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By Peter J. Nash
Feb. 15, 2018

When Steve Grad was the senior authenticator at PSA/DNA he was responsible for numerous authentications of bogus materials which were featured in our Worst 100 Authentications report in 2012. Since that report was published, Grad has moved on to become the senior authenticator at Beckett Authentication Services, however, his certification of fakes has continued.

Back in 2014 we also published a report detailing how Grad and PSA/DNA had certified numerous forgeries of the rare and valuable signature of the Baseball Hall of Famer Jesse Burkett on baseballs, B&W Hall of Fame plaques and other mediums.  In the report entitled, Bit by the Crab, we highlighted Grad’s ineptitude and his fraudulent authentications of items which were known to be, in fact, bogus.  This fraudulent activity has apparently followed Grad to Beckett as he has authenticated yet another Burkett forgery which, oddly enough, was also stolen from the collection of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

The letter dated in 1935 is from Burkett to National League President Ford Frick thanking him for the gift of an MLB Lifetime Pass.  The letter was originally part of the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Ford Frick file which contains scores of similar letters thanking Frick for these passes. In 2012, HOS published an in-depth report regarding the thefts of dozens of these documents signed by Hall of Famers from the National Baseball Library.  Oddly enough, the majority of the Frick letters that remain in the HOFs Library collection were penned by non-Hall of Famers which are far less valuable.  The collection once had two thank you letters to Frick from Jesse Burkett and they both somehow ended up in the collection of the late collector Barry Halper.  Halper was the owner of scores of items stolen from the Baseball Hall of Fame, New York Public Library and Boston Public Library which all appeared in the 1999 Sotheby’s sale of his collection. In the catalog for that sale is also the ultimate proof demonstrating that the letter currently being sold by Ken Goldin of Goldin Auctions (authenticated by Steve Grad and Beckett) is not genuine and merely a secretarial signature of the baseball legend who hailed from Worcester, MA.

Lots 1069 and 1220 in the Halper sale were both sold as genuine Jesse Burkett signed letters. One was a handwritten authentic example and the second was the letter currently being sold by Goldin Auctions and authenticated by Steve Grad and Beckett as authentic.  The contrast between the two Burkett signatures is striking and should have raised red flags for even an amateur authenticator.  Burkett was known to utilize secretarial signatures throughout his career and it appears that the Goldin Auctions example is nothing more than a secretarial example of the baseball legends scrawl. Any alleged expert could have determined this simply by examining the 1999 Sotheby’s catalog. When we showed both Burkett letters to author Ron Keurajian he said of the Goldin letter, “It appears to be just a secratarial signature.”  The Burkett letters in the Halper sale were authenticated by Mike Gutierrez (currently of Heritage Auctions) who is the prime suspect in the thefts of documents from the National Baseball Library in Cooperstown. The secretarial Burkett letter Gutierrez certified authentic was just one of scores of fakes and frauds sold at Sotheby’s by Halper and his auction consultant Rob Lifson.

Here is the authentic Burkett letter from the Halper sale:

Lot 1220 from the 1999 Sotheby's Halper Sale- an authentic signed letter by Jesse Burkett

Here is the secretarial signed letter in the current Goldin Auction:

Lot 1069 in the 1999 Sotheby's Halper Sale- a letter with a secreterial signature of Jesse Burkett

In our previous Burkett report we went into great detail illustrating the history of the flawed and fraudulent authentications of Burkett material by both Steve Grad and Jimmy Spence of JSA. For the purposes of this report in illustrating Grad’s current flub, it was only necessary for us to refer to Ron Keurajian’s book, Baseball Hall of Fame Autographs: A Reference Guide (McFarland 2012), which clearly identifies what a genuine Burkett signature would have looked like later in his life between 1917 and 1935.  One of the exemplars utilized by Keurajian in the book is a 1917 employment contract between Burkett and the College of the Holy Cross.  The signature on this document is clearly in the same hand as the Burkett letter sold as lot 1220 in the 1999 Halper sale and bears no resemblance to the signature featured on the letter authenticated by Grad and Beckett.

Here is the 1917 Burkett signature found in the Holy Cross Archives:

This is an authentic Jesse Burkett signature on his 1917 employment contract with Holy Cross. (Courtesy of the Archives of the College of the Holy Cross)

Beckett and Grad could have avoided this authentication error by purchasing a copy of Ron Keurajian’s book which provides iron clad exemplars of the Burkett signature.  It is suspected, however, that with the evidence so overwhelming that the Goldin example is bogus, that Grad and Beckett may have fraudulently authenticated an item which they know is a fake in order to aid a friendly consignor and auction house in completing a sale. The authentication of this item also illustrates the problem of collusion between auctioneers and authenticators. Many of Goldin’s authenticators have also ignored iron-clad evidence of forgery in the past, one good example being the sales of a bogus letters of boxer Rocky Marciano. The Goldin auction also includes another Grad authenticated baseball that appears to be non-genuine- an alleged Lefty Grove signed ball.  There is also what appears to be a forgery of a Cy Young signature on a ball with an LOA signed by Grad’s old boss at PSA/DNA, Joe Orlando.

Authentic Jesse Burkett letters are extremely rare and the majority of genuine examples are housed in the HOFs August Hermann Papers Collection.  Several other secretarial examples of Burkett’s signature are found in the Herrmann Papers and some of those examples have also been stolen and made there way into the market via dealers like Mark Jordan who is also a consignment director at Heritage Auctions.

Ron Keurajian's book includes verified examples of Jesse Burkett's signature that expose Steve Grad's flawed and perhaps fraudulent authentication of the letter being sold by Ken Goldin.

When asked for further comment Keurajian directed us to passages regarding secretarial Burkett signatures in his book which states, “Burkett made liberal use of secretaries to sign his name. They look nothing like the illustrated specimens.” Keurajian confirmed that this is specifically the case with the example being sold at Goldin Auctions.

Top: Secreterial Burkett Signature Middle: Genuine Burkett signature on 1935 letter. Bottom: Genuine Burkett signature on 1917 contract.

Goldin Auctions did not respond to our inquiry for comment regarding Beckett’s authentication of the bogus Burkett signature.

Grad has long been a controversial figure in the hobby having claimed that his mentor was Bill Mastro the disgraced auctioneer who was recently released from prison after doing time for engaging massive auction fraud.  As chronicled in our previous reports on Grad he is also infamous for fabricating his own resume and for lying under oath in hobby related court-ordered depositions. Beckett Authentication Services did not respond to our request for comment. The Beckett LOA accompanying the bogus Burkett letter also lists Brian Sobrero as a Beckett authenticator.

The stolen 1875 letter being sold as lot 11 at Goldin Auctions (left). The research notes of historians Dr. Harold Seymour and Dorothy Mills (right) proved the letter was once property of the NYPL.

STAY TUNED for another report regarding Lot 11 in the current Goldin sale which was stolen from the New York Public Library’s famed Spalding Collection. The letter was torn from one of the missing volumes of Harry Wright Scrapbooks and is documented as NYPL property by the original research notes written by Dr. Harold Seymour and Dorothy Mills when they held this same letter in their hands at the NYPL in the 1950s, before it was stolen.  The 1875 letter has been featured on our “10 Most Wanted Missing Baseball Treasures List” since 2010.

UPDATE: A report published at AutographPlanet.com by Stephen Koschal chronicles some recent authentication blunders made by Steve Grad at a show in California.


13 Comments »

  1. Damn. Been out of the biz for so long, sad to hear this.

    Comment by Kenji — February 15, 2018 @ 2:28 pm

  2. Outstanding work Peter

    The stink continues…

    Comment by Charlie Daniels — February 15, 2018 @ 6:44 pm

  3. On multiple occasions, Grad was offered a great deal for this publicity craving authenticator. He was offered to attend a private interview on camera at a place of HIS CHOICE. No expense to him at his convenience. The interview would take about an hour and would be published. No response from Grad, wonder why???????

    Comment by autographplanet — February 15, 2018 @ 6:54 pm

  4. Are we to believe the bogus Burkett letter actually got more bids after this article was published? Are collectors that stupid or is Ken Goldin just working overtime keeping Bill Mastro’s legacy alive.

    Comment by Tom — February 18, 2018 @ 12:17 am

  5. There might be more to Kenny Goldin than we know.

    ‘No, there’s less.’

    Comment by Newman — February 18, 2018 @ 1:07 pm

  6. Having read this I thought it was extremely enliցhtеning.
    I appreciate you taking the time and effort to put this short article tօgether.

    I once again find myself personally spending a ѕignificant
    amount of time both reading and commenting. But so what,
    it was still worthwhile!

    Comment by galilean — February 20, 2018 @ 5:54 pm

  7. Was not Grad at the Hollywood Show stickering stuff he said originally was garbage? Halper/Mastro/Goldin/Grad/Myron…..remember in ‘93 when they were all gods?

    Comment by Mastronaut — February 21, 2018 @ 3:16 pm

  8. Be careful with those shitty Beckett COAs by Steve Grad. There are masses of fake Harrison Ford signatures authenticated by Grad. Just a shame since he proclaimed herself als the worlds leading Harrison Ford Expert.

    Comment by Spock — March 6, 2018 @ 10:09 am

  9. Be careful with those shitty Beckett COAs by Steve Grad. There are masses of fake Harrison Ford signatures authenticated by Grad. Just a shame since he proclaimed himself as the worlds leading Harrison Ford Expert.

    Comment by Spock — March 6, 2018 @ 10:10 am

  10. Grad the MF authenticated and found later a fake Adolph Hitler.

    I live in Brooklyn NY the nerve of that guy.

    Comment by caim greenberg — March 29, 2018 @ 12:44 am

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