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By Peter J. Nash
January 21, 2014

Willie Ratner's Wagner first appeared in a newspaper in 1930 and later in "The Complete Book of Baseball Cards" in 1976 (above).

It was in the November 6, 1930, edition of the Newark Evening News that the legend was born. Writer Fred J. Bendel published an article about the baseball card collection of fellow News scribe Willie Ratner, a nationally renowned boxing writer who started working at the newspaper as a copy boy in 1912.  Ratner was about 15 years old when the famous T206 tobacco card issue was commercially distributed in cigarette packs.

Illustrated in the newspaper that day in 1930 were an assortment of Ratner’s private stash of T205 and T206 baseball cards and in the top row, appearing for the first time in the press, was the card featuring the portrait of the great Honus Wagner. The byline of the article read: “Cards That ‘Were Hard To Get’ And Old Honus Was The Hardest.”

It appears to be the first time the Wagner card (and its scarcity) was recognized anywhere in a public forum and three decades before Jefferson Burdick noted its rarity in a later edition of the American Card Catalog in 1960 when he assigned a value of $50 to the slice of cardboard.  In the December 2000 issue of VCBC, collector Keith Olbermann noted how hobby pioneer Burdick and his friend Sgt. John Wagner had “confirmed the existence of the Honus Wagner card in the mid-1930s.”  In addition, writer George Vrechek, who has researched Burdick extensively and has published several important pieces on the hobby’s early days, was able to identify Burdick’s first reference of the Wagner in his Card Collectors Bulletin of 1941.  Publishing a T206 checklist created by Howard Myers, Burdick remarked, “The scarcest cards are Plank and Wagner. Amounts of 50 cents and $1.00 are being offered for these.”

The Wagner card was actually first mentioned decades earlier in the Charlotte-Observer in August of 1909, just as the cards were showing up in packs of Piedmont Cigarettes in the South.  The article claimed that the cards were “more sought after than gold” by young boys who purchased packs of cigarettes for the pictures of “baseball men” and then “peddled the smokeables to passers on the streets.”   The report noted that the cards of Ty Cobb and Honus Wagner were especially desired but that “only a few pictures of Cobb had been found” until a shipment arrived at the Wilson Drug Store and 13 more Cobb’s surfaced.  No mention was made of a Wagner card being discovered.

Sportswriters Wirt Gammon (left) and Willie Ratner (right) both collected T206 cards when they were issued commercially in tobacco products. By the time Ratner had sold his Honus Wagner to Gammon, the Tennesean was selling T206 cards in the "Ballcard Collector" for just 45 cents.

Similar to the kids down South, Willie Ratner was collecting the same tobacco cards up North in New Haven, Connecticut, until he moved to Newark in 1912 with his baseball card collection in tow.  It’s likely Ratner had snagged his Wagner right out of a pack of Sweet Caporal Cigarettes a few years earlier.  No doubt Ratner was caught up in the same collecting hysteria that was described in Charlotte in 1909 when it was reported in detail how kids started flipping T206 cards competitively.  By the looks of Ratner’s Wagner with its creases and rounded corners its possible he was a fan of the pastime which had kids challenging each other to acquire more cards. “While the picture is flying in the air, one of the boys calls the side it will fall on, face up or down, ” the Observer reported.  The writer added, “If in his guess he is correct, the picture goes to him, otherwise he has lost one of his own pictures.”  In some cases a winning kid could walk away “exultant with the entire collection of his friends in his hands.”

An article published in the Charlotte Observer in August of 1909 described the popularity of T206 cards and the affinity kids had for them. The article describes early "card-flipping" which likely contributed to the condition of Willie Ratner's Wagner (center).

By all accounts Ratner treasured the baseball cards he had amassed in the card-flipping battles of his youth and he maintained the collection well into adulthood when he shared them with his readers in Newark in 1930. His colleague Fred J. Bendel wrote, “These pictures are but a few of the collection which Willie Ratner, News boxing writer, began collecting years ago.”

In addition to covering boxing matches in his “Punching the Bag” column, Ratner not only collected the pictures of baseball players on cards, he also commiserated with real-life sports legends and stars of the silver screen like Jack Dempsey and the child actor Jackie Coogan, who he met on a cruise to Paris in 1924.  Ratner even rubbed elbows with underworld crime figures and in 1929 was notably assaulted by racketeers for his “sarcastic reporting” of several “fast ones” pulled on boxing fans in Newark, which was known as a “sucker town” on the fight circuit.  Luckily for Ratner, the gangsters didn’t take his Honus Wagner as a hostage.

Willie Ratner's Honus Wagner first appeared in the Nov. 6, 1930, edition of the Newark Evening News (NBL).

Ratner held onto his collection through the Great Depression and also through his tenure with the newspaper which spanned from 1912 to 1972. During this long stretch of time Ratner repeatedly turned down offers for his Honus Wagner from aspiring hobbyists like Wirt Gammon from Chattanooga, Tennessee.   Gammon was a fellow newspaper writer who also published and wrote for the early hobby newsletter The Ballcard Collector and after making several offers to Ratner for the hard-to-get card decided to take a chance and send him a blank check in the mail.  To his surprise, Ratner fulfilled his request for the card.  According to The Complete Book of Baseball Cards, “Ratner wrote in only the original sum offered by the Tennessean—a mere pittance compared to later offers.  Ratner had not been holding back, he told the buyer– he had simply wanted to keep the card.  In effect he gave the card away.”

Wirt Gammon had wanted a Wagner ever since he was a little kid.  In his “Gammon’s Corner” column in 1970 he fondly recalled how he collected T206 cards soon after they were released in cigarette packs sold by the American Tobacco Company.  Gammon wrote, “When T205 and T206 began around 1910, I was five years old and I can remember back when I was about seven that these cards began to appear everywhere.  Many smokers collected them.  If not, their children collected the bright colored pictures, often begging parents to buy a pack.”  Gammon recalled how he only had one relative who was a smoker and that, much to his dismay, his uncle smoked a brand that didn’t include baseball cards.  Gammon also recalled that many smokers simply discarded the cards after opening their pack and he wrote, “It was nothing to walk along the street and see a baseball cigarette card on the sidewalk or the edge of the road or edge of a yard.”  So that’s how he collected them.  He added, “The best I could hope for was to find a card or two along the sidewalk, where some smoke-stained-fingered guy had discarded it as he opened his pack.”  Gammon, however, never found a Wagner in the gutter and had to wait several decades until Willie Ratner was willing to part with his prized possession.

Wirt Gammon placed want-ads for Wagners as early as 1953 in The Sporting News (inset from "Bob Lemke's Blog"). Gammon sold his Wagner to Bill Haber in 1970 and Haber showed off the card in a 1971 issue of The Trader Speaks.

Gammon had been searching for years for his own Wagner via want ads he placed in The Sporting News and other publications with no luck until he finally acquired his “Holy Grail” from Ratner.  Little did Gammon realize that like his fellow scribe he was merely a temporary caretaker of the T206 treasure and he ended up parting with the rarity when a young Brooklynite named Bill Haber offered him $500 for the card on June 1, 1970. Haber was working as the baseball director for the Topps Chewing Gum Company and was responsible for the player bios and facts found on the backs of baseball card issues. He was also one of the sixteen founding members of the Society For American Baseball Research in 1971 and according to the current SABR website he was, “considered one of the greatest biographical researchers” in baseball research history.

But Haber’s other passion was baseball cards and he was a dedicated collector who by 1970 had assembled near-complete sets of the T205, T206 and T207 issues.  According to Haber it took him 19 months to assemble the sets and in his “Haber Hi-Lites” column in The Ballcard Collector, he said his “greatest stroke of luck occurred when (he) found a non-collector who had a (Eddie) Plank, and (he) bought it from him for $6.”  That left Haber with only the Honus Wagner on his wish list and he then proceeded to “make a cash offer to all (he) knew had the card.”  Haber recalled, “The going price when I was looking was $250.  I decided it was worth $500 to me.”  Wirt Gammon accepted Haber’s cash offer and after the collector “borrowed $350 from (his) wife” Gammon shipped the Wagner card up north to Brooklyn where it remained in Haber’s collection for several decades until the mid-1990’s.

Bill Haber's "Ratner-Gammon Wagner" was reproduced by Woody Gelman in one of the first Wagner card reprints in 1975 (center). (From: Old Cardboard, Issue #23, Summer 2010)

When Haber was profiled in the “Collector of the Month” feature in The Trader Speaks in February of 1971, he was pictured holding his Wagner which was still affixed to a scrap book page with other T206 cards arranged alphabetically. Based upon that image it is possible that Ratner or Gammon had maintained their original collection in a scrapbook and that a full page, including the Wagner, was passed along to Haber.  By the time Haber acquired the card in 1970 it was still affixed to that page which had been removed from a larger volume.  Gammon had told Haber the card was “creased and stained” but the card’s condition was an afterthought.

Haber only knew of “6 or 8″ collectors who had one at that time.  In June of 1973, Haber told Dan Dischley in The Trader Speaks that his Wagner was scheduled to be featured on a TV show “dealing strictly with collecting” and hosted by Joe Garagiola before his “Monday-Game-of-the-week” telecast. (Its unclear if that show ever aired.) Haber’s Wagner was also reproduced by Woody Gelman’s company, the Nostalgia Press, in 1975 to create one of the earliest Wagner reprint cards. The card has always been easily identifiable on account of its unique creases and imperfections.

After Bill Haber's death in 1995, his Wagner appeared for sale in an SCD auction conducted by Pat Quinn and Bill Mastro of The Sports Collectors Store in Chicago.

Haber did business with most all of the prominent collectors in the 1970s and 80s including other Wagner owners like Bill Mastro and Mike Aronstein. In fact, it was a 17 year-old Mastro who attended with Haber what was considered one of the earliest card “conventions” held in Aronstein’s basement in Upstate New York in 1970.  Traveling from all over the country, collectors like Mastro and Haber joined Dennis Graye, Dan Dischley, Tom Collier, Bill Zekus, Bob Jasperson, Irv Lerner, Bill Himmelman, Fred McKie and other notables in a makeshift “convention hall” located in Aronstein’s downstairs den.  Haber brought along his Honus Wagner card to show off and after impressing the group tried to “get the trading wheels going.”  As the room filled up, Mastro, Jasperson and Graye were described as the only attendees “under voting age” and, according to the Ballcard Collector, Haber traded Tom Collier for some 1949 Bowman PCL cards and Mastro was able to trade with Graye for a T206 Sherry Magie error card.  There’s no doubt that when Mastro saw Haber’s own Wagner he wanted one for himself.

By the time he turned 19, Mastro had acquired not just one, but two Wagners.  In 1972 he purchased one for a record price of $1,500 and got lucky with another as “part of an unsorted collection.” Mastro told Collectibles Illustrated, “I found the Wagner card in it and it turned out to be a freebee.”  In 1981 Mastro also told Bill Madden of The Sporting News that one of his Wagners came from a priest who “found it in his attic” and that he had to sell another Wagner to finance the purchase of a car, “in a hurry.”

Bill Haber (center) purchased his Wagner from Wirt Gammon for $500 in 1970 and by 1973 a young Bill Mastro had paid a record-breaking $1,500 for another Wagner.

In contrast, Bill Haber is said to have been offered a second Wagner card for $1,000 which was in much better condition than Willie Ratner’s former card.  But Haber, never obsessed with the condition of his cards, declined.  In 2012, this story was recounted in response to a tribute to Haber written by Keith Olbermann and published on the Topps Archive blog.  Collector Marc Seligman commented that Haber wasn’t keen on upgrading his Wagner because he “said he didn’t need doubles.”  Seligman added,  ”Some might have found that foolish but he wasn’t in it for the greed.  He was in it for the history.” Haber’s old friend and Chicago dealer Pat Quinn echoed that sentiment more recently when he told us, “Bill never cared about the condition of his cards, they could have been chipped or even had a corner missing as long as he could complete a series or set.”

Bill Mastro, on the other hand, went on to become the country’s preeminent card dealer with an uncanny knack for tracking down multiple Wagner cards in high-grade condition and turning hefty profits.  By 1981 Mastro said he had already seen twenty Wagner cards in person during his collecting career and by 1985 he’d purchased two more Wagner cards for $25,000 each.  One of those cards was the now infamous Gretzky-McNall Wagner which Mastro recently admitted he’d altered and trimmed before he sold it to Jim Copeland for $110,000 in 1987.  While Mastro was keeping tabs on all of the Wagners in the hobby and contributing to their skyrocketing value, Bill Haber was content to sit on his own Wagner and his completed set of T206 with no intention of selling.

Pat Quinn (shown above at the 1981 National Convention) met Bill Haber on the card show circuit in the 1970s and the relationship secured him the consignment of Haber's collection in 1996. (Sept. 1981. The Trader Speaks)

Unfortunately, Bill Haber passed away unexpectedly in 1995 after a fatal asthma attack and his widow ended up calling Pat Quinn of the Sports Collectors Store in LaGrange, Illinois, to sell his Honus Wagner card and the remainder of his collection.  Quinn offered Willie Ratner’s old Wagner for sale in a telephone auction published in Sports Collectors Digest in March of 1996 and the time-worn card Haber had once paid Wirt Gammon $500 for ended up selling for close to $50,000.  That’s an appreciation of close to one hundred times the purchase price in just twenty six years.  In the SCD lot description Quinn wrote that the offering was, “A seldom seen opportunity for you to join the most exclusive club in sports collecting–”The Wagner Club”–it has few members and many aspirants.”

Quinn isn’t sure who ended up joining the ever so exclusive “Wagner Club” after his auction in 1996.  ”I can’t remember who bought that Wagner in the SCD sale, it was such a long time ago and it was one of my last auctions,” said Quinn.  It’s also unknown whether Willie Ratner’s Wagner has changed hands again since the time of Quinn’s auction or whether its been graded by either PSA or SGC. SGC President, Dave Forman recalled seeing the card in 1996 and told us, “I remember the auction but have no idea where it is now.” One things for sure, however.

Whoever the current owner is, he possesses the “Original Wagner” and an important piece of baseball and hobby history.  It represents the true essence of collecting more than a near-mint condition Wagner ever could.  There are other Wagners more valuable and pleasing to the eye, but this Wagner transcends its own imperfections.  It’s the original.

(Editors Note: This is the first installment in a Hauls of Shame series that will document the history of all the 64+ T206 Honus Wagner cards known to exist.  If you know of any others with notable provenance drop us a line at:Tips@HaulsofShame.com )


By Peter J. Nash

January 13, 2014

Gerry Schwartz purchased a T206 Magee on eBay (left) under handle of "PSA-Card." That same card appeared in June 2013 as the "Magie" error variation (right) at the Mile High Card Co.

Earlier this month we published a report about the two bogus T206 Sherry Magie error cards that were authenticated and encapsulated by PSA and then offered for sale at Mile High Card Co. and in Probstein123’s eBay auction.  Joe Orlando of PSA bought back the fake sold at Mile High for over $16,000 while Rick Probstein withdrew the other fake from his sale and sent it back to the PSA offices in California.

Now new evidence has emerged showing that both of the bogus cards were originally purchased as common T206 “Magee” variations on eBay by dealer Gerry Schwartz of Shirley, New York. In addition, a source tells Hauls of Shame that one of Schwartz’ Magee cards was also submitted to Sportscard Guaranty (SGC) as an altered “Magie” error variation.

After the card was identified as a fake by SGC graders, the card was then submitted to PSA at a later date and slabbed as a genuine Magie error card.  That same source specified that the card given to SGC originated with Schwartz and when asked how sure he was about Schwartz’ links to the card he replied, “It’s gospel.”

In an interview with Hauls of Shame, the President of SGC, Dave Forman, said he could not reveal customer information publicly but added, “My graders did examine a Magie card that exhibited sophisticated alteration.”  Forman said, however, he could not definitively identify that card as one of the two originally purchased by Schwartz on eBay and later cracked out of their PSA and SGC holders to become “Magie” error cards.  Some in the hobby have claimed that Forman was once a partner with Schwartz and when we asked him to describe his relationship Forman stated, “I did several deals with Gerry between 1993 and 1995 but there was never a formal partnership.”

One of the T206 Magie fakes ended up selling for over $16,000 in a Mile High Card Co. auction in June.  When asked if Gerry Schwartz was the consignor of the fake card sold in his auction Brian Drent said, “I can neither confirm or deny whether Schwartz was the consignor of the Magie card sold in our auction.”  Drent added, “After Joe Orlando contacted us and bought the card back from our buyer in Australia, that’s the last I heard about this card.”  Drent indicated that when he was first made aware of the situation by Orlando, the PSA President already knew the identity of his consignor.  ”I assumed that Joe was already in contact with the consignor and was dealing directly with him, I just don’t know what actually happened after Joe and I spoke.”

Hauls of Shame contacted Gerry Schwartz by phone and email and asked if he could comment or offer any additional information as to how the cards he purchased on eBay ended up being submitted to PSA as T206 Magie error cards.  Schwartz did not respond to our inquiry.  Schwartz purchased the two Magee cards under the eBay ID “psa-card” and has also used the ID “syzygy3.14″ dating back to 2001.

Gerry Schwartz has an eBay ID history using the names "psa-card" and "syzygy3.14" SGC President Dave Forman (right) says his graders recently examined and rejected a sophisticated Magie forgery.

Sources indicate that Schwartz has business relationships with many of the major auction houses and dealers in the country.  It is also known throughout the hobby that allegations have been made by collectors who claim that Schwartz has sold altered and trimmed cards that were purchased on eBay and that in the past PSA has returned cards submitted by Schwartz because they were determined to have been trimmed.  In one particular instance a creased 1916 “Holmes to Holmes Bread” Joe Jackson card that Schwartz purchased on eBay later appeared in a Robert Edward Auctions sale with its creasing much less visible than it was in its original eBay listing.  Despite these controversies Net54 moderator Leon Luckey publicly vouched for Schwartz in 2009 calling him a “recommended seller.”

In addition to buying the two Magee cards on eBay Schwartz is said to have also purchased a T206 “Joe Doyle, NY” card which some believe could be similarly transformed into an ultra-rare “Joe Doyle NY Nat’l” variation.  Several Doyle cards in the hobby are suspected to be fakes dating back to the example ESPN’s Keith Olbermann purchased from dealer Alan Rosen back in 1999.  Olbermann purchased the card from Rosen and was refunded $21,000 when it was determined that the card was an altered counterfeit.  Olbermann said in an article he wrote for VCBC, “Someone had clipped the word “Nat’l” off another T206 card and affixed it somehow to an ordinary Joe Doyle, N.Y.”

The new Magie fakes are far more sophisticated than the Doyle forgeries uncovered in the past like the Olbermann example.  Back then a more professional Doyle forgery was encapsulated and deemed authentic by PSA and appeared in a company published coffee-table book called Collecting Sports Legends-The Ultimate Hobby Guide.  At that time collector Corey R. Shanus asked other collectors on the Net54 collector forum: “If the entire player/team lettering on the bottom of the card is erased, can that erasure be detected?  I ask because it occurs to me that if it cannot, then what’s to prevent a skilled crook from erasing a “Magee, Phila. Nat’l” and replacing it with a “Magie, Phila. Nat’l”?”  Shanus asked that question five years ago and the only thing that prevented these two fakes from retaining their fraudulent authentic status was the vigilant eye of several collectors.

In 2000 SCD reported on a fake T206 Doyle purchased by Keith Olbermann (left) and years later a more sophisticated Doyle forgery was illustrated in a PSA coffee-table book from 2009 (right).

The news that Schwartz was the eBay buyer of both Magee cards was met with reactions by dealers and auction executives ranging from statements of “Wow” and “Holy sh–t” to “Keep me out of this” and “This is now a criminal matter.”  One major auctioneer claimed he didn’t know Gerry Schwartz and another source prominent in the hobby told us, “My guess is that for sure there is another party (other than Schwartz) involved in the Magee fiasco but I have no idea who it is.”

Schwartz has also been associated in the past with dealer Gary Moser who claims he “was one of the first dealers to send (his) cards out and allowed a third party to determine grade.”   In the past Moser has also been accused of selling altered and trimmed cards to collectors.  In one such case, collector Marc Schoenen claimed that Moser had sold him, “A large number of high-grade GAI 1955 Bowman baseball cards that were independently verified later as having been trimmed, re-glossed, or a combination of both.”  Schoenen confronted Moser on the Net54 board in 2008 and asked him,  ”Are you planning on letting us all in on the secrets as to how you managed to perpetrate these alterations and get them past a professional grading company?”  We asked Schoenen if he ever had similar problems with Schwartz and he replied, “My problems were always with Moser, specifically, but I believe they’re a tag team.”  Schoenen also said he plans on having his own T206 Magie card re-examined to make sure it is authentic.

One other person who was willing to go on the record about Schwartz was outspoken collector Dan McKee who told us, “Since it seems Gerry was the buyer of the 2 Magee commons used to make the errors, then he should at least be able to tell us who he sold them to so that a trace can be started.”

Hauls of Shame has not been able to confirm whether the two T206 Magie fakes are currently being investigated by either local law enforcement or the New York office of the FBI.

(If you have any additional information on the two T206 Magie fakes or others, please contact us at: Tips@Haulsofshame.com )


By Peter J. Nash
January 6, 2014

PSA graded and authenticated two T206 Sherwood Magee cards that were fraudulently altered and transformed into bogus "Magie" error card rarities.

In a recently published report Hauls of Shame confirmed there are at least sixty-four T206 Honus Wagner cards known to exist including the trimmed PSA-8 Mastro example and the PSA-2 copy currently up for sale at Lelands.

The Wagner card along with another T206 of HOFer Eddie Plank are two of the traditional “Big Three” cards highlighted in the storied tobacco card set dubbed “The Monster” by hobby pioneer Bill Heitman. The third is the “Sherwood Magie” error card which depicts player Sherry Magee and was misspelled in early production before being corrected, thus creating another rarity with just over 100 copies known to exist.

Over the past several decades PSA has graded dozens of the three celebrated cards but with the revelations in Federal Court that hobby kingpin Bill Mastro trimmed and altered the PSA-8 Honus Wagner card, the company founded by David Hall and headed by president Joe Orlando has come under fire as the evidence suggests PSA was founded on a fraudulent authentication of an iconic artifact.  Many PSA customers and supporters, however, have claimed that the authentication of the Wagner card back in 1991 was an anomaly and that the grading company is both qualified and competent maintaining its status as the leader in the field along with SportsCard Guaranty (SGC).

But now PSA is dealing with another grading scandal to add to its list of failures after collectors uncovered two altered and bogus T206 Sherwood Magie error cards that the company authenticated, graded and encapsulated in 2013. One example sold for over $16,000 at a Mile High Cards auction in June and another was removed from eBay in November when it was exposed as a fake by collector Chris Browne. Browne uncovered images of the exact same cards in their prior PSA and SGC graded holders showing the cards with the correct “Magee” spelling before they were fraudulently altered and transformed into the “Magie” error rarity.

PSA & SGC authenticated and graded the two "Magee" cards to the left before they were removed from their holders and altered to become "Magie" error cards which were both graded and slabbed by PSA (right)

The news that such fakes could bypass the PSA experts decades after they graded the trimmed PSA-8 Wagner suggests that the services rendered by PSA may be flawed to a level almost beyond belief for collectors, dealers and auctioneers who are invested in PSA product.

PSA has had a poor track record with the T206 issue and the Magie error card in particular.  In 2003, longtime T206 collector Dan McKee filed suit against PSA after the company lost his Magie error card which he had sent to the company for grading.  In 2004, a California court in Orange County ruled against PSA and awarded McKee damages of $4,852.  In a press release issued by McKee’s attorney, Adam Warshaw, it was also revealed that the trial testimony of Joe Orlando showed that PSA “does not take any steps to independently monitor its receivers when they open packages submitted to PSA.”

In addition to past security issues, even more prevalent are allegations that PSA has graded and encapsulated scores of altered and trimmed cards that trace back to Bill Mastro and the T206 set sold by Jim Copeland at Sotheby’s in 1991.  That T206 set ended up in the collection of coin collector Kirk Harris and was subsequently given high grades by PSA who identified the near-mint cards on the PSA flips as coming from “The Harris Collection.”  Harris’ T206 set was advertised by the company as the “first pedigreed T206 set” in the PSA set registry.

The recent PSA authentications of the two Magie fakes take claims of authentication malpractice and alleged fraud by the company to a new level.  Considering only one-hundred or so genuine examples of the Magie error card exist, questions are now being asked as to how PSA failed to detect the alterations and turned a $200 common card into a $16,000 treasure.

EBay seller Rick Probstein (inset) offered the doctored T206 Magie error card and then withdrew it after collectors exposed it as a fake.

Several collectors had questioned the authenticity of one of the Magie error cards when it was offered last November in an eBay sale by seller Rick Probstein and at the same time another collector questioned the Magie that had been sold at Mile High in June.  The Magie cards were then proven to be bogus by collector Chris Browne of Calgary, Ontario, who was able to locate the sales of the exact same cards in their previous holders as the “Magee” variations before being transformed into rarities.  Browne posted his findings on collector forum Net54 and the eBay seller Probstein123 promptly removed the card from his eBay auction.   Probstein also posted his reaction on the same forum and stated, “I’m still in shock that such a high profile card could get holdered, very upsetting.”  When Hauls of Shame contacted Probstein he said, “I’m not surprised something like this could happen, there are a lot of crooks out there doctoring up cards.”

In his interview with Hauls of Shame Probstein said he was alerted to the problem by one of his consignors and that after reviewing Browne’s discovery and having a conversation with a grader from SGC, he ended the auction.  Probstein added, “Joe Orlando contacted me and asked for the card so we shipped it back to PSA overnight.”  Probstein said he has not heard back from Orlando and when asked who consigned the card to his auction he said, “That information is private.”  According to Chris Browne, the same buyer purchased both of the graded cards on eBay before they were doctored.  Browne added, “Joe Orlando is looking into it.”

Brian Drent, owner of Mile High Cards, told us that the bogus Magie card sold in his auction was consigned by the same person who consigned the other fake to Probstein’s eBay auction.  Said Drent, “All I know is what he told me and he said he bought both cards in a group of stuff and that he’d been duped himself.”  According to Drent his buyer was overseas and the card had been shipped out of the country by the time it was identified as a fake.  After learning about the card’s problems Drent said, “I spoke with Joe Orlando and he immediately contacted our buyer and bought the card back from him.”  Drent added, “Joe was very disturbed and very upset about it.  But he took care of our buyer immediately.”  In regards to the quality of the doctoring performed on the Magie card Drent said, “It wasn’t an easy thing to pick up there in the holder and it wasn’t a high-grade copy.  I didn’t pay sufficient attention to it, it just never crossed our mind.  I should have looked closer than I did.”

PSA founder David Hall (inset top left) and President Joe Orlando (inset top right), advertise that they can "turn your cardboard into gold." They delivered on that promise to a submitter of (2) T206 fakes exposed by Chris Browne (inset bottom).

The critical question now is who bought the two fakes when they were still “Magee” cards and who actually submitted them to PSA as altered “Magie” rarities.  Chris Browne says the same person also purchased a T206 Doyle card which could also be altered to create a rarity.  Hauls of Shame has not been able to determine the name of the consignor of both bogus cards and Brian Drent said his card came from a client who, “Consigns to Mile High infrequently.”  Rick Probstein said he was not aware that his consignor was selling both fake cards and added, “I didn’t talk to my consignor about it, I just sent it back to PSA after Joe Orlando contacted me.  My consignor hasn’t even contact me about his card.  I’m sure Joe Orlando has contacted him.” Despite the fact that both fakes went undetected by PSA graders Probstein said, “Their work is impeccable.”

Allegations that PSA gives preferential treatment and higher grades to auction house executives and high-volume customers has fueled even more speculation about who actually submitted both Magie fakes for encapsulation.  Sources indicate that the FBI is aware of this current situation and has also been looking into PSA business practices for both card and autograph authentication. The fact that one of the bogus cards was actually graded previously by PSA as a Magee “Ex 5″ and ended up a “Magie” with a lower grade of “Good 2″ is also problematic.  PSA President Joe Orlando did not respond to our inquiry for comment on who submitted both fakes to his graders and how those graders failed to identify the counterfeit cards.  Considering the scarcity of the T206 Wagner, Plank and Magie cards, submissions of these examples are far from everyday occurrences at PSA.  One would think the company’s most experienced graders would be responsible for examining such cards.  Identifying and outing who submitted the fakes to PSA could help uncover a sophisticated forgery ring and also shed more light on other fakes that have infiltrated the marketplace.

In 1991, PSA failed when they graded and legitimized Bill Mastro’s trimmed T206 Wagner and now twenty three years later they are encapsulating T206 cards that have had their original graphics removed and reapplied fraudulently.  How much confidence can PSA customers have in the company and the PSA product found in their own collections?

Dan McKee has seen his share of Magie error cards in his collecting career and the recent revelations regarding PSA’s  grading of the two fakes has him very concerned.  Says McKee, “These recent T206 Magie error fakes have got to make you wonder if the one you are holding is good.  I have a friend with seven of them and he is checking them with a fine tooth comb.  His were all acquired within the last ten years unlike the one I have in my set which I found in the mid 1980s.”

In contrast to his feelings about PSA’s negligence when they lost his own Magie card back in 2003, McKee feels some empathy for the company.  He added, “About the quality of these fakes and them getting by PSA I can only say that with the naked eye and large scans they look darn scary!  Now PSA gets paid to protect us from this but these are the best I have ever seen.”

Not surprisingly, despite the major ramifications of this story, it has not been covered anywhere in the so-called “hobby press” since the time the fakes were exposed back in November.


By Peter J. Nash
December 30, 2013

2013's Top 10 Stories include the Bill Mastro guilty plea; PSA & JSA's Worst 100; and the NYPL & FBI give-aways of stolen artifacts.

Guilty pleas, institutional negligence and authentication malfeasance filled the headlines for 2013 and helped increase Hauls of Shame’s readership to record highs since our inception in 2010.  By the time the year is up we’ll have had over 1.5 million page views by over 600,000 unique users.

Thanks to the TPA’s, Bill Mastro, the trimmed T206 Honus Wagner and the stolen treasures from the NYPLs famous Spalding Collection, the headlines of 2013 provided compelling reading material for hobby aficionados and baseball history buffs alike.

Some of the stories infiltrated the mainstream media while others were useful for collectors trying to avoid getting ripped off online or on the auction house floor.  Some of the stories even inspired threatening cease and desist notices from shyster lawyers like REA’s Barry Kozyra trying to shield clients from further ridicule and exposure.

While the baseball artifact trade remains a mine-field of fraud and deception, collectors were at least afforded the opportunity to see for themselves the exposure of forgeries and the identifications of artifacts wrongfully removed from institutions.  Hopefully, the investigative reporting on this site was a welcome alternative to other hobby outlets that simply regurgitate press releases issued by their advertisers and provide cover for the usual suspects and hobby fraudsters.

2013 was business as usual for the hobby PR-machines as Joe Orlando and PSA opened themselves up to further allegations of racketeering as they continued to solicit and post paid advertisements from the very same companies that they give preferential treatment to.

Continued milquetoast reporting from hobby frauds like Rich Mueller and Rich Klein at Sports Collectors Daily illustrated how so-called hobby news outlets remain in the pocket of assorted hobby power brokers. Klein published the most embarrassing post of the year when he interviewed Joe Orlando and tossed soft-balls at him asking about his college baseball career and the “fun and interesting people he’s dealt with.”  Klein decided not to ask Orlando about all of the indicted people he’s worked with; the Mastro trim-job on the PSA-8 Wagner or the rumors he’s the target of an FBI probe.  Klein and Sports Collectors Daily win our “Sycophants of the Year” honors, hands down (or hands out).

The runner up for bootlicker of the year was Klein’s buddy, convicted felon Leon Luckey who continued his unabashed cronyism and continued support of his banner ad buyers/fraudsters (except for Lelands) over at Net54; Although there have been a host of allegations that Luckey is a serial-shill bidder who’s been known to bid up his own items in Mastro auctions, Luckey revealed his sheer disgust with Bill Mastro after Mastro posted a comment on Paul Lesko’s blog.  Luckey chimed in with the line of the year: “Even though I have considered Bill a hobby friend, and understand I was shill bid, I didn’t have the amount of disrespect towards him which I do now, until I read his statement.”

Last but not least Sports Collecting NewsMichael Borkin provided further evidence of bias and misconduct in the “hobby news” business when he sent an email to Hauls of Shame saying he couldn’t post our number four story of 2013 about REA selling a host of fake Babe Ruth items because: “Rob (Lifson) is a friend of mine and I don’t want to put anything on my site that slams him.”

Fortunately, a large cross section of the hobby has sought out the coverage on this site which is free from the incestuous relationships between the auctioneers, authenticators and PR flacks that control the delivery of hobby news.  Our year-end list of the top 10 stories was determined by you, the readers, who have flocked to Hauls of Shame for their hobby news over the past twelve months.  Thank you for your continued support.

HERE ARE THE TOP 10 STORIES OF 2013:



1. 3rd Party Authenticators PSA/DNA & JSA Exposed In Hauls of Shame’s “Worst 100 Authentications”-

PSA/DNA and JSA have made some stunning mistakes in recent history and our expose listed and illustrated the top 100 blunders made by so-called experts like Jimmy Spence and Steve Grad in great detail. The evidence suggests that Grad and Spence, who both got their start at the company founded on a fraud, are unqualified to authenticate autographs. Included in the “Worst 100″ were the infamous Sal Bando and Mike Schmidt videos and the exposure of authentication malpractice related to authentications of signatures attributed to A G Spalding, Jimmy Collins, Mickey Welch, Dan Brouthers, Cap Anson, P T Barnum, Jesse Burkett, Rocky Marciano and even Cheetah the Chimp The response from our readers was overwhelming and the report easily surpassed all others to become the most popular story of 2013 .


2. The Bill Mastro Guilty Plea & Admission to Trimming & Altering the PSA-8 Honus Wagner Card-

As a result of an FBI investigation that lasted several years, former Mastro Auctions founder Bill Mastro plead guilty in Federal court in Chicago to one count of mail fraud but he also admitted to trimming the famous PSA-8 T206 Honus Wagner card before he sold it to Jim Copeland for $120,000 in 1987.  The story was included in our on-going 10-part investigative series dedicated to the Mastro case and the trimmed T206 Wagner.  Read the full story published in October here.

3.  The US Attorney’s Office & NYPL Give Away Stolen Documents From Baseball Pioneer Harry Wright’s Donated Archive-

After four years of the FBI investigating the theft of Harry Wright’s papers from the NYPL’s famous Spalding Collection in the 1970’s, the stolen papers seized after being identified in MLB’s All-Star FanFest Auction in 2009 were returned to the consignor and then sold to a collector.  All of this despite the fact that many of the documents were cited and sourced specifically to the NYPL collection in scholarly works and notes written by Dr. Harold Seymour and Dorothy Seymour Mills.  The New York Post also covered the story but our report went into much greater detail.

4. Operation Bambino: REA & Lifson Exposed Selling More Babe Ruth Forgeries Including The Infamous Gary Cooper Photograph-

Despite the fact that author Ron Keurajian identified it as a forgery and Gary Cooper’s own daughter claimed that her family never had such an item in the collection they curate, Rob Lifson and REA went ahead and sold the photo they said was inscribed by Babe Ruth to the Pride of the Yankees actor.  Unlike the Cooper photo REA removed a group of Ruth signed photographs from the same sale after Hauls of Shame and other experts identified all of the JSA-certified Ruth signatures to be forgeries.  The REA fiasco was covered in our on-going “Operation Bambino” investigation.  For the full story click here

5. SCP Pulls Reggie Jackson’s Alleged 1977 WS Jersey When Pinstripes Don’t Match-

Reggie Jackson consigned the million-dollar jersey to SCP Auctions claiming it was the same one he wore when he hit three home runs in game 6 of the 1977 World Series, but examination of the uniform pinstripes by experts proved that it wasn’t the same one worn in that famous game that made Jackson “Mr. October.”  Our report was also picked up by the New York Post in their own report of the Reggie controversy.

6.  Steiner Sports Sells $373k Jackie Robinson Glove As A World Series Gamer With No Proof-

The memorabilia company ventured into the vintage market offering a glove they claimed was worn by Jackie Robinson in the 1955 and 1956 World Series and that the glove was also “known to be his last game-used glove he ever wore.”  Steiner appeared on TV shows claiming that the company had definitive ‘photo matches” of Robinson wearing the very same glove during that time period.

Additional investigation, however, proved that Robinson wore several gloves in that time period and that those gloves were not the same one shown in Steiner’s and Dennis Esken’s alleged “photo matches.” At best Steiner’s glove was only possibly used by Robinson during this time period. (Additional photos examined after the auction (above) illustrated further that Robinson wore at least one different glove in 1956 because the handwritten “42″ on Steiner’s glove contrasts the numerals on the glove Robinson is actually wearing.  Although Brandon Steiner said he’d update his lot description to include the correct information while the auction was still in progress he did not.  The glove received no bids after the HOS story was published. For the full report click here


7.  Evidence of Baseball Hall Of Fame Thefts Piles Up With Help From Red Foley & SABR; The Cover-Up Continues-

Smoking gun evidence exposing the thefts of rare artifacts from the Baseball Hall of Fame was discovered via SABR contact sheets from a 1983 photo shoot and donation documents found in National Baseball Library files.  A rare 1870 CDV of the Philadelphia Athletics was identified as Hall of Fame property but also as a lot in a 2013 Legendary auctions sale while several rare payroll receipts from the New York Giant team including rarities like Buck Ewing and Mickey Welch appeared in 1990s auctions despite the fact they were sent to the Hall as a donation by New York Daily News sports writer Red Foley in 1973.  To add to the Hall of Fame’s problems auctioneer Huggins & Scott offered material stolen from the Hall on a regular basis in 2013 including artifacts from the Frederick Long Collection and the Hall’s own internal files.  All of these items (and more) were also included on the 2013 Hall of Fame Hot 100 List of items stolen from Cooperstown.

8. Maine Auction House Sells Rare Brooklyn CDV Listed On NYPL Missing List For $80k; Other Boston Cabinets Sold Fit Descriptions On BPL Missing List-

Saco River Auctions in Maine was never known for specializing in rare 19th century baseball artifacts but that all changed in 2013 when they offered one of the most important team photographs known to exist of the Atlantics of Brooklyn.  Saco River Auctioneer Troy Thibodeau sold the possibly unique CDV created by Brooklyn photographer Williamson for $80,000 despite the fact the photograph fit the description of a Williamson photo of the Atlantics missing from the NYPL’s Spalding Collection and also originated from a small-time drug dealer in Maine.  Hauls of Shame covered the story in February and later in the year identified other Saco River auction lots of 19th century photographs that were sold in 2012 and fit the description of others stolen from the Boston Public Library’s “M. T. McGreevey Collection of Baseball pictures.”  One of those photos was a rare $62,000 cabinet card of “King” Kelly that is also on the BPL’s “Missing List.”

9.  Keith Olbermann’s Dubious Harry Wright CDV Pulled From REA Sale; Traced Back To HOF Heist Suspect Mike Gutierrez-

A rare CDV/cricket ticket of Harry Wright owned by ESPN’s Keith Olbermann was withdrawn from Robert Edward Auctions’ Spring 2013 sale after Hauls of Shame published one report illustrating the dubious provenance of the card and another tracing the CDV back to Mike Gutierrez who claimed to have purchased the card at a Butterfield & Butterfield auction in 1990 as part of an alleged “Wright family photo album.”  The photo album was sold with no provenance information and appeared to have originated from HOFer George Wright’s collection which was donated to Cooperstown by his son in the 1940s.  Since the late 1980’s Gutierrez has been the prime suspect in investigations into the Hall of Fame thefts.  Gutierrez was also working for Butterfield & Butterfield when he purchased the Harry Wright card as partners with dealer Lew Lipset.  When the CDV, described as the “first baseball card”, was withdrawn from REA’s sale, auctioneer Rob Lifson said it was at the request of his consignor, Keith Olbermann.

10.  Heritage Sale Features Fakes From The 1917 World Series & The 1927 Yankees-

Heritage’s Platinum Night auction in New York City featured the sale of Curt Schilling’s famous bloody sock from 2004 but was marred by the exposure of several fake and suspected fake items appearing for sale alongside it.  One of the items was a ball they claimed was from the last out of the 1917 World Series, but an article published by Hauls of Shame proved that the ball was actually manufactured in 1926.  Heritage and Chris Ivy pulled the 1917 ball from the sale along with a suspect Lou Gehrig single-signed ball but chose to sell several other alleged fake items including a 1927 Yankee signed team-ball for over $149,000; a 1932 signed Yankee team photo for over $33,000; a Home Run record ball signed by Mark McGwire for $8,962; a Babe Ruth signed B&W HOF plaque postcard for $22,000; and several other highly suspect items.

Keep on the look-out for more investigative reporting from Hauls of Shame in 2014.


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.)


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