Breaking News

By Peter J. Nash

June 12, 2014

Jimmy Spence and Steve Grad authenticated a modern replica ball as a Ruth-Gehrig original in Richard Russek's current Grey Flannel sale.

(For UPDATES scroll to bottom)

If Grey Flannel and Rich Russek needed some additional information to pull the bogus Babe Ruth-Lou Gehrig ball appearing as a premier lot in its current “Summer Games” auction, here it is….

A Hauls of Shame reader emailed us an image of a modern replica Babe Ruth autographed baseball that was manufactured and sold by a company in Florida in the past five years and it matches exactly the Ruth signature found on the sweet spot of the Grey Flannel auction lot.  It is not the exact same replica ball pictured but the quotations around “Babe” are in the exact same position as the replica as well as every single other characteristic of the alleged Ruth signatures printed on both of the replica baseballs.  Of course, we already pointed out in our last report that the ball, itself, was a counterfeit, but that wasn’t enough for Russek and GF to withdraw the lot the same way they pulled a JSA authenticated program allegedly signed in 1948 by HOFer Wilbert Robinson–when he died in 1934.

The news represents a new low in third-party authentication as both PSA/DNA and JSA have been exposed again as incompetent and perhaps involved in intentionally certifying the forgery to cover-up PSA’s original error in authenticating the ball previously with a certification number of “V11120″ in the PSA/DNA database.

As reported by Hauls of Shame in our last report, the signatures replicated on the bogus baseball are forgeries created in the early 1990’s by an infamous New York forger called “Johnny Fang.”  The forgeries were well known among hobbyists and dealers operating in the 1990s but despite that fact PSA/DNA and JSA still were duped and authenticated modern ball featuring facsimiles of the original Fang forgeries.

Grey Flannel's premier lot certed authentic by JSA & PSA/DNA (left) is the same as modern replica balls made featuring facsimile signatures of known forgeries (right). The Ruth signatures above are identical down to the quotes around "Babe" on each ball.

When the replica ball is illustrated next to Grey Flannel’s premier auction lot, it is abundantly clear that Jimmy Spence and Steve Grad have once again committed authentication malpractice by turning a worthless modern ball into a vintage artifact they say was signed by Yankee greats Ruth and Gehrig.  Grey Flannel was looking for an opening bid of $7,500, but since Hauls of Shame published a report identifying the ball as a forgery, not one bid has been placed on the fraudulent lot.

The bogus Grey Flannel lot was certified authentic by PSA/DNA and registered in the PSA system.

The bogus baseball has been registered in the PSA/DNA system, but it’s unclear exactly when Steve Grad & Co. first authenticated the facsimile signatures of Ruth and Gehrig.  Aside from the authentication of the facsimile signatures it is unclear how such a large company with access to advanced technology could not recognize that the baseball itself was counterfeit with the lacing, stamping and consistency of the surface contrasting thousands of genuine examples already authenticated by the alleged PSA/DNA experts.

Grey Flannel's premier lot failed to receive an opening bid at the reserve price of $7,500.

Grey Flannel chose to keep the fraudulent lot in its “Summer Games” auction even after our report illustrated the problems with the ball’s authenticity.  The fact that the ball hasn’t received an opening bid apparently hasn’t been enough for the auction company to withdraw the ball that several experts had already identified as a forgery.  Now that it has been revealed that the ball is not only a forgery but a manufactured modern facsimile, its up to Grey Flannel to save face and withdraw the fraudulent lot.  Collectors and Grey Flannel customers will have to ascertain whether the company’s inaction regarding the bogus Ruth-Gehrig ball is representative of bigger problems at the auction house that is reportedly under investigation for the sale and authentication of fake and misrepresented game-used memorabilia.  Grey Flannel has a long history of authenticating fake game-used memorabilia dating back to their work with the Barry Halper Collection at Sotheby’s in 1999.  In that sale, hundreds of thousands of dollars of bogus garments were sold with Grey Flannel’s approval.

Experts have also identified Grey Flannel’s 1927 New York Yankees team-signed photo as a forgery but that lot has received sixteen bids and currently stands at $30,597.  That photo was authenticated by Jimmy Spence and JSA.  Considering that Spence was just exposed authenticating a replica ball made in the past ten years as a vintage 1928 AL ball autographed by Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, the bidders on that lot might be better off listening to the experts who have identified the photo as a “poorly executed forgery.”  For more examples of JSA & PSA/DNA’s past authentication blunders you can check our “Worst 100 Authentications” report that was published last year.

We contacted the Grey Flannel offices earlier today and notified an auction representative that the 1928 Ruth Gehrig ball was bogus and manufactured in the past decade.  The representative told us, “I have no idea what you are talking about, let me get someone you can talk to.”  We were placed on hold and then hung up on shortly thereafter.

If readers are concerned with Grey Flannel’s offerings of fakes and frauds you can contact the Southhampton Police Department at 631-728-5000 or the New York City office of the FBI at: NY1@ic.fbi.gov

UPDATE (June 14, 2014):  Grey Flannel Withdraws Phony Ruth-Gehrig Ball From Auction; Suspect 1927 Yankee Photo Identified As A Forgery By Experts Tops $30,000

Eleven days after we published our first report identifying one of Grey Flannel’s “Premier Lots” as a forgery, Richard Russek and the Westhampton, New York, auction house have removed a bogus Babe Ruth-Lou Gehrig signed baseball from its current sale.  The forgery was created by using a recently manufactured replica ball which featured a facsimile of a 1990s forgery of Babe Ruth’s signature.  Besides being a modern replica, the stamping, lacing and construction of the ball were dead giveaways that the sphere was a counterfeit.  Since we published our first report, the ball failed to receive any bids at the reserve price of $7,500.  The ball was authenticated by PSA/DNA and JSA.

JSA's Jimmy Spence authenticated this forgery of the 1928 Yankees for Mastro Auctions. Why would collectors think he's right on the current 1927 photo being offered by Grey Flannel?

While Grey Flannel pulled the bogus baseball from its sale,  the auction house has still not withdrawn an alleged signed photo of the 1927 Yankees which has also been identified as a forgery by experts.  That photograph has been authenticated by Jimmy Spence and JSA, but Spence has a well-documented history of certifying bogus Yankee team-signed items as genuine.   Among others, Spence authenticated a forged photograph of the 1928 Yankees for Mastro Auctions in 1999 (see photo above).  The current bid on the alleged 1927 photo is $30,597 and the auction ends on June 18th..


11 Comments

  1. We knew they had a lot of balls. But we didn’t know they were willing to just put them out there for everyone to see.

    Comment by The Real Diceman — June 12, 2014 @ 2:31 pm

  2. Which grey flannel guy is the ex-con and convicted felon? Russek or Imperato?

    Comment by Louie — June 12, 2014 @ 2:37 pm

  3. Can you say S-L-I-M-E-B-A-L-L-S? I knew you could. These so-called “experts” crack me up, they know about as much about memorabilia as I do about building a rocket (which by the way is next to nothing). They do KNOW however about trying to scam the public and make money doing so. Guys like this are the very reason I got out of the business of collecting any of that junk!!!

    Comment by Mike — June 12, 2014 @ 2:47 pm

  4. Looks like Lot 10…the replica/fake Ruth-Gehrig Ball has been removed from the Grey Flannel “Summer Games” sale.

    Comment by admin — June 13, 2014 @ 7:09 pm

  5. Russek lost in a nationally televised People’s Court action for authenticating a turn-back-the-clock Cal Ripkin uniform as game used when that game was cancelled and never replayed because of a chemical spill near the Camden Yards stadium. He and his company was adjudged by the court as being grossly negligent and the NY Daily News reported that Russek left court looking like a “whipped dog”. You should check this out for more background on how Grey Flannel was made to look incompetent on national TV.

    Comment by Concerned Collector — June 14, 2014 @ 1:27 am

  6. Good leg work as usual Pete and am glad to see that they have pulled the fakes and again, JSA Inc. have tried to screw John Q and again, got caught,good detective work and lets hope they get put out of business and save John Q a lot of money that would be spent for garbage.

    Comment by Herbie Buck — June 14, 2014 @ 1:59 pm

  7. It really boils down to this: If a collector really needs a LOA before he’ll buy an item, he should probably be collecting something else. Grey Flannel has made so many mistakes over the years I suppose they have to rely on the lesser-educated types out there with more money than sense. The autograph side of things is even worse, with mail order forensic degrees and fancy stationery, but little in the way of serious historical acumen.

    Comment by Nosebetter — June 14, 2014 @ 4:49 pm

  8. If I had a nickel for every fake jersey Grey Flannel authenticated I’d never have jumped off the Golden Gate.

    Comment by The Ghost of Duane Garrett — June 15, 2014 @ 12:49 pm

  9. Bidders in Grey Flannels auction apparently have great confidence in the company that just authenticated the fake Ruth and Gehrig signatures on a modern replica ball. The JSA certed 1927 Yankee photo is about to top $50,000.

    Comment by admin — June 16, 2014 @ 8:03 pm

  10. It’s a shame Richie is allowed to continue to infect the hobby with forgeries!

    Comment by Lee Trythall — June 22, 2014 @ 1:27 pm

  11. “It’s a shame Richie is allowed to continue to infect the hobby with forgeries!

    Comment by Lee Trythall”

    Wait a minute. Let’s hit the brakes. Are you the Lee Trythall of Coach’s Corner Auctions?

    Comment by Calling a spade a spade — June 27, 2014 @ 10:23 pm

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