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By Peter J. Nash

Oct.  26, 2011

This alleged Ty Cobb single signed ball was sold by Colossal Auctions in their last sale.

 

A new auction house appears to have entered the fray and their wares have caught the eye of many seasoned collectors who are calling out most of their vintage and rare autographed materials as outright forgeries.

 Colossal Auctions of Fairview, Michigan, operates a website that fails to list the names of the principals of the business, but offers items allegedly signed by big names like Christy Mathewson, Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Cap Anson and Eddie Plank.  The auction house is offering signed baseballs, letters, Christmas cards and cut signatures galore from Hall of Famers that would surely command big bucks if they were genuine.

 Close inspection of each of their offerings reveals that collectors are correct in deeming the lots included in this Coach’s Corner-esque sale as bonafide fakes. Here’s a sampling of the items we found most disturbing:

1. A letter alleged to have been written to August Herrmann by Christy Mathewson in 1916.  Not only is this letter a forgery, it is a forgery of a letter, that if genuine, would have been stolen from the Baseball Hall of Fame’s famous August Herrmann Papers archive.  The HOF’s collection features all of the correspondence between Herrmann and Matty while he served as the Reds manager.  Looks like this forger hit into a double-play.

This forged Mathewson letter was being offered by Colossal Auctions. If it were genuine it would have been stolen from the Baseball Hall of Fame's Herrmann Papers collection.

Here is a genuine Matty letter written to Herrmann that was stolen from the Baseball Hall of Fame’s famous August Herrmann Papers archive housed at the National Baseball Library.  This authentic letter was sold by Barry Halper at his 1999 Sotheby’s sale and is currently the #9 entry on Haulsofshame.com’s10 Most Wanted Missing National Baseball Treasures List.”:

This is an authentic letter written by Christy Mathewson to August Herrmann that originates from the HOF's Herrmann archive.

2.  This forged Cap Anson letter also appeared on the current Colossal Auctions website:

This alleged Cap Anson letter appeared on the Colossal Auctions website.

Here is what an authentic Cap Anson letter actually looks like on Anson’s own letterhead :

This authentic letter was executed in the hand of Adrian C. "Cap" Anson.

3. This forged Ty Cobb letter appears in the current Colossal sale:

This Cobb forgery also appears in the current Colossal Auctions sale.

This is an authentic letter hand-written by Ty Cobb in his signature green ink:

This authentic letter written by Ty Cobb to HOF President Paul Kerr is suspected to have been wrongfully removed from the National Baseball Library.

While the major authentication companies would likely never certify these items and they would never make their way into one of the major auctions, Colossal does share at least one authentication with JSA and PSA.  Like Hunt Auctions and others, Colossal is offering a copy of Christy Mathewson’s Won in the Ninth as bearing an authentic Matty signature although it is believed to have been ghost-signed by someone other than Mathewson.

Colossal's auction also features a copy of Christy Mathewson's "Won in the Ninth" which is believed to have been ghost-signed.

The auction items pictured in this article were shown on the Colossal website earlier this week but it appears that, while most all lots are still open for bids, the images of the items have been removed from the site. It also appears that the Mathewson and Anson letters have vanished from the site.  The images of the items were saved from the Colossal website before they were removed.

In  regard to the authenticity of their items Colossal states on their website:

“We at Colossal Auctions strive to insure that all of the signed memorabilia we sell are genuine and meaningful, while keeping starting bids low for the average collector. Our Certificate of Authenticity (COA) will accompany all high-end autographs and offer a 100% lifetime money back guarantee. Many of the items we put up for auction already come with COA’s provided by our consignors as well.”

“Our own in-house examination starts out with a reference library of genuine quality exemplars as a basis for comparison. Then, under standard 600% magnification, we look for tell tale signs of stoppage of pen stroke, gaps, or uneven flow. We use standard examination criteria during the review. We have a strong reputation for identiying when something is not right. With our experience, expertise, and knowledge, we will render a fair, unbiased opinion. If we agree and concur that, in our opinion, the signature we examined is deemed authentic based on our parameters of acceptability, we will then offer that item for sale along with our COA. Our full refund guarantee and return policy for autographs purchased from us allows us to make genuine quality high-end autograph memorabilia available at reasonable prices  for collectors everywhere.”

Veteran dealer and authenticator Richard Simon summed up the appearance of Colossal Auctions best on Net54:

“This business and website is one of the stranger things in this hobby/business and that is saying something.”


12 Comments »

  1. Looking over a past auction and seeing how low a lot of the items went for i a major sign of things.

    Comment by Chris — October 26, 2011 @ 11:07 am

  2. When is that crazy YouTube guy from NJ who made the Coach’s Corner videos gonna go off on this place? Can’t wait!

    Comment by Barry Halper — October 26, 2011 @ 10:55 pm

  3. The auction looks like it took down all of the photos for all of the auction lots?????? They do picture a Mathewson check though, and that looks like the letter.

    Comment by Howard — October 27, 2011 @ 8:27 am

  4. If Colossal has COA’s and stands by a money back guarantee if any COA is found to be invalid, then what’s the problem? Either the buyer gets what he paid for or he gets his money back if the piece isn’t genuine (or, if the price the buyer paid is really low, then he got what he paid for). Obviously, no one should sell stolen property, but if there is a dispute about what’s genuine, isn’t a COA and a money back guarantee enough to allow for such problems that may arise?

    Comment by Joe Schmo — October 27, 2011 @ 8:55 am

  5. So I can sell fakes as long as I refund people who complain?

    Comment by krayt — October 27, 2011 @ 12:25 pm

  6. Krayt – good point, but that’s not what I’m saying. It seems to me that if you get items reasonably authenticated, you can sell them and let the buyer beware that the authentication may not be accurate. We all know that authenticators can’t guarantee authenticity. I fully agree that a sham authentication can’t permit someone to legitimately sell what they know or believe to be fakes, but I highly doubt that’s what Colossal is doing.

    Comment by Joe Schmo — October 27, 2011 @ 1:22 pm

  7. Had to look at thier site. Peter, you have been called Shameful and even worse a blogger. I would laugh if it wasn’t so serious.

    Comment by Gregg G — October 28, 2011 @ 12:42 pm

  8. Colossal also claims their customers have been blocked from leaving comments although none of their customers have left any comments. They have claimed to leave comments but actually sent emails to us on our “contacts” section.

    We recieved only one email from a Nancy Brazzil or Nancy Lelito who said:

    Comments/Questions My husband and I are from Michigan and are avid collectors. We attended the last 3 Colossal Auctions and previews. At no time was there ever a Mathewson or Anson letter offer for bid or in their catalog list in any of their auctions. There may have been some questionable items out of the 200, but nothing as blatant as Nash is suggesting. Someone at Haulsofshame.com was given the wrong information. Shame on the haulofshame. It seems that Nash is setting himself up for a lawsuit.

    Comment by admin — October 28, 2011 @ 2:20 pm

  9. I see, Joe, and certainly didn’t mean to come off as insulting or anything. I thought you meant it would be reasonable even if they used a clown like Morales. I’m braindead this week.

    Comment by krayt — October 28, 2011 @ 8:15 pm

  10. Colossal!!!!!!!

    Comment by chris a — October 29, 2011 @ 3:58 pm

  11. On Net54 Richard Simon mentions an email in which Colossal says they use Morales as an authenticator:

    Yet when their return policy was questioned via e mail, Rick Be from Colossal stated in an e mail:

    “We issue our own COA with a 100% money back guarantee. If you wanted to get a another third party opinion, we would suggest using AAU, ACE or Morales Forensics. If you got a negative opinion from any 3rd party authenticator you choose, we have the right to challenge that with a different 3rd party authentication also. We would probably choose Morales Forensics.”

    So they are “educating” the collector about various COA’s on ebay yet they would probably choose a 3rd party authenticator who is on the ebay banned list.
    To sum it up,, if you buy something from them and you send it to PSA, JSA, me, David, Keating or anyone else and we do not think it is authentic then in order for you to get a refund, you have to wait for them to send the item to someone else. That would probably be Morales Forensics, and if MF says it is authentic then you are the owner of it, along with a COA from MF and a turndown letter from another 3rd party authenticator.

    Comment by admin — October 29, 2011 @ 4:26 pm

  12. According to the website of Colossal Auctions, they have now changed their refund policy.
    This is now on their website:

    “Return and Refund Policies

    Colossal Auctions certification is all you’ll need to ensure the authenticity of your
    autographed item. We will issue our COA if applicable, and stand behind every autograph
    sold, as unconditionally guaranteed genuine. Our money back guarantee on autographs entitles the winning bidder to receive a refund of the winning bid price. The item must be returned to us within 45 days from the date of purchase, along with a written statement submitted by a reputable independent 3rd party authenticator or forensic examiner, stating the reasons why they did not wish to render an opinion as to the authenticity of the submitted piece. This guarantee does not apply to non-autographed items.
    We assume no liability on any loss allegedly sustained resulting from a differing opinion by any other independent third party authenticator on any autograph that is deemed genuine by us or any other third party authenticator.”

    Comment by Richard Simon — October 31, 2011 @ 9:26 am

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