Breaking News

By Peter J. Nash

Nov. 30, 2010

PBS Antiques Roadshow appraiser Mike Gutierrez (Photo Courtesy of PBS)

 

Over the past two decades prominent sports auction houses have regularly offered items both stolen and suspected to have been stolen from the collections housed at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.  Rare photographs, correspondence and documents chronicling the history of the National Pastime were long rumored to have been contraband and have recently been confirmed as purloined items as a result of Haulsofshame.com’s investigative reporting over the past year.

In the past six months, Heritage Auction Galleries of Dallas, Texas, has offered and removed several documents believed to have been stolen from the National Baseball Library’s famous “August Herrmann Papers”collection.  On several occasions we’ve informed Heritage that letters written by Hall of Famers Joe Tinker, Fred Clarke, Kenesaw Mountain Landis and others written by White Sox owner Charles Comiskey appeared to have originated from the Hall’s Herrmann Papers archive.  Heritage’s Director of Sports Auctions, Chris Ivy, was able to view PDF files from the Hall of Fame containing the specific files supporting claims that Heritage auction lots were believed to have originated from the “Herrmann Papers.”   In each instance, Ivy removed the letters from the Heritage sales.

Just two weeks ago, Heritage sold another letter written by American League President Ban Johnson to August Herrmann on October 2, 1913.  Haulsofshame.com learned about the sale of the Johnson letter after the auction ended and was unable to inform Heritage the letter likely originated from the Hall of Fame’s collection.

The “Herrmann Papers” collection was donated to the Hall of Fame in 1960 by Major League owner Powel Crosley Jr. and included all of the correspondence of the Cincinnati Reds and their owner August “Garry” Herrmann spanning from 1902 to 1927.”  The collection is considered by historians as the most important and valuable archive of baseball documents in the world.  Historian Dorothy Seymour Mills knows, first hand, how important the archive is.  Says Seymour Mills, “The materials in those boxes are priceless for historians, as August Herrmann was also the head of Baseball’s National Commission and presided over business in both leagues.”  Her late husband, Dr. Harold Seymour, called the collection, “The most important unpublished material used in (his) research.”

The appearance at public auction of items wrongfully removed from this great collection went relatively unnoticed for decades, but the recent cataloguing and conservation of the archive by the National Baseball Library staff has provided key information in uncovering the long-time mystery of the sales of correspondence addressed to Reds owner August Herrmann, League Presidents and the National Commission.

Now, nearly two decades since the alleged thefts occurred, our exclusive interview with a former Hall of Fame employee confirms that the prime suspect in a late 1980’s FBI investigation of theft at the Cooperstown shrine was Antiques Roadshow appraiser and Heritage Galleries consignment director, Mike Gutierrez.  Gutierrez’ employer, Heritage, is also currently auctioning yet another two rare documents that originated from the Hall of Fame’s Herrmann Papers archive.  One is a 1914 letter to Herrmann from Hall of Famer Ed Barrow (part of Lot 41100), and the other is a 1914 letter to Herrmann from American League President Ban Johnson (Lot 41101).  Both letters were written to thank Herrmann for sending a complimentary season pass for Red’s games for that season.   Both letters originate from the Hall of Fame’s Herrmann files located in “Folder 8, Box 3.”  That same folder is designated as including letters regarding: ”Season Pass-Thank You (various major League teams) 1914″.  The Hall of Fame’s Herrmann archive includes over 25 folders full of hundreds of letters from Johnson to Herrmann spanning from 1902 to 1926.  Folder 2 of Box 52 features correspondence from Johnson to Herrmann spanning from 1911 to 1917, which also includes season-pass related correspondence. Click here for: PDF file of, “Folder 2, Box 52, from the Hall of Fame.

(Left) Lot 41101 in Heritage's December 5th auction, a 1914 letter to August Herrmann from Ban Johnson. (Right) Lot 41100 is also a 1914 letter to August Herrmann from Hall of Famer Ed Barrow.

The letters addressed to Herrmann first began showing up in public auctions in the early 1990s.  One of the first letters to surface was a 1912 letter from Ban Johnson to August Herrmann that appeared in a 1992 sale conducted by Superior Auctions of Beverly Hills, California, an auction house that Mike Gutierrez was affiliated with at that time as a consultant.  In that letter, Lot 998,  Johnson thanks Herrmann for sending a Reds season pass to a friend named “Frank Teagardin.”  Further proof that this letter was stolen from the Hall of Fame files still exists in “Folder 7, Box 3″ of the Herrmann Papers, which still includes the actual letter Johnson sent requesting the pass for just three days earlier.  Johnson wrote, “Can you favor me with a pass for Frank Teagardin, to the Cincinnati Ball Park this summer?”  In the 1992 Superior Auction letter Johnson writes, “I am in receipt of a pass for Frank Teagardin.”  File folder 7 of Box 3 in the Herrmann Papers collection is designated ”Season Pass- Thank You” for 1912.

(Left) Lot 998 in Superior Auctions' 1992 sale, a March 11, 1912 Ban Johnson letter to August Herrmann, thanking him for a season pass for Frank Teagardin. (Right) The Baseball Hall of Fame's March 8, 1912 Ban Johnson letter asking Herrmann for a season pass for Frank Teagardin.

Gutierrez also offered another Ban Johnson letter to August Hermann in his own “Mike Gutierrez Auctions” sale in December of 2003.  In that April 5, 1905 letter sent to Herrmann, Johnson includes an American League season pass for the Reds owner.  Haulsofshame.com has also viewed a copy of a receipt for a direct sale Gutierrez made to a private collector of another Ban Johnson letter addressed to August Herrmann.

Gutierrez’ history at the Baseball Hall of Fame dates back to the mid 1980s.  In the summer of 1986 hobby veteran Lew Lipset reported in his newsletter, The Old Judge, that Gutierrez was compiling an “autograph price survey” for items signed by Baseball Hall of Famers.  Lipset referenced Gutierrez’ visits to Cooperstown stating, “Mike has spent many hours at the Baseball Hall of Fame documenting autographs.”

According to an ex-Hall of Fame employee, Gutierrez’ last of several trips to Cooperstown appears to have occurred in the Fall of 1987 or 1988.  Bill Deane, who held the post as the National Baseball Library’s Senior Research Associate from 1986 to 1994, recalls the week long visit Gutierrez made to the library that year.  Deane remembers, “He was there for a week or so with another guy and when he first got there it was clear he had been there before, but not since I started at the Hall in 1986.  He was acting like he was everybody’s best friend.”  Deane states that Gutierrez had propositioned Hall of Fame officials asking if they would send out inquiries to survivors of deceased players on his behalf to purchase baseball artifacts.  Deane recalls Gutierrez’ offer to the Hall was that, in return,  he would ”donate a portion of the items he acquired to the Museum.”  But that deal never happened.

Deane remembers Gutierrez handling many files of photographs in the library and described the area in which he viewed the materials.  “There was a set of tables in the middle of the room where researchers were set up and we’d pull files for them or in some cases, people would pull their own files.”  Deane described a very casual environment with virtually no controls in regards to the security of the items researchers were viewing.  Deane recalls, “At that time there was no security at the Hall and there were times when there would have been no employees in sight.” That being said, Gutierrez left the library at the end of his stay without much notice.

It wasn’t until months later that the Hall of Fame got a call from New York City dealer and auctioneer Josh Evans who stated that he’d purchased an autographed photo of Babe Ruth from Gutierrez and noticed something whited out on the reverse of the photo.  Deane recalls, “He had noticed the Wite-Out and scraped it off and he recognized under  it one of our accession numbers which starts with ‘BL.’  Deane says head librarian Tom Heitz asked Evans to send the photo to Cooperstown and then Deane says,  “Tom brought it to the attention of the Hall of Fame brass and then they were launching this big investigation.”  The big question at that point Deane says was, “How many other photos could have possibly been stolen from the Hall of Fame by Gutierrez or by anyone else?”  Looking back Deane thinks it would have been very easy for someone intent on stealing Hall of Fame property to, “Just slide something into their notebook or briefcase.”

After the revelation of the stolen Babe Ruth photo and its sale by Gutierrez, the library assigned two employees to look for all autographed photos listed in the original Hall of Fame accession ledger books (dating back to 1939) and see if any others were missing.   Deane confirms that, “They identified a lot of items that they couldn’t locate.”  Deane also confirmed that an FBI investigation was commenced in regard to the stolen photo and after Hall of Fame officials learned about Gutierrez’ alleged involvement, Deane added, “They said he wasn’t allowed here, he was blacklisted from the National Baseball Library.”

This past May, another stolen photograph of Hall of Famer “Smilin” Mickey Welch was featured in Robert Edward Auctions’ Spring 2010 sale.  The 1891 cabinet card had tell tale Hall of Fame ownership marks and also had the library accession number defaced.  The card was removed from the auction and sources indicate that it has been returned to Cooperstown. 

Another cabinet photo of Christy Mathewson, also stolen from Cooperstown, was posted in September on collector message board Net54.  The photo had HOF ownership marks and was confirmed as stolen from the Hall of Fame.  The Mathewson photo, which sold for over $12,000 in a 2008 MastroNet auction, also had its National Baseball Library accession number covered with Wite-Out, just like the Ruth photo from 1988.  The Mathewson photo did quite a bit of traveling since its theft from from Cooperstown, as it was purchased from a Chicago-based auction by a collector named David McDonald, who lives in Honolulu, Hawaii.  At the time it was exposed as a stolen item this past September, McDonald posted on Net54, “This is a serious matter.  It will be dealt with.”  Net54 moderator Leon Luckey also commented on the situation stating, “The HOF and lawyers have been notified…(David) is also a very stand up guy and is doing the right thing.”  Another board member, Richard Simon, added, “Some people know who the theif is.” 

The back of this Mathewson photo shows the museum's accession numbers have been covered with "white-out." This card sold for over $12,000 in a 2008 MastroNet auction.

Bill Deane’s recollections of Mike Gutierrez’ 1988 visit to Cooperstown and the ensuing FBI investigation into the theft of the Babe Ruth photo and other items has also been confirmed by another ex-Hall of Fame official who spoke with us under the condition of anonymity. The source confirmed that Gutierrez was, in fact, “banned from entering the National Baseball Library.”  Said the ex-Cooperstown official, “The FBI investigated this guy (Gutierrez) pretty thoroughly and nothing was done about it because the federal prosecutor in Syracuse declined to do anything.  It’s on the Hall of Fame to re-open it and initiate it.” 

The ex-official also indicated that, “Stealing one photograph was all we were talking about at the time.”  He continued, “The FBI spoke to the guy who came with Gutierrez and he was ready to turn to implicate Gutierrez,” and, “One of the things he told the FBI was that Gutierrez had threatened him and, so, the FBI was ready to charge him with importuning a witness, and that’s a more serious offense, actually.”

The same ex-Hall of Fame official also confirmed that Gutierrez was one of the few people to ever have access to the “Herrmann Papers” archive in the 1980s.  The first persons with such access to the archive appear to be Dr. Harold Seymour and his wife Dorothy Seymour Mills, who utilized the collection as a source for their classic book, Baseball: The Golden Age (Oxford Press, 1971).  The source also confirmed that Gutierrez had access to the Herrmann Papers prior to his last trip to the library in 1988.

Mike Gutierrez offered other letters addressed to Herrmann from Ban Johnson and Kenesaw Mountain Landis in his December, 2003 MGA Auctions sale.

The ex-Hall official also stated that back when the FBI was investigating the 1988 theft, the Herrmann Papers had not been catalogued or inventoried.  “We had no way to know exactly what was missing from the Herrmann boxes back then.”  Now that the collection is secure, and half of the files have been microfilmed, thanks to a grant from the YawkeyFoundation, that’s no longer the case.  It’s rather easy to match up letters appearing in auctions with the contents of specific files still located at the National Baseball Library.

Cornell University’s Rare and Manuscript Division houses the original research notes that Dr. Seymour and his wife took at Cooperstown in the 1960s.  These original documents, which were both hand and type-written, quote directly from thousands of Herrmann documents that the couple utilized on their visit to the National Baseball Library.  The Cornell Seymour Papers archive will, no doubt, aid future investigations into the thefts at the Hall of Fame.  

Similar research notes taken by the Seymour’s at the New York Public Library have already aided the FBI in their investigation into stolen letters  from NYPL’s Harry Wright Correspondence Collection.  Many letters addressed to Harry Wright, slated for auction in 2009, were confirmed as stolen thanks to the original Seymour research notes.  By comparing Cornell’s Seymour notes to the actual surviving Herrmann files at the National Baseball Library, investigators will be able to identitify more documents missing from the collection. 

This original research note was typed by Dorothy Seymour Mills during her research with the Herrmann Papers at the HOF in the 1960s. The note identifies another letter from Ban Johnson to Herrmann on July 5, 1912. The Herrmann files include scores of letters from Johnson related to personal, Reds, American League and National Commission issues. This note is now part of Cornell's "Seymour Papers" archive. (Courtesy Rare and Manuscript Division, Cornell University)

Dorothy Seymour Mills fondly recalls how Hall of Fame historian Lee Allen first made the Herrmann archive available to her in Cooperstown during the 1960s.  “Harold Seymour and I examined thousands of original documents in the 72 boxes on the shelf in the room Lee Allen used as a writing room.  There was no security at all, or the need for such protection,” said Seymour Mills.

The only other public mention of the issue of the Hall of Fame thefts, besides a 2000 article in the New York Daily News that mentioned Gutierrez’ sale of the stolen Ruth photo, was in the hobby newsletter, The Sweet Spot, in 1998.  The article published by Charles Kaufman and titled, “Baseball HOF closes holes in library; ‘88 theft recalled,” described much of the same detail that was offered to us in our interview with ex-HOF employee, Bill Deane, but never mentioned the name of the suspect in the thefts.  The article referred to the suspect as  “a dealer (who) remains active in the hobby” and “persona non grata at the Hall of Fame Library.”

But The Sweet Spot claimed to have another eyewitness to the thefts who accompanied the suspect and spoke with The Sweet Spot under the condition of anonymity.  This wittness gave detailed testimony, which was reported in the newsletter:

“During the ‘88 visit, the documents were lifted from the file of August Herrmann, owner of the Cincinnati Red Legs in the early 1900’s.  Our source remembers the dealer sifting through piles of documents out of the Hall of Fame Library’s orange file boxes.  During that day, the dealer perhaps went through 100 such boxes.  The contents were remarkable, with letters to Lajoie and Ty Cobb.  The dealer had permission to make copies of the documents.  “He would go to the photocopy machine, make copies of some of the documents; he made neat stacks of copies,” the witness said.  “For every 10 items he’d take to the machine, however, nine originals would return to the file.  One original would be mixed in with the copies and they would go directly into his briefcase.  That briefcase would never leave his side.”

This 1913 Charles Comiskey letter to August Herrmann was sold in a 2007 Heritage sale. Not only was it a letter stolen from the Hall of Fame files, it was also a letter which was signed secreterially for the White Sox owner. Authenticators for Heritage wrongfully stated that the letter bore an authentic signature of Comiskey.

The 1998 article in The Sweet Spot referred to the Hall of Fame thefts as a “secret” for “a small circle of influential hobby members.”  One long-time dealer and autograph authenticator from New York City, Richard Simon, has even included information regarding the alleged 1988 thefts on his website.  Simon states, “I have talked to an eyewitness to the theft and three other individuals who purchased photos from this very well known dealer.”  Simon also adds, “The Hall of Fame covered up the incident because they did not want adverse publicity and the dealer, of course, denies any involvement.  But I know of an eyewitness to this theft, and I know of three buyers of these photos who have seen the whiteout on the back of the photo.”

In the 2000 New York Daily News article Mike Gutierrez responded to the allegations about his sale of the stolen Ruth photo saying, “If I got a photo with a Hall of Fame stamp, I got it through sale or trade.”

We contacted Gutierrez at his office at Heritage Galleries in Dallas and asked if he was aware that Chris Ivy had pulled several letters addressed to or relating to August Herrmann from prior Heritage sales and was offering others in their current auction.  Said, Gutierrez, “He (Ivy) might have said something, but I don’t know.”  When asked about the allegations that he had been banned from the National Baseball Library, Gutierrez declined any further comment.

From 1990 through 2000 Gutierrez was also a partner with collector Doug Averitt and operated the company MVP Autographs of Woodland Hills, CA.  Recently Averitt presented a copy of a letter featuring the rare signature of Hall of Famer John M. Ward for inclusion as an exemplar in Ron Keurajian’s upcoming book Signatures From Cooperstown.  The letter from February 15, 1905, is addressed to “The National Commission” by Ward who is writing as an attorney on behalf of his client, player Jack Taylor.  Taylor was accused in a gambling scandal in 1904 and Ward’s letter regards Taylor making himself available to give testimony to August Herrmann’s National Commission. 

The original copy of this letter is believed to originate from the Hall of Fame’s collection, as the Herrmann Papers archive features the “Jack Taylor Gambling Case” in folder 6 of Box 46.  This folder specifically includes correspondence written about the case in February of 1905.  We called Doug Averitt at MVP Autographs to ask where he acquired his copy of the suspect John Ward letter, but Averitt did not respond to our inquiry.  Industry experts estimate that the same 1905 John M.Ward letter would fetch anywhere from $10,000 to $15,000 at public auction.

Over the last two decades, hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of documents that originated from the Hall of Fame’s “Herrmann Papers,” have been bought and sold in private sales and at public auction.  Rare signatures of Baseball Hall of Famers featured on letters addressed to Herrmann; League Presidents; and the National Commission (which Herrmann headed) are highly covered by collectors.  Rare documents signed by George Davis, James “Orator” O’Rourke, John M. Ward, Henry Chadwick,  Hughie Jennings, Christy Mathewson, John J. McGraw, Miller Huggins, Frank Chance, Joe Tinker, Barney Dreyfus and a host of others are missing from the Hall of Fame files.  A letter written by O’Rourke to Herrmann in 1916, estimated at a value of $10-15,000, was offered in a 1992 sale at Richard Wolfers Auctions in San Francisco.  In the letter O’Rourke thanked Herrmann for sending tickets to the 1916 World Series.  Still in the Hall of Fame “Herrmann Papers” files is the letter that preceded it, when O’Rourke first asked Herrmann for the tickets.

(Left) Sept. 22, 1916 James O'Rourke letter to August Herrmann asking for 1916 World Series Tickets. This letter was sold at a San Francisco auction in the early 1990s (Right) Sept. 27, 1916 James O'Rourke letter to August Herrmann thanking him for sending him requested tickets to the 1916 World Series. This letter resides in the Hall of Fame's "Herrmann Papers" archive.

Hall of Fame spokesperson Brad Horn declined comment on the Gutierrez banishment from the NBL, and he also declined comment as to why the 1988 FBI investigation was halted.  Since our first reports earlier this year about the thefts from the National Baseball Library, Hall of Fame officials have declined to make any public statement.

Recently, the Hall of Fame has also been dealing with controversies involving their display of fake artifacts.  In August Haulsofshame.com published a report that claimed an alleged 1919 jersey of “Shoeless Joe” Jackson was not authentic.  In October, the Hall of Fame confirmed that report admitting to the New York Post and Chicago Sun Times that the jersey, purchased from collector Barry Halper, was a fake.  Many other items purchased from Halper are believed to be fakes as well, including Joe Jackson’s “Black Betsy” bat and a 1951 Mickey Mantle rookie jersey.  

Many in the baseball research community feel that the scandals involving the thefts from the Hall of Fame collections and the display of fakes are not being handled properly by Hall of Fame officials, but were unwilling to make public statements.  One unnamed individual even stated that the Society for American Baseball Research was reluctant to criticize the Hall’s leadership. 

PBS’ Antiques Roadshow website features a profile of Gutierrez as one of their featured “guest appraisers” and “one of the foremost sports autograph authenticators in the sports memorabilia business.” PBS gives high praise to Gutierrez for his work in an “industry (that) has been plagued by FBI investigations of fraud.”  Antiques Roadshow’s website also states: “Mike is one of the most respected repositories of trust in the business.”  PBS also claims that Gutierrez, “authenticated all the autograph material from the Barry Halper Collection sold at Sotheby’s in 1999.”  The Halper sale at Sotheby’s featured many suspect letters written to August Herrmann by Hall of Famers like Christy Mathewson and Hughie Jennings.

Gutierrez is also considered one of the major authenticators in the baseball collectibles field having worked for PSA/DNA and other outfits.  He is also currently listed as an authenticator for James Spence Authentication (JSA).  For years, James Spence and Mike Gutierrez have been authenticating suspect letters addressed to August Herrmann, without ever noting the controversy over the provenance of the documents.  Sources indicate Spence has been well aware of the controversy over the Herrmann letters, but has accepted payment for his authentications of the contraband materials nonetheless.  Both letters addressed to Herrmann in the current December 5th Heritage Galleries sale are accompanied by letters of authenticity from James Spence Authentication (JSA).  James Spence made no attempt to report the appearences of the suspect letters to the auctioneer or the proper authorities. 

Another authenticator for PSA/DNA, Kevin Keating, is currently offering yet another Ban Johnson letter addressed to August Herrmann on his “Quality Autographs” website.  Keating’s offering is a January 10, 1922 letter informing Herrmann that his Reds open the 1922 season in Chicago.  The letter, originating from the Hall of Fame’s Herrmann Papers archive, can be had for $750.   In the past Keating has also offered other letters addressed to Herrmann from Baseball Hall of Famers including Miller Huggins and Clark Griffith.  The Huggins letter appeared in a March, 2000, issue of Sports Collectors Digest for a price of $9,950. 

(Left) This Jan. 10, 1917 letter by Christy Mathewson to Aug. Herrmann sold at Sotheby's Barry Halper Auction for $9,775. (Right) Letterheads of four letters from Christy Mathewson to Aug. Herrmann from January 5th, 6th, 10th and 25th of 1917. All of these letters reside in the Baseball Hall of Fame's "Herrmann Papers" collection.

In Boston, at the headquarters of PBS and WGBH, Antiques Roadshow spokesperson, Judy Matthews, said that the network had no knowledge of Gutierrez’ banishment from the National Baseball Library in the 1980s.  “We’ve never heard of anything of that nature,” stated Matthews.  PBS declined to make any further comment.  In addition to PBS’ website listing Gutierrez as one of their guest appraisers, the network also features him prominently in television commercials for the show.

When informed of the allegations against Gutierrez and his banishment from the Hall of Fame’s library his employer, Heritage Auctions, declined comment.  Calls to Heritage’s Director of Sports Auctions, Chris Ivy, were not returned.  Heritage also declined to respond to an inquiry about their continued sale of suspect Herrmann correspondence.

Having been one of the first historians to benefit from the wealth of information found in the Herrmann Papers archive, Dorothy Seymour Mills has strong opinions about Herrmann’s correspondence showing up in auctions for public sale.  Says Mills, “Stealing from this archive, especially to make money, is reprehensible and should be punished.”


24 Comments

  1. A ‘Hobby’ full of crooks and liars… but their day will come and I suspect sooner rather than later.

    Comment by J — November 30, 2010 @ 8:45 am

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    Pingback by Tweets that mention Hauls of Shame - Breaking News -- Topsy.com — November 30, 2010 @ 8:57 am

  3. I also was burned by Mike Gutierrez. I traded an authentic signed letter of a HoFer for a fake pencil cut of a 19th century player. When I called him on it recently, after ducking me for 6 months, he claims that he does not remember it. He suggested I was ” making it up “. Very disappointing!

    Comment by Gregg — November 30, 2010 @ 10:49 am

  4. Amazing, just amazing of how high up in the hobby, the ??? behavior goes.

    If evidence is there, someone needs to be prosecuted.

    Comment by Paul Tenpenny — November 30, 2010 @ 11:04 am

  5. Kudos to Peter for continuing to blow the lid off this dirty business. hopefully, this will lead to prosecution.

    Comment by Win Bates — November 30, 2010 @ 11:16 am

  6. I’d like to see someone bring his old reputation to the Roadshow to be appraised. Talk about a relic…
    “There was a time when this was very valuable. Unfortunately, today it’s nearly worthless.”

    Comment by Mike Kennedy — November 30, 2010 @ 11:50 am

  7. Heritage Galleries has removed both the Ban Johnson Letter (Lot 41101) and the Ed Barrow Letter (Lot 41100) from their Sunday Dec. 5, Internet Sports Auction #410121.

    Comment by admin — November 30, 2010 @ 2:24 pm

  8. Hauls of Shame is becoming the hobby’s WikiLeaks!

    Comment by J — November 30, 2010 @ 5:13 pm

  9. An unfortunate reality of dealing in any field of vintage collectibles is that the occasional stolen piece will surface at auction. Our policy at Heritage, which has remained consistent since our first auction in 1976, is that any such claims will be immediately investigated, and material pulled from auction should the suspicions prove credible. Regretfully, this was the case with lots 41100 and 41101 from our current internet auction #410121 that was scheduled to close on Sunday, December 5th, and these lots have been removed from bidding.

    We are also cancelling the sale of lot 42113 in auction #410112, which closed on November 14th. We will contact the winning bidder and reimburse his payment.

    These actions would have been undertaken even more rapidly had we been contacted directly to inform us of the matter, but the posting above was our first notification that there were issues with these particular lots.

    We would also stress that Mike Gutierrez was not the consignment director that solicited or handled these particular items for us, and in fact he was not involved in any way in their consignment to Heritage. Mike has been a trusted employee of Heritage since 2006 and we are not planning to take action against an employee for an incident that is alleged to have occurred over 20 years ago and in which no charges or actions were ever taken at the time. In an abundance of caution, we recently questioned Mike about these specific accusations, as has Antiques Roadshow. We believe Mike was open and honest with us in responding to our questions, and we were very satisfied with his answers.

    Comment by Heritage Auction Galleries — November 30, 2010 @ 6:07 pm

  10. I won’t go as far as asking Heritage what Mr. Gutierrez had to say about this issue since he’s their employee and in the end he’s their problem… but I would like to see some proactive action from Heritage so these letters can return to their original home and not just being removed from their sale and having the consignor trying to sneak them in at another auction venue in the near future.

    Comment by J — November 30, 2010 @ 6:55 pm

  11. The Hall of fame stopped the original investigation? Sounds like someone might have been paid off?? I am thankful I followed my gut and never actively collected autographs for fear of all the room for fraud, forgery and this ugly kind of stuff. Really sad. Really really sad.

    Comment by Howard — November 30, 2010 @ 8:41 pm

  12. I have known Mike for around 15 years. In that time, I have always known him to be honest, up front and very helpful with any of my collecting questions. I have never purchased anything directly from him or when he was running a company. However, I think his knowledge in the autograph business is second to none. Whenever I have had a question about a signature being real or fake he always had the correct answer and this has happened not just once or twice over but many many more. Unless more public information comes out on this–I have to side with him and so far–this sounds like another “Salem “witch hunt”.

    Comment by Dave Pearce — November 30, 2010 @ 11:00 pm

  13. As a bidder (and buyer) of several items from Heritage auctions over the years reading their above comments in this situation are very disturbing. It is obvious the only reason the hall of fame did not go after Mr Gutierrez was to avoid the bad press. I will not be bidding in any more of their auctions if they choose to run their business this way.

    Thank you-Franklin

    Comment by Franklin — December 1, 2010 @ 9:56 am

  14. What happens with all of the August Hermann letters that Gutierrez sold and handled in his own auction MGA Auctions thats in this article????????

    Comment by Tom McManus — December 1, 2010 @ 10:34 am

  15. For the record, in response to Heritage Auction Galleries comment: Haulsofshame.com left a voice mail for Heritage’s Chris Ivy around 9:30 AM EST on Monday Nov. 29th. We informed him we were runnning a story on Tuesday Nov 30th related to their sale of August Herrmann related documents and allegations made regarding their employee Mike Gutierrez. Neither Ivy nor Heritage responded to our inquiry. We also called the Heritage office to speak with Mike Gutierrez shortly after that call was placed to Chris Ivy. We spoke with Mr Gutierrez briefly before he chose to end our interview. We also followed up with an additional voice mail to Mr. Gutierrez, and that inquiry was not responded to either. We published our article on the morning of Nov. 30th.

    Haulsofshame.com

    Comment by admin — December 1, 2010 @ 11:26 am

  16. Have the letters that have been pulled from various auctions been returned to the baseball Hall of Fame ?

    Comment by Mike — December 1, 2010 @ 4:09 pm

  17. The National Baseball Hall of Fame has declined to make any statement either confirming or denying that any of the suspect letters recently removed from public auctions have been returned. They also did not respond to our inquiry regarding the Ban Johnson and Ed Barrow letters that were offered and removed from the current Heritage sale.

    Comment by admin — December 1, 2010 @ 4:20 pm

  18. From what I see pictured in this article, there are many letters addressed to August Herrmann including ones written by Christy Mathewson, James O’Rourke, Ban Johnson, Judge Landis, Charles Comiskey and others not pictured from John Ward and others. All of these letters were sold to collectors. Have any of these collectors come forward and returned them? Hard to believe they don’t know they have stolen items by now.

    Comment by Two In The Bush — December 2, 2010 @ 12:19 am

  19. The Christy Mathewson letter to August Herrmann, sold at Sotheby’s in the 1999 Halper Sale,is included as the #9 item on our “10 Most Wanted Missing Nationall Baseball Treasures List.” It has also been featured in several articles. To the best of our knowledge, the owner of that letter has not come forward to contact the Hall of Fame about returning it (or contacted Sotheby’s for a refund). The only item that has been returned by a proactive and honest collector is a W-600 Sporting Life Cabinet card. The owner read our article on the stolen Mathewson cabinet and noticed the same HOF ownership marks on his card. He contacted the HOF directly and facilitated its return (without having been reimbursed at that time.)
    We have not heard of the return of any of the letters you mentioned.

    Comment by admin — December 2, 2010 @ 7:11 am

  20. For the record, I have no “beef” with Heritage Galleries. Only with Mike, when he was not associated with them back in 1990.

    Comment by Gregg — December 3, 2010 @ 10:28 am

  21. Nicely done, Peter, as always. Unbelievable.

    Comment by Brittany — December 3, 2010 @ 4:31 pm

  22. I love how the crooks are finally being called to the carpet after many years of this type of nonsense. Anyone will forge, steal or cheat you blind to make a buck and this type of behavior is proof positive of that. These jerks only care about money and will go about aquiring it any way they can.

    Comment by Stephen — December 9, 2010 @ 4:44 pm

  23. [...] toppsfan Cool. Good break, I've never heard of them thought. its a pretty reputable company Hauls of Shame – Breaking News Roberto Clemente Signed Autographed Baseball Global Authentics [Archive] – Net54baseball.com [...]

    Pingback by Not bad for an $8 repack - Blowout Cards Forums — April 28, 2013 @ 2:31 pm

  24. I dealt with Mike Gutierrez in 1990. I consigned & sold a game used autographed ball by deceased HoF’er G.E. “Rube Wadell. The ball sold for $28k, but I believe the ball was actually sold to a fictitious buyer & later resold for over $50K. Beware of auction houses that he’s involved with. Thanks for all the related posts and info.

    Comment by William Wilson — June 8, 2013 @ 5:39 pm

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