownership.

33. 1889 Boston BBC Display Photo (BPL) (Sotheby‘s, 1999) ($6,325)
34. 1892 Boston BBC Display Photo (BPL) (Sotheby‘s, 1999) ($2,300)
35. 1904 Jimmy Collins and John L. Sullivan Photo (BPL) (Sotheby’s, 2000) ($1,000)
36. 1901 Holsinger photo of Collins, Parent, Ferris and Freeman (BPL)   (Sotheby’s, 2000) (Lelands) (Recovered by BPL)
37. 1910 John McGraw Protest Letter  (HOF) (Sotheby’s, 1999) ($4,312)
38. 1912 Fred Clarke Protest Letter (HOF) (Sotheby’s, 1999) ($3,162)
39. 1917 Christy Mathewson Letter to Aug. Herrmann (HOF) (Sotheby’s, 1999) ($9,775)

(Left) #39. Jan. 10, 1917 letter written by Christy Mathewson to Aug. Herrmann sold at Sotheby's Barry Halper Auction. (Right) Letterheads of four letters from Christy Mathewson to Aug. Herrmann from January 5th, 6th, 8th and 25th of 1917. All of these letters reside in the Baseball Hall of Fame's "Herrmann Papers" collection.

40. 1919 World Series Game 4 Official Statmts. (HOF) (Sotheby’s, 1999) ($4,830)
41. 1916 Hugh Jennings Letter to Herrmann (HOF) (Sotheby’s, 1999) ($4,600)
42. 1920 Cincinnati Reds Payroll Checks (HOF) (Sotheby’s, 1999) ($3,737)
43. 1884 Letter to Al Reach from Joe Mulvey (NYPL) (Unknown)

44. 1923 Christy Mathewson Protest Letter (HOF) (Sotheby’s, 1999) ($5,462)
45. Wilbert Robinson 1928 Protest Letter (HOF) (Sotheby’s, 1999) ($2,875)
46. 1908 Affidavit signed by John Evers for Protest (HOF) (Sotheby’s, 1999) ($2,000)
47. 1908 Affidavit by Joe Tinker for Protest (HOF) (Mastro, 2003) ($10,221)
48. 1877 Harry Wright Letter to St. George Cricket Club member (NYPL) (Sotheby’s, 1999) ($2,587)
49. 1920 Bill Klem Letter Re: Protested Game (HOF) (Sotheby’s, 1999) ($1,000)
50. Napoleon Lajoie Legal Papers (HOF) (Sotheby’s, 2000) ($1,000)
51. 1912 John M. Ward Letter to T.J. Lynch (HOF) (Mastro, 2004) ($1,173)
52. 1877 AG Spalding Letter to Harry Wright (NYPL) (MGA Auctions, 2004)
53. Mort Rogers 1871 Scorecard with Harry Schafer (NYPL) (Lipset, 2000) ($3,000)
54. 1871 Letter to Harry Wright from the Kekionga Base Ball Club (NYPL) (Unknown)
55. 1924 Miller Huggins Letter to Aug. Herrmann (HOF) (Keating, 2000) ($9,950)
56. A. J. Reach Autographed Cabinet Card (NYPL) (Wolfers, 1992) ($5,000)
57. 1874 AG Spalding World Tour Letter to Harry Wright (NYPL) (REA, 2004) ($25,875)

(L to R) #8, #58 and #59 from the list. All three rare documents are "Challenge Letters" sent either to or from the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club. All three letters were removed with the aid of a sharp object (or razor) from the NYPL's Knick Correspondence Scrapbooks. Remnants from each stolen letter are still pasted to the NYPL scrapbook pages. The letter to the far right, is an 1856 "Challenge Letter" that is still found in the NYPL scrapbook. Barry Halper sold the 1859 letter to the far left at Sotheby's in 1999 and once owned the other two examples sold later at other auctions.

58. 1859 Star/Knick Challenge Letter (NYPL) (REA, 2004) ($6,325)
59. 1860 Hamilton/Knick Challenge Letter (NYPL) (REA, 2004) ($7,475)
60. 1859 Knickerbocker Challenge Letter (NYPL) (Sloate, 2000) ($4,000)
61. 1860 Knick -Excelsior Challenge Letter (NYPL) (Sloate, 2000) ($1,750)
62. 1868 Harry Wright CDV (NYPL) (Mastro, 2000) ($1,834)
63. 1884 A.G. Spalding Letter to Harry Wright (NYPL) (Hunt, 2004) ($3,000)
64. 1874 CDV of Ross Barnes Autographed on Reverse (NYPL) (Mastro/REA, 2000) ($4,372)
65. 1875 Hartford Blue Stockings CDV (NYPL) (Mastro/REA, 2000) ($3,363)
66. 1874 CDV of George Wright Autographed on Reverse (NYPL) (Mastro/REA, 2000) ($2,717)
67. 1874 CDV of Cal McVey Autographed on Reverse (NYPL) (Mastro/REA, 2000) ($5,700)
68. 1877 Boston Team Cabinet (NYPL) (Mastro/REA, 2000) ($5,095)
69. 1887 Buffalo Bisons Cabinet with Frank Grant (NYPL) (Mastro/REA, 2000) ($2,296)
70. 1859 Knickerbocker- Excelsior Challenge Letter (NYPL) (REA, 2006) ($1,856)
71. 1882 Boston Base Ball Club Oversized Imperial Cabinet (BPL) (Mastro/REA, 2000) ($1,150)
72. 1894 Henry Chadwick Season Pass to NY Giants (NYPL) (Sotheby’s, 1999) ($1,265)
73. A.G. Spalding Inscribed Book Page to Fred Thayer (NYPL) (Sotheby’s, 1999) ($1,265)
74. 1906 Chicago Cubs Oversized Photo (BPL) (Grey Flannel, 2005)
75. 1906 Chicago White Sox Oversized Photo (BPL) (Lelands, 2002)
76. 1884 Detroit Wolverine’s Oversized Cabinet Photo (BPL) (Recovered by BPL) ($966)
77. 1889 Geo. Stallings Letter to Harry Wright  (REA, 2009) (Recovered by FBI) ($2,938)

L. to R.) #78. Deacon White, Warren CDV; #64. 1872 Ross Barnes, Warren CDV; and, #80. 1872 John Ryan Warren CDV. All three of these rare photos were captured on contact sheets for a 1983 SABR photo shoot at the home of Barry Halper. All three are on the "NYPL Missing List" and confirmed stolen from the NYPL.

78. 1872 Deacon White Warren CDV Photo (NYPL) (Unknown)
79. 1879 Harry Wright Cabinet Photo by Balch (NYPL) (Unknown)
80. 1872 John Ryan Warren CDV Photo (NYPL) (Unknown)
81. 1897 Chickering Cabinet Photograph of Boston BBC and Rooters (Recovered by HOF) ($2,000)
82. 1876 Ross Barnes Cabinet Photo, Chicago (NYPL) (Unknown)
83. 1912 Photo of the Royal Rooters at World Series (BPL) (Unknown)
84. 1889 Harry Wright note on back of letter to AH Soden, (NYPL) (Heritage, 2006)
85. 1909 Clark Griffith Letter Re: Protest (HOF) (Keating, 2000) ($595)
86. 1873 Boston BBC Cabinet Photo by Richardson (NYPL) (Mastro, 2007) ($17,995)
87. 1863 Harry Wright Knickerbocker Resignation Letter (NYPL) (Unknown)
88. 1871 Chicago BBC CDV Photo (NYPL) (Unknown)
89. 1884 Handwritten Harry Wright telegram, marked “Copy.” (NYPL) (Mastro, 1999)
90. 1888 Cap Anson Cabinet Photo by Stevens (NYPL) (Private Sales)

(Left) #91. Harry Wright cabinet photo by Taylor. (Right) #92 Photo of James O'Rourke inscribed to Henry Chadwick on reverse. Both of these photos were once owned by Barry Halper and recently recovered for the NYPL by the FBI.

91. Harry Wright Cabinet by A&G Taylor (NYPL)  (Lipset, 2005) (Recovered by FBI) ($5,000)
92. James O’Rourke inscribed  photo to Henry Chadwick (NYPL) (Recovered by FBI)
93. 1888 Nick Young signed cabinet photo (NYPL) (Private Sale)
94. 1880’s Harry Wright Photo by Macintyre (NYPL) (REA, 2009) ($4,406)
95. 1889 Letter by Harry Wright (NYPL) (Mastro, 2001) ($6,250)
96. 1897 Chick Stahl Chickering Cabinet Photo (BPL) (Unknown)
97. 1866 Note re:Harry Wright’s expenses to Union Cricket Club (NYPL) (Unknown)
98. 1920 Babe Ruth Court Affidavit to Verify Complaint (NY Court) (Wolfers, 1993) ($3,500)
99. George Wright Cabinet Photo (NYPL) (Mastro, 2000) ($10,996)
100. 1889 Letter by Harry Wright to Jacksonville BBC. (NYPL) (Wolfers, 1992) ($10,000)

(If you are in possession of any of these items and would like more information about how these items made their way onto our list, please contact us at: . We are also available to assist collectors with issues of reimbursement and returns of property to rightful owners.)

(Left) #8. Dec. 1920 court affidavit signed by Babe Ruth. (Right) #98. Aug. 1920 court affidavit signed by Babe Ruth. Both documents were owned at one time by Barry Halper and both documents wrongfully removed from a NY courthouse.

(Clockwise L. to R.) #2. 1875 Championship Letter to Harry Wright; #52. AG Spalding letter to Harry Wright, 1877;#20. 1877 Jim Devlin Letter to Harry Wright; #23. 1884 AG Mills letter to Harry Wright; #57. 1874 AG Spalding letter to Harry Wright about World Tour; #21. 1879/80 Ezra Sutton Contract with Boston BBC.


  1. I’d leave a comment but I can’t stop vomiting!

    Comment by J — January 18, 2011 @ 9:49 am

  2. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by AL Collections Inc. AL Collections Inc said: RT @AntiquePhoto RT @jimmyleiderman: Top 100 Stolen Baseball Memorabilia Items Once Owned By Collector Barry Halper – [...]

    Pingback by Tweets that mention Hauls of Shame - Breaking News -- — January 18, 2011 @ 9:57 am

  3. Ditto to J. I don’t know what’s more disturbing; the fact that so many items were stolen from our institutions or the fact that so few of them have been recovered or returned.

    Comment by Thomas McManus — January 18, 2011 @ 10:07 am

  4. Excellent detective work, HOS!

    Was Barry Halper aware of the provenance of the stolen items in his collection? Has the FBI ever examined the entire Halper collection – what remains of it since his death, anyway – to determine if anything else was looted from other collections?

    The dishonesty and greed behind these thefts, and the subsequent lack of concern about the true origins of the items collected or sold by Halper, Sotheby’s, and other institutions in the memorabilia/auction industry, is extremely disappointing. But thank you, Hauls of Shame, for shining a light on the issue of stolen baseball memorabilia. Knowing the truth, no matter how painful, is always better than operating in the dark.

    Comment by Perry Barber — January 18, 2011 @ 10:18 am

  5. At least one of the items mentioned above has been brought to the attention of the FBI, the Curatorial Staff of the New York Public Library, and other relevant officials. Many months later, and neither the FBI or the NYPL have made title claims on some of the memorabilia mentioned above.

    Comment by Stolen, but unclaimed — January 18, 2011 @ 10:24 am

  6. Would like to see “heavy” pressure put on the industry to clean up their act and to recover these items. Those auction houses who have sold these questionable items need to be held responsible if they knowingly laundered stolen property.

    Question to Hauls of Shame? Has anyone been prosecuted, convicted etc.?

    Comment by Paul Tenpenny — January 18, 2011 @ 10:59 am

  7. Excellent Job Peter! Now the story should unfold how these were stolen and who actually took them. the trail is there if the Auction Houses wish to stay out of Court!

    Thanks again


    Comment by Alexander Cartwright — January 18, 2011 @ 12:27 pm

  8. Paul, we’re not aware of anyone being prosecuted or convicted in relation to any of these thefts.

    Comment by admin — January 18, 2011 @ 12:33 pm

  9. Sadly, once again apathy and avarice rear their ugly heads. There is no deterrent to keep this sort of thing from happening time and time again. The message since 2009 remains same; we know what was stolen, we know how it was moved, we know who it was sold to, and we know no one goes to jail for it. For those involved in this illegal and morally reprehensible behavior (thief, auctioneer, collector), you have hit upon a low risk, high return business model that would make any organized crime family envious.

    With that being said, I don’t know why the Feds would pass up a chance to build and execute a successful RICO prosecution. This “nefarious shopping list” clearly could serve as the basis to begin establishing both patterns and linkages with respect to an organized criminal activity/enterprise.

    Dave Grob

    Comment by Dave Grob — January 18, 2011 @ 3:30 pm

  10. It is a rotten damn shame, that people have to resort to such low life tactics to rob the public of there $ and then act like they did nothing wrong.

    Comment by Herbie Buck — January 18, 2011 @ 4:33 pm

  11. Incredibly disappointing to see the breath and scope of this. Not just this list, but all that we have learned in the past year. Restoring all of these items to our public and private archives (and all other items previously discovered, or yet to be discovered missing) is of paramont importance. The true historical record has been compromised and our abilities to conduct quality research has been greatly diminished. So where do we go from here? To borrow a phrase, “How do we put the genie back into the bottle?”

    Comment by Peter Mancuso — January 18, 2011 @ 6:39 pm

  12. Peter, Christina Aguilera might be able to answer that question…

    Now, kidding aside, how about those who use twitter or facebook start inquiring directly to the Hall of Fame, NYPL, Boston Pub-Lib, etc?

    For starters, here are some twitter accounts: (Jeff Idelson, HOF Pres) (HOF) (NYPL) (NYPL Manuscripts & Archives) (Boston Pub Library)

    Keith Olbermann and his 180k followers might want to read about this too, don’t you guys think?

    Facebook? Wouldn’t it be nice to let the 16k fans of the Hall of Fame or the 27k fans of the NYPL know about this by writing or submitting a HOS link on their ‘walls’?

    XXI century is here boys… they can’t keep hiding forever… Remember these institutions are as responsible as the crooks that stole from them!

    Comment by J — January 19, 2011 @ 8:21 am

  13. I’m sure all of these auctioneers are burning up the phone lines informing their clients they bought stolen stuff from them. It would be nice if they were, but I doubt it.

    Comment by dixie — January 19, 2011 @ 2:18 pm

  14. This is extraordinary work, and also scary, as usual. It is outstanding that you have images of so many of the items; often, historical records repositories only have descriptions or catalog information to assist them in recovery efforts. Of course, if sellers and collectors aren’t accessing this information and performing due diligence when investigating provenance, all the images in the world won’t help with recovery.

    I’m curious about the document from #3, The 1865 Cartwright Letter missing from the Hawaii Archives. Has anyone contacted the archives to initiate recovery efforts?

    Also, when you indicate “recovered,” was the item “bought back” by the legal owner, recovered in the course of an investigation, obtained through legal actions such as replevin, or in some other way?

    Keep up the hard work!

    Comment by Brittany — January 20, 2011 @ 1:39 pm

  15. Thanks. We’ve been told by the Archives of Hawaii that the 1865 Cartwright letter is being handled by Hawaii’s Attorney General’s office, but we have not heard anything more on that matter.

    The items marked “recovered” on the list are the result of FBI investigations and, in some cases, auction houses and consignors returning the items to the institution after they became aware the item was stolen.

    Comment by admin — January 21, 2011 @ 11:06 am

  16. Useful info. Lucky me I discovered your website by indicent, I bookmarked it so I can find it next time.

    Comment by Adam Waring — January 22, 2011 @ 5:54 pm

  17. What a damn shame!! I have lost all respect for the mentioned individuals and will not purchase any items from them in the future. Dave Grob makes a good point. Mr. Nash, keep up the good work!!

    Comment by George Stanford — January 25, 2011 @ 9:53 pm

  18. [...] Click here to read about Halper’s collection “issues” Leave a Comment LikeBe the first to like this post. [...]

    Pingback by The Card: Caveat Emptor « The Pinetar Rag — July 24, 2011 @ 11:17 am

  19. Greed is a powerful motivator. Even when they aren’t outright stolen, I’m sure that many of the extremely valuable sports artifacts sold in auctions were acquired through otherwise dishonest means. Maurice Richard and Bobby Hull’s Stanley Cup rings have shown up in auctions, don’t those belong either with their families or the Hockey Hall of Fame? The big-ticket sports memorabilia industry truly sickens me.

    Comment by David — August 6, 2011 @ 7:46 pm

  20. You may be interested in updating the Wikipedia entry for Barry Halper, if the above items are confirmed as:

    A) Having been stolen (and possibly recovered since the date of theft);

    B) If each item had at one point been “owned” and/or later sold by Barry Halper.

    The enormous exposure that Wikipedia affords authors and investigators is an asset best utilized.

    Besides, there’s nothing lower than someone who claimed to have played college sports, and there are few higher callings in this life than people who can prove that such claims are bogus.

    The W entry for BH currently still asserts that BH played college baseball at his alma mater, a lie that has been exposed (hey, while you’re at it, why not confirm that he actually graduated? Sadly, with people like this, EVERYTHING has to be checked!).

    Boy, and I thought that Florio (Conde Nast) guy was a bunko artist.



    Comment by Don Reed — August 19, 2011 @ 10:27 pm

  21. [...] the revelation about Halper implicating himself is the direct evidence of Halper’s ownership and sale of so many items stolen from the NYPLs Spalding Collection. In 1977 Halper showed Bill Madden of The Sporting News, [...]

    Pingback by THE USA BASEBALL HISTORY COLLECTIONS | Driwancybermuseum's Blog — May 23, 2012 @ 1:38 am

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