Breaking News

By Peter J. Nash

May 2, 2018

The Spring auction season is here and so continues the proliferation into the marketplace of fakes authenticated by PSA/DNA. The most stunning examples are two forged checks touted to have been signed by ultra-rare HOFers John M. Ward and Eddie Plank which appear in the current Robert Edward Auctions catalog.

If they were genuine, both checks would be holy grails for collectors who specialize in collecting signed or endorsed checks. One of the top check collectors in the country told Hauls of Shame he’d consider paying up to $50,000 for a Plank check and up to $20,000 for a Ward. In its lot description REA claims that both examples of Plank and Ward are the only examples they have ever seen or are known to exist and are encapsulated and authenticated as genuine by PSA/DNA, the subsidiary of Collectors Universe (CLCT), which is headed by Joe Orlando. Both checks, however, are frauds.  The Ward check is a vintage yet worthless check from 1896 which features a forged John Ward signature (from the wrong era) as an irregular double endorsement. The Plank check (which is also laminated) is totally fraudulent as the forger merely typed Plank’s name on the front of the check and then forged his signature in pencil on the reverse. The check also includes a “smoking-gun stamp” which appears to further prove it is fraudulent.

The two bogus checks in the current REA sale were authenticated by James Spence (left) and Steve Grad (center) when they worked for Joe Orlando (right) at PSA/DNA.

Over the years, both phony checks have been authenticated by Steve Grad (now of Beckett Authentication) and James Spence (now of JSA Authentication) while they were both employees of PSA. These two checks would easily make the cut in an updated version of our Worst 100 Authentications by PSA and JSA.

Here’s why both checks are bogus:

John M. Ward

Ward’s handwriting changed after his playing career as his signature was signed quicker with a smaller size exhibited in all of the letters aside from the capital letters in his first, middle and last names. In the 1890s, however, Ward’s handwriting and signature contrasted later examples with fancier well constructed and flowing strokes with flourishes. Existing signatures of Ward on legal documents and correspondence. The forger of the Ward check in the REA auction made a critical mistake as he attempted to replicate Ward’s signature from the post 1910 era on a check dated from 1896. Authenticators at PSA should have easily detected this immediately but even if they didn’t they should have also detected that the later version signature exhibited many tell-tale signs of forgery when compared with genuine Ward signatures from 1910 through 1920. Authentic examples of Ward’s earlier handwriting only came to light in the past few decades and even Ron Keurajian’s autograph guide only illustrates examples of Ward’s later signature.

Here are authentic Ward signatures from the 1890s vs. the REA forged check:

The forged Ward signature from REA (bottom) features the attempted replication of Ward's post-1905 handwriting. The authentic exemplars (top) show how Ward's signature would look circa 1896. The contrast is considerable and should have been easy to detect for the PSA authenticators.

Here are some more examples:

More 1890s Ward signatures (including a legal document) show the striking contrast between genuine Ward signatures vs. the amateurish forgery certed by PSA.

This alleged Ward signed check first appeared in a MastroNet auction in 2000 with an LOAs from PSAs authenticators James Spence and Steve Grad and from Mike Guiterrez. Mastro claimed that it was the only Ward check known to exist. It was also during this time period that these same authenticators were also certifying secretarial signatures of Ward as genuine.

The bogus Ward check appeared previously in a Mastro sale c.2000 with an LOA from Jimmy Spence and Steve Grad from PSA.

Here are genuine Ward signatures from the 1905-1920 era which further expose the REA/PSA Ward as a forgery:

Authentic Ward signatures from the 1905-1920 era vs. the Ward forgery appearing for sale at REA.

After examining all of the bonifide authentic examples of Ward’s signature vs. the alleged Ward signature on the 1896 vintage bank check made out to someone other than John M. Ward, we conclude that the signature certified genuine by PSA is a forgery.

Eddie Plank

REAs Plank check was once a vintage blank bank check from the Pacific Bank in New York City. The check is similar to two other bogus Plank checks which were offered for sale in the 1990s. Both of those checks featured a similarly typed Plank name on the front of the check with a forged Plank signature on the back. The REA Plank check, however, should have recieved even more scrutiny from PSA being that the alleged Plank signature is signed in pencil which is highly irregular for an endorsement on a financial instrument.

The alleged Plank check features a red bank stamp from the Chelsea Exchange Bank at 1600 Broadway in NYC. The NY Times website, however, shows that the branch of the bank at 1600 Broadway was not operational until late June 1921 (Bottom). The Plank check shows a date in December 1920.

Furthermore, a check of the New York Times data base reveals that the stamped endorsement on the back of the Plank check proves beyond a shadow of a doubt the check is a forgery.  According to the Times, the Chelsea Exchange Bank branch at 1600 Broadway wasn’t operational until June of 1921, while the alleged check made out to Plank is dated December 16, 1920.

Despite all of this information, however, PSA only needed to compare the REA lot’s signature to the authentic Plank signatures on its Autograph Facts website to determine it is a forgery.

(Top) Forged Eddie Plank signature on REA check. (Bottom) Genuine Plank signature from a banquet program featured on the PSA Autograph Facts website page.

In addition, they could have easily compared the signature to the authentic examples from Plank’s 1915 last will and testament and 1917 draft card illustrated in Ron Keurajian’s book.

(Top) The alleged Plank signature on the REA check. (Middle) Plank's signature on his 1915 will. (Bottom) Plank signature on his 1917 draft card.

The Plank signature on the back of the REA check bears little resemblance to other verified genuine Plank signatures.  The REA example is signed slowly with hesitation and with the formation of letters uncharacteristic of Plank’s hand.  The forgery is so amateurish the forger likely utilized a non-genuine Plank signature as his exemplar to replicate the autograph.

These are two Eddie Plank endorsed check forgeries that were offered for sale to collectors in the 1990s. They are made out to Plank in typewritten form as is the bogus REA Plank check.

In particular, the forgery lacks the bold strokes and fluidity of Plank’s hand and the sharp, angular construction of letters exhibiting the distinctive slant Plank would execute.

PSA/DNAs authentication of this bogus Plank signature is another monumental embarrassment for the company operated by the public corporation Collectors Universe which has recently seen its stock price drop considerably by at least 50%.

Plank forgeries that have appeared in the infamous Coaches Corner auctions (above) are more well executed than the current PSA-certed Plank fake in the REA Spring sale.

The PSA authentication of the Plank forgery is an even greater embarrassment considering that the notorious Coaches Corner has sold forgeries which in comparison to the REA example look like forged masterpieces. This new episode just solidifies more the contention that anyone collecting rare HOFer autographs has to seriously question how many forgeries they have in their own collections which are accompanied by a PSA/DNA letter of authenticity. The fact that these items were considered authentic for decades, despite all of the red-flags suggesting forgery, is another great example of the house of cards that is third-party authentication.

PSA President Joe Orlando did not respond to our inquiry about his two controversial company authentications.  Robert Edward Auctions President and new owner, Brian Dwyer, also did not respond to our inquiry which included specific details regarding the two forgeries up for auction this weekend.  Dwyer has not pulled either lot with a $2,250 bid on the Plank check and a $3,750 bid on the Ward check.


11 Comments »

  1. …and the stink continues…

    Comment by Charlie Daniels — May 2, 2018 @ 8:52 am

  2. That “M” in John M. Ward is a dead giveaway.

    Comment by Hal Lewis — May 2, 2018 @ 9:09 am

  3. Collectors Universe is heavy into coins and the worst kept secret is young people are not into rare coins and the public has found out. I think it will tank to $7 a share. File under walking the plank in a corner with a coach.

    Comment by Mastronaut — May 2, 2018 @ 2:49 pm

  4. i guess the forger bought the wrong cancellation stamp in a second hand store and forgot to check that the bank at that location hadnt opened yet at the time the check was issued. what a dolt.

    Comment by Mr. check — May 2, 2018 @ 8:58 pm

  5. Most music-celebrity-sports cancelled checks have signatures on top of the bank routing addresses or stamped banking transactions….they should be on nothing at the time of signing. Easy to spot. All the Jim Morrison’s are fake.

    Comment by Mastronaut — May 4, 2018 @ 12:56 pm

  6. Looks like REA is keeping both fakes in the auction. Also noticed they havent recieved any more bids. Wonder if any idiots will still go after it. Looks like REA is the same old REA.

    Comment by Tom — May 4, 2018 @ 7:22 pm

  7. Actually it looks like tbe bid is up to $6,000 on the bogus Ward check.

    Comment by admin — May 5, 2018 @ 11:44 am

  8. As the REA auction winds up the bogus check of Plank has an alleged bid of $6000 and the Ward check $9000

    Comment by admin — May 6, 2018 @ 11:03 pm

  9. Did they sell?

    Comment by bill hedin — May 8, 2018 @ 6:50 pm

  10. The authentic John M. Ward signatures show a roundness and rhythm utterly lacking in the stiff, angular, semi-legible forgery. As for the Eddie Plank forgery . . . is someone supposed to fork over several thousand dollars for that?

    Comment by Linda Levitan — July 12, 2018 @ 5:48 pm

  11. The red stamp on the back of the Plank check…

    That is when the check was CASHED, not ISSUED.

    Couldn’t he have cashed it at a later date?

    You don’t have to cash a check a day or 2 after it was issued, correct?

    Comment by E S Plank — August 29, 2018 @ 12:01 pm

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