By Peter J. Nash
Feb. 12, 2013
This ultra-rare PM-1 pin of Babe Ruth is up for sale at Legendary Auctions. Its authenticity is being questioned.
FOR PM 1 PIN UPDATE SCROLL TO END OF FIRST ARTICLE
FOR MASTRO GUILTY PLEA HEARING UPDATES SCROLL TO BOTTOM
When it was announced that a discovery of a PM-1 pin of Babe Ruth was made in 2005 by auctioneer and pin expert Rob Lifson of Robert Edward Auctions, it represented one of the most remarkable finds in recent times. It was billed as being quite possibly the earliest issue representing Ruth in a Major League uniform and as part of a 1915 commercial issue that is now recognized in the Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards. The pins were first documented in the late Burt Sugar’s The Sports Collectors Bible, which listed nine different players depicted on pins that were designated as “PM1’s.”
At the time of the astounding find a press release stated, “Uncovering buried treasure is something most can only dream of, but Robert Edward Auctions has done it with this discovery of the 1915 PM1 Ruth Pin!”
Lifson gave his thoughts on his discovery of the rare Ruth pin from the scarce 1915 PM1 “Ornate Border” pin set and said, “When we saw this pin, we had to finally say ‘Now we’ve seen everything!’ We have always had a special appreciation for baseball pins.”
Lifson continued, “For Robert Edward Auctions, seeing this pin in the collection of a longtime collector was almost like finding a previously undiscovered Joe Jackson in T206.” In the REA press release published on the MEARS website it was reported, ” Upon seeing the pin, at first Robert Edward Auctions officials could not believe their eyes. Could it really be Babe Ruth? Most PM1s have the player’s name identified on the photo but some do not. This example is of the unidentified style, leaving REA to provide verification of the identification.”
It was also reported that in order to verify the image on the pin, Lifson had located, “a copy of the actual photograph of Ruth, which was used in the making of the pin.” The PM-1 issue had never represented an example of the Ruth in the set but the press release also noted that while known as a scarce issue, ” it is not uncommon for new checklist discoveries to surface. During the past year alone, Robert Edward Auctions has provided two other additional PM1 checklist additions to The Standard Catalog (Jake Daubert and a second previously unknown pose of Tris Speaker).”
This rare cache of PM-1 pins, including the Ruth, was collected by the Drier family and is the cornerstone of Legendary's February auction. This Legendary ad states the significance of the collection.
Describing himself as a “pinback expert” the press release quoted the REA President as saying, “This is one of the most exciting baseball pinback finds we could ever imagine existing, though before this find neither we nor anyone else, to the best of our knowledge, even considered the possibility of Ruth’s inclusion in the set.”
It was reported that the rare pin discovered would not appear in an auction and that “the owner has decided to sell the pin privately.” Doug Allen, President of Legendary confirmed for Haulsofshame.com that Lifson sold the rare pin to the Dreier family and it appears as the first lot in Legendary’s February 27th sale. Allen also confirmed that Lifson had sold the Dreier’s the majority of his pin collection that was highlighted in Stephen Wong’s Smithsonian Baseball coffee-table book published in 2005.
The 1915 PM-1 Ruth pin discovered by Lifson is at odds with the image it was generated from, a 1918 image shot by Charles Conlon.
But Lifson’s claim of having verified the Ruth discovery by locating the actual photograph used to create the pin is problematic as a source has revealed to us that the photograph of Ruth was believed to have been shot at New York’s Polo Grounds by photographer Charles Conlon in 1918, three years after the issue date of the PM1 set which features many of the stars from the 1910 and mid-teens era.
This comparison of both photos reveals specific points of emphasis that illustrate the Conlon image and the image on the PM1 pin are the same. It appears that the image on the pin, however, has been slightly enhanced and drawn over.
In regard to the 1918 dating of the photograph pin expert David Maus of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, told us, “Obviously, this is when people like Conlon started to photograph Ruth in a batting pose. How could a 1918 photo of Ruth get on a 1915 PM1 pin?” It’s a pretty legitimate question. Either the pin is fake or the dating of the PM1 set is seriously wrong.” Maus also indicated that the same photograph is also featured on page 52 of “BASEBALL”S GOLDEN AGE - The Photographs of Charles M. Conlon” by Neal and Constance McCabe and identified as a 1918 image.
John Rogers, owner and founder of the Rogers Archive owns the original Conlon glass-plate negative of this very photo and told us, “I looked at the original glass plate and it was not dated like some others are, but every piece of paperwork associated with this photo says its from 1918.” Rogers’ Conlon Collection website dates the photo as an image shot in 1918 and images sold as wire photos at auction also date the shot to 1918. The same photo is also paired with a bat purported to be Ruth’s lumber from the 1918 World Series in a Sports Illustrated piece on the World’s Most Expensive Sports Memorabilia.
Since most reliable sources date the matching photo to 1918, it should be noted that the Red Sox played nine games at the Polo Grounds in 1918. On May 4, 1918, in New York, Ruth hit his tenth career home run and on May 6th hit his eleventh. It was a historic game as Ruth played first base and batted sixth (the first time he had appeared in a game other than as a pitcher or pinch-hitter) and the first time he batted in any spot other than ninth. Ruth hit his second home run of the year as five of his eleven career homers up to that date were hit at the Polo Grounds. Paul Shannon of the Boston Post commenced his story of the game stating : “Babe Ruth still remains the hitting idol of the Polo Grounds.”
On June 24th Ruth played again in New York and on the 25th he hit the eighteenth homer of his career ( and third of that season) into the upper deck at the Polo Grounds. Ruth didn’t hit any homers on June 26th and 27th but when the Sox returned to the Polo Grounds on September 2nd, the Babe smacked out two in the last game of the season.
Babe Ruth's earliest baseball cards depicted him as a pitcher including (l. to r.) 1914 Baltimore News Rookie Card; 1915 Sporting News Rookie Card; 1917 Collins-McCarthy; and the PM-1 pin discovery by Lifson.
It is reasonable to assume that New York based photographer, Charles Conlon, went to the Polo Grounds on September 2, 1918, to take photographs of the Red Sox on the last day of the season for use during the upcoming 1918 World Series against the Cubs. (The Red Sox clinched the pennant on 8/31) Ruth led the Major Leagues in homers with eleven in 1918, so photographing him in a batting pose at that time was understandable.
The earliest commercial use of the Conlon Ruth photograph we could locate was in an advertisement for a Ruth endorsed product in the November, 1920, issue of Baseball Magazine. The same photo may also appear in the 1919 Reach Baseball Guide.
The significance of the Ruth PM1 find no doubt helped secure a record price for the relic when it was sold since the release date of the set pre-dates the 1916 Sporting News Ruth rookie card. Lifson and REA noted the rarity and significance of the Ruth rookie card in a 2011 auction when they wrote:
“The Babe Ruth rookie card appears to naturally be a card that forgers and con artists gravitate to, creating fakes and trying to fool collectors into parting with thousands of dollars of hard-earned money for a “good deal” on an ungraded reprint or a card they don’t really have. If it sounds too good to be true, it is! Remember: Real Babe Ruth rookie cards are rare!”
REA also noted how remarkable it was that Ruth’s card appeared in the 1916 Sporting News set: “It would be hard for a piece of cardboard to better symbolize the history, the essence of American sport, than this Sporting News rookie card of Babe Ruth. Ruth had only pitched in four games with Boston in 1915 but fortunately impressed the card manufacturer enough to warrant inclusion in this major issue.”
PM-1 pins also included pictures of American Presidents like these examples of Wm. Howard Taft. David Maus believes it would be easy to use the ornnate frame from one of these examples to create a fake PM-1 baseball pin.
A few weeks ago, Haulsofshame.com asked Legendary’s Doug Allen to inspect the Ruth pin under a loop and he told us, “It looks like a period photograph and has the same resolution and surface sheen as the others in the set we compared it to. I will send scans so you can see.” As of today Allen had not sent any hi-res images of the Ruth pin and the other pins it was examined against for comparison. Images on the Legendary website, however, were available as part of an auction preview.
As for the possibility the Ruth pin is a fake, David Maus told us, “1915 PM1 pins could be easily faked. A small hand cut sepia photo could simply be inserted into the ornate border frame. Any existing PM1 pin could have easily had the original photo removed and a new photo of any desired subject inserted in its place. PM1 pins are also known to exist featuring presidents of the United States including Taft and Wilson. Any of those pins could easily have been re-purposed to create a fantasy pin.” Maus’ expertise is the product of extensive research on the PM-1’s and other pinback issues and he likely has more knowledge about the set than anyone in the hobby. On the subject of counterfeits Maus added, “With all the recent talk about how albumen photos could be faked to create a Brooklyn Atlantics CDV, how difficult would it be to create a sepia-toned PM-1?”
Regardless of the pin’s authenticity, however, is it likely or even possible that Ruth could have been depicted in a 1915 issue swinging a bat?
Though Babe Ruth was a Red Sox player in 1915, and on the Sox World Series roster, that does not sufficiently explain his presence in this set. Though Ruth debuted on July 11, 1914, he rode the bench and was sent down to the minors in mid-August. He returned to pitch the final week of 1914 and collected his first big league hit.
In 1915, Ruth pitched well for the Red Sox, going 18-8, but was hardly involved in the Series (except going 0-1 in a pinch hitting appearance.) He was not in the Red Sox Series starting rotation which consisted of Ernie Shore, Rube Foster, Dutch Leonard and Ernie Shore. Even if Red Sox like Barry, Foster, Hoblitzell and Speaker were included in the set to cash in on their 1915 World Series popularity, several other players on the Red Sox would have been considered for a limited set release before Ruth would have, including, but not limited to: Duffy Lewis, Harry Hooper, Everett Scott, Dutch Leonard, Larry Gardner, Bill Carrigan, Hick Cady, Smoky Joe Wood, Ernie Shore, etc.
The November, 1920, issue of Baseball Magazine depicted the same Ruth Conlon photo used for the PM-1 pin (inset with original backing) in an ad for a Ruth product endorsement.
In addition, while batting poses of Babe Ruth as a Red Sox player are not completely unknown, all hail from 1917 or later (Ruth began to play the field during his off-pitching days and led the Majors in homers with 11 in 1918.) The inclusion of a batting pose of a Red Sox pitcher who didn’t even play in the 1915 World Series appears to be questionable at best.
Ruth’s 1916 Sporting News rookie card depicts him in an appropriate pitching pose. (The 176 subject 1915 Cracker Jack set did not choose to include Ruth, nor did the 1915 General Baking Set -51 players, 1915 American Caramel set -48 subjects, 1915 Postaco Stamps-36 players, etc.) Ruth’s 1917 Collins-McCarthy issue also depicts Ruth in a pitching pose.
A brief review of other player images used for the 1915 PM1 set finds source material ranging from 1907-1915. Joe Tinker, Walter Johnson and Dick Hoblitzel’s photos are the same as used on the 1913 Tom Barker set, Nap Lajoie’s image is the same as his 1912 Plows Candy and ‘14 and ‘15 Cracker Jack set, Ty Cobb’s photo is the same as his 1912 Plows Candy, Chief Bender’s image is also featured on his 1911 Pinkerton Cabinet and 1914 Texas Tommy, etc. The Christy Mathewson photo is from 1911 (date based on research by the Pictorial History Committee, Society for American Baseball Research, 2006) Ed Konetchy and Honus Wagner’s images are the same as their respective 1909 Sporting News Issues, Joe Tinker and Johnny Evers are pictured in their 1907 Cubs uniforms, Frank Chance and Jimmy Archer are pictured in their 1909 Cubs uniforms and Benny Kauff appears to be wearing his 1915 Brooklyn Federal League Jersey. While the source photos for the set originate from a wide variety of years, some as early as 1907, none of them appear to have originated from 3 years after the set was released, like the Babe Ruth image.
How Lifson determined that the photo he found was from 1915 is not known. His determination that the pin was from the PM-1 set, however, as the recognized authority on pin issues created a “hype” for this “unique” Ruth pin that was no doubt sold for big bucks to the Dreier Collection as a centerpiece of their pinback holdings.
Here is the most complete checklist currently available for this scarce and important issue:(Subjects include 31 players– 15 HOFers and 16 non-HOFers or unknown)
(THIS CHECKLIST, COMPILED BY DAVID MAUS INCLUDES 8 PINS NOT LISTED IN THE 2011 STANDARD CATALOG.)
1915 PM1 ORNATE FRAME PINS
(1) Jimmy Archer (w/o name)
(2) Frank Baker (HOF)
(3) Jack Barry
(4) Chief Bender (w/ name) (HOF)
(5) Frank Chance (HOF)
(6) Ty Cobb (HOF)
(7) Jake Daubert
(8) Al Demaree (white hat)
(9) Johnny Evers (no Chicago) (HOF)
(10) Rube Foster
(11) Dick Hoblitzell
(12) Walter Johnson (no Wash) (HOF)
(13) Benny Kauff (w/ name)
(14) Johnny Kling (only known w/o name)
(15) Ed Konetchy
(16) Nap Lajoie (HOF)
(17) Sherry Magee
(18) Rube Marquard (HOF)
(19) Christy Mathewson (side view)(HOF)
(20) John McGraw (HOF)
(21) Ed Reulbach
(22) Eppa Rixey (HOF)
(23) Babe Ruth (known only w/o name) (HOF)
(24) Tris Speaker (batting; front view) (HOF)
(25) Tris Speaker (batting; side view) (HOF)
(26) Jeff Tesreau (w/ name)
(27) Joe Tinker (HOF)
(28) Honus Wagner (HOF)
(29) Al Demaree (brown hat)
(30) Willie Mitchell
(31) Jimmy Archer (w/ name)
(32) Chief Bender (w/o name) (HOF)
(33) Johnny Evers (w/ Chicago) (HOF)
(34) Benny Kauff (w/o name)
(35) Walter Johnson (w/ Washington) (HOF)
(36) Rube Bressler
(37) Unknown Fielder (w/o name)
(38) Johnny Evers (w/o name)
(39) Unknown catcher (w/o name)
Straight/stick pin variations of Nap Lajoie, Joe Tinker, Frank Baker and Johnny Evers exist. (Other players may possibly also have straight/stick pin variations.) Heart-shaped ornate frame pin featuring Frank Chance and “1914 Braves” is also known to exist.
Known Sales Prices:
1) *Archer (w/o name)–$514 (Oldjudge.com), $525 (‘05 Hunt), $340 (‘08 Legendary), $336.05 (‘06 Legendary), $336.05 (‘06 Legendary), $305.59 (‘01 Lelands)
2) *Baker –$450 (‘08 Legendary), $1612.20 (‘07 SCP), $7767.50 (‘08 Heritage)
3) *Barry–$963 (Oldjudge.com),
4) *Bender (w/ name)–$22,705 (‘08 Heritage)
5) *Chance– $1677.47 (‘05 Mastronet), $2868 (‘08 Heritage), $9560 (‘08 Heritage) $402.50 (‘01 Lelands), $340 (‘09 Legendary)
6) *Cobb- $1385.31 (‘04 Lelands), $23,900 (‘08 Heritage), $1624 (‘06 REA), $2270.50 (‘12 Heritage)
7) *Daubert –No Known Sales
8 ) *Demaree (white hat) –$7767.50 (‘08 Heritage)
9) *Evers (name only/no Chicago)–$7767.50 (‘08 Heritage), $310.70 (‘09 Heritage), $2868 (‘08 Heritage) $420 (‘08 Legendary), $340 (‘09 Legendary) $325 (‘08 Huggins/Scott), $255 (‘12-Ebay)
10) *Foster –$340 (‘09 Legendary)
11) *Hoblitzell- $420 (‘08 Legendary), $211.50 (‘10 Goodwin), $340 (‘09 Legendary)
12) *Johnson (No Washington Version) $4100 (‘06 SCP), $939.60 (‘10 SCP-the same pin as the ‘06 Legendary auction), $7767.50 (‘08 Heritage), $1677.47 (‘05 Mastronet) $987.00 (‘06 Legendary)
13) *Kauff- (w/ name) $16,730 (‘08 Heritage)
14) *Kling (w/o name)–No Known Sales
15) *Konetchy –$377.18 (‘05 Legendary), $240 (Date?-Auctionscc)
16) *Lajoie –No Known Sales
17) *Magee –No Known Sales
18) *Marquard –No Known Sales
19) *Mathewson (side view) –$900 (‘10 Legendary), $1300 (‘09 Huggins & Scott) $533 (Date?-Auctionscc)
20) *McGraw— ($548.55) (‘01 Legendary)
21) *Reulbach–No Known Sales
22) *Rixey–No Known Sales
23) *Ruth (w/o name)–Sold Privately– Price Unknown
24) *Speaker (Front View) –$695.75 (‘01 Lelands), $507.88 (‘09 Heritage), $611 (‘06 Legendary)
25) *Speaker (side view)–No Known Sales
26) *Tesreau (w/ name) –No Known Sales
27) *Tinker –$5975 (‘08 Heritage)
28) *Wagner -$1025 (‘11 Ebay)
29) #Demaree (brown hat)–$340.77 (‘10 Ebay)
30) #Mitchell– $1612.20 (‘07 SCP)
31) *Archer (w/ name)-$540 (‘08 Legendary)
32) *Bender (w/o name)–$340 (‘08 Legendary), $305.59 (‘01 Lelands)
33) #Evers (w/ Chicago)-no Known Sales
34) #Kauff (w/o name) $340 (‘08 Legendary)
35) #Johnson (w/ Washington) -$508.01 (‘11-Ebay)
36) #Bressler –$340 (‘09 Legendary)
37) #unknown fielder (w/o name) –$340 (‘09 Legendary)
38) *Evers– (no name/no chicago) $448.13 (‘11 Heritage)
39) #unknown catcher–no known sales
* designates listed in 2011 Standard Catalog (Lemke)–(31)
# designates “uncataloged” version (8)
Stick Pins– Tinker -$450 (‘10 Legendary), Evers -$420 (‘10 Legendary), Lajoie- $565.55 (‘10 Ebay)
The 62 prices given from the last 10 years are for conditions ranging from poor to gem mint. (With prices ranging from $211.50 to $23,900, clearly the player portrayed and the condition of the pin both factor heavily into the total value)
Cubs-(6) Archer, Chance, Evers, Kling, Reulbach, Tinker
A’s- (4) Baker, Barry, Bender, Bressler
Giants–(5) Demaree, Marquard, Mathewson, McGraw, Tesreau
Red Sox–(3) Foster, Ruth, Speaker
Senators (1) Johnson
Cardinals –(1) Konetchy
Indians (2) Lajoie, Mitchell
Phillies (2) Magee, Rixey,
Pirates (1) Wagner
Unknown teams (2)
Teams not represented: White Sox, Yankees, Browns and Braves
HAULS OF SHAME PM 1 PINS UPDATE:
Tris Speaker Pin Being Sold By Legendary Auctions Could Also Be A Fake Like Babe Ruth Pin; Retail Backings Not Original To Many Pins In Auction
The retail backing of the Ruth PM 1 pin being offered at Legendary is not original as it was the backing for the Chief Bender pin sold at Heritage. Some say the Ruth pin had no backing when "discovered."
In the 1915 PM1 pin set, teams like the Cubs (4 WS appearances), A’s (5 WS appearances) and Giants (4 World Series appearances) had a larger number of players in the set due to their national popularity. The inclusion of stars like Tris Speaker, Jake Daubert, (‘13 NL MVP), Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Nap Lajoie, Honus Wagner, Benny Kauff (top attraction in 1914 Federal League), Dick Hoblitzell (considered the greatest NL 1st Baseman at the time), Ed Konetchy (Top star of the day), Sherry Magee (considered one of the best all-around players in the game during the era), Willie Mitchell (star pitcher- Indians) would all make obvious sense. The inclusion of Phillies and Red Sox players like Rube Foster(star of the 1915 WS) and Eppa Rixey (future HOFer who lost the deciding game of ‘15 WS to Rube Foster) may indicate that the pin set was still being produced in the fall of 1915 during the 1915 World Series between the Phillies and Red Sox. While that explains the inclusion of 30 of the 31 of the known subjects in the set, it does not really explain the inclusion of Babe Ruth.
However, if all dating sources are incorrect for the photo used to produce the image on the Babe Ruth PM1 pin and the image is actually from 1915, this pin would be his true rookie card (PM1’s qualify as rookie cards –case in point, Eppa Rixey’s rookie card is considered to be the 1915 PM1 pin), as it predates the 1916 M101 Sporting News release. (which just sold for $142,200 at REA) Additionally, it is a 1 of 1, the only one known to exist! So if a 1916 Ruth rookie with at least 70 known examples sells for $142,200, what is a 1915 “true” Ruth rookie (only known example) worth? REA recently sold a PSA 2 1914 Baltimore “minor league” rookie for $575K (10 known examples). One can only imagine what a 1 of 1 true 1915 “Major League” rookie card of Babe Ruth would sell for at auction. The 1914 Ruth is worth more than a Wagner T206 in equal condition making it the most valuable baseball card in the world. An authentic 1915 Ruth rookie (1 known example) could also be in the argument for the most valuable ”card” in the world. Is it more likely REA discovered and Legendary Auctions is selling the most valuable “card/pin” in the world or that the pin is actually circa 1918?
In response to our earlier story (above) regarding the authenticity issues associated with the Babe Ruth pin, Legendary Auctions added this addendum to the listing to sway fears that the pin is not authentic:
“Additional Notes about This Abundantly Intriguing, Valuable Piece:
As stated in the Standard Catalog, “Little is known about these tiny pins, such as who issued them, when and how they were distributed.” Generally, collectors accept a midpoint range of 1914-15 for a prospective period of issue, likely due to the dated 1914 Braves pin. Considering the diversity of players included, it is probable that the series was distributed over a number of years. For example, players like Chance and Mathewson were just finishing their HOF careers while the tenures of players like Bressler, Scott and Ruth were only beginning. In trying to stock the set with high-caliber players the manufacturer took a big risk by guessing whether emerging players would make the grade. For instance, Bressler was a “bit” player who did not appear in 100 games until 1919. On the other hand, Ruth was a clear winner. The Conlon batting pose of Ruth is generally considered to be a circa-1918 image, which would mean that the pins could have been distributed over a 4- to 5-year period of time. Due to the significance of the Ruth pin—and the lack of a dependable third party service to authenticate it—we went to great lengths to ensure its authenticity. We showed the item to reputable hobby veterans and examined it under high magnification. As can be seen in the additional photos (which were taken under 50x magnification) the surface of the Ruth pin is consistent with that of the Johnson and other pins examined, and it shows definitive signs of crazing and pitting—which would be expected as a result of nearly 100 years of exposure to even controlled elements. We are pleased to be able to present what could arguably be the earliest card/pinback collectible that depicts Babe Ruth in a batting pose … the pose that is indelibly stamped in our mind when we celebrate Ruth as the best to ever play the game!”
Legendary Auction’s assertion that players like “Bressler” and “Scott” support their new position that the pin set should be re-dated to include years up to and including 1918 does not really hold water upon closer examination. A player named “Scott” does not appear in the set and Rube Bressler’s inclusion in the set solidifies the production year as 1915, rather than refuting it. Bressler was a rookie phenom for the 1914 pennant winning athletics in 1914. He went 10-4 with a staff best 1.77 ERA. The A’s sank to the bottom of the standings in 1915 and Bressler sank with them. Continuing to suffer the effects of an arm injury he incurred during the 1914 stretch run, Bressler finished the season with a 4-17 record and an inflated 5.20 ERA. Bressler’s decline continued in 1916 and culminated with his release from the A’s. The ONLY year Rube Bressler would have been included in a set like this is 1915 as he was the sensation of the 1914 American League and the set was obviously hoping to capitalize on his “rookie phenom” status. The set is dated 1915 because of Bressler’s inclusion, not despite of.
Legendary Auctions has previously sold over 30 of these 1915 PM1 pins, including at least 16 known variations. Many of those pins are now part of the Dreier Collection that is currently available. However, in none of those earlier auctions was the mention of a possible 4-5 year production window and a re-dating of the set to 1915-1919 ever made. HOS finds it curious that the “discovery” of one Babe Ruth pin by REA has basically changed the stance of Legendary Auctions and “reputable hobby veterans” regarding the dating of this pin set. Is it more likely the entire hobby has been wrong about the 1915 date of this set for 30+ years or that the Babe Ruth pin is a fantasy piece created to cash in on the Babe Ruth “rookie card” mania?
Haulsofshame.com has also discovered that while the original press release heralding the discovery of the Babe Ruth pin several years ago, makes no mention of the original retail backing cardboard still being attached, the pin now, curiously, is attached to one of the few known examples of original paper backing for this set.
A few pins have been sold in the past with original retail backing:
HOS wondered if the paper “retail backing” now attached to the Ruth pin could be a ploy to add legitimacy to an otherwise questionable entry in the set checklist. Closer investigation of the paper retail backing on the current Ruth pin reveals that it originated on this Chief Bender pin sold by Heritage Auctions and was switched by Legendary Auctions to the Ruth pin (as shown above).
The same can also be said for the retail backing of the Honus Wagner pin (formerly affixed to a Jimmy Archer pin) as well as the Mathewson pin (formerly attached to a Johnny Evers pin).
The PM 1 pins of Honus Wagner and Jimmy Archer had the retail backings switched between the Heritage and Legendary auctions.
It is no coincidence that four Hall Of Fame “keys to the set”, Ruth, Mathewson, Wagner and Tris Speaker are the only pins with the original retail card still attached to them. At least three of the four were switched in an apparent attempt to add more value to the “centerpiece” pins, or in the instance of the Ruth pin, to lend credibility.
When we asked Doug Allen of Legendary about this issue he said, “When the pins came from the Dreirs, the retail backings were not affixed to the pins, so we were not sure which ones were affixed to each pin.”
The newlt discovered PM 1 pin of Tris Speaker contrasts starkly with other new discoveries of pins of Bressler, Scott and Walter Johnson. Note that the Speaker pin has the actual ballpark background from the original photo depicted in the background.
Another pin apparently discovered by Rob Lifson of REA and sold to the Dreiers appears to also differ substantially from the other pins in the set. The “Tris Speaker w/ full name” pin is another one-of-a-kind pin that is likely unique to the hobby. However, close examination of that pin reveals characteristics that do not occur on any other of the known PM1 pins. His name is displayed differently than all the other pins and it is the only pin that shows a background scene (identified as the 1912 World series by Legendary Auctions) Does this pin raise further questions regarding the authenticity of the Babe Ruth PM1 pin? It should be noted that no other examples of the Tris Speaker w/ full name and Babe Ruth pins have ever been discovered. Their inclusion in the Standard Catalog of Vintage Baseball Cards is based completely on their discovery by Rob Lifson and subsequent sale to the Dreier family.
PM 1 pins of US Presidents are bountiful and perfect candidates for creating counterfeit PM 1 baseball pins
As stated earlier, there would be no shortage of pins for a possible forger to work with. Presidential and actress pins can be obtained for just a few dollars and possibly turned into priceless baseball memorabilia that has been known to sell for over $20K.
The PM 1 Ruth pin back (left) and the back of the Tinker stickpin version reveal how easy it would be to open, remove and replace a photograph in an ornate frame.
A view of the rear of the Babe Ruth pin currently being sold by Legendary Auctions shows how simple it would be to replace the small oval sepia photo enclosed in the ornate frame. Six small brass clasps could simply be bent up to free the pin back and image from the fancy border frame. A replacement photo cut to appropriate size could then be inserted in lieu of the original and the brass clasps bent back down to hold in place. Just like taking off the back of a picture frame.
The same method could also be used for the stick pin variation of the PM1.
1) A Christy Mathewson (front view) pin was inadvertently omitted from the originally published checklist of pins. There are actually 40 known versions of pins in this set, 9 of which are uncataloged.
2) The list of known sales prices was not intended to be an all-inclusive list. It was compiled from a cursory search of completed auctions to help readers establish a baseline of prices that have been paid for various pins. It is acknowledged that many recorded sales have not been documented. Thanks to HOS readers for providing these additional documented sales prices:
a) Archer (w/o name) $857 (‘03 Heritage), $493.60 (‘05 Mastronet)
b) Barry $857 (‘03 Heritage)
c) Evers (name only/no chicago) $493.60 (‘05 Mastronet)
d) Konetchy $493.60 (‘05 Mastronet)
e) Mathewson (side view) $493.60 (‘05 Mastronet), $1677.33 (‘05 Mastronet), $2300 (‘00 Legendary)
f) Speaker (Front View) $493.60 (‘05 Mastronet), $818 (‘00 Legendary), $717 (‘12 Heritage)
g) Bender (w/o name) $776.75 (‘11 Heritage)
3) Many of the entries in the Standard Catalog PM1 checklist are based on auction house sales. While the Standard Catalog includes an entry for a Johnny Kling pin in the set and it IS included on the above list, it is believed by HOS, that its inclusion is based entirely on the mis-identification of a Jimmy Archer pin (w/o name) in this 2001 Lelands Auction and does not actually exist.
4) Inclusion of Ed Reulbach pin on checklist is based entirely on its inclusion in the Standard Catalog. It’s existence has not been personally verified by HOS. Rumors of an Eddie Collins version persist, however, it is not included in the Standard Catalog or the above HOS checklist.
Rob Lifson (left) outbid Bill Mastro (center) at Christie's and took home the trimmed Wagner card for $651,500. The Wagner card is at the center of the Mastro guilty plea.
FORMER HOBBY-KINGPIN BILL MASTRO WAS SET TO PLEAD GUILTY IN CHICAGO FEDERAL COURT TODAY; JUDGE FLIPS SCRIPT AND TOSSES PLEA DEAL; RIPS PROSECUTORS
As widely reported back in January hobby big Bill Mastro is set to appear today before a Federal Judge in an Illinois Court to plead guilty to at least one count of fraud brought against him in a 33-page Federal indictment that was unsealed back in August of 2012.
Mastro’s defense attorney, Michael Monico, did not return calls for comment regarding the hearing in which his client is expected to cooperate with the government as part of a deal he cut with Federal prosecutors Nancy DePodesta and Steven Grimes. Mastro is expected to appear before Judge Ronald A. Guzman who replaced Judge Suzanne B. Conlon back in January.
Via Twitter the New York Daily News reports from the courtroom that Judge Guzman “nixes Bill Mastro plea deal, rips prosecutors for not requiring ex-memorabilia king to cooperate against other defendants.” Based on the plea deal prosecutors agreed to, Mastro would have only served 30 months or less in prison.
Bloomberg News reported that Judge Guzman asked prosecutor Nancy DePodesta, “What does the government get out of this? Bloomberg also reported that prosecutors “sought a sentence of as long as 6 1/2 years” and that DePodesta said “the terms were the product of negotiations she would not make public.”
According to the report Guzman said, “What I’m buying here is a pig in a poke, I need more,” referring to the “absence of a pre-sentence report.”
Mastro’s attorney Michael Monico was quoted as saying. “I think this is the first case of its kind ever in the United States.” According to Bloomberg Monico told the judge that “difficulty arose from the shifting values of some of the items sold and the uniqueness of the case.” One of the most prominent items involved in the case is the famous Gretzky-McNall T206 Honus Wagner card that is alleged to have been trimmed by Mastro to enhance its value.
Last year a source told Haulsofshame.com that Mastro was caught admitting to trimming the card on Federal wiretaps. Oddly enough, when Bill Mastro sold the card after trimming it in the 1980s he only pocketed close to $100,000 from collector James Copeland. The card was later sold by Mastro’s partner, Rob Lifson, at Robert Edward Auctions for close to $1.2 million. At that time both Mastro and Lifson knew they were defrauding the buyer, but Lifson has avoided prosecution as he is widely recognized as the informant who helped the government kick-start its case against Mastro.
Judge Guzman has postponed the hearing until March 19th. For more on the history of this story check out our on-going 10-part series on the Mastro Investigation.
By Peter J. Nash
February 5, 2013
Saco River Auctions sold Old Judge cabinet cards of King Kelly and Billy Nash suspected to have been stolen from Nuf Ced McGreevy's collection at the BPL. The thefts at the BPL and NYPL have been linked to Barry Halper and the Porn-King of Lowell, MA.
Saco River Auctions says lighting has struck a few times for them with consignments of ultra-rare baseball photographs from the 19th century but, as reported in our last two reports, two of them appear on the missing list of a major institutional collection.
There are only two known examples of the Brooklyn Atlantics CDV that Saco River is scheduled to sell on February 6th and there are only two Gray Studios cabinets known of player Charlie Ferguson, one of which was sold on New Years Day by the auction house in Maine. Both of those rare items fit the description of relics missing from the New York Public Library’s Spalding Collection and are under scrutiny in an on-going FBI investigation. There are only five or six known examples of the Old Judge cabinet card of “King” Kelly that Saco River sold back in August for $62,000. You do the math.
Now, Haulsofshame.com has learned that the “incredible find” of Old Judge cabinet cards sold by Saco River last August included three cards that appear on the “Missing List” of the Boston Public Library’s famous “M. T. McGreevey Collection of Baseball Pictures,” including the rare card of “King” Kelly (in street clothes) and cards of Billy Nash and John Clarkson. Susan Glover, the “Keeper of Special Collections” at the BPL, has confirmed that the library is missing Old Judge cabinet cards of Kelly and his Boston teammates Nash and Clarkson, as well as several others. Glover also confirmed that the McGreevey Collection originally had two Old Judge cards of Kelly and still retains one featuring Kelly batting in his Boston uniform. The N-173 Old Judge set only featured two cards of Kelly and evidence suggests that the other Kelly card missing from the library is the “street clothes” portrait of the Boston legend. Like the Brooklyn Atlantic CDV from 1865 it is a much sought-after rarity.
Jay Miller, an Old Judge expert and co-author of the book, The Photographic Baseball Cards of Goodwin & Company 1886-1890, says that only six of the “Kelly in street clothes” cards are known to exist and adds, ” There are somewhere between 30 and 40 copies of the Kelly Batting N173 known.” When hobby veteran Lew Lipset published his Encyclopedia of Baseball Cards in 1983 he didn’t even include the Kelly card on a checklist. Lipset told us, “I know I never had one. I believe at the time of publication of the Encyclopedia I doubted it existed.” Haulsofshame.com has only been able to confirm two sales of the card at public auction (including the Saco River example.) The earliest example we could find offered at auction was sold by MastroNet in the Spring of 2002.
This excerpt from the BPLs McGreevey Collection "Missing List" identifies Old Judge cabinets of King Kelly, John Clarkson and Billy Nash which were copyrighted in 1888. The list features over 50 rare photos that were stolen from the collection.
Susan Glover confirmed that the library currently has six Old Judge cabinets and is missing at least six others listed on original inventories from the collection donated in 1923 by Baseball’s most famous fan, Michael T. “Nuf Ced” McGreevy. Most all of the pictures in the collection once hung on the walls of McGreevy’s legendary 3rd Base Saloon in Roxbury, MA., considered by many as baseball’s first museum. Evidence suggesting that McGreevy’s other missing Kelly cabinet was the rare “Kelly in street clothes” variation is the inclusion of a large reproduction of that very image in the BPLs collection. The surviving photograph is an enlargement of the Kelly Old-Judge cabinet and is shown hanging on the walls of McGreevy’s bar as early as 1906, as evidenced in period photographs. The enlargement appears to be a silver-gelatin print made from the original and features enhancements in charcoal rendered by an artist when the large reproduction was created. The BPL records describe it as a photographic print and state that the ” image is probably an enlargement of an original photograph that has been retouched.”
The Kelly Old Judge cabinet (batting) still at BPL shows a faint oval library stamp in the red-circled area (left); The Saco River Kelly cabinet (center) shows no visible stamp on the photo which was the basis for McGreevy's large portrait of Kelly that hung in the 3rd Base Saloon (right).
Kelly was McGreevy’s favorite Boston player and the most prized artifact in his baseball collection was a solid gold medal presented to Kelly by the Boston Globe in 1887 as “Best Base Runner.” In 1943, McGreevy’s daughter donated the medal to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, via the Globe. Along with Albert Goodwill Spalding’s collection at the NYPL, McGreevy’s holdings were considered the finest collection of baseball photography from the late 19th-century and Dead-Ball era.
The Old Judge "Kelly in street clothes" image (inset right) was the model for McGreevy's enlarged portrait (inset left) which hung prominently on the walls of the 3rd base Saloon as evidenced in this 1906 photo. The portrait is highlighted on the wall in red.
In 1939, McGreevy’s large Kelly portrait also appeared in a BPL window display at Filene’s department store in Boston to celebrate Baseball’s mythical centennial. Displayed in the same window was a matted display of some of Nuf Ced’s Old Judge cabinets, including his card featuring the pose of “King” Kelly in uniform. Former BPL Print Department employee, Aaron Schmidt, has previously confirmed that the surviving Old Judge’s likely escaped the hands of thieves because they were maintained in their original matting from McGreevy’s saloon. The surviving Kelly Old Judge cabinet has glue residue on its mount from its original matting. Sometime in the late 1970s to early 1980s one-third of the McGreevy collection (@70 photographs) vanished from the library as part of a large scale theft similar to the heist that occurred at NYPLs Spalding Collection. Schmidt told us, “The loose photos, especially the small ones like the Old Judges were probably easy pickings back when items were removed from the collection.”
McGreevy's Kelly portrait and six Old Judge cabinets appeared in a Filene's Department Store window in 1939 as part of a BPL exhibition (left) The Saco River Old Judge cabinet (right) could be McGreevy's.
Like the Atlantic CDV the rare King Kelly Old Judge cabinet was allegedly discovered by an anonymous antique picker in Kennebunk, Maine, in “an old trunk.” Despite the fact that all news reports indicated the picker was anonymous, a collector named James Basch posted information on a collector forum at the time of the August 2012 auction revealing that the auctioneer told him details about consignor. Basch wrote:
“The auction house manager was a class act. He relayed a story to me about the consignor of those cabinets. The consignor was a Vietnam vet who had exposure to agent orange, and has had subsequent medical issues as a result. In addition, his wife has cancer and has had bills run up during her hospitalization. This is truly one of those stories where everyone wins.”
But was it really a “win-win,” and how did out-of-the-way Saco River Auctions in Maine get so lucky with three rare 19th century baseball consignments featuring artifacts all fitting the descriptions of items looted from and on the “Missing List’s” of major public institutions?
The stolen cabinet photo of Nig Cuppy (left) was offered on eBay by Paul Dunigan Jr. in 2011. In 1995, Paul Dunigan Sr. consigned to Lelands an autographed tintype of HOFer Tommy McCarthy that was stolen from the NYPL.
Oddly enough, all of these rare items may have some additional common denominators. Two years ago a Haulsofshame.com reader and collector from Iowa named David Maus discovered that one of McGreevy’s stolen treasures was being offered by an eBay seller located in Lowell, MA. The item was a 1901 Holsinger cabinet photograph of Red Sox player “Nig” Cuppy and was identified by Maus thanks to tell-tale BPL ownership marks that had been defaced to conceal its McGreevy provenance. The seller of the stolen cabinet photo was Paul Dunigan Jr., who told BPL officials that his mother found the stolen card in her attic amongst other items once owned by his deceased father.
Paul Dunigan Sr. died in 2004 and was one of the top collectors of 19th century memorabilia with an affinity for Old Judge cabinet photographs. In 1995, Dunigan Sr. consigned a group of material to Lelands which was sold as originating from an “anonymous and legendary collector.” That group of items, identified as a “Collection of a Gentleman,” included an important item stolen from NYPLs Spalding Collection. Like the current CDV being offered by Saco River, the item fit the exact description of an artifact on the NYPLs 1922 inventory; an 1887 autographed tintype of HOFer Tommy McCarthy. The library even described the exact same inscription on the card penned by McCarthy himself. Lelands described the lot as, “One of the only known signatures of McCarthy and definitely the only tintype.” Its whereabouts are currently unknown and the tintype, valued at $25-35,000, is currently included on Hauls of Shame’s “10 Most Wanted Missing National Baseball Treasures List.”
After outing the stolen Cuppy cabinet photo, David Maus identified another missing cabinet card that was sold on eBay, this time a Gray Studio cabinet of player Charlie Ferguson suspected to have originated from the NYPLs Spalding Collection and subsequently seized by the FBI and then returned to the eBay buyer for unknown reasons. The same card was then consigned to and auctioned by Saco River on New Years Day, 2013.
That particular cabinet was said to have been discovered in an old drawer by a military collector and was offered on eBay from Salem, MA., about 35 miles from Lowell where Paul Dunigan Jr. said he discovered the “Nig” Cuppy cabinet stolen from the McGreevey Collection at the BPL. The Gray Studio cabinet was sold on eBay for over $900 by Henry Withers as HankDog1938.
From Peep Shows to Sotheby's: The stolen McGreevey photos moved (left to right) from Paul Dunigan of Towers News in Lowell, MA. to Alan "Mr. Mint" Rosen to Barry Halper to Rob Lifson and Dede Brooks of Sotheby's for the 1999 sale of Halper's collection which featured many items stolen from the BPL.
When he was alive, Paul Dunigan Sr. was the owner and operator of Towers Video, the premier purveyor of pornographic magazines, videos and peep-shows in the Lowell region. Dunigan is said to have made a fortune in Lowell and was a controversial figure who once filed suit against the city after his adult bookstore was raided by law enforcement. Dunigan’s wealth helped fuel several of his hobbies including car-racing, antiques and collecting rare nineteenth-century baseball memorabilia. By 1984, Dunigan had compiled a top-notch collection but decided to sell a large portion of it to dealers Lew Lipset and Alan “Mr. Mint” Rosen. Dunigan’s son, Paul, told Haulsofshame.com that his father sold part of his collection in 1984, “To expand the business and fund the purchase of a building across the street from his store, to renovate it and buy inventory.”
Lipset remembers the transaction and told us, “What Rosen and I got from Dunigan was in our possession for a couple of hours and went to New Jersey with him (Rosen) where he sold it.” The buyer of the majority of Dunigan’s collection was super-collector Barry Halper who also had a long history of buying, selling and trading with Dunigan. It is unclear whether Halper already had stolen BPL materials in his collection, but what is certain is that both Barry Halper and Paul Dunigan at different times owned the largest holdings of materials stolen from the Boston Public Library’s McGreevey Collection.
In 1939 the BPL loaned items from the McGreevey Collection for an exhibition in a Filene's Department Store window in Boston. All of the photos outlined in red were at some time stolen from the library and ended up in the possession of collector and NY Yankee partner, Barry Halper.
When Halper sold his collection off at Sotheby’s in 1999 the sale included numerous rare photos stolen from the Boston Public Library with the ownership marks defaced on some items and clearly visible on others. A close review of the Halper Sotheby’s catalog and the Internet auction via Amazon.com has revealed that Halper at one time owned most all the McGreevy treasures that appeared in the Filene’s window in 1939 as part of the BPL exhibition. In 2006, a year after Halper’s death, his widow consigned other rare photographs she found in her home to Rob Lifson and Robert Edward Auctions. Lifson worked for Sotheby’s as its special consultant overseeing the Halper sale in 1999 and handled a wide array of fraudulent and stolen items offered by Sotheby’s at a time when auction house CEO, Dede Brooks, was involved in a price-fixing scheme with Christie’s. In 2006, several photos consigned to Lifson by Halper’s widow were determined to have been stolen from the New York Public Library and the McGreevy Collection. One of those photos was an over-sized cabinet photo of the 1891 Boston Beaneaters which was featured in the 1939 Filene’s window. The items consigned to REA by Halper’s widow were recovered by the BPL after they were notified by this writer.
Halper's widow consigned the 1891 Boston (left) and 1882 Buffalo (middle) cabinets to REA. Each photo shows the defaced BPL stamp and cabinet designation that appears in tact on the 1901 Red Sox catcher photo to the right.
When Saco River Auctions posted lots online for its New Years Day auction, Lot 44A was listed as an “Original Photo of the Boston Beaneaters.” That photograph depicted the 1889 Boston Base Ball Club and matched the description of another photograph stolen from the McGreevey Collection that was also sold by Barry Halper at Sotheby’s in 1999. That photo sold for over $6,000 and has appeared in the Boston Herald in 2009 in an article about the very same photo and the McGreevy thefts from the BPL.
Haulsofshame.com contacted Saco River Auctions on December 23rd asking for a scan of the back of the photo, which was being offered in a period frame, only to be informed that the photo appeared to be a reproduction. Saco River did not remove that photo from the sale until the day of the auction after other collectors also identified the photo as a reproduction.
Saco River offered a reproduction photo (left) of the 1889 Boston BBC as an "original" on New Years Day, 2013. The oroginal reproduced is a rare photo stolen from the BPL sold by Barry Halper in 1999 at Sotheby's as lot 291 (right).
The bigger question, considering the ties that Saco River consignments have to the NYPL and BPL missing lists, is how did the auction consignor get his hands on a reproduction of an original photograph that appears to have been stolen from the Boston Public Library over 30 years ago and sold at Sotheby’s by Barry Halper in 1999? The stolen photo had the corners clipped and the reproduction offered in the frame by Saco River was fastened to a backing by black corner holders. Halper’s photo was clearly identified as BPL property with a library stamp and another stamp designating its former storage location at the BPL.
When Haulsofshame.com first contacted Saco River Auction’s manager Troy Thibodeau in December, the auctioneer stated that the Gray Studio Cabinet, 1865 Brooklyn Atlantic CDV, Old Judge cabinets and the reproduction photo of the 1889 Boston team were all consigned by different parties.
How has Saco River Auctions attracted four different consignors with items that appear on the NYPL and BPL missing lists? Are these items linked somehow to Dunigan and Halper? And how did both men get their hands on all of the stolen NYPL and BPL material in the first place?
The stolen photo of the 1889 Beaneaters that was sold by Halper at Sotheby's in 1999 was featured in a July 16, 2009 article in the Boston Herald.
Last year a source once close to Halper alleged that the deceased Yankee partner had confessed that he was the mastermind behind the NYPL thefts and that the items in the Spalding Collection were “there for his taking.” The source alleged that Halper had other individuals rob the library’s treasure trove on his behalf. In 1979, Halper’s close associate and special consultant to his 1999 Sotheby’s sale, Rob Lifson, was the first person ever apprehended stealing rare items from the Spalding Collection. TIME Magazine reporter David Aikman did not identify Lifson by name, but wrote about a theft at the NYPL in which a “baseball card thief was caught when a guard saw him slipping the cards into a bubble gum box taped to his briefcase.” The culprit, according to Aikman’s original notes, was a nineteen year-old college student who also had substantial cash on his person when he was apprehended and claimed to have made that money selling baseball cards in just one day. When he was apprehended, Lifson was a nineteen year-old college student at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and was Barry Halper’s primary source for 19th century baseball material. Time reported that when he was apprehended, the thief “Had $5,500 in cash on him as well as a cache of smiling infielders.”
Lifson is now the president of Robert Edward Auctions in Watchung, New Jersey, and over the years has given conflicting testimony regarding his attempted theft to several writers. In one account, Lifson told this writer, “I was a kid, and I took a CDV, and you know they have incredible security, ya know, they saw me , and they saw me palm a CDV and the second I left, they just stopped me and took it away and you know, I got in trouble.” In 2009, Lifson gave an alternate account saying he stole two photos and SI.com reported: “He (Lifson) secreted two photographs under a piece of cardboard attached to the outside of his briefcase. He was caught before he could leave the room.” Earlier, in July of 2009, Lifson told the New York Daily News he had no involvement in the thefts from the NYPL.
Collector Paul Dunigan placed this want ad for Old Judge cabinet cards of Boston players and Hall of Famers in the December, 1978, issue of "The Trader Speaks."
As early as 1977, Barry Halper had a large cache of stolen materials from the NYPL in his possession, including the correspondence archive of baseball pioneer Harry Wright and numerous CDVs and cabinet cards featuring players like Cap Anson and John Clarkson. During the same time period another prominent collector named George Lyons, the late brother of film critic, Jeffrey Lyons, also acquired assorted rare items that originated from the NYPL collection. Paul Dunigan Sr. bought, sold and traded with Halper and Lyons during the late 1970s and early 1980s and placed want ads in collector publications for items he was seeking. At the top of Dunigan’s want-lists were rare items that were found almost exclusively in the NYPL collection including the rare Kalamazoo Bat cabinets issue. His favorite issue, however, were Old Judge cabinet cards produced by Goodwin & Co. and in 1978 Dunigan was offering $150 for Boston players and $300 for Hall of Famers depicted on Old Judge cabinets.
Pictured are three of the 5 or 6 known "Kelly in Street Clothes" variation of the Old Judge N-173 cabinet cards. The Saco River example (far left), MastroNet (middle) and an SGC-graded copy (right) are shown above.
Evidence strongly suggests that Barry Halper had acquired a significant group of materials stolen from the NYPL by the summer of 1977, however, it is unclear when exactly Halper and Dunigan first acquired stolen materials from the BPLs McGreevey Collection. By all accounts the McGreevey Collection was still in tact when authors Daniel Okrent and Harris Lewine utilized a large group of photos credited to BPL for the 1979 release of The Ultimate Baseball Book. It appears that after this book was published the McGreevy gems began top disappear, however, unbeknown-st to the robbers, the BPL photographed many of the images in the collection in conjunction with the 1979 book. In their acknowledgements authors Okrent and Lewine thanked several outlets and individuals who contributed rare materials for the book including curator Eugene Zepp at the Boston Public Library, librarian Jack Redding at the Baseball Hall of Fame and collectors Richard Merkin and Rob Lifson.
(Clockwise) 1. 1882 Oversized Cabinet Photo of Boston BBC. Ownership mark of BPL was defaced, but recovered by library. 2. 1897 Chickering cabinet photo of "Chick Stahl." This image was from a contact sheet of a 1983 SABR photo shoot at Halper's home. The BPL ownership mark has been removed/defaced. 3. 1904 Photo of Jimmy Collins and John L. Sullivan. This image was captured by the BPL before the original photo was stolen. Barry Halper sold the stolen photo at Sotheby's. 4. 1901 Chickering photo of the Boston Americans w/Jimmy Collins. The BPL marks were altered to conceal library ownership.
Barry Halper ended up owning many of the original photos utilized in the 1979 Okrent & Lewine book including the famous photo of Red Sox legend Jimmy Collins in the dugout with Heavyweight champ John L. Sullivan. That photo was recovered in 2008 when a photography dealer in Portland, Maine, offered it for sale on his website. The BPL stamp and other ownership marks were vandalized and obscured with black ink to conceal the McGreevey provenance. Before the rare photo ended up in Maine it was sold as part of the 1999 Halper sale at Sotheby’s.
In 1984, the BPL conducted its own investigation and recovery effort headed by BPLs “Keeper of Prints” Sinclair Hitchings and Bob Richardson, a veteran collector and ex-Boston Globe writer. Hitchings and Richardson successfully recovered close to twenty of the stolen McGreevey photographs at card shows and via dealer ads in hobby publications. In the course of the investigation the library identified a South Boston resident named Emil Pagliarulo as a “person of interest.” Pagliarulo was identified by BPL employees as having visited the McGreevey Collection several times in 1979 or 1980 and it was Pagliarulo who investigators believed sold stolen BPL photos to Paul Dunigan Sr.
In 1984, Dunigan sold a large portion of his collection to dealers Lew Lipset and Alan “Mr. Mint” Rosen, who subsequently sold the majority of the items to Barry Halper and the remainder to a few other collectors in the Midwest.
During the investigation in 1984 officials communicated with Halper who is said to have denied ever owning or selling any BPL or McGreevy material. A source with knowledge of the documents retained by the BPL confirms that a letter written by Halper making this denial is currently in the possession of library officials. Halper wrote in the letter that none of the items he purchased from Dunigan’s collection were from the McGreevey Collection.
Its appears that Halper was not forthcoming with the library officials and its also evident that Paul Dunigan Sr. retained stolen McGreevey Collection items, as evidenced by the sale of the 1901 “Nig” Cuppy cabinet on eBay in 2011. All of the rarities popping up at Saco River Auctions fitting the descriptions of missing items at the NYPL and BPL, have raised red flags at both institutions. The fact that each of the Saco River consignments come from alleged anonymous pickers only adds to suspicions that someone may be supplying the non-sports auction house with black market treasures.
Paul Dunigan Jr. told us that since he discovered the Cuppy cabinet in 2011 he had not found any other baseball photos at his father’s house and said his mother hadn’t either. Dunigan also said neither he nor his father did business with Saco River Auctions in Maine. Said Dunigan, “Since my dad passed the only auction we’ve used to sell some of his antiques is Morphy’s in Pennsylvania.”
McGreevy's portrait of Kelly (inset , left) was enlarged from the Old Judge cabinet photo (inset, center) and was hanging on the 3rd Base Saloon walls in 1916 (circled in red outline). Nuf Ced (inset, right) holds his prized Kelly gold medal in 1938 (Courtesy Boston Public Library).
As for the rare “King” Kelly “in street clothes” cabinet card, it is remarkable that such a card could surface at the bottom of a trunk in Maine when a Kelly cabinet card is currently missing from the McGreevey Collection at the library on Copley Square. Nuf-Ced McGreevy knew Kelly personally and ended up with his gold medal as his prized-possession. The Kelly portraits that lined the walls of his saloon were his most treasured photos and they are all still there except one- an Old Judge cabinet card of the “King.”
Who’d be more likely to have snagged a copy of the rare Kelly card? A guy nicknamed “Nuf Ced” who bought Old Judge cigarettes in 1888 and got a “King” Kelly cabinet in return? Or an alleged Vietnam Vet antique picker in Maine who opened an old trunk and struck gold?
We’d bet on McGreevy.
(EDITORS NOTE: The writer of this article is a founder and co-owner of McGreevy’s 3rd Base Saloon Co. and also co-owner of the reconstituted McGreevy’s 3rd Base Saloon at 911 Boylston St. in Boston, MA. In 2007 he also wrote and produced the Emmy-nominated documentary film about McGreevy’s exploits, Rooters: The Birth of Red Sox Nation.)
By Peter J. Nash
Jan. 24, 2013
Kerry Pinette (inset) offered the CDV on eBay. Says he's not the picker.
A Maine auction house predicts that a rare CDV photograph of the 1865 Brooklyn Atlantics will fetch over $100,000 when its offered for sale in February. The CDV was allegedly found at a yard sale in a moldy photo album in a cardboard box or a trunk in a woodshed or a garage by an anonymous picker who put it on eBay through another guy, then sold it to another picker who sent it to a big auction house that allegedly said it was fake. That guy then got a refund and returned the card to the original picker who sent it as a consignment to Saco River Auctions in Biddeford, Maine. Collectors questioned the auctioneer whether the photo affixed to the card was real, so he took it to an expert in Boston who says it likely is. The Boston Globe erroneously called it the “first baseball card” and the auctioneer says it’s the rarest of rare cards with only one other known to exist at the Library of Congress. Follow all that?
The CDV-find by the anonymous antique picker could be one of the greatest discoveries ever made in the state of Maine since Saco River Auction’s manager and ex-cop, Troy Thibodeau, was in the news when another rare card was discovered– George W. Bush’s DUI arrest record, found in Kennebunkport before the 2000 election.
Saco River Auctions has also been the beneficiary of another “amazing find” made by another antique picker in Kennebunkport this past summer. In August, Saco River sold a group of seven consigned Old Judge cabinets, including a rare cabinet card of “King” Kelly that sold for $62,000. Like the current Atlantic CDV find, the picker who discovered the Old Judge cards wished to remain anonymous. The astounding finds that have made their way to Saco River Auctions, as opposed to one of the many major sports auction houses, has prompted Saco River to add this language to its website:
“Saco River Auction is continuing to garner national and worldwide press. We are quickly becoming the go-to auction hall to get seller the highest amount possible. Click here to consign today. Lightning has struck twice already…isn’t it time you help us to strike again?”
On New Years Day, Saco River struck again when they sold yet another extremely rare 19th-century cabinet card of baseball player Charlie Ferguson shot by Gray Studios in Boston as a proof for the Old Judge cabinet issue by Goodwin & Co. The Ferguson card was first sold on eBay in 2011 and afterwards collected by the FBI under suspicion of being stolen from the New York Public Library’s famous A.G. Spalding Collection.
Saco River Auctions just sold this SGC-graded Gray Studio cabinet card of Charlie Ferguson on New Years Day. The card was in the FBIs possession, suspected to have been stolen from the NYPL. The NYPL is missing at least two Philadelphia player cabinets by Gray. Outside of the 43 they still have, none were known to exist outside the NYPL until the Saco River offering surfaced.
Aside from the Old Judge cards, Saco River has only had a few significant nineteenth-century baseball consignments in its history as an auction house and it just so happens that the Gray Studio cabinet card fit the description of items known to exist exclusively at the NYPL. The 1922 inventory of the Spalding Collection documented 45 Gray Studio cabinet cards featuring Philadelphia NL players, but only 43 remain. Two are definitely missing and there are only a handful of legitimate non-Philadelphia players known to exist including cards of Jack Glasscock and Billy Nash. The Ferguson card sold by Saco River is believed to be one of the two missing cards. Oh yeah, the $100,000 CDV of the Atlantics shares something in common with that card, too, and hasn’t been mentioned in articles published by USAToday, The Boston Globe, Yahoo Sports, the Portland Press Herald and scores more via the Associated Press and Fox Business News. It also fits the exact description of one of the items on the New York Public Library’s, “Spalding Collection Missing List.”
This is how the 1865 Brooklyn Atlantics CDV appeared when Kerry Pinette offered it for sale on eBay in June of 2012. The card appears to include an albumen image that may not have been original to its Williamson mount.
As indicated in “Part One” of this series, none of those reports revealed that the Atlantic CDV is suspected to have originated from the NYPLs Spalding Collection, which at one time included a Williamson photograph of the same Atlantic team with the players listed in the exact same positions, left to right. That rare card appears on the NYPL’s inventory published in the 1922 guide to the Spalding Collection.
The first reporter to cover the current offering for Maine’s Portland Press Herald, Gillian Graham, was not aware that the card was under suspicion of being stolen from the NYPL. When she interviewed Saco River Auctions representative, Troy Thibodeau, he did not tell her about questions posed to him regarding the card’s title. Haulsofshame.com sent a copy of NYPL’s missing list to Thibodeau before he was interviewed by Graham. Thibodeau responded by stating, “I do not and will not believe that this card is stolen. The card was legitimately found in far Eastern Maine in September 2012 in an old moldy photo album.”
In addition, sources indicate that the card’s title is currently being investigated by the New York office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation as part of its nearly four-year probe into the thefts from the NYPLs Spalding Collection, which commenced at the same time an article was published in the New York Times in July of 2009.
This excerpt from NYPL's "Spalding Missing List" describes the two Williamson photos once housed at the library.
In addition to Thibodeau failing to divulge the issues about the card’s title to reporters, there are now serious questions about the veracity of Thibodeau’s public statements made regarding the discovery of the valuable CDV. On collector forum Net54, Thibodeau stated that the card was discovered by an anonymous antique picker who “listed it on eBay” and was “bombarded with emails and offers and decided to pull it down.” Then, says Thibodeau, the picker who discovered the card and listed it on eBay, “Decided to sell the card to a gentleman who he picks with.” Then, after it was refused as a consignment at New York auction house, Lelands, the buyer, Thibodeau says, ”Requested his money back” and “the seller gave his partner the money back and mailed me (Saco River Auctions) the card for further inspection.”
The eBay seller who originally offered the CDV for sale last summer on eBay was Kerry Pinette, of Calais, Maine, a neighboring town eleven miles from Baileyville, where the rare card was allegedly discovered at a yard sale. Pinette uses the name DownEast as his eBay seller handle and has most recently offered old coins and one 19th century stereoview. Haulsofshame.com contacted Pinette at his home and confirmed that he was the eBay seller of the card but he denied that he has ever owned the card or had any financial interest in it. Said Pinette, “I just listed it for the guy who found it and I don’t know anything about a partner or somebody buying it.” Pinette would not divulge who gave him the card to list on eBay and directed Haulsofshame.com to contact Saco River Auctions for any other inquiries.
However, if Troy Thibodeau’s story on behalf of the auction house is true, it was Kerry Pinette who discovered the card, ran it on eBay, sold it to his friend, (who sent it to Lelands) then got the card back from his partner, refunded his partner’s money (when Lelands returned the card) and submitted it to Saco River Auctions, not mentioning Lelands had already returned it as a “so-called fake.” Pinette’s denials beg the questions; Who is telling the truth, and why would anyone fabricate or lie about these details? Why the great mystery over who the alleged lucky picker is?
Adding to the speculation is a confirmation by a source who told Haulsofshame.com that it was Kerry Pinette who originally sent the card to Leland’s. The source also confirmed that when Pinette sent the CDV to the auction house it was accompanied by the original photo album it was originally found in which “contained family photos that were not linked to Brooklyn or New York City.”
These two CDVs of Andrew Peck and Harry Wright were stolen from NYPL and recovered by the FBI. Each shows the defaced and altered NYPL stamp . (An unaltered stamp appears at the lower left).
The FBI has kept a close eye on the offerings of rare 19th century images, especially CDVs. The FBIs heightened scrutiny is a direct product of its recoveries of other rare CDV photographs that were also listed as missing from the NYPLs Spalding Collection . The tell-tale sign on those stolen CDVs were the NYPL ownership stamps which had been obscured, altered and defaced to conceal the NYPL Spalding Collection provenance. Enough press has been generated by the current FBI investigation into the NYPL thefts that anyone in possession of one of the hundred or so rare photos still missing from the library would know that they could never sell such an item at auction without it being confiscated.
This c1860s Williamson CDV and mount was sold in January on eBay for $5.99.
The only other way to sell or dispose of such an item would be to switch the original NYPL mount, (with evidence of the theft on its reverse), to a clean period mount attributed to the same photographer. CDV’s from the Williamson Studios are regularly offered for sale on eBay and through numerous other outlets. A similar Williamson mount sold on eBay this month for $5.99.
The back of the Atlantic CDV (left) appears clean and devoid of any NYPL ownership marks, unlike the reverse of a CDV of player John Goldie in the NYPL collection (right).
One CDV recovered by NYPL featured sporting-goods king Andrew Peck and was found in 2006 in the home of collector Barry Halper, by his widow, along with other items stolen from the Boston Public Library. Another recovered CDV pictured Harry Wright and was offered on eBay in 2000 and identified by the library as NYPL property. The Gray Studios cabinet photo of Philadelphia player Charlie Ferguson that was sold by Saco River Auctions on January 1st also appeared on ebay in 2011 and was identified as another item possibly stolen from the NYPL collection. After it sold for over $900, the FBI took possession of that photo to further investigate claims that the card was stolen from the library which houses the largest single assortment of Gray Studios cabinets of the Philadelphia NL team managed by Harry Wright. Those photos were originally part of Wright’s personal archive. That cabinet photo was sold on eBay by Henry Withers under the name HankDog1939 and was returned to the buyer by the FBI after they held onto and examined the card for close to a year.
This page from NYPLs Chadwick score books features raw cdv-sized albumen photographs of 1860s teams pasted onto a score book page. (NYPL, Spalding Collection).
The FBI has also seen evidence that shows how original albumen photographs, letters, documents, season passes and other ephemera have been wrongfully removed from Spalding Collection scrapbooks and score books with sharp objects and razors. It is believed that other original albumen photos may also have been removed from the NYPL manuscript holdings and reattached to period mounts. In just one score book once owned by Henry Chadwick, there are over ten rare albumen CDV-sized photographs of the Excelsior, Washington National, Mutual, Red Stocking and Chicago teams along with an ultra-rare photo of Jim Creighton.
The issue of how the actual albumen photograph is attached to the mount has been a point of contention for several high-end collectors of 19th century items. Several collectors have also gone as far to suggest that the card may be a fake. Troy Thibodeau, of Saco River, has publicly made this claim about the card’s authenticity:
“Lelands kept the card for two months and then mailed it back(no other communication like a courtesy call) was made and the card was mailed back stating that it was fake, made by an inkjet printer. The “expert” at Leland’s claimed that the period mount it is attached and claimed the dot pattern of the mount is indicative of a inkjet printer and no mention of the actual image was made.”
Last week a source told Haulsofshame.com that Lelands’ concerns regarding authenticity were “based on irregularities, not of it being made by use of a copy machine.” It appears that auctioneer Troy Thibodeau approached 19th century photo conservator Paul Messier with his primary goal being to prove that the photograph was an albumen print and not created with a laser printer. That “laser-copy” claim may not have been made by Lelands. Lelands declined comment at this time. Thus, Saco River’s selective report only deals with that singular issue and not the issues relating to whether the photo was original to the mount or whether the binder or glue was authentic for the period. The report does not rule out the possibility that the image was re-affixed to a clean mount to conceal its possible NYPL provenance.
The CDV being sold by Saco River Auctions appears to have had a prior image affixed to it as evidenced by the remnants of binding material visible above the "Williamson" name.
Supporting these concerns, is the evidence that suggests the CDV being offered for sale may have had a prior photograph attached to the mount. The tell-tale evidence suggesting this is visible to the human eye at the far right side just above the “Williamson” graphics. Remnants of adhesive material appear to extend in a straight line along the right side border. The residue is most visibly defined on the left hand corner.
The Williamson CDV mount shows evidence of another image having been affixed to the card.
One of the collectors interested in bidding on the CDV if it is legitimate is Jay Miller of Darien, Connecticut. Miller, who is also the co-author of, The Photographic Baseball Cards of Goodwin & Company 1886-1890, told us, “The glue to the right of the photograph on the CDV begs the question as to whether the photograph is original to the mount or was added on at a later date. Because of this, I think it is necessary to examine the binder to see if it is consistent with materials used in 1865.” Miller added, “If it is not, then we have proved that the piece is not period. If the binder is consistent with materials used in 1865 we have not proved that the CDV is period, simply that it is less likely that it is not period.”
Miller has also noted that if it was created in 1865, the CDV would likely have a US revenue stamp on its reverse, or evidence that such a stamp was affixed to the back at one time. Miller says, “Between August, 1864 and August, 1866 photographs were taxed, requiring a revenue stamp to be attached and cancelled on the back of the photograph.” The current Atlantic CDV does not appear to have had one.
Haulsofshame.com consulted with another photographic expert, Gawain Weaver, head conservator at Gawain Weaver Conservation of San Anselmo, California, and presented him with several images of the Atlantic CDV by Williamson. Weaver, who completed a two year fellowship at the George Eastman House in 2007, examined the images we provided and said, “The images you supplied of the Brooklyn Atlantic CDV do raise questions about whether or not the mount is original to this image. However, it would be very difficult to determine this one way or the other. The darker stain or residue to the right of the image may be a remnant of a prior mounting. It can be said that CDVs do not typically show such residues, but it is not unheard of either. The print could have been mounted or re-mounted in this manner in the 1860s or relatively recently.” As to his opinion as to whether analysis of the adhesive itself could yield a more definitive answer Weaver said, ”Assuming that the print and mount are from the 19th century, analysis of the adhesive would be necessary to determine when the print was mounted, but it is unlikely that a large enough adhesive sample could be removed from the print for a successful analysis.”
The albumen photograph also appears to be irregular in its size, significantly shorter in length for traditional albumen images mounted on CDVs and it also appears to have been cut in an irregular fashion with the photograph extending over the Williamson mount’s interior border. One dealer we spoke with told us, “I can’t say I’ve ever seen a CDV from a well known photographer mounted so sloppily, maybe they exist, but I haven’t seen them. It just looks like its been re-mounted.”
A prominent collector of 19th-century photos from the Midwest went as far to send us this comment via email; ”When did Saco River auctions become the 19th century baseball memorabilia hotbed? And they sold the Ferguson cabinet? Somebody call bullshit on this already. Some auction house I never heard of sells the Old Judge cabinet find, the Ferguson cabinet, the 1865 Brooklyn Atlantics card…. (by) a bunch of anonymous pickers? You’re not buying any of this are you?”
We contacted Troy Thibodeau to ask if he’d been contacted by the FBI and whether Kerry Pinette was in any way involved in the current sale of the card. When asked if he would answer some questions Thibodeau replied, “No need to,” and refused to entertain our inquiry.
The NYPLs Spalding Collection features several card issues included in the "Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards." Several of those issues are almost exclusive to the library's collection, including the Gray Studio cabinets.
NYPLs head of public relations, Angela Montefinise, has kept a close eye on the investigation into the Spalding thefts but to date has been unable to comment on specifics of the case. She responded yesterday stating, “I just got a call that the lead investigator is out till next week. So I don’t have anything right now.”
Haulsofshame.com has learned that the New York office of the FBI is currently investigating Saco River’s Brooklyn Atlantics CDV as part of the almost four-year probe into the library thefts. Special Agent Jim Margolin, from the FBIs New York City press office confirmed that the investigation into the NYPL thefts is active and on-going, however, added, “I cannot comment on anything specific about the investigation or the item in the Maine auction.”
Margolin also said he could not comment on why the FBI sent the Gray Studios cabinet photo back to its owner to sell at Saco River after it was in the Bureau’s possession for nearly a year. Sources indicate that it was returned because the card did not show evidence of an NYPL ownership stamp, however, not all Spalding Collection items were stamped. The decision to send the card back was made by the US Attorney’s office and not the FBI. Sources also indicate that despite the card’s return, neither the NYPL, FBI or US Attorney have made any admission that the Gray Studio cabinet was not NYPL property.
The FBIs Spalding Collection investigation has dragged on for close to four years, however, several significant recoveries have been made during the course of the probe. Heritage Auctions recently withdrew Ezra Sutton’s 1879 Boston Baseball contract and Henry Chadwick’s 1894 NY Giant season pass; Legendary Auctions withdrew a rare Peck & Snyder trade card of the Cincinnati Red Stockings that was once in the collection of a reclusive collector named Abe Samuels; and the FBI has taken possession of over fifty documents originating from the Harry Wright correspondence at the NYPL as well as cabinet card photos of Harry Wright and Kid Gleason.
In the FBIs defense, the recovery of baseball relics is hardly a high priority when compared with other investigations involving murders, gangs and organized crime and the time devoted to the NYPL situation is hamstrung by those constraints. The same New York office of the FBI looking into the Atlantic CDV and the NYPL thefts just broke up an organized crime ring of 32 mobsters, including Genovese family associate, Carmine “Papa Smurf” Franco, as part of a multi-year investigation into organized crime’s control of the garbage-hauling industry in New York City and New Jersey.
One FBI agent all too familiar with both organized crime and the NYPL probe has said, ”It’s easier getting information and cooperation from mobsters than from baseball card and memorabilia collectors.”
Stay tuned for part three in this series which will examine common links between these artifacts with suspected NYPL provenance….
UPDATE: Brooklyn Atlantic CDV sold for hammer price of $80,000 ($92,000 with premium) at Saco River Auctions in Maine. Buyer is Jason LeBlanc of Newburyport, Mass. LeBlanc Also Bought Old Judge Card of Billy Nash at Saco River Last Year
In a bidding frenzy that befuddled many long-time 19th century collectors, a relatively unknown 36-year-old aficionado of 19th century cards named Jason Leblanc, from Newburyport, MA., was the winning bidder of the rare c 1865 CDV of the Brooklyn Atlantics at Saco River Auctions in Biddeford, Maine. Including the buyers premium, LeBlanc dropped $92,000 on the rare CDV that received widespread media coverage before the sale and according to LeBlanc his phone has been ringing off the hook with calls from media outlets as far away as Los Angeles. In a telephone interview after the sale this evening, LeBlanc told Haulsofshame.com, “Someone said I might be bidding against Charlie Sheen, I’m just really glad I got it.” LeBlanc said its not the first time he bid in a Saco River Auctions sale and also revealed he was the winner back in August of the Old Judge cabinet card of Boston player Billy Nash. Said LeBlanc, “I wanted the Billy Nash because it was the highest graded card and that King Kelly card was just too pricey.” LeBlanc added, “I just like collecting 19th century baseball items.”
When we asked LeBlanc if he was aware that the rare Atlantic CDV he just purchased was under suspicion of being stolen from the New York Public Library’s Spalding Collection and that it fit the exact description of a missing Williamson photo of the Atlantics listed on the NYPLs original 1922 inventory he responded, “No. I have no idea. I haven’t heard anything like that at all. I just heard it was a different photo from the one at the Library of Congress.” When informed of speculation that the albumen photo of the Atlantics could have been re-mounted on a “clean” CDV mount with no trace of NYPL stamps or ownership marks and that the FBI has an open investigation into the Spalding thefts LeBlanc said, “I’d be more than glad to have them take a look at the card and check it out.”
LeBlanc also sells on eBay and recently put his Billy Nash Old Judge cabinet up for sale with a Buy-it-Now for $7,500. eBay shows that LeBlanc received 11 offers on the card and that the offering was “ended by the seller because the item is no longer available.” In his description LeBlanc said of the card, which is also under suspicion of being a missing item from the Boston Public Library, “I HAVE THE GREAT PLEASURE OF BRINGING THIS SCARCE CARD TO MARKET,” and “PLEASE KNOW THAT THIS CARD CAN BE PULLED AT ANY TIME. I DO HAVE A STORE AND MY ITEMS SELL QUICKLY.” LeBlanc told Haulsofshame.com that he plans on reselling the Atlantic CDV for a profit as well. ”Hopefully, I can double my investment on this card,” he said. LeBlanc indicated that his 4-year old son had some physical challenges and that the profit generated from a future sale of the Atlantic CDV could really help him.
UPDATE Saturday Feb. 9: In a report published by NPR after the sale of the Brooklyn Atlantics CDV on Wednesday, writer Tanya Ballard Brown identified Saco River Auctions auctioneer, Floyd Hartford as the anonymous “antique picker” who originally discovered the rare cdv at a yard sale in Baileyville, Maine bordering Canada. She references and links to a New York Post article that does not mention Mr. Hartford. Haulsofshame.com has contacted NPR to confirm the report that states:
The New York Post reports that a 148-year-old Brooklyn Atlantics baseball
card was discovered late last year in a photo album Floyd Hartford purchased
among other things at a yard sale. Initially the card was thought to be one
of two in existence since the Library of Congress has one in its collection.
It turns out, though, that the two cards are similar but not quite the same.
They were printed from different negatives.
Saco River Auctions auctioneer Floyd Hartford was named by NPR as the "antique picker" who discovered the $92,000 card.(PressHerald.com photo)
UPDATE Monday Feb. 11: NPR responded to a Haulsofshame.com inquiry about its report that Saco River auctioneer, Floyd Hartford, was the antique picker who discovered the 1865 Brooklyn Atlantic CDV at a Yard sale in Baileyville, ME. NPR editor, Tanya Ballard Brown, informed us this morning via Twitter saying: ” I realize now that I was wrong! I have added a correction the post. Sorry for any confusion” .
By Peter J. Nash
January 9, 2013
The champion Brooklyn Atlantic's of 1865.
It appeared last summer on eBay, offered by a New England antique picker as a miraculous garage find in a cardboard box–It was a rare carte-de-visite photograph produced by the Williamson Studios of Brooklyn depicting the 1865 Atlantic Base Ball Club, the champions of America. High-end nineteenth century baseball collectors took note of the alleged gem and within no time the listing had been removed from eBay, rumored to have been taken down by the seller who had likely received private offers for the card that could be worth more than $50,000, if genuine. The picker probably had a better chance of finding a T206 Honus Wagner in that box or a winning lottery ticket for that matter. This CDV of the champion Atlantics was an astounding find and a staggering rarity. The discovery even caught the attention of the local press in the Portland Press Herald.
According to an auctioneer in Maine the eBay seller discovered the card while, “Picking through a wood shed that held old furniture and coke bottles.” He said the card was found in a cardboard box that contained books, ephemera and a photo album. After offering his “find” online, the seller de-listed it from eBay and, according to the auctioneer, “Sold the card to a gentlemen who he picks with.” The sale price was not revealed and the new owner then sent it off to Lelands auction house on Long Island as a consignment that would reach most everyone interested in adding an Atlantic CDV to their collection. However, the owner was disappointed when Lelands, after holding onto and examining the card for a few weeks, sent it back to Maine indicating they could not accept it as a consignment. In Lelands’ opinion it was a fake and when sending the card back were fully aware that if the card were real they would probably have made at least a $10,000 commission upon its sale. Rumors circulated in the hobby that the CDV was a fake and it was quickly written off as a non-entity.
Interested observers were then blindsided when the same auctioneer, Troy Thibodeau, operator of Saco River Auctions, announced on collector forum Net 54 that the same card Lelands said was bogus had been examined by the baseball card grading company Sports Card Guarantee (SGC) and was encapsulated in a graded holder and marked “authentic.” The auction house then announced that the card would appear in its Febraury 6, 2013, auction. Several collectors, however, still questioned the cards authenticity and despite the fact that SGC had proclaimed it genuine, these same collectors called for an expert of 19th century albumen photography to examine the CDV and render the final verdict. Collector Jay Miller suggested the auction house enlist the services of expert Paul Messier of Boston and the auctioneer subsequently arranged for an examination.
The Atlantic photograph was authenticated and encapsulated by SGC in direct opposition of the Lelands opinion that the card was a fake.
On January 7th, Messier issued a report to the auction house confirming that the CDV exhibited characteristics of a 19th century albumen photograph and a period Williamson mount. The conclusion of Messier’s report revealed that additional examination (not authorized by the seller) could have rendered a more definitive opinion. The report states:
“Based on this examination, the photograph is consistent with a 19th century albumen print. The photograph and printing on the mount are dissimilar to contemporary printing processes such as inkjet or laser printing. Additional work to confirm the process could include identification of the final image material, an assessment of paper fibers and an analysis of the binder.”
Collectors have also commented that scans of the CDV appear to suggest that the albumen photograph may not have been original to the Williamson Studios mount. Messier’s report did not address this issue and what appears to have been a possible removal of a prior image close to the gilded Williamson identification. Messier removed the card from its SGC-graded holder for his examination and would have been able to determine if the albumen photograph was original to the mount if asked to do so. Messier declined comment on that issue stating he was not authorized by his client to speak beyond what is contained in his written report.
Collectors and the auctioneer might now be somewhat relieved to hear that the components of the rare card have been found by Messier to be “consistent with a 19th century albumen print,” however, this determination does not rule out the possibility the card is a forgery which utilized the albumen process. To date, there has been quite a bit of talk as to whether the CDV is a forgery, however, in none of those discussions was it ever considered or mentioned that the card could actually be genuine and perhaps stolen from the New York Public Library’s famous A. G. Spalding Baseball Collection.
Ever since the library’s photo collection was looted of over one hundred rare 19th century baseball images in the 1970s , NYPL officials have been able to ascertain, in part, what images were lost based upon the original inventory taken in 1921 and a subsequent inventory taken in 1986. On a document known as the “Spalding Missing List” three photographs of the Brooklyn Atlantics were determined missing and one identified specifically as having been photographed by the Williamson Studio in Brooklyn with the players listed in the exact same formation as depicted on the Maine “find.” While some observers are still unsure that Saco River’s CDV is authentic, it also fits the description of a photograph still missing from the most celebrated collection of nineteenth century baseball photography. The missing Spalding photographs are currently the subject of an on-going FBI investigation that was commenced almost four years ago.
Original photographs of the Atlantics are rare, extremely rare. In fact, when SABR published its 19th century review of baseball photography in 1983 it was believed that only two original photographs of the team had survived and resided in the collections of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, and the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. In his 1983 book, Base Ball Cartes, author Mark Rucker reported that one of the photographs was previously unknown before its “discovery in a box of odds and ends at the Library of Congress.” That photo appeared in 1997 as one of 240 objects in what the New York Times described as the LOCs “largest permanent exhibition it has ever presented.” The LOCs Atlantic photograph was displayed with an impressive group of artifacts including Thomas Jefferson’s rough draft of the Declaration of Independence.
This card found at the Library of Congress was a prototype for a CDV produced by the Williamson Studios in 1865.
The Baseball Hall of Fame’s copy was a mammoth print also shot by Williamson and mounted to a board designating in ornate calligraphy that the Atlantic’s were “Champions of America: 1864, 1865, 1866, 1868, and 1870.” The LOC image was a smaller prototype for a Williamson carte-de-visite of the club produced in 1865. It wasn’t until 1993 that another mammoth image by Williamson surfaced and appeared for sale at Sotheby’s which stated incorrectly in its lot description; “Only one other photo exists of this team, it was found in the Library of Congress and now resides in the National Baseball Library.” The Sotheby’s photo was offered with an estimated value of $50,000 to $60,000.
The mammoth plate Atlantic photo at the HOF (left) features a Williamson photo of the team nearly identical to the mammoth plate offered at Sotheby's (right) in 1993, identified on the mount, "Atlantic Ten."
The Sotheby’s photo was purchased by 19th century collector Corey Shanus and it is apparent that neither Shanus nor the NYPL conducted any serious due diligence to determine if the Sotheby’s offering was one of the missing items from the Spalding Collection. Sotheby’s had already highlighted the rarity of the photo and considering two photos of the Atlantics fitting the description of the auction offering were documented on the NYPL missing list, red flags should have been raised. The fact that Sotheby’s and its auction consultant, Bill Mastro, made no mention of the rare photo’s provenance should also have intensified the scrutiny.
This excerpt from NYPL's "Spalding Missing List" describes the two Williamson photos once housed at the library.
After the NYPL conducted its 1986 inventory it successfully located one mammoth albumen photograph identified as missing on its list, an 1868 Atlantic team portrait that was also used on the famous Peck & Snyder trade cards in 1870 and 1871. The photograph was clearly marked on the reverse as the former property of Hall of Famer Henry Chadwick who had left a large portion of his personal archive to his employer A. G. Spalding in 1908.
This 1868 mammoth plate photo of the Atlantics once owned by Henry Chadwick still resides at the NYPL
The missing NYPL photo designated, “Atlantics of Brooklyn. “Champions of 1864, 65, 66, 68, 70,” appears to be another mammoth photo by Williamson and fits the description of both the Hall of Fame and Sotheby’s examples. The Sotheby’s example, now owned by Shanus, was likely matted in its frame because the board was damaged similar to the 1868 Atlantic photo still found at the library. At the time of the auction, Sotheby’s declared that the photo was housed in its “original frame with new matting” despite the unknown provenance. Recently Shanus has revealed that his photograph is a salt print, not an albumen print. The photograph was included in the 2005 book Smithsonian Baseball and also appears to have undergone a significant cleaning.
This mammoth Matthew Brady photo of the 1869 Red Stockings is also missing from the NYPL but was photographed in the 1920s before it was stolen.
Adding to the probability that the Sotheby’s offering is NYPLs property is the fact that several other mammoth-sized prints have been documented as missing from the Spalding Collection including similar over-sized team portraits of the Cincinnati Red Stockings, Forest City, Knickerbocker and Excelsior Base Ball Clubs. Most of these photos feature a wash or paint silhouetting the figures against a uniform grey background. This process was used for publication purposes and also for inclusion in Spalding’s 1911 book, America’s National Game, as well as for a 1920s book series known as The Pageant of America, and its fifteenth volume, The Annals of American Sport, published in 1929.
This Williamson photograph of the Atlantics appeared on page 154 of Spalding's "America's National Game" and appears to be the reverse image of the Sotheby's/Shanus example. A tear or damage on player Pratt's arm (far right) is visible.
Spalding’s 1911 book offers an image of one of the missing Atlantic photographs on page 154 and it appears to be a reverse-negative image of the Sotheby’s/Shanus example. It is the reverse of the exact same pose featured on the mammoth print of that example and not the Hall of Fame’s mammoth copy. The fading of the image on the legs of catcher Frank Norton appears to match the Sotheby’s/Shanus example.
This image of the Sotheby's/Shanus mammoth plate shows the same fading on catcher Norton's leg (bottom right) that is found on the reverse image illustrated in Spalding's 1911 book. The section of Pratt's arm (far left) which exhibits damage in the ANG image is covered by the modern matting in the frame.
In contrast, the same type of fading (or vignette) on the Hall of Fame example begins on the carpet and not on Norton’s leg. When both images are examined side by side, it appears that they are the same image, only in reverse due to the reverse printing of the negative used to create the image in Spalding’s book.
This cropped wire photo documents that NYPL loaned this photo of the Atlantics to the Museum of the City of New York for the 1952 exhibition called, "Play-Ball."
In 1952 the New York Public Library loaned one of its Atlantic photographs to the Museum of the City of New York for a baseball exhibition called “Play Ball.” A promotional wire photo produced in conjunction with this event is found at the National Baseball Library and reveals several interesting facts including a designation of the photograph that identifies it as “reversed.” The cropped image of the NYPL original itself appears to be the same photograph used in Spalding’s book and the same as the Sotheby’s/Shanus example with the same imperfections. It is interesting to note that the area that exhibits a tear or crease on player Pratt’s arm (far right on both Spalding’s image and the 1952 wire photo) is covered by modern matting and obscured on the Sotheby’s/Shanus example on the far left.
This CDV of the 1865 Atlantics was found in a garage but fits the description of one of the missing photos in the NYPLs Spalding Collection.
The other missing photo on the NYPL list is designated specifically as a Williamson photograph and the inventory entry lists all of the players in the exact positions as found on the newly discovered CDV found in Maine. From left to right it lists players, “F. Norton, Syd. Smith, Pearce, Start, C. Smith, Chapman, Selwin (Galvin), P. O’Brien, Crane, Tom Pratt. Brooklyn, Williamson.”
What are the odds that the Sotheby’s/Shanus Atlantic photograph is one of the NYPLs two missing Atlantic photographs?
Now that Paul Messier has issued his report is it more likely that the Saco River CDV is authentic and quite possibly the other missing NYPL example?
An alternate pose of the Atlantics shot by Williamson is illustrated in another photo housed at the NBL in Cooperstown (top) and another with a Brown Brothers credit (bottom).
Adding to the mystery (and confusion) related to the Williamson Atlantic portraits is an alternate pose depicting the team which is also found at the National Baseball Library in Cooperstown as well as another example credited to Brown Brothers. This version of the team portrait shows player Pratt holding up a baseball in his hand.
Haulsofshame.com informed Saco River Auctions that the Atlantic CDV being offered for sale fits the description of a photograph believed to have been stolen from an institutional collection and also forwarded a copy of NYPLs “Missing List” for its Spalding Collection. Auctioneer Troy Thibodeau responded, “We fully intend to sell this card(barring law enforcement intervention) on February 6 2013. I do not and will not believe that this card is stolen. This card was legitimately found in far Eastern Maine in September 2012 in an old moldy photo album. I understand that you love to create controversy and make waves in the hobby, but we are not going to partake in this or give you a forum to play your games.”
When asked if the man who found the card was available for an interview Thibadeau indicated that both the seller and the individual who discovered the CDV wanted to “remain private and out of the spotlight.”
Sources indicate that the FBI is aware of the Saco River Auction Atlantic CDV offering. On January 1st the auction house sold a Gray Studios cabinet of Philadelphia player Charlie Ferguson that was previously sold on eBay and afterwards was in the possession of the FBI under suspicion of being a card stolen from NYPL. The FBI returned that card to the owner after it was determined the reverse of the card did not have traces of an NYPL stamp. In that same auction Thibodeau offered what he advertised as an “original” 19th century photograph of the Boston Beaneaters in an old frame. When Haulsofshame.com asked for a scan of the back of that alleged original, the auctioneer revealed that the photo was a modern reproduction. The auction house withdrew the photo before its New Years Day sale.
Stay tuned for part II of the “Long-Lost Atlantics of Brooklyn”………….
By Peter J. Nash
Jan 2, 2013
PSA/DNA just released its “Most Dangerous Autographs of 2012″ list on the company website and although Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig were the top choices for forgers of vintage signatures, Ty Cobb, “The Georgia Peach”, was curiously absent from the list. Wonder why? All three Hall of Famers are headliners on our own “Worst Authentications” of 2012, the year that kicked off with reports that eBay’s Fraud Division had stated in a Dec. 11, 2011, email: “…PSA sucks…so does JSA” For the first time, JSA-certified items were removed from eBay, however, it appears that eBay has since dropped the ball on monitoring the leading TPAs.
After viewing this list, we hope collectors, dealers, auctioneers and law enforcement (specifically the FBI) will ask themselves, “If the TPAs can get these wrong, how can we believe anything they certify as authentic?” In its current report, PSA/DNA claims to have authenticated 350,000 autographs in 2012 and 3 million since 1998. The company has come a long way since Bill Mastro and MastroNet Inc. crowned PSA/DNA king of a third-party authentication system developed to shield auction houses from liability if they sold fakes.
Earlier today, news came from Chicago that Mastro has cut a deal with the Feds and on February 12th is scheduled to plead guilty to fraud and will supposedly confess to trimming the now infamous T206 Gretzky-McNall Wagner card. Mastro’s confession will likely implicate PSAs card grading division as being complicit in that fraud and speculation in the hobby is that Mastro’s plea-deal could extend to the autograph authentication division that was first launched with Mastro employee Steve Grad and Jimmy Spence at the helm in the late 1990s. How many of the LOAs issued by them since then are worth the paper they are printed on?
Adding to our Top 10 Stories of 2012, here are…..
THE WORST AUTHENTICATIONS of 2012:
1. The $300,000 Babe Ruth Single Signed Record-Breaker PSA-10:
According to papers filed in Chicago, Bill Mastro will plead guilty to fraud on February 12th and confess that he altered the infamous PSA-8 T206 Honus Wagner card and implicate authentication giant PSA as a company founded upon a fraud. PSA also hitched its reputation to this alleged gem-mint single signed Babe Ruth ball in the late 1990s when the company started authenticating autographs. The ball has appeared on the cover of the Collector’s Universe stockholders annual report and in numerous company adds heralding its expertise.
PSA and the ball have close ties to Bill Mastro as the ball was previously sold by MastroNet in a 2002 auction for $61,000. The ball was authenticated by James Spence and Steve Grad of PSA/DNA and by Mike Gutierrez for MastroNet. The same ball first appeared at auction in 2000 and was sold by David Hunt of Hunt Auctions in Exton, PA for a then-record price of $72,600. The record price surpassed the sale of another very similar Ruth ball sold by Mastro Fine Sports for $55,660.
At the time the record was broken Mastro told the Maine Antique Digest, “We set the table when we sold a Babe Ruth ball for over thirty thousand dollars back in June at our West Coast auction, and that was considered miraculous. Then a ball sold at Sotheby’s Barry Halper sale in September for nearly fifty thousand, and that set the table for us to get almost sixty thousand last November and more than sixty thousand for our Ruth and Gehrig ball. There is a frenzy for these big-ticket mint Babe Ruth balls. Does a better one exist? Probably. There is always a better one.”
The Hunt auction description said their Ruth single-signed ball “was acquired on the set of the Babe Ruth Story in California and given by Claire Ruth to a United Artist publicist. It is being consigned by his family and will be accompanied by a detailed letter of provenance from the family along with a letter of authenticity from Michael Gutierrez.” The ball was sold with what was said to be its original Reach box as well.
After selling multiple times and escalating in price to the stratosphere this record-breaking Babe Ruth single was sold at Heritage in 2012 for over $300k.
Despite the alleged letter of provenance, autograph expert and author Ron Keurajian, told us, “In my opinion the signature on that ball is not genuine.”
Stephen Koschal, first questioned the authenticity Ruth ball and noted its inclusion on the cover of the CU annual report in a report published on Autograph Alert in 2011.
Authenticator and dealer Richard Simon has long been suspicious of the ball and told us this past summer, “I always wanted to have it in hand, for a real examination, because I was never sure if it was good, I am not saying it is not good, I just would like to see it in person and study it.”
The record-breaking Ruth ball, along with several others, has long been the subject of controversy and has been part of our continuing Operation Bambino investigations.
2. The $110,000 Alleged Babe Ruth Blazer from the early 1920s Appears to be a Well-Executed Forgery Exposed in the 1990s:
Despite being identified by hobby experts as a long-standing forgery dating back to the early 1990s Heritage wrote this in its October 2012 catalog:
“……none have surfaced that could compete with the aesthetics of this one, which properly garners a 9/10 autograph grade from the folks at PSA/DNA, and a rather stingy 8/10 for the ball itself, presumably based mainly on the slightest hint of toning well clear of the ball’s focus. Our catalog imagery should properly indicate that the ball presents effectively “as new” from any reasonable viewing distance. The “Wilson Official League” ball convincingly mimics the appearance of period Official models with its two-toned stitching, another factor adding to the gorgeous early aesthetics.”
These 1996 offerings from California Sports Investments were all forgeries created by an East-Coast forger and were all authenticated by Jimmy Spence at one time. The Wilson ball allegedly signed by Ruth and Gehrig illustrates that the 2012 Heritage offering was a forgery executed in the same hand.
Other Wilson balls featuring identical forgeries appeared for sale on the West Coast at California Sports Investments in 1996 along with other forgeries featuring 1919 Chicago Black Sox signed balls with Joe Jackson and single signed balls for each of the “Eight Men Out.” One of the Ruth forgeries on a Wilson ball was coupled with a forged Lou Gehrig signature and was sold at Mastro Auctions. These highly skilled forgeries fooled many until the forgers work was viewed in its entirety in the mid-1990s. Despite the exposure of this forgers work, Heritage’s current consignment director, Mike Gutierrez, included this exact same ball in his 2005 MGA auction sale.
After Hauls of Shame questioned the Ruth ball’s authenticity during the auction it failed to reach Heritage’s hidden reserve price and did not sell.
Our conclusion: Considering the skill that Ruth forgers have exhibited over the past two decades, how sure can anyone be that their JSA or PSA certified Ruth ball is authentic?
3. Rotten Peach: The Laser Copy Ty Cobb Cut Signature That Got Certified and Encapsulated by PSA:
This one appeared for sale on eBay and was discovered and identified as a forgery by author and Cobb expert Ron Keurajian who actually owned the authentic original government postcard that the forger used to copy with what appeared to be a laser printer. Keurajian had posted the Cobb signature as an exemplar in an article he had written online several years earlier. The man who submitted the autograph to PSA and defended its authenticity, Donovan Aribe, has since vanished from the autograph scene.
4. “Candy Cummings” Throws a Curve to PSA/DNAs new “Autograph Facts”:
After making a big deal out of what a great resource its “Autograph Facts” section would be for collectors visiting the PSA website, 19th century pitcher, “Candy” Cummings helped illustrate the deficiencies in the company’s expertise and skill in evaluating rare signatures. PSA/DNA included the alleged exemplar above as an ultra-rare and authentic Cummings signature that would likely command over $25,000 if genuine. However, the signature is bogus and is merely a secretary’s handwriting from the office of the Buffalo Base Ball Club in the late 1870s. The secretary wrote Cummings’ name on the back of an actual letter he sent to the club and also on the group of additional letters posted below-all in the same hand as the alleged Cummings signature.
What’s even worse is that PSA also posted an example of Cummings’ authentic signature (below) from one of the actual letters he sent to Buffalo—and they still got it wrong. The secretarial style signature appears on three existing Cummings letters addressed to the Buffalo BBC.
Above is the authentic Cummings signature that also appears on the PSA site. Its hard to believe a company holding itself out as a leader in the industry and trying to protect collectors couldn’t ascertain which example was written by the man alleged to have thrown the first curve-ball.
5. The Ty Cobb Single Signature Blazer on a Little League Ball Made After He Died
This ball appeared pre-certified by PSA and JSA on Heritage Auction Galleries website and we reported it for Deadspin: ” The auction house and the authenticators PSA/DNA and JSA seem to have overlooked the “Leather Cover” stamp on the ball manufactured by Wilson. Baseballs used to be made strictly of horsehide until the mid 1970s when companies changed over to cowhide. Sean Flynn from Wilson told Deadspin that the company’s baseball manufacturing engineer confirmed that the ball allegedly signed by Cobb in 1959 was actually “made in the 1970s.”
Despite the fact that Heritage took the ball as a consignment and posted it on its auction preview calling the Cobb ball, “Perhaps the finest we’ve ever encountered,” Chris Ivy claimed that the ball had never been examined by any experts. This despite the online auction listing stating, “Full LOA from PSA/DNA. Auction LOA from James Spence Authentication.” As a result of the embarrassing episode for the auction house,, Ivy stated, “We intend to change our policy and figure out a way to add the “authentication tags” only after authenticator’s visits.” It should be noted that in-house Heritage employee, Mike Gutierrez, is an authenticator for JSA.
6. The Cy Young Autograph Signed on a Giles NL Ball Made After He Died.
Ball expert Brandon Grunbaum of Historyofthebaseball.com exposed this gem as a fraud after it was certified authentic by Pawn Stars authenticator Drew Max. The signature, alleged to have been signed by Young, was signed on a National League ball manufactured when Warren Giles was league president and after Young had passed away. Case closed.
7.(Tie) David Wells’ Single-Signed Christy Mathewson Ball and Huggins & Scott’s “Magical Mathewson Ball”
SCP Auctions offered this questioned Christy Mathewson ball with an LOA from only one of the major TPAs and did something remarkable for an auction house; they stated that another company said they would not authenticate it. SCPs catalog disclosed:
“Includes a full LOA from JSA.
NOTE: This ball was submitted to PSA/DNA who rendered an opinion of Not Authentic.”
PSA said it was a forgery and JSA certified it. This was, to the best of our knowledge, the first time an auction house has publicly disclosed such information to bidders.
One thing about Mathewson PSA and JSA can agree upon is their belief that bookplates for Mathewson’s book “Won in the Ninth” were actually signed by the Hall of Fame pitcher. Several copies with JSA and PSA LOAs were sold at auction in 2012 despite the fact that expert Ron Keurajian has repeatedly illustrated that the signatures are secretarial and not in Matty’s hand. Several auctioneers including Mike Heffner, of Lelands, agree with Keurajian’s opinion.
8. The Walter Johnson “Train-Wreck” Single-Signed Ball Removed From eBay by its Fraud Division:
This ball showed up on eBay with a sticker price of almost $80,000 as a Buy-it-Now. The 80-grand was due in part to the fact the ball was accompanied by an LOA from Jimmy Spence of JSA. But eBay’s fraud division disagreed with Spence’s determination when they took the listing down due to “authenticity issues” with the ball.
From our story:
“The Walter Johnson autograph appearing on the alleged 1920s to 1930s baseball that was offered for sale doesn’t resemble the authentic signature of the Hall of Fame pitcher nicknamed “The Big Train.” When shown the image of the ball appeared on the eBay website expert Ron Keurajian told us he was already aware of the ball and noted that the Johnson signature was “apocryphal”. He added, “In my opinion the signature on that ball is a forgery.” Hauls of Shame shares that opinion about the signature that lacks the fluidity and feel of Johnson’s handwriting and appears 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,” however, it appears that the eBay seller may be another victim of authentication malpractice committed by a third-party authenticator.”
The Johnson ball appeared on SportsMemorabilia.com for $108,798.64 with its JSA LOA.
9. The David Wells Negro League Signed Baseball With Alleged Sigs of Josh Gibson and “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’s “Effa 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.
10. The Lou Gehrig “Stunning Jet-Black Forgery” Certified Authentic by JSA and PSA:
This Lou Gehrig ball was sold at Legendary’s 2012 sale and was billed as a “stunning jet-black high-grade signature” of the Iron Horse. It is jet black, but it is a labored and slowly drawn signature that bears all the characteristics of a non-genuine Gehrig. With its two fancy LOAs from JSA and PSA it sold for close to $30,000.
The letters collectors receive with their auction purchases bear the signatures of authenticators James Spence and Steve Grad who formerly worked together at PSA after Bill Mastro and MastroNet first formulated and instituted the third-party authentication process in 1999.
11. Rocky Marciano’s $25,000 autographed Boxing Gloves are Withdrawn from Auction after being Exposed as a Forgery by Boxing Expert:
Boxing collector and expert Mark Ogren of FightToys.com posted the alleged Rocky Marciano gloves on Net54 and revealed that the signature was nothing close to Marciano’s 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. Auctioneer Ken Goldin withdrew the gloves from the sale.
12. The Cooperstown Baseball Centennial Program Featuring Genuine and Fake Signatures:
Forged 1st Day Covers and programs have proliferated the marketplace and a good example this year was Robert Edward Auctions (REA)offering of this program featuring forgeries of several Hall of Famers. Experts told us the signatures in black or dark ink executed by Clark Griffith, Cy Young and Postmaster Farley were genuine, but all of the signatures in blue were not authentic, including Ty Cobb, Eddie Collins, Tris Speaker and Connie Mack.
Experts also identified another similar Induction program riddled with HOFer forgeries that sold for close to $10,000 at Heritage in May. Heritage noted the item came with a: “Full LOA from PSA/DNA. Auction LOA from James Spence Authentication.”
13. The Lou Gehrig “Not-So-Sweet-Spot” Ball Authenticated by JSA and PSA:
Author and expert Ron Keurajian goes into detail about his opinion of Lou Gehrig balls signed on the sweet spots of period baseballs in his new autograph handbook. Keurajian notes in his Gehrig signature study: ”A common forged ball (of Gehrig) is signed on the sweet spot with an overly large signature. Gehrig signed in a confined hand. A genuine signature is small and takes up very little space on the sweet spot.” The Heritage ball had a big signature and fetched a big price of over $44,000. Keurajian adds, “The forged Gehrig signatures, on the other hand, take up the entire sweet spot and are twice as large as a genuine signature. If you examine one of these balls with a large signature on the sweet spot, study it carefully as it is likely a forgery. Most Gehrig single-signed balls are signed and inscribed on the side panel.”
14. The PSA Authenticated and Slabbed Rocky Marciano 3×5 that wasn’t Rocky Marciano:
This egregious error was also spotted on eBay by boxing expert Mark Ogren, of FightToys.com The signature is clearly that of Rocky Graziano, but had a clipping of Rocky Marciano’s name attached to it. Looks like PSA looked at the Marciano clipping and not the signature itself, or maybe they looked at the signature and their skills are just that bad.
The signature above is a genuine Marciano and even novices could not mistake the encapsulated signature for that of the champion.
15. PSA and JSA Authenticator Herman Darvick Fools Pawn Stars with Fake” Shoeless Joe” Jackson; PSA Shoots Down His LOA:
Herman Darvick sold a few bogus Joe Jackson cuts a few decades ago and at some point authenticated a book allegedly signed by “Shoeless Joe” on the inside page. The Jackson signature is an obvious forgery and it allegedly fooled Rick Harrison of the Pawn Stars who purchased it for $15k. If you think Pawn Stars is real too, Rick lost 15 big ones because of Darvick’s shoddy work and worthless LOA (below).
When the book was taken to PSA, the company Darvick works for shot down the opinion of their own authenticator and his LOA deeming the Jackson autograph non-genuine. The PSA letter to the Pawn Stars (below) states, “we regret to report that your item did not pass PSA/DNA authentication.”
16. JSA Certifies as Authentic a Vaudeville Contract that was never signed by Cap Anson, but maybe by his Daughters:
These Cap Anson contracts have been around for decades ever since Bill Mastro acquired them from the Anson family. While that trove included many authentic Anson signatures to use as exemplars, somehow Jimmy Spence and others have authenticated these documents despite the fact that Anson never signed on the dotted lines of these theater contracts.
Authentic Anson signatures like the one above illustrate that the theater contracts bear no resemblance whatsoever to Cap Anson’s handwriting. SCP sold the contract for over $3,000.
17. A Very Shaky (Restored) Mel Ott Single with LOAs From Jimmy Spence and PSA:
This Mel Ott ball was sold in Heritage’s Fall 2012 sale with LOAs from JSA and PSA as well as a disclaimer that the ball had been “restored” with several previous signatures removed from the ball. Every expert we consulted with stated they could not certify this problematic ball as authentic.
18. A Jimmy Spence Authenticated $29,999 Single-Signed Goose Goslin Ball is Removed by eBay’s Fraud Division:
The eBay fraud division’s withdrawal of the $29,999 Goose Goslin single signed ball was due to “authenticity issues.” James Spence has a checkered history authenticating signatures alleged to have been signed by Goose, especially yellow Hall of Fame plaques as reported in the past on Autograph Alert.
19. Couple Buys A Pile of Crap Authenticated by Drew Max at “Pot o’ Gold” Auctions in Vegas:
A couple contacted Hauls of Shame earlier this year to report their purchases of several Drew Max LOAd items including baseballs allegedly signed by Ruth, Mathewson and others. The couple paid over $25,000 at several Pot O’ Gold sales before they realized they were buying outrageous fakes that even PSA or JSA wouldn’t authenticate. All of them, however, came with the Drew Max seal of approval, including the horrid Christy Mathewson forgery illustrated above.
20.PSA/DNA Says Autographs Peyton Manning Signed For His Own Foundation Are Fakes:
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.”
BONUS: THE BEST AUTHENTICATION OF 2012:
The Ed Delahanty signed envelope from 1903-
After authenticating a signature not signed by Big Ed Delahanty and also misspelled D-e-l-e-h-a-n-t-y, JSA finally got it right and authenticated a genuine postal envelope executed in the hand of Hall of Famer Ed Delahanty. The envelope appeared at Legendary’s auction at the 2012 National and the Delahanty signature was spelled correctly. The postal cover addressed to Delahanty’s wife in his hand originates directly from the Delehanty family and even has a period notation written by Del’s wife indicating that the cover was written in her husband’s hand.
Contrary to its prior authentication of the misspelled secretarial signature executed by Delahanty’s manager, Billy Shettsline (above), JSA appears to have come to its senses and actually certified the genuine article. Of course, both PSA and JSAs mistakes led Hunt Auctions to sell the misspelled example for over $35,000 and a similar c.1899 Philadelphia signed team sheet also executed by Shettsline. JSAs website says that “Delehanty” letter is still “under review.”
The authentic Delehanty autograph, however, only sold for half the price of the bogus, misspelled “Delehanty” secretarial letter. Maybe that’s because Legendary Auctions noted in its lot description that although JSA issued an LOA, Steve Grad and PSA declined to write an LOA for the rare item. Legendary said: ”Although PSA/DNA could not render an opinion due to the paucity of Delahanty exemplars, this extraordinary offering is accompanied by the provenance of a full LOA from JSA.”
It should also be noted that back when the non-genuine and misspelled “Delehanty” letter sold for $35,000 Hunt Auctions was given for comparison purposes a copy the very same signed envelope as well as Delahanty’s personal betting ledger for 1903. The ledger contained over forty pages of the sluggers genuine handwriting.
By Peter J. Nash
Dec. 25, 2012
"Enter the Sideshow" was the title of this 1983 book about circus freaks that Bill Mastro co-authored with ex-partner Rob Lifson. The title could also describe the 2012 news coverage of the Mastro FBI probe and indictment.
As the year winds down and we move forward into 2013 its time to look back at the top stories covered by Haulsofshame.com in 2012.
They include the anticipated guilty plea of once hobby-king Bill Mastro and our reports leading up to his indictment as well as the revelation by a prominent source in baseball alleging that deceased collector and New York Yankee owner, Barry Halper, was the mastermind behind the massive heist of baseball artifacts from the NYPLs famous Spalding Collection. Items stolen from the collection continued to appear in sales by Heritage and Legendary while other rare photos and documents stolen from the Baseball Hall of Fame appeared in sales by Heritage, Huggins & Scott and Clean Sweep. The cover-up of the thefts by current Hall of Fame leadership was also exposed and our reporting made waves with additional reports published by Deadspin.
The third-party authentication companies, PSA and JSA, were further exposed for their sub-standard work after it was revealed in our reports they authenticated numerous forgeries of Ty Cobb, Christy Mathewson and other Hall of Famers, which also led to further reports published by Deadspin. All of the authentication malpractice has talk of both companies being scrutinized by the FBI.
The authentications of big-ticket forgeries in 2012 by Jimmy Spence (right) and JSA have attracted the interest of the FBI. (Photo by MEARS)
2012 also saw the most expensive Babe Ruth jersey of all-time sell for $4.4 mil, thanks to analysis by Dave Grob, and the Babe stayed in the headlines with the recovery of his stolen will and more reports of Ruth forgeries and the Bambino’s controversial 1927 World Series ring owned by actor Charlie Sheen. Speaking of rings, multiple 1951 World Series rings attributed to the Yankee Clipper were examined in the NY Post.
Special thanks to our loyal readers who have helped our readership nearly double in 2012. A Happy and Healthy New Year to all in 2013!
Here are our– Top-10 STORIES OF THE YEAR 2012:
1. The Mastro Indictment and Guilty Plea- In June, we published part one of our 10-part series about the Bill Mastro FBI probe and its ties to the infamous Gretzky-McNall T206 Wagner: How The NY Daily News And Rob Lifson Took Down Mastro And The Real Story Of The Infamous Honus Wagner “Card”(Part 1 in a 10-Part Series)Update: Mastro Indicted After the indictment in August we followed up with:Source: Mastro Caught on Fed Wiretap About Trimming Honus Wagner; Rob Lifson Knew Card Was A Fraud When He Sold It With Mastro For $1.26 Mil (Part II of a 10-Part Series) and then we added: PSA & CU Targeted By Feds; Fraud On T206 Wagner Just Tip Of Iceberg; Heritage’s $300k Babe Ruth Ball A Forgery? Pres. Truman Drops Single-Signed Bomb; “Clueless Joe” Orlando Silent More to come in 2013.
Rob Lifson (left) outbid Bill Mastro (center) at Christie's and took home the trimmed Wagner card for $651,500 in 1995. Lifson and Mastro sold the card together in 2000 when their company MastroNet auctioned it off for $1.27 million.
2. Source Alleges Barry Halper Was Mastermind Behind NYPL Thefts- In April we published a report about Heritage Auction Galleries sale of an 1879 Boston baseball contract that had been stolen from the NYPL’s collection and sold to collector Seth Swirsky at the 1999 Halper Collection auction at Sotheby’s. In the article we also revealed allegations made by a source we interviewed with knowledge of Barry Halper orchestrating the thefts at the NYPL because the material was “there for the taking.” : Auction is Selling Stolen Baseball Relic: Source Says Halper Was Mastermind of Million-Dollar Heist at Library (Update) Then, in October, Heritage offered another item stolen from the NYPL’s Henry Chadwick scrapbook collection that was also purchased at the Halper sale in 1999: Heritage Pulls Father of Baseball’s Season-Pass Swiped From NYPL Archive; Traced Back to Sotheby’s Sale and Dead Yankee Partner Barry Halper
Illustrating and confirming how serious the NYPL theft problem is in the hobby a rare 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings Peck & Snyder trade card was also withdrawn from Legendary’s auction at the National. The card was expected to sell for $40,000 to $50,000 and was examined by an FBI agent on site who confirmed that the NYPL’s defaced ownership stamp was still on the card and was revealed under ultraviolet light provided by JSA. But although the FBI and NYPL were assured recovery of the 1869 card they dropped the ball on a stolen cabinet photo of Al Reach that was offered in 2011 on eBay. After taking possession of the card the FBI returned it to the eBay seller despite overwhelming evidence that suggested it was library property. The card sold on eBay for close to $2,000 and despite a poor job by the US Attorney’s working the NYPL theft case, the card will end up being returned to its rightful owner, NYPL. More on this in 2013.
Super collector Barry Halper was called the "Sultan of Swap" by Sports Illustrated in 1995, but a source alleges he admitted to being the man behind the infamous NYPL heist in the 1970s.
3. PSA Incompetence Exposed With Cobb Forgeries- A series of stunning blunders was made by major authenticator PSA/DNA in relation to numerous alleged Ty Cobb autographed items. PSA authenticated as genuine several forgeries including: a laser copy signature that they encapsulated in one of its certified holders; several autographed baseballs and bats; forgeries on photographs of a Cobb teammate; a signature signed by Cobb’s wife on a check; and a baseball that was manufactured after the “Georgia Peach” kicked the bucket. The last instance made big news when our story was published on Deadspin: Why Is The Country’s Largest Auction House Selling A “Ty Cobb Signed” Baseball That Wasn’t Made Until 15 Years After Ty Cobb Died?
The three alleged Cobb cuts were removed from an authentic check and authenticated by PSA/DNA. They were submitted at the same time as evidenced by their successive PSA registry numbers. PSA said the signature to the far left was also signed by Cobb, but it was written by his wife.
4. Stolen Hall of Fame Treasures Sold While Cooperstown Cover-Up Continues- Amid denials and a lack of institutional fortitude rare photos and documents stolen from the National Baseball Hall of Fame continued to appear regularly in national auctions during 2012. Most notable was a $20,000 Carl Horner cabinet photo of Nap Lajoie that appeared for sale in a Heritage auction and was covered by us for Deadspin: This Rare Photo, Up For Auction, Was Stolen From The Baseball Hall Of Fame
This $20,000 Nap Lajoie cabinet card stolen from the HOF shows a defaced accession number and a defaced Hall public domain designation "PD" on its reverse.
Later reports by Haulsofshame.com illustrated that Heritage also sold a stolen photo of the 1886 NY Giants for close to $11,000 in a 2006 auction. But the most troubling aspect of the HOF thefts is the museum’s failure to claim title and pursue recovery of documents appearing to have been stolen from the NBLs August Herrmann Papers Collection and sold at Clean Sweep and Huggins & Scott Auctions. In fact, two letters sold by Huggins & Scott in December had been removed from a Heritage sale in 2010 after a Haulsofshame.com report identified them as having been wrongfully removed from Cooperstown.
Auctioneer Steve Verkman sells letters addressed to August Herrmann from the HOFs collection.
5. Babe Ruth’s 1920 Yankee Jersey Sets Record Selling To Leland’s For $4.4 mil- Uniform expert and historian Dave Grob, of MEARS, gave our readers some insight into his authentication of the most valuable garment in baseball history: Babe Ruth’s 1920 Yankee Road Jersey: Authenticating The World’s Most Expensive Baseball Artifact . Media coverage of the sale was significant and after SCP autioneer David Kohler hung up on WFAN and YES Network host, Mike Francesa, after he was challenged on the garments authenticity, Grob was called and lent his expertise to a wide audience of sports fans.
6. Babe Ruth’s Stolen Will Returned to NYC Courthouse- The Babe stayed in the news when New York State’s Attorney General successfully recovered the Babe’s will from hobby veteran Mark Lewis via litigation. The will had been missing since the 1990s when Boston court officer Joe Schnabel was convicted for stealing the wills of scores of HOFers. Read more: Safe At Home: Babe Ruth’s Stolen Will Recovered By NY Attorney General; Jackie Robinson’s Will Still Missing
The Bambino's shaky signature (above) is part of his 1948 will that has been recovered by the NY State Attorney General.
7. The Magically Appearing Honus Wagner Autograph- Authenticator Jimmy Spence was exposed for an incredible double authentication of a 1939 signed first day cover from Cooperstown. When he authenticated it for Mastro the first time the Wagner signature was rated a 2 out 0f 10, but the second time it improved to an 8 out of 10. See it to believe it: Honus Pocus: Magical Honus Wagner Autograph Uncovers Authentication Malpractice; Jimmy Spence: “Clueless or Criminal”?
When Jimmy Spence authenticated the 1939 cover on the right you could barely see evidence of an alleged Honus Wagner signature. But when the same cover appeared at a later date the Wagner signature magically darkened without Spence noticing as he authenticated the piece.
8. JSA and PSA Mathewson Authentication Mess and Mystery- Mistakes made by Jimmy Spence and PSA as far back as 1999 are coming back to haunt JSA and PSA/DNA as Mathewson forgeries proliferate the marketplace. Our series on the Matty autograph controversy included:Signed Baseballs Of “Big Six” Sell For Six Figures But Are They Real? A History Of Christy Mathewson Authentications (Part 1 of 2) and The Mystery Of The Mathewson Signed Baseballs: The 1921 Polo Grounds Auction (Part 1 of 3) While PSA is currently under scrutiny for its role in the authentication and grading of the trimmed T206 Wagner, the company and its competitor, James Spence Authentication (JSA), have caught the eye of the FBI with their authentications of forgeries. JSAs credibility came into question again in October when we published: Despite JSA Debacles Auction Stands 100% Behind Spence LOA of “Matty Miracle Ball”; A History of Mathewson Authentications Part II.
Robert Edward Auctions (REA) hit a new low when they advertised that an alleged Mathewson ball they sold was signed by Matty at a 1923 benefit game at the Polo Grounds. The New York Times reported that Matty was in a sick bed at Saranac Lake on that day and, although REA was notified of this fact, they failed to correct their fraudulent auction listing and sold the ball for $37,500.
These two alleged Mathewson balls were offered by SCP (left) and REA (right). Both were authenticated by JSA, but what's the chance they are genuine?
9. Halper Controversy Continues As More Frauds Are Investigated and Exposed- Once considered the gold standard of the industry the “ex-Halper” tag followed several items to auction and with it came controversy and scrutiny. An alleged 1951 World Series ring attributed to Joe DiMaggio failed to sell at Hunt Auctions; the alleged 1947 World Series last out ball from Bill Bevens sold at Heritage; and a Tiger jersey sold by REA in 2007 was exposed as a former Halper collection forgery attributed to Ty Cobb: Rickey Being Rickey in a Phony Ty Cobb Uni: Halper Set His Own All-Time Record for Steals. Last but not least, Halper’s 1927 World Series ring attributed to Babe Ruth stirred up some more drama: Is Charlie Sheen’s “Winning Ring” Linked To A Mob-Hit And A Ruthian Unsolved Mystery.
The same jersey Rickey Henderson wore in the 1985 TSN photo shoot appeared in the 2007 REA sale for the Halper Estate.
10. Expert Ron Keurajian and MacFarland Release Long-Awaited Autograph Handbook- For the past few years expert Ron Keurajian has opined on a number of controversial signatures featured in our investigative reports and has helped expose the flaws of the TPAs that are accepted widely as the industry authorities. In November Keurajian’s acclaimed book, Baseball Hall of Fame Autographs: A Reference Book, was made available to the public and for the first time provided collectors with a useful tool to understand Hall of Famer signatures and view iron clad exemplars of the enshrined greats. Readers will see that many of the exemplars have virtually no resemblance to many autographs authenticated by the TPAs and sold by major auction houses.
Keurajian's book includes some seldom seen and quite possibly unique exemplars for rare HOFers like John Clarkson. Clarkson is perhaps the most elusive and valuable HOF autograph known to exist. (MacFarland)
The 2012 “Scam Artifact of the Year”:
These photographs are of the same single-signed Harry Truman baseball. On the left is how it looked when it sold at MastroNet in 2001. On the right is how it appeared at EAC Galleries in 2005 as the "finest example extant" with a provenance from PSA and JSA authenticator John Reznikoff. This discovery courtesy of Steve Koschal and his book about presidential baseball signatures.
By Peter J. Nash
Dec. 14, 2012
This 1886 cabinet photo of Jim Mutrie's NY Giants provides a window into the HOF heist.
For the past few years we’ve been writing about the infamous thefts from the Baseball Hall of Fame on a regular basis as suspect items continue to appear in auctions and online sales. Letters addressed to August Herrmann and MLB officials have appeared and subsequently been withdrawn from sales at Robert Edward Auctions and Heritage Auction Galleries after being identified as having originated from the National Baseball Library’s Herrmann Papers archive. That being said, other Herrmann letters have appeared in Steve Verkman’s Clean Sweep Auctions and, although they’ve been identified as having been part of the same archive, they have been sold without the Hall of Fame claiming title to the documents.
Last night auctioneer Huggins & Scott sold two more documents believed to have been stolen from the Herrmann archive written by HOFers Joe Tinker and Fred Clarke. Both of those letters were previously offered and withdrawn from a Heritage auction in April of 2010. The Hall of Fame’s Herrmann/Tinker file found in folder 40 of box 28 includes over 20 letters written by Tinker to Herrmann from 1920 to 1926. The Huggins & Scott Tinker letter is dated Sept. 3, 1924 and, like the letters still at the Hall, contains content related to the Reds spring training facility. As for Clarke’s letter to president Harry Pulliam regarding the protested game, Box 44 of the Hall’s Herrmann archive includes an entire file dedicated to this specific game. It appears that despite the withdrawal of the letters from Heritage, the Hall of Fame never recovered the documents or claimed title despite the overwhelming evidence that the documents appeared to originate from its Herrmann treasure trove.
Despite the fact that Verkman and the consignors cannot present verifiable provenance for the offered documents, the auctioneer feels justified in selling off the suspected contraband since the Hall of Fame did not pursue recovery or attempt to thwart the sale. To the contrary, Verkman has said that Hall spokesperson, Brad Horn, told him the museum could not definitively say that the documents he was selling were stolen from Cooperstown. Horn has never publicly confirmed that he made that statement to Verkman. This week Verkman sold off another letter to Herrmann from Boston Braves owner Emil Fuchs. The letter sold for $138 and Verkman’s commission was roughly $50 bucks. The letters Verkman has sold have not been very valuable, a few hundred dollars each, but other items sold by his competitors have.
Huggins & Scott sold the Clarke letter for only $475 and the Tinker letter for $1,100. In 1999, another suspect Clarke protest letter sold for $3,162 at Sotheby’s and in 2008 a 1948 Joe Tinker letter (also suspected stolen from the Hall) sold for $4,800 at Legendary. The poor showing for the two letters in the H&S sale suggest that savvy and informed collectors are avoiding purchasing documents believed to have been stolen from institutions.
Haulsofshame.com learned about the sale of the Huggins & Scott letters last night and on short notice auction VP, Josh Wulkan, said he was unaware the letters were withdrawn from Heritage due to title issues. Said Wulkan, “This is the first I’m hearing of this. I can say we would not have offered these if we knew they were withdrawn from another auction with title issues.” Wulkan said he was unaware of the consignor ever informing the auction house of the previous withdrawal from Heritage.
The Hall has had a tougher time denying that thefts occurred when it comes to rare photographs considering several examples of images that have been sold bore marks and identifications that clearly identified the items as Hall of Fame property and were stolen from the institution. A Horner cabinet photo of Nap Lajoie that once sold for over $17,000 at Mastro Auctions had a defaced library accession number and a “PD” mark on the reverse placed there originally by librarians. A Falk cabinet photo of Christy Mathewson also sold at Mastro for over $10,000 and featured the library accession number covered with white-out and the same “PD” mark as well. An ultra rare Joseph Hall cabinet photo of “Smilin” Mickey Welch, a Hall of Fame hurler for Jim Mutrie’s champion New York Giants of the 1880s, was withdrawn from a Robert Edward Auctions sale because it had the same Hall of Fame ownership marks on its reverse. Sources indicate that all three of these gems have since returned to Cooperstown. Mickey is finally “Smilin’”.
This SGC-graded 1891 Jos. Hall cabinet photo of Smilin'Mickey Welch offered by REA in 2010 was stolen from the Hall of Fame as evidenced by the defaced accession number and "PD" mark that was altered to read "BOB."
But it is another photograph also featuring the portrait of Smilin’ Mickey Welch and Jim Mutrie’s Giants that illustrates the lengths someone has gone to swipe history and the true magnitude of the Cooperstown heist that Haulsofshame.com estimates has totaled well over $1 million in losses of donated artifacts for the Hall.
Back in 1984 SABR published a review of nineteenth-century baseball photography called The National Pastime and on page 52 featured an image of Jim Mutrie’s 1886 New York Giants Base Ball Club. The photograph was a composite of portraits of the Giants surrounding Mutrie and was created by the New York photographic studio of J. Wood. The image was clearly credited to the Hall of Fame with the designation “NBL” accompanying the image which was housed at the National Baseball Library.
Sixteen years later a similar image of the club appeared for sale in a Sports Collectors Digest auction conducted by hobby veteran Lew Lipset in 2000. It appeared to be the same type of composite that was featured in the SABR publication. Upon closer inspection, however, it appeared that both photographs may have been the same example based upon the lot description which said the card featured “A light stain in the lower left and a small scrape at the top near the image of Gerhardt, which has been skillfully redrawn.”
John Thorn and Mark Rucker edited the 1984 SABR photographic revue and conducted photo shoots at the Hall of Fame, New York Public Library and also at the homes of several collectors who were willing to contribute to the project, including Lew Lipset. The original black & white contact sheets for those photo shoots have survived and an examination of one particular Kodak sheet marked “HOF-9″ reveals the 1886 photograph used on page 52 of the SABR review.
This is the 1886 cabinet as it appeared on the B&W Kodak contact sheet for the 1983 SABR photo shoot at the HOF. This image was cropped and appeared on page 52 of "The National Pastime."
In April of 2005, the same 1886 J. Wood cabinet photo of Mutrie’s Giants appeared for sale once again in a Lew Lipset “Old Judge” auction with this lot description:
Lot 25. 1886 New York Giant Cabinet. Beautiful cabinet of a great team. Roger Connor, John Ward, Tim Keefe, Buck Ewing, Mickey Welch and James O’Rourke are among the 14 players. (……) The photo of Welch is the same one used in his Four base Hit. The photos can also be seen on other 19th Century cards including G & B’s and Yum-Yums. The only fault in the card’s condition is a scrape at the upper right of the picture of Gerhardt. This has been hand drawn in to try and give its original appearance. Otherwise a couple of 1/4” wrinkles. Still excellent.
Minimum Bid $750.
Then, in 2006, Heritage Auction Galleries, of Dallas, Texas, sold the exact same cabinet card again for over $10,000 and this time included a higher resolution image of the albumen print and mount and the reverse of the card.
The Heritage lot description said: 1886 New York Giants Cabinet Photograph by J. Wood, Type 1.No other cabinet photograph on earth could possibly offer more nineteenth century Hall of Famers than does this remarkable artifact from the studio of noted lensman J. Wood. Fourteen stunning portraits, many used in the monumentally scarce and valuable 1888 E223 G&B Chewing Gum issue, are utilized in the design paying tribute to the New York Giants in their fourth year of existence. Enshrined at Cooperstown, and present upon this cabinet, are Roger Connor, John Montgomery Ward, Mickey Welch, Tim Keefe, Jim O’Rourke and William “Buck” Ewing. Some scattered staining at lower left and a bit of wear at the top border just right of center must be noted, but our catalog imagery should accurately express just how minor those considerations are, and how little they affect the dramatic visual appeal. You’ll very seldom find cabinet photographs that celebrate twelve decades of life in such fine shape, and fewer than ten examples of this particular piece are known to exist in the hobby. Mount is blank and very clean, and likely dates from a later period than the original image. Size is 4.25×6.5″.
It appears that the albumen print affixed to the grey board with the Mickey Welch identification that was photographed at the Hall in 1983 is, in fact, the same Heritage albumen image that appears on a different generic cabinet card mount with a blank back. The staining in the lower left corner and the evidence of the original tear above player Gerhardt’s head are seemingly identical (as are numerous other blemishes and imperfections on the portraits of players Connor, Ward and O’Rourke.) Someone removed the albumen print from the original grey mount with a larger border and reapplied it to a generic mount. Heritage even notes that the board the photo is mounted on “likely dates from a later period than the original image.” Other surviving cabinets similar to this one produced by Wood have the photographer identified on the front with the pre-printed and gilded graphics “J. Wood Photo 208 Bowery, NY”.
This J. Wood cabinet on a period mount produced by the photographer appeared in a 2007 REA auction. The "J. Wood" identification appears in gold on the front of the cabinet. The reverse of the card is blank.
When we contacted Lew Lipset to inform him that the 1886 cabinet he sold appeared to have been credited to the Hall of Fame and that it also appeared to have been transferred to a new mount by the time it reached his auction in 2000 he told us, “I don’t dispute anything you said in the first two paragraphs. I know I had the 1886 in my collection for years before I put it in the auction. Its the same one as in the SABR publication. I have no record or recollection where I got it from.” When asked specifically if he had ever transferred the albumen print while in his possession Lipset said, “Not by me. I always remembered as being a bland damaged back. Never thought of it having the original back removed. It was that way when I sold it in 2001.”
The mystery that remains unanswered is who sold the cabinet to Lipset (or anyone else) after the 1983 SABR photo shoot at the Hall of Fame?
Perhaps the greatest irony of this situation is that the original mount that the photo was affixed to at the Hall photo shoot appears to bear the original and rare signature of Mickey Welch. The photograph was likely donated by Welch’s family and the Hall of Famer likely wrote his name on the mount to identify that his portrait was featured on the composite photo. A signed photograph of Welch, to date unknown to exist, could be worth as much as $50,000.
Compared to this newly discovered example from the Hall of Fame’s Ford Frick Correspondence files:
The inscription on the bottom portion of the mounted cabinet photographed at the Hall in 1983 appears to be executed in the same hand.
Although the identification appears extremely light and is obscured by the dark cardboard mount, Welch’s distinctive letter construction and formation is evident in the handwritten inscription.
So, where is the original mount featuring the scribbling of “Smilin’ Mickey”? Did the thief save it or destroy it? Yet more mysteries that may never be solved.
It is not a mystery now, however, that the National Baseball Library was actually robbed of its 1886 cabinet of Jim Mutrie’s Giants. We informed Hall of Fame spokesperson, Brad Horn, of the evidence of the theft and sent him the contact sheet image of the photograph before it was stolen and asked him for a statement from the institution. We also asked if the Hall would report the theft to the Cooperstown Police Department or the New York State Police. Horn did not respond to our inquiry.
Chris Ivy, Director of Sports Auctions for Heritage, was contacted to inform the auction house of the stolen item but he was out of the office and unavailable for comment. Ivy’s director of consignments, Mike Gutierrez, was the prime suspect in an FBI investigation into the Hall of Fame thefts in the late 1980s. However, the Hall of Fame, the US Attorney’s office and New York State prosecutors never charged anyone in connection with the heist that has cost the museum and library more than a million dollars in lost baseball treasures.
By Peter J. Nash
Dec. 4, 2012
Ford Frick helped found the Hall of Fame and was inducted in 1970. His donated archive of correspondence appears to have been stolen from Cooperstown.
Ford C. Frick was a former sportswriter and broadcaster who served as the National League’s President from 1934 to 1951 and as Baseball’s Commissioner from 1951 to 1965, but his greatest contribution to the game may have been his brainstorm to honor baseball’s greats in a “Hall of Fame.”
It all started back in 1935 when Frick was approached by Alexander Cleland and Stephen C. Clark with an idea to establish a baseball museum in Cooperstown, New York. Clark, an heir to the Singer Sewing Machine fortune, and his employee, Cleland, were soliciting the endorsement of organized baseball to ensure that their concept would become a reality. Frick saw the potential in their planned venture and not only did he endorse the concept, he expanded on Alexander Cleland’s ideas and contributed his own—to honor baseball’s “immortals” in a similar fashion as the Hall of Fame For Great Americans at New York University’s campus on the Hudson River. Frick’s vision dictated that players would be honored with bronze plaques hung in a “Hall of Fame” that would work in conjunction with a newly constructed baseball museum which would house important relics of the National Pastime.
Hearing that Clark and Cleland had recently discovered what was alleged to have been the “Doubleday Baseball,” a sphere that was said to have been used in play in the first game in Cooperstown in 1839, Frick immediately made his own contribution to the fledgling museum on behalf of the National League–a magnificent Victorian sterling silver trophy known as the “Hall Cup,” which had been presented to the New York Giants for the championship of 1888. From that day forward there was always a special place in Ford Frick’s heart for Cooperstown and that feeling endured all the way up until 1970 when Frick was honored as a Hall of Famer with his own plaque hanging in the Hall’s gallery alongside Ruth, Gehrig and the other greats of the game.
Frick also realized the importance of establishing a National Baseball Library and as early as 1960 worked with Hall historian Lee Allen to contribute the National League papers and files (including his own) to the Cooperstown institution. Considering Frick’s key role in the establishment of the museum and the library it was understood that the Hall would benefit from his generosity and his awareness that baseball’s history needed to be preserved in an official repository like the National Baseball Library. In 1968, Frick stated in an interview for his autobiography, “At last a Baseball Library has been added, the first library ever established by any sport as a private enterprise anywhere, anytime. The Library appeals to me particularly because it is essentially a tribute to the writers whose contribution has been immeasurable…”
Frick viewed the establishment of the Hall of Fame and its library as one of his greatest accomplishments in the game and in 1978 the Hall decided to honor Frick again by naming the award presented for lifetime achievements in broadcasting–The Ford Frick Award. Later today, from Baseball’s Winter meetings in Nashville, the Hall will release the name of the 36th Ford Frick Award winner who will join past honorees including legends Red Barber, Vin Scully, Mel Allen, Curt Gowdy, Ernie Harwell and Joe Garagiola. Last years recipient was Tim McCarver. Unfortunately, today is also the day that Haulsofshame.com releases its findings in an on-going investigation into the multi-million dollar thefts of baseball artifacts and documents from the National Baseball Library. It appears that many documents originating from the files Frick donated to the National Baseball Library have been stolen and sold on Baseball’s “black market.” (Correction: The Frick Award winner will be announced tommorrow, Dec. 5th)
After a three-year investigation into the Ford Frick-related documents that have surfaced in the hobby and have been sold at public auction since the early 1990s, it has been determined that the Frick papers housed at the NBL have been compromised to the tune of close to $500,000 including valuable autographs representing some of the greatest rarities in the game. Most all of the stolen documents are thank you notes written to Frick and the National League office from old-time players who had received ”lifetime- passes” from Frick for free admission to Major League games.
The "Kid" Nichols thank you letter to Ford Frick on the right was sold by Barry Halper at Sotheby's in 1999. The Nichols letter to Frick's office pictured to the left is currently housed in the Frick correspondence file at the National Baseball Library.
The first substantial cache of these letters appeared in the 1999 Barry Halper Collection auction at Sotheby’s in New York City. In that auction, correspondence addressed to Frick thanking him for lifetime passes from rare Hall of Famers like George Wright, Joe Kelley, Jesse Burkett, Sliding Billy Hamilton, Jimmy Collins, Nap Lajoie, Kid Nichols, Bill Klem and others were sold for tens of thousands of dollars.
In 2009, this writer presented to Hall of Fame officials a detailed 200+ page report identifying scores of stolen and suspected stolen documents and photographs that had appeared in public auctions and private collections since the 1980s. In that report was information illustrating how the NBL’s August Herrmann Papers collection had been compromised and there was a separate section devoted to the Ford Frick Papers and the documents sold by Halper at Sotheby’s. The report stated: “Considering the numerous documents suspected to have been removed from the Herrmann Papers, this group of correspondence warrants further investigation.” Since receiving the report in 2009 the Hall has not investigated the Frick letters and, in addition, has still not inventoried or cataloged its contents. Visitors to the NBL are able to handle the original documents in the Frick file despite the fact that they remain the target of theft.
The Nap Lajoie thank you letter to Frick on the left is currently part of a private collection. The Lajoie thank you letter to Frick on the right is currently part of the NBL's Frick Correspondence file at Cooperstown.
Currently the National Baseball Library designates the uncatalogued and un-inventoried Frick Papers on its ABNER database as, “1933-1944 Ford Frick- Thank You Letters For Lifetime Pass.” The existing file is as thick as a phone book and features hundreds of thank you notes to Frick and Bill Brandt for sending lifetime passes to old-time ballplayers whose careers dated back to the nineteenth century. Examining this file, we were able to identify scores of letters written by marginal and star ballplayers like Stuffy McInnis, Jack Barry, Bill Wambsganss, Smoky Joe Wood, Larry Gardner, Bill Dineen, Bobby Veach, Deacon Phillippe, Buck Freeman, Joe Gunson, Tommy Bond, Jack Glasscock and Dan Casey. These letters would have a current value ranging between $100- $1,000 depending on the individual player. In addition, the file also had a smaller group of letters written to Frick by Hall of Famers like Jimmy Foxx, Tris Speaker, Ty Cobb, Nap Lajoie, Eppa Rixey and others. These letters would have values ranging from $500 to $1,500, again, depending upon the player. In some cases there are multiple letters from players sent for the receipt of multiple lifetime or season passes. All of the correspondence is written between 1933 and 1937.
Deacon Phillipe was a great Pittsburgh Pirate pitcher who pitched in the 1st World Series in 1903, but he never made the Hall of Fame. His thank you letter to Frick (above, left) is worth $500-$1,000 and is still part of the HOFs Frick correspondence file. Vic Willis was a Pirate ace pitcher who did make the Hall of Fame. His thank you letter to Frick could be worth $40,000 and is currently missing from the Hall's Frick file.
What is striking about the current NBL file is the absence of the letters written by the most valuable players and Hall of Famers who had also written thank you letters to Frick. Somehow, it is those extremely rare and valuable letters that are now missing from the Hall’s current file and have surfaced at auction over the years selling for tens of thousands of dollars. Case in point is one of the rarest Hall of Fame signatures in existence–Vic Willis. A thank you letter written to Frick by Willis was sold in a Mastro Auction in 1999 and today would be estimated with a value in the range of $30,000 to $40,000. That letter features a pencil notation with the players last name in the upper left-hand corner of the document, just like many of the letters still housed in the NBL’s Frick file. One similar letter still at the Hall is a thank you letter from another Pirate pitching legend who never made the Hall–Deacon Phillippe. Phillippe’s name is also written in the same hand on the document in pencil, just like the Willis document.
A rare letter written by Hall of Famer Bid McPhee survives in the HOF's current Frick Correspondence file as does a thank you letter written to Frick by non-HOFer Fred Tenney.
Haulsofshame.com estimates that the value of the letters wrongfully removed from the Frick correspondence collection could exceed $500,000. Multiple letters from some players like George Wright have been sold at public auction but it is believed many others are buried in private collections including letters from the likes of Ned Hanlon, Amos Rusie, George Davis and the newly elected Deacon White. As it stands, the hundreds of letters that remain in the Frick file at the National Baseball Library could easily be appraised at a half-a-million dollars.
One of the few surviving letters at the Hall with exceptional value is a thank you letter written to the National League by Hall of Famer Bid McPhee. A legitimate letter written by McPhee sold at public auction a few years ago for close to $75,000. It is likely the McPhee letter survived in the NBL files because he was elected to the Hall in 2000, many years after the original heist is suspected to have occurred. One other extreme rarity that has survived in the NBL’s Frick files is a 1933 thank you to Frick penned by “Smilin” Mickey Welch. Industry experts estimate the value of that letter at over $50,000.
Ford Frick presided over the dedication of the National Baseball Library on July 22, 1968.
When confronted with the findings of our investigation, the leadership at the Hall of Fame was, as usual, silent. In fact, another letter believed to have been stolen from the NBLs famous August Herrmann Papers Collection is currently being sold by Steve Verkman and Clean Sweep Auctions in Carle, Place, New York, and last week Hall spokesperson Brad Horn failed to respond to similar inquiries for comment. Clean Sweep sold another letter stolen from the Hall’s Herrmann archive last year as Horn and the Hall allowed the document to be sold without claiming it as library property. Auctioneer Josh Evans, who first helped uncover the HOF thefts in the late 1980s, was critical of the institution’s negligence. At the time, Evans said, ”Now they are complicit in their own degredation.”
This plaque honors Bud Selig and identifies the "Center For The Archives of Major League Commissioners."
Just last year, Hall of Fame Chairman, Jane Forbes Clark, dedicated a space honoring Bud Selig and the office of the Commissioner located in the National Baseball Library atrium in the former offices of the Hall’s Education Department. At the dedication Clark said, “The Selig Center for the Archives of Major League Baseball Commissioners will ensure a permanent home for the documentation and preservation of the Office of the Commissioner’s contributions to baseball history. This archive will provide a central location for the study and research of the importance of the Office of the Commissioner, and its role in shaping and advancing the National Pastime for nearly a century.”
We contacted Matt Bourne, MLB’s Vice President of Business Public Relations, at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville, where Bud Selig is attending MLBs Winter Meetings and asked for a reaction from Selig to a former Commissioner’s archives having been looted. Bourne told us, “We aren’t going to provide any comment.”
Bourne and MLB are all too familiar with the issue of stolen MLB-related documents ever since the 2009 All-Star Game Auction was conducted by Hunt Auctions. Included in that sale were a “rare cache” of stolen letters that had originally been bequeathed to the National League in 1895 by Hall of Famer Harry Wright. Those documents are currently the subject of a three year FBI investigation into hundreds of documents and photographs stolen from the New York Public Library.
Hall of Fame spokesperson, Brad Horn, failed to respond to inquiries about the thefts from the Frick collection and did not return calls to his hotel room at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville.
This rare letter written to Frick by HOFer "Smilin" Mickey Welch is still in the files of the Frick correspondence at the NBL. Experts say the value of the letter exceeds $50,000 and it is possible that others from Welch to Frick were also removed from library files. (National Baseball Library, Cooperstown, NY)
By Peter J. Nash
Nov. 29, 2012
This letter addressed to Reds owner August Herrmann is believed to have been stolen from the National Baseball Library.
-Clean Sweep Auctions has already sold several letters believed to have been stolen from the National Baseball Library in Cooperstown, NY, and with the offering of ”Lot 490″ in its current auction ending December 13th, it appears that history is repeating itself. The auction house is selling a letter written by Boston Braves owner Emil Fuchs to Cincinnati Reds owner and National Commission Chairman, August Herrmann. The letter appears to have originated from the Hall of Fame’s August Herrmann Papers Collection and was also sold previously by Clean Sweep back in 2009.
-Steve Verkman, President of Clean Sweep Auctions has been notified on several occasions that letters written to Herrmann from NL President John Heydler, St. Louis Cardinals owner Sam Breadon and Emil Fuchs corresponded to similar documents in the Hall’s massive Herrmann Papers archive which contains over 45,000 documents and letters that Herrmann received during his career in baseball, which spanned from 1902 to 1928. The last document sold by Clean Sweep was a letter from Sam Breadon and was originally part of a file of Breadon’s correspondence to Herrmann from 1920 to 1926.
-Brad Horn, a spokesperson for the Baseball Hall of Fame, did not challenge the prior sales of the alleged stolen documents from the National Baseball Library and according to auctioneer Verkman said,“There is insufficient information for us to unequivocally state that these were stolen from the Hall of Fame.” Verkman added, “The Hall of Fame also distinctly did not ask for it back in any way, or for it to be removed from the auction, only that they welcome it, along with anything else of potential historic value as a donation as they are the main repository of baseball history in the U.S.”
-Clean Sweep and Brad Horn did not respond to inquiries about the Herrmann letter currently being offered for sale.
Unlike the Clean Sweep offering, these two letters written by Fuchs to August Herrmann are still part of the National Baseball Library's collection in Cooperstown, NY.
–Jane Forbes Clark, the current Hall of Fame Chairman, and her predecessors have failed to properly investigate the considerable losses from the Hall of Fame collections and have also failed to pursue the recovery of property and prosecution of at least one known suspect believed to have been involved in the robberies, Mike Gutierrez, of Heritage Auction Galleries. In the late 1980s Gutierrez sold auctioneer Josh Evans a signed photograph of Babe Ruth that had a Hall of Fame accession number covered with white out. In 1998, an anonymous source told hobby newsletter The Sweet Spot that he had accompanied Gutierrez on a visit to the National Baseball Library and said of Gutierrez: “He would go to the photocopy machine, make copies of some of the documents; he made neat stacks of copies,” the witness said. “For every 10 items he’d take to the machine, however, nine originals would return to the file. One original would be mixed in with the copies and they would go directly into his briefcase. That briefcase would never leave his side.” The eyewitness also indicated that the documents Gutierrez was copying were from the Hall’s Herrmann Papers collection.
-Hall of Fame officials have recovered several rare photographs stolen from the NBL including images of Mickey Welch, Christy Mathewson and Nap Lajoie offered for sale by Robert Edward Auctions, Mastro and Heritage. These recoveries were made only after Haulsofshame.com and Deadspin published reports illustrating that these photos had evidence of HOF ownership marks and accession numbers. The confirmation that these photos were stolen from the Hall is just the tip of the iceberg.
This rare 1869 Red Stocking trade card was credited to the Hall of Fame's collection in Mark Rucker's 1988 book, Base Ball Cartes, but is currently missing from the National Baseball Library. (Photo from Base Ball Cartes, (Rucker 1988)
-Mark Rucker’s book Baseball Cartes (1988) included the Hall of Fame’s copy of the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stocking trade card by Peck & Snyder, but sources indicate that the rare card valued at over $25,000 is currently missing and believed to have been stolen from the NBL. Several copies of this same card have been stolen from the New York Public Library including one that was recovered at this years National.
The letter being offered by Clean Sweep originated from the files of August Herrmann, now housed at the NBL in Cooperstown, New York.
-Legendary Auctions‘ current sale includes a few suspect items that may have originated from the New York Public Library’s Spalding Collection including a MacIntyre cabinet of Harry Wright and an 1882 cabinet photo of the Providence Base Ball Club. The library has multiple copies of the 1882 cabinet- all stamped on the lower portion of the card’s reverse. The location and size of the paper loss on the reverse of the cabinet being offered by Legendary suggests it may have an NYPL provenance.
The placement of the NYPL stamp on the 1882 Providence cabinet (Left) is strikingly similar to the size and shape of the paper loss on the 1882 Providence cabinet being sold by Legendary. (Right)
-A Kalamazoo Bat cabinet photo of Charles Bastian and Denny Lyons also being offered by Legendary fits the description of many other missing NYPL items but appears to be one of only three Kalamazoo Bat cabinets of Philadelphia Nationals players legitimately in private hands. These three cabinets bear no NYPL marks or identifications and originated from the collection of the late hobby legend Don Steinbach. Besides these three examples of Bastian/Lyons; Fogarty and Clements, we know of no other cabinets of Philadelphia National players that did not originate from the NYPL or Baseball Hall of Fame collections.
-Harry Wright donated all of his personal photographs to the National League before his death and they ended up at the NYPL in 1921 as a donation from the widow of A. G. Spalding. Missing from the collection are several MacIntire cabinet portraits of Wright. The paper loss on the reverse of the current Legendary offering is suspicious, but not as definitive as the example sold by Robert Edward Auctions (REA) in 2009, which exhibits the removal of the NYPL stamp and handwritten numeral originally placed in the upper left-hand corner. That same Wright cabinet was also sold by Barry Halper at Sotheby’s in 1999.
This MacIntire cabinet photo of Harry Wright sold by REA in 2009 exhibits tell-tale evidence of the removal of NYPL ownership marks and identifications.
-Dennis Schrader’s “Little Cooperstown Collection” of 5,000 alleged authentic signed baseballs has received a lot of media coverage lately after an official endorsement by the Guinness Book of World Records as the “Largest Collection of Baseballs Signed by Major League Players.”
The collection claims to include incredible rarities including single-signed balls by 19th century HOFers like Pud Galvin, John Clarkson and Old Hoss Radbourn, however, all of these so called rarities are actually poorly executed forgeries. Here’s a Pud Galvin forgery from the collection:
Here’s an authentic signature of Galvin from 1879:
-Pud Galvin signatures are extremely rare and only two authentic examples are known to exist on letters the hurler wrote to an executive of the Buffalo Bison Base Ball Club in the late 1870s. Both of these authentic signatures are utilized as exemplars in Ron Keurajian’s new autograph handbook published by McFarland. Schrader, Guinness and the St. Petersburgh Museum of History should pick up a copy of the book and educate themselves on the subject of HOFer signatures. It would save them from exhibiting forgeries to the general public who are also being solicited to contribute funds for a permanent exhibit at the museum in the future. As it stands, the collection also includes forgeries of Babe Ruth, “Shoeless” Joe Jackson and many others.
-Ron Keurajian covers baseball’s “black market” and the issue of institutional thefts in his new book, Baseball Hall of Fame Autographs: A Reference Guide. Of the Baseball Hall of Fame’s collection he writes: ”The amount of signed material in these collections is mind boggling. These collections contain many rare and unique pieces. It appears that these collections were pillaged and many rare signatures were stolen, in particular the Herrmann Collection and the Frederick Long Collection.”
In regard to Herrmann letters in particular Keurajian warns collectors: ”Today, any letter or document addressed to Herrman, the National Commission, Tom Lynch, Ban Johnson, Harry Pulliam, Frank Navin, John Heydler, John Tener, John Brush or Nick Young should be considered suspect and its origins must be investigated carefully as it may be stolen.”
UPDATE: Bill Mastro Will Plead Guilty to Fraud: Former auction heavyweight, Bill Mastro, has agreed to change his not-guilty plea to a plea of guilty, according to the the United States Attorney’s office for Northern Illinois.
Papers filed in Illinois indicate that prosecutors are seeking to change Mastro’s plea hearing for a date in February. Mike Monico, Mastro’s attorney, said his client will not oppose the request to change the date of the hearing. Monico also said that his client “is cooperating with the government.”
The New York Daily News also reports: “Mastro will apparently acknowledge at the February hearing that he altered the world’s most valuable trading card, a Honus Wagner T206 that has fetched millions of dollars in a series of high-profile transactions, including a 1991 sale for $451,000 to NHL legend Wayne Gretzky and former Los Angeles Kings owner Bruce McNall.”
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By Peter J. Nash
Nov. 16, 2012
Joe DiMaggio autographs toy trucks at a private signing with his attorney Morris Engelberg (far right). An authentic DiMaggio signature from the private signing (Top).
As if there wasn’t enough controversy surrounding the 1951 World Series rings attributed to “Joltin” Joe DiMaggio, expert Ron Keurajian now says it’s his opinion that the signed DiMaggio note authenticating the ring that sold for close to $40,000 at Sotheby’s is not genuine.
When asked to comment on the authenticity of the DiMaggio note that accompanied the alleged World Series ring sold in 1999 by Barry Halper, DiMaggio’s long-time attorney, Morris Engelberg, did not reference the note specifically, but added, “I consider the entire ’signed’ memorabilia business on par with Bernie Madoff.”
After Haulsofshame.com published an article about the DiMaggio ring offered last weekend by Hunt Auctions in Louisville, KY., a collector and former New Jersey dealer named Chris Jacks, left a comment suggesting that the DiMaggio signed card featured in the post might not be authentic. After looking at the genuine autographed photo featured in the same article, Jacks compared it to the index card and told us, “Not written by the same hand, in my opinion.”
In response to the observations made by Jacks, we contacted several dealers and authenticators very familiar with DiMaggio’s handwriting and the result involved each party responding that the handwriting was either not DiMaggio’s or “unusual”. The one expert willing to go on the record with his opinion was Ron Keurajian, who is also the author of a recently released book that is described by his publisher, McFarland, as a collector’s handbook to Hall of Fame signatures. Keurajian told us, “In my opinion the handwriting and signature featured on that index card is not Joe DiMaggio’s. It is my opinion that note is not genuine.”
When the alleged DiMaggio ring and note sold at Sotheby’s in 1999, Mike Gutierrez, a current JSA authenticator, was hired to examine all autographed materials for the auction house. When the ring sold again a few years later at Mastro Auctions it was not accompanied by a PSA or James Spence letter of authenticity.
Joe DiMaggio allegedly inscribed this index card for Barry Halper to serve as a letter of authenticity for the alleged 1951 World Series ring attributed to DiMaggio Expert Ron Keurajian is of the opinion it is a forgery.
We also showed Keurajian another note that DiMaggio allegedly executed for Halper in order to authenticate a glove that was also sold at Sotheby’s as one of DiMaggio’s first gloves used in the Major Leagues. Of that note, Keurajian told us, “In my opinion that second inscribed and signed index card appears to be authentic and signed by DiMaggio.”
This index card LOA executed by DiMaggio for Halper is considered authentic by experts.
The glove was sold at Sotheby’s in 1999 as one that the “Yankee Clipper” wore in the first years of his career, but it turned out to be problematic as glove experts showed that the glove wasn’t manufactured until much later in DiMaggio’s career.
Keurajian includes an in-depth study of DiMaggio’s signature in his book along with analysis of every other Baseball Hall of Famer. On its website, McFarland says of its new release available to the public since November 1st:
“The book provides experts and beginning collectors alike a definitive guide to authentication of Baseball Hall of Fame autographs. Richly illustrated with examples of genuine and forged signatures, the studies provide examples across the players’ lives.”
DiMaggio’s autograph is featured prominently in the book and the publisher also states that, “The section on known forgeries gives detailed descriptions of common and well known forgeries. The level of detail is such that a collector will be able to compare signatures in their collection to the description in the book and determine if they own a forgery. No previous book has ever remotely approached the level of detail to be found in this book.”
Keurajian hopes that his book will help educate buyers and sellers as they navigate through the treacherous waters of autograph collecting. When asked what percentage of higher-end Hall of Famer autographs on the market are forgeries Keurajian told us, “Probably ninety-percent of the material, in my opinion, is not genuine.”
Expert Ron Keurajian's reference guide for Hall of Famer autographs is being published by McFarland and was just released earlier this month.
Keurajian’s opinion that the index card accompanying Barry Halper’s alleged 1951 DiMaggio World Series ring is not genuine has fueled even more speculation about the authenticity of the 10K ring he sold in 1999 alongside scores of other bogus and stolen artifacts that have made their way into the marketplace.
From his offices at the Joe DiMaggio building in Hollywood, Florida, Morris Engelberg answered our inquiries about the alleged World Series ring stating, “All I can tell you is that the 1951 ring was stolen from Joe DiMaggio’s hotel room which is well documented (via a police report).” Hauls of Shame has requested a copy of that police report.
As for Halper, Engelberg says, “I was advised by Barry Halper that he purchased it while Mr. DiMaggio was alive. It was shocking to Mr. DiMaggio and me that Mr. Halper never offered it back to Mr. DiMaggio after all the years he played off the name “DiMaggio.”
In regard to the conflicting stories and the appearance of the ring in Hunt Auctions Engelberg responded, “Whatever else happened after that is “trash talk,” everyone having their own story, usually without any valid written proof other than hearsay.”
Engelberg also made a point to state that “The purchaser of stolen property, with full knowledge that the property was stolen, takes no better title to that property than the theif.” Engelberg added that Joe DiMaggio never pursued legal action to recover his property and told us, “The industry would have played it off. Mr. DiMaggio’s image was more important and stood above all else.”