July 28, 2011
Baseball Digest writer Mark Healey wrote a column today attempting to discredit the story I co-wrote with Brad Hamilton for the New York Post about the Barry Halper memorabilia scandal. Healey begins his article with a reference to an on-going legal battle I’ve had with what he refers to as an “auction house that represented Barry Halper” and suggests that the existence of this litigation somehow taints the facts and allegations reported. He also references an online article written on SI.com (not in Sports Illustrated) about my battle with this auction house, an article which was solicited to a freelance writer by my adversary, Rob Lifson, the person who heads the auction house I am involved in litigation with. Without reporting the full story, he states that I “admitted in publicly-filed court papers to committing fraud against the very same auction house.”
In that case, which was decided by a stipulation of settlement, the court transcript shows that the Judge and my attorney in the the case stated on the record that no fraud or the intent to defraud had been proven in the court proceedings. Despite that fact, in order to settle the case, which involved promissory notes I had executed to the auction house in excess of $750,000, opposing counsel demanded that an admission to fraud be made in the stipulation of settlementso that it would not be possible for me to declare bankruptcy and avoid paying the judgment rendered. The stipulation of settlement also stated that the auction house could sell my collateral consisting of baseball memorabilia to satisfy the judgement that that Mr. Healy reports as $760,000. Soon after the judgement was entered that collection of material was sold by the same auction house for over $500,000, which paid down the judgment considerably. It should also be noted that the same auction house made claims challenging the authenticity of items in that collection. Despite these claims, Rob Lifson sold the entire group of material to a collector who states that Lifson positively promoted the items and touted them as historically significant. When asked by the buyer if there were any items he could point to that were deemed inauthentic, Lifson told him he was not aware of any. The auction house also charged the buyer a premium of nearly $100,000 as a sellers fee, which was not credited against my judgement.
Healey also states that I have an “outstanding warrant for (my) arrest related to the judgement” and he also included a misleading statement by Barry Halper’s son in which he refers to me as a “biased fugitive.” The said warrant is a civil (not criminal) warrant only in Somerset County, NJ, and related only to discovery and document production in the case with the auction house and the collection of their judgement.
Based upon the existence of these issues, Mr. Healey states that in regard to the reporting about Barry Halper I am a “less credible journalist” and that, “There is not a single shred of evidence that exists that would allow anyone, least of all a journalist, make these accusations. Each one is laughable.”
In his article Healey fails to mention the multiple investigative reports I have published on my website Haulsofshame.com and repeats false assertions in concert with statements he published from Halper’s son, Jason Halper. While Mr. Healey makes the claim that the New York Post article is a “sloppily-put together expose,” he fails to mention the original long form version of the article on Haulsofshame.com and an excerpted version on Deadspin. In fact, the New York Post contacted me with interest in the story after they read the article on Deadspin.
Healey takes issue with this quote from the New York Post article:
“The FBI already has carted away photos and documents from Halper’s collection that were allegedly swiped from the Boston Public Library, but not before some of the artifacts were auctioned by Sotheby’s in 1999 as part of a $30 million sale.”
Healey disputes the statement in the Post and claims, ”No, they did not.”
To the contrary, after Barry Halper died and his widow consigned the remaining Halper Collection to Rob Lifson and Robert Edward Auctions in 2006, I was the one who spotted Halper’s consigned items that were stolen from the New York Public Library and Boston Public Library. The items had visible library ownership marks that had been defaced. I informed auctioneer Lifson that they were stolen items and proceeded to report the items to both libraries. Subsequently, the New York office of the FBI took into their possesssion at least one NYPL item, a 19th century CDV photo of sporting goods king Andrew Peck, and the Boston Public Library recovered their items directly from the auction house and the Halper Estate. Despite that incident, the 2007 Halper auction at REA also included another stolen photo of Andrew Peck and at least another that fit the description of an item on NYPL’s “Missing List.”
Healey disputes that stolen items were included in the 1999 Halper sale at Sotheby’s, however, reports we have published in the past year show that many items confirmed to have been stolen from the New York Public Library and Boston Public Library were owned and sold by Halper. These items included documents from the NYPL’s Harry Wright Correspondence scrapbooks, including an 1875 letter that awarded Boston the championship, and rare photographs of the 1889 and 1892 Boston teams that were stolen from the BPL’s famous M. T. McGreevy Collection of Baseball Pictures. Many of these items are featured on our Halper Hot 100 List.
Mr. Healey also declines to mention that in the SI.com article he references, Rob Lifson, of REA admits to having been apprehended while attempting to steal multiple rare photographs from the NYPL collection. Mr. Lifson also confessed a decade ago to this writer but gave a conflicting story about attempting to steal only one ”CDV” photograph from the library. Mr. Healey also fails to mention that Mr. Lifson was one of Barry Halper’s top sources for material and was Halper’s hand-picked consultant for the 1999 sale of his collection at Sotheby’s. Lifson also was responsible for hiring authenticators for the Sotheby’s sale and claims to have written all of the lot descriptions (including the lots that included fake, stolen and misrepresented items.) While Healey repeats the unsourced claim that I am the subject of an FBI investigation, it is Rob Lifson, along with Halper, who is another prime suspect in the FBI investigation into the thefts at the NYPL.
Mr. Healey, based on a statement made to him by Halper’s son, Jason, also gives credence to claims that an 1865 letter-press document written by Alexander Joy Cartwright Jr. was not stolen from the State Archives of Hawaii. Halper writes the false claim, “Those accusations are pure nonsense.” Mr. Healey and Mr. Halper can contact the Archives in Hawaii to confirm the accurate and verifiable claim made in the New York Post. A Haulsofshame.com article about the same missing letter was published in 2010. Evidence of letters sent by the Archives of Hawaii proving that the letter was still in their collection as of 1989 have been documented and the State of Hawaii records indicate that the original 1865 letter Halper sold was never de-acquisitioned, as some have erroneously stated in the collecting community throughout the years.
Additionally, in the article from June 8, 2010 we reported:
Chief of the archives’ historical records branch, Luella Kurkjian, confirmed the theft and noted that the letter to DeBost was “removed quite expertly.” Six pages, numbered 26-31, were removed from the letter press volume in the archive, including the three page DeBost letter. Kurkjian indicated that the apparent theft was something that might fall under the jurisdiction of Hawaii’s Attorney General.
Healey also takes issue with this claim in the Post article:
“When tracking the stolen items, all roads seem to lead to Barry Halper,” said a source familiar with an ongoing FBI probe of the New York theft.”
In fact, this statement published in the Post was the product of conversations with an individual quite familiar with the status of the on-going FBI investigation.
While Jason Halper disputes these claims in the New York Post article, he fails to provide any explanations for the well documented public lies made by his father, Barry Halper, in regard to his acquisitions of rare baseball uniforms and jerseys. In particular, the alleged 1919 “Shoeless” Joe Jackson jersey sold to MLB and the Hall of Fame for at least $1 million was alleged to have been purchased from Jackson’s widow in the 1950s. When the New York Post reported last October that the Baseball Hall of Fame’s testing of the Halper jersey determined it was a forgery utilizing materials not developed until the 1940s, Jason Halper stated my claims that ten percent of his father’s collection was bogus were “baseless.”
Jason Halper states to Baseball Digest:
When certain items were said to be replicas and not originals, he either did not sell them or he expressly relabled them as replicas without dispute. This includes the Ty Cobb, Pud Galvin, Mickey Mantle, and Babe Ruth uniforms referenced by Mr. Nash in his article.
Halper fails to note that these items were never created as ”replicas,” instead, they were forgeries held out for sale as genuine. In fact, Barry Halper, publicly stated in The Sporting News and other publications his acquisition stories of these items from legendary figures like Yankee clubhouse man Pete Sheehy, the daughter of one of Babe Ruth’s teammates and a man named Ollie O’Mara, whose son today claims that Halper never purchased any uniforms from him, let alone Pud Galvin’s. The Ruth and Mantle jerseys referenced by Jason Halper were the centerpieces of the Halper Collection and featured prominently in the 1989 documentary film about Halper’s trove. The Mickey Mantle rookie jersey was part of MLB’s multi-million dollar purchase in 1998 and was featured prominently in their official press release and in the Hall of Fame’s brochure for the Halper Gallery. Rob Lifson and REA sold the exact same jersey for Halper’s widow as a “replica” in 2007 after the Hall had returned it as a counterfeit, not a replica.
When Halper sold his collection at Sotheby’s in 1999 scores of counterfeit jerseys were sold as “authentic” for hundreds of thousands of dollars. What’s Jason Halper’s response to the collectors who purchased the bogus jerseys of Hall of Famers including: John McGraw, Jimmy Collins, Hughie Jennings, Wilbert Robinson, Buck Ewing, Joe McGinnity, Ed Delahanty, Mickey Mantle, Stan Musial and others?
The Baseball Digest writer also challenges the truth of this Post claim:
“But Halper didn’t just buy fakes and pass them off as real. He allegedly paid people to back his lies about how he acquired some pieces, and he’s the primary suspect in a notorious heist of the New York Public Library’s Fifth Avenue branch, where $1 million worth of letters to baseball pioneer Harry Wright and other scrapbook entries vanished in the 1970s.”
Healey relies on repeating the false assertions of Barry Halper’s son to conclude he believes that the published statements are “laughable.”
Sadly, for Halper’s family, they are not. This writer has conducted interviews for an upcoming book that reveal the most troubling aspects of the Halper memorabilia scandal, which Healey refutes above.
A descendant of a Baseball Hall of Famer has confirmed that Barry Halper did, in fact, pay one of his relatives to write a fraudulent letter of provenance for an item Halper, himself, manufactured.
In addition, in an interview with a former Halper customer with close ties to the Baseball Hall of Fame, it was revealed that Barry Halper himself once bragged about being responsible for orchestrating the million-dollar thefts at the New York Public Library in the 1970’s. In the late 1970’s Halper also told the Sporting News he owned the Harry Wright correspondence collection.
The numerous investigative reports published by Haulsofshame.com have been viewed by many in the baseball community who have come to their own conclusions. One of them is ex-Commissioner and Honorary Director of the Baseball Hall of Fame, Fay Vincent, who was quoted in the Deadspin article, stating:
“Given the evidence that has come to light in the past several years, the Hall of Fame should immediately reconsider the naming of that gallery to honor Barry Halper. I do not think he deserves the honor.”
Vincent was referring to the Barry Halper Gallery space at the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York. The Gallery was marked with a display plaque honoring Halper and his collection. This writer visited the Hall of Fame this past Sunday on 2011 Induction Day and saw that the Barry Halper Gallery appears to have vanished. The plaque that once hung on the wall outside the space has been replaced by a sign indicating it is now a “Learning Center” that was formerly located on the museum’s third floor. The Halper Gallery was also removed from the new visitor floor plan brochure given to tourists. The space that was listed as “Halper Gallery” on the most recent brochure is now listed as “Learning Center.”
Calls to Hall of Fame spokesperson Brad Horn regarding the disappearance of the Halper Gallery were not returned.
Pioneering baseball historian Dorothy Seymour Mills is quite familiar with the Halper saga and the thefts from the New York Public Library. Mills helped the FBI establish the NYPL provenance of actual documents she worked with at the library in the 1950s- some of the same items that appeared and were sold by Barry Halper in his 1999 sale at Sotheby’s. Mills has reviewed much of the evidence regarding the Halper collection and its fraudulent and stolen items and has kept in touch with the FBI as their investigation into the NYPL thefts continues.
When we contacted Mills today and informed her of Jason Halper’s claims that allegations made against his father were false Mills responded, “The evidence against Halper seems overwhelming. Peter Nash’s persistence, together with the work of other investigators and the FBI, have made this a convincing story.”