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By Peter J. Nash

December 4, 2013

UPDATE: #101: Fox-Philly Fools PSA/DNA & Jimmy Spence with a Phony Mike Schmidt. Click here for video.

Third-Party Authentication giants PSA/DNA and JSA have cornered the market as the official “alleged experts” endorsed by the major sports and collectibles auction houses and even the online auction giant eBay.  PSA/DNA’s lead authenticator, Steve Grad, has even snagged a spot on the History Channel’s hit show Pawn Stars as their new-preferred on-air expert for autographed materials.

The TPA’s are advertised as the gold standard of an autograph industry fraught with fraud, deception and forgery.  In the past even the FBI has claimed that over 50% of the signed collectibles in the marketplace are counterfeits. That being said, the so-called TPA experts claim to have decades of “hobby experience” and special skills that qualify them to both approve and reject anything and everything that comes their way ranging from books signed by Pablo Picasso to dumbells signed by Babe Ruth.

But do the TPA’s live up to their press clippings and endorsements from auction heads who pay for their services and at the same time advertise on the TPA websites?  The incestuous relationship between the auctioneers and the authenticators has been in place ever since Bill Mastro hired autograph dealers Steve Grad and Jimmy Spence to work for Mastro Fine Sports Auctions as authenticators back when he ruled the hobby with an iron fist.  Mastro even bought out Grad’s “entire inventory” of autographed material when he hired him.  Adding to the incestuous nature of the relationship, Grad and Spence went on to authenticate their own items being sold by Mastro.

Years before Mastro plead guilty to one count of mail fraud and trimming the now infamous Honus Wagner card, he was formulating a system to help protect himself and his fellow auctioneers by establishing and promoting the TPA system.  His goal was to create an authentication policy that protects the auction house or seller from any liability whatsoever when selling bogus autographed materials.  Likewise, taking Mastro’s lead, the TPA’s have also shielded themselves from any liability by stating that their LOA’s are nothing more than an opinion and guarantee absolutely nothing.  For Mastro and his fellow auctioneers the scheme was pure genius.

Over the years the TPA’s have dodged lots of bullets and even survived a not too flattering report published in Barons in 2006 called “Kinda Sorta Genuine.”  In that report Barons writer Neil Harris described how a Philadelphia FOX-TV affiliate taped then-PSA/DNA expert Jimmy Spence authenticating an alleged Mike Schmidt autograph that had actually been created by a FOX artist.  Examining the signature Spence opined, “Very, very typical of the way he would sign.  Good speed, good letter formation, and reflects authority and spontaneity.” When Spence was then told on camera it was created by a graphic artist who forged Schmidt’s signature, he told FOX: “He did a fine job.”

Barons detailed litigation against PSA regarding controversial authentications and noted in its headline: “Sometimes Even The Experts Can Be Fooled.”  Nearly a decade after that article was published confidence in the TPA’s appears to be waning as even eBay’s lead fraud investigator, John Gonzales, has voiced his own opinion about the TPA’s, headed by Joe Orlando and Jimmy Spence, stating in an email obtained by Haulsofshame.com: “I know PSA Sucks, JSA too.

Say it ain’t so, Joe (Orlando).  What about your motto, “Never get cheated”?  Sure, PSA and JSA can pick out obvious Pud Galvin and Old Hoss Radbourn forgeries in the Guinness World Record “Little Cooperstown” exhibit in Florida, but what about the “100 Worst” gems in this report?

An individual who identified himself as a former JSA employee recently told Haulsofshame.com:  ”James Spence Authentication is a scam.  Pure and simple.  The so-called “authenticators” working for JSA  have had no formal training in the area in which they claim to be professionals.”

Jimmy Spence and Steve Grad started together as alleged experts for PSA/DNA and were featured in advertisements like the one above as "Pillars of Integrity" with over "40 years combined expertise in the industry."

A group of several highly competent experts we spoke to agree with Gonzales’ opinion and the views of the JSA employee and believe that people are getting cheated more than ever as the TPA’s issue countless worthless LOA’s tantamount to counterfeit currency.  All we can do is refer collectors, dealers and law enforcement to the alleged crime scene evidence-It’s all here, everything from the Nimitz Nazi signature fiasco on eBay to the infamous Sal Bando video on FOX. We’ll let our readers decide.

Quoting the JSA and PSA/DNA LOA’s the following represents the “considered opinion” of Hauls of Shame and several experts in the industry we consulted with.  Like both JSA and PSA/DNA, Hauls of Shame offers this “Worst 100″ adhering to (verbatim) the same principles included in the terms and conditions of every JSA and PSA/DNA submission:

“Certification and authentication involves an individual judgment that is subjective and requires the exercise of professional opinion, which can change from time to time.  Therefore, (HOS) makes no warranty or representation and shall have no liability whatsoever to (the reader) for the opinion rendered by (HOS) to any submission.”

THE WORST 100 AUTHENTICATION BLUNDERS MADE BY PSA/DNA & JSA:

Compliments of Steve Grad and James “Jimmy” Spence Jr.

1.  The Magically Appearing Honus Wagner Autograph & The Trimmed PSA-8 Gretzky-McNall T206 Honus Wagner (Tie)-

When it first appeared in a Mastro auction in 1999, Honus Wagner’s alleged signature on a 1939 Baseball Hall of Fame Induction first-day cover was so light it was barely visible to authenticators Jimmy Spence and Mike Gutierrez who graded it a 2 out of 10.  But three years later when the same item was consigned to Robert Edward Auctions the Wagner signature had miraculously darkened and Spence noted it was now an 8 out of 10.  Spence did not, however, note that when he had authenticated the item previosly he could barely see the signature.  The “magical Wagner autograph” transformation is reminiscent of the PSA-8 T206 Honus Wagner card that PSA graded before they were writing LOA’s for autographs.

Last summer (and in Court this past October) ex-hobby kingpin Bill Mastro (above) admitted to trimming and altering the famous card some time after he and his partner, Rob Lifson, purchased the card in a Long Island card shop in 1985.  In addition, PSA grader Bill Hughes once told the New York Daily News that he knew the card was trimmed at the time it was graded in 1992.  Appearing on an ESPN 30 for 30 documentary, PSA founder David Hall says he graded the card and that he didn’t believe it was trimmed.  Several sources say Hall is lying and that the grading of the trimmed Wagner shows that the authentication giant’s reputation was founded on a fraud.  The authenticated enhancements of Honus’ signature and his tobacco card speak volumes about the company that claims to have authenticated over 20 million collectibles to date.  In both cases, the authenticators made egregious errors, however, it is believed that PSA graders knew the T206 Wagner card was trimmed prior to examination and that Jimmy Spence of PSA/DNA turned a blind eye to the “magical appearance” of Honus Wagner’s signature on the Cooperstown cover sold by Robert Edward Auctions.

2.  The Misspelled and Bogus $35,000 “Ed D-e-l-e-h-a-n-t-y” Letter-

Both PSA and JSA wrote letters of authenticity for a misspelled signature of Hall of Famer Big Ed Delahanty (above left).  The signature appeared on a  letter sold by Hunt Auctions which originated from the archives of the Hillerich & Bradsby Bat Company in Louisville, Kentucky, but the letter was actually written by Delahanty’s manager Billy Shettsline who incorrectly spelled the slugger’s name, D-e-l-e-h-a-n-t-y.  Although an authentic example of Delahanty’s signature originating from surviving Delahanty relatives (above right) was published in 2002 by his biographer, Dr. Jerrold Casway, Jimmy Spence of JSA and Steve Grad of PSA authenticated the letter although it did not resemble the players authentic handwriting.  Based upon the flawed authentication by both companies a collector purchased the bogus letter for over $35,000 and when it was later included in an REA auction, it was withdrawn from the sale after Casway went as far as proving that the real Ed Delahanty was in Cleveland on the day that the secretarial letter was written in Philadelphia by Shettsline.

In 2012, a relative of Delahanty and his biographer consigned to Legendary Auctions an authentic envelope from 1903 addressed to “Mrs. Ed J. Delahanty” which was executed in Delahanty’s own hand (above right).  Hunt Auctions was presented with a photocopy of this envelope when they sold the bogus letter and it was also illustrated in Casway’s biography, Ed Delahanty in The Emerald Age of Baseball, published in 2006.  When Legendary submitted the envelope for authentication Jimmy Spence of JSA wrote an LOA certifying it as Delahanty’s genuine signature while Steve Grad and PSA declined to render an opinion on the item although they examined the original authentic document in person.  The rare and authentic Delahanty signature sold for under $20,000, almost half the price that the fake and mispelled “Delehanty” letter had sold for six years prior.

3.  The Al Pacino-Al Ruddy Signed “Godfather” Script Fiasco On Pawn Stars-

PSA/DNA authenticator John Reznikoff appeared on the hit TV show Pawn Stars and authenticated a Godfather movie script he said was signed by actor Al Pacino.  But when watching the episode along with several million viewers autograph aficionado Todd Meuller and Godfather movie producer Al Ruddy recognized that the script was not signed by Pacino, but rather by Al Ruddy.  Despite that fact, Reznikoff told Rick Harrison, “All of the signatures that I’ve seen of Pacino, they have that little extra loop in the middle–that loop is there and the way it connects to the “L” is consistent with his known signature.  So, I would say based on the circumstances, this is Al Pacino’s signature.”

4.  The Signed Photo of Jimmy Collins That Is Misspelled, Bogus And NOT Even A Photo Of Jimmy Collins-

PSA’s online reference resource known as “Autograph Facts” features an alleged inscribed photo of Boston Red Sox legend Jimmy Collins but the photograph features a portrait of a man who is clearly not Jimmy Collins and has the first name misspelled “Jimmie” in the inscription.  Despite these facts, PSA still holds this bogus item out as authentic on the “Autograph Facts” page for Collins.  If legitimate, a signed Collins photo would be worth over $25,000.

5.  The Infamous Admiral Nimitz Letter Signed 10 Years After He Died-

Both Jimmy Spence and Steve Grad authenticated a letter actually signed by Nazi General Karl Donitz as a genuine letter signed by Admiral Nimitz (above, top left).  Both worked at the time for PSA/DNA and their LOA (center) noted the document was signed by Nimitz despite the fact it looked nothing like a genuine Nimitz signature (above, bottom left).  Not only did it not resemble a Nimitz signature, the document was dated in 1945, and the signature dated in 1976, ten years after Nimitz died.  A genuine Donitz signature is also found on his portrait above (right).  Autograph Alert reported:

“We start by going to eBay item number 6589943097, Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Terms of Surrender Certified by PSA/DNA…  The signature of Karl Dönitz is very common and it would be near impossible to find an auction house or dealer who has not sold his signature at one time or another. Exemplars are plentiful. However, the “experts” James Spence and Steve Grad sign off on a PSA/DNA Certificate of Authenticity dated Thursday, April 24, 2003, Re: CU14136-27, PSA/DNA Certification Number B16187 (see below). These “experts” state this Surrender Document was signed by Chester Nimitz. This is the first time we discover that it was our own Admiral Nimitz who surrendered the German Forces to the Allies in the European Theatre. An amazing historical discovery. Incredibly, he also managed to sign and date this copy over ten years after he died.”

6.  The Ty Cobb Laser Printed Forgery Authenticated And Encapsulated By PSA-

Author Ron Keurajian recognized this bogus PSA/DNA encapsulated Ty Cobb cut signature on eBay because he owned an identical and authentic original Cobb signature on a 3 x 5  card in his collection.  Turns out that PSA authenticated a laser copied forgery of Keurajian’s example which he had previously published online in an article about Cobb’s handwriting.

7.  The Jack Johnson 1948 Leaf Card Allegedly Signed By Johnson After He Died-

The authenticators outdid themsleves with this examination as they failed to identify a forgery and also failed to check what year the boxing champion died.  Johnson died on June 10, 1946 almost two years before the Leaf trading card was created in 1948, but that didn’t stop Jimmy Spence and JSA from authenticating it. Autograph Alert broke the story in March of 2011 and asked: How in the world was any research done on this signature by James Spence to pass this horrible forgery as genuine? Again, we ask James Spence to come forward and tell us what he did to determine this signature of Jack Johnson is genuine? What did he do time wise for the money he was paid to authenticate this item? Where in the world did he find even one exemplar to make such a horrible guess? What credentials does James Spence have to be an autograph authenticator?”

8.  The Forged Rocky Marciano “Reinmuth” Letters Still Used As Exemplars On PSA “Autograph Facts”-

For years PSA and JSA authenticated a series of letters allegedly written by Rocky Marciano from 1961 to 1969 to an alleged sportswriter named William Reinmuth in New York City, but closer examination of the letters by boxing experts including Travis Roste of AutographPlanet.com determined that the letters are forgeries.  After authenticating them for years Jimmy Spence changed his opinion of these letters last year claiming they were authentic but secreterially signed for Marciano.  Spence, however, was wrong again as the letters were further determined forgeries sent to a non existent sportswriter at a non existent publication.  Unbeknownst to the authenticators several boxing historians and authors had already claimed the letters were fakes.  PSA used an exemplar from a “Reinmuth Letter” on its “PSA Autograph Facts” page and despite reports of the forgeries still includes the non-genuine signature on the company website.

9.  The Heritage Ty Cobb Signed Little League Ball Made After He Died; A DEADSPIN Special Report-

Heritage Auctions offered this baseball and described it as one of the best condition Ty Cobb single signed balls in existence until we published a report at Deadspin proving that the ball Cobb allegedly signed was actually a Little League ball manufactured after his death in 1963.  The auction house, which also employs former PSA and current JSA authenticator Mike Gutierrez, said the ball was pre-certified by PSA/DNA.

10.  The REA Forged Babe Ruth To Gary Cooper Photo-

This photograph surfaced in the hobby in the 1990s and was sold by Mastro Auctions for over $20,000 with an LOA from PSA/DNA. More recently it was identified as a forgery in author Ron Keurajian’s book, Baseball Hall of Fame Autographs:  A Reference Guide and also appeared for sale at Robert Edward Auctions in May of 2013.  Despite knowledge of Keurajian’s opinion and additional testimony from Gary Cooper’s daughter stating her family collection never included such an item, REA sold the forgery anyway.

11.  The Halper/REA- Jimmy Spence “Non-Malicious-Secretarial” Babe Ruth Forgery With Fake Ruth Hair-

Super collector/fraudster Barry Halper once told the New York Times he acquired a lock of Babe Ruth’s hair from a man in Iowa along with an actual letter of authenticity from the Babe verifying his own hair.  But when Halper went to sell the collection at Sotheby’s in 1999 his friend and auction consultant Rob Lifson chose not to include the hair and letter in the sale because the Ruth signature on the letter had been questioned.  After Halper’s death in 2005, his widow consigned the hair and letter to Lifson’s auction house (REA) and it was included in a 2007 sale based upon the opinion of Jimmy Spence that the Ruth signature was a “Non-malicious-secretarial.”  The letter and the hair sold for $38,000 based upon Spence’s claim but upon closer review after the sale it was determined that the Ruth signature on the alleged Iowa man’s letter matched the handwriting of another questioned Ruth signature Halper had on his famous 500 Home Run Club signed sheet.  In 1999, Halper told Sotheby’s that the Ruth signature was acquired by him in person at Yankee Stadium on Babe Ruth Day in 1948, but years earlier he told Ruth’s biographer, Robert Creamer, that his father gave him that sheet of paper with Ruth’s signature already on it.  Experts have deemed both signatures outright forgeries and the Ruth hair bogus.

12.  (TIE)  12 a. The Lou Gehrig Rubber Stamp Authentications-

When Lou Gehrig was diagnosed with ALS and his health was deteriorating he used a stamp to sign all correspondence he prepared while working for New York State’s Parole Board.  Unfortunately, expert Jimmy Spence couldn’t distinguish the difference between authentic writing and a stamp when he certified a 1940 parole letter stamped by Gehrig as the genuine article (above right).  The relatively worthless letter sold at Hunt Auctions for close to $10,000 based on Spence’s certification.

12 b. The Forged Sal Bando 8 x 10 & The FOX/Chicago TV Crew Ambush of Jimmy Spence’s JSA Crew-

Perhaps one of the most embarrassing incidents of authentication malpractice for JSA and Jimmy Spence occurred in relation to the authentication of an “in-person” autograph of a living person, ex-MLB player, Sal Bando. FOX Chicago ran a sting operation on Spence & Co. at a Bando signing and had a network staffer forge Bando’s signature on an 8×10 and then presented that same photo to JSA authenticators at the show who were offering their “additional LOA” although it was an “in-person” signing.  JSA authenticator Larry Studebaker took one look at the forgery and then issued a JSA LOA.  FOX reporters confronted the show promoter who was apologetic and mortified while JSA head Jimmy Spence admitted the episode “Didn’t put us in a very good light.”  Click here: to view the infamous video FOX vs. JSA

13.  The “Shoeless” Joe Jackson Darvick-Authenticated-Forgery “Walk-In” On Pawn Stars-

When someone walked onto the set of the Pawn Stars show with an alleged signed book by “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, store owner Rick Harrison sent it out to PSA/DNA for authentication.  Steve Grad and PSA responded with a rejection letter for the item which actually came with a 1994 LOA written by former PSA and current JSA authenticator Herman Darvick. Hauls of Shame could not find one expert who was of the opinion that the Jackson signature authenticated by Darvick was genuine.

14.  The Bogus Cap Anson Signature On A Photo Stolen From The NYPL-

This photo was selling for as much as $5,000 in 1979 based on the belief that it was signed by Cap Anson.  The alleged signature, however, is nothing more than a period identification of Anson which matches several other identifications on similar Stevens cabinet photos in the NYPL’s Spalding Collection.  PSA and JSA authenticator Mike Gutierrez wrote an LOA for the photo when it was offered by SCP Auctions in 2004 and currently it appears on the PSA Autograph Facts page for Anson as an authentic signature despite knowledge of published reports definitively illustrating it is non-genuine.

15.  The Bogus “Smilin Mickey” Welch Signature On A Cabinet Photo Stolen From The NYPL-

This Mickey Welch cabinet was also signed in the same hand as the alleged Anson cabinet photo and is not an authentic signature of Welch.  Despite this fact PSA included this as an exemplar on the PSA “Autograph Facts” page for Welch and removed the signature after Haulsofshame.com published a report showing it was not genuine and was also stolen from the NYPL collection.  If genuine the Welch cabinet would have been worth upwards of $50,000.

16.  The Harry Wright Telegram NOT Signed By Harry Wright & Authenticated By JSA-

Jimmy Spence authenticated this telegram that the “Father of Professional Baseball” sent to Bob Allen in 1894.  Spence opined in a JSA LOA that the telegram sent (top left) was actually signed by Harry Wright when, in fact, telegrams of that era were never signed by the sender and were prepared by a telegram company employee on the receiving end of the transmission.  The only signed copies of Harry Wright telegrams would be the original copies he filled out at the telegram office on the sending side.  Wright saved many of these and they are found in the one surviving Wright Correspondence Scrapbook in the New York Public Library’s Spalding Collection (top right).  When compared to the telegram Spence authenticated, the authentic originals at NYPL show that Spence authenticated Harry Wright’s name written by a telegraph operator (bottom left) as opposed to an authentic autograph of Wright from the NYPL (bottom right).  Several original drafts of telegrams actually signed by Wright have been stolen from the NYPL collection.

17.  The $8 Million-JFK-Marilyn Monroe Forgery Scandal Involving PSA’s John Reznikoff-

PSA/DNA's historical document expert authenticated millions in fake documents attributed to JFK and Marilyn Monroe. The NY Times (above) reported how Reznikoff sold many documents like the JFK and Monroe forgeries above. More recently Reznikoff has appeared on NBC-TV as an expert on Presidential documents (bottom center).

Perhaps the most infamous episode related to the authentication of alleged historic documents invloved PSA/DNA’s John Reznikoff before he joined Collectors Universe as their alleged “historical expert.”  In 1999, The New York Times reported how Reznikoff had authenticated and sold millions in forged documents attributed to JFK and Marilyn Monroe that if authentic would have re-written history.  Reznikoff’s partner, Lawrence X. Cusack III, was alleged to have discovered the trove of documents but after Reznikoff and others authenticated them, ABC News hired forensic specialists who determined they were fakes.  Reznikoff had presented the fakes to experts like Charles Hamilton and had also arranged what the Times reported was a scheme that involved, “selling a handful of documents to (expert Kenneth Rendell) and the other expert, and then buying them back through a front man.”

In September of 1997, on ABC’s 20/20 reporter Peter Jennings confronted Reznikoff’s partner and asked, what the Times reported as, a “profusely perspiring” Cusack if he had forged the documents himself.  Cusack responded, “No sir, I did not.  No , no, no, no, no.”  In March of 1998, Cusack was charged by the government in what the Times said was a “scheme to forge the papers and sell them for more than $7 million.”  Reznikoff was not charged but the Times reported that, “Mr. Reznikoff met again with Mr. Cusack and secretly taped a conversation in which Mr. Cusack admits that he confessed in their earlier conversation, the complaint said. Prosecutors did not provide a transcript of the tape or describe the contents further. Lawyers said Mr. Reznikoff made the tape on his own and later gave it to investigators.”  On September 18, 1999 the Times reported that Cusack, “The man who sold hundreds of forged documents supposedly written or signed by John F. Kennedy was sentenced to nine years and seven months in prison yesterday, a stiffer term than usual, and ordered to pay $7 million in restitution to victims of his scheme.” According to US Attorney Thomas C. Rubin, Cusack had pocketed $5 million from the forgeries and Reznikoff split $2 million with a third partner.

18.  The Forged Rocky Marciano Signed Boxing Gloves Authenticated By PSA/DNA-

Boxing collector and expert Mark Ogren of FightToys.com posted some alleged PSA-authenticated Rocky Marciano gloves on Net54 and revealed that the signature was nothing close to Marciano’s actual handwriting and actually resembled the handwriting of a restaurant owner named Mario, who had written a second letter of authenticity in addition to the LOA from PSA and Steve Grad.  The gloves were entered as a lot in a Goldin Auctions sale and upon the posting of Ogren’s information, auctioneer Ken Goldin withdrew the bogus gloves from the sale.  PSA even refused to respond to Goldin’s own inquiry about the authentication.  Ogren had previously exposed flawed PSA authentications of two other alleged Marciano-signed gloves which were actually signed by his manager Charley Goldman.

19.  The REA-Babe Ruth Nursing Home Forgeries Certified Authentic By Jimmy Spence-

This lot of alleged forgeries appeared in an REA auction with little revealed about the true provenance of the photographs.  The auction only presented an unsubstantiated story that the items came from a deceased sportswriter who was once in a nursing home in Maine and a bevy of fancily signed LOA’s issued by Jimmy Spence and JSA attesting to their authenticity.  A close inspection of the alleged Ruth signatures, however, revealed an assortment of red flags as none of the photographs were inscribed or personalized and all appeared on unusual second generation photos.  Over a dozen hobbyists and experts agreed that every one of the Ruth signatures appeared to be a forgery.  One of the photographs was even signed “George H. Babe Ruth” without an inscription.  In our voluminous exemplar files we could only find several instances of Ruth signing “George H. Herman Ruth” on documents and contracts and “George H. Babe Ruth” on 1935 All-America Board of Baseball certificates.  REA didn’t even mention the unusual nature of this ultra-rare version of Ruth’s signature and upon grilling the consignor saw that there were holes in the flimsy provenance tale.  REA removed the photos from the sale “at the request of the consignor” and issued no public explanation from Spence or JSA to customers who had already bid up the group up to over $30,000.  If authentic, the JSA-certed photos could have realized a sale price of $75,000 to $100,000.

20.  The Judy Johnson Perez Steele Card Signed After He Was Dead-

AutographAlert broke this story: “According to one of our readers, Coaches Corner Sports Auction is auctioning off a PSA/DNA Certified as genuine a Judy Johnson Perez Steele Celebration card (above left). Lot #888 currently at $50 having 6 bids. PSA/DNA’s certification # is 83049796. “Judy Johnson was in a coma (from which he never woke) before these cards were sent to press. There is simply no way he could have signed it, but that didn’t stop PSA/DNA from giving it the thumbs up.”

Another expert said: “Celebration set consisted of 44 cards…pre-deceasing the release of the card issue were Lefty Gomez, Billy Terry and Judy Johnson.” Yet another expert states: “The set was intended to feature all 44 living Hall of Famers. Though not all the players gave signed on. Sometime between the design and the release, three players – Lefty Gomez, Judy Johnson and Bill Terry passed away making the autographed set complete at 41 cards.”

21.  The Heritage 1927 New York Yankee Green Ink Team Ball Forgery-

This ball (above, center) appeared in Heritage’s Platinum Auction in NYC in February of 2013 and several experts we spoke with called it out as non-genuine.  One expert said: “It’s a well executed forgery , but where they failed is that each signature is too uniform , disregard the same color ink. After almost 100 years the ink absorbed to leather should be more obvious , you can almost see it still laying on top.  The odds on all (players) signing with the same pen are almost non existent but assuming they did,  some would have signed with a lighter hand than others and there would be a degree of fading on certain signatures , there is none. Gehrig for one signed with a very light hand, especially for a big man, that is why on most of the real Gehrig signed balls his signature is almost always light (less ink to surface in original application) , not the case here. There are many other clues….”

Another said:“All the writing seems to be the same size. It doesn’t make sense. Typically you have one or two players who will write larger or smaller. A forger however will typically try to mimic the signature and thus the writing all is the same size because it was done in the same hand.”

22.  The Heritage Alleged 1927 Yankee Team Photograph (Ex-Wolfers)-

Although it sold for close to $30,000 at Heritage, experts identified this photo (above right) as a poorly executed forgery and a re-tread item from an early 1990s Richard Wolfers sale when it was authenticated by Mark Jordan (now an HA consignment director).  One expert we spoke with said: “This is probably the worst piece. I absolutely hate the Ruth signature. Notice the spacing alone between the “t” and “h” in the Ruth. Then look at the Gehrig. Good night. Each signature appears to have been signed extremely slowly. Just look at the Bill Dickey and Lefty Gomez. Just horrific! 100% fake in my opinion.”  The piece made the HOS “Top 10 Alleged Forgeries in the HA Platinum Auction.”

23.  The Lou Gehrig to Kiki Cuyler Forged Single-Signed Baseball-

This ball was created by a well-known 1990s forger who flooded the market with high-end fakes which, when examined all together , revealed tell tale signs of forgery.  Jimmy Spence, however, got fooled and authenticated this fake for Mastro Auctions years after the forger was outed.

24.  The Babe Ruth to Kiki Cuyler Forged Single-Signed Baseball-

Spence was also fooled by this forgery and wrote yet another LOA despite the ball having been created by the same forger.  The auction lot description noted Spence’s “unwavering opinion that the signature is genuine.”

25.  The Roy Campanella PSA/DNA-Slabbed-Stamped Signature-

After Roy Campanella’s tragic car accident he used a stamped signature for autograph requests (left).  Incredibly, PSA/DNA actually encapsulated one of these stamped signatures and certified it as an authentic Campanella signature.  What more can we say?

26.  The Rocky Graziano Autograph Authenticated And Slabbed As Rocky Marciano By PSA/DNA-

PSA slabbed this index card as a Rocky Marciano signature because a news clipping was pasted to the card incorrectly identifying it as such.  PSA obviously didn’t even examine the autograph which was actually signed by Rocky Graziano.  Yet another example of an authenticator failing to examine the actual signature and issuing a dead-wrong certification in a PSA/DNA holder.

27.  The Harry Truman Worst To First “Enhanced Single-Signed Ball”-

Steve Koschal discovered this Truman ball that went from a “low grade” Truman signature sold at Mastro in 2001 and at R&R Auctions in 2004, to the “finest extant” at EAC Gallery in 2005.  The ball originally came with a MastroNet LOA at the time Mike Gutierrez was working for the company and when it sold at R&R its authenticity was described as, “COA John Reznikoff/PSA/DNA & R&R COA.”

Koschal also states his belief that the Truman ball was “professionally cleaned” and the signature enhanced possibly by some form of chemical enhancement.  The Truman signature has confounded experts who find it hard to believe the signature could have been enhanced by hand like a signed forgery but law enforcement has not been able to determine what process this forgery was created with.  PSA/DNA authenticator John Reznikoff authenticated the Truman ball when it was barely visible and was listed as its “provenance” when it sold at EAC as the “finest extant.

28. The Christy Mathewson Single-Signed Ball Forgeries Exposed When Ball was Shown Made After Postmark Date On Box Allegedly Sent And Inscribed By Matty-

This style of Mathewson forgery first appeared in a 2000 MastroWest auction #1 lot description (above left)  as an “Unbelievable” single-signed Matty ball which was accompanied by an alleged mailing box also said to be executed in Matty’s hand.  The ball came with an “LOA from noted experts James Spence, Kevin Keating and a Vintage PSA/DNA Certificate attesting to the certitude of this Mathewson autograph.”  But the ball signed was an Official NL Heydler ball manufactured between 1923 and 1924, nearly a dozen years after the alleged mailing date on the box of August 8, 1912.  The ball (top row right) was withdrawn from the auction after Mastro was notified of the evidence suggesting it was a forgery.  Despite the fact this ball was exposed as a forgery, Jimmy Spence continued to authenticate several other Matty forgeries executed in the same hand which sold at Hunt Auctions,   and a last example which was consigned to Heritage Auctions but failed to receive an LOA from PSA/DNA.

29.  The Babe Ruth “Dear John” Laser printed forgeries & PSA Advertisement Forgeries-

These Babe Ruth photos were authenticated by PSA/DNA although they were actually photographs bearing laser-printed forgeries of the Babe (left).  The scam was exposed by Ruth collector John Rogers of North Little Rock, Arkansas, when he purchased several examples and realized that the inscriptions and signatures on multiple items were identical.  Other experts believe that the example used for the facsimile was a forgery as well.  PSA/DNA has also had a history of presenting Ruth forgeries as genuine examples in their company advertising ads (right) in hobby publications like SCD.

30.  The JSA Tarzan-Chimpanzee Authentications-

JSA has trouble with Babe Ruth signatures yet claims to possess the expertise to identify authentic signatures of the chimpanzee who starred in the Tarzan movies with Johnny Weissmuller.  But the examples JSA has authenticated for eBay sellers were written by a chimp who was exposed as a fraud in a 2008 Washington Post investigative report.  The chimp never starred in a Tarzan movie but, more importantly, how could JSA ever have the ability to identify the scribbles of a chimp?

31.  The Ty Cobb Forgeries on Hack Simmons Photos-

Several authenticated Ty Cobb forgeries (above left) have surfaced being signed on vintage photos of Cobb’s old teammate Hack Simmons, NOT Cobb.  How could Cobb have signed a Charles Conlon photo of another player?   He wouldn’t have.  The photograph was signed in the hand of someone other than Ty Cobb.

32.  David Wells’ Christy Mathewson Single Signed Ball-PSA vs. JSA-Dualing Experts –

While JSA and PSA/DNA have authenticated a slew of bogus Matty balls, in this instance JSA wrote a letter of authenticity and PSA/DNA rejected it.  In what might be a hobby first, auction house SCP Auctions posted both conflicting opinions in its lot description for the ball (above center) consigned by ex-Yankee pitcher David Wells.  In this case, every expert we interviewed agreed with PSA.

33. The “Andre The Giant” Authenticated Facsimile Signature-

A magazine cover featuring wrestler Andre The Giant (above right) was authenticated by Jimmy Spence and JSA as having been signed by the wrestling giant, but was actually a facsimile signature that was part of the published magazine cover, and not an authentic autograph.  This embarrassing episode was exposed on Autograph Alert and reported by JoeMLM on YouTube.

34.  The Genuine Mickey Mantle Signed Jersey Authenticated And Rejected By Spence And JSA-

Jimmy Spence wrote an LOA (center) certifying that a Cooperstown Collection Mickey Mantle jersey (left) was authentically signed by the “Mick.”  But when the same jersey was later presented to him accompanied by an LOA from Christopher Morales, Spence issued an official JSA rejection letter claiming the jersey was a fake when, in fact, he got it right the first time and was genuine.  This one was exposed on Autograph Alert.

35.  The Mrs. Bob Fitzsimmons Forgery Sold At Heritage And Appearing On PSA’s “Autograph Facts” Page-

PSA illustrates a signature ghost-signed by the wife of 19th century boxing champ Bob Fitzsimmons as an authentic exemplar on its “Autograph Facts” page.  They also illustrate a contrasting genuine example on the same page, thus illustrating they do not know what an authentic Fitz looks like.  Despite being notified of their mistake, PSA still illustrates the forgery as a genuine autograph on its website.  The autograph was sold by Heritage Auction Galleries despite the fact that the auction house was notified in advance by experts it was a forgery.

36.  The Candy Cummings “Curveball” Cut Signature-

PSA included on its “Autograph Facts” page an inscription of the Buffalo BBC’s secretary (bottom right) as an authentic Candy Cummings signature, while they also displayed Cummings’ genuine signature on an 1878 letter Cummings sent to the Buffalo club.  The secretary’s notation on the reverse of another letter Cummings sent to Buffalo was clipped from that letter and authenticated by PSA.  After Haulsofshame.com published an article on the subject PSA removed the signature from the “Autograph Facts” page.

37.  The Clem Labine As Ernie Davis Signed Baseball-

PSA authenticated, encapsulated and identified this authentic baseball (above) signed by Brooklyn Dodger pitcher, Clem Labine, as a baseball signed by Ernie Davis.  Labine’s signature bears no resemblance to Davis’ signature and the PSA error, first reported by Autograph Alert, remains one of the company’s greatest “quality control” blunders.

38.  The $80,000 Walter Johnson “Big Train Wreck” Authenticated By Jimmy Spence-

The Walter Johnson autograph appearing on this alleged 1920s to 1930s baseball does not resemble the authentic signature of the Hall of Fame pitcher nicknamed “The Big Train” and after it appeared on eBay for $80,000 with a JSA LOA it was called the “Big Train Wreck.” When shown the image of the ball, expert Ron Keurajian told us he was already aware of it and noted that the signature was “apocryphal”.  He added, “In my opinion the signature on that ball is a forgery.”   Hauls of Shame shared that opinion of the signature that lacked the fluidity and feel of Johnson’s handwriting and appeared to be labored and executed in a not-so-steady hand. The signature, originally authenticated by JSA in 2010, was touted by the seller as “The Finest Walter Johnson Single Signed Baseball in the Hobby JSA.”  The eBay seller was yet another victim of authentication malpractice committed by a third-party authenticator.  The fraud division at eBay agreed with Keurajian and the ball was removed from the website because of its “authenticity issues.”

39.  The REA-Winston Churchill JSA-Authenticated Facsimile Letter-

This facsimile letter sent out by Winston Churchill was authenticated by JSA as an authentic handwritten document by the British Prime Minister.  JSA noted the pen pressure and other characteristics they examined which revealed the document was genuine.  But the document was a mass-produced facsimile sent out to many recipients and exhibited no evidience of ink or pen ever being applied to the paper.  The bogus offering was later pulled from REA’s Spring 2013 sale after JSA’s blunder was exposed.

40.  The Mark McGwire Stamped 1987 Donruss Baseball Card Slabbed By PSA-

Although this card of juicer “Big-Mac” was not actually signed by Mark McGwire and featured a stamped signature, it was still authenticated and slabbed by PSA/DNA.

41.  The George Dixon And Tom Sayers “No-Exemplar” Boxing Authentications-

A 2007 Sotheby’s sale offered a George Dixon autograph saying:  ”Offered here is a 3″ x 4″ slip of paper, bearing Dixon’s signature in pencil (10/10). Just beneath the signature the original owner of the autograph page has written “1870 (the year of Dixon’s birth) World’s Featherweight Champion.” On the bottom of the page, the British actor ”E. Story Grafton” has also signed his name. Dixon died at the age of 38 in 1909. A great rarity, as we know of no other authentic Dixon signature known. LOA from JSA.”

How could JSA authenticate the item if no other authentic exemplar exists?

42.  The Lloyd Waner Coaches Corner-To- Huggins & Scott Forgery-

This ultra-rare Perez-Steele HOF postcard of Lloyd Waner was authenticated by JSA and Jimmy Spence after it sold at Coaches Corner for around one hundred bucks.   With the JSA LOA in hand, the buyer consigned it to Huggins & Scott and sold it for over $3,000.  There was a very small window for Waner to sign these cards as they were issued very close to his death and experts have opined that this Huggins & Scott offering via Coaches Corner was a forgery.

43.  The Cy Y-o-o-ung Forged Signature-

Autograph Alert broke the story on this R&R Auctions listing of the PSA “Double-O” Cy Young forgery.  The side to side comparison above is all we have to show regarding this misspelled disaster.

44.  The John “Teflon-Don” Gotti Forged Checks Authenticated By PSA/DNA-

Autograph Alert broke the story on this 2010 PSA debacle which involved a group of forged checks attributed to John Gotti (the “Dapper Don”) via PSA authenticator John Reznikoff.  What is also interesting is that there are many differences in an original signature of John Gotti verses one that is signed for him by his wife. John Reznikoff knew the signatures of “J.Gotti” on the checks were not genuine and still sold them!  All the checks in this collection were during a 3 month period in 1992. Research on John Gotti with Marion State Federal Prison indicates that during the time these checks were issued and cashed, John Gotti was in a 23 hour a day lock down.

45. The Jesse Burkett Forged Single-Signed Ball Used As A PSA Exemplar By Steve Grad On Video -

Steve Grad of PSA/DNA appeared on a company video segment using this forged Jesse Burkett ball as an exemplar to expose another easily detected Burkett forgery.  The forged baseball that Grad used as an exemplar was sold at REA for over $26,000 and appears to have been copied from an 1890s NY Giants pay receipt signed by Burkett.  The ball was manufactured post-1920 at a time when Burkett’s signature looked nothing like the example on the pay receipt.

46.  The John M. Ward Secretarial Letter Stolen From The Hall of Fame-

This blatant secretarial signature (top left) of the ultra-rare John M.Ward was offered and pulled by Mastro Auctions after it was authenticated by Jimmy Spence.  PSA authenticator Kevin Keating has since offered the exact same document for sale as an authentic item.  The letter also appears to have been stolen from the Herrmann Papers archive at the Baseball Hall of Fame. Examination of authentic signatures of Ward from court documents (bottom left) and correspondence in Cooperstown shows the offered letter is far from genuine.

47.  The A. G. Spalding Secretarial Letter And Cut Signatures Authenticated By Steve Grad and PSA/DNA-

PSA’s lack of knowledge in regard to scarce 19th century signatures was exposed further with an authentication of an alleged A. G. Spalding letter that was actually written by a Spalding employee (above, center right); and the encapsulation of another Spalding signature which exhibited hesitations and stoppages that were characteristic of a forgery (above, center left). The slabbed cut lacked the uniformity of what PSA correctly identified in their study as the “sharp, jagged examples from the last decade of (Spalding’s) life.”  The most striking deficiency in the PSA-Steve Grad certified forgery was the absence of these very sharp and angular strokes that define Spalding’s handwriting at this period in his life.  The forgery lacks the natural flow of Spalding’s handwriting and the contrast is most apparent when the forgery stands next to the five genuine examples in our illustration.

Grad and PSA also missed that the forger may have made a critical mistake that also gave him away; the forged and slabbed signature included a period placed after Spalding’s abbreviated “Calif.”  We examined at least ten authentic inscribed and signed Spalding books with the “Point Loma” inscription and none of them included punctuation after the “Calif” abbreviation.  Only the PSA authenticated forgery included a period.

Most collectors would be fooled by this decent forgery which is a great example to illustrate how a forger can replicate a signature and convince an alleged expert it is genuine.  Of course it “looks like” a genuine Spalding, that’s what the forger is trying to achieve.  However, when analyzed closely it is exposed that it only mimics an authentic signature and shows evidence of another hand, that of the forger.  At least the slabbed Spalding actually looked like Spalding’s scrawl, whereas the 1895 Spalding company letter exhibited virtually no resemblance to Spalding’s actual handwriting.

48. The Michael ‘Mike’ Jordan Bogus & Misrepresented Cancelled and Signed Check-

This check (above, top left) of a guy named “Mike Jordan” was passed off as an authentic early-life signature of a 9-year old Michael Jordan.  (An authentic early-life Jordan signature appears below) The check, authenticated by Jimmy Spence and JSA was exposed on the Game Used Universe forum where a member noted that the check had been drawn by Coca-Cola and cashed in Arkansas when Jordan was only nine years old and living over 1,000 miles away in Wilmington, NC.  Despite this information being forwarded to Grey Flannel Auctions, the fraudulent document was sold for $1,800 along with a JSA LOA.

49.  The Bronko Nagurski “Deathbed Forgery” Signed Football Card-

A recent embarrassing incident is what was described on eBay as “Bronko Nagurski-Rare Signed-1988 Swell Chicago Bears” signed card (above center) authenticated as genuine by PSA/DNA. The item was being offered on eBay, item #180092222011. The seller was contacted by Brian Nagurski of Nagurski Enterprises. He is Bronco’s grandson. He informed the seller that the signature was a “FAKE”, as his grandfather was bedridden with a stroke and unable to sign such a legible signature during 1988 and beyond.  Nagurski died shortly after these cards were printed.

50.  The Mike Tyson “Mayo” Mistake-

This photo of Mike Tyson has an inscription that clearly reads “Mayo 1990″ (above right, top)but the LOA by the TPA states that it is actually a genuine Tyson signature (above right, bottom).

51. The Derek Jeter Single-Signed Baseball Authenticated & Rejected By Jimmy Spence-

This Derek Jeter signed baseball (top left) was authenticated by JSA with an LOA (bottom left) but when the same ball was resubmitted with an LOA from Chris Morales, Spence and JSA issued an rejection letter (right).

52.  The Charles Comiskey Secreterial Letter-

Heritage Auctions sold this common secretarial signature (top left) of Charles Comiskey as an authentic example (bottom left) just because it had an LOA from a TPA.

53.  The PSA/DNA Ethan Allen-John Reznikoff Blunder-

Autograph Alert broke this one:  After just a peak at the signature passed as “Guaranteed Authentic” by PSA/DNA it is quite obvious that not a single letter in the slabbed signature compares to those in a genuine signature of Ethan Allen. Yet, this pathetic looking signature is now PSA/DNA Certified E61463 and was authenticated by the “experts” at PSA/DNA on February 22, 2006.

After looking at the signature passed as “Guaranteed Genuine” by PSA/DNA and comparing it to the three genuine signatures illustrated above, www.autographalert.com feels only one more thing needs to be said about the PSA/DNA authenticating process. Now that PSA/DNA has this Ethan Allen signature they passed as genuine on file, those in the future who submit a genuine Ethan Allen signature for authentication will probably get theirs failed. A genuine signature will not match the exemplar they now have on file that they passed as genuine.

54.  The “Slab It And They Will Come” James Earl Ray Signature As James Earl Jones Fiasco-

Steve Koschal broke the story of PSA slabbing the autograph of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassin as the signature of actor James Earl Jones.  Autograph Alert reported:  ”Take a peak at the autograph, gasping for air, inside the plastic holder. It is a signature of James Earl Ray, the convicted assassin of the civil rights leader Matin Luther King, Jr.”  The PSA/DNA web site also states: “Occasionally our experts cannot express an opinion on an autograph. These will be designated as inconclusive.” The James Earl Ray signature was not designated as “inconclusive.” The “experts” expressed their opinion and that is it is the signature of James Earl Jones.

55.  The Mrs. Ty Cobb “Signed And Slabbed As Ty” Check Signature-

A collector cut up an alleged Cobb check with multiple signatures of the “Georgia Peach” and sent the “cuts” to PSA to be slabbed in encapsulated holders. PSA authenticated and slabbed all three examples despite the fact that one of them was clearly written in the hand of Cobb’s wife who had written out the original check.

56.  The Willie Mays as Hank Aaron slabbed baseball card-

PSA slabbed this autographed baseball card of Hall of Famer Willie Mays as an authentic signed card of Hank Aaron.  What more can we say?

57.  The Christy Mathewson “Won in the Ninth” Secreterials-

Expert Ron Keurajian’s original opinion on these from 2004 stated:  “Some experts tell me they are real while others say they are not.  In my opinion these plate signatures are ghost-signed and not signed by Mathewson.”

He added, “These signatures deviate too much from Mathewson’s hand.  If you contemplate a purchase of one of these books proceed with caution.”

Today, Keurajian stands by his original opinion stated in 2004.  Says Keurajian, “Since I published my article in Sports Collectors Digest I have had the opportunity to  view at least 15 additional presentation copies of Won in The Ninth.  I have concluded that all are secretarial signed as I have never examined a genuinely signed copy of this book.  Ever since my article was published many copies of this book were dumped back into the market.  They continue be sold and resold as purchasers later find out they are not signed by Mathewson but rather a secretary.”

Mike Heffner, of Leland’s, holds the same opinion as Keurajian.  Says Heffner, “I concur with Ron.  It was not something that was known 20 years ago but it has come to light in recent years.”

58.  The Laurel & Hardy “Oliver Hardy Rubber Stamp”-

Even if the company began collecting autograph reference information the day they started in the business of authentication, the information on Oliver Hardy using a rubber stamp had to pass through their hands at least a few times.  The latest authenticating embarrassment was during the MastroNet auction of December 2006. Lot #297. The lot description states “This publicity photograph was inscribed and signed: “Hello Marie! Pres. Taft 1937, Stan Laurel (9) and “Oliver Hardy” (10).

This item has been examined (yes, examined by a so-called expert) by one or more PSA/DNA experts.

59.  The Jimmy Spence 1927 Yankee Team Ball Forgeries Certified Genuine (Then & Now)-

Jimmy Spence authenticated this forgery of the entire 1927 New York Yankee team (above left) and issued an LOA for Yankee collector David Atkatz who held the ball in his collection for well over a decade.  Atkatz, however, was informed via an internet chat forum that the ball was a fake and the handiwork of a well-known and talented forger who worked the tri-state area in the late 1990’s.  Did Spence learn anything from his authentication of this forgery?  Apparently not, as he recently authenticated another 1927 Yankee team ball in Robert Edward Auctions’ (REA) Fall 2013 sale (above right) believed to be a forgery by a host of experts.

60. The 1939 Hall of Fame Induction First Day Cover Forgery-

Jimmy Spence has authenticated many questionable items tied to the 1939 celebration in Cooperstown but many experts point to this one (above left) sold at Mastro Auctions with a Spence LOA as one of the more embarrassing instances of “authentication malpractice.”  To the untrained eye the signatures look authentic upon first glance, but examined closer the handwriting appears labored and lacks the flow and spontaneity of genuine examples of the HOFers.  In fact, a similar HOF induction themed item (on par with the Mastro lot) was sold in an infamous Coaches Corner auction (above right) and even included additional forgeries of Eddie Collins and Ty Cobb.

61.  The Al Stump Ty Cobb Forgeries Authenticated By Mike Gutierrez of PSA & JSA-

Authenticator Mike Gutierrez certified a hoard of bogus Ty Cobb letters, photos and other documents (including entire diaries) that originated from Cobb biographer Al Stump.  They were all forgeries created by Stump, but with Gutierrez’ work one of the forged diaries ended up in the Baseball Hall of Fame until uncovered as a forgery by the FBI and Ron Keurajian.  In a paper published by SABR, researcher Ron Cobb chronicled Gutierrez’ authentications of the fakes:

They were first offered to Mike Gutierrez, a prominent authenticator, who authenticated them as genuine and then sold them directly and at auction to trusting buyers. Although the signatures on these letters displayed a more shaky hand than authentic Cobb signatures, Gutierrez explained that to be a result of Cobb’s advancing age and declining health and strength—something modern authenticators have disproved through a thorough analysis of steady Cobb signatures dated as late as May 1961, only two months before his death.”

Cobb just released his detective work on “The Georgia Peach” forgeries as a book available on Amazon.

62. The Mike Gutierrez 1948 Babe Ruth Secretarial Forgeries-

Since the late 1980s Heritage Auctions consignment director and JSA authenticator, Mike Gutierrez, has sold and authenticated these secretarial Babe Ruth signatures as authentic.  Today not one auction house will sell them.

63. The Joe Frazier JSA Witnessed Protection Program Failure-

Autograph Alert uncovered this one:

That’s right, they failed it. JSA gave eight reasons to explain the flaws in the JSA “Witnessed Protection Program” piece of memorabilia. Apparently, the mere presence of Chris Morales’ certification has caused the JSA “Witnessed Protection Program” to grow atypical letter slant, angle and/or pitch. Did this problem occur when the JSA staff member witnessed the piece or afterwards? Not only did JSA fail the piece, but Larry Studebaker, James Spence’s main authenticator, laughed out loud and said the piece was “fucking horrible.” Really? A piece from JSA’s “Witnessed Protection Program”? According to Larry Studebaker, James Spence himself personally checks all of the items before he issued a JSA certificate. James Spence did not overrule Larry Studebaker. According to JSA, their previously witnessed piece is now a forgery.

64.  The Core-Four “Pride of the Yankees” Print with DiMaggio & Mantle Laser Printed Forgeries-

Both JSA and PSA issued LOAs for this item alleged to have authentic signatures of Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio.  But although it was identified by JSA as being signed by a “felt tip marker” it was actually a worthless laser print of an original.  JSA even went as far to comment on the “pen pressure” exhibited on the signatures.

65.  The P. T Barnum “Cabinet Card For Suckers” With Pre-Printed Facsimile Signature Certified Genuine By PSA-

According to Steven Koschal there are several poses of P. T. Barnum which feature different versions of his facsimile autograph with dates from 1885  and 1886.  The autographs and the dates are identical depending on which version you are presented with and fluctuations exist only in the resolution or quality of the albumen photos created by the photographic studio.  The cabinet appeared for sale on eBay with a 2005 PSA/DNA LOA certifying it as an authentic the Barnum signature. The LOA featured the signatures of Steve Grad, Bob EatonMike Gutierrez, Roger Epperson, Zach Rullo and John Reznikoff, PSA’s authenticator for historical material.

66.  The Goose Goslin Gold Hall of Fame Plaque Forgery Sold, Authenticated & Returned To Jimmy Spence-

Jimmy Spence sold this alleged HOF gold plaque postcard to a customer when he was a full-fledged dealer back in April 1994.  Spence sold this Goose Goslin Hall of Fame Plaque Card to an east coast dealer for $600.00. According to Spence, the card bore a genuine signature of Goslin on the verso.

Years later, the dealer was able to sell this same card for $1500.00, a nice profit of $900.00. However, the new owner of the plaque sent this item to PSA/DNA for authentication. The purchaser was not aware that this plaque was originally purchased from James Spence. The item (PSA/DNA submission #140702) was returned on Wednesday, April 6, 2005 by PSA/DNA to the new purchaser as “unable to certify its legitimacy.” Mr. Spence whose signature appears on the PSA/DNA Certificate listed eight factors why the signature was not authentic. Basically the Certificate states nothing was right with the Goose Goslin signature (which Spence originally sold).  Of course, the dealer refunded the collectors $1500.00 and now the dealer had to contact Spence about this most embarrassing incident. Spence did refund the dealers original purchase price of $600.00.

67.  The FDR Proxy Signatures-

It is apparent no one at PSA/DNA has done any research regarding this very common secretarial signature. One of the most basic and popular reference books on autograph collecting is Charles Hamilton’s Collecting Autographs & Manuscripts. On page sixty, Hamilton lists seven proxy signatures of FDR and illustration #6 clearly matches the signature PSA/DNA has authenticated as genuine. It appears obvious that PSA/DNA does not have this basic autograph reference book.

68. “JSA & PSA Don’t Know Bo” Facsimile Book Signature Authentications-

Bo Knows Bo by Bo Jackson and Dick Schaap. Printed in 1990 this extremely common book is signed with a pre-printed signature. (A pre-printed signature is not a genuine hand signed signature. The signature is printed in the book just like the rest of the text.  Naturally, each book contains the same identical printed signature.  Bricol Enterprises, Lot #1738 on July 10, 2008, listed one of these books and stated: “Striking black pen signature on the first inside title page of this 218 pg. book. Sig(nature) is mint! JSA (James Spence Authentication) LOA!”

PSA/DNA made the same error:  ”The recent PSA/DNA embarrassment refers to one of the most common printed signatures in the sports collecting hobby…. For those novices reading this article, a printed signature is one that is a copy of a genuine signature printed on the page by the publisher. It is NOT a genuine ink signature hand signed by the celebrity. For the average collector it is generally easy to spot a fake, printed signature verses someone who took a pen and signed their name in ink. Ebay item #140204459126 lists one of these extremely common books which has the printed (non genuine) signature of Bo Jackson on the half title page. Every copy of the book has the identical printed signature.

69.  The Farrah Fawcett Secretarial Sig LOA’s By PSA/DNA-

Autograph Alert exposed this one on eBay:  ”There is a Farrah Fawcett presently on eBay. Item number 320564399524. Identified as an index card hand signed by Farrah Fawcett, and authenticated as genuine by PSA/DNA. The items opening bid is $200. Ask a professional autograph dealer who deals in modern celebrities about this signature? They will tell you that this signature was signed by Fawcett’s secretary.”

70.  The Real Ronald Reagan Deemed An AutoPen By JSA and Jimmy Spence-

JSA determined that this “Certificate of Appreciation” sent out by President Ronald Reagan (above, left) was an “autopen” signature signed by a machine which exhibited: “An exact match of signature on file”; “No overlapping strokes”; and “No ink flow/movement.”  But the signature did, in fact, show ink flow and the ink appears upon close inspection to have spread out and bled.   In addition, an examination of the reverse of the document shows the signature had even bled through, thus confirming the signature was NOT signed with an autopen.

71. The Paul McCartney Autograph Deemed A Forgery By JSA After They Already Certified It Authentic-

Apparently, failing an item certified by authenticator Chris Morales is more important than the validity of the item itself, even when the piece has previously been certified by JSA.

JSA identified twelve problems with this Paul McCartney autograph.  Apparently, at some time between the time JSA and Chris Morales’ both issued LOA’s, the signature developed: “Irregular letter slant, angle and/or pitch,” “Excessive pen pressure and/or improper shading,” “Sizing of letters Disproportionate/Exaggerated/Undersized,” and “Irregular letter shape and/or formation”.

According to the JSA examiner, he had personally obtained several signatures of Paul McCartney, and the signature on the booklet was “nothing like Paul McCartney’s signature. Chris Morales will pass anything.”

The twelve issues that JSA observed after Morales certified the autograph didn’t exist when they originally certified the piece as genuine.  JSA’s LOA claimed that the signature on the booklet was consistent with JSA’s “extensive database of known exemplars.” Ironically, the JSA certificate passing the very item before Chris Morales certified it stated “The signature is consistent considering a wide range of specific qualities, including slant, flow, pen pressure, letter size and formation, and other characteristics typical of our extensive database of known exemplars we have examined throughout our hobby and professional careers”.

Four of the reasons JSA used to praise the former Beatle’s signature later became reasons 1, 4, 6 and 12 to fail the same item when identified as being certified by Morales.  It is smoking-gun proof that JSA did not base their opinion on analysis of the actual item.

72. The MANTLE Single-Signed Trio-Previously Authenticated By JSA & Then Rejected By JSA-

From Autograph Alert’s report:  ”One afternoon, James Spence had the opportunity to show whether or not his practices detailed throughout the story above were an anomaly or standard JSA operating procedures.

James Spence sat down with a collector and briefly looked through a collection of baseballs. Prior to his examination, he was informed that all of the baseballs had been certified by Chris Morales.  You guess right. Everything failed.  Were the baseballs bad? (No, and he had also authenticated them as genuine on another occasion without a Morales COA.)……….James Spence told the collector that everything he had were “fakes and frauds.” He further told him that he should get his money back ASAP. At the very least, the preceding test cases question the company’s ability to carry out the service of authentication. In each of the above test cases it was found JSA failed the same pieces that they had already certified as authentic. It certainly lends credence to the assertion the company will fail anything that has previously been certified by any other forensic examiner.”

73. The Heritage Lou Gehrig Single-Signed Ball Signed After He Could No Longer Sign Due To ALS?-

A comparison of the two Lou Gehrig signatures on the Heritage Auction ball and the 2008 Mastro ball (left, top and bottom) with the two signatures from the Lelands 1939 Yankee team ball and the 2013 REA Ruth and Gehrig ball (right, top and bottom) shows a striking disparity in handwriting styles.  The Heritage and Mastro examples appear to be signed by the same hand (but not Gehrig’s) and the Lelands and REA examples are both signed by the same hand–Lou Gehrig’s.  Apparently Steve Grad (PSA) and Jimmy Spence (JSA) are still sticking with their original determination that the Heritage offering is authentic.  Every expert we consulted with disagrees and points to the visual evidence above.  The illustrations don’t lie.

74. The David Wells Negro League Baseball With Forgery Of “Candy” Jim Taylor-

This Negro League baseball from 1942 allegedly signed by Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige and a host of other obscure and rare legends from the Homestead Grays and K.C. Monarchs was offered in 2012 by SCP Auctions who wrote: ”Our research indicates that this ball was most certainly game used from one of those teams classic battles during the 1942 season.” But the ball is clearly not an official Negro League baseball from that time period and several experts we spoke with doubted the authenticity of all the signatures on the ball. The signatures appeared to be at odds with exemplars from a period document signed by Homestead Grays players that is part of the Newark Public Library’sEffa Manley Collection”and document from that collection cast further doubt on David Wells’ alleged 1942 Negro League signed baseball. The document is a receipt for payments made to players for the 1944 Negro East-West all-star game. All of the players and coaches receiving payments for that game had to sign the document, including “Candy Jim” Taylor who is featured on the ball.  The Taylor signature and others discovered at the library by author Ron Keurajian suggest that the Wells ball is a forgery.

75.  The Peyton Manning Autographs Authenticated By Peyton Manning But Rejected By PSA/DNA-

Here’s a letter we received from a reader and his experience with PSA and his Peyton Manning autographs:

“What I am about to tell you is almost unbelievable. I am authorizing you to publish this under one condition. I want you to just state the facts. I think when someone just slams a company and bad mouths them the reader loses interest. I have two goals ultimately. One to make sure that collectors out there know that Mr. Gretzky and Mr. Manning are actually signing fan mail that they receive. Two, to draw attention to the fact that PSA is not trained to indeed judge if any autograph is indeed authentic or fake.

I have been collecting autographed cards for many years. I recently acquired several Peyton Manning autographed cards by way of the PeyBack Foundation. I also have sent to Wayne Gretzky and received several cards, books, pucks, etc back from him c/o of his business.

In April, I sent in 20 cards to PSA to be authenticated. 6 Peyton Manning, 13 Wayne Gretzky, and 1 Michael Jordan. In May I received back my submission. PSA concluded that 19 of the 20 items I sent in were not authentic. The only one that was “real” was one of the Wayne Gretzky cards.

I sent off an email to the PeyBack Foundation regarding how I was very upset about receiving back cards signed by someone other than Peyton. To my surprise I received a response from Pat Breen at the PeyBack Foundation. She/He said they were Peyton’s personal assistant and that no one other than Mr. Manning signed the cards that were sent into the foundation. I was floored. She was even so kind as to send us two autographed 8 x 10 photos.”

76. The Jesse Burkett B&W Hall of Fame Plaques: PSA/DNA vs. JSA (Forgeries vs. Unverifiable Exemplar)-

A signed Black & White Albertype is a great rarity and in 2008 an example authenticated by Grad and PSA/DNA sold at Heritage Auction Galleries for $22,705.  Another sold at Hunt Auctions a year earlier for $33,000 and was slabbed and certified authentic by Jimmy Spence and JSA.  Both examples commanded top dollar but both of the signatures bear virtually no resemblance to each other.  The signature Grad certified looks nothing like an authentic Burkett signature and Spence’s has some resemblance but is so tremulous and shaky that it is almost illegible.  How Grad and Spence could definitively state authenticity and write a supporting LOA for either Burkett is a mystery.  All of this, when author Ron Keurajian states in his book that he has never seen “a signed Hall of Fame plaque postcard of any kind.”

77. The Non-Genuine Bill Clinton Signature Featured In A PSA/DNA Advertisement-

From Autograph Alert:  ”Refer to your half page and full page PSA/DNA advertisements in trade magazines with the heading ‘We’re intimately involved with some of the biggest names in politics.” These ads contain one illustration. The illustration is a photograph of Bill Clinton which bears a signature of Bill Clinton. The signature of Bill Clinton is clearly illustrated. The International Autograph Collectors Club and Dealers Alliance (IACC/DA) took a survey of dealers who specialize in handling presidential signatures. All those who took part in the survey stated the signature of Bill Clinton in your ad was signed by machine. One would think a company who advertises as an “autograph authentication” company would at best illustrate a genuine signature in their advertisement. Some believe if you can’t get the signature right in your own ad, how could you possibly render an opinion on those submitted to you by collectors and dealers?”

78. The Joe DiMaggio Signed Bat Forgery Authenticated By-

Along with a Certificate from James Spence stating this was a genuine Joe DiMaggio signature on a baseball bat, the item was put up for sale in a Strike Zone Auction as item #849 in their Jan.5-26, 2006 auction.  The signature was called out by several experts and Autograph Alert as a forgery.

79 and 80. The Pres. Zachary Taylor and Eisenhower Secretarial Signatures Authenticated As Genuine By PSA & JSA-

Autograph Alert reported this on Zachary Taylor:  ”Collectors with the minimum, basic knowledge of presidential signatures will know the signature on this document is NOT GENUINE. Then comes into the picture of James Spence and his staff. Does everyone remember the interview with Spence where he says before he issues a COA his whole staff has to approve of the signature?

Let’s take a look at his staff and who on there would deal in presidential signatures. Just look at the names, John Reznikoff, Herman Darvick and Bob Eaton. These are the names associated with James Spence Authentication that would have to had looked at this Taylor document before Spence would issue his COA.”

..and this on IKE:  ”For those of you who do not collect presidential signatures the following is just a Reader’s Digest condensed study of the above Dwight Eisenhower signature. Examples of this secretarial signature can be found in many autograph reference books. For example see illustration below from Charles Hamilton’s book Scribblers and Scoundrels, page 55.

81 and 82.  The Tiger Woods & Kobe Bryant Authentic Upper Deck In-Person Signatures Rejected By JSA-

Despite coming with legitimate documentation showing both of these items were in-person items guaranteed by Upper Deck, JSA rejected both items because they were presented instead with a Chris Morales LOA.  It’s another example of JSA issuing opinions without actually examining the items.

83. The Kato Kaelin As Kate Hudson eBay-PSA/DNA Debacle-

Autograph Alert exposed this one on eBay: “Actually this so-called “in person” signature of Kate Hudson is a signature of Kato Kaelin of O.J. Simpson fame. Mr. Kaelin was contacted regarding this signature and he confirms it is his. As for the expert authenticators, they obviously haven’t the slightest clue of what a signature of Kate Hudson looks like. However these incompetent authenticating companies will still take money from ignorant collectors and corrupt sellers of autographs. Shouldn’t an inexperienced autograph authenticator know how to spell Hudson.”

84.  The Babe Ruth Goudey Forgeries Authenticated By JSA & PSA/DNA-

The Babe Ruth card to the left was authenticated by JSA and appeared in REA’s 2013 sale;  The Ruth card (center) appeared in a 2013 Heritage sale slabbed by PSA/DNA;  The card to the right appeared in a Coaches Corner sale.  Experts including Ron Keurajian are of the opinion all of them are forgeries.

85. The Gary Sheffield Single Signed Ball Certified As Chris Short By JSA-

Jimmy Spence & Co. authenticated this ball (below, left) as being signed by Chris Short when it was, in fact, a single signed ball of juicer Gary Sheffield.

86-89. The JSA Rejections Of In-Person Signed Items By Hank Aaron, Derek Jeter and Pres. Richard Nixon-

JSA rejected in-person signed autographs including a Hank Aaron poster signed for a celebrity (bottom far right), a Yankee team ball signed for a Yankee coach (center) and a Richard Nixon signed in front of a well-known dealer (top far right).

90. The President Harding Secretarial Authentications By JSA & Jimmy Spence-

Despite the fact that expert Charles Hamilton posted clear cut illustrations of the Harding secretarials executed by an employee during his tenure (below top) as President, JSA and Jimmy Spence have continually authenticated these bogus examples as genuine (below bottom).

91.  The Charlie Watts As Mick Jagger PSA/DNA-Slabbed Magazine Photo-

PSA/DNA slabbed this magazine photo (above, right) as bearing an authentic signature of Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones despite the fact it is a signature of Stones drummer Charlie Watts.

92.  The Non-Genuine Joe Louis “Joe Barrow” Check Certified real By PSA/DNA-

Autograph Alert reported this PSA error:  ”The following illustration is from the recent RR Auction which ends May 13, 2009. We refer to item #1461 entitled Joe Louis. R&R totally embarrasses themselves with a lengthy description of this being a “rarely seen example of the Brown Bomber’s given name, Joe L. Barrow, is penned on the back of this..bank check…” The description continues with such wording that they make it appear they know what they are talking about….”on the back of the instrument, Louis’ flowing, black fountain pen inscription reads….”

“The description borderlines on being hilarious. Part of the description reads: “Accompanied by a full PSA/DNA letter of authenticity.” If you want to feel more secure bidding on this item, the bank check is also backed by another COA: “JSA (James Spence Authentication) Mike Gutierrez Auction LOA.” Just for good measure they tack on a third COA from RR Auction. Sure wish PSA/DNA would mention on their Certificate who the “wizard” was that certified this item. Always seems like no individual is ever held accountable.”

93.  PSA Authenticates A Rubber Stamp Of Silent Film Star Mary Pickford-

Autograph Alert exposed this blunder:  ”An inexcusable blunder made by the “experts” at PSA/DNA could be found in a Heritage/Odyssey Auction #612. Lot #22262. Cataloged as a Mary Pickford Signed Photograph (below right, inset). “RARE, vintage photo signed by the ‘Pollyanna’ star, one of the greatest actresses of the silent era.” This supposedly RARE item is accompanied by a COA from PSA/DNA.  These photographs are by no means rare. They have been around for nearly 100 years and any dealer with the slightest experience most likely has come across these photographs. With a little effort a collector and surely an “autograph authenticating expert” can go to the educational web site of www.isitreal.com, click on the Reference Directory, type in Mary Pickford and voila, an identical photograph (below, left) with the same signature comes on screen. On this site, the photo is accurately described as a photograph bearing a rubber stamped signature of Mary Pickford.”

94.  The Babe Ruth Black & White HOF Plaque Forgery-

An authentic signed Babe Ruth B&W HOF plaque postcard is virtually impossible to attain.

JSA & PSA’s work authenticating Black & White HOF plaques is inadequate to say the least.  Authentications of plaques allegedly signed by Jesse Burkett have cost collectors a fortune. Ron Keurajian believes the only authentic Ruth plaque to surface is an example sold at Philip Weiss Auctions in 2009 for over $60k (inset above center).  An example sold at Heritage in 2012 for $22,705, but every expert we asked concurred with author Keurajian, stating that the JSA-certed plaque (above center) was not genuine.  One said, “The signature shows hesitation and looks off, I’d stay away for sure.”  Another expert simply said, “It’s apocryphal.”

95.  The PSA Authentication Of A Meg Ryan Single-Signed Baseball-

Somehow PSA/DNA expects customers to believe they can actually tell that the blue sharpie line placed on the sweet spot of this baseball (above right) was actually signed by actress Meg Ryan as her signature.  Unless the PSA/DNA expert witnessed the actress sign this very ball, it is hard to believe he could issue an LOA and a credible opinion on the signature.

96.  The Honus Wagner Ornate-Style Signature Signed On A 1949 Leaf Baseball Card-

Jimmy Spence and Steve Grad authenticated this Honus Wagner signature (above left) for Hunt Auctions in 2004 despite the fact the ornate Wagner signature could not have been signed earlier than 1949 when the card was issued by Leaf.  Wagner had abandoned this ornate style signature before 1949.  Jimmy Spence later issued an LOA (above right) authenticated a magazine photo dated 1949 that exhibits the type of tremulous signature Wagner may have signed in 1949 (above center), but experts believe even this example he authenticated is a forgery.  At the least, how could Spence authenticate both?

Author Ron Keurajian found two genuine exemplars of Jud Wilson's rare signature, one from a letter found in the Effa Manley Papers (top left) and another on his WW-1 draft card (center). Without exemplars, PSA certified genuine a postcard and a baseball alleged to be signed by Wilson, but are believed to be non-genuine.

97. The PSA-Authentications of Rare Negro League HOFer Jud Wilson w/o Exemplars-

PSA’s “Autograph Facts” page includes an alleged “half-printed” signature of Jud Wilson on a baseball and they also slabbed as authentic a real photo postcard featuring what they claim is an authentic Wilson signature.  However, author and expert Ron Keurajian located authentic letters written by Wilson at the Newark Public Library in the Effa Manley Papers Collection which illustrate that the PSA exemplars are not genuine autographs of Wilson.  Robert Edward Auctions sold the non-genuine signature of Wilson on the postcard for over $30,000.  REA sold the same postcard back in 1995 as part of a prominent Negro League collection attributed to Louis Santop (long before Wilson was a HOFer) but it appears that the name written on the Wilson postcard was likely a period identification and not an actual signature.  The Wilson postcard sold along with alleged autographed postcards of Ted Page and A. Reid for $884.  Its another case of PSA authenticating a rare baseball signature without having any verifiable authentic exemplars available for comparison.  According to Keurajian in his book, “Many forged picture postcards are in the market.  They feature Wilson in a Grays uniform leaning on a bat.  Some are signed “J. Wilson” others as “Jud Wilson.”  In Keurajian’s opinion, “All are accomplished by the same forger.”

98.  The Sonny Liston Wife-Signed Forgeries-

Both PSA/DNA and JSA have proven they know little about boxing autographs as evidenced by the volume of forged Sonny Liston autographs they have certified as genuine over the years despite repeated warnings from boxing experts like Travis Roste and Mark Ogren.  The slabbed PSA Liston signature illustrated (above left) bears a wife-signed secretarial signature of the boxer while two authentic examples appear to the right with a full signature of his wife at the top on a 3×5 card.

99.  The eBay Leonard Bernstein Autopen Signature Slabbed By PSA/DNA-

An eBay forum outed Leonard Bernstein autopen signatures at auction in the past (above left) and another stellar autopen made its way onto eBay just recently and was slabbed by PSA/DNA as an authentic original signature of the composer.  The signature is not exact to the example posted on the eBay forum, but experts agree it was generated by an autopen and not Bernstein’s actual hand.  The winner of the recent eBay PSA-slab of Bernstein says he’ll be sending the autograph to the FBI.

100.  The Questioned Babe Ruth Single-Signed Baseball Authentications Of PSA/DNA & JSA-

We could probably add a few hundred more Babe Ruth single signed balls to our list and send it off towards the “Worst 1,000″ authentication blunders made by the TPA’s.

All of these not-so-Ruthian “winners” were authenticated by either Grad, Spence or Gutierrez but none of them can hold a candle to Spence’s purported ability to authenticate Ruth’s signature executed on metal surfaces and this gold-plated cigarette case (above) which had a JSA-LOA in REA’s Fall 2013 sale.

The TPA authentications of Babe Ruth single-signed baseballs are perhaps the most controversial of all hobby issues and both PSA/DNA and JSA never cease to amaze with the specimens they certify as authentic (see below):


By Peter J. Nash

November 26, 2013

Since its opening in the 1930s, the Baseball Hall of Fame has suffered its share of losses due to theft and vandalism.

The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum and the National Baseball Library in Cooperstown, New York, house the world’s most comprehensive collections of artifacts, documents and photographs related to our “National Pastime.”  There are over 2 million items that have been generously donated to the institution since it first opened its doors in the 1930s thanks to the brainstorm of a Manhattan social-worker named Alexander Cleland.

Incredibly, all of the objects and documents in its collection are donations from the general public and men and women connected with the game in some way, shape or form. The Hall does not purchase items for its collections and it does not sell or liquidate items previously donated for any other purposes. Thanks to the the generosity of American baseball fans, the Hall of Fame now boasts of a collection that could very well be valued at a billion dollars, and is nothing short of spectacular.

Spectacular as it is, the collection at the Hall and its library have been easy prey for thieves over the past few decades who have somehow made their way in and out of Baseball’s Mecca with smuggled baseball treasures worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Some artifacts have been boldly removed from display cases during regular museum hours with the aid of a screwdriver while most others were smuggled out of the National Baseball Library in a brief case or secreted away in between photocopies made at the library. In 1983, it was also discovered that an employee in Commissioner Bowie Kuhn’s office had sold scores of donated World Series programs out of his Long Island garage after they were loaned from the Hall of Fame. The Sporting News broke the story and the New York Post ran a headline: Scandal Hits the Baseball Hall of Fame with reporting by gossip columnist Cindy Adams.

This headline appeared in the New York Post in 1983 after TSN broke the story of the HOF/Joe Reichler scandal.

Bill James described the scandal in his book Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame in more detail:

“With the collectors market burgeoning, the Hall of Fame was already finding it more difficult to get people to donate items of historic significance. The scandal increased those difficulties sevenfold. The officials at the Hall of Fame were desperate to put the whole thing behind them; the Commissioner, after the public revelations promised a vigorous in-house investigation.”

On the day that the BBWAA reveals who will be on the ballot to get into the Hall for 2014, here’s our list of what’s already got out. We present to you the Top 100 items (or groups of items) that appear to have vanished from the archives of the Baseball Hall of Fame and, since the Hall’s leadership is in denial and prone to cover-ups, we include many items that were stolen and have since been recovered and returned to Cooperstown:

1. The Walter Johnson Presidential Baseball Collection- William Howard Taft and Calvin Coolidge signed these two balls for HOFer Walter Johnson.  Johnson housed these balls and others in a wooden presentation box which was donated to Cooperstown by his family.  The Johnson family found out the balls had been stolen years after the thefts occurred when relative Hank Thomas requested to see them on a visit to the museum. (Recovered)

Walter Johnson's collection of first pitch baseballs signed by US Presidents were stolen from the HOF in the 1970s and were recovered by the FBI in 2001.

2. Woodrow Wilson autographed baseball to Walter Johnson. (Recovered)

3. Warren Harding and Herbert Hoover autographed baseballs inscribed to Johnson. (Recovered)

4. Harry Wright 1887 Kalamazoo Bat cabinet card.

5. 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings Peck & Snyder trade card.

This rare card considered by many the first commercially released baseball card was credited to the HOF in a 1983 book and is currently missing from the HOF.

6. World Series Program Collection-dozens of WS programs on loan to Bowie Kuhn’s office were sold to Long Island dealer Bob Sevchuk by Kuhn’s aide, Joe Reichler.  TSN broke the story that became known as the 1980s “Reichler Scandal.”

7. George Davis signed affidavit for protested game in 1905.

8. World Series Press Pin Collection- a thief removed the glass from a Hall display case with a screwdriver and made off with many press pins.

9. New York Knickerbocker Base Ball Club Dinner Receipt- from 1847 signed by Alexander Cartwright and donated by the Cartwright family in the 1930s.

10. New York Knickerbocker Base Ball Club Dinner Receipt- from 1845, donated by the Cartwright family and was on display in the museum for decades before vanishing.

This rare 1847 dinner receipt signed by Alexander Joy Cartwright Jr. was donated to the HOF in the 1930s by his grandson Bruce Cartwright but was stolen from the NBL in the 1980s.

11. Buck Ewing autographed New York Giant salary receipt from 1888.

12. Roger Connor autographed New York Giant salary receipt from 1888.

13. John M. Ward autographed letter to National Commission in 1905.

14. Philadelphia Athletics of 1870 team portrait CDV by artist Gihon.  Credited to the NBL in SABR’s “National Pastime.”

15. 1886 New York Giants cabinet photo by J. Wood.

16. Mickey Welch autographed New York Giants salary receipt.

17. Amos Rusie autographed New York Giants salary receipt.

This 19th century pay receipt signed byu New York Giant pitcher and HOFer Mickey Welch was received at the Hall in 1970 and by 1991 was auctioned off in San Francisco.

18. Vic Willis autographed letter to Ford Frick from 1935.

19. Henry Chadwick autographed letter to August Herrmann in 1907.

20. Harry Wright autographed letter to Frederick Long in 1879.  Part of the donated papers of the 19th century Boston team executive.

21. Harry Wright autographed letter to J. B. Billings in 1888

22. 1897 Boston Baseball Club with Rooters at Baltimore cabinet photo by Elmer Chickering. (Recovered)

23. Christy Mathewson autographed letter to August Herrmann in 1917

#23. January 1917 Mathewson letter to August Herrmann (left) that was once part of the HOF collection along with other Matty letters to Herrmann also from January of 1917.

24. George Wright autographed letter to Ford Frick in 1936.

25. James O’Rourke 1916 autographed letter to August Herrmann requesting World Series tickets.

26. Jimmy Collins autographed letter to Ford Frick in 1935.

27. Sliding Billy Hamilton autographed letter to Ford Frick.

28. George Wright autographed letter to Ford Frick, 1935.

29. Jake Beckley autographed Cincinnati Reds salary receipt.

30. Christy Mathewson autographed letter related to protested game 1923.

The Nap Lajoie Horner cabinet (left) had a vandalized NBL accession number and a "PD" mark on the reverse just like the Christy Mathewson cabinet reverse pictured to the right.

31. Napoleon Lajoie cabinet photo portrait by Carl Horner.

32. Joe Kelley letter to Ford Frick from 1935.

33. Christy Mathewson cabinet photo portrait by Falk. (Recovered)

34. Miller Huggins autographed letter to August Herrmann in 1909.

35. 1894 New York Giants team cabinet photograph.

36. Roger Connor cabinet photo portrait by Jos. Hall

37. 1917 New York Giant team autographed request for World Series share to the National Commission.

38. John Evers 1908 sworn affidavit related to protested game and play similar to the infamous “Merkle” play.

39. Joe Tinker 1908 affidavit related to same protested game.

40. Joe Tinker 1948 letter to HOF president Paul Kerr.

41. 1902 August Herrmann check used to Purchase the Cincinnati Reds for $146,462.34.

This check was used by August Herrmann and his partners to purchase the Reds in 1902. The HOFs Herrmann archive's Box 1, Folder 3, includes documents related to the "Sale of Cincinnati" including the agreement that references this very check.

42. Jesse Burkett autographed New York Giant salary receipt 1890.

43. John J. McGraw autographed letter for protested game 1911.

44. Hughie Jennings autographed letter to August Herrmann.

45. Napoleon Lajoie autographed letter to HOF President Stephen C. Clark, 1947.

46. Napoleon Lajoie autographed letter to August Herrmann.

47. Ty Cobb 8-page autographed letter to HOF President Paul Kerr.

48. Fred Clarke autographed letter related to a protested game in 1909.

49. Babe Ruth autographed photograph.

50. Tim Keefe cabinet photo portrait by Jos. Hall.

51. Ty Cobb two page autographed letter to HOF president Paul Kerr in 1953.

This letter sold by REA was written by Harry Wright to Frederick Long and appears to have been wrongfully removed from the HOFs Long Papers Collection.

52. John J. McGraw autographed letter related to protested game 1908.

53. “Smilin” Mickey Welch cabinet photo by Jos. Hall 1890. (Recovered)

54. Jake Beckley cabinet photo portrait.

55. Miller Huggins autographed Cincinnati Reds salary receipt.

56. John J. McGraw cabinet photo portrait by Horner.

57. Jesse Burkett autographed letter to August Herrmann (secretarial signature).

58. Wahoo Sam Crawford autographed letter to HOF Pres. Paul Kerr.

59. “Home Run ” Baker autographed letter to HOF Pres. Paul Kerr 1961.

60. Napoleon Lajoie autographed letter to Hall of Fame offices in Cooperstown.

61. Joe Tinker autographed letter to HOF historian Ernest Lanigan in 1946.

This collage of stolen items includes: Hugh Jennings letter to Herrmann; 1897 Chickering cabinet of Boston BBC and Rooters; 1902 Reds Articles of Inc.; Mickey Welch cabinet by Jos. Hall; Joe Tinker 1908 affidavit; John J. McGraw protest letter; Roger Connor cabinet by Jos. Hall; 1902 JT Brush Promissory Note; Jake Beckley cabinet photo (center).

62. “Kid” Nichols autographed letter to HOF President, Paul Kerr in 1949.

63. 1903 Boston Base Ball Club (NL) Season Pass issued to Frederick Long.

64. Jack Chesbro cabinet photo portrait.

65. John T. Brush autographed promissory note to Cincinnati Reds in 1902.

66. Amos Rusie cabinet photograph by Jos. Hall.

67. Wilbert Robinson autographed letter related to protested game in 1928.

68. 1876 Boston Base Ball Club Season Pass that was part of the Frederick Long Papers Collection at the National Baseball Library.

69. Billy Evans autographed letter to HOF Pres. Paul Kerr

70. Charles Comiskey autographed letter to August Herrmann 1913.

71. Ed Abbatichio W-600 Sporting Life cabinet card. (Recovered)

This W600 Sporting Life cabinet of Pirate Ed Abbaticchio was sold at auction but had HOF ownership marks on its reverse. The buyer returned the card to the Hall.

72. Napoleon Lajoie letter to HOF director.

73. 1902 Articles of Incorporation of the Cincinnati Reds from the Herrmann Papers collection.

74. Bill Klem autographed letter related to protested game, 1920.

75. John T. Brush letter to Reds Board of Directors in 1902.

76. Clark Griffith autographed letter to HOF President, Paul Kerr.

77. Bill Klem autographed letter related to protested game 1909.

78. Jack Glasscock autographed New York Giants salary receipt 1888.

79. John J. McGraw autographed letter for protested game 1912.

80. Jesse Burkett autographed letter to Ford Frick from 1935.

81. Jesse Burkett autographed letter to Ford Frick (secretarial).

82. Boston Red Sox team autographed request for World Series money share to National Commission in 1915.

These two World Series check requests from the 1915 Red Sox and 1917 Giants for players' shares were sent to August Herrmann's National Commmission and are believed to have originated from the HOFs Herrmann Papers archive which includes similar documents.

83. Kenesaw Mountain Landis autographed letter to Larry McPhail in 1935.

84. Ban Johnson autographed letter to August Herrmann 1914.

85. Ed Barrow autographed letter to August Herrmann from 1914.

86. Ban Johnson autographed letter to August Herrmann in 1912.

87. Ban Johnson autographed letter to August Herrmann in 1905.

88. Kenesaw Mountain Landis autographed letter to August Herrmann from 1926.

89. Joe Tinker autographed letter addressed to August Herrmann.

90. John Heydler autographed letter addressed to August Herrmann.

91. Barney Dreyfus autographed letter for protested game in 1909.

92. Barney Dreyfus autographed letter for protested game in 1924.

93. Sam Breadon autographed letter to August Herrmann.

The letter written to Ford Frick by Nap Lajoie (left) is in a prvate collection while the Lajoie letter to Frick on the right is part of the NBLs Frick correspondence file.

94. Emil Fuchs autographed letter to August Herrmann.

95. George Stallings autographed letter for protested game in 1916.

96. John Ganzel autographed letter to August Herrmann from 1912.

97. Fred Tenney autographed letter to Reds manager, Ned Hanlon.

98. Napoleon Lajoie autographed letter to Ford Frick from 1935.

99. Charles Ebbets autographed letter to August Herrmann 1913.

100. Tom Yawkey autographed letter to HOF President Paul Kerr.

This rare cabinet photo of Jim Mutrie's 1886 NY Giants was documented as HOF property during a SABR photo shoot at the Hall in 1983. In 2006 it was sold by Heritage Auctions for over $10,000.


By Peter J. Nash

November 15, 2013

An HOS investigation into the population of T206 Honus Wagner cards reveals that there are at least 64 examples known to exist. Illustrated above are twenty of the earliest documented examples. (Correction: The first Wagners in the 3rd and 4th rows are the same card).

When Wayne Gretzky and Bruce McNall purchased their T206 Honus Wagner at Sotheby’s in 1991, it was the king of all cards.  After they had it graded by PSA it then served as the foundation for a business model that would change the hobby forever giving birth to a generation of collectors who were attracted to collecting cards slabbed in plastic tombs with condition grades scaled from 1 to 10.

But now that Bill Mastro has fessed up to trimming it with a paper slicer in the 1980s that same card is now a PSA- certified fraud sitting in the collection of Arizona Diamondbacks owner Ken Kendrick who acquired it in a private sale in 2007 for close to $3 million. PSA supporters and customers still believe Kendrick’s card will retain its value because of its infamous history but others claim the card is forever tainted since its been exposed as a monumental hobby fraud.

So, which Honus Wagner card will replace the trimmed Mastro example as the king of the hill? And how many Wagner cards actually exist? Hauls of Shame has been keeping track of Wagner cards for a few decades and just recently concluded an investigation into the actual population of Wagner cards known to exist.

ESPN recently published incorrect and erroneous population totals stating that there are “about three dozen” Wagner cards known in private hands and institutional collections. What the Hauls of Shame investigation has uncovered is 61 actual images of existing Wagners and the confirmation of at least three other examples not yet supported by visual evidence. That puts the total at 64 (at a minimum). Further evidence suggests that there are possibly another ten unverified Wagner cards in private hands.  A conservative combined value of the Wagners illustrated in this article exceeds $25 million–all for 60 pieces of cardboard.

Some Wagners are housed in museum collections while others are stashed away in the holdings of former major league ballplayers, millionaires, sportscasters, auctioneers, Hollywood stars and even the descendants of the original owners who acquired them right out of cigarette packs in 1910.  The existing cards have passed through a multitude of hands and each of them has its own unique story of provenance .  In the next 12 months Hauls of Shame will publish a series of articles chronicling the travels of the existing Honus Wagner cards and also profiling the collectors who have owned them.

The HOS investigation documented 64 known examples of the T206 Wagner card. This image includes number 1 through 40 representing the first forty documented Wagner cards in the hobby.

The Wagner cards we have documented begin with the first examples that appeared in the press in the 1930s and 1940s and were identified as the toughest T206 cards to acquire.  Of course, that story includes the Wagner  that legendary card-collecting pioneer Jefferson Burdick acquired from Sgt. John Wagner when he donated his trove to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1947.  It also includes the Wagner donated to the New York Public Library in 1946 by Leopold Morse Goulston in memory of his good friend Leo J. Bondy, a former vice-president of the New York Giants.

Then there are all of the Wagner cards that have assumed their own identities over the years distinguishing themselves from other specimens with their lofty titles and gimmicky nicknames :  The Die-Cut Wagner; The Wallet-Wagner; The Charlie Sheen-All-Star Cafe Wagner; The Sisters of Notre Dame (Nuns) Wagner; The Half-Wagner; The Jumbo Wagner; The Long Island Wagner; The Beckett Wagner; The Orem-Nagy Wagner; The Cooperstown Wagner; The Hoboken Wagner, Sgt. Wagner’s Wagner etc.

The existing Wagner examples numbering from 41 to 60 appear above in a wide range of conditions ranging from trimmed examples to the high grade "Jumbo Wagner" in the top row.

When it comes to the buyers and sellers of Wagner cards over the years, their own personal stories are sometimes as notable as the cards themselves:

Bill Mastro- Ironically, the Godfather of Wagner acquisitions and sales is the man who admitted to trimming the most celebrated copy. Mastro claims to have handled and sold more Wagners than any of his former competitors and was snagging the rarities as early as 1972.  By the age of 19 he had completed his own T206 set and in 1981, he told Bill Madden of The Sporting News he’d already owned three Wagners.  Said Mastro, “The first one I had I sold when I was a senior in high school.  I got it from a priest who found it in his attic.  Later I bought another Wagner for $1,500 which was then a record price.”

Jefferson Burdick- The hobby pioneer could never get his hands on a Wagner until his friend and fellow collector Sgt. John Wagner (no relation to Honus) gifted him one to include in his collection bequeathed to the Met. Burdick wrote in his Card Collectors Bulletin:  ”Big news this month is that due to the generosity and public spiritedness of John D. Wagner the Metropolitan collection will include a copy of that much wanted T206 Honus Wagner card. ”  Burdick also noted that only “one or two others were known to exist at the time, and added, “the card remains in such demand that several copies could easily be sold at the catalog value of $25 or more.”

Bill Haber- The Assistant Sports Director for Topps Chewing Gum, Haber acquired his first Wagner on June 1, 1970 from legendary collector Wirt Gammon.  Recalling the acquisition in his “Haber Hi-Lites” column in The Ballcard Collector Haber recalled, “I made a cash offer to all I knew had the card. Wirt Gammon accepted my offer and I bought his.”  The price was $500.

Existing Wagner cards have passed through the hands of several notable hobby figures including (clockwise): Bill Mastro; Rob Lifson; The New York Public Library; Brian Seigel; Bill Haber and Jefferson Burdick.

Rob Lifson- The auctioneer who purchased the infamous Gretzky-McNall Wagner with Bill Mastro for $25,000 (before it was trimmed) claims to have handled a multitude of Wagners.  When he purchased back the Gretzky-McNall Wagner for $641,000 at Christie’s in 1996 Lifson told the Maine Antique Digest, “I’ve handled 16 or 17 of them.”  He called the trimmed and altered Wagner “The Mona Lisa of cards.”

Alan “Mr. Mint” Rosen- The self proclaimed “Million-Dollar Dealer” claims on his website to have been involved in “Purchases of nine different of the thirty five Honus Wagner T206 cards known to exist.”  By 1991, he had already “bought and sold seven different (Wagners)” which he considered, “the Mona Lisa of the business.”

Barry Halper- The Yankee limited partner donated one of his multiple Wagner cards to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in 1984.  At the time Hall President Ed Stack told reporters, “Its introduction to our collection adds immeasurably to the Hall of Fame’s prestige and it has quickly become one of our most celebrated exhibits.”

Lew Lipset- The dealer and hobby scribe sold his high-grade Wagner to Bill Mastro in an SCD auction in 1981 for over $25,000.  On why he sold his prized Wagner, Lipset said that his decision was based on the “lack of interest in the card.” In SCD Lipset wrote, “Only one valid bid was received, a sorry showing for what is considered the ultimate collectible in the hobby.”

John Cinquegrana- The New Jersey collector purchased a pile of 200 T206 cards for $600 in 1982 ($3 bucks each) and didn’t look through them until a few months later.  When he finally did rummage through the group, he found a rare Eddie Plank card among others.  He told SCD, “I went through about 20 more cards, and there it was—in poor condition, but a genuine Honus Wagner.  I realized my ship finally came in.”

Brian Seigel- After buying the fraudulent T206 Gretzky-McNall Wagner from Mastro and Lifson for $1.26 million at Robert Edward Auctions in 2000, Seigel provided copy for PSA print adds stating:  ”When I found out the finest T206 Honus Wagner in existence was coming up for sale, I only had one major question: ‘Was it graded by PSA?’  The truth is that I would have never considered bidding on the card without PSA’s seal of approval.”

The high grade "Jumbo" and "Hall of Fame" Wagner cards (top, left to right) would likely end up in the same condition (or better) than the trimmed Mastro-PSA Wagner (bottom left) owned by Ken Kendrick (top right). PSA used Brian Seigel's endorsement in their print ads in 2001 (bottom right).

Now that the Mastro-PSA Wagner has been exposed as a fraud there are several candidates to assume the position of the hobby’s “Holy Grail.”  Still, there are some PSA supporters who say that Ken Kendrick’s trimmed Wagner has retained its value and perhaps has even increased in value despite Bill Mastro’s guilty plea in a Chicago Federal Court.  In that camp are PSA apologists like Net54’s Leon Luckey who has been actively disseminating the PSA talking points in hobby circles.  After the Mastro indictment Luckey went on the record in The New York Daily News stating, “Cards that are found to be trimmed are worth 10 or 15 percent of their value.  But that Wagner is still the best Wagner in the hobby, and there are some who will still pay big money for it.”

Chris Ivy, sports director of Heritage Auctions, is a big customer and advertiser of PSA’s services and he also told the New York Daily News, “It’s still the finest example of a T206 Wagner in the hobby and the demand for it is still high.  It’s still well-known – notorious, if you will.”

If the observations of Luckey and Ivy have merit, could collectors endorse similar trimming of Wagners with other “over-sized” high-grade examples known to exist? If the collector who recently purchased the “Jumbo Wagner” for $2.1 million  at Goldin Auctions decided to trim his card it would equal or exceed the condition of the Mastro-PSA Wagner owned by Kendrick as would the Hall of Fame’s copy purchased from Barry Halper in the 1998 MLB purchase on behalf of the Hall.  When Lew Lipset sold that copy to Mastro in 1981 he indicated that the card could be trimmed to attain mint condition status.

Bill Mastro shows off his $25,000 over-sized and untrimmed Wagner card that he bought in a 1981 Lew Lipset auction. The card (inset) ended up in Cooperstown.

Hauls of Shame asked several hobby insiders for their opinion of the trimmed PSA-8 Mastro- Wagner and also asked which Wagner they now consider the “Holy Grail”?

Ken Goldin (Goldin Auctions)- “If the 8 was out I’d have to say the “Jumbo Wagner.” I don’t get excited by just seeing cards, but holding that Wagner in my own hands I was like, “wow”.  The way it was over sized and miscut just solidified the fact it is original and unaltered.  And the image is so incredibly clear”  (Goldin once owned another legendary T206 Honus Wagner card, the proof-strip unearthed in Pittsburgh in the 1970s.)

Jimmy Leiderman (collector and photo historian)- “I’m not sure I can give an opinion. A 50% drop in price and I’m probably being optimistic. I don’t know much about other T206 Wagners…but I’d go with the Wagner proof strip.”

Jay Miller (author & collector)- “I don’t think the card has lost any value. Everyone already knew it was trimmed. It is still the “Holy Grail” if there is such a thing.”

Dan McKee (longtime T206 collector)- “You know, even though it is trimmed and a complete fraud in that slab at that number, I still consider it the Holy Grail as it is that gorgeous of a card.  Only the psycho slab heads would care if it is trimmed.”

Rob Bertrand (radio host-writer/Voice of the Collector)- “Unfortunately in the uber-elite collecting community that can afford such items, I don’t think the value will change. At this point I believe “The Card” is just that, something referred to in quotations; The myth, lore and story have exceeded the intrinsic value of the card itself.”

Rhys Yeakley (RMY Auctions)- “I think it devalues it, but its iconic and storied status still makes it the most valuable in the hobby.  I would venture to say that 95% of the PSA8-10 T206 cards are trimmed anyways so it is par for the course when dealing with high grade cards from that issue.  I would personally rather have the PSA5 that sold a few years back if given the choice.”

Joshua Evans (Lelands)- “It is surprising to me based on the truth that is out there but the card continues to earn its title as the “Teflon Wagner.”  Bottom line, the card would sell for MORE than the last buyer paid for it. It’s fame outpaces its infamy.”

George Vrechek (Writer-SCD & OldBaseball.com)- “Why would a card be altered? – to increase its value, provided the trimming wasn’t disclosed. Logic would lead one to conclude that if a card was quietly altered, it was because knowledge of trimming would decrease the value. Trimming is not equivalent to a cleaning or removal of foreign substances like scrapbook paper. It is designed to alter the original. The $2.8 million Wagner was valued before it was widely known that it had been trimmed.”

“It seems to me that no matter what the current value of the Wagner is (even if it were $3 million), that it is now worth less than it would be if it were not trimmed. Premiums are realized because collectors are looking for those samples which have survived the ravages of time to remain in the best condition possible. The premium is due to the rarity. Trimming takes a card out of the “rare”air. Some other Wagner gets to be the “Holy Grail.”

Mike Mango (card dealer)- “If you trim a card in today’s market to make it a better grade and you make it undersized the grading card companies will reject it and it is deemed trimmed but if you take a card that was over sized and trim it to the specifications that the manufacturer had originally intended to correct his first time error why is it such a big deal if you bring it to the correct specs?

Travis Roste (collector)- “I think it has less prominence now and is worth less.  If it went to auction it might fetch more only from a couple of bidders who have loads of money and have to own it, so its split. I think hobbyists and collectors consider it tarnished. I would consider any of the cards that grade 5 or above, as the leading contender. I think the two graded 5 and 5mk “Jumbo,” lead the way among graded cards.”

Doug Allen (Legendary Auctions)- “I still believe the PSA NM-MT 8 Honus Wagner is the Holy Grail of cards. It is my understanding that the current owner was well aware of the book The Card when he purchased the card and since then has been offered in excess of $2.8 million so it has not lost its value or its significance. I believe now that memorabilia and specifically game used jerseys are rising in prominence and value it may not be the Holy Grail of Collectibles or the Hobby. That honor would be bestowed upon the finest unrestored Babe Ruth Jersey in Existence. I believe a Babe Ruth Jersey will be first collectible to eclipse the $10 million mark.”

A long time hobbyist who did not want his name revealed said, “This was the card that launched an industry segment and brand name, and if that was flawed and tainted at the outset, what does that suggest about subsequent work and the impact that has had on everything else that passed through the same system? If they are “card guys” they are inextricably wedded to this card.  Any negative comment from them is tantamount to an indictment of their collections and the value of the same.”

One other opinion that casts a considerable shadow over the Mastro-Wagner and the PSA grading of the trimmed card is that of hobby pioneer Bill Heitman, the author of the 1980s pamphlet about the storied T206 series called The Monster.  Heitman heils from a family of card collectors who got their start opening packs of Old Judge and Sweet Caporal cigarettes from the 1880s through the 1910s.  From his vantage point, Heitman says, “Had the world known that the card was trimmed, back 20 plus years ago, and if PSA had done the right thing and refused to grade the card, I don’t think it would have ever meant that much to the hobby.  But thanks largely to the little piranhas, the card has managed to stay front and center and drag the values of all Wagners up along with it. Now, I think the value should go down considerably, especially if honest people are handling the transaction and I just don’t think there is a “holy grail” for card collectors.”

Correction (Nov 25): The first Wagner cards depicted in the first panel of the Wagner montage (rows 3 and 4) are the same card.  The paper loss in the top left hand corner of the card in the fourth row was distorted to look larger than it was on the actual card.  The Wagner shown above that card is the same card and currently owned by Keith Olbermann (sold by Lew Lipset in 1988 and at Mastro Auctions in 2004).  The Wagner located beneath it was used for the 1977 Dover reprint Wagner card.  It appears the card is the same one discovered by Mike Aronstein in 1972 and was later sold by Lipset in 1988. Since publishing this article we did receive an image of yet another Wagner card which we will add to our illustration.  If you know of any other genuine Wagner cards or have images of other examples not included in this article please let us know at: tips@haulsofshame.com


By Peter J. Nash

November 8, 2013

Goldin's "Shoeless" Joe Jackson card fell short of the $250,000 estimate broadcast on Bloomberg TV.

-Ken Goldin’s M101-6 “Shoeless” Joe Jackson card (the one he was promoting as a the only known copy) sold for $37,784.48 last Friday.  As reported last week, Goldin was promoting the card as unique even after he was informed another example had been sold at Lelands in 1994.

-Chris Cavalier, (Goldin Auctions consignment director), posted a video of Goldin appearing on Bloomberg TV hyping-up the Jackson card even after he’d been informed of the 1994 sale by Dennis Goldstein, the seller of the other known copy of the card. Goldin took a page out of his “Shop at Home” days with Don West as he told the Bloomberg Television host he expected the card to sell for over $250,000. Goldin told “Money Moves” host Deirdre Bolton, “We have another item today, that’s an item that previously was unknown to exist, that somebody actually found in a post card store.”

-Goldin had been notified of the Lelands sale back in September but the Bloomberg TV interview was taped on October 25, and shows that Goldin continued to represent the Jackson card as the only copy known again telling the Bloomberg host, “This card was previously never known to exist.  It was part of a set that existed and somebody found it in  a post card store in the Midwest.  We get it authenticated.  It is now the only one known to exist.”

Goldin then went back to his old “Shop at Home” repertoire and added, “This card is probably the biggest wild card in the auction—as you know we sold the Honus Wagner for over $2 million—you know this (Jackson card) is fifty times rarer( than a Wagner).  The bidding right now is $32,000, it would not surprise me if it goes well over a quarter million dollars.”

-Joe Jackson’s card, however, failed to get another bid above $32,157 after Hauls of Shame published a report last Friday which prompted Goldin to delete company statements posted on Twitter falsely identifying the Jackson as the “rarest baseball card in the world.”

-Ken Goldin used to appear on the Shop at Home Network with Don West as “Kenny on the phone” representing his now bankrupt company, Score Board.  You can see Ken in action on this YouTube video clip with Don West.

Ken Goldin appeared on Bloomberg TV on October 25 promoting the Joe Jackson card as the only copy known with an estimated value exceeding $250,000. On October 24 Goldin tweeted that the card was the "rarest in the world."

-Goldin Auctions sold the “Jumbo” copy of the T206 Honus Wagner last year for $2.1 million, but Ken Goldin also got his start with Wagner’s hawking an example of the rarity as a prize in a Score Board sweepstakes with Don West on the Shop at Home Network.  In the surviving video West tells his audience “less than 50″ copies of the Wagner card existed at the time, which was in the ballpark (estimates indicate there are over 70 known).  Click here: to see Kenny and Don in action.

Heritage is selling several suspect Babe Ruth signed items including a 1933 Goudey card (left) and a single signed ball (right).

-Heritage Auctions’ current sale includes several Babe Ruth items that experts believe are highly suspect including another signed 1933 Goudey card and single-signed baseballs.  While there are some great forgeries that have been fooling both JSA and PSA/DNA there are others that expose the utter lack of skill some have in authenticating Ruth items.  The Ruth ball illustrated here is a perfect example.  It’s up on the block tonight at Heritage and has a current bid of $7,000.  The Ruth Goudey card has a bid of $8,500.

Heritage is offering suspect single signed balls of Christy Mathewson (left) and Grover Cleveland Alexander (right).

-Christy Mathewson forgeries have appeared in several auctions with JSA and PSA/DNA LOA’s and Heritage continues that trend with yet another Matty single-signed ball that experts we spoke with believe is a forgery.  The HA example has a reserve of $65,000 and is signed on a c. 1923 American League ball.  Another highly suspect offering of a Hall of Famer is a single-signed ball of pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander.  Perhaps Grover was drunk when he signed this one.

The alleged Lloyd Waner Perez Steele signed card in Heritage's November auction (far left) is at least the fourth such card authenticated by PSA/DNA (top right examples). JSA authenticated another that sold at Coaches Corner (bottom). Experts say all of them are forgeries.

-Lloyd “Little Poison” Waner autographs on Perez-Steele Hall of Fame postcards are exceedingly rare considering Waner died in July of 1982 shortly after the card set was released in 1981.  Expert Ron Keurajian says in his book, Baseball Hall of Fame Autographs: A Reference Guide: “Waner is the rarest of all Perez-Steele cards to obtain signed.  The total population is unknown.  I have seen many signed but none of them I believe were genuine.” Heritage has yet another alleged Waner signed Perez-Steele card slabbed authentic by PSA/DNA, but experts tell us that this example appears to be forgery just like the other examples PSA has slabbed in addition to the example illustrated on the “PSA Autograph Facts” page on the company website.  The current bid on the suspect Heritage offering is $8,000.  The current Heritage lot appears to be a much better forgery than the previous examples slabbed by the company.  Another forged Waner Perez-Steele was sold at Coaches Corner and later appeared in a Huggins & Scott auction with a JSA LOA.  Experts believe all of these were signed with a  ”poison pen” never used by “Little Poison” himself.

Experts are questioning the authenticity of the 2013 Topps 1/1 Babe Ruth Ultimate Chase Autograph.

-Topps and Beckett made lots of noise about the new 1/1 Babe Ruth Ultimate Chase Autograph/ bat relic card product that was released earlier this year.  Now, a video posted by the woman who pulled the alleged Babe Ruth signature card out of a 2013 Topps Series One box has made the rounds creating even more interest (and scrutiny) in the card.  Despite the enthusiasm of the woman from Georgia who received the prize, experts we spoke with are of the opinion that the Ruth signature is a forgery.  The signature appears labored and slow and according to one expert “not in the hand of Ruth.”  If that wasn’t bad enough, how do collectors know the bat fragment included in the card is authentic?  With the recent Jersey-Gate scandal and considering all of the alleged Ruth bats floating through the hobby that cannot be proven as Ruth gamers, what is Topps doing to insure that their relic-related products are authentic?  Additionally, who is conducting the due diligence for Beckett, the company that slabbed the card and graded it?  Does the card still get a 9.5 if the autograph is fake?

Coaches Corner has recently offered these forgeries of Joe Jackson, Alexander Cartwright, Jesse Burkett, Babe Ruth, Christy Mathewson and Lou Gehrig.

-Coach’s Corner continues to amaze with its proliferation of forgeries and fakes authenticated by  .  The latest gems offered by CCA include balls signed by “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, Alexander Cartwright, Jesse Burkett and Christy Mathewson.  Its rumored that many Coach’s Corner fakes made their way into the Guinness Book approved “Little Cooperstown” collection of Dennis Schrader which was recently unveiled at the St. Petersburg Museum of History with considerable controversy in the local press.

-Huggins & Scott auctions removed a T206 card of Frank Bowerman they alleged may have been located next to a Honus Wagner card on an original T206 printing sheet.  The card had a $5,000 reserve price and a Piedmont reverse which was miscut.  H&S was making the outlandish claim that the card might include a “partial” sliver of a Honus Wagner card.  Also, kudos to Huggins & Scott for conducting an auction that does not include any material stolen from the National Baseball Hall of Fame or the New York Public Library.


By Peter J. Nash

November 1, 2013

Goldin Auctions said this rare card of "Shoeless" Joe Jackson is the only one known, but veteran collectors disagree.

UPDATE: (Scroll to bottom for image of 2nd Jackson card)

The auction catalog description says it’s an SGC 20 “One of One” 1917-20 M101-6 Felix Mendelsohn Joe Jackson exhibit card graded Fair 1.5.  All of that information is totally accurate. It’s the only such card ever graded by SGC and auctioneer Ken Goldin says that PSA’s Joe Orlando verified that his company has never graded or encapsulated an example of the rarity.

The bid on the rare card at the Goldin Auctions website currently stands at $32,157.

But Goldin  isn’t just offering the rare card as the only known graded Mendelsohn of “Shoeless Joe.” Goldin’s auction house posted a tweet on Twitter last week stating it was the: “Rarest baseball card in the world, “Shoeless” Joe Jackson one of a kind.”   The tweet included a link to the online auction lot which further describes the Jackson card as being so rare that it “hasn’t been officially documented (or authenticated) until now.” Goldin also adds that collectors of this series claim “they have never even seen a photo of this card” and states unequivocally, “We have the first known example of this ultra-rare card of Joe Jackson, in an image never before seen…”

But it ain’t so.

When veteran collector Dennis Goldstein saw Goldin’s press release revealing the card back in September he was surprised to hear him claim the card was unique considering that he had owned another copy of the same card and sold it in a major auction at Lelands in November of 1994.  Josh Evans offered the card as part of “The Goldstein Collection”  and it appeared as lot 610 in the sale listed as an”M101-6 Sporting News Joe Jackson” card indicating its “clean corners” and “minor wear.”  The card’s provenance was attributed to veteran collector Tom Collier, one of the founders of TCMA.

Back in 1994, the M 101-6 Mendelsohn set was incorrectly identified as a “Sporting News” issue.  That being said, the Lelands listing establishes that at least one other rare Jackson card has been sold and was part of a prominent collection.  The card’s previous owner, Dennis Goldstein, is known to have one of the finest collections in the world and in the past has been a contributor to numerous research projects including the Ken Burns BASEBALL documentary on PBS.

Lelands' 1994 catalog featuring the Goldstein Collection included the sale of another copy of the M101-6 Joe Jackson card.

Hauls of Shame reached out to Goldin earlier this week and informed him that another card sold in 1994 and also told him of another M101-6 Jackson owned by another collector.  Goldin stated he had been contacted by Goldstein but said he did not provide him with a photograph of his card.  Goldin also told Hauls of Shame he called Mike Heffner of Lelands but he couldn’t recall the sale of the card.  Lelands Chairman Josh Evans was unavailable for comment.  Goldstein said he gave Goldin the sale date, lot number, description and sale price of his card but did not send him a scan of the actual Lelands catalog description.

After Ken Goldin was told about the Lelands sale of another Jackson Mendelson card he continued to promote it on Twitter and in the press as being the only known example.

Goldin, however, chose not amend his auction catalog description to include a mention of Goldstein’s copy of the card after promoting the card in the press and on Twitter as the only one known to exist.  Goldin even went as far as stating his auction would represent, “The first sale of a lost treasure from a historic player like Jackson.”

Despite his documented promotion of the card as the “world’s rarest,” Goldin responded to our inquiry on October 29, stating, “We are not saying it is the only one produced or that exists today.  We are saying it is the only authenticated and documented one.”  That was not what Goldin was saying in his description and on Twitter.  In addition, his card was also not the first “documented one.”

When Goldin was asked why he didn’t include the Lelands sale in his description he responded, “How do we even know that card was real if it wasn’t even graded by SGC or PSA?”  Then, after being called out for his failure to reveal the Lelands sale and the card’s solid provenance, Goldin agreed to amend the auction lot description to include the information about the existence of the card sold at Lelands.  On Tuesday evening, Goldin updated his lot description to read:

“After publication of our feature catalog, and subsequent press releases, we were informed an M101-6 Felix Mendelsohn Joe Jackson card was listed in an auction catalog nearly 20 years ago. However, as of Wednesday, October 30, 2013, we have yet to be provided with any evidence including any image of said card. Goldin Auctions researched this card and issue extensively, and found several long-time M101-6 collectors who had yet to even see an image of this card until this offering. In addition, the two most prestigious third-party grading services, SGC and PSA, have yet to authenticate or even see any other M101-6 Joe Jackson card.”

Goldin’s amended description, however, still failed to disclose the details of the Lelands sale specifically and actually stated that he had not been presented with evidence supporting the existence of the second card.  In fact, Goldin continued to selectively post information in his possession as he had also been informed that the card had sold for $1,900 in 1994.  Goldin’s editing on the lot description also includes no highlighting or alerts to bidders that the description has been amended.

Another ultra-rare Joe Jackson card appeared in the same 1994 Lelands auction as a consignment from Dennis Goldstein who had collected the largest group of Boston Garters known at that time.

The Goldstein Collection also included another Joe Jackson card sold as one of the truly “rarest” Jackson cards in the same 1994 Lelands sale.  Lelands sold as lot 603 a 1914 Boston Garter card of Jackson with an estimate of $8,000 to $10,000 and noted that the provenance of the card traced back to the “Al Price collection.”  Says Goldstein, “As far as I know, one of the rarest Joe Jackson cards is the Boston Garter, not the Mendelsohn.”  Examples of the Boston Garter Jackson slabbed by SGC have sold at Legendary in 2007 for $207,000 (SGC Ex +5.5); Mile High’s 2008 auction for $86,975 (SGC-A); and one went unsold at Heritage in 2007 (SGC-10 Poor 1).  Mile High said in their lot description “A half dozen of these cards known to exist.”

While Goldin's auction description states the Jackson image is "never before seen" the same image has been showcased on BlackBetsy.com since at least Feb. 2003 as captured on the Internet Wayback Machine screen-shot.

In addition Goldin’s claims that the image itself represented on the card is “an image never before seen” is also inaccurate.  The exact same image has been showcased on Mike Nola’s popular Joe Jackson tribute website, BlackBetsy.com,  for close to a decade dating back to 2003.

By late afternoon on Wednesday October 30, Goldin further edited his addendum to remove the terms “any evidence”; “first known example” and “only documented example”  from the lot description, but chose not to identify Lelands auction house and the $1,900 sale of Goldstein’s example of the card.  Goldin also changed the phrase, “never before seen photographic image” to “never before published photographic image,” which is inaccurate since the image has been published on the Internet since 2003.  Goldin also chose not highlight the changes or note at the beginning or end of the lot description that the information was edited to acknowledge his card is not the first known example and not the only existing copy.

Earlier this afternoon Hauls of Shame Tweeted an image of the 1994 Lelands auction page showing the sale of Goldstein’s card so that interested bidders would be fully informed about the actual population of Jackson Mendelsohn cards.  In response, Goldin Auctions proceeded to block the Hauls of Shame account on Twitter.

There are many cards as rare or rarer than the Joe Jackson card in the Goldin sale including (l. to r.) 1893 Just So Cy Young; N172 Old Judge Cap Anson (In Uniform); 1887 N690 Kalamazoo Bat John Ward; 1920 Frederick Foto Babe Ruth; 1922 T231 Frank Baker

There’s no doubt that Goldin’s offered card of Jackson is a rare and important example from a very scarce set, its just not the rarest of all cards and not the only known copy of Jackson’s.  Along with the handful of 1914 Boston Garter Jackson cards, the three documented Jackson Mendelsohn cards (and two others not yet verified at the time this article was published) should be considered the rarest cards depicting “Shoeless Joe.”  In comparison, the famous Honus Wagner card, considered a rarity for many years by collectors far outnumbers these two Jackson issues. Hauls of Shame has documented 59 images of existing Wagner cards and verified three others to put the total population of Wagner cards at 62 examples (there are surely other Wagners out there that will likely be added in the future).

Auctioneer Ken Goldin has been very proactive when it comes to editing or removing problematic lots from his auctions including items from the Barry Halper Collection and a pair of forged boxing gloves attributed to Rocky Marciano.  While he accommodated some of the requests made to correct inaccuracies in his description after over-exaggerating the rarity of his lot, he decided to hold back the details of the 1994 auction and the claims that other cards also existed.  It will be up to card collectors to determine if he went far enough or if he’s just another auctioneer long on hyperbole and short on full disclosure to his clients.

After deleting the Jackson related Tweet Goldin sent Hauls of shame a response that did not answer any of the questions we asked earlier this evening including:  ”Why you have held back the details of the 1994 Lelands sale and the claims that another third example exists based upon Mr Goldstein’s information from his veteran collector friend? Why have you not highlighted your addendum to show the description has been updated as most all auctions do? Why did you Tweet the card was the “rarest” in the world when you obviously knew it was not at the time?”

Goldin’s response, in its entirety, states:

“In response to the information you provided us this week, we amended our description in multiple places, and added the below paragraph to our description.  In addition, an email was sent with the below paragraph to all bidders on the item:

After publication of our feature catalog, and subsequent press releases, we were informed by an old time established collector that an M101-6 Felix Mendelsohn Joe Jackson card was listed in an auction catalog in 1994 (listed as a 1919 image). However, as of  Friday, November 1st, 2013, we have yet to be provided with  any image of said card. Goldin Auctions researched this card and issue extensively, and found several long-time M101-6 collectors who had yet to even see an image of this card until this offering. In addition, the two most prestigious third-party grading services, SGC and PSA, have yet to authenticate or even see any other M101-6 Joe Jackson card.”

UPDATE: Image of Second Copy of M101-6 “Shoeless” Joe Jackson Card Surfaces; In Collection of Vetaran Collector

A second copy of an authentic existing M101-6 Mendelsohn “Shoeless” Joe Jackson card was sent to us by one of our readers.  It was one of the cards we referred to in our original article and has been in the possession of a veteran collector for many years.  Our thanks to them for making it possible to share this image with our readers:

The Joe Jackson M101-6 that sold at Goldin Auctions (left) is joined by a second copy of the Mendelsohn issue in superior condition (right).


By Peter J. Nash
Oct. 14, 2013

(Clockwise from top left) The PSA-8 Wagner (center) was trimmed by Bill Mastro; Purchased by Wayne Gretzky and Bruce McNall; Graded and authenticated by PSA and David Hall; and identified as a trimmed card by; Lew Lipset; Mike Gutierrez; Bill Heitman and Keith Olbermann.

The action in the room at Sotheby’s auction house was frenzied as heads in the front row turned to see who was bidding on the “mint-condition” T-206 Honus Wagner tobacco card that auctioneer Robert Woolley had introduced as the “Holy Grail.”

Woolley had just sold a pristine T-206 set (minus a Wagner) for $90,000 and looked towards the phone bank as a bidding war took shape.  The bid started at $228,000 and approached $300,000 as Colorado memorabilia dealer Mark Friedland raised his paddle every time a mystery phone bidder countered him with another increment. With the tally heading towards $400,000, the audience reacted to each bid until Friedland raised his paddle one last time at $405,000.

Within seconds the phone bidder delivered the final blow and Woollsey dropped his hammer swiftly entering the winning bid of $410,000 for the buyers who would later be revealed as Hockey great Wayne Gretzky and LA Kings owner Bruce McNall.  The crowd burst into applause for what was the highest price ever paid for a piece of baseball memorabilia.

Afterwards, Friedland told reporters, “I gave it my best shot, but when the phone bidder passed the $400,000 mark, I knew he was prepared to go all the way to half-a-million if that’s what it took to get the card.  At that point I decided to drop out.”

Taking it all in was the maestro of the 1991 sale and the Sotheby’s sports consultant, Bill Mastro. He was the mastermind behind the auction and the guy who originally sold the Wagner card to the Sotheby’s consignor for $110,000, just two years earlier.  In organizing Sotheby’s first baseball auction, Mastro had successfully taken the hobby mainstream with the sale of west-coast sporting goods mogul Jim Copeland’s treasure-trove and the sale of the hobby’s “holy grail” was just the icing on the cake.  Mastro told reporters that “Gretzky, himself, was on the phone doing the bidding” and after the sale the newsletter, The Old Judge, remarked, “It’s certain that the hobby will never be the same.”

Mastro had to breathe a sigh of relief, however, as there were rumors circulating before the sale alleging that his former Wagner card had been altered to improve its condition.  Allegations that it had been fraudulently trimmed were being leveled in a hobby that was also being recognized for what the Wall Street Journal would call an “epidemic of forgeries” in a marketplace where prices had skyrocketed.

The Journal interviewed the Sotheby’s consultant a year after the sale and reported that Mastro believed altered cards were a big problem in the hobby with sellers who would “trim cards with bent corners to restore them to mint condition.”  The Journal said Mastro told them that “serious collectors regard(ed) this as ruining the card.”  Writer Alexandra Peers echoed Mastro’s concern in reporting that after his Sotheby’s auction “questions about authenticity dog(ged) almost every major sale.” Unfortunately for Bill Mastro, the questions about his pristine Honus Wagner card would continue to dog him as well.

The crowd at Sotheby's (left) witnessed the $451,000 sale of the "mint condition" T206 Wagner (center) at the Copeland Auction organized by the card's previous owner, Bill Mastro (right).

After the Sotheby’s sale, one of the hobby’s most knowledgeable dealers, Lew Lipset, was the first to report the controversy developing around Mastro’s card in The Old Judge newsletter.  Lipset, who had attended the auction, described the “World Series” atmosphere in the room when the bidding stopped at $410,000 but noted that “the story for that card was only starting.”  According to Lipset, the news that McNall and Gretzky won the card didn’t surface until late that evening and by the next day he said, “reports circulated that the Wagner card was being returned because it was trimmed and/or restored.”

Lipset investigated the rumors and got denials from McNall’s LA Kings front office but also had a “reliable source” who told him the card had not been returned and that ” a representative of the buyers indicated he knew the card was altered.”  Lipset also noted that “it was the impression of several advanced collectors who viewed the card at Sotheby’s that the Wagner card was altered.”  In the Old Judge Lipset wrote that, “A top grade paper conservator should be able to tell if a 100 year old card has been trimmed or recut by magnifying the edge and comparing the aging process to either side of the card or a similar card.”  According to Lipset, the $451,000 Wagner, “Even if properly preserved, had to go through an aging process.”

Lipset knew a thing or two about Wagners as he’d sold another one to Mastro for $25,000 in his own auction in 1981.  That Wagner was “oversized” and Lipset noted in his lot description: “Has oversize margins and it would be possible (if someone wanted) to “trim” to a mint card.”  Lipset considered the card perhaps the finest example among the 40 or 50 copies known to exist at the time.  In identifying the opportunity to trim an oversized Wagner down to mint condition, Lipset may have inadvertently egged someone on to trim the card that would be sold as a “mint” copy to the Great One and McNall a decade later.

Hobby veteran Lew Lipset (inset top left) reported that Bill Mastro's (inset top right) former Wagner card sold at Sotheby's (inset bottom left) may have been trimmed in his "The Old Judge" newsletter. Lipset noted how the card should have been examined by a paper conservator.

After the sale, Lipset’s sentiments were echoed by others including then KCBS-TV broadcaster Keith Olbermann and Superior Galleries auction consultant Mike Gutierrez.  Olbermann discussed the Wagner controversy on his half-hour Sunday show with co-host Matt Federgreen, who also owned the Beverly Hills Card Shop.  On his Baseball Nerd blog at MLB.com, Olbermann recently recalled how McNall contacted Federgreen before the 1991 sale for his opinion on the trimming issue. Olbermann recalled, “Something was very wrong. I couldn’t go with Matt to the inspection of the Wagner that McNall had arranged for him. But Matt took a bunch of pictures, and the next time he came in to the studios he brought them.” (In 2012, Olbermann contradicted this statement saying that he actually met with McNall.)

When Olbermann examined the photos he told Federgreen it looked trimmed and Federgreen said that was exactly what he’d told Bruce McNall but that McNall told him he’d “probably bid on the card anyway.” But after examining the photos of the Sotheby’s Wagner, Olbermann now claims that he had additional evidence proving the card was trimmed stating he’d found pictures of “a Wagner that had been offered for sale in the early ’80s by a fellow who owned a baseball card store on Long Island” and that when he compared the photo to the pristine Wagner it was like seeing “before and after” shots of the same card.

Keith Olbermann (left) questioned the Wagner in the Copeland Sale (center) on his CBS-TV telecast in LA. His friend, Matt Federgreen told buyers Bruce McNall and Wayne Gretzky (right) that the card looked "trimmed."

A few months after the Sotheby’s sale the Chicago Tribune published an article entitled, “$451,000 Wagner Card May Not Be In Mint Shape,” and quoted Mike Gutierrez, a consultant for McNall’s Superior Galleries, as stating the card was trimmed.  Gutierrez said, “The card was altered at some point… I don’t know when it was cut, or by whom, but it sure was.  I have no doubt.”

Unlike Gutierrez, Josh Evans, a hobby competitor heading Lelands auction house in New York City, knew who had trimmed the now famous card.  According to Evans, Mastro had told him directly that he’d trimmed the card after he purchased it with Rob Lifson in Bob Sevchuk’s card shop in 1985.  In an interview earlier this month,  Evans recalled, “He told me on several occasions and then he’d say, ‘Now just shut up and stop talking about it’.”

With all of this evidence circulating in the hobby rumor-mill, Bruce McNall somehow still went ahead with his plans to purchase the card at Sotheby’s.  McNall, however, was by no means some rube when it came to buying spectacular relics.  At the age of 24 he had pursued the “Athena Decadrachm” which was known as the “Mona Lisa of Greek Coins” and paid $420,000 for the coin at auction in 1974.  At the time the sale price quadrupled the highest price ever paid for a coin at auction.  According to a Sports Illustrated profile of McNall published just two months after the purchase of the Wagner card, he sold that same coin a week later in 1974 for $470,000.

The Wagner was PSA's first graded card after Gretzky and McNall submitted the card for encapsulation. McNall displayed the card at the 1991 National to promote his Superior Galleries baseball auctions. PSA advertised the grading of the card on the poster given away at the National. (Courtesy of AutographPlanet.com)

Although several published reports claim buying the Wagner was McNall’s brainchild, SI reported that the idea was hatched by Gretzky after he was steered to the Wagner card by an autograph hound “who haunted the Kings’ hotel lobby” in Chicago.   After his encounter with the fan he had “wondered if it wouldn’t be fun to invest in the rarest baseball card.”  SI reported that Gretzky pitched the idea to McNall, who already knew about the offering of the pristine Wagner and the finest T-206 set being offered at Sotheby’s, and the two “agreed to go halves on the entire collection and to spend a maximum of $500,000.”   The final bid on the set was $90,000 and the Wagner went for a final bid of $410,000. SI reported that Gretzky asked McNall, “How did you work that out?”

When the Chicago Tribune asked McNall about the Wagner controversy after the Copeland sale he said, “That (the card was trimmed) is what people are saying.  We’ve heard all that talk.  We talked with people before we bought the card, and we’re both happy with it.  Any time you have something like this, people will say things.  Sotheby’s stands behind the card.  I have no intention of returning it or selling it.” McNall’s confidence in the card, however, had been bolstered considerably by the time the Tribune published his statements on July 9, 1991,  as the Wagner had recently been graded and authenticated by Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA) in Newport Beach, California.  The company was an off-shoot of another outfit that had gained its reputation grading and encapsulating coins and Bill Mastro’s mint condition Honus Wagner card was the first ever graded by the company’s new sports authentication division under the auspices of founder and Chief Executive David Hall.  The card was graded sometime before McNall displayed it at the 1991 National Convention in Anaheim to promote his own baseball relic auctions at Superior Galleries.

PSA advertisements from the 1990s stress the grading companies ability to spot alterations and trimming. They claim that if a customer buys a PSA graded card, "You can be sure that you are getting a card that has not been trimmed or altered in any way."

At the time he gave the card to PSA, McNall was invested in coins graded by Hall’s other company and, according to several sources, was well-aware of the potential value for grading baseball cards in the same manner. The Chicago Tribune asked David Hall about the company’s grading of the Wagner card and he responded, “It’s in the mid-range of acceptable size.  We used five, 10 and 20-power magnification to examine the card.  Compared to other (Wagner) cards it looks about the same.”  Hall, who the Tribune identified as “one of three members of the firm (PSA) who graded the Wagner” didn’t directly address any of the allegations regarding trimming and alteration.

Since the grading of its first submission by McNall and Gretzky, PSA has grown into a giant in the collectibles industry and twenty years after grading the Wagner card PSA and Hall claimed in trade publication ads that the company had “authenticated more than 3,000,000 cards, among them virtually every sportscard of major historical importance and high monetary value.”  But for several years in the early 90s the business struggled with what Hall claims were “only 300 to 600 submissions per month.” A marketing campaign which included pimping the PSA-8 Wagner card helped to change that as the card was exhibited at grading booths at collector conventions with ads saying “See the World’s Most Valuable Sportscard On Display.” By 1996, the company was distributing to collectors “Free PSA Information Kits” and PSA advertisements stressed the ability and integrity of its graders stating, “You can be sure that you are getting a card that hasn’t been trimmed and altered in any way.”

PSA founder David Hall presided over the company as it touted its grading of the PSA-8 Wagner and went as far as using its authentication as a vehicle to sell stock in its parent company Collectors Universe (CLCT).

Hall and PSA even went so far as to utilize the PSA-8 Wagner to sell stock in its parent company Collectors Universe (CLCT) a public company traded on NASDAQ.  After the Wagner sold for over $1.25 million at auction in 2000 PSA published an ad stating, “You can’t own a piece of the T206 Honus Wagner card, but you can own a piece of the company that graded it, Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA).”  The ad listed the phone number with “more information about how you can own stock in Collectors Universe.”

Despite the lingering doubts about the Wagner card, almost every time its been offered the seller has made a hefty profit and since it was authenticated in 1991, PSA has graded “over 20 million cards and collectibles.”  PSA rode the Wagner gravy train for over two decades until things came to a screeching halt in August of 2012 when the US Attorney’s office in Chicago indicted auction king and PSA-client, Bill Mastro, for multiple counts of fraud. One of those counts charged Mastro with having fraudulently promoted the Wagner card as the most expensive card in the world when he knew it had been altered and was a fraud.  In line with what Lipset, Olbermann, Gutierrez and others had suggested in public in the past, was now the subject of an FBI investigation and a grand-jury focusing on multiple counts of fraud committed by Mastro and his auction company.

In 1992, Bill Mastro told the Wall Street Journal that cards were "ruined" if altered or trimmed. After an indictment over twenty years later, (bottom) he admitted he fraudulently promoted the PSA-8 Wagner card he trimmed and altered himself. (Photo by Steve Cummings)

The allegations in the indictment that the PSA-graded Wagner card was a fraud put into question the credibility and reputation of the authentication giant.  David Hall and PSA issued no public statements addressing the issue and declined interview requests by Michael O’Keeffe of the New York Daily News.  O’Keeffe, who claimed to have a source in attendance at the PSA lunch at the 2012 National Convention reported that Hall told guests that PSA had “never considered that it had been altered.”  The source also said that Hall questioned whether Bill Mastro had cut a deal with the Feds and just agreed to say the card was trimmed for his own self interest.

O’Keeffe is the co-author of the 2007 book about the Wagner called, The Card, and in that book he revealed perhaps the most damning piece of evidence against PSA in the Wagner scandal—-that PSA grader Bill Hughes (who had graded the card with Hall in 1991) told O’Keeffe he knew the card had been trimmed and altered when he graded and authenticated it in 1991.  In a 2005 interview Hughes told O’Keeffe, “I was aware it was part of a strip.  We (PSA) were aware of that when the card came to PSA and I graded the card.  This card was obviously cut, but if it had been a disgusting card that was cut, of course we would have graded it trimmed.”  In Hughes’ opinion, “The card is so outstanding, it would have been sacrilegious to call the card trimmed and completely devalue it.”  O’Keeffe reported that his source also said Hall addressed the admission by stating that Hughes denies making those comments and that it was “an out and out lie that he knew the card was trimmed.”

But according to a Government Memorandum filed in support of a proposed plea agreement by Bill Mastro, the card was altered by trimming.  The document filed in  Chicago Federal Court in April states that as part of a proffer agreement Mastro admitted to “having cut the sides of the T206 Honus Wagner card despite prior statements to the contrary.”  Last year a source with knowledge of the FBI investigation also claimed that the government had a wiretap where Mastro made a similar admission.

Earlier this year Hall appeared in an ESPN 30 for 30 mini-documentary about the Wagner card and discussed his grading of the card stating, “I think I may be the only person in the world that’s examined the card under magnification” and that despite the very public statements about “trimming” made by Lipset, Olbermann, Gutierrez and others in major newspapers and network TV, Hall added, “Those rumors have been around for awhile.  We didn’t really talk about those rumors.”  Hall added, “It doesn’t look trimmed to me.”

In the same documentary film Keith Olbermann contradicted Hall and opined, “The most famous Honus Wagner card is, to some degree, fraud.”

Not just to some degree, though.  As of October 10, 2013, it’s officially a full-blown fraud now that Bill Mastro has admitted in Federal court that he did, in fact, cut the Wagner card with a paper slicer to enhance its condition and value.  US Attorneys in Chicago released a 30-page plea agreement that could send Mastro to prison for as many as five years for one count of mail fraud.  Mastro’s admission finally puts to bed speculation in the hobby that the card was legitimate and calls into question the company that graded the card with a “PSA-8, Near Mint” designation.

Despite the overwhelming evidence suggesting the contrary, Collectors Universe, PSA and Joe Orlando (left) claim in a cease & desist letter (right) that Hauls of Shame has made false statements about PSA's grading of Mastro's trimmed T206 Wagner card.

In late September, before Mastro’s trimming admission in court, PSA and Collectors Universe finally issued a formal statement about the Wagner card in the form of a cease and desist letter sent to Haulsofshame.com.  In the letter, attorneys representing the company and CEO Joe Orlando claim that reports published by Hauls of Shame have spread “false, destructive and defamatory rumors about the company.”  PSA attorney Keith A. Attlesey, of Attlesey/ Storm LLP, claims that Hauls of Shame’s assertions that the company was “founded on a fraud” and that the company “knowingly grad(ed) a trimmed and altered card” (the PSA-8 Wagner) are false.  PSA and CU also claim that Hauls of Shame falsely reported that they “provided inaccurate and misleading authentication and grading while under the influence of Wayne Gretzky and Bruce McNall.” In addition, the letter states that claims made “that the company is under investigation by the ‘Feds’ regarding the investigation of the T206 Wagner card” are also false.  PSA and Collectors Universe are threatening litigation if these statements (and others) are not removed from the Hauls of Shame website in “5 days.”

Just as David Hall and PSA claimed they “Didn’t really talk about those rumors (about the Wagner trimming)” back in 1991, Collectors Universe and PSA CEO Joe Orlando appear to be ignoring the overwhelming evidence suggesting that PSA was “founded on a fraud.”  The PSA-8 Wagner scorecard tells the tale:

Some of the players in the Wagner trim saga:(left to right) Michael O'Keeffe; Rob Lifson, Josh Evans and Bill Heitman.

1.  US Attorneys state in a filed memorandum that Bill Mastro has actually admitted to trimming the card and fraudulently promoting it as the finest in existence.

2.  Bill Hughes, David Hall’s grading partner on the Wagner in 1991, told Michael O’Keeffe, of the NYDN, that he had advance knowledge the card had been trimmed and cut from a sheet when it was graded by PSA.  Despite this being common knowledge within the company, when the Wagner sold for $2.35 million in 2007, current PSA President Joe Orlando told FOX News: “This particular one was preserved in spectacular condition.  It’s the Holy Grail of baseball cards.”

3.  Bill Heitman, a hobby pioneer and author of the T-206 book The Monster, supported Hughes’ statement on collector forum Net 54 stating in 2005, “When PSA was first starting up, they were practically doing handstands to get to grade the T206 Wagner that McNall and Gretzky had just bought.  I happened to know the pedigree of the card and knew that it had been trimmed.  The guy who was going to grade the card stopped by my home on the way to PSA headquarters to grade the card.  He knew that the card had been trimmed, but told me PSA had to grade the card because the good publicity that would come from grading the card.”  He added, “I actually talked once to Bruce McNall about this and he acknowledged that he knew the card had been trimmed.  So, PSA, the owners of the card and the grader of the card knew it was trimmed.  But put some plastic over it and all was forgotten.”

4.  Keith Olbermann, of ESPN, claims that he has photos taken of the card before it was trimmed which show the “before and after” state of the PSA-8 Wagner.

5.  Alan Ray, who originally sold the Wagner to Mastro and Rob Lifson in 1985, took the “before” photos of the card after it was cut from a sheet of T206’s and before Mastro further trimmed it to achieve its near-mint status.  In an interview with Hauls of Shame earlier this month Ray was asked how many cards in addition to the Wagner were in the original deal he cut with Mastro and Lifson.  Ray said,  ”There was about 60 or 70 T-206 cards.”  While Ray would not divulge anything further, it is believed those cards were also cut from sheets, including the T-206 Eddie Plank card Mastro sold to collector Charlie Conlon.

The T206 Plank that was cut from the same sheet as the Wagner was sold by Lifson and Mastro to collector Charley Conlon in 1986. When it was graded by PSA in 2009 it was designated "Altered" and "Authentic." REA sold the card in 2009 and described it as not being trimmed, but cut from a "printers sheet" decades after the issue was first created.

6.  PSA appears to have further exposed the Wagner trimming with its grading of the Eddie Plank card that was also part of Mastro & Lifson’s 1985 purchase from Alan Ray and cut from the same alleged printer’s sheet as the Wagner card.  Instead of grading that card a PSA-8, like the Wagner, they graded it “Altered” and “Authentic.”  When Mastro sold the card to collector Charlie Conlon in 1986 he wrote a letter stating the card was, “one of the finest copies known to exist.”  When sold as the “Gretzky-McNall Mate” at REA in 2009, Rob Lifson said, “It is our opinion that this card was long ago cut from a sheet that was saved by the printer, and was carefully cut from the sheet possibly decades after being printed…the Plank does have a very slight irregular cut……but it is not trimmed.”  Are we really to believe that Lifson didn’t know Mastro cut it himself?

7. A source known as “Hobby Deep-Throat” told this writer in 2000 that Mastro and his partner Rob Lifson both committed fraud when they sold the Wagner card at MastroNet/Robert Edward Auctions via eBay for $1.26 million to Brain Siegel.   A former close associate of Lifson, the source claims Lifson told him of his first hand knowledge that the card had been trimmed by Mastro.

8.  Josh Evans, of Lelands, has claimed publicly that in the 1980s Bill Mastro admitted to him on several occasions that he had trimmed the Wagner card to enhance its condition and value.

9.  Bill Mastro admits in open court that he did, in fact, trim and cut the four sides of the card that became known as the “Holy-Grail” of the hobby.

10. Kirk Harris, a west coast coin collector, acquired through SCP Auctions the high grade T-206 set from Jim Copeland’s collection that was purchased by Gretzky and McNall.  Sources indicate that many of the other cards Mastro trimmed were included in this set and were subsequently graded by PSA as “PSA-8″ (and higher) like the Wagner.

With all of this evidence in direct conflict with PSA’s denials David Hall has stated on the recent ESPN film that his company “pays out under the terms of (their) grading guarantee” and that PSA “stands behind the product.  If the card were to be returned via a fraud claim, it would be current owner Ken Kendrick who would have to make such a request.  However, the owner of the Arizona Diamondbacks, who paid $2.8 million for the card in a private sale in 2007, seems unlikely to make any such demand.  When asked recently if he’d ever sell the card by Steve Berthiame on FOX Kendrick said, “I’ve never sold a baseball card ever and I don’t plan to sell.”  Luckily for PSA Kendrick plans on passing along his trimmed Wagner to his kids.

Arizona Diamondback owner Ken Kendrick is profiled on the PSA website for his collection, including his trimmed T206 Wagner that was exhibited at the Hall of Fame (center) from 2010 to 2012. The HOF noted Kendrick's cards were in "stunning condition, crucial to the high-end baseball card aficionado" (right).

Kendrick is heavily invested in PSA-graded products much like many other collectors who still support PSA despite the questions about the company’s credibility.  From 2010 through 2012 Kendrick’s collection, including the trimmed Wagner were exhibited at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown but no mention of the card’s controversial past was identified in the museum’s exhibit.  In fact, the museum’s signage introducing the exhibition called “The Ultimate Card Set” stated that Kendrick’s cards were “the most treasured rarities of all time” and stressed that “All are in stunning condition, crucial to the high-end baseball card aficionado.” Hall official, Brad Horn, currently appears on the PSA website giving a testimonial identifying a relationship between the two entities and the “great synergy between the Hall and PSA.”

Sources indicate that a class-action lawsuit is in the works against Kendrick and the Hall of Fame on behalf of the 500,000+ paid visitors to the museum who viewed the Wagner card without any disclaimer about the card’s dubious past and the strong suspicion it had been altered.

The PSA website includes glowing testimonials from MLB owner Ken Kendrick and Brad Horn from the Baseball Hall of Fame regarding the companies grading abilities. Kendrick, owner of the fraudulently enhanced Wagner, calls PSA the "ultimate decider on giving official identity and value to a card."

The PSA website also includes a lengthy profile article about Kendrick called “The Man, the Collector, the Card and the Collection” and Kendrick speaks highly of the company saying, “I would never think of acquiring a card that had not been authenticated and graded.  PSA has become the ultimate deciders on giving official identity and value to a card.  They provide a great service.”

PSA removed a similar profile article featuring Bill Mastro from its website after he was indicted in August of 2012.  That profile, entitled, “Bill Mastro- The Ringmaster of Memorabilia” quotes Mastro as saying, “Consumer confidence, that is the big thing.  The more authentications that exist on an item, the better.  Knowing that respected companies such as PSA and PSA/DNA have authenticated something, authentication that will run with the item for life, brings real confidence to buyers.  Collectors want that confidence and they are willing to pay for it.”

With or without the ringmaster’s hat in the auction game collectors are still paying PSA hansomely despite the FBI probes and assorted controversies.  Since Mastro was indicted last year Collectors Universe and PSA reported robust earnings and a 10% increase in revenues for authentications of cards and autographs.  It seems that Kendrick and many other PSA customers are satisfied with PSA’s products and the company’s advertised promise: “We can help turn your cardboard into gold.”

They sure did deliver on that promise for Bill Mastro.

Now that Mastro’s former treasure been exposed as “fools-gold,” what does PSA have to say?

A call on Friday afternoon to PSA’s attorney, Keith Attlesey, for PSA’s reaction to the Mastro admission of trimming was not returned.

(For more on the Mastro-Wagner controversy see Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 of this on-going series of reports.)


By Peter J. Nash

Oct. 10, 2013

US Attorneys in Chicago just filed a superseding indictment against ex-hobby king Bill Mastro.

(UPDATED) When he was indicted in July of 2012, Hauls of Shame reported that hobby kingpin Bill Mastro was caught on a Federal wiretap admitting he had trimmed and altered the now infamous T-206 Honus Wagner card.  Today, in Federal court in Chicago, that wiretap was confirmed as Mastro plead guilty to one count of mail fraud and trimming the Wagner.

A Federal indictment described as superseding the previously-filed indictments against Bill Mastro and former Mastro employees Doug Allen and Mark Theotikos, was filed earlier this week in the United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois, by Assistant United States Attorneys Nancy DePodesta and Steven Dollear.

Mastro appeared in Federal court for his change of plea hearing and according to reports out of Chicago earlier today has plead guilty to the one count of mail fraud linked to shill-bidding in his auction sales.  In admitting he trimmed the infamous T-206 Honus Wagner card Mastro has further tainted the hobby’s most prominent relic now owned by Arizona Diamondbacks owner Ken Kendrick.

The charges listed in the superseding indictment are identical to those found in original indictment filed in July of 2012, however, the new indictment does not include the names of Doug Allen, Mark Theotikos and William Boehm in the caption which now lists only Bill Mastro individually.  Also missing from the new superseding indictment are numerous Grand Jury counts included at the end of the original papers charging Allen, Theotikos and Boehm with various instances of wrongdoing.

DePodesta and Dollear also filed a “Felony Designation Sheet for Criminal Proceedings” which was approved by Judge Ronald Guzman and Magistrate Judge Gilbert.

The US Attorney’s office in Chicago released Mastro’s 30-page plea agreement which states that the Feds want Mastro to serve between 57 and 60 months in prison. Part of the plea deal, unlike previous ones in front of the court, also has Mastro agreeing to cooperate with the government as its probe of the memorabilia and auction industry continues.  Sources indicate that the government’s biggest target could be authentication giant Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA), the company that graded the Wagner card for Bruce McNall and Wayne Gretzky after they purchased it at Sotheby’s in 1991.  The Wagner was the first card ever graded by the company and its founder David Hall.

Prosecutors with knowledge that Mastro had trimmed the Honus Wagner card he and partner Rob Lifson originally purchased in 1985 told Judge Guzman they could prove that Mastro altered the sides of the over-sized card with a “paper slicer.”  What prosecutors discovered is what hobby-insiders have known for years–that the card was a fraud and was fraudulently sold by others like Mastro’s former MastroNet partner Lifson who also knew the card was trimmed when he sold it through Robert Edward Auctions to Brian Seigel in 2000 for over $1.2 million.

Bill Mastro was the "King of Memorabilia" when he published this "Size Matters" add in SCD for his MastroNet behemoth.

Judge Guzman asked Mastro in court if he had trimmed the card.  “Are these facts true?” he asked.  Mastro answered, “Yes, your honor.”

In relation to sentencing the Chicago Sun Times reported earlier today:

“His guilty plea Thursday was a case of second-time lucky for the 60-year-old Palos Park man. Judge Ronald Guzman in April rejected an earlier plea deal Mastro had agreed with prosecutors that would have capped his sentence at 2½ years.”

Kim Janssen, Federal Court reporter for the Sun Times, added, “Under the new deal, prosecutors will again ask Guzman to limit Mastro’s prison term to 30 months, but the judge’s hands will not be tied.”

The Sun Times also reported that Mastro would have to pay a $250,000 fine and “will have to cooperate in the prosecution of his alleged accomplices, Doug Allen, Mark Theotikos and William Boehm.”

Mastro responded earlier today on the blog of attorney Paul Lesko at CardBoardConnection.com in the comments section of an article Lesko published back in July regarding letters sent to the Judge in the Mastro case by collectors claiming to have been Mastro victims.  Mastro said:

“Dear Paul- The bat purchased by Richard Levy in 2006 was unique in that it was the only known example from his MVP season of 1949. What Richard Levy failed to reveal to my judge after the fact is that he sold his bat in Ken Goldin’s July auction, lot #2 for over $156,000. I wonder if he’ll be so diligent as to write my judge another letter telling him to disregard his first letter? As for Mike Mumby who complained of possible shill bidding back in 1998, he regularly continued to purchase items in our auction up until 2008 before we closed. If he was so abused by us why keep doing business with us. Several months ago a collector and lawyer, Jeffrey Lichtman, who considers himself some sort of watch dog for the hobby, decided to publish my judges name and address on a popular website and encouraged collectors who thought they were ripped of to write directly to my judge. I have never met or talked with Lichtman in my whole life. I have no idea where such resentment comes from but to date my judge has received 2 letters….2! I had over 30,000 people on our mailing list and 2 people wrote letters. This is the first time I have responded to anything regarding my case with the government. It has been the most horrible ordeal me or my family have ever had to deal with and I wish people would please think hard before they try and interject their conjectures into such a sensitive matter. Bill Mastro”

For more coverage on the Mastro saga check out Friday’s broadcast of Cardboard Connection Radio on @BlogTalkRadio.

Bill Mastro responded to his guilty plea and letters written to Judge Guzman on Paul Lesko's CardBoardConnection.com column.

(This article was updated at 7PM on October 10th and at 2AM on October 11th)


By Peter J. Nash

September 16, 2013

A photo alleged to have been signed by Tarzan star-chimp "Cheetah" is being sold on eBay with a JSA LOA despite the fact the chimp signing was exposed as a fraud in a 2008 Washington Post investigative report.

Scroll to Bottom For Update on eBay’s Removal of JSA-Certed Lot:

Auction giant eBay is currently offering for sale an 8 x 10 photograph allegedly autographed by the famous chimpanzee “Cheetah” who starred with Johnny Weissmuller in the Tarzan movies of the 1930s and with Rex Harrison in Dr. Doolitle in the 1960s. The seller, “presspasscollectibles” indicates that the photo has been authenticated by James Spence Authentication and a JSA sticker is afixed to the lower right hand corner of the glossy photo signed in black sharpie by the famous primate.

The first question you may ask upon looking at the alleged “Cheetah” signature is: “How can Spence and JSA authenticate a scribble executed by a chimp and have the ability to distinguish that so-called handwriting from any other chimps?”

The photograph is accompanied by another letter of authenticity issued by an outfit called “Collectibles of the Stars” and is signed by the company, the chimp’s owner, Dan Westfall, and the chimp himself, “Jiggs” a.k.a. “Cheetah.” The LOA, dated March 10, 1997, notes that Cheetah “appeared in many of the original Tarzan films opposite Johnny Weissmuller.”

JSA certifies the authenticity of the chimp signature but, in reality, an extensive investigative report published in 2008 by the Washington Post illustrates that the “movie-career” of the alleged chimp owned by Westfall was a fraud and that the primate never starred in any of the Tarzan films with Weismuller.  This information has been widely disseminated since the report, “Lie of the Jungle:  The Truth About Cheetah the Chimpanzee” was published by writer R. D. Rosen.

It’s yet another striking example of how JSA authenticates items without examining the actual signatures and issues certificates of authenticity based solely upon the existence of other unverified letters of authenticity and a stories from customers.

The chimp alleged to have been the Cheetah of Tarzan fame autographs an 8x10 glossy in an alleged private signing.

In this case JSA could have easily discovered the Washington Post expose by simply Googling “Cheetah the Chimp.”  The fraudulent photograph is currently for sale on eBay for $399.  JSA, along with PSA/DNA, is the officially endorsed authenticator of the auction giant eBay and anyone looking to sell an autographed item on eBay is likely to enlist the services of Spence and his team of “so-called” experts.  The eBay seller tells customers:  ”JSA is one of the most highly respected authenticators in the business and is an eBay approved authenticator.  Be rest assured that by purchasing this item, you are getting the real deal.”

Despite the fact the photo was never signed by Cheetah the Chimp, the eBay seller assures customers: "Be rest assured that by purchasing this item, you are getting the real deal."

Author R. D. Rosen was considering writing a book about the famous chimp but in the course of his due diligence he uncovered overwhelming evidence illustrating that the chimp signing 8×10’s was not the original Cheetah and had never appeared in any Hollywood films.  The fraud dated back to the chimps first owner who, on the record, had stated a myriad of conflicting stories related to the chimps personal history which included a story that the chimp was smuggled out on a flight from Africa after filming ended in 1932.  Rosen, however, discovered that commercial flights weren’t available until 1939.

Rosen examined the Dr. Doolitle film and determined that the alleged Cheetah was not the same chimp in the film and even tracked down Hubert Wells, a retired animal trainer who knew the chimp’s original owner Tony Gentry and told him, “It’s not true, Tony got that chimp from Wally Ross. Wally was a premier chimp and elephant trainer. He was one of the managers of Pacific Ocean Park on the pier in Santa Monica. When Pacific Ocean Park closed [in 1967], he had a chimp he owned and trained, about 6 or 7, the turning point for a chimp. He said, ‘Here, Tony, do you want this chimp?’ Tony said, ‘I’ll take it,’ and he took it.”

This scribble was executed by a chimpanzee who was exposed as not being the chimp from the Tarzan movies. Despite that fact JSA authenticated the signature believing they can actually authenticate the handwriting of primates.

Based upon the trainer’s story, the chimp signing the pictures authenticated by JSA and being sold on eBay was born in 1960 or 1961, nearly three decades after the Tarzan pictures were made.  When asked by Rosen if he was positively sure about the chimp Wells said, “Absolutely, no doubt, not for one minute. Absolutely. I’d known Wally since ‘66, and used him on God knows how many pictures. And that chimp was never in any picture, much less a Johnny Weissmuller picture. The big lie is that he was never in the Tarzan movies, never in ‘Doctor Dolittle,’ never in any movie.”

When the autograph-signing “Cheetah-the-Chimp” died in 2011 several news outlets still reported that the chimp was the star of the Tarzan movies, but many amended their reports when notified about Rosen’s Washington Post report.  Rosen told the Associated Press, “I’m afraid any chimp who actually shared a soundstage with Weissmuller and O’Sullivan is long gone.”

Author R. D. Rosen did not respond to our inquiry for comment about JSA’s authentications of the “Cheetah” autographs being sold on eBay.

How could JSA ever differentiate between any of the alleged Cheetah signatures that accompany the LOA's issued by the chimp owner. The LOA (center) was offered with a Cheetah sig offered on eBay by seller "collectstars" for $29.99.

Considering the controversy over the authenticity of the chimpanzee, let alone the handwriting of the chimp, it is hard to believe that Spence and JSA can actually authenticate anything attributed to the Tarzan chimp named “Cheetah.”

The chimpanzee authentications also illustrate how JSA’s standing as an eBay-approved authenticator helps facilitate the creation of LOA’s which add false values to fraudulent items.  Ebay seller “collectstars” recently offered a similar Cheetah autograph with only an LOA signed by the chimp’s owner and the chimp for $29.99.  Seller “presspass” offers the same type of bogus chimp autograph with a JSA certification and a Buy-It-Now price of $399.

The lack of expertise and authentication malpractice exhibited by James Spence and JSA in this instance has created an illusion whereby an eBay seller tells customers they can rest assured they are getting the “real deal” when, in fact, they are a “But-It-Now” button away from being swindled.

UPDATE: Author R. D. Rosen, who first exposed the “Cheetah” scam in his 2008 Washington Post report issued this statement after the article was published this morning:

In 2007, after I was asked to write the biography of Dan Westfall’s then 76-year-old “Cheeta,” my months-long research proved beyond a doubt  that the chimp in question had been born in 1960 and obviously could not have appeared in any Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan films. At best, the chimp’s connection to Tarzan might be that his first owner, animal trainer Tony Gentry, may have trained, much earlier in his career, one of the many chimps who shared the role of Cheeta in the Tarzan movies. As for a second “Cheetah,” who died in 2011 in a Florida primate sanctuary at what was said to be almost 80 years of age—an unheard of longevity for the species—I can only surmise that he too was an impostor. The heart-warming, charming fantasy that Tarzan’s sidekick is still alive has itself achieved a kind of immortality—and I wouldn’t be shocked if, 20 years from now, the tabloids are still reporting on some “original” Cheeta’s 102nd birthday. Primate autograph hounds beware.”

UPDATE (Wed. Sept. 18): Two days after publishing this article about eBay’s offering of the bogus JSA authenticated signed photo of a chimp who never starred in the Tarzan or Dr. Doolitle movies, the eBay listing is still live and additionally the same signed photograph is being offered by another big JSA customer “SportsMemorabilia.com.” for $504.49.

The same bogus chimp photo being offered on eBay is being sold for an even higher price at SportsMemorabilia.com.

If you have any information about other fraudulent items being offered on eBay let us know at:  tips@haulsofshame.com .

UPDATE (October 3):  eBAY’S FRAUD DIVISION REMOVES JSA-CERTED FAKE OF “CHEETAH THE CHIMP” IMPOSTER

It took a few weeks, but the autographed photo alleged to have been signed by “Cheetah the Chimp” of Tarzan and Dr. Doolittle movie fame has been removed from the eBay auction site.  As reported on September 16, the photo features a chimp who never starred in any movies and was the subject of a Washington Post investigative report by author R. D. Rosen who presented overwhelming evidence illustrating that the Chimp who was being pimped by his handlers as the real “Cheetah” was indeed a fraud.

The photograph was authenticated by James Spence Authentication (JSA) despite the fact that the fraud could have easily been documented via a few Google searches.  The Chimp fake joins a host of other notable removals of JSA items from the auction site including single-signed baseballs featuring signatures of Biz Mackey, Goose Goslin and Walter Johnson.

The JSA-authenticated fake of Cheetah The Chimp was removed by eBay's Fraud Division earlier today.

A source with knowledge of eBay’s Fraud Division confirmed that the Cheetah photo was removed because of its “authenticity issues.”  The photo was being offered by eBay seller “Press Pass Collectibles” of Scottsdale, Arizona.  Several calls to Press Pass for comment on its offering of the fake after it was exposed on Hauls of Shame were directed to the company’s owner who did not return calls.  When Press Pass representatives were asked for the name of the owner they stated, “It doesn’t matter who the owner is.”

A call to James Spence III of JSA for comment was not returned.  The JSA authentication of the fraudulent chimp photo is another embarrassing blunder by the authentication company eBay considers one of leaders in the industry.  In the past JSA has made serious authentication mistakes ranging from its certification of a misspelled $35,000 Ed Delahanty letter to the infamous Sal Bando video released by a FOX news crew.

While the Chimp controversy has provided laughs for many onlookers, Hauls of Shame has been contacted by several people who collected Cheetah material and were disappointed that their alleged Cheetah autographs and paintings were created by a chimp with zero Hollywood-movie pedigree.  Most of the Cheetah fakes ranged in price from $100 to $400.

Author R. D. Rosen, who exposed the fraud, recently told Hauls of Shame he’s working on a book chronicling his investigation of Cheetah with the working title:  Chump.


By Peter J. Nash

September 6, 2013

Convicted felon Robert Fraser (top left) is on the loose; Bruce Dorskind (top right) passes away; Bud Selig (bottom left) should buy NYPL docs; Barry Sloate (bottom right) a hobby hypocrite.

As Summer ends and the MLB playoff races heat up, Hauls of Shame brings you some belated CHIN-MUSIC:

-Whistle-Blowers who have worked for big hobby companies have contacted Haulsofshame.com with the intention of exposing alleged fraudulent business practices of some of the hobby’s biggest players. Stay tuned this Fall for our coverage that should be beneficial for collectors and interested law enforcement entities.

-Nuf-Ced McGreevy’s treasured photograph of a legendary Red Sox scene was recently recovered by officials at the Boston Public Library. The photo was stolen along with close to one hundred others back in the late 1970s and the library has done a tremendous job recovering McGreevy’s looted treasures all on their own. Stay tuned for in-depth coverage of the recovery this month.

-Robert Fraser, a convicted felon and disgraced real-estate agent who works for Terrie O’Connor Realty in Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, has unleashed himself upon the hobby falsely posing as a long-time collector and spouting slander, false statements and assorted absurdities about yours truly. Not surprisingly, he has been embraced by fellow ex-felons like ex-drug dealer Leon Luckey and other Rob Lifson fan-boys like John McDaniel III and Brooklyn dealer Barry Sloate.  Pay no mind to his criminal conviction for insurance fraud and perjury and that in a civil action he was also found guilty of “committing four violations of the Fraud Act”  and for submitting “multiple false statements” as chronicled in the State of New Jersey v. Robert Fraser.  He’s totally believable, though, just ask him.  Fraser has received cease and desist letters from hobby veterans who he has harassed and even his close friend, Rob Lifson, who also referred him to his own lawyer, told John Rogers of the Rogers Archive via email: “Fraser is obsessed with Peter Nash.”

-Barry Sloate thinks Fraser’s slander and fabrications are”amazing.” This coming from Sloate who, in response to an inquiry in 2009 by Freddie McGuire related to the provenance of many dubious items he had sold in the past, stated: “As far as pieces I have sold in the past, I have sold dozens and dozens of rare items and I will admit I do not know the provenance of any of them. I hope all of them were good but like I said, I do not know their source.”  Sloate returned a call from Haulsofshame.com and declined to comment on his past statements and his ties to stolen materials.  Sloate, a known cat-lover, may also be interested that Fraser admitted to our source that while pet-sitting for a neighbor’s cat in Westwood, New Jersey, he became agitated with the cat and killed it, drowning it in a bathtub.  He’s a real gem.


Lew Lipset was told Bruce Dorskind (left) posted bail for Rob Lifson after his NYPL apprehension. Barry Sloate has owned and sold a myriad of relics stolen from the NYPL including the 1852 Eagle Ball Club By Laws (center) and "Challenge Letters" from the Knick BBC scrapbooks. Pictured (right) is the second page of a letter that is still pasted in the NYPL scrapbook. In his 2000 auction, Sloate sold the other half of the May 19, 1859 letter which was stolen with the aid of a sharp object.

-Bruce Dorskind, the controversial collector who had a knack for making as many enemies as friends in the hobby passed away in August after being ill for some time.  When we interviewed him last year for the book, The Madoff of Memorabilia, he revealed many interesting facts about the hobby back in the mid-1970s and told stories about collecting personalities like George Lyons and Barry Halper.  But when talk shifted to the issue of the Spalding Collection thefts at the NYPL, Dorskind’s memory wasn’t as sharp.  When asked, Dorskind said he had only recently learned via the news that his long-time friend and supplier Rob Lifson had been apprehended stealing items from the NYPL back in the late 1970s.   But when we interviewed hobby veteran Lew Lipset earlier this year, he told us he recalled George Lyons telling him it was Dorskind who actually posted bail for Lifson after he was apprehended at the 5th Avenue branch building (Dorskind lived close by on 57th. Street).  Unfortunately, we never got to follow up with Bruce and it looks like he may have taken that NYPL secret to the grave.  Our favorite lines from the Dorskind Group related to his friends Lifson & Mastro are:

-“….A few months later (in 1976) we attended our first Philadelphia show.  There we met two young dealers, Billy Mastro and his pal Bob Lifson.  We purchased the rarest cards they had…included Four Base Hits, 2 Kalamazoo Bat NY players and a Just So.”

-“…..They (Gar Miller, Bob Richardson, Joe Michaelowitz, Buck Barker and Frank Nagy) all said there were only two people who get (super rare type cards) for you–if you are willing to pay, Rob Lifson and Bill Mastro…..With Rob, ‘Where there’s a bill (1,000+) there is a way.”

-Rob (Lifson) is the most knowledgeable dealer I ever worked with.  He knows cards, he knows value and most importantly he knows where the bodies are buried.”

-“Oh how sweet it was…..When it was a hobby.”

-REA and Rob Lifson are rumored to be the auction house that will ultimately sell-off the Dorskind Collection.  REA sold Dorskind’s “Panel of 4 Boston Garter Cards from 1912″ for $177,750 this past May.

Sources say Bud Selig has a chance to restore the NYPL's stolen Harry Wright letters offered for sale in MLB's 2009 All-Star Game auction. Included were letters from Jim Devlin (right) who was banished from baseball in 1877 for taking part in throwing games. Sources say Selig could purchase these docs from collectors much like he bought the Biogenesis docs (bottom left) in his quest to banish A-Rod (inset).

-MLB Commissioner Bud Selig could score some points in trying to restore the Harry Wright Papers to the New York Public Library.  Haulsofshame.com reader Alex R. from Miami suggests that the Commish buy the letter sent by pitcher Jim Devlin to Wright after he was banned for life from Baseball by National League President William Hulbert.  Devlin was pegged a cheater after his involvement in a scheme to throw games was uncovered by baseball officials and his pathetic letters to Wright asking for assistance were cited in works published by Dr. Harold Seymour and his wife Dorothy Mills as originating from the NYPL’s Wright Correspondence Collection.  Considering that Harry Wright originally donated his papers and archive to the National League and Organized Baseball in 1895 it would seen appropriate for MLB to step in and assist the NYPL after the FBI returned the stolen cache of letters to the original consignor who placed them in the 2009 MLB FanFest Auction held by Hunt Auctions.

-MLB’s budget for the Alex Rodriguez investigation and for buying the Biogenesis documents and testimony from Tony Bosch (or part of Bud Selig’s $20 million annual salary) could surely cover the costs for these historic Harry Wright documents and save some baseball history.  We hear the owner/consignor and the collector who has been buying the stolen documents are open to giving them all back for about $30,000.  You’d think Selig & Co. could afford that?

-Hauls of Shame would like to thank all of our readers for their continued support as our readership has passed 50,000 unique users and close to 150,000 page views per month.  Stay tuned for our soon-to-be-released “Worst 100″ authentications of PSA/DNA and JSA, you won’t want to miss it.



By Peter J. Nash
August 5, 2013

Ex-Hobby King Bill Mastro (left) could plead guilty or go to trial related to his trimming of the T-206 Wagner (Photo by S. Cummings). His former friend and partner, Rob Lifson, (right) has avoided prosecution despite having knowledge the card was trimmed when he purchased and sold the card.

Bill Mastro is scheduled to appear in a Chicago courthouse today for a status hearing that will likely result in either a trial date being set or a change of plea being entered if, in fact, he and his lawyer, Mike Monico, have finally cut a deal with the Feds that is agreeable to Judge Ronald A. Guzman.

Mastro was already scheduled to plead guilty to one count of fraud way back on April 9th when reports indicated that the former auction king would have to admit to altering and trimming the famous T-206 Honus Wagner card he purchased in a Long Island baseball card shop in 1985 with his old friend and former partner Rob Lifson who used to describe his partner Mastro and his cohorts as “thirty-five people who work for our company (MastroNet) and they’re all honest and they are all working to have a great auction and auction company.” (Click here for: Lifson audio from 2002).

But Judge Ronald A. Guzman rejected Mastro’s plea deal with prosecutors for a second time because he supposedly viewed the deal too soft on the former hobby honcho. The proposed plea agreement presented by prosecutors did not require Mastro to testify against his co-defendants and former MastroNet employees and Michael O’Keeffe of the New York Daily News said that hobbyists “complained that the proposed sentence was too light.” O’Keeffe quoted anonymous collectors asking, “Where is any sign of remorse?”

Mastro would only have done 30 months (or less) in a federal pen, but that deal was taken off the table again as Judge Guzman postponed Mastro’s last scheduled court date on May 31 to today in Chicago.

Another segment of the hobby, however, is asking a different question:  How did Mastro’s old partner-in-crime, REA auction head, Rob Lifson, avoid prosecution?  Some say Mastro could give up evidence on his old partner, Lifson, but sources say the auctioneer was a key government informant against Mastro in the FBI’s multi-year investigation into the former  ”King of Memorabilia.”  Lifson recently denied Haulsofshame.com’s reports claiming that a source fingered Lifson as an informant in the case when he told blogger Murray Chass, “I was a minority owner and employee of MastroNet from 2000 to 2002.  He (Hauls of Shame) knows nothing of me being a ‘government informant.’ Virtually all if not all of their crimes in the indictment occurred long after I left MastroNet so that speaks for itself.”

Lifson, however, skirts the most relevant “crime” charged in the Mastro indictment involving Mastro and his company promoting the trimmed-Wagner card as the most valuable and most pristine example in existence.  The claims the government made in the indictment focused on the 2000 sale of the Wagner card by Lifson and Robert Edward Auctions when he was an officer and owner of MastroNet.  Despite Lifson’s denials, one of Michael O’Keeffe’s sources has told Haulsofshame.com that O’Keeffe has acknowledged Lifson’s admission to him that he was, in fact, an informant in the Mastro case.  O’Keeffe’s source claims that Lifson lied to Chass.

Both Mastro and Lifson have come a long way since the days they shared hotel rooms, dealer tables and deals in the mid to late 1970’s and 1980’s as aggressive young dealers obsessed with old cardboard.  Back in the day, some say they stalked elderly collectors like prey inside their apartments and homes.  Sources say that both men know of all the skeletons that have piled up in each others closets since the time they both co-wrote a book in 1983 dedicated to sideshow and circus freaks called, Enter The Sideshow. By the year 2000, both men had already established successful auction businesses and decided to join forces to form what was known as MastroNet.com, a sports collectibles auction house behemoth that became the driving force behind the the growth of the unregulated baseball collectibles industry. But it turns out the defining moment in their careers actually occurred back on a cold night in 1985 during their visit to Robert Sevchuk’s little card shop in Hicksville, Long Island, when they encountered for the first time the slice of cardboard that would later become known as “The Card.”  Decades later, in 2005, Rob Lifson recounted his recollections of that night for New York Daily News reporter Michael O’Keeffe and that account was included in the book of the same name co-written by O’Keeffe and his News editor, Teri Thompson, and released by Harper-Collins in 2008.

Mastro and Lifson were once so close they co-authored this 1983 book, "Enter the Sideshow" dedicated to original photography featuring assorted sideshow and circus-freaks of the 19th century. Hobby celebs Mastro and Lifson autographed this 1981 program from the 1st National Sports Collectors Convention in 1980,

O’Keeffe says he first met Lifson in 2000 at a press confrence in Mickey Mantle’s restaurant on Central Park West when both Lifson and Mastro were promoting the upcoming sale of that same Honus Wagner card by Lifson’s company, Robert Edward Auctions, which had just become a subsidiary of MastroNet.com.  O’Keeffe said that Lifson predicted that the card could sell for over $1 million and that it was “the Mona Lisa of trading cards.”  O’Keeffe says he was “mesmerized as Mastro executives talked about a trading card in terms usually reserved for fine art.” O’Keeffe then asked Lifson about the provenance of the Wagner card and was told how the Chicago collector Mike Gidwitz, known for his stash of original Mad Magazine art, was selling the card and that it was purchased in 1996 at Christie’s for $641,500.  O’Keeffe then told Lifson, “You’ve only taken me back ten years.  Where was this card for the first seventy years of its life?”  O’Keeffe wrote in, The Card:  ”Lifson gave me a funny look.  He seemed uncomfortable.  Finally, he said he didn’t know.”  Lifson then told O’Keeffe to talk to Bill Mastro since he had “discovered” the card in 1985 and bought it for $25,000.

NYDN reporter Michael O'Keeffe first met Rob Lifson at a press confrence for the Gretzky-McNall Wagner in 2000. A few months later he was kicked out of Bill Mastro's MastroNet offices after he asked if the Wagner card had been restored or trimmed.

It didn’t take O’Keeffe too long to figure out that Lifson had not been truthful in his response as he later wrote, “Lifson failed to mention that he, too, was at the card shop when Mastro bought the Wagner, and that he even funded the transaction.” Lifson lied to O’Keeffe upon his first meeting and when O’Keeffe traveled months later to Chicago to interview Bill Mastro he was rebuked after he asked the auction honcho if there was any truth to rumors that “there was a deep dark secret behind the Gretzky T206 Wagner” and that the card had  been altered or restored. O’Keeffe wrote in The Card:  ”Mastro denied that the T206 Wagner has ever been restored and refused to discuss its provenance.  He cursed a blue streak, then he threw me out of his office.”

By 2003, Mastro felt the same way about Lifson as the two men had become enemies and went through a MastroNet divorce by which Lifson returned to owning Robert Edward Auctions as its sole proprietor and later became O’Keeffe’s primary source for his book, The Card. In order to write the book O’Keeffe needed one of the liars to cooperate with him as a source and the liar he cozied up to was Lifson.  Despite knowing that Lifson had just as much knowledge of the shenanigans related to the Wagner card as Mastro did, O’Keeffe wrote an entire chapter devoted to Lifson that portrayed him as “A White Knight” in the hobby.  O’Keeffe described Lifson glowingly as a crusader fighting fraud and battling card doctors and other scoundrels who would trim and alter cards to improve their condition.  To help sell his story, O’Keeffe painted Lifson as his “good guy” and pitted him against his villainous arch-rival, Bill Mastro.  O’Keeffe was able to take advantage of the hatred between the former friends and business partners who had once shared tables at the National and later partnered up to form the biggest sports auction enterprise in history.

Bill Mastro and Rob Lifson joined forces at the 1983 National Convention and placed this full page advertisement in The Trader Speaks. Both Lifson and Mastro tell their customers: "Our condition standards are second to none."

In the book, O’Keeffe carefully crafted passages that dealt with the original Mastro and Lifson discovery of the card in Hicksville in 1985 from Lifson’s perspective:

1. “Only Mastro and Lifson would be allowed in for a look at the treasure inside; and Lifson himself would barely get a glimpse, relegated to the front of the store while Mastro made the deal in the back.”

2. “The transaction took half an hour, maybe forty-five minutes, long enough for Lifson to grow bored with the cards in Sevchuk’s glass cases.  After Mastro let Lifson glimpse the card for just a few seconds, he continued his wheeling and dealing as soon as he and Lifson got back into the Honda.”

3. O’Keeffe also quoted the card’s original owner: ” Alan Ray, would say later that Mastro and Lifson “knew what they were going to do with that card,” but Lifson wouldn’t see the card again for years, not until it had been slabbed between two sheets of plastic and graded, labeled as the most valuable card in the world.”

What O’Keeffe appears to have been consciously establishing in these three passages, based solely upon the testimony of Lifson, was the assertion that Rob Lifson never got a good enough look at the card in its raw state before Bill Mastro later altered and trimmed it to improve the condition of its edges and corners.  Such a description of Lifson’s involvement would create cover for him and establish that Lifson could not have known for sure if the card was trimmed since he never got a good look at it on the day that he financed 100% of the deal to purchase the card. Based upon O’Keeffe’s reporting, Lifson could not be accused of having committed fraud himself  when he handled the same card in 1996 and 2000.

This point is relevant to a specific charge made in the original indictment against Mastro which deals specifically with representations made about the T-206 Wagner:

“It was further part of the scheme that in marketing materials distributed on behalf of Mastro Auctions, which were intended to portray Mastro Auctions to potential bidders and consignors as a premier seller of valuable items for which a strong market existed, defendant MASTRO represented that Mastro Auctions had sold the most expensive baseball card in the world, a Honus Wagner T-206 card. In making this representation, however, defendant MASTRO knowingly omitted the material fact that defendant MASTRO had altered the baseball card by cutting the sides of the card in a manner that, if disclosed, would have significantly reduced the value of the card.”

The charge in the indictment indicates that Mastro Auctions had “sold the most expensive baseball card in the world,” however it was actually Lifson’s Robert Edward Auctions, operating as a subsidiary of MastroNet, that had actually conducted the sale of the card when it was auctioned off to collector Brain Siegel for $1.25 million in 2000.  If O’Keeffe’s reporting was accurate and the current Mastro plea deal comes to fruition, are we to believe that when the card sold at REA in 2000 Bill Mastro knew the card was trimmed, but Rob Lifson didn’t?

The infamous Gretzky-McNall Wagner was purchased by Arizona DiamondBacks owner, Ken Kendrick, for $2.8 million and was on loan to the Hall of Fame from 2010 to 2011.

In the course of his reporting for The Card, O’Keeffe was told the card was trimmed by the person who actually graded the card for PSA in 1996, Bill Hughes.  Hughes allegedly admitted to O’Keeffe that he knew the card had been cut from a sheet when he graded it.  O’Keeffe quoted Hughes as saying, “The card is so outstanding, it would have been sacrilegious to call that card trimmed and completely devalue it.” In addition, Bill Heitmann, a long time hobby veteran and author of the T206 reference book, The Monster, also told O’Keeffe he had seen the card before and after it was graded by PSA and believed it had been trimmed to enhance its condition.

In 2007, Heitmann also talked about Hughes and the Wagner card on a collector forum stating, “When PSA was first starting up, they were practically doing handstands to get to grade the T206 Wagner that McNall and Gretzky had just bought. I happened to know the pedigree of the card and knew that it had been trimmed. The guy who was going to grade the card stopped by my home on the way to PSA headquarters to grade the card. He knew that the card had been trimmed, but told me PSA had to grade the card because the good publicity that would come from grading the card was all that was important and, besides the card was within the size limitations for T206.”

Heitman even revealed that he had talked to Wayne Gretzky’s partner in the card, Bruce McNall.  ”I actually talked once to Bruce McNall about this and he acknowledged that he knew the card had been trimmed. So PSA, the owners of the card and the grader of the card knew it was trimmed. But put some plastic over it and all was forgotten,” said Heitman. Mastro and Lifson rival Josh Evans, of Lelands, provided even more damning allegations related to the Wagner when he told O’Keeffe that Bill Mastro, himself, had told Evans he had trimmed the card shortly after he first sold it to west coast sporting goods magnate Jim Copeland in 1989.

Bill Mastro, of course, knew that he had trimmed the card; Bruce McNall, who purchased it for $250,000 knew it was trimmed; Bill Hughes knew it was trimmed and even Bill Heitman went on the record stating it was trimmed.  Josh Evans’ revelation that Mastro admitted trimming the Wagner was the cherry on top.  According to O’Keeffe’s reporting everyone but Rob Lifson had seen and (or) known the card was trimmed.  The guy who originally purchased and financed the card for $25,000 in 1987 had no idea it was trimmed?  Lifson was the same guy who said in his 1983 advertisement with his partner Bill Mastro: “Our condition standards are second to none.”

Bill Heitman also went on the record stating,  ”A company purporting to be a grader or authenticator is only as good as the people doing the work. By 1980, I could tell whether a pre-WWII card was authentic or trimmed just by examining it closely. Why? I had handled so many of the cards that it almost became a sixth sense. The grading services would do the hobby a real service if it hired people who really know the cards.”

Bill Mastro and Bill Heitman appear in Baseball Card News" in July of 1984 as "leading authorities" in the hobby.

Another detractor was Lifson’s long-time customer, Keith Olbermann, who  had for years also been of the opinion that the card had been altered.  When Mastro’s indictment was made public last August, Olbermann took to his MLB.com “Baseball Nerd” blog to recount events from 1991 when his friend Matt Federgreen of the Beverly Hills Baseball Card Store had been asked to examine the card for Bruce McNall and brought back pictures to Olbermann.  Olbermann remembers: “I took one look at the photos and said “It’s been trimmed.”  Matt laughed. “That’s what I told Bruce. He said thanks very much, he said he thought so too, he said he’d probably buy it any way, and he walked me to the door, and he paid me a very generous fee, and I left.”

Soonafter, Olbermann found some old pictures of another Wagner that had been offered on the circiut back in the 1980s.  He continued his story: “By the following Sunday I had found in my rabbit’s warren of card-related stuff, photos of a Wagner that had been offered for sale in the early ’80s by a fellow who owned a baseball card store on Long Island outside New York City. I had no doubt and neither did Matt. Between his photos and mine we were looking at before-and-after shots of the same card. Before and after somebody with the guts of a burglar and the skills of a circumcision specialist had trimmed the thing.

In the early 1980s Rob Lifson already considered himself a “card scholar” and along with Bill Mastro, was one of the most savvy dealers in regards to the grading of cards.  In fact, when Barry Halper purchased what he described as a “supermint” blank-backed T-206 Eddie Collins proof card he said that Lifson and Mastro had authenticated the card.  After getting the opinion of the two guys he called “knowledgeable authorities” Halper wrote in The Trader Speaks that “The Doubting Thomas’” of the hobby could rest assured that it was “not a card which was put together with glue or taken from another series.”  Ironically, that same T-206 Collins proof card is today part of  Olbermann’s private collection having acquired it after actor Charlie Sheen purchased it from Halper.

In April of 1977 Barry Halper announced in "The Trader Speaks" his "find" of a "supermint" and blank backed T-206 proof card of Eddie Collins he enlisted the services of Rob Lifson and Bill Mastro to authenticate it.

Like Olbermann, Lifson could spot a trimmed card from a mile away and of course Lifson was aware of Olbermann’s opinion of the card. Several sources indicate that Lifson did, in fact, see the card before it was trimmed and confirm that Lifson was well aware of the enhancement to its condition.  He was well aware of the trimming when he, himself, was the winning bidder of the card for $651,000 at Christie’s in 1996, and when he auctioned off the card at REA in 2000 for $1.25 million.

In addition to Olbermann and Lifson another MastroNet employee in 2000, Mike Guitterez, also knew the card was altered and had gone on the record in the Chicago Tribune as early as July of 1991 claiming it was trimmed.  Gutierrez said, “The card was definitely cut (altered) at some point. The card was said to be mint-the best possible grade. Looking at it, you see it`s not mint. It`s near-mint to mint. It has some wear, which to the naked eye is almost invisible. I don`t know when it was cut, or by whom, but it sure was. I have no doubt.”  Gutierrez made his comments while working as a consultant for Bruce McNall’s auction house Superior Galleries in Beverly Hills, Calif., which had displayed the card at the 1991 National Sports Collectors Convention.  In the same article, McNall even responded to Gutierrez’ claims and said, “That (the card was trimmed) is what people are saying. We’ve heard all that talk. We talked with people before we bought the card, and we’re both happy with it.  Any time you have something like this, people will say things. Sotheby’s stands behind the card. I have no intention of returning it or selling it.”

Back in 1991, McNall and his partner in the card, Wayne Gretzky, relied on the opinion of PSA founder and president David Hall who told the Tribune, “It`s in the mid-range of acceptable size.  We used five-, 10- and 20-power magnification to examine the card. Compared to other (Wagner) cards, it looks about the same. It isn`t mint like Sotheby’s offered, but it`s still probably the finest specimen known.”  Hall did not deny that the card was trimmed.

Others who claimed they knew the Mastro/Lifson Wagner was trimmed include Keith Olbermann (left, with one of his own Wagners); former Mastro employee Mike Gutierrez (center) and even Bruce McNall and Wayne Gretzky (right).

One of our sources, a veteran collector of high-end artifacts who was once a close associate of Lifson, revealed to this writer back in 2000 what he described as the true story behind the Wagner as he heard it directly told to him by Lifson.  Our source will remain anonymous and from here on in be known simply as “Hobby Deep-Throat,” the man who confirmed that Lifson had first hand knowledge the card had been trimmed to enhance its condition and value.

The same question has even been posed to Lifson on collector forums like Net54 where in 2009 he was asked and refused to answer this question posed by a collector with the handle “MikeU”:

Rob, When working at MastroNet, did yourself or anyone at MastroNet or anyone at PSA auction a PSA 8 T206 Wagner in 2000 that was knowingly hand cut or trimmed? We are worried about Doug taking a spoon to surface wrinkles. What about the biggest question in our entire hobby. Let the truth be known.”

Shortly after the night that Lifson and REA auctioned off the famous card in May of 2000, “Hobby Deep-Throat” revealed to this writer that Lifson did, in fact, know the Wagner card he was selling had been trimmed and that both he and Mastro had failed to disclose this to prospective bidders in the REA/MastroNet sale. Referring to a direct conversation he once had with Lifson, “Hobby Deep Throat” said, “He (Lifson) told me years ago that Mastro trimmed it.”  He added, “He told me that Mastro cut it off from a full sheet and there was a guy on Long Island that had the sheet.” Of course, this conversation occurred years before The Card was published.

Rob Lifson (left) outbid Bill Mastro (center) at Christie's and took home the Wagner card for $651,500. Lifson said he was only bidding for Mike Giudwitz, but "Hobby Deep-Throat" disputes that claim.

When Lifson was interviewed by Alexandra Peers of the Wall Street Journal for a September 21, 1996 article before the sale of the Wagner at Christie’s, the details of the original transaction were different.  Peers reported that Mastro and Lifson were approached and baited with information about the card at a Philadelphia card show and that both men “bit.”  Peers wrote, “Traveling to a baseball card shop in rural New York, the two men found their holy grail and more.”  Lifson told her, “It was a miracle, once in a lifetime.”  Peers added, “As the anonymous seller hovered in the background, the two dealers paid a total of $25,000 for the Honus Wagner card and other rarities.  Mastro, however, later became sole owner of the card and bragged that someday it would be the first $100,000 collectible.” With the card close to being auctioned on the block by Christie’s, Lifson told Peers that he had already left a bid “in excess of $300,000 with Christie’s but (wasn’t) optimistic.”  Lifson added, “I have less than 1-percent chance of getting it for that.”  Lifson knew that he would be bidding against his friend Bill Mastro for the card.  Mastro and Lifson were both aware that the card was trimmed and now the two men who discovered and purchased the card in its raw state were bidding against each other for the now transformed “Gretzky Wagner.”  When the Wall Street Journal asked Lifson for his opinion of the card he said, “It’s the Mona Lisa of the field.”

Click Here: For Short Audio Clip of Hobby Deep-Throat on Lifson’s knowledge of Mastro’s trimming the Wagner

(Stay tuned for the continuation of this series and entire audio of the shocking revelations made by “Hobby Deep-Throat” in Part 4 of our 10-part series on the Mastro Investigation.  Click here for: Part 1 and Part 2 )


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