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By Peter J. Nash

February 20, 2014

Heritage is selling what they say is the most important baseball artifact in existence, Babe Ruth's 1923 WS pocket watch. But is it the actual watch that was presented to the Babe in 1923 and why did Barry Halper say he owned one too?

It’s the stuff that legends are made of.

The great “Bambino” passes along one of his treasured World Series awards as a gift to a close friend who, in turn, passes it along to his nephew who used to caddie for the “Sultan of Swat” at a golf course in Queens, New York.  The former caddy’s widow says Babe Ruth was a life-long friend and that her husband even left his own wedding reception to visit the golf course clubhouse where the Babe toasted his nuptials.  Over the years the Babe signed baseballs and photos for the family and at some point they even acquired what they claim is the Babe’s own locker key-tag marked with the number “3.”

It’s a remarkable story and in today’s sports auction landscape its just the type of tale that aggressive auctioneers want to hear when consignors bring them their personal treasures to sell. Just recently the Babe’s 1920 Yankee road jersey was purchased for $4.4 million by movie mogul Thomas Tull so, when someone told Heritage Auctions they had the Babe’s World Series hardware from 1923, auction director Chris Ivy saw dollar signs….big ones.  As reported by the Associated Press, Heritage and Ivy say they have Babe Ruth’s World Series pocket watch from 1923 and they predict it could fetch close to a million dollars at auction thanks to the priceless story attached to it.  It’s just further proof that George Herman “Babe” Ruth is still the king of the billion dollar baseball memorabilia industry.

Up on the auction block at Heritage with an alleged current bid of $425,000 (Heritage regularly places their own house bids on lots in order to get them closer to secret reserves) is a 14k gold Gruen “Verithin Pentagon” pocket watch that was allegedly presented to Babe Ruth in recognition of his first world championship in Yankee pinstripes. The auction house with its headquarters in Dallas, Texas, is pulling out all stops to promote its consignment as the auction catalog states, “As Babe Ruth’s personal award for the first World Championship in New York Yankees franchise history, this is arguably the most important article of sports memorabilia that exists.”  Even Forbes is telling its readers they should buy the Babe’s pocket watch.

It all sounds too good to be true.  All that’s missing is a Heritage press conference introducing the Babe’s old caddie recounting his first person tale of Ruth’s mulligans and his relationship with his hero.  But that’s impossible, since Lewis Fern passed away last August at the ripe old age of 95 with full military honors.  Fern not only caddied for the Babe, but he was also a World War II veteran who served his country as an Army Captain and paratrooper.  Considering the timing of his passing, you might think his heirs are the ones putting his treasured Babe Ruth watch up for sale as part of his estate, but that’s not the case.  That’s where this Ruthian story gets kind of complicated.

Charlie Schwefel was friends with Ruth and was photographed with him in the press (top right). Ruth and Schwefel signed this photo (left) for his nephew, David Fern, whose brother, Lewis Fern, caddied for Ruth when he played at the St. Albans Golf Club in Queens (bottom right). The watch being sold by HA has "To My Pal Charles Schwefel" engraved on the interior case (bottom left). (Photos courtesy of the Fern Family).

Heritage claims that when Ruth was battling cancer in 1948 he “asked his close friend Charlie Schwefel if he might want anything from his collection to remember him by.”  Schwefel, the auction house claims, “Asked for his dying friend’s pocket watch.”  But the story isn’t told by Schwefel or his immediate family because, according to Heritage, Schwefel kept the watch for only two years and then passed it along to his nephew, Lewis Fern, who they say caddied for Ruth many times at the St. Albans Golf Club in Queens, New York, in the 1930’s.  Heritage is relying on a letter of provenance in their possession signed by Fern and they say he “kept the watch for decades until it was privately sold into one of the finest sports collections in the world in 1988, where it has remained hidden away until now.”

In a press release Heritage describes in more detail the watch and its Ruth provenance stating, “The “Babe Ruth” engraving at the upper edge was added by the Babe himself just prior to gifting the symbolic memento to Schwefel. The rear case pops open to reveal further engraving, most notably the original text announcing, “Presented by Baseball Commissioner to George H. Ruth.” Just above we find the rest of Ruth’s late 1940s addition, reading, “To My Pal Charles Schwefel.”

The 1923 Yankee World Series watches were all hand engraved and unique. The details of the heads of each player and the ornamentation surrounding the word "Yankees" illustrate this best (see red highlight). The alleged Ruth watch offered by Heritage (left) is missing areas of engraved shading on each side of the engraved words "World's Champions" on the genuine watches of Yankee exec Ed Barrow

Each of the watches presented to Ruth and his Yankee teammates is an expertly crafted timepiece which incorporates a hand engraved scene of a pitcher tossing a ball to a batter and a catcher.  Every detail depicted on each watch case, ranging from the face of each player to the folds of each uniform, is unique to each timepiece.  But the most notable difference between other genuine 1923 Yankee watches and the Heritage Ruth watch is the two missing sections of engraved shading to the left and right of the “Worlds Champions” inscription.  This shading appears on every watch we examined including examples presented to players Wally Schang, Charles O’Leary and Harvey Hendrick.

Inside the authentic watches, there is yet another section which was engraved in block letters to identify the actual player being honored; it is the only element found on each watch that links it to the ownership of the individual players.  It is also the easiest element for forgers to replicate and transform authentic awards presented to utility players and scrubs into the hardware awarded to the greats of the game.

That being said, Heritage’s Chris Ivy also told the AP, “No one knew where the piece had been. No one has ever seen it for public sale or public auction. The fact that there was no news about it for so many decades, it was just thought that at some point it had been lost to time.”  Considering Ivy’s statement, how could he and Heritage ever know that Babe Ruth personally added engraving for his friend to the watch up for sale?  How could they ever know if Ruth had his own name engraved on the outside case of the watch when none of the other surviving 1923 watches has a players name in the same spot?

Then, add to Heritage’s speculation the fact that the Babe’s own granddaughter, Linda Ruth Tosetti, has long believed that her grandfather’s World Series awards were wrongfully removed from a family safe deposit box at the time of Claire Ruth’s death in 1976.

Not to mention that the 1984 New York Yankees Yearbook featured a list of Yankee partner Barry Halper’s top 29 Ruth items and included “Babe Ruth’s 1923 World Series gold pocket watch” as the number “4″ relic in an article written by Bill Madden.  In 1989, Phil Pepe of the New York Daily News also listed the pocket watch among Halper’s greatest Ruthian treasures.  Halper was obsessed with collecting Ruth items and told Pepe, “People know I’m a fanatic when it comes to Babe Ruth.  So they call me and offer me things.”

The 1984 Yankee Yearbook lists Barry Halper's 1923 Ruth pocket watch as the number "4" item in his Ruth collection. In 1989, the watch was also mentioned as one of Halper's best Ruth items by Phil Pepe of the Daily News.

And if all that’s not enough to spark some speculation about the Heritage offering, there is the long-standing baseball legend which says Leo “The Lip” Durocher was caught stealing one of the Babe’s prized watches from his hotel room when he was with the Yanks in 1925. In his 2001 autobiography, Elden Auker, also claimed that Ruth had a fist-fight with Durocher after he’d caught him stealing marked bills from his hotel room. Years after Ruth’s death Durocher denied ever swiping his watch as he told a reporter, “You didn’t have to steal Babe’s watch,” he said. “If you liked it, he gave it to you.”

So where did this particular 1923 World Series pocket watch come from and what is its actual chain of ownership?  The recent Associated Press report sheds some light on the subject by revealing some information about the current consignor of the watch. AP says, “The present owner, who wished to remain anonymous, declined to be interviewed. He said through Heritage that he acquired the watch for around $200,000 and was parting with it now to help fund charitable organizations important to him.”

Hauls of Shame interviewed Lewis Fern’s son, Dwight Fern, of Atlanta, Georgia, who had a conflicting recollection of the sale of his father’s watch.  When asked if the watch sold for $200,000 Fern said, “That’s not true, he sold it to somebody in Atlanta, I don’t know who, and it wasn’t $200,000, it was like $85,000.  Maybe they passed it on from there.”

The person from Atlanta he sold it to was gynecologist Dr. Goodman Espy III via collector and dealer Darrel O’Mary.  In an interview with Hauls of Shame Espy said he couldn’t remember exactly what he paid for the watch and referred us to Darrell O’Mary who he said had the letter signed by Fern.  O’Mary spoke about the deal and said, “Back in the early days when he was so inspired to build a collection, Dr. Espy didn’t have much knowledge and I sort of became (his) gate keeper for any potential purchases.”  As for the discrepancy on the sales price O’Mary declined comment and said he never owned the Ruth pocket watch and added, “I can not weigh in on that.  I just cannot professionally do it.”  The sale of the watch was one of the largest transactions in baseball memorabilia history at a time when Bill Mastro had just sold his trimmed T206 Honus Wagner for a record price of $110,000.

When we asked O’Mary who actually discovered the watch he said, “I can’t remember if Mr. Fern called me or Dr. Espy but at the time he was excited about it and very liquid and that was by far the most he’d ever spent for an item.  He was thrilled to get it.” Both men were also very comfortable with Lewis Fern’s representations about the watch and O’Mary recalls, “Lewis Fern was just such a gentleman and class individual, we never doubted its authenticity.”  O’Mary says that neither he or Espy were aware at the time of the purchase that Barry Halper claimed he already owned the Babe’s 1923 Series watch.

Lewis Fern (left) sold the 1923 WS watch for at least $85,000 in 1988. In a handwritten note from a family album (center) Fern recalls Ruth giving him the watch which was photographed before it was sold (right).

At the time of the sale O’Mary recorded Fern’s recollections about the watch in his own writing and had Fern sign the document.  This is the same letter that Heritage currently quotes in its lot description but when we asked O’Mary for a copy of that document he declined and said, “Just out of courtesy I’d have to get permission from the auction house.”  O’Mary did, however, confirm that Fern was told “This should have been yours all along” when he was given the watch by the Schwefel family.  O’Mary said, “That actually came out of (Lewis) Fern’s mouth.”

When we asked Heritage’s Chris Ivy for Fern’s “letter of provenance” described in the lot description he refused to produce a copy and replied, “A copy of the letter will be provided to the winning bidder and the description in the catalog accurately reflects its contents.”

Ivy’s reluctance to make the letter public led to our interview of Fern’s widow, Marion Fern, who offered another account which conflicted with the Heritage auction description.  Fern told us the watch was given to her husband by Elsie Schwefel when one of her sons had passed away.  ”My husband was with (Billy Schwefel’s) mother during part of the funeral and evidently she was supposed to give the watch to Billy, that was one of the sons, and Billy had died, so she passed it on to my husband who they were all close with.” Dwight Fern recalled that Schwefel funeral took place in the early 1960’s.

Dwight Fern also noted that he recalled seeing the Ruth pocket watch when he was a child. “I think I was about seven years old, I never saw the engraving to Charlie Schwefel. I never saw that but the rest of the engraving was there.”  Fern provided us with an image taken of the watch when it was still in his father’s possession.  That image shows the “Babe Ruth” engraving on the exterior of the watch but when asked if his father took a picture of the interior engraving Fern said he just learned about that engraving in the Associated Press reports that appeared nationally.  ”I don’t think he did because that was new to me when I read that in the article. The engraving was on the inside and I never opened it up like that,” said Fern.  Also appearing in the picture of the watch was a handwritten note written by Louis Fern that differs from the accounts given by his wife, O’Mary and Heritage.  Fern wrote, “Babe Ruth gave me his World Series (1923) watch-’he liked me’ I caddied for him.”

Television producer and author, Cyndi Todd, of Atlanta, Georgia, has been working on a biography of Lewis Fern called A Paratroopers Purpose and in her interviews with him before his death discussed his relationship with the Babe and the pocket watch.  ”The Babe Ruth story is one of the cornerstones of my book,” said Todd who added, “Lew told me that he got the watch from his Aunt Elsie after his Uncle Charlie passed away.”

The alleged Ruth watch being offered by Heritage (outlined in red) joins seven other surviving and authentic watches that have been sold at public auction. The watches were presented to Yankee players and executives after the 1923 World Series.

While Fern got his watch from his Aunt Elsie, the Yankee players and executives got their gold pocket watches from Judge Landis and it wasn’t until 1927 that the Babe received his first World Series ring. Ruth later added rings with world titles in 1928 and 1932, rounding out his collection with a total of three diamond-studded rings along with the 1923 gold pocket watch.  All of them, except for the Babe’s alleged 1927 ring currently in Charlie Sheen’s possession, had remained AWOL until the 1923 pocket watch recently appeared in an Associated Press report and on the cover of the catalog for Heritage’s “Platinum Night’ auction in New York City on February 22nd.

Authentic and surviving examples of the 1923 Yankee pocket watch created by Gruen are exceedingly scarce and only a handful (approximately eight) have appeared for sale at public auction in the past few decades.  Even the museum at Yankee Stadium could only manage a replica watch for its display.  Genuine examples attributed to Yankee executives Ed Barrow, Mark Roth, Paul Krichell and R. J. Connery, however, have surfaced as well as one presented to team trainer “Doc” Woods.   To date, the only player watches known to have survived in private hands are the ones Judge Landis presented to to Wally Schang, Charles O’Leary and George Pipgras.  In 1991, Sports Illustrated published a story chronicling how Pipgras’ 1923 watch was stolen from him at gunpoint in the 1930’s and found over 50 years later by a pawn shop owner who sold it back to the family for $500.  The Baseball Hall of Fame also has a player watch presented to Harvey Hendrick and another that belonged to Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis.

The engraving on Heritage's Ruth watch (top left) starkly contrasts the engraving found on the genuine watches presented to Yankee executives Ed Barrow, R. J. Connery and Mark Roth.

The “long-lost” example currently being offered by Heritage clearly has a credible provenance story that shows how the watch was transferred from Charlie Schwefel to his nephew Lewis Fern.  There are, however, several inconsistencies in that story that could very well be the product of some exaggeration or family legend that developed over the decades.  Putting that story and those facts aside, however, this 1923 pocket watch has other visible issues totally unrelated to its chain ownership. The most interesting issue appears to be the interior engraving that starkly contrasts the work inscribed into the 14K surfaces of the known genuine examples presented to the Yankee executives.  The next prominent issue is that the Heritage offering has case and movement serial numbers that also do not appear to correspond with all of the other existing 1923 Yankee Gruen watches.

The serial number engraved on the Heritage Ruth watch is not in the same sequence as the numbers engraved on previous authentic watches sold by Heritage which were once presented to Yankee execs Ed Barrow, Mark Roth and R. J. Connery.

The serial number engraved on Heritage’s Ruth watch (1060722) is approximately 3,500 numbers away from the series of numbers found on the other genuine 1923 Yankee watches previously sold by Heritage. Unconfirmed reports state that Gruen sold about 50,000 “Verithin” model watches annually which would mean that the alleged Ruth watch was made months after all of the other known examples.

The serial number on the Gruen movement of the Ruth watch is "526564" while the watch presented to Mark Roth has the number "518470."

In addition, the serial number found on the actual Gruen movement inside the gold case of the Ruth watch is separated from the other known examples by close to 8,000 digits, thus further suggesting the Heritage offering was created well after the others were assembled.  Why?

For comparison, another 14k Gruen Verithin Pentagon pocketwatch was  offered on eBay recently and was engraved with an inscription dated “March 25, 1925.”  The watch was a 21st birthday present and was accompanied by the original presentation box and the Gruen certificate which included the record of its $100 sales price.

A similar Gruen Verithin watch was offered on eBay and was inscribed with a date of March 1925. The case number was "1070849" and the movement number was "541668." The watch came with its original papers and was priced at $100 in 1925.

The case number on the watch, which was presented and engraved in March of 1925, was “1070849″ and the watch movement serial number was “541668.”  The Yankee watches were presented to the players on Opening Day which fell on April 23, 1924.  With the known genuine Yankee watches having case numbers ranging between “1057335″ and “1057343″ and movement numbers in the “518470″ range, the 1925 eBay watch further suggests that the Heritage Ruth watch was assembled after the other Yankee watches were created because its case number is “1060722″ and its movement number is “526564.”

The Gruen Watch Company was founded in the late 19th century and at the time the Yankees were presented with their watches, Fred Gruen had already taken control of the Cincinnati company after the death of his father who founded the company.  All of the Gruen watch cases and movements were imported from Switzerland and assembled in Ohio and Toronto.  A local Cincinnati jeweler named Frank Herschede was the dealer who actually sold Baseball the Gruen watches as referenced in a Cincinnati newspaper that published an image of one of the Yankee watches before they were presented by Judge Landis.

In January 1924 the New York Times reported the Yankee World Series watches might be presented to the team at Spring Training (left). Yank exec Paul Krichell's 1923 Yankee watch survived with its original presentation box from Cincinnati jeweler Frank Herschede. An item from a 1924 Cincinnati newspaper (right) illustrated one of the engraved watches sold by the firm.

It is possible that the Gruen watches sold by Herschede were chosen by the Commissioner’s office because the Chairman of Baseball’s National Commission, August Herrmann, had been based in Cincinnati since the turn of the century and Herschede was also a stockholder in his Cincinnati Reds franchise.  The August Herrmann Papers collection at the National Baseball Library includes files of correspondence from Herschede as well as the papers of Judge Landis and his office during 1923 and 1924.  It’s possible there might be some additional documentation of Landis’ purchase of the watches for the Yankees, however, the National Baseball Library has been closed to the public since two key library employees, Tim Wiles and Freddie Berowski, recently left the Hall to take positions at other libraries.

That being said, when we questioned Heritage’s Chris Ivy regarding the fact that the interior engraving on the Ruth watch contrasted the engraving found on other executive and player watches, Ivy claimed to have documentation in his possession proving the watch was the exact same one presented to Ruth by Judge Landis on Opening Day 1924.

The NY Times reported Judge Landis cancelled the Yankee watch ceremony on Opening Day (1924) but later reports (center) show that he did present them. Jacob Ruppert also gave gold watch fobs to his champs (right).

“In addition to the Fern letter, we also have correspondence from the period that not only confirms that the watch is engraved exactly as instructed by the Yankees organization and the Commissioner’s office, but provides additional data and facts that support that the watch that we are offering is 100% authentic and was the watch issued to Babe Ruth for the 1923  NY Yankees championship,” said Ivy in an email.  Ivy, however, is not willing to make that information or the Fern letter public and added,”We also have data that ties this Ruth watch to the other presented 1923 championship watches in a very specific and clear manner.”  According to Ivy the only person or persons who will be privy to this information are, “the winning bidder as well as any interested and qualified bidders that contact us prior to the auction close.”

While Ivy and Heritage have issued strong statements about their evidence, they still have no answer for the past claims that Barry Halper once owned Ruth’s 1923 pocket watch.  With the inconsistencies in the known provenance stories and the fact that Heritage is apparently unwilling to share information they claim proves Ruth was presented their watch on Opening Day 1924, we can only look to the surviving pocket watches to try and unravel the mystery of Ruth’s Yankee bling.

We consulted with one of the nation’s top experts on Gruen watches and presented him with all of the evidence we’ve compiled related to the ten Yankee watches known to have survived.   Charlie Cleves, from Bellevue, Kentucky, is the owner of Cleves and Lonnemann Jewelers and is also one of the few people in the country who have acheived the rank of “Certified Master Watchmaker 21st Century (CNW21)” after passing testing administered by the American Watchmaker and Clockmaker Institute’s Board of Examiners.  Cleves, who also has his own collection of Gruen “Pentagon” watches, examined images of all the known examples focusing on the engraving and manufacturing elements of each timepiece.

Cleves began with his analysis of the inconsistencies in the engraving and although he was somewhat concerned with the contrasting engraving on the Ruth watch told us, “Gruen had at least ten different engravers on their line during this time period and they would have different styles in their work.  The engraving alone isn’t enough to rule this out.”

As far as the great disparity in the serial numbers on the watch movements as compared to the other Yankee executive watches Cleves said, “I would expect the movement serial number to fall in line with the other ones, but this discrepency could be explained away by the fact that Gruen would put a new movement in your watch if you sent it in for repairs.”  So that could explain that issue.

But when it came to the the 3,500-plus number disparity in the serial numbers of the actual gold watch case and the known executive watches, Cleves told us, “I’m very concerned with this aspect.”  Cleves did determine that all of the Yankee watches were made during 1924 but then added, “The simpler, more probable explanation is that it is a slightly higher case and movement number and it was made four or five months after the original ones.”  The original ones Cleves was referring to were the Yankee executive watches sold by Heritage in previous sales.   Cleves added, “Did he lose his watch or decide he needed a second one?”

Watch expert Charlie Cleves (inset) was able to determine the dates the 1923 Yankee watches were manufactured by examining the serial numbers on the watch cases.

If Cleves’ analysis is correct and the Yankee executive watches inscribed “Presented by New York Yankees” were made at the same time as the player watches inscribed “Presented by the Commissioner,” then it is highly improbable that the million-dollar Heritage watch given to Lewis Fern is the same watch presented to the Bambino on April 24, 1924.  Based upon Cleves analysis, could the pocket watch have been a second one ordered by Ruth or the Yankees?  When we asked Daryl O’Mary what he thought about the conflicting serial numbers he told us, “Let’s just say if this could have been a duplicate watch, I’m confident that Lewis Fern knew nothing about it.”  As for the contrasting engraving issues O’Mary added, “I know Dr. Espy has not had any type of engraving added to it, I would swear under oath to that.”

Since everything seems to boil down to the actual 14k gold case serial numbers, is it possible that the Yankee executive watches were made months before the watches presented to the Yankees on Opening Day?  One more mystery tied to this Ruthian saga is the fact that none of the Yankee player watches sold at public auction have included any images of the engraving and serial numbers found on the interior cases.  Neither Lelands or Hunt Auctions provided photos in three different sales of Wally Schang’s watch.  Hunt never pictured the interior case on trainer “Doc” Woods’ watch in 2004 and Charles O’Leary’s watch sold by Barry Halper at Sotheby’s in 1999 also failed to include a picture of the case.  We couldn’t find any images of the other 1923 Ruth watch that Halper claimed to own in the 1984 Yankee Yearbook.  That being said, many of Halper’s prominent Ruth artifacts ranging from his rookie Red Sox uniform to a lock of his hair have been exposed as counterfeits in reports that we published at Deadspin and the New York Post.

The Babe’s own granddaughter, Linda Ruth Tosetti, has been doing her own tracking of her family’s lost heirlooms and told us she called the Baseball Hall of Fame and found that they had only one player watch in the collection which was presented to Harvey Hendrick.  Tosetti, however, could not determine what the serial number was.  ”The Hall of Fame told me it was either out on loan or in a display case and that it wasn’t possible to get the numbers,” said Tosetti.

Tosetti even called up the grandson of Babe’s old teammate George Pipgras to see if he could share the serial number on the watch returned to his family after being stolen in the 1930’s.  When Tosetti called Pipgras’ grandson, George Simpson in Inverness, Florida, he was unwilling to help solve the mystery and said his son in Jacksonville had the 1923 watch and Pipgras’ 1927 Series ring and that he was also unwilling to help.  Tosetti told us, “He just blew me off and actually hung up on me. Geez, if Babe was alive to hear this he’d give them a piece of his mind.  Here’s a family that recovered their watch due to the generosity of others and this is how they act?”

Linda Ruth-Tosetti (left) has been searching for Babe's World Series awards; Dr. Goodman Espy and his ex-wife Cheryl (center); Heritage CEO, Steve Ivy (right).

Hauls of Shame also contacted the Pipgras-Simpson family and attempted to get a confirmation on the case serial number from George W. “Pip” Simpson, but the undercover cop who was recently in the news after shooting a suspect in a drug bust declined comment.  George Simpson Sr. told us he hung up on the Babe’s granddaughter because he didn’t believe it was really her.  ”How am I supposed to tell if it was really her,” said Simpson.  Without any confirmation on the case serial numbers on the Pipgras, O’Leary, Schang and Hendrick awards, we still can’t be sure that the watch Heritage is offering is the Babe’s first Yankee hardware. Unfortunately, this mystery will continue until this information is researched further and verified. Could Heritage have confirmed this information and still be holding it back from prospective bidders and the general public?  If it is revealed that the case numbers on player watches are close to the “1060722″ number on Ruth’s watch its safe to say that Lewis Fern really did have the genuine article.  This mystery would be solved.

One thing that is not a mystery, however, is the fact that Heritage Auctions may not even have clear title to sell their million-dollar Ruthian treasure.  In the course of our interview with consignor Dr. Goodman Espy he asked that his name not appear in our report because he had not revealed his ownership of the 1923 watch in a recent divorce proceeding with his ex-wife Cheryl Petros Espy of Atlanta, Georgia.  When we simply asked Heritage’s Chris Ivy for the Fern letter and pointed out the inconsistencies in the engraving he threatened Hauls of Shame on Espy’s behalf stating, “Should you move forward to write and publish an article that includes inaccurate, misleading, and/or irresponsible speculation that causes financial harm, or otherwise, to our consignor, then you will simply be opening yourself up to further legal repercussions should he choose to pursue them.”

In response, we asked Heritage’s CEO, Steve Ivy, if he knew about the Espy divorce and if the auction house had verified that their client had clear title to offer the watch for sale.  We also asked Ivy to address the prior claims made by Barry Halper that he actually owned Babe Ruth’s 1923 watch four years before Espy did?  Ivy did not respond to our inquiry.

When contacted at her home in Atlanta, the consignor’s ex-wife, Cheryl Petros Espy, confirmed that her husband did not disclose his ownership of the Ruth pocket watch in their divorce proceeding but declined further comment.

(If you own the 1923 Babe Ruth World Series watch Barry Halper claimed to have in the 1980s or if you own another 1923 Yankee player watch with visible serial numbers please contact us at:  Tips@Haulsofshame.com )

UPDATE (Feb 21): Heritage Auctions posted this update to the lot description of the 1923 World Series Pocket Watch:

1923 New York Yankees World Championship Watch Presented to Babe Ruth. Update: We are pleased to announce that in addition to a copy of the original signed letter of provenance from Lewis Fern, we have added the following documentation to the files that will accompany the watch:

1) Copies of fourteen pages of correspondence between the New York Yankees, the office of the Commissioner of Baseball and the watch company dating from late 1923 to early 1924 regarding the ordering of Championship watches. The precise manner of engraving is confirmed by this paperwork, as are the details of the watches’ construction that are specific to the 1923 championship watch order. Only eleven of the thirty-nine watches delivered to the team exhibit a full first name and middle initial as requested in the letter. George H. Ruth is one of those eleven.

2) A letter of provenance from the son of Lewis Fern, who sold the watch to our consignor over twenty years ago. This letter confirms all details of the elder Fern’s own letter of provenance as well as the fact that the watch remains identical in appearance to his earliest recollections of it as a child in the 1950’s.

3) We have discovered that the Championship watches issued to the 1923 Yankees, both front office and player versions, were very lightly hand-scratched with a five-digit code beneath the serial number. The codes are represented by a “46XXX” number and are consistent on all inspected examples, including the Ruth representation. We have determined that this coding was done prior to presentation to the recipients and appears to be present only on Yankee watches and absent on all other Gruen Verithin Pentagon examples we have located in our research. We will include photographic imagery of the other known Yankee watches to illustrate this trait that links each to the same specific population.

UPDATE (Feb 22): Hauls of Shame presented watch expert Charlie Cleves with Heritage’s updated information concerning the 5-digit numerals and he responded saying:

“The number inscribed underneath the serial number is usually put on by jewelry stores or watchmakers who work on watches.   In this case it could have been put on by Herschede Jewelers when the hand engraving was done if they were the ones who engraved the cases and not the factory.  If it is a job number put on by the jeweler and this watch was made the same time as the other one then the numbers would all be sequential. If there is a gap between this watch and the rest of them then I would think it was made at a later date (4 or 5 months later).  It could be a number put on by Herschede to track the watch for warranty purposes.  We still put a number very small on every watch we sell. We can always look up the number and know exactly what the price was, date of purchase and the person who bought it.  So if it was something that Herschede routinely did then it would also be on a watch they made later and have a slightly higher number than the other ones.”

We then asked, “Would the actual serial number on the case be the most accurate element to determine the date of manufacturing?

Cleves responded:

“We can date watches we sold by our numbers we put in them going all the way back to 1932.  The biggest problem arises from the fact that some watches sat 10 years in our showcase before they were sold to the customer.  When you look up some of the Bulova watches that are date coded with the year of manufacturing  it will be coded 1966(m6) and our card may say we sold it in 1972. Once Herschede went out of business I’m sure all of there files were destroyed. When the companies were going strong their serial numbers would be the best way to date a watch. Gruen was definitely tops in their field in the 20’s.”


By Peter J. Nash
February 10, 2014

Heritage's Chris Ivy (bottom right) is selling Roger Connor's payroll receipt (center) which was sent to the HOF in 1970 by sportswriter Red Foley (top left). Lew Lipset (top right) sold the same doc in 1989 when he was partners with HA's Mike Gutierrez (inset, center right).

As Hall of Famer Yogi Berra once said: “It’s Deja-vu all over again.”

Last year Hauls of Shame published an investigative report about the Baseball Hall of Fame thefts which identified several rare documents believed stolen from Cooperstown and traced them back to hobby veteran Lew Lipset and his Four Base Hits auctions back in 1989 and 1990.

The report included a copy of a 1970 letter sent by Hall director Ken Smith to New York sportswriter Red Foley acknowledging the receipt of fourteen 19th century New York Giant payroll receipts bearing the ultra-rare signatures of several Hall of Famers including Mickey Welch, Buck Ewing, James O’Rourke, Jesse Burkett and Roger Connor.

Now, one of those same documents, the signed Roger Connor receipt, has surfaced in Heritage Auction Galleries’ Platinum Night event scheduled in New York City for February 22nd.  Like the Buck Ewing receipt from the same group, which sold for over $35,000 in a Mastro Auction in 2004, the Connor document represents an extremely valuable autographed rarity which could command a sales price of $50,000.  Heritage describes the document as “just the third representation to surface in the modern collecting hobby.”

The problem is, the document also fits the exact description of a signed Roger Connor receipt sent to the Hall in 1970 by Red Foley and the auctioneer who sold that same Connor autograph in 1989 for $3,800 has no recollection of where he acquired the document, along with the others including O’Rourke, Ewing  and Welch.  The document sent by Foley (and the others) are all currently missing from the National Baseball Library.

In a 1970 letter addressed to Red Foley, HOF Director Ken Smith acknowledged the receipt of a group of (14) New York team payroll documents signed by HOFers including Roger Connor.

When Hauls of Shame interviewed Lew Lipset last year he confirmed that he sold the rare Giant documents and also revealed that the winning bidder on a few of the lots was auctioneer Duane Garrett from Richard Wolfers Auctions. Lipset said that the Buck Ewing document sold for $3,625 in September of 1989 and the O’Rourke and Welch receipts sold for $4,500 and $4,400 respectively early in 1990.  The Ewing document was subsequently authenticated and encapsulated by PSA/DNA and sold in a 2004 Mastro Auction and currently appears on the PSA “Autograph Facts” website as an exemplar of Ewing’s signature. When asked about the sale price of the Connor autograph, Lipset said he did not have any information indicating the price realized in his November 1990 sale.

Heritage is selling this payroll receipt signed by HOFer Roger Connor in the 2014 Platunum Night Auction in New York City on February 22nd.

When Lipset offered the documents for sale he noted that the ends of the documents were trimmed or clipped. When he sold the Buck Ewing autograph Lipset noted the document was “Partially cut at right, not affecting signature.”  As we reported last year, it is likely that the documents were cut to remove the National Baseball Library accession information which would have indicated the year of donation and the sequence of the item’s donation during that time period.

In regard to his acquisition of the rare autographs Lipset told us, “I remember when I got ‘em. It was one of those too good to be true things. I didn’t give a thought to the fact that they could be stolen.”  But as for who he acquired the stolen documents from Lipset responded, “I have no recollection where I got these but I remember I was suspicious not because of the origin but if they were real and I brought them to Mike Gutierrez, who told me they were good. It is also my recollection that they were in my collection for a few years before I sold them, so I would have purchased them a few years before the auctions.” We also asked Lipset if he had any records that might show the identity of the seller and he answered, “I have no check records from that far back, so I have no idea.”

Payroll receipts signed by Ewing, Welch, O'Rourke, Burkett and Connor (left) are all identified in the 1970 HOF letter to Red Foley. All except the Burkett also appeared in Lew Lipset's auctions in 1989 and 1990 (right)

Lipset, however, also revealed that he had a partnership at that time with Mike Gutierrez, who is now well-known as the prime suspect in the 1980’s Hall of Fame thefts and the subject of an FBI investigation due to the fact he sold a stolen Babe Ruth photo to New York dealer Josh Evans in 1988.  According to ex-Hall employees the investigation was dropped because the institution feared bad publicity and backlash from past and future donors of artifacts to the museum. Gutierrez is currently working for Heritage’s Chris Ivy as one of his consignment directors.

Lipset and Gutierrez have a long history of partnering on memorabilia deals and the purchases of collections over the years.  Gutierrez even served as the point-man for Lipset’s autograph survey published in the late 1980s in his hobby newsletter, The Old Judge.  In one of his surveys Lipset also reveals that Gutierrez made several trips to the Hall of Fame to seek out exemplars for the survey and autograph price guide published in Lipset’s Old Judge newsletter.

In our report last year, we asked Lipset about his relationship with Gutierrez and he indicated that both men have not spoken in years.  But Lipset did recall the days when they were close and even mentioned taking a trip to the National Baseball Library with Gutierrez in the late 1980s.  Lipset told us, “The one time I went to the Hall with Mike, we weren’t there very long.  We were in Tom Heitz’ office discussing Mike’s idea and I don’t believe anywhere else.  I don’t think Mike was off by himself, but then I don’t really remember.”  The “idea” Lipset mentioned was a proposal Gutierrez made to Hall officials to permit him access to contact information for Hall of Fame families and relatives in order to purchase memorabilia and then donate portions of those purchases to the Hall since the museum is not permitted to purchase artifacts.

Mike Gutierrez (left) was suspected of stealing items from the National Baseball Library (center, left) in the 1980s and made a trip with Lew Lipset (right, center) to meet with NBL librarian Tom Heitz. Chris Ivy of Heritage (right) has sold items stolen from the NBL.

The museum policy that bars the Hall from buying material directly was actually referred to in the 1970 letter sent by Ken Smith to Red Foley.  In that letter, Smith made it clear to Foley that the generosity of the donor, a friend of Foley’s cousin identified as “Mrs. McSherry,” was greatly appreciated.  Smith wrote,  ”The museum does not purchase display and library material” and made a point to thank Foley upon his receipt of the documents in Cooperstown: “I certainly appreciate yours and your cousin’s kindness in remembering the Hall of Fame as a place where these signatures would be welcome.”

The revelation in our report published last year of Smith’s letter to Foley being found in the Hall of Fame files should have prompted Hall officials to investigate the situation and report the loss to the authorities.  All items donated to the Hall are property of New York State, not the Hall of Fame or the Clark family who founded the institution in the 1930s.   When we asked if the accession records could be reviewed to confirm the 1970 donation of the payroll documents Hall spokesman Brad Horn denied us access to the records and would not reveal if the Hall was in possession of other similar receipts as the 1970 letter to Foley indicated that there may have been additional “coupons” in Mrs. McSherry’s possession.

The failure of the Hall of Fame to properly report thefts and safeguard the treasures they have been entrusted to protect and preserve was illuminated even more when a CDV photograph of the 1870 Philadelphia Athletics, which was verified as stolen from the National Baseball Library, was sold at Legendary Auctions in 2012.  Despite our production of unimpeachable photographic evidence proving the photo was stolen from the library, Hall of Fame officials did nothing to either claim title to or challenge the sale of the donated artifact.  The A’s CDV had been photographed by the Society For American Baseball Research (SABR) in 1983 while it was still part of the Hall of Fame’s collection.  The rare card ended up selling for about $1,600 (about $8,000 less than a legitimate one Legendary sold in 2010).

An 1886 cabinet photo of the NY Giants was photographed at the NBL in 1983 by SABR (left). The same albumen print (removed and remounted) then appeared in auctions conducted by Lew Lipset in 2006 and Heritage in 2010. The 1983 photo and the current auction photos show the exact same unique imperfections highlighted in red.

That CDV had no direct link to Mike Gutierrez or Lew Lipset and first appeared at auction in a 1994 Robert Edward Auctions sale conducted by Rob Lifson the self-confessed institutional thief who was apprehended stealing CDV’s at the New York Public Library in the late 1970s.  Other items photographed by SABR in 1983 do, however, appear to be Hall of Fame property and have been sold in auctions conducted by Lew Lipset.  Lipset sold 1886 and 1894 cabinet photos of the NY Giants team and a Horner portrait of John J. McGraw that appear on contact sheets from SABR’s 1983 photo-shoot at the Hall.

When we asked Lipset back in December of 2012 where he acquired the 1886 Giant team cabinet photo his response was identical to the answer he gave about the 19th century payroll receipts.  Lipset again told us, “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.”  After Lipset unloaded the photo in his own sale it ended up selling again at Heritage who auctioned the same cabinet card for over $10,000.

Lipset’s past partnership with Gutierrez and his handling of items stolen from the Hall with no recollection whatsoever of how he came into possession of them has created a body of circumstantial evidence that would lead many to believe he knew the items he was selling were stolen.   Our research indicates there are many more suspect items that Lipset and Guttierrez have been partners on.  One of those items is Keith Olbermann’s $63,000 Harry Wright cricket CDV that was removed from Robert Edward Auctions sale last year.  That CDV was purchased by Lipset and Gutierrez at a 1989 Butterfield & Butterfield auction as part of a photo album alleged to have originated from Wright family relatives.  But the album had no verifiable Wright provenance and Gutierrez was the auction consultant for Butterfield at the time. Gutierrez also alerted Lipset that the photos were being sold and asked that he front the money to purchase them. Lipset confirmed this last year when he told us, “I do remember the Butterfield auction. Mike was working for Butterfield as a consultant and he called me with a description of the album. I told him to “buy it”. We were partners on it.”

A Harry Wright CDV found in a family photo album is suspected to have been stolen from the HOF and other letters written to August Herrmann have been removed from Heritage Auctions after being identified as stolen letters.

The evidence, however, suggests that the CDV album may have belonged to Harry Wright’s brother George and may also have been part of a very substantial donation Wright’s son Irving Wright made to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1941.  Its just another situation where Gutierrez and Lipset are linked to items suspected to have been stolen with no verifiable or legitimate provenance.  The same could be said for Gutierrez’ employer Heritage Auctions which has removed and also sold numerous documents believed to have been stolen from the Hall of Fame’s famous August Herrmann Papers Collection.

Despite all of the evidence suggesting the links between Gutierrez and Lipset and stolen items like the signed Roger Connor document in the current Heritage sale, the Baseball Hall of Fame continues to violate its charter by failing to protect and recover the artifacts entrusted to their care.  The Hall’s failure to pursue recovery and establish title for items stolen from its library has not yet prompted the filing of any action against the museum by the office of the New York State Attorney General.  The Hall of Fame’s Director of Communications, Craig Muder, responded to our inquiry about the Heritage sale and said, “The Museum has no comment on this.”

In response to our inquiry, Chris Ivy sent us this answer (in its entirety) via email:

“Heritage has no interest in selling stolen collectibles. Every consignor to our auctions signs a consignment agreement noting that they have legal claim of ownership and that is the case with this item as well. On rare occasion, we are contacted by authorities drawing legal ownership into question.  Certainly if the Baseball Hall of Fame or any governmental agency were to contact us about this item we would take the appropriate steps.  This has not happened.  I can assure that we will not sell this item if any evidence supporting your claims of disputed ownership is supplied by the parties in question.”

HOS asked Heritage CEO, Steve Ivy (left) and his son, Chris Ivy (right) to comment on the auction house's offering of the Connor document and the links HA employee and Antiques Roadshow appraiser, Mike Gutierrez, has to the Hall of Fame thefts.

In response, Hauls of Shame sent Ivy and his father, Heritage founder and CEO, Steve Ivy this email (in its entirety):

“In regard to the issue of disputed ownership I published an excerpt from a letter written by HOF director Ken Smith in 1970 which specifically documented his receipt and possession of a group of NY Baseball Club pay receipts.  That document identifies a signed Roger Connor receipt and several others sent to the Hall by Red Foley. I cannot locate any such Connor receipt (or any others) in the collection of the National Baseball Library. You describe the Connor receipt as an “elite rarity” that was “located in the archives of the New York Giants.”  What evidence or information do you have to support your stated claim that this document was in a New York Giant archive? Where was that archive?  What research has the auction house conducted to assure its bidders that this item is legitimate?

You do realize your consignor’s claim of title is meaningless considering the same item was offered previously by Lew Lipset who claims he has no idea where he acquired the document before it was sold his own auction.  I should also note that Mr. Lipset claims to have accompanied your employee Mike Gutierrez on a trip to the National Baseball Library shortly before the time he sold the Connor check in his own auction and had Gutierrez authenticate the signature for him.

Considering the rarity of the item and the dubious provenance beginning with Lew Lipset’s sale of the same Connor receipt are you still comfortable selling it?

Or is it that, even if it appears to be stolen from the Hall of Fame, Heritage is fine with selling the document simply because the Hall will not claim title and dispute the sale (as has been the case with numerous other items that you have even previously removed from sales)?  I understand your dilemma regarding the Hall not disputing the sale, but wouldn’t the strong evidence supporting the claim that this is the property of New York State, deter Heritage from even getting involved with the sale of such an item?

When Legendary Auctions recently offered an 1870 CDV of the Phila A’s we published an article showing the exact same item (with the same unique imperfections) documented as HOF property in a photograph taken by SABR inside the museum in 1983.  Even with that overwhelming evidence the HOF declined to claim title or dispute the sale.  Is it Heritage’s belief that the inaction of the Hall in regard to past items like the A’s CDV has now somehow made these items free and clear of future title issues for your customers?

Aren’t you really just saying that even if an item is identified as stolen you have no problem selling it because the victim of the theft is not pursuing recovery?  Just wanted you to clarify that based on your statement that Heritage “has no interest in selling stolen collectibles.”  If the Hall doesn’t pursue recovery of a stolen item, isn’t it still stolen?

I have been blocked by Hall officials from viewing the museum accession records from 1970 to identify the donation number assigned to the Connor receipt in 1970.  Have you attempted to access that information from the Hall of Fame?  Do you feel an obligation to contact the Hall of Fame considering the evidence suggesting this document was stolen from the Hall’s archive?”

Steve Ivy responded to our inquiry via email:

“We have an obligation to both the consignor, and any potential buyer, as covered by our consignment agreement, and terms of sale. As outlined in Chris’s email, we also have an obligation to deal with any 3rd party that may have a claim, and we do so when such situations occur.  We can’t address what ultimately amounts to conjecture, as you are asking us to do, as that may harm the consignor who has warranted good title. As you are aware, we also warrant good title to any potential buyer, and clearly have the financial wherewithal to back it up. You obviously have no standing in this matter. Your continued attempts to create issues where none exist (at least to our knowledge) to promote your own interests is transparent to all who know you.”

It appears Ivy believes an item still has good title even if the prior seller claims he has no idea where he acquired the item and was also partners with the prime suspect in the Hall of Fame thefts at the time he sold it.  Ivy also fails to address Heritage’s prior sale of the $10,000 cabinet photo of the 1886 Giants which was stolen from the Hall of Fame and also previously sold by Lew Lipset.  Ivy is also aware that Lipset could not recall where he acquired that stolen item either.  Ivy appears to have no problem with his company selling stolen property.

We responded to Ivy and asked for one more clarification:  ”Based upon your response is it safe to say you and your son Chris just made that thing up about the Connor receipt being “located in the archives of the New York Giants”?

Incident reports related to the New York BBC payroll receipts, including the Roger Connor receipt, are said to have been filed with Chief Michael Covert of the Cooperstown Police Department.  Lew Lipset, who recently retired from the hobby as an active dealer and auctioneer, was contacted last night at his home in Carefree, Arizona, and still had no recollection where he picked up the Connor autograph.  When asked if he had figured out how he acquired the $250,000 worth of signed documents since we spoke last year Lipset replied, “I still don’t remember.”  Lipset is said to be working on a hobby memoir chronicling his career as a dealer and collector since the 1970s.  It is not clear whether Lipset’s memoir will reveal more about his relationship with Mike Gutierrez or the source of the 19th-century payroll receipts he sold in his own auctions.


By Peter J. Nash
February 3, 2014

Robert Fraser (top l.) and John McDaniel III (top r.) slandered John Rogers after an FBI search yielded fake jerseys owned by Barry Halper (bottom r.) and sold by Rob Lifson (bottom l.).

The big hobby news last week next to the Eli Manning memorabilia scandal was the FBI search of the Arkansas home and office of longtime hobbyist John Rogers. Sources with knowledge of the investigation confirmed that agents from the Chicago office of the FBI working on the Mastro case led the search which yielded a trove of memorabilia including items sold by REA and SCP and other bogus flannels sold to Rogers by New Jersey auctioneer Rob Lifson.  A report tonight from Arkansas also reports that some items have already been returned to Rogers.

The group of baseball jerseys seized in the raid were once part of the collection of hobby fraudster and Lifson associate Barry Halper and were items that authenticators rejected at the time Lifson sold Halper’s collection at Sotheby’s in 1999. Included were several bogus jerseys that Halper held out to the public as genuine including jerseys he falsely claimed were worn by Lou Gehrig at Columbia University and Hartford.

A source told us that employees of Rogers’ business indicated the search was “professional and civil” and that the agents were “very accommodating.”  Another source who witnessed the search said the visit had “absolutely nothing to do with the Rogers Photo Archive business” and only dealt with memorabilia collected by Mr. Rogers.   News outlets in Arkansas reported that the FBI took possession of at least ten boxes of materials and Hauls of Shame has since learned that inside some of those boxes were items attributed to baseball pioneer Henry Chadwick. Rogers also purchased that material from Lifson in 2009 as part of a $550,000 court-ordered and forced sale of property that once belonged to this writer.  It is not known what specific Chadwick-related materials were taken by the FBI but Rogers’ original purchase included assorted types of ephemera, documents and scrapbooks.  Rogers declined to comment on the FBI searches of his home and business.

Back in 2011 when this writer published a front page expose on Barry Halper in the New York Post, the Lifson sale to Rogers was described in more detail at Hauls of Shame:

“…that collection of material was sold by the same auction house for over $500,000, which paid down the judgment considerably.  It should also be noted that the same auction house made claims challenging the authenticity of items in that collection. Despite these claims, Rob Lifson sold the entire group of material to a collector who states that Lifson positively promoted the items and touted them as historically significant.  When asked by the buyer if there were any items he could point to that were deemed inauthentic, Lifson told him he was not aware of any.  The auction house also charged the buyer a premium of nearly $100,000 as a sellers fee…”

In addition to the material Rogers purchased from REA, the FBI also took custody of a Grey Flannel-authenticated Jackie Robinson warm-up jacket and a PSA-slabbed Babe Ruth cut signature that were recently sold to Rogers by David Kohler of SCP Auctions. One of Rogers’ employees said the collector purchased the jacket for $21,000 and the Ruth autograph for over $8,000.  Rounding out the items taken by agents were blank Dale Murphy baseball bats and a signed Derek Jeter jersey from Steiner Sports among other items.  Sources indicate that the other bogus jerseys Rogers purchased from Lifson and Sharon Halper (widow of Barry Halper and current owner/partner of the New York Yankees) included fakes attributed to George Wright, “Iron Man” McGinnity and many other Hall of Famers.  Reports from the scene confirmed that the FBI had not removed any of the 200 million photographs found in the Rogers Archive.  An auction executive we spoke with also said, “I don’t think (the search) relates to the photos.”

Sources also indicate that when Lifson sold the Halper jerseys to Rogers he stated they did not pass authentication by Grey Flannel in 1999, but that he believed many of them, including a bogus Lou Gehrig jersey, were authentic.  Grey Flannel’s Andy Imperato, Richard Russek and Lifson, however, also authenticated and sold hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of other fakes at Sotheby’s in the Halper sale including jerseys attributed to Ed Delahanty, Cap Anson, Buck Ewing, John J. McGraw, Wilbert Robinson, Hugh Jennings, Jimmy Collins, Jim Thorpe, Stan Musial, Mickey Mantle and a host of others.  The Halper fakes had bogus provenance stories attached to them that were also fabricated by Barry Halper and similar to other false statements he gave to Major League Baseball and the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998 when he sold them a counterfeit jersey, bat and glove he said once belonged to “Shoeless” Joe Jackson.

An FBI search of John Rogers' office and home yielded a fake Lou Gehrig Columbia jersey (left) once owned by Barry Halper (bottom right); Henry-Chadwick (inset) related items Rogers purchased from REA; and blank baseball bats (top middle); a Jackie Robinson jacket (top r.) and a Babe Ruth autograph (bottom r.)

Soon after the FBI search took place collectors with close ties to Lifson and REA gathered at the collector forum Net54 to proceed to attack Rogers who also owns one of the worlds largest photograph collections housed in the Rogers Archive. The forum, which also counts Rogers as a member, is moderated by convicted felon and former drug dealer Leon Luckey, who also co-owns Brockelman & Luckey Auctions.  Luckey’s forum served as a platform for collectors to take shots at Rogers and publish false claims made in an attempt to link him to forgeries sold by the notorious Coaches Corner Auctions.

Collector John McDaniel III, of Philadelphia PA., a close associate and loyal customer of auctioneer Rob Lifson, kicked off the slander session by posting a 2009 Sports Collectors Digest article which claimed that Rogers had consigned a baseball signed by Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig to Coaches Corner Auctions, the outfit notorious for selling outlandish fakes and frauds at discounted prices. After posting the 2009 SCD page McDaniel presented Rogers as a Coaches Corner consignor and wrote, “Hmmm…Coaches Corner….memorabilia….connected to a person known and accused for bogus memorabilia.”

Net54 moderator Dan Bretta then chimed in and added, “There’s only one reason someone consigns something to CC…they know it’s a fake” and also stated, “(I) really had no idea that John Rogers was mixed up with CC (Coaches Corner).”

The comments posted by McDaniel and Bretta were then met by another written by attorney Adam Warshaw suggesting that Rogers was not only a Coaches Corner consignor but compared him to admitted criminal Bill Mastro and accused him of actual criminal activity as he wrote, “Maybe he (Rogers) is the criminal mastermind behind everything. Mastro shmastro, it was Mr Rogers’ neighborhood.”

Jay Miller, a prominent collector and co-author of The Photographic Baseball Cards Of Goodwin & Co., contributed his own post saying the accusations that Rogers is a supplier to Coaches Corner were “Hilarious.” But McDaniel, Bretta, Warshaw and others failed to reveal the shortcomings of the SCD article and the veracity of the accusations they leveled in the public forum.  As confirmed by Net54 member Shelly Jaffe, the Coaches Corner LOA was a fake too.  Rogers never consigned material to Coaches Corner Auctions and was, in fact, a victim of fraud at the hands of either an unknown third party or the auction house itself.  The SCD article was patently false and the ball was never owned by Rogers who never did business with the notorious auction house.

Jaffe was the only Net54 member to point out that the Coaches Corner LOA’s were forgeries and that Rogers had nothing to do with them.  ”He (Rogers) received an email from me asking if that piece of garbage was his. He emailed CC and they took it down. He said someone used his cert. It was so bad I had to think he really had nothing to do with it.”  In addition, one Net54 member who requested to remain anonymous told Hauls of Shame, “These guys are jealous of Rogers and Rogers has ruffled a lot of feathers over the years.   We all know those Coaches Corner LOAs are fakes just like the memorabilia in their auctions.  But that didn’t stop them from throwing him under the bus with false accusations.”  In regard s to the Net54 free for all Jaffe added, “Once the chumming begins you have no idea how many sharks are on here.”  Rogers declined comment for this article when we contacted him last Friday.

The common thread linking the individuals who are slandering Rogers appears to be Rob Lifson and Robert Edward Auctions.  John McDaniel III is a Lifson fan-boy and purchased over $165,000 worth of material in REA’s last sale and also consigned over $70,000 in baseball cards. McDaniel is also one of the most shameless apologists in his defense of Lifson’s deceased associate, Barry Halper.  In a recent post McDaniel alluded to his support of Halper characterizing Hauls of Shame’s reporting as, “Dragging dead people like Halper thru the mud for their fake items.” In the past McDaniel has taken his defense of Halper even further stating, “Did Halper have stuff that was questionable, sadly, no doubt. I also think many of us would have had bad items had we built and acquired a collection of that size. In fact, Halper would have been and was a big target for the unsavory of the world to work their trade.”

One long-time hobby veteran we spoke with said this of McDaniel, “His head is so far up Rob Lifson’s you-know-what, its ridiculous.  Now that’s the bromance.”

Like McDaniel, Robert W. Fraser is another close Lifson confidant who has also used Lifson’s lawyer’s services at his behest while Dan Bretta is a Net54 moderator who is aware of several cease and desist letters sent by Lifson’s attorney, Barry Kozyra, threatening legal action if members make negative comments about his client who is also well-known in the hobby as an admitted thief of rare baseball artifacts.

Ex-felon Robert Fraser attempted to link John Rogers to the notorious Coaches Corner Auctions by posting a babe Ruth bat accompanied by a forged Rogers LOA. Net54 members Chris Williams and James Wymers knew the Rogers LOA was a forgery back in 2012 as evidenced in Williams' Autograph Magazine column (inset).

The false accusations made by McDaniel and Bretta opened the door for Fraser, a convicted felon from Westwood, New Jersey, to post additional statements to slander Rogers. Fraser posted another bogus item sold by Coaches Corner that was described as coming with a letter of authenticity written by Rogers.  The baseball bat, alleged to have been signed by Babe Ruth to actor Gary Cooper was a fake and was never consigned or owned by Rogers.  The letter with the bat was also a fraud and it appears that Rogers was a victim of fraud and not a perpetrator.

The statements directed at Rogers in this instance were made by Robert Fraser who in 2005 was criminally convicted of insurance fraud, multiple violations of the fraud act and perjury. Fraser said Rogers provided an LOA for a bogus item and wrote, “Coach’s Corner (is) praising John Rogers for a letter he wrote about a signed Babe Ruth bat they were selling.”  Fraser noted how Coaches Corner described the bat signed to Gary Cooper as, “A one of a kind (that) also has a letter from famous John Rogers of Arkansas.” Fraser then referred again to Rogers writing, “Famous for what? Yeah right give me a break!”

Further proof that Net54 members falsely tied Rogers to Coaches Corner comes from member Christopher Williams’ own Autograph Magazine article published on July 27, 2012.  Willliams, who is considered the resident expert on the criminal enterprise of Coaches Corner Auctions, identified the same forged Babe Ruth bat to Cooper and another Net54 member named James Wymer commented, “I wonder if the John Rogers letter sports a nifty forgery of his signature.”

When we asked Jay Miller what he found “hilarious” about the accusations that Rogers was supplying Coaches Corner he declined comment.  Sources indicate that McDaniel, Bretta, Fraser and others knew full well that the Rogers LOA’s were forgeries, yet chose to post the accusations anyway. Fraser, who had his real estate licence revoked because of his criminal record, now works for Terrie O’Connor Realty in Saddle River, NJ, and has a history of committing perjury and making false accusations.  Fraser has made several public statements that show he has lied to Federal agents and fabricated several stories making false and unfounded allegations about this writer and others.  By lying to Federal agents, Fraser has opened himself up to criminal prosecution as well as civil litigation and penalties.  Fraser’s wild accusations have been so outlandish and bizarre that several auction executives who have spoken with him have questioned seriously if he is mentally ill.  His friend Rob Lifson echoed this sentiment a few years back when Fraser received a cease and desist letter from John Rogers after harassing him.  Responding to reports of Fraser’s strange behavior, Lifson wrote to Rogers via email, “Fraser is obsessed with Peter Nash.”

John Rogers purchased this tintype of Henry Chadwick from Rob Lifson but Net54 members said the image did not include Henry Chadwick. A close up of a known photo of Chadwick (far right) appears next to a close up of the tintype image.

It’s ironic that the FBI seized materials in Rogers’ collection related to Henry Chadwick and that Rogers is being attacked on the collector forum Net54. After Rogers paid Rob Lifson close to $600,000 in 2009 for a large groups of items, including the same Chadwick materials, he posted a rare 1860’s tintype photograph of Chadwick on Net54 to see if any members could identify the other men in the image with Chadwick.  But to Rogers’ surprise several members responded to his post stating that they believed the photo did not depict Chadwick and was a fraud, despite the fact that the tintype originated from Henry Chadwick’s great-granddaughter, Fran Henry, who identified her own grandmother’s identification of Chadwick in pencil on the image and claimed it was an image of Chadwick.  It is likely that same tintype photo is included in the group of items taken from Roger’s home or office by the FBI.

Net54 members had strong opinions about the image.  SABR’s photographic committee chairman Mark Fimoff claimed the man did not resemble Chadwick after comparing the noses to other photos saying, “There is no perceivable resemblance between these two noses.”  Fimoff also dismissed the tintype because the name “H. Chadwick” was written in pencil on the image.  Fimoff said, “I would never write my grandfather’s name on a vintage family photo since we all know who he is.”

Dealer Barry Sloate dismissed it as well saying, “This kind of spurious photo identification is not enough for me. My opinion is it is not Henry Chadwick.”

Collector Corey R. Shanus said, “I think there is little chance it is Chadwick” and 19th century photo collector Jimmy Leiderman agreed with Shanus adding, “I have to agree with Corey that the writing is simply a novice job to deceive.”

Interestingly enough, two years after the Chadwick image was challenged on Net54 the same Mark Fimoff helped expose a 19th century daguerreotype owned by Shanus as a notable fraud.  The image fooled the hobby and historians alike but visual evidence presented in a SABR newsletter showed that the men pictured in the image were not Alexander Joy Cartwright and his teammates from the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club.  Shanus, who originally acquired the image from the Cartwright family in Hawaii, had held the image out as an authentic example depicting Cartwright and placed the image in Ken BurnsPBS film, BASEBALL, scores of baseball books and even an exhibit at the Baseball Hall of Fame.  Despite all of the visual evidence showing that his image does not depict Cartwright, Shanus did not admit that his prized dag, once highlighted by Smithsonian, is a fraud.

Corey Shanus still claims this bogus daguerreotype depicts HOFer Alexander Cartwright depite the fact it bears no resemblance to a real portrait of Cartwright (inset center). Shanus' collection is also riddled with items stolen from the NYPL lincluding two 19th century Knickerbocker letters (above, right) he showed of in the book "Smithsonian Baseball."

Shanus’ collection is also notorious for including artifacts that were owned by Henry Chadwick and later stolen from the New York Public Library’s Spalding Collection.  Shanus showed off two Knickerbocker Base Ball Club documents stolen from Chadwick’s collection in the 2005 coffee-table book Smithsonian Baseball.  Those documents were bequeathed to the NYPL in 1921 by the widow of A. G. Spalding and are also the subject of an on-going FBI investigation.  So far, there have been no reports of Shanus’ home in Purchase, NY, being raided by FBI agents as part of the same Federal investigation.

Shanus has also filed suit against the only person ever apprehended stealing rare artifacts from the NYPL, Rob Lifson of Robert Edward Auctions. Shanus filed a complaint against Lifson in 2011 alleging that Lifson and his auction house sold him counterfeit items including an 1853 Knickerbocker trophy ball (alleged to have been presented to Henry Chadwick) and an 1861 trophy ball from a match between Brooklyn and New York “all-stars.”  (This writer purchased that same 1861 ball at Sotheby’s Halper sale in 1999 for over $60,000.  Shanus notes in his complaint that these items were once owned by this writer.)  Shanus also accuses REA of defrauding him and inflating memorabilia prices by falsely reporting record sales of rare baseball artifacts.  The complaint does not charge Lifson with selling Shanus any items that were stolen from the NYPL’s famous Spalding Collection.  Sources also indicate that Shanus claims to have unearthed evidence in discovery suggesting that Lifson has been involved in a shill-bidding scheme in his own auctions with a relative.

Lifson and REA, through their attorney, Barry Kozyra, denied the allegations and called the Shanus lawsuit frivolous and stated, “The Complaint contains numerous misstatements of fact and inaccuracies as Mr. Shanus must know as well as false suppositions.”  Lifson’s attorney added, “The Complaint is frivolous as a matter of law and REA and Mr. Lifson will seek full redress through the courts for damages, attorney fees and costs from Mr. Shanus and anyone acting in concert with him or on his behalf.”

Despite Lifson’s lawyers claims that the charges against his client have no merit, Lifson has had a well-documented history of selling bogus and fraudulent materials.  In the 1999 Halper sale Lifson catalogued and sold fake uniforms, misrepresented game-used equipment, forged Babe Ruth autographs and even a phony 1846 Knickerbocker baseball he claimed was  genuine.

Lifson originally filed a motion to dismiss the Shanus complaint claiming that the statute of limitations for the action had expired, but U. S. District Court Judge Dennis M. Cavanaugh denied the motion and a counterclaim filed by Lifson against Shanus was also thrown out of court.  The case is on-going and sources indicate that attorneys for Lifson and Shanus have deposed and served subpoenas on many hobby executives in the course of the litigation.  A source confirms that Lifson’s lawyer, Barry Kozyra, has been trying to serve Hunt Auctions President David Hunt but has claimed he believes Hunt “may be purposely avoiding service.”

In relation to the FBI search of Rogers’ home and business, one hobby executive we spoke with said, “Why does Rob (Lifson) get a pass?”  Another told us, “When is the FBI raid of Lifson’s home and office in Watchung scheduled?”

(Editors Note: This writer has been involved in lawsuits with Robert W. Fraser, Robert Lifson and REA.  This writer has also had prior business relationships with Fraser, Lifson, REA and John Rogers.)

(Correction: In the original version of this article we said that SABR’s Mark Fimoff compared “noses and ears” on a tintype and a photo of Henry Chadwick.  That was incorrect.  Fimoff only compared noses.)


By Peter J. Nash
January 21, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


By Peter J. Nash

January 13, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


By Peter J. Nash
January 6, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


By Peter J. Nash
December 30, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HERE ARE THE TOP 10 STORIES OF 2013:



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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


By Peter J. Nash

December 4, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

30.  The JSA Tarzan-Chimpanzee Authentications-

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

31.  The Ty Cobb Forgeries on Hack Simmons Photos-

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

36.  The Candy Cummings “Curveball” Cut Signature-

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

37.  The Clem Labine As Ernie Davis Signed Baseball-

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

50.  The Mike Tyson “Mayo” Mistake-

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

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

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

52.  The Charles Comiskey Secreterial Letter-

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

62. The Mike Gutierrez 1948 Babe Ruth Secretarial Forgeries-

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

63. The Joe Frazier JSA Witnessed Protection Program Failure-

Autograph Alert uncovered this one:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

67.  The FDR Proxy Signatures-

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

78. The Joe DiMaggio Signed Bat Forgery Authenticated By-

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

98.  The Sonny Liston Wife-Signed Forgeries-

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


By Peter J. Nash

November 26, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. Harry Wright 1887 Kalamazoo Bat cabinet card.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

16. Mickey Welch autographed New York Giants salary receipt.

17. Amos Rusie autographed New York Giants salary receipt.

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

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

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

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

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

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

23. Christy Mathewson autographed letter to August Herrmann in 1917

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

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

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

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

27. Sliding Billy Hamilton autographed letter to Ford Frick.

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

29. Jake Beckley autographed Cincinnati Reds salary receipt.

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

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

31. Napoleon Lajoie cabinet photo portrait by Carl Horner.

32. Joe Kelley letter to Ford Frick from 1935.

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

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

35. 1894 New York Giants team cabinet photograph.

36. Roger Connor cabinet photo portrait by Jos. Hall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

44. Hughie Jennings autographed letter to August Herrmann.

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

46. Napoleon Lajoie autographed letter to August Herrmann.

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

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

49. Babe Ruth autographed photograph.

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

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

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

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

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

54. Jake Beckley cabinet photo portrait.

55. Miller Huggins autographed Cincinnati Reds salary receipt.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

64. Jack Chesbro cabinet photo portrait.

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

66. Amos Rusie cabinet photograph by Jos. Hall.

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

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

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

70. Charles Comiskey autographed letter to August Herrmann 1913.

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

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

72. Napoleon Lajoie letter to HOF director.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

84. Ban Johnson autographed letter to August Herrmann 1914.

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

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

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

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

89. Joe Tinker autographed letter addressed to August Herrmann.

90. John Heydler autographed letter addressed to August Herrmann.

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

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

93. Sam Breadon autographed letter to August Herrmann.

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

94. Emil Fuchs autographed letter to August Herrmann.

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

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

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

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

99. Charles Ebbets autographed letter to August Herrmann 1913.

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

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


By Peter J. Nash

November 15, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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