THE AUTOGRAPH "BUSINESS" NEWS AND NOTES
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"Those who stand for nothing fall for anything."
"You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time."
Abe was ahead of his time. I think this quote really does apply to the shady side of the autograph business.
BEWARE ON EBAY
Please, please, please if you are a buyer on ebay then beware. Beware of sellers who will not guarantee their autographs. Beware of sellers who will not honor opinions from hobby dealers or authenticators in the hobby. They tell you they only honor opinions of forensic examiners with court approved files. There is no such thing as a court approved file! Those warnings are red flags. Stay away from those sellers. If there prices are too good to be true there is a reason. Mickey Mantle is still signing for them. Yes,,,
BEWARE OF FLORIDA
Ebay is now drowning in bogus autographs from various sellers in Florida. Mantle, DiMaggio and Ted Williams are being offered by the hundreds now in addition to many other different stars. These are bogus. A word to the wise, I hope.
An old and long news article but well worth reading
New COA being used on ebay
Many new items are appearing on ebay with a COA from "Platinum Collectibles" Personally I would never buy any item that came with those COA's.
Mark Twain facsimile signatures in books.
Many sellers on ebay are selling this facsimile signature which is in Mark Twain books. Knowingly or unknowingly they claim it is really signed by Twain. It is not his signature.
Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) signed checks.
I am not questioning the authenticity of these but there obviously was a find made of Samuel Clemens signed checks. I still see them appearing in the market on a regular basis with different dealers. Whoever made the find is feeding them into the market very slowly. Seemingly they are not selling very well at the prices asked. The checks that appear regularly are all from the year 1875. I have no idea how many there are.
Big Lawsuit vs. Forensic Examiners and Dealer hits the autograph hobby. This is very big news. According to the Courthouse News Service, Mr. Daniel Odobas has filed a lawsuit against Antiquities Of Nevada (Toby Stoffa), Drew Max (Authentic Autographs Unlimited) and Stephen Rocchi (Guaranteed Forensic Authenticators for "Fraud, Deceptive, Trade, Misrepresentation, Unjust Enrichment, Conspiracy, Bad Faith, Breach Of Contract and Breach Of Warranty." Immediately below are links to the story.
Muhammad Ali autographs flooding the market
The amount of good and bad Muhammad Ali autographs hitting the market now is staggering. Never in all my years in the autograph business have I seen such an outpouring of money grabbers as I have now. The supply of his legitimate autograph is overwhelming. Collectors who wanted his autograph, have for the most part, gotten it long before his death. What is going on now is just rampant speculation. The supply will soon drown the demand.
BEWARE: Muhammad Ali forgeries flooding ebay
In the past 48 hours I have seen over 200 Ali "signed" forgeries sold on ebay. BE CAREFUL OUT THERE!! This is typical behavior on ebay. As soon as a well known personality dies his autograph forgeries flood ebay. They all have COA's.
Forgeries flooding ebay
Forgeries of Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams have now reached epidemic proportions on ebay. Beware!! They all have COA's. Some people in Florida keeps polluting the autograph hobby with these fakes.
Website to be careful of
I have noticed a website selling autographs that specializes in selling to military personnel, veterans and active duty. I do not buy on that site, despite their low prices.
How many Samuel Clemens signed checks are out there?
I am a fan of Mark Twain/Samuel Clemens and have a few items of his in my collection. I have noticed that a large number of Samuel Clemens signed checks have appeared in the market. All from the same year 1875. I am not saying that they are not authentic, just saying there are quite a few of them out there. A find (?) obviously has been made despite the denials from one dealer selling them.
Did you buy from The Auto Scouts on ebay?
The Auto Scouts, a group of five scum, scammed about $2,000,000 selling bogus autographs on ebay. If you were a victim of their scam, file a claim with ebay. Ebay states that if you don't get what you paid for then they will refund your money. If you bought an autograph from these scum, then you did not get what you paid for. Go after ebay and get your money back. I cannot repeat this enough, be careful out there
Especially on ebay. They have eliminated the Enhanced Member Report team which used to be able to remove bogus autographs. There is now nobody who is removing bogus autographs on ebay.
I cannot repeat this enough, be careful out there
There are numerous smaller and not widely known auction sites operating in person and on the internet. They are selling forgeries of Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio by the bucket load. I think I can safely say that there are more forgeries of these three than there are authentic autographs. All these autographs come with COA's from companies that have been set up strictly to market these forgeries. BE CAREFUL OUT THERE. If you must buy Williams, Mantle and DiMaggio autographs then be sure to buy them from trustworthy dealers.
Once again ebay flops
The people who are policing the ebay site are getting almost zero cooperation from the fraud departments at ebay. I received an e mail today from a woman who is policing a non autograph site for counterfeits. She told me that she is having all kinds of problems having obviously bogus items removed. Another person told me that big sellers of cards receive very favorable treatment from ebay when it comes to them selling bogus items. They have free rein to sell what they want. The rules do not apply to them. BEWARE OUT THERE.
Note to smaller auction houses
The latest scam emanating from Florida is that the forgers are sending, unsolicited, boxes of bogus autographs to small auction houses. They are offering high commission rates to the auctioneers to sell this material. Most of these auctions are not familair with what is going on in the autograph hobby, especially in Florida, and just are happy to get consignments. Most of them are selling this bogus material. If you are an auction house and you receive a box like this, notify the Postal Inspector immediately. BEWARE OF AUTOGRAPHS FROM FLORIDA. Especially Mantle, Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio.
Beware of single signed baseballs
Ebay is now being used as a venue for reproduction single signed baseballs. To the naked eye they look like the real thing and though the original sellers are selling them as repros who knows what will happen after the initial sale. BE CAREFUL OUT THERE!
Ebay is now really a dangerous place
For at least a week now, ebay has not been removing items that are being reported by their own people who help to police the site and remove bogus items.
Apparently any thought of trying to help clean up the ebay autograph market has been removed from ebay's corporate policy.
Apparently corporate profits are now the ONLY THING that matters.
You have been warned, it appears that ebay will once again become the cesspool that it was 10 years ago.
Ebay is now stating that it was a long lasting technical glitch that created this problem. Apparently bogus items that are being reported by their team are now being removed.
How stupid are they?
I received a phone call this morning,,, a summary follows:
"I called because I need your help, please steer me in the right direction. I am calling about a glove that is autographed by Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Ty Cobb, Roy Campanella, Hank Aaron and I know this is hard to believe but Shoeless Joe Jackson. It has already been looked at and they said it was good." So I ask the guy who looked at it. "Someone in North Carolina." Yes, that is exactly what he said. I said "who in North Carolina?" He said it had been in a family for years and they told his girlfriend that it was good. His girlfriend is there now. "What should I do?"
DO YOU BELIEVE THESE MORONS?
I asked him if he was a hobbyist and he said no. So I told him how the hobby has more scammers than ever before and there is virtually no chance that the glove is authentically signed. I asked him how much they want for it. He did not quote a price. I told him to make sure to have it examined before he bought it. He said he would get back to me. If I had to make a bet on the outcome, I would bet he buys the glove.
Ebay going downhill again
Many blogs are now posting comments about how autograph listings on ebay are becoming a horror once again. It appears that the "reorganization" of the ebay fraud division has been a complete and total failure.
A bad guy goes down
If people do something about the bad guys, even little things, we can accomplish a lot.
I just received this e mail from an Oregon detective:
"Good Morning Mr. Simon,
Thank you for your tip to our office in November of 2011--Chad Baldwin plead guilty and was convicted and sentenced to prison for these crimes. See the article below:
Detective Dan Smith
Clackamas County Sheriff's Office, Oregon
Forgeries flooding the small auction market
Beware of small auctions all across the country. These auctions, maybe unknowingly are now being flooded with forgeries. Many times these items sell for 10 cents on the dollar. There are no bargains out there. Be careful, before you bid, if you are unsure of what you are doing, please check out the item with someone who really knows what they are doing.
Neil Armstrong forgeries are already flooding ebay
As expected forged autographs of the late Neil Armstrong have already begun to flood ebay. Beware of any Neil Armstrong autographs now.
Statement about My Favorite Players - a Florida company that claims to sell authentic autographs
"My favorite players was NEVER a partner of the Score Board inc. My favorite players NEVER supplied autographs to the Score Board inc. My Favorite players was a vendor of framing services for SB from approximately 1989-90 until SB purchased their own company California Gold and moved it on site to have better control of the product and better pricing. Score Board inc sued My Favorite Players in the past for selling forged autographs of players The Score Board inc had under contract, and the owners of My Favorite Players signed a consent decree that they NEVER would sell autographs again of many athletes the score board had under contract, including Mickey Mantle, Ted WIlliams, Joe Dimaggio, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Wayne Gretzky,etc. It has been brought to my attention in the past that the former owners of MFP claimed they 'won a lawsuit against SB and were given millions of $$ in inventory' Not only is this completely false, but since SB was a publicly held company if there was a shred of truth to it , it would have been part of financial statements (public record) and was not. I will also say that in the past there have been numerous attempts by individuals and companies to counterfeit SB certs. unfortunately,many were successful in making good copies as the product was distributed prior to the advent of holograms, dna marking, etc. I would say buyer beware." This statement was made, on the internet, by Mr. Ken Goldin, President of Scoreboard, Inc. on August 7,2012.
Beware, beware, beware
I am seeing auctions all over the country now selling forgeries that are probably emanating from Florida. The usual Mantle,Williams,DiMaggio crap (much more also) along with COA's from authenticators that are barred by ebay. They are sold for cheap prices and then resold across the country. It is truly reaching epidemic proportions. Be careful out there. Further tests of these "autographed photos" have revealed that they are apparently not even signed by a forger. The sharpie ink that is used with these photos DOES NOT come off the photo. There is an instrument called Clic Eraser that you can buy in Staples. It can remove sharpie from a glossy photo. When I attempted to do that with one of the photos that I bought from one of those questionable operations, the ink would not budge. It does not erase. There is something definitely fake about that. Be careful out there, tiny auction houses, mostly online, are selling this crap for very low prices but apparently these have not even been signed by a forger. The ink does not come off of these photos. This whole operation is a huge scam that is spreading nationwide now. BE CAREFUL. DON'T BUY THIS CRAP.
Look at what Topps does to a former first lady
Another classic example of a card company destroying an autograph in the pursuit of the almighty dollar. This is getting even more ridiculous than it ever was.You can have it for $600 right now on ebay.
BEWARE of this Ty Cobb autograph
This autograph is the subject of much controversy at this time (5/1/12). If it is offered to you, please let me know.
New authenticators on ebay banned list.
As of today, March 2, 2012, both ACE Authentication (Justin Priddy) and CSC Collectibles, have been added to Ebay's Banned COA list. ACE makes many appearances throughout the country at various card shows. If anyone sees Mr. Priddy make it a point to ask him why he is barred by ebay. CSC is Florida based. Their COA's appear on various websites but won't be appearing on ebay any longer.
Be careful out there!
I am being informed of forgeries turning up in all areas of the country now. It appears that a notoriously infamous auctioneer, known for selling 99.5% bogus items, has been selling his items mostly to other sellers. Sellers that set up in malls, flea markets, mall stores, small auctions, etc. These items come with impressive sounding COA's. Don't be suckered by this crap.
The tube socks website is offering autographs again. Stuck in between the tube socks, jewelry, electronics and other junk are more questionable autographs, also with impressive sounding COA's. Don't be suckered by this crap.
Florida forger goes to prison for four years!!
Forgery crime certainly does not pay.
The Florida man who sold a bucket full of phony Babe Ruth autographed baseballs across the state of Florida will spend FOUR YEARS in prison. Marc A. Szakaly, 40, of Land O'Lakes, pleaded guilty to organized fraud without a plea bargain according to news reports. Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Nancy Moate Ley told the court that the sentence was warranted because it was clearly an organized plan to defraud businesses. Szakaly also repaid the money he was handed for selling or pawning the baseballs, which came with faked PSA DNA letters of authenticity. It looks like the authorities in Florida nailed a big one. Hopefully, others will follow all over the country. I look forward to being present in the courtroom when a couple of particular criminals are sentenced.
Trying to capitalize on tragedy
There are over 200 Whitney Houston autographs being offered on ebay right now. Many at insanely high prices far beyond what they will ever be worth. I have no idea what her autograph looks like but I can make a general statement that many of them are way overpriced and many of them are probably not authentic. A word to the wise, I hope. I HAVE BEEN TOLD by people who work for ebay that hundreds of Whitney Houston forgeries have already been removed from ebay. BEWARE!!
The garbage is still out there
The autographed photos of Mantle, Williams, DiMaggio are still in circulation. I just received one bogus Mantle photo to examine. I also received a very poor quality (probably 3rd or even 4th generation copy) photo with purported autographs of Mantle, Billy Martin and Whitey Ford. It was totally bogus and the quality of the photo was so bad you could see the graininess in the photo from a distance. No show promoter or autograph promoter would have ever used such a poor quality photograph to get the autographs of these three or anyone else for that matter.
Why has Upper Deck constantly obliterated autographs?
This one is so awful I will just show you a picture and let it speak for itself.
Lets find out about those autographed pictures
An associate of mine and I have purchased several "signed" photographs from one of the websites that sells "everything" (tube socks, jewelry, electronics, autographs, etc). The "signed" pictures were cheap but they gouge you on shipping charges. We have Mantle, Williams and DiMaggio. We will be conducting our own examinations and experiments on these pictures and the autographs on them. Results will be posted when we conclude our examinations.
Well, we have conducted our examinations of these autographs and can state that in our opinion the autographs are highly questionable. We do disagree with the COA's that these autographs have come with. We have tested the ink on the photos and have concluded that it is actual ink on the photo. Whether from an actual forgers hand or by some type of mechanical device, we don't know. We have finished examining these photos and have concluded that you would be wise to refrain from purchasing them. When you see Mantle, DiMaggio and Williams being sold for $1-$20, STAY AWAY.
Bad guys keep getting caught
Thanks to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Jasper County, MO Sheriff's Dept, the Carl Junction, MO Police and the US Postal Inspection Service. They have combined in an investigation, arrest and guilty plea of David Shryock, 49, of Jasper County, MO.
He defrauded 1,232 victims via ebay from Feb. 2005 to Dec. 2010. He used eight separate ebay accounts to sell sports memorabilia with forged autographs and also record album covers with forged autographs.
He is already a formerly convicted felon so he now faces a sentence of up to 30 years in federal prison without parole plus a fine of up to $500,000 and an order of restitution. He was also in possession of a firearm and was involved in a police chase after he was discovered.
Beware Mickey Mantle fake autographs
I am seeing Mickey Mantle autographs coming out of the woodwork now. It is like he was still alive. Special offers, framed pieces, limited editions (limited to how many forgeries can be sold), and other crap. Buy Mantle autographs only from established autograph dealers not autograph sellers, not from sellers of jewelry, tube socks and other non autograph items. Don't buy from the places that have a never ending supply of these autographs. A study of the websites of these sellers will tell you who not to buy from. The production of these items seems to be coming from one particular state.
Now Topps decides to muck up autographs, wasn't it bad enough that Upper Deck did it?
Look at this ridiculous Rocky Marciano autographed Topps card. You can have it for $20,000 on ebay right now, yes $20,000. Look at what Topps did to the autograph. They destroy autographs just to create artificial shortages. I have been an autograph dealer for 25 years and nobody has ever asked me for one of these "chase" cards. They are for suckers and gamblers, real collectors do not collect damaged autographs. Real collectors appreciate and desire quality, who would call what Topps has done here quality? Shame on you Topps. These cards remind me of the Dutch tulip craze. If you are not familiar with that, just Google those words.
Are you kidding me?
An ebay autograph seller (I won't disgrace the legitimate part of the profession by calling him an autograph dealer) is offering the following terms in his ebay ads: No returns accepted. All sales final.
PEOPLE this is a screaming red light, if an autograph seller posts those words in his ad, run for the hills. Don't even think about buying an autograph from that person. They are already telling you it is not authentic.
Attention bad guys: the law will get you
A few days after a man was arrested in Florida for selling forged Babe Ruth baseballs, another man was arrested in Oregon on basically the same charges.
Chad Baldwin, 39, allegedly created fake signed sports memorabilia including Babe Ruth and Roger Maris autographed baseballs and sold them with phony certificates of authenticity to unsuspecting buyers.
Detectives believe Baldwin used Craigslist, a warning sign if there ever was one, to advertise the sales of signed baseballs. They say he included forged authentication certificates. All of the collected authentication documents have been confirmed as forgeries.
A few months ago Baldwin advertised a signed "Roger Maris" baseball on Craigslist, the favored place to try to sell forgeries. Detective say he sold the baseball with a an authentication certificate to a man in nearby Sherwood. It was determined that the signed baseball was a fraud and that the authentication letter was forged.
Also a few months ago, Baldwin put a "Babe Ruth" baseball with a letter of authentication on Craigslist. That baseball to a Vancouver man and again, the sheriff's office says the baseball and authentication letter were confirmed as fraudulent.
On Tuesday, Clackamas County Sheriff's Office detectives executed a search warrant at Baldwin's Gresham home. Investigators recovered evidence that leads them to believe there are more victims.
Anyone with information is encouraged to contact the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office's confidential Tip Line -- by telephone at 503-723-4949 or by using the online e-mail form. Please reference Clackamas County Sheriff's Office Case #11-11610
Another Upper Deck "beautiful" autograph
Here is an Ed Lopat signature which Upper Deck decided to place on a card to create a "chase" card. I sell Ed Lopat for $15. Couldn't Upper Deck have found a nicer autograph for their card?
Memorabilia Dealer Arrested at National Convention
On the morning of August 4th, Steve Jensen of the auction company Vintage Authentics, was arrested by Postal Inspectors on the floor of the National Sports Collectors Convention in Chicago. He faces mail and wire fraud charges for his sales of uniforms which the government alleges are of dubious authenticity. His auction company's website is now offline. The company has also sold autographs in the past. Here is a statement from the NSCC website:
"Today, the National Sports Collectors Convention supported the efforts of the US Postal authorities who removed one exhibitor from the Donald E Stephens Convention Center. The National continues to cooperate with any and all national / local authorities when it comes to protecting the integrity of the sports and entertainment collectibles industry."
Thomas Boyle, US Postal Inspector, asks that any collectors who have dealt with Jensen and his company and have questions or information can contact him at 212-330-3397.
Another UD butcher job
Came across this beauty not long ago. Upper Deck cut part of one letter in Mantle's signature and destroyed the "e" in Mantle and destroyed a Roger Maris signed photo to get just his autograph off the photograph. This is not criminal but I think it is a disgrace. They create manufactured shortages of these "chase" cards to appeal to gamblers, not real collectors. The hunt is on, find one of these cards and make some money, don't save the card because the last guy with the card has paid too much and won't get his money back because he is at the end of the "bigger fool" scheme with these cards. Only in the baseball collecting hobby are artifacts delibrately destroyed. It is a shame. Can you imagine if this was done with art, with comic books, with paper money, with toys? I think all of those collectors would be outraged.
Beware of "bargain" auction sites on the internet
I am seeing improvement on ebay recently as much questionable material is being removed. However, I am seeing many other internet auction sites with many bogus autographs. These sites, which sell jewelry, electronics, clothing and more, are selling many autographs of deceased players and recently seem to be expanding their inventory into living players. The prices that these items sell for bear little resemblance to what a legitimate item should sell for. It appears that foolish buyers are investing in these items and then trying to sell them on ebay.
Don't be lured in by low prices. Avoid these items. I will not name these sites here because they do not deserve to be mentioned. Remember, if you see an autograph that is priced at a too good to be true price,,, don't be suckered in. Just don't buy. Some of these sites have catchy names. Avoid them like they were the plague, I cannot emphasize this enough. You will get burnt. These sites are selling this crap to many who then have no recourse when they discover what they have bought. Don't be fooled by the COA's on these sites. Don't be fooled by anything on these sites. Many of the buyers of this garbage attempt to flip their winnings on Ebay and almost all of those auctions eventually get removed. If you think you can make money this way, don't even try it. You will end up with a cheap computer photo with a worthless fake autograph on it. It won't even be good for lining a bird cage.
Beware of Derek Jeter autographs online
with Derek Jeter getting his 3000th hit in dramatic fashion recently there is now a tsunami of forgeries of Jeter's autograph being made available all over the internet.Be certain to buy yours from a reliable source.
Beware of cheap auctions
I am seeing internet auction sites with Mickey Mantle "signed" photos selling at incredibly low prices. THERE IS A REASON FOR THIS. Beware of these auctions, Mantle "signed" photos should not be selling for $10 or less. DiMaggio "signed" baseballs should not be selling at two digit prices. BE CAREFUL OUT THERE! There is a site out there supposedly "protected" by the government. I have received many letters from people who have been victimized by this site or are suspicious of this site.
Beware of Florida forgeries
There is much to beware of emanating from the state of Florida but the latest scheme seems to be a forger/thief who is forging Babe Ruth baseballs and PSA certificates of authenticity and selling them to pawn shops. This thief has apparently gotten his hands on a supply of old Harwood baseballs and is using them to forge Babe Ruth's signature and then selling them to pawn shops with a bogus COA. He has apparently done this at least several times and the police are now hot on his trail.
Be careful when buying recently deceased celebrity autographs
Collectors should be aware that when a celebrity or major athlete passes away ebay is flooded with autographs of that person. Many of these autographs are not authentic, virtually all are priced insanely, don't let emotions get the best of you when trying to buy an autograph of a recently deceased celebrity. A good example of this craziness are the current offerings of Elizabeth Taylor autographs.
Ebay has added Christopher Morales, TTA (Ted Taylor) and Nicholas Burczyk to their list of banned authenticators, as of March 23,2011. Their COA's can no longer be used by autograph sellers on ebay.
Other non ebay auction sites continue to use Mr. Morales' COA's and still offer COA's from Mr. Burczyk and Mr. Taylor.
3rd Party Authentication - are they doing the job right?
According to the the Hauls of Shame website Over the years, famed collector Barry Halper sold off letters written to Hall of Famers, one of which was written by Hall of Famer Ed Delahanty, himself, and offered for auction at Christies in 1992. Delahanty’s is one of the rarest Hall of Famer signatures sought by autograph collectors and a handwritten letter would be of the utmost rarity and value. In the past decade a controversial letter alleged to have been written by Delahanty was sold for over $30,000 by Hunt Auctions of Exton, PA. The letter had been authenticated by PSA/DNA and James Spence Authentication, but in one of the most embarrassing episodes of authentication incompetence the letter was exposed as a secretarial letter written by Delahanty’s manager Billy Shettsline. The name “Delahanty” was even misspelled as “D-e-l-e-h-a-n-t-y” on the $30,000 letter. The authenticators didn’t even note the misspelling in their letters of authenticity. I myself questioned this letter at the time of auction, but I was ignored.
Upper Deck is at it again
Just look at what they did to this Mickey Mantle autograph. If I had bought an autograph like this, I WOULD THROW IT AWAY before offering it to a customer. This article posted 2/3/11
Theft from the Hall of Fame
An article on the Hauls of Shame website, dated Jan. 31, 2011, reported that documents and photos stolen from the Hall of Fame in the mid to late 1980s, have surfaced for sale. These include documents that were part of the August Garry Herrmann Papers collection.
The article reported that after Lelands had purchased a photo from Mike Gutierrez, Lelands noticed something whited out on the back of the photo. It turned out to be a Hall of Fame accession number stamp on the rear of the photo. Lelands took the appropriate step of returning the photo to the Hall of Fame. The Hauls of Shame article quotes Josh Evans of Lelands as saying that no action has been taken by the Hall of Fame.
Recently, some of the items apparently from the Herrmann collection were offered in auctions. When questions were raised, Heritage Auction Galleries and Robert Edward Auctions removed the items. Clean Sweep Auctions presently has a Sam Breadon letter to August Herrmann in its current auction. Clean Sweep's Steve Verkman told Hauls of Shame that he is "researching" the matter. Mr. Verkman contacted me on 1/26/14 to state: "I personally contacted the Hall of Fame about that letter and they specifically told me that it was not stolen nor did they ask me to withdraw the lot." This article posted 2/1/11
WARNING - Look out for some ebay sellers.
When you see an ebay seller that you don't know and he has autographs that you would like to buy, take a look at the other items that this person is selling. If you see this person selling tube socks, jewelry, car parts and other non autograph items then REMEMBER he is not an autograph dealer and he probably knows nothing about the autographs he is selling. He probably won't accept returns and he is selling his items way below the market because he bought them at basement prices on non ebay sites. If you still have any inclination to buy something from this person, well be sure to check the autograph out with someone who really knows autographs.
Let's be careful out there
There is widespread discussion in the autograph community about third party authentication.
There are authenticators who, while more than a small number of mistakes have been made, do have some authentication skills and get the majority of things right. Then there are authenticators who seem to authenticate everything put in front of them. I won't name them here but if you look on the internet it is not difficult to figure it out.
----->Beware of prices that are too good to be true. Remember, usually we get what we pay for.
Beware of the questionable selling tactics on ebay
I just found the following words on an ebay autograph auction:
"This item is sold "AS IS" AND NO RETURNS WILL BE ACCEPTED."
Only ebay sellers advertise autographs this way. Who would possibly buy something from an autograph seller when he says that in his ad. I don't call them autograph dealers, they are just autograph sellers. A dealer is someone who has some knowledge of autographs, a seller is someone who is not a dealer. I have never seen a real autograph dealer trying to sell in this way. Why do you think this seller won't accept returns? The answer is painfully obvious, basically this is what they are saying: "I am not sure if this is authentic but if you buy it you are stuck with it."
The legitimate autograph community would never operate in this way. There are a number of autograph sellers on ebay who do not accept returns. Be very hesitant about buying from them.
I have also found another ebay autograph seller who has his auctions set up in a way that allows him to not answer questions from other ebay members. What does that tell you about his autographs?
These stories were posted on Oct 27.
Beware of David Brinkley in San Francisco
Mr Brinkley tried to sell me some boxing items. He sent me scans of Sugar Ray Robinson and Rocky Marciano items, including autographs and an on site boxing poster. I paid him a deposit through paypal and he claimed to have shipped a package to me by UPS. However for eight days the UPS website did not show the package in transit. When I filed a complaint with paypal all of a sudden the package was actually shipped to me, using a false return address. When I received his shipment there was no poster and the autograph items were computer printed copies of the originals. He had actually tried to force me to pay the balance before the package even arrived which of course I refused to do. I received numerous harassing e mails demanding payment. I filed a paypal claim and received a refund, from paypal, after I sent him his garbage back. Beware of this low rent scammer. I filed a police report, for harassment and fraud, on this scammer so if anyone ever runs into him and has a problem file a police report or better yet just avoid him.
This story was posted on Oct 14.
The latest auction of a Ted Williams autograph with a Nicholas Burczyk COA.
Here are the results from a non ebay auction site for an autographed Ted Williams 8x10 photo with a Nicholas Burczyk COA.
Compare at: $399.00
Winning Bid $1.00
Time Remaining: Closed
Opening Bid: $1.00
Bid Increment: $10.00
Number of Bids: 1
Open Date: Oct 2, 2010 12:00:00 AM EDT
Close Date: Oct 3, 2010 12:00:00 AM EDT
Listing Type: English Auction
Auction #: 303148
SKU #: 63002244
To sum this up, the hype in the advertisement says that this photo compares to others at $399.00. The minimum bid was $1.00. The photo sold for $1.00. The next bid would have had to be $11. Nobody was willing to bid $11.00 for a signed Ted Williams photo.
Congrats to ,,,,,,,,, (I won't name this site and give them any publicity) for setting the record for the lowest price ever for a Ted Williams signed photograph. (I have printed out a copy of this auction for my records).
Here are the results for a Mickey Mantle 4x6 signed photo, with a Burczyk COA, from the same auction site.
Compare at: $399.00
Winning Bid $1.00
Time Remaining: Closed
Opening Bid: $1.00
Bid Increment: $10.00
Number of Bids: 1
Open Date: Oct 7, 2010 12:00:00 PM EDT
Close Date: Oct 8, 2010 12:00:00 PM EDT
Listing Type: English Auction
Auction #: 306074
SKU #: 63001839
Nobody wanted to pay $11 for a Mickey Mantle signed photograph. This story was posted on Oct 10.
To set the record straight, due to claims I have seen on the internet, my inventory is not affected by these sale prices. I have zero Mickey Mantle items in my business inventory and zero in my collection. I have one Ted Williams signed photograph in inventory and two in my collection.. My inventory has one Joe DiMaggio signed photograph and zero in my collection. My inventory has zero Sandy Koufax signed items and two in my collection. My inventory has zero items with multiple signatures of the 500 HR hitters and I have zero items in my collection. I have no ax to grind against the sellers of these items regarding the value of my Mantle, Williams, DiMaggio or Koufax items.
Nicholas Burczyk, continued
I received a phone call on Oct 6,2010, from a person who had wanted to hire me a number of years ago to authenticate thousands of baseball autographs, consisting mostly of Mickey Mantle and Ted Williams autographs and several other well known retired players. I declined that opportunity, though I had a chance to make a lot of money.
This phone caller said that he was the one who hired Nicholas Burczyk to authenticate his autographs.
Some sellers of these items claim that it was Scoreboard who hired Mr. Burczyk to authenticate.
Everyone who makes any claim, about these Burczyk authenticated items, does state that these items came from Scoreboard.
This caller said that he reads my website and wanted to answer my questions about Nicholas Burczyk.
My questions to him are:
My questions to those who claim Scoreboard hired Mr. Burczyk are:
- Why attempt to hire me if these items were already authenticated by Nicholas Burczyk? Apparently, according to all information that is available, if Mr Burczyk authenticated these items he did so in 1992 and 1993. Well why come to me if you already had COA's from Mr Burczyk?
- These items were supposed to have come from a company called Scoreboard, however no Scoreboard COA's are being offered along with these items, only COA's with Nicholas Burczyk's name on them. Why no Scoreboard COA's? I see Scoreboard COA'S all over the internet when their items are offered for sale.
- Why would Scoreboard hire a forensic examiner to authenticate signatures that they got at private signings which were witnessed by Scoreboard? That would seem like a totally unnecessary expense for the company.
- Why did Ken Goldin (President of Scoreboard) not one time ever, mention on his TV appearances on Home Shopping that a forensic examiner has examined his autographs? If they felt a forensic examiner was necessary why did they not bring that up on TV.
I would print any proof of Mr Burczyk's involvement in autograph authentication if it is supplied to me. That would include a contract with Mr Burczyk to authenticate autographs and any canceled checks from this individual, or his business, which are made out to Mr Burczyk and which contain bank cancellation marks. Please e mail this information to me and I will immediately print it right here. I always print facts when they are presented to me. Any factual evidence about Mr Burczyk having authenticated baseball autographs will be printed here, as soon as I get it. I guarantee that any proof of Mr Burczyk authenticating autographs will be printed right here as soon as I receive it.
To read more in detail about this story, scroll downward on this page a few paragraphs.
This story has been posted on Oct 7 and edited for clarity on Oct 15 and Oct 31.
Thieves coming out of the woodwork
There is a new forger out there who is working, so far, in the non sports area. He is also forging certificate's of authenticity to go with his work. I have seen one Beatles item with a fake Frank Caizzo (Beatles expert) COA and one other high ticket item with an actual fake Burczyk COA, imagine faking a Burczyk COA when the original might be a fake. The actual fake Burczyk COA is a full size page (as opposed to the Burczyk COA's on ebay which are about 4x6) and has a serial number and a picture of the item, which are lacking in the Burczyk COA's on ebay. Frank Caizzo contacted ebay and reported that his COA has been forged and was being used to authenticate a Beatles signed item. Ebay did the right thing and removed the item.
Pennsylvania jury does the right thing, one crook bites the dust.
Roger Hooper, who was charged with 5 different counts that involved resealing wax packs, dipping coins, and selling forged signatures finally had his trial and it concluded Oct 1. A five-day trial,in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania ended when the jury found him guilty on 4 of the 5 charges including a felony charge which can nail him for several years in prison and a stiff fine.
All you crooked sellers out there take note. The law does catch some of you and when they do, the law comes down hard. Hooper probably spent more money on a defense attorney then he ever got out of collectors.
It seems the auction house formerly called Mastro is in trouble again
Here is an interesting story from the New York Daily News detailing the latest problems for the former Mastro Auctions. Written by Michael O' Keeffe. Will this kind of stuff ever end?
"Bombshell court documents filed by the president of a New Jersey card-grading firm say the company formerly known as Mastro Auctions knowingly sold him an altered baseball card and placed fake bids on items to artificially jack up prices. The counterclaim and third-party complaint filed late Wednesday in Illinois state court by Dave Forman of SportsCard Guaranty also says that former Mastro president Doug Allen sold a Joe Jackson T210 card for Forman in September 2009 to New York collector Corey Shanus for $300,000. But Allen told Forman that the card only sold for $250,000 - and then pocketed $50,000, the documents say. Allen's spokeswoman, Julie Stoklosa, disputed the allegation, saying that Forman told Mastro Auctions that he would sell the card for $250,000. Mastro officials kept the additional $50,000 as their fee for finding a buyer. "This is just another example of their fraud," countered Jeffrey Lichtman, one of Forman's attorneys. "It was flat-out thievery." Forman's filing offers a glimpse into the Justice Department's three-year investigation into Mastro Auctions and its founder, Bill Mastro, which has focused on allegations of shill bidding, card doctoring and other fraud. One of the former Mastro employees cited in the complaint, Pete Calderon, testified before the grand jury that has been reviewing evidence gathered during the government's third major sports memorabilia probe in 15 years, according to a source familiar with the investigation. Other witnesses who have appeared before the grand jury have testified about allegations included in the documents, the source said. Forman says Allen told him in 2007 that he wasn't worried about the investigation because Mastro officials had destroyed all bidding records prior to 2007 "that would expose its fraud." Shill bidding was an open secret at Mastro Auctions, according to the complaint. "In May 2006, Forman overheard Mastro on the telephone with a collector named Chris Larson. Forman overheard Mastro discuss that Larson wanted to buy a L-1 leather Ty Cobb item and was willing to pay up to $41,000 for it," the counterclaim says. "Forman had been keeping an eye on that item during the auction, which was bidding for $17,000.00 at the time of Mastro's conversation with Larson. However, several minutes later, the item was bidding at $41,000 and Forman believes that this was a result of the entry of fake bids by Ketap employees." The court documents, and a motion for protective order that was also filed on Wednesday, say Mastro Auctions controller Walter Tomala violated Illinois and federal laws by making 34 harassing phone calls in 46 minutes to Forman's home between 1:58 a.m. and 2:44 a.m. on Sept. 10. "I'm going to bring you down - one way or another, I'm gonna bring you down, because you are a piece of --- and your brother's a retard, so I will bring you down," Tomala, who first identified himself as "Bill Mastro," allegedly said in a message left on Forman's home voicemail. Tomala sent an email to one of Forman's attorneys to apologize for the phone calls shortly after the incident. "I had a bad day yesterday and I unfortunately took it out on Mr. Forman," Tomala's email said. Attorneys representing Mastro and Allen did not return calls for comment. Mastro Auctions was once sports memorabilia's biggest and most important auction house, reporting $45 million in revenue in 2006 and 2007. The company specialized in rare and expensive collectibles, catering to wealthy collectors who don't blink at the prospect of spending $100,000 or more for a baseball card. Bill Mastro was sports memorabilia's undisputed king, hailed in the media as the nation's top memorabilia dealer. But the Chicago-area auction house, now known as Ketap Company, shut its doors in March 2009, several months after the Daily News first reported that Mastro Auctions and its executives were at the center of an FBI investigation into shill bidding, card doctoring and other allegations of fraud. Allen and other former Mastro executives purchased Mastro Auction's assets and launched a new company called Legendary Auctions. Allen and his partners vowed that all Mastro Auctions business will be "seamlessly facilitated, processed and completed through Legendary Auctions," but many consigners complained they had been stiffed by the company. Allen told The News last year that Mastro Auctions was struggling with cash-flow problems because some bidders had not paid their bills. The company filed a lawsuit in June 2009 alleging that Forman owes Mastro more than $400,000 for items purchased n 2007 and 2008 auctions. Forman's counterclaim says Mastro Auctions failed to credit almost $22,000 to his account from the sale of baseball cards and comic books the auction house sold on his behalf in 2008 and 2009; the company also owes almost $157,000 for vintage baseball cards Forman consigned for auction but were never sold or returned. The counterclaim also says Forman purchased a 1913 T200 card in 2008 for $13,200. Forman later learned that when Mastro had sold the card in 2004 for almost $3,900, the catalogue noted that it had been altered - a fact that had been omitted from the 2008 catalogue. Doctored cards are generally worth much less than cards that have not been altered. "Mastro instructed Pete Calderon, a Ketap employee, to change the description for the Joe Jackson Fatima by omitting the material fact that it had been rebacked prior to the May 1, 2008 auction," the complaint says. "The rebacking of the Joe Jackson Fatima significantly devalued the card." According to the documents, Mastro officials also used the names of several associates - including Andrew Filipowski, the entrepreneur whose private investment firm purchased the auction house in 2005 - to create accounts for shill bids to artificially escalate prices and auction house commissions."
For the sake of accuracy it should be stated by me that Mr Forman's attorney is an acquaintance of mine. He is a vital member of Net54 the leading website forum on the internet to discuss collecting.
Questionable autographs are everywhere
I am seeing very questionable autographs being sold on non ebay auction sites also. These are general auction sights selling TV's, jewelry, other appliances,miscellaneous items and lo and behold also selling autographs. These auction sites do not have a clue as to what is being done on their web sites. The prices that these autographs are being offered at is startlingly low. It seems that ebay sellers (pressed into desperation by a weak economy) are buying autographs there along with other items that they think they can make money on. They have zero knowledge of the hobby or what is going on in the business now. It is a sad situation. (I call them ebay sellers because they are not autograph dealers. Most have very little if any knowledge of autographs and no presence in the hobby, other than ebay). They are trying to desperately make some money without knowing at all what they are getting into. The website offers auctions of Mickey Mantle and Ted Williams photos minimum bids of $20 or so. They tout the item as being worth $399 and it comes with a Burczyk COA (scroll down to read about him). The autographs sell for minimum bid or a bit more, then wind up on ebay, being sold for $30-$50, a fraction of what Mantle and Williams sold for a year ago.
Some evidence about Nicholas Burczyk
It appears that Mr Burczyk has authored a book about Gestalt Therapy. If you don't know what that is, here is the definition from Wikipedia: Gestalt therapy is an existential/experiential form of psychotherapy that emphasizes personal responsibility, and that focuses upon the individual's experience in the present moment, the therapist-client relationship, the environmental and social contexts of a person's life, and the self-regulating adjustments people make as a result of their overall situation.
I fail to see how this qualifies him to have authenticated thousands of baseball autographs.
A question about COA's which are currently all over ebay
Nicholas Burczyk - Are you out there? Part II
If you do a Google search for his name, there is no biographical information at all, other than the Gestalt information above. If he was the published author and professor that his disciples claim him to be, then where is all that info? Google would certainly have it, if it was out there. I sent an e mail to the people on my mailing list and nobody on that extensive list was able to tell me about him at all.There are only a few posts, on various forums and blogs by collectors/sellers about him. Most of the posts are decidedly negative. It appears that I have gotten my answer about Mr Burczyk. I don't believe he authenticated autographs in bulk 17-18 years ago, though his disciples claim he did so for Scoreboard. I don't believe that these sellers sat on these autographs for all that time and are releasing them now, at the absolute price bottom of the market for these items.
For more information about this story, just scroll down a bit.
Beware Ty Cobb items
This story has been around the hobby for a long time and was just put into print.
A recently published report has described in detail the facts about author Al Stump, Ty Cobb's biographer. It appears that Mr Stump was engaging in a massive forgery scam involving Ty Cobb signed items and memorabilia items. A number of the items in the market now originated from this scam. While there are many legitimate Ty Cobb items in the market now, I urge all to be wary when you buy a Ty Cobb item. Make sure you are buying from a knowledgable dealer or auction house. The items were originally brought to the market by Al Stump through a very well known former autograph dealer/authenticator. Mr Stump fooled him and he then in turn fooled others.
To quote from a published article in the SABR (Society for American Baseball Research) Journal (with the permission of the author Ron Cobb, a distant relative of Ty Cobb and a collector of Ty Cobb memorabilia and autographs) "Ultimately these letters were sold into the market and then were discredited as forgeries by numerous authenticators. They were first offered to Mike Gutierrez, a prominent authenticator (and dealer),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. The forged Stump letters are very well known among memorabilia authenticators and collectors. Jim Stinson, a veteran authenticator/dealer and collector, wrote at length about the Stump forgeries in Sports Collectors Digest, and Ronald B. Keurajian, the premier expert on Ty Cobb autographs, has covered them in detail in the definitive article on authenticating Cobb autographs."
What are they afraid of?
"No Returns Accepted."
I am seeing this phrase embedded in numerous ebay autograph auctions. What exactly are the sellers afraid of? That you will send the autograph to a competent authenticator?
The UACC is the largest autograph organization in the world. The by laws of the club insist that autograph dealers must accept returns if an item is deemed to be not authentic. All ethical autograph sellers abide by this rule.
I repeat myself: What are these ebay sellers afraid of? The answer is obvious. They are already anticipating the autograph will fail a competent examination.
The ethical and intelligent autograph dealer will not be afraid to accept returns. That makes a collector confident in what he is buying. It is good for business to have confident customers. But these sellers are crooked or ignorant or both. What do they know about ethical and intelligent business practices? Obviously, little or nothing.
How can a collector be confident of an autograph if the seller is afraid of it?
A question about COA's which are currently all over ebay
Nicholas Burczyk - Are you out there?
Let me first state that PSA and I may have authenticated a few of these items years ago. Authenticators are not perfect. Mistakes are made now and then even by the best authenticators.
Years ago, the owner of the items in question pleaded with me to authenticate them. He told me that thousands of items were involved and I could make a lot of money. I turned down the opportunity to do this due to my misgivings about somebody having thousands of autographs of basically just Mantle and Williams.
Why would he ask me to authenticate them when supposedly Nicholas Burczyk had already authenticated them in 1992-93?
Supposedly the owner of these items then sent a few to me to authenticate not using his real name. He is claiming this now saying that I did examine a few of them and at that time thought they were authentic. I don't know if these are the same items that are flooding ebay with Burczyk COA's. They might be. If they are, well I have learned a lot about Mantle and Williams autographs in the ensuing years, I learn things about autographs every day, and consider myself to be much more knowledgeable now then I was years ago. PSA also declined to authenticate these after initially authenticating a few.
Here is the original story, the above paragraph was added after new information was received by me.
I am seeing numerous autograph items on ebay with a COA from a forensic examiner named Nicholas Burczyk. It seems to me that these COA's are merely copies of a COA that was possibly used in the distant past by Mr. Burczyk. The printing on the COA states "I have made a review of the Autograph that corresponds with this certificate." Huh? There is no picture of the autograph item on these COA's nor any description of any type of autograph. So what autograph is the certificate referring to? These COA's can be used to "authenticate" any item and that is what is apparently happening with them. There is no evidence that the item that is being sold, with these Burczyk COA's, has ever been examined by Mr. Burczyk. It appears to me that these are the autograph hobby equivalent of "I can sell you some great swampland in Florida."
If I am incorrect then will one of the sellers of items with Burczyk COA's send me real evidence to prove that he has authenticated the item.
Why were these items held off the market for 17-18 years and now all of a sudden are appearing by the hundreds or even thousands on ebay? A few years ago Mantle and Ted Williams autographed photos (those are the autographs most associated with the Burczyk COA) were selling for hundreds of dollars. Now they are regularly selling on ebay for a $30-$50 and sometimes they go unsold at that price. The majority of the hobby seems to be wary of Burczyk COA's.
There are two types of Burczyk COA's that are being used on the internet.
On one type of COA (the one that is flooding the internet) nine phone numbers are listed along with an address.
I called four of the phone numbers. Two are no longer in service, one is Jeannie's Cleaning Service and one is Aon Risk Services, an insurance company. Neither of those two companies have ever heard of Mr. Burczyk.
I feel it is a waste of my time and money to call any of the others.
There are also COA's with his name on them and an "authentication" of an item, with no description or picture of the item. These COA's have no address or phone number for Mr Burczyk.
If anyone has any information that would legitimize these COA's and can prove to me that Mr. Burczyk is currently issuing them, then I will gladly post that information on my website and give the seller that sent me that information some free publicity.
The current claim now is that Mr. Burczyk is retired. Even so, the lack of any identifying information on a COA is ridiculous. Every authenticator in the business, even the ones that I totally disagree with, will identify the item examined on the COA. How else can a COA have any credibility?
If you see a Burczyk COA I would strongly advise getting another opinion on the item before you make an attempt to own it.
Bad news on the internet
There are a very large number of Mickey Mantle and Ted Williams questionable autographs all over internet auctions now and to a lesser extent Joe DiMaggio and Sandy Koufax questionable autographs.(all these autographs have COA's). These signed photos are selling on Ebay for $15 to $50, way under an appropriate retail price. Obviously, there are fewer buyers because knowledgeable ones are not bidding on such items. Remember, what looks like a bargain may not be a bargain.
I am also seeing many questionable 500 HR items, mostly baseballs and some flat items. Maybe it is time for a new Operation Bullpen. Maybe that is already occuring now.
PSA does not hit the bottom
The Better Business Bureau has given PSA a rating of A- as of 8/21/10. A week ago the rating, on the BBB website was an F. I don't know if PSA have taken care of their problems or if the F was in error, but nevertheless the current rating is now an A-. For comparison purposes I want to state that Coaches Corner auctions are rated F and they are actually rated below American Memorabilia (standing tall with a D-). You cannot get lower than an F, no matter how hard you try.
Bad news on the internet,part 2
I am seeing waves of bogus Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, Sandy Koufax and Mickey Mantle autographs on pictures and baseballs. On August 2 I saw a "signed" photo of Mays, Mantle, Dimaggio and Snider (with a COA) sell for a pittance on ebay!! Lots of guys are getting rich off the unknowing buyer. Don't let them get rich off you! These items come with COA's also. Be careful out there!
Sting operators have not tried me again
If you scroll down here to the story entitled autograph sting operation, I have to report that I have not received any more items from Mr. xxx in NJ. Apparently the fact that I am able to do my work properly, as opposed to my more famous competition, has made the "stingers" reluctant to try me again.
Fake Ruth Autograph making the rounds
Nice looking signed Babe Ruth Christmas card, right? Wrong. This line of "Slim Jim" Hallmark cards, was not produced until the early 1950's and of course Ruth died in 1948. Run for the hills if this is offered to you, the person offering it has other items also.
Here Come The Feds (again)
Sources are indicating that a grand jury is reviewing evidence in a case involving some of the biggest players in the sports memorabilia business.They are supposedly edging closer to bringing indictments, possibly before September. There’s no word yet on the exact scope of the ongoing probe, believed to be based at the Chicago office of the FBI.
Perhaps the upcoming National Convention will be interesting for more than one reason.
An autograph sting operation
It appears that a "sting" operation has taken place in the autograph hobby. Apparently, computer reprinted photos, with copy autographs, were sent to some very well known authenticators, who then authenticated these items as legitimate. I say apparently because I have read this on an anonymous website, where the author is too cowardly to come out and sign his name to his stories, so I cannot give the information total credibility. I have since read information about the infamous ownership of this website but have not been able to verify that information. If I can verify it, I will post it here. However, since this sting was attempted on me also, it might be a credible story. I believe that the individual or individuals behind the sting tried to perpetrate this sting on me also. I received a group of four photos with alleged autographs on them. One of them turned out to be a copy of an autographed photo, with a copy autograph. I identified it as such to the person who sent me the photos. A couple of weeks later that same person sent me one more photo, which was also a copy of an autographed photo. I also correctly identified the alleged autograph as not being an autograph but a copy of an autograph. If these incidents were actually a sting, and trying to make me look incompetent, well guys it did not work. And to Mr. XXX in New Jersey and whoever else may have been involved in this, if indeed it was a sting, thanks very much for sending me authentication fees for five items. I am gonna take the Mrs. out to a nice dinner with your compliments. p.s. The Mrs and I had a nice dinner on you guys. Please try again.
Coaches Corner, a Pennsylvania auction company, and the BBB
Based on BBB files, this business has a BBB Rating of F.
Reasons for this rating include: Number of complaints filed against business. Failure to respond to complaints filed against business.
As any schoolboy or girl knows F is the worst grade you can get.
That is a worse grade then American Memorabilia's D grade. Wonder what would compel the BBB to give Coaches Corner an F?
Perhaps a consignor got angry when his Albert Einstein autograph only sold for $200? Perhaps a lot of (well a few) consignors were unhappy with such low prices realized. Perhaps the consignors are complaining to the BBB. Nah.
Ah well, that's life in the autograph world.
Donald Frangipani Lawsuit Dismissed
HBO, Richard Simon, PSA and James Spence won dismissal of a $5 million defamation lawsuit by a Brooklyn, New York handwriting expert who accused the network and “Real Sports” host Bryant Gumbel of tying him to a forgery ring and accused the authenticating companies of violations against his authentication business. U.S. District Judge George Daniels rejected claims in Manhattan federal court Tuesday by Donald Frangipani, who claimed, in his lawsuit, he had more than 40 years of experience in forensic documents. In his 2008 lawsuit, Frangipani accused HBO of violating New York State defamation law over a January 2006 “Real Sports” segment, “Forger’s Paradise,” in which it portrayed him as the authenticator of choice for a forgery ring broken up by the FBI in 2000. The arrests the FBI made led to over 30 indictments and guilty pleas,though Mr. Frangipani was not indicted by the Federal government. Frangipani also alleged that large authentication companies (myself, PSA and James Spence) violated federal antitrust and racketeering laws by conspiring to keep him out of the market. (If I had that kind of power I guess I would have a lot more business than I do now). Among the defendants were Gumbel, who hosts “Real Sports,” as well as the segment narrator Armen Keteyian and several producers from HBO, Richard Simon, James Spence and PSA. In Tuesday’s 15-page decision, Daniels said that Frangipani failed to show that the authentication companies violated federal antitrust and racketeering laws by scheming to freeze him out of the market, or that customers refused to use his services because of the companies’ actions. This case lasted almost two years.
LOOK AT WHAT UPPER DECK DID TO THIS SIGNATURE
Just look at the Maris autograph on this card. I would never offer this type of autograph to my customers. Parts of letters missing all over the Maris autograph and you can have it for only $20,000 on ebay (or make an offer). This is something the card companies have done to create chase cards. Obliterating autographs seems to be a fun thing for them to do. This really should not happen. Even Beckett has criticized the card manufacturers for this practice with this statement: "Many auto cuts of late have been mis-cut, not fitting on the card, and simply, not of top quality presentation." This is a wonderful comment by Beckett on the sad state of these cards. I don't know of any serious autograph collectors who buy these obliterated cards.
A PENNSYLVANIA AUTOGRAPH FORGER GETS 33 MONTHS IN PRISON!
The Feds had arrested a Pennsylvania forger (getting into the real part of the country now where this crap is going on) who sold bogus signed books on ebay. Click this link to read the full story. They threw the book at him, forgery for profit is no longer looked at as a small crime.
Lawsuit Claims Heritage Auction Galleries Uses Fake Bidder to Manipulate Auctions
An interesting story about one of the largest auction houses in the country, a company that has very large sports auctions. Click the link to read about Heritage Auctions and alleged shill bidding. Apparently this lawsuit has been dismissed 3 times and ordered to arbitration.
Beware of single signed baseballs, now more than ever before
A few different sellers are now selling forged single signed "autograph" baseballs on ebay. The quality of most of these forgeries is poor. The sellers are selling them as "replica" baseballs, but the novice collector should be especially careful now when buying single signed baseballs. When buying single signed baseballs (or any autographs) KNOW YOUR SELLER, know that he is a hobby veteran, know that he will honor a lifetime guarantee and that he will stand behind his autographs.
History destroyed by Topps
The trend of card companies placing signatures on trading cards has hit a new low. Even the Beckett Company has made negative comments about what card companies have done on these cards.
In order to make these cards more "valuable", and I use that term valuable in a very derogatory fashion, they place a signature on a trading card and number it 1/1,2/15, 3/1000, etc.
Observe the card illustrated below and see what Topps has done. The signature of Andrew Jackson, a great American President, has been obliterated for the purpose of creating a trading card that is allegedly more "valuable" than his regular signature. Let's look at the facts here. Andrew Jackson always signed his name on one straight line. This signature was cut from a document and then cut in half in order to place it on this card. In addition, note how parts of some of the letters have been destroyed. All for the sake of creating "rare, manufactured memorabilia". In my opinion, this is a pitiful and pathetic practice, you should be ashamed of yourself Topps. This card has appeared on ebay at least twice, the seller has reduced his price, and it has not sold.
The TV shows 20/20 and Inside Edition had a similar episode about Rock n Roll autographs and photo shopped pictures showing fake guitar signings by rock stars.
The online story, which was not discussed on the air, includes denials by people connected to the rock stars about the authenticity of the autographs.
Click the icon to read this story on the ABC website.
American Memorabilia still not paying
It appears that complaints against American Memorabilia are piling up on various internet sites. They still, apparently, are late paying their consignors or in some instances have not paid at all. Various websites and blogs are reporting this. I don't have first hand knowledge of this, but I am seeing reports on websites and blogs. Apparently threats to report them to the BBB or take them to court don't even work anymore. The rating of American Memorabilia with the Better Business Bureau is now an F as of 12/7/09. That is the worst possible grade from the BBB. As of 1/20/10 the grade has been raised to a D+. That is still a pretty awful grade to have from the BBB. I have received several e mails from collectors who have read my info and still are waiting for payment from American Memorabilia for past auctions.
What to beware of on ebay
I am seeing many fake certificates of authenticity on ebay used by sellers of fake autographs. Check out what you see very carefully in ebay auctions. Make sure you get the number of the COA and check the legitimacy of it. Make sure the COA has a name, address and phone number of the person/company that is authenticating the item.
Mastronet still owes consignors from February,2009 auction.
Blogs and forums on the Internet are still running threads and posts from nervous and angry consignors who have not been paid for their consignments from the February auction by Mastronet. An auction house that was quick to criticize others is now under intense scrutiny and has created a very difficult situation for many who are still owed serious amounts of money. What goes around comes around.
FBI at The National Convention continuing investigation
Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States Postal Service were among the guests as the National Sports Collectors Convention continued its run in Cleveland. The Bureau made headlines last year when agents showed up in Chicago, grilling dealers and authentication companies about fraud in the hobby and issuing subpoenas. It wasn't a secret they would be back in 2009. In between, "Sports Collectors Daily" has learned that agents have spent hours investigating a number of different transactions that have been reported to have involved fraud and asking companies to name names. They have also requested bidding records from some auction houses. Just because dealers are interviewed doesn't mean they're targets of the investigation, however. Agents have also chatted with owners of popular online forums and numerous collectors as they continue to seek information.
What is going on here with Mastro/Legendary auctions?
It is now apparent that the reshuffling of Mastro Auctions into another entity Legendary Auctions has created a very unhappy situation for many consignors to Mastro. Forums on the internet have been flooded with complaints from consignors who have not been paid for their consignments. Rumors abound about their business practices. Have they shipped auction lots to winning bidders without being paid? Are they financially capable of paying off consignors? I guess what goes around comes around.
With the death of Michael Jackson, the hobby will be flooded with bogus Jackson autographs, especially on internet sites. BE CAREFUL who you buy from.
American Memorabilia update
The Las Vegas auction company American Memorabilia now has a grade of F from the Better Business Bureau of Southern Nevada. Consignors are posting messages on forums and message boards stating their complaints against this company.
National Academy of Sciences questions forensic science
From The New York Times, Feb 21,2009:
The National Academy of Sciences, the nation’s most prestigious scientific organization, has surveyed the field of forensic science and found it grossly deficient. It’s not just that many forensic laboratories are poorly funded and staffed with “experts” who are poorly trained. The more fundamental problem, according to the study, is that there is LITTLE EVIDENCE OF THE ACCURACY AND RELIABILITY of most forensic methods — especially those that rely on expert interpretation.
The most thoroughly validated technique is nuclear DNA analysis, which has a minuscule likelihood of error when done right. But other well-known methods that can supposedly identify a guilty person or link a weapon or other evidence to a particular crime have NO RIGOROUS SCIENTIFIC PROOF THAT THEY WORK CONSISTENTLY.
THAT GOES for analyses of hair, bite marks, fibers, DOCUMENTS, tools, firearms, shoe impressions, tire tracks, HANDWRITING and blood spatters, among others. The analyses can help focus an investigation but can seldom provide infallible evidence of guilt (emphasis added to the part of this story that applies to the autograph business).
The academy’s panel makes sensible suggestions for improvement, such as certification of forensic professionals, accreditation of laboratories, uniform standards for analyzing evidence and independence of the laboratories from police and prosecutors who might bias judgments. In the long run, research is needed to determine the accuracy of forensic methods. For now, judges, lawyers and juries are on notice that high-tech forensic perfection is a television fantasy, not a courtroom reality.
Beckett comments about Upper Deck cards
This is a comment from a Beckett ad on ebay about autograph cut cards from Upper Deck. Beckett is advertising a Gehrig cut card and includes these words in their ad.
"Many auto cuts of late have been mis-cut, not fitting on the card, and simply, not of top quality presentation. This one does not have those common problems. No part of the signature runs off the paper."(end of Beckett quote).
Why people actually spend 3-10 times the retail value of an autograph to buy these mis-cut autograph cards is beyond me. I look at ebay virtually every day and see these cards from the major card companies. Parts of the autograph are cut off, signatures on photographs are cut out of the photograph to place on a card and other horror stories are prevalent on ebay. This is shameful and ridiculous. Why pay thousands for a Roger Maris autograph when part of his signature is actually missing? Personally, I don't know of one person who collects these things.
Forger indicted by Feds in Pennsylvania
Reading, Pennsylvania, resident allegedly made $300,000 selling falsified authors' signatures on eBay By Kevin Amerman Of The Morning Call January 29, 2009
Since 2002, hundreds of people have relied on a Reading man for books written and signed by famous authors such as Tom Clancy, John Grisham and Anne Rice.
Using eBay, Forrest R. Smith III even sold books featuring the signatures of deceased authors such as Truman Capote. But authorities say a closer look at Capote's ''A Tree of Night'' and Rice's ''Interview with the Vampire'' offered by Smith showed the signatures were no more real than the fictional characters within the covers. The alleged scheme raked in $300,000 for the 47-year-old Smith. But it could cost him 80 years in federal prison.
Federal prosecutors threw the book at Smith last Thursday, charging him with three counts of wire fraud and one count of mail fraud. The indictment alleges that between 2002 and Dec. 15, 2008, Smith forged the signatures of famous authors in copies of their books and then sold the books at inflated prices on eBay to more than 400 unsuspecting purchasers. Others whose signatures Smith allegedly forged included dead writers Michael Crichton, James Michener, Norman Mailer, Leon Uris and Kurt Vonnegut, and living authors John Irving, Annie Proulx, Philip Roth and Tom Wolfe.
''The system of buying and selling over the Internet depends on trust,'' Laurie Magid, acting U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, said in a statement. ''This defendant abused that trust to enrich himself.'' Prosecutors say Smith created and used two eBay accounts: one registered in his name under ''bigdaddy_books,'' and one registered in his wife's name under ''bev103162smith.'' According to the indictment, Smith used the ''bigdaddy_books'' account to purchase unsigned books, then forged authors' signatures in them and re-sold them as ''signed'' from the ''bev103162smith'' account. Smith allegedly obtained documents containing authentic signatures of each author and then had ink-based stamps made.
Global Authentication declares bankruptcy.
Global Authentication filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy papers last month, listing assets of $50,000-$100,000 and liabilities of $1million-$10 million. The long-time sports card grading and autograph authentication company, based in southern California, listed numerous individuals and businesses among its top twenty creditors including the Internal Revenue Service, several sports memorabilia dealers and other public and private entities. A number of GAI employees are also listed in the paperwork obtained by Sports Collectors Daily. Chapter 11 status allows a debtor to reorganize or liquidate pursuant to plans filed with the court.
At least know what you are doing.
I have recently noticed, on ebay, that many companies are selling facsimile autographs matted with a picture or on an actual picture, of old time Hall of Famers. The comic thing about this is that many if not most that I see are copies of forgeries. These people should at least learn what is good and what is bad, before foisting their $12 facsimiles on unknowing people.
The FBI is back in the hobby.(not specifically an autograph story, but newsworthy)
Feds crash National Sports Collectors Convention, hand out subpoenas
BY TERI THOMPSON AND MICHAEL O'KEEFFE NEW YORK DAILY NEWS SPORTS WRITERS Friday, August 1st 2008, 5:35 PM
Federal investigators crashed the National Sports Collectors Convention in Rosemont, Ill., on Thursday and Friday, delivering subpoenas to several hobby executives to appear before a grand jury that is hearing evidence about fraud in their industry. Agents from the FBI and United States Postal Service also questioned other dealers and authenticators at the National, the hobby's largest annual memorabilia show. "This is part of an active federal investigation," said a source familiar with the probe. "I think they came to the National because they knew everybody would be here, all under one roof. It's like shooting ducks in a barrel." As the Daily News first reported in July 2007, the Chicago division of the FBI, whose "Operation Foul Ball" smashed a multi-state autograph forgery ring during the 1990s, last year initiated an investigation into Illinois-based Mastro Auctions, sports memorabilia's largest auction house. The visits from federal agents came as Mastro Auctions officials were preparing for the big live auction the company conducts in conjunction with the National. "No more business as usual," said Chicago collector Michael Gidwitz, who was interviewed by the FBI several months ago. "An unregulated business like this, it brings in a lot of unscrupulous people. This needed to be done a long time ago." Gidwitz, who became the first person to sell a baseball card for more than $1 million when he sold a T206 Honus Wagner once owned by NHL legend Wayne Gretzky to collector Brian Seigel in 2000 for $1.27 million, said he was victimized several times by one-time friend Bill Mastro, Mastro Auctions chairman. Those allegations first appeared in "The Card," a book about the T206 Wagner by two Daily News reporters that was published last year. The Gretzky T206 Wagner, known in hobby as "the Holy Grail," was "discovered" by Bill Mastro in the 1980s. It was graded PSA-8 (on a scale off 1-10) by Professional Sports Authenticators, a card-grading service, even though one of the original authenticators acknowledged the company knew the card had been altered, a major violation of vintage card protocol. The book apparently hasn't affected the price: The Wagner was sold to an anonymous collector last year for $2.8 million through SCP Auctions, which owned a minority stake in the card. SCP, however, has never produced evidence that a transaction actually took place. Mastro and auction house president Doug Allen did not return phone calls for comment. Nor did Randy Mastro, Mastro's brother and attorney who was a deputy mayor under Rudy Giuliani. A Justice Department spokesman in Chicago said he could not confirm or deny an investigation had been initiated. Hobby executives who have talked to the agents in the past year say the agents have asked about "shill bidding," when an aucton house or a consignor enters fake bids on an item in order to drive up the price. Investigators have also expressed interest in a North Carolina warm-up shirt sold at the live auction Mastro's company held at the National last year. The shirt was advertised as a Michael Jordan-owned item, even though Memorabilia Evaluation and Research Services, a leading authentication firm, concluded another player's name - Ranzino Smith - had been ripped from the back and repaced with "JORDAN." The shirt sold for $11,000 and although Mastro Auctions eventually voided the sale, it renewed calls for greater regulation of the dog-eat-dog world of sports memorabilia and attracted attention from the FBI.
American Memorabilia slow to pay their consignors.
It appears that the internet auction company, American Memorabilia, has been very slow in paying consignors after auctions have ended. (I did work for them several years ago). Some collectors have had to wait as long as six months to be paid. Collectors have written to me about this problem and blogs have reported this story, with multiple collectors complaining about this practice. If you have been victimized by American Memorabilia's slow payments I suggest you contact the Better Business Bureau in Las Vegas. It appears that anyone who complains to the BBB will get their money rather quickly.
A very interesting newspaper story about autographs and authenticators, must reading for all collectors.
An excellent story by Michael O Keeffe on The New York Daily News website about autographs and authenticators. Just click the icon.
Memorabilia criminal arrested in Pennsylvania.
Roger Hooper of Mechanicsburg, PA was arrested a couple weeks ago for fraud involving sports memorabilia.
The pre-trial hearing is this Thursday, July 10th at 2pm in New Cumberland, PA, 400 Bridge Street.
Allegedly Hooper sold just about any type of bogus item you can think of via his auction house: autographs, resealed wax, coins, vintage militaria and more. If you think this seller has robbed you contact the authorities. He operated under the name Roger Hooper Auctions.
Some things just amaze me.
For those of you who don't know that major star, Clay Kershaw, he has pitched a grand total of 9 2/3 innings in the major leagues in two games. He is a touted rookie pitcher who was a #1 draft choice. He just signed an autograph deal with Steiner. Now the Steiner name is beyond reproach when it comes to authenticity and I commend them for that. However, they are charging $99 for a Clay Kershaw autographed 8x10. Damn, what will happen when he has 50,75 or 100 innings pitched in the majors. And considering how he looked last night against the Mets it might take him a while to achieve those innings numbers. Many, many Hall of Famers autographed photos are available in the market for $15-25. How can they charge $99 for a rookie with 9 2/3 innings experience?
Beware illegitimate auctions
I have noticed in at least two internet autograph auctions that bogus items are going for 1/10 of what legitimate items would sell for. PLEASE, don't buy items because you think you are getting a great bargain. No great bargains are available for Babe Ruth signed baseballs, Ty Cobb signed bats, Josh Gibson signed anything. Research these items before bidding. Auctions cannot keep coming up with Josh Gibson autographs every month, they cannot keep coming up with George Washington autographs every month. Why would someone consign to these auctions to get 1/10 of what these items should sell for? There are too many buyers in the market to allow "bargains" to occur.
Bogus Hollywood Collection Auctioned Off But Money Refunded
Though not an autograph story, I thought that I should post this article.
DALLAS — Heritage Auction Galleries is offering thousands of dollars in refunds after finding out that Hollywood memorabilia items sold in April were bogus.
"It's mortifyingly embarrassing," Greg Rohan, president of Heritage Auction Galleries, said Wednesday.
The items were sold as the Ann Sothern Collection and included items like a whiskey flask purportedly owned by Errol Flynn, a Humphrey Bogart engraved cigarette case and Lash La Rue's bullwhip. Eleven people paid more than $30,000 for 22 objects. The items were supposedly owned by the late Sothern, a 1940s movie star. The items were consigned to Heritage by LA Prop and Wardrobe, based in Meridian, Miss.
The auction house accepted LA Prop's claim that the collection was authentic without expert review, Rohan said. He said that was a breakdown in company protocol. "We had sold a number of good things for them," he said. "They lulled us into thinking they were a legitimate company." A phone number for LA Prop could not be found.
Heritage typically has its staffers or outside experts determine authenticity, Rohan said. Rohan said that in the case of the Sothern items, the company's entertainment consignment director, Doug Norwine, allowed LA Prop's word to suffice. "That was a blatant violation of our policies," Rohan said. "It was human error." Norwine referred all questions to Rohan.
He said that the company is reviewing more than 200 other items it has sold for LA Prop in the last two years. "I'm shocked we got duped, but every auction house gets duped," Rohan said. "It makes you better, more careful." Rick Spector, a movie memorabilia dealer and auction house consultant, said he has tracked LA Prop buying hundreds of items on eBay before altering them for sale through Heritage. "They should have established authenticity. They shouldn't have let the stuff through the door," Spector said. "That's their job. That's why they get the big (commission) bucks."
Dallas collector Charles Heard paid $4,203 for a fake Errol Flynn whiskey flask in the Sothern auction. After a fellow collector alerted Heard to concerns about the Sothern auction being raised in an online forum, Heard said he contacted the actress's daughter in Idaho, who told him her mother never owned the flask and other items. Heard took his concerns to Heritage on Nov. 30. Rohan said he learned about the problem last week. "I think there is gross negligence on Heritage's part for letting these things come to the marketplace," Heard said.
-- Heritage is an auction house that sells many types of collectibles including sports memorabilia and sports autographs. Based on their own words they were duped into a very embarrassing and careless incident. Reading about things like this just makes me shake my head and shrug.
Government Documents Missing.
MISSING GOVERNMENT DOCUMENTS The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is engaged in recovering historical documents and manuscripts that are missing and which , in some instances, are presumed to have been stolen from the National Archives. America is defined by its history in general and by its founding documents in particular. This article should alert autograph and manuscript dealers and collectors to the fact that certain documents are missing from the National Archives (NARA), and many of us would argue that it is every citizen’s obligation to assist in the recovery of such items if the opportunity presents itself. The contact persons in the OIG’s office of NARA to whom reports of suspected missing or stolen government documents should be made are: Kelly Maltagliati (Special Agent) OR Mitchel Yockelson (Investigative Archivist) Office of the OIG Telephone (301) 837-3715 or (301) 837-3153 Fax (301)837-0879 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com The OIG’s office also has a brochure with color illustrations that, at least in part, instruct one on how to identify stolen government documents. That brochure is available upon request. There is at least a partial list of missing documents listed on the web site of The National Archives at the following link: http://www.archives.gov/research/recover/
PSA rating changes again.
Their up to the minute rating (as of 1/22/08) is BB. Their rating changes more often than some people change their socks.
PSA rating goes down again.
PSA-DNA an authentication and grading company, which spends millions of dollars on advertising, now has a "D" rating from the Better Business Bureau of Southern California, as of 12/18/07. Their prior ratings included a B and an F. The D rating means “We have enough concerns about this company that we recommend caution in doing business with them”. Only an F rating is lower according to Better Business Bureau standards.
Fox TV Chicago does an investigation into JSA Authentication.
Fox TV in Chicago sent an undercover team to investigate JSA Authentication at a baseball card show in Chicago. Click this link to see the broadcast and see how JSA Authentications authenticated a bogus autograph. This is the second time a mistake by Mr. Spence or his company has been made in front of a TV camera.
Global Authentication in trouble? Part 2
According to printed sources Global has relocated and they are still in business.
Global Authentication in trouble?
According to printed sources: According to officials in San Clemente, California the autograph and card authentication company Global Authentication never had a business license to operate and they have now been evicted from their headquarters, possibly due to a rent dispute. I will post further details as they become available to me.
Michael Jordan check??
Though this story is a year old, I was just made aware of it now. It concerns James Spence Authentications (JSA) and Grey Flannel Auctions. Very interesting reading. The story concerns a check which was authenticated by JSA (did JSA actually have exemplars of a 9 year old Michael Jordan autograph?) for a Grey Flannel auction. It was a Coca Cola check allegedly made out to 9 year old Michael Jordan. If you read the post, you will find out how crazy this was. The buyer returned it to Grey Flannel for a refund after being referred to this story on another website. Click the icon to read the full story.
Mastro Auctions and PSA
Here is a link to a story in the New York Daily News about Mastro Auctions, PSA/DNA and a consignor who got a very unhappy result when he attempted to consign a Babe Ruth signed baseball. Click the icon and read this very interesting story.
Husband and Wife Sentenced in Worldwide eBay Fraud Scheme Involving Over 5,000 Victims
(Newport News, VA) – Rachel Reyes, age 29, of Williamsburg, Virginia, was sentenced today to 55 months in prison, three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay $415,754.84 in restitution, in connection with her role in distributing fraudulent celebrity memorabilia items on eBay. Chuck Rosenberg, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; and, Cassandra M. Chandler, Special Agent in Charge, Norfolk Division, Federal Bureau of Investigation, made the announcement after Reyes’ sentencing today before United States District Judge Walter D. Kelley, Jr. According to court documents, Rachel Reyes, her husband Jeffrey Reyes, and her mother, Nancy Selisker, operated their own eBay accounts for the sale of the counterfeit memorabilia, which included record albums and photographs of celebrities with forged signatures. To conduct the fraud scheme, the three defendants purchased unsigned memorabilia from various locations in Virginia, and then forged celebrity signatures on those items. The items subsequently posted the items for auction on eBay's Internet website. The listings falsely described these items as authentic and offered fraudulent certificates of authenticity. From July 5, 2002 through March 11, 2005, using eBay account RICHIEGECKO, Rachel Reyes personally completed 5,265 sales of memorabilia with forged signatures to 3,359 victims, with losses totaling approximately $314,773.97. From July 21, 2003 through March 11, 2005, using eBay account MMASGRL, Selisker personally completed 1,620 sales of memorabilia with forged signatures to 1,104 victims, with losses totaling approximately $118,114.07. From August 10, 2002 through March 11, 2005, using eBay account WOLFIE88, Jeffrey Reyes completed 1,317 sales of memorabilia with forged signatures to 1,124 victims, totaling approximately $130,520.72. Victims were located throughout all 50 states of the United States as well as 33 other countries. On March 26, 2007, Jeffrey Reyes, age 30, of Williamsburg, Virginia, was sentenced to 33 months in prison, three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay $98, 948.94 in restitution for his role in the scheme. Selisker is scheduled to be sentenced on April 30, 2007. The investigation was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. eBay also provided assistance during the investigation. Assistant United States Attorneys Michael Gill and Brian Samuels prosecuted the case for the United States.
FBI Investigating an Auction House ?
There is a column in the New York Daily News of July 8 written by Michael O'Keeffe. The subject of the story is that the FBI is conducting an investigation of Mastro Auctions and shill bidding. Veteran hobby dealer Bill Daniels has been one of those who was questioned by the FBI. He supplied relevant information to the FBI about one particular lot that he had intimate knowledge of.
An intern at the National Archives made off with over 150 documents from the Civil War. Denning McTague, of Philadelphia, pleaded guilty to stealing the government documents in April,2007. He had already sold 70 of the items on ebay. McTague is the owner of Denning House a book and autograph dealer. McTague made $30,000 selling the stolen items on eBay.
PSA is flunked by the Better Business Bureau
The Better Business Bureau of Southern California has now given PSA an F rating. That is the lowest possible rating that a company can get from the BBB. There rating has gone from F to B and currently is now (as of 12/13/07) D. Here is a quote from their website about what an F rating means: "We strongly question the company’s reliability for reasons such as that they have failed to respond to complaints, their advertising is grossly misleading, they are not in compliance with the law’s licensing or registration requirements, their complaints contain especially serious allegations, or the company’s industry is known for its fraudulent business practices."
Here is a summary on the BBB website about the reasons for giving PSA an F rating:
Some complainants allege the company fails to return items sent in for authentication, and in some cases deny ever receiving the item. Other customers complain that the company fails to provide services as agreed, returning itenms without explanation as to why they are determined not to be authentic. Some complainants allege items sent are lost, misplaced, or that the company replaces the high quality items sent in, with lesser valued items before returning to the customer. A few customers complain the company misrepresented the value of cards they purchased, and found after spending considerable amounts of money, a second opinion determined the item as worthless. Most customers report they experience difficulty contacting the company to resolve problems, claiming calls are not returned, and voice-mail or e-mail messages are not answered.
The company responds to some complaints by offering explanations, or by directing complainants to review their policies which are posted on the website. In cases where items are missing or lost, the company asks for proof of delivery, registered tracking numbers, copies of submission forms, check numbers used, dates checks were posted, and any other documentation that might be associated to the transaction, advising the complainant the information will be taken under review, and resolution will depend on the information provided. The company addresses some complaints regarding purchased items by advising the complainant they do not engage in the sale of sports memorabilia, and they must have confused them with another company. The company disputes most allegations, and refunds or credits are usually not issued.
How does this auction company get all these rare autographs?
An auction company which does a large volume regularly has auctioned off six Mathewson's, seven Chesbro's, three or four Delahanty's and too many Ruth's and Gehrig autographs to count in the past few months. Their items sell for 10% of what similar items sell for in other large auctions. I wonder how they keep turning up SO MUCH RARE MATERIAL! And you would think that their consignors would wonder why they were getting so little money for these items when compared to others.
Beware of this baseball.
The following baseball is being offered in the market. In my opinion the signatures are questionable.
Beware of this collection
There is a very large collection (10 page inventory list) of bogus autographs being offered for sale now. All the items I viewed from this collection are bogus and many were forged by the Marino family of Operation Bullpen fame. Be careful. Ruth, Dizzy Dean, Mickey Mantle and many, many more.
Autograph submissions fall at PSA
Collectors Universe, parent company of PSA/DNA has reported a significant decrease in autographed items submitted for authentication for the quarter ending September 30, 2006. The number of items submitted during this quarter decreased by 38 percent. That is a very large drop in the number of submissions. What does this say about PSA/DNA? Some of the best autograph dealers I know, JS, KK, RA, RG and BC do not use PSA. Their experience and knowledge are the prime factors in their success. They don't need to have their autographs put into a slab and graded by a 3rd party.
Another Upper Deck flubbed autograph
Here is another classic Upper Deck card with an autograph that bears no resemblance to reality. This one is actually laughable. To make matters worse, an apparently innocent seller on ebay sold it to an apparently innocent buyer for $1500. The card only had one bid, maybe collectors were avoiding this mess knowingly. I showed this scan to four other dealers and major collectors. All agree it is bogus. For more examples of horrendous Upper Deck autographed cards, scroll down this page.
Bogus Ali autographs and boxer Chuck Wepner
The FBI has busted another forgery operation which included the boxer Chuck Wepner in addition to several other individuals. The individuals included Brian Ginsberg, Michael DeSola and John Olson. These people forged a large number of Muhammad Ali photographs and flooded the market with them. A shame when former athletes become part of forgery operations, isn't it? These men were involved in an elaborate scheme which resulted in many forged Ali items. Wepner used his reputation as a boxer to further the scheme. Probation, banning from the memorabilia business and fines were handed out in this case.
Here is another Upper Deck signature card that is questionable.
Another questionable Upper Deck card has been found on ebay with an autograph of Mordecai Brown. I have shown it to four dealers who think its not authentic.
Another example of PSA's authentication work.
This item was being sold on ebay as of 5/23/06, Item #6589943097. It is a letter signed by German Fuhrer Karl Donitz. (Donitz replaced Hitler). He was the Fuhrer who surrendered to the allies for Germany and ended the European theatre of WWII. This letter is clearly identified in the PSA COA as being signed by Admiral Nimitz (US Navy Admiral during WWII, he served in the Pacific). The PSA COA is signed for PSA by James Spence and Steve Grad. It is dated April 24,2003. The item being sold (obviously a copy of the original historical document, collectors will create these types of items) was signed and dated by Donitz in 1976. Admiral Nimitz died in 1966. They totally misidentified the signature and ID'd it as a man who had been dead for 10 years. The question is did James Spence or Steve Grad do even the least bit of research on this signature and document before signing the COA? Apparently not. Authenticators can disagree on the validity of an autograph. This particular item is not a disagreement on the validity of an autograph. This is a sample of the work PSA has done.
The local Better Business Bureau has given the company a D RATING. That is the second lowest rating possible from the BBB. PSA has authenticated facsimiles as authentic, they have authenticated rubber stamps as authentic, they authenticated autopens as authentic and they have misidentified autographs by not even naming the signature correctly. All of this PSA work is documented below.
More press about the Upper Deck controversy.
Sweet Spot Magazine's cover story in the April/May issue is about the Upper Deck card controversy and contains a lot of interesting quotes from hobby dealers and insiders. The article summarizes what Upper Deck has done and the front cover contains pictures of three Upper Deck cards, with bogus autographs, that are illustrated on my website. It is about time for Upper Deck to tell the collecting public where those autographs came from. The cover of Sweet Spot refers to "stunning mistakes by the card manufacturer and authenticators." The article also discusses in depth the HBO show on Real Sports about autograph authenticators, where only two authenticators were commended by the show (myself included), out of seven that were tested.
Signature removal from baseballs.
There is now a service that is advertising that they can remove autographs on multi signed baseballs, and turn them into more valuable single signed baseballs. Dealers and collectors I know are wondering about this development and what effect it will have on collecting single signed baseballs. The main concern is that at some point in the future, there might not be full disclosure that the ball had been altered. There is no way to guarantee that this will not happen. I have communicated with the owner of the company, and seen his work at the National Convention, and in my opinion he is totally honest and the work he does actually does create very good looking single signed baseballs (as long as you don't submit a ball with sharpie signatures). When he sells a baseball he includes full disclosure of his work. Three auction houses have sold these baseballs, Mastronet, Robert Edward and Heritage Gallery, with the proper disclaimer in their catalogs. I worry about what happens after the auction house sells the baseballs. Will the next seller issue a proper disclaimer?
Lelands Auction House will not accept these baseballs and I have received an e mail from the President of Lelands regarding this.
"Rich, I am against the process.... I believe that it opens the door for people to be misled even if there is full public disclosure the first time an item is sold. Heff" (Mike Heffner, Pres of Lelands)
However Bill Mastro has a different opinion and he has supported this company's work as long as full disclosure is present. Here is his quote:
"It is obvious to me that your service is not intended to cheat or con anyone. It is meant to enhance the desirability and collectibilty, not necessarily the value, of an autographed baseball."
If you desire to have this work done to enhance the collectibility of your baseballs, then by all means go ahead and do it.
I met the owner of this company at the National and saw many of the baseballs he has worked on. The work they do is good. If you don't mind owning a baseball where signatures have been removed, then go ahead and use them. However, I still want to alert all collectors to be wary of any single signed baseballs. Hold the ball under a UV light (in a dark room) and any alterations will stand out immediately. The owner of the company does not deny this will happen. He fully discloses it upon a sale. Just be wary when purchasing single signed baseballs from other individuals.
Here is the way a ball with alterations looks under UV light.
My examinations of baseballs will always include an examination by UV light. I will detect any alterations in signed baseballs. If you own single signed baseballs now, I urge you to check them out carefully or have them checked by someone who can detect alterations. This service does fine work on baseballs signed with ball point pen or fountain pen. Just be aware of what you are buying when you purchase single signed baseballs.
Another fake UACC COA.
Here is another fake UACC COA being used on ebay. I spotted it being used by a UK seller. If you see an item being offered for sale with this COA, please report it to me or the UACC and DO NOT BUY THE ITEM.
Barron's writes about PSA.
Barron's Online has just published a story about Collectors Universe (parent company of PSA-DNA). Much of the story, entitled "Kinda Sorta Genuine", is about PSA-DNA and a number of items that they examined. Click this link to read the story.
Upper Deck Signature Card Controversy.
Autograph Collector Magazine had written a full page story about Upper Deck and autographs. I have a large PDF file of this story. You can e mail me for a copy.
As of December,2006 there is still no resolution between Upper Deck and the buyer of the famous Quad card, Kevin Demitros. Mr. Demitros has paid $85,000 for this card, with two bogus autographs on it. (see below for more information about this story).
The Associated Press has now circulated a story about the Upper Deck Quad Card controversy. It does not cover the story in depth like the New York Daily News story, but it seems the story is spreading and collectors are becoming very aware of this problem. I have seen the story appear in at least a few online editions of newspapers.
The New York Daily News has a story in the Feb 19 edition about the Upper Deck controversy. Here is the link to the Feb. 19 story, entitled "A Sign of The Times":
I have recently been made aware of the following Upper Deck cards:
This card features a picture of Ray Dandridge and incorrectly includes his wife's autograph.
This card features a picture of Eddie Collins yet it contains an autograph of Edd Roush, which has the "h" cut off to fit on the card.
This card features a picture of Charlie Keller and a ghost signed signature (signed by a family member) of Earle Combs.
This card features a picture of Joe Cronin and a real signature of Earle Combs.
A fax newsletter on 2/13 from Sports Collectors Digest (SCD) contains a statement from the Upper Deck Company regarding the Quad Card controversy. The company president Bob Andrews stated "We are disapointed that HBO chose to run a TV segment where a convicted felon was allowed to cast doubt on this card". Mr. Andrews seems to ignore myself, Global Authentication, PSA Quick Opinion, one unnamed but well known authenticator, autograph dealer Seth Boyd and the grandson of Walter Johnson who have all had problems with one or two of the autographs on this card. Seems like it's a case of shoot the messenger and ignore the message. A typical diversionary tactic to draw attention away from the real problem.
The company issued a statement that avoids any specifics and stated that "We utilize well known and respected vendors, each with many years of experience, to provide autographs for our cut-signature products. Each vendor must provide us with a COA". Well I would be curious to know which vendors provided the following signatures, which have been looked at (digital images only) by NUMEROUS autograph dealers, none of whom believes in the authenticity of these autographs.
Some of these cards have sold for substantial sums of money. Without a doubt, the majority of cards I have seen from Upper Deck have contained authentic autographs. The following are three examples of authentic UD autograph cards.
However the number of cards that contain questionable autographs is alarming. It also alarms me to see cards picturing one player with the autograph of another. Who is running their autograph operation?
Upper Deck indicates in their statement that a "premier authenticator" will be retained for future autographs. So if they are going to retain an authenticator in the future, why did they not retain one in the past? The actions of Mr. Jaffe and the story on Real Sports have brought about a change in Upper Deck. Interesting that they call him a felon, yet have now changed their system as a result of his actions.
Were the autographs on the cards in question ever authenticated by a third party after purchase by Upper Deck? Who sold Upper Deck the autographs that are in question now? How many more (if any) of these cards with questionable autographs are out there? Thousands of Upper Deck cards have been sold with vintage autographs attached.
I have been told that SCD will shortly be running a story about the Upper Deck Signature cards. To read more about the Upper Deck controversy click this link to The Brill Report. Scroll to the bottom of that page to see the autographs that were submitted for authentication, by a well known authenticator, who did not want to be named. (scans of these autographs were submitted, not the actual card):
HBO airs a show about sports autograph collecting including segments about authenticators, COA's and Upper Deck. See how the forensic authenticators and other authenticators did in a blind test.
Real Sports, an HBO series, did the autograph hobby a service in a show which was first aired on Tuesday Jan 17. It has been aired again, and is scheduled to be aired several more times on an HBO channel over the next few days. The show did an investigative report on authenticators, COA's and Legendary Cuts Upper Deck signature cards.
At the insistent urging of Shelly Jaffe, several months ago Real Sports began an investigation into the autograph business. (Shelly Jaffe is the person referred to as "Eddy" in the show.) Shelly Jaffe had felt that collectors and autograph buyers were still getting ripped off for huge dollar amounts, especially on the Internet, and it was time for him to try to do something about it. Mr Jaffe was not paid by HBO and did not profit at all from the work he did. He wound up doing some very good work.
Real Sports then started to conduct an investigation into the autograph market and its current state. The show initially conducted an interview with an enthusiastic collector who made most of his purchases on the internet and on ebay. This collector enjoyed involving his children in the hobby with him and had a number of signed framed items in his home. He seemingly did not have the awareness of some of the pitfalls in the autograph market.
Real Sports then interviewed FBI agent Tim Fitzsimmons who has been the point man for the Federal Government and investigations into the autograph hobby. Tim headed the famous Operation Bullpen, which resulted in numerous arrests and convictions and the disbanding of the largest forgery ring in the country. Tim was interviewed in the FBI warehouse, where many of the forgeries that were confiscated are still kept. He showed the Real Sports reporter a large group of Babe Ruth cut signatures, all of which were forgeries, and he showed the reporter a large box of COA's which came from forensic authenticator Donald Frangipani. FBI undercover tapes revealed members of the forgery ring discussing sending their items to Donald Frangipani to receive COA's for them.
Real Sports then interviewed Dan Marino and had him look at some of his own "autographs" on ebay. He looked at a few items and deemed them to be bogus.
Authenticators and COA's on HBO.
The show then began to investigate authenticators and COA's. In order for the show to give collectors an idea of what can happen with COA's, the FBI allowed Real Sports to use known forged items for their investigative report.
In the next segment of the show, an associate of the show with a hidden camera, visited Donald Frangipani's office with seven items that were given to the show by the FBI and which came from the warehouse where the forgeries are kept. Mr. Frangipani, who is a "certified forensic examiner," declared that the seven signatures on these seven forged items were genuine. He then went further and warned about the dubious nature of the autograph market.
Real Sports then appeared at Mr. Frangipani's office the next day to tell him that all the seven items he had issued COA's for were bogus according to the FBI. Mr. Frangipani scored 0-7 in this undercover test by Real Sports. The Real Sports reporter questioned Mr. Frangipani quite intensely and Mr. Frangipani stated that he had made honest mistakes and was only giving his opinion. He was pressed by the reporter on why he never questioned getting so many autographs allegedly from the old great HOFers. He said he asked himself that question, but did not ask the people sending him the autographs.
Real Sports then sent out 30 bogus items to six authenticators. These items also came from the FBI warehouse where the forgeries were kept. I was one of the six authenticators who was tested. According to Real Sports, Global and I did very well in this test, while "four of the six authenticators failed miserably." (this is a quote from the reporter on the show, Armen Katayan). As to the four who "failed miserably," the COA's of Frank Garo, Stat Inc, Christopher Morales (a forensic examiner) and AAU (a forensic examination company) were shown on the screen as the reporter Armen Katayan continued his report.
Though there are published statements and information on the internet stating that Mr Morales and Mr Frangipani are partners, an attorney for Mr. Morales has informed me that they are not partners, past or present. There is no longer any information on the internet about Mr. Morales and Mr. Frangipani being partners in any venture. On Mr. Morales website he states that any such information on any website was done without his permission.
Real Sports then went back to "Eddy" who gave further details of the operations of the forgery ring. He stated that it was "forensic experts" who helped the ring to succeed. He would send autograph items, from the forgery ring, to Mr Frangipani and they all came back to him as authentic with COA's.
Real Sports quoted Tim Fitzsimmons that Donald Frangipani was the "authenticator of choice" for the ring. But the show also made it clear that Mr. Frangipani had never been charged by the federal government.
Real Sports asked ebay to comment but they declined. However, they did point out that they are teamed with PSA-DNA authentication services, and make that service available for a nominal fee to buyers on ebay.
Real Sports continued their investigative report into the autograph hobby by focusing on an Upper Deck 2005 SP Legendary Cuts Autograph Quad Cuts card. This card had four cut signatures on it. The signatures on this card were purportedly of Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Walter Johnson and Ty Cobb.
Mr. Jaffe became aware of this card during the course of the filming of the HBO show. For those of you not familiar with these cards, they are insert cards with the signature of a well known athlete affixed to the card. They have been selling for considerably more than the autograph itself would have ordinarily sold for.
This particular card was auctioned by Beckett on Ebay after receiving a lot of publicity. The card sold for $85,000. The four cut autographs if legitimate would have sold for less than $10,000.
"Eddy" stated that the Babe Ruth and Walter Johnson signatures were products of the forger Greg Marino, who was the leader of the forgery ring. Mr Jaffe was told by HBO that they wanted to get the top authenticators to examine these autographs.
The signatures were sent, by scan, to me, Global Authentication and PSA-DNA Quick Opinion service. We did not know that the signatures were from an Upper Deck card. Global and I said the signatures did not appear authentic to us. PSA stated that the signatures were "likely not genuine". In addition, Seth Boyd an autograph dealer whom I totally trust, was sent scans of these two autographs. He also did not think they were authentic. One other prominent authenticator who did not want his name used also turned down the Walter Johnson. He did not view the Babe Ruth.
Upper Deck, referred to as the "gold standard" in the industry, made a statement that they stand by their product. Forums and blogs on the internet are now questioning the authenticity of other Upper Deck Signature Legendary Cut cards.
I would think that we will be hearing more about this card.
Here is what the card looks like:
Click here for a page illustrating bogus autographs.
Fake UACC Certificates of Authenticity
A dealer unknown to me at this moment, is issuing fake COA's to make it appear that the COA is coming from the UACC. Do not believe these COA's for a second. Here is a scan of the fake COA. The collector who submitted this COA to me will not reveal the name of the dealer, despite repeated attempts on my part to get this information.
A lawsuit against PSA.
Final Judgment Entered in Miller Case; Collectors Liability Is $14,060 Thursday December 1, 5:43 pm ET Plaintiff Is Expected to Appeal NEWPORT BEACH, Calif., Dec. 1 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Collectors Universe, Inc. (Nasdaq: CLCT - News), a leading provider of value-added authentication and grading services to dealers and collectors of high-value collectibles and diamonds, today announced that the Orange County, California trial judge presiding over the action brought against the Company by a former employee, William Miller, has issued a final judgment that the statutory damages owed to plaintiff under California Civil Code Section 3344 are $0.00. That judgment was entered pursuant to an agreement reached this morning by the parties. We have been informed by our trial counsel that, in California, it generally takes at least one year, and sometimes as long as two years, from the filing of an appeal of a damage award, before the appeal is actually heard by an appellate court. The judgment also provides for the Company to pay Miller the sum of $14,060, which the jury found were the profits earned by the Company for the use of Miller's name, and for Miller to pay the Company the sum of $37,812, representing the aggregate principal amount of certain loans that the Company had made to Miller while he was employed by the Company, but which he had failed to repay.
Bill Miller, former publisher of Autograph Collector magazine (which was owned by Collectors Universe) is suing Collectors Universe (parent company of PSA-DNA). Bill has told me that THOUSANDS of COA's with his facsimile signature were issued by PSA-DNA. The number of items he examined was ZERO. Why has PSA implied that autograph authorities are examining the autograph submissions that they receive? Mr. Miller's attorney has deposed the head of Collectors Universe and will be deposing Joe Orlando, the president of PSA-DNA. Why would PSA put facsimile signatures on their COA's of people who never looked at the item? What impression are they trying to creat? Now the question is, did Jimmy Spence, Steve Grad,Zack Rullo, Bob Eaton, John Reznikoff, etc. look at an item that has their real or facsimile signature on the COA? Did they examine the item physically? I don't know.
Here is the corrected press release from the law firm that represented Bill Miller: SANTA ANA, Calif., Nov 09, 2005 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- JURY VERDICT COULD RESULT IN $10.5 MILLION AWARD TO FORMER COLLECTORS UNIVERSE EXECUTIVE; BOUDREAU, ALBERT & WOHLFEIL REPRESENTS PLAINTIFF Boudreau, Albert & Wohlfeil LLP announced today that an Orange County jury awarded a former executive of Collectors Universe, William Miller, with awards that could total in excess of $10.5 million against Collectors Universe [ CLCT] . The jury found that Collectors Universe used Miller's name on 14,060 Certificates of Authenticity without his permission. "We are grateful that the jury saw fit to hold Collectors Universe accountable for its actions," said Andrew Albert, lead attorney on the case and partner at the law offices of Boudreau, Albert & Wohlfeil LLP. "Their verdict is an important step in allowing Bill to reclaim his good name and to protect the public from false authentication services." In his suit, filed August 2004, Miller alleged that Collectors Universe placed his name and signature on Certificates of Authenticity which indicated that he had examined items being authenticated, when, in fact, he had never performed a single authentication for the company's PSA/DNA Division, under which the certificates wer! e issued. Miller's suit alleged violation of his right to privacy by misappropriating his name. Under California Civil Code section 3344 compensatory damages of $750 per unauthorized use are presumed. In addition, court costs and attorney's fees are recoverable. The jury found that Miller had been harmed by Collectors' unauthorized use of his name. The court has previously ruled in the first phase of the trial that for each unauthorized use of his name, Miller may recover $750. The jury also awarded Miller Collector's profits made through the use of his name. Attorney's fees may also be added to the judgment. Miller said he feels vindicated by the clear-cut jury verdict. "It's horrible enough to have your name taken from you purely for someone else's financial gain, but it's another thing to be used as a pawn to deceive or even defraud the public. ! For the rest of my life, I will live with the uncomfortable feeling that at any time I might be held responsible for someone who authenticated an autograph I never looked at. When an item turns out to be not genuine, as we have already found to be the case in a number of instances, it's my name which will bear the responsibility and my reputation, carefully built over 15 years, which will be damaged." SOURCE: Boudreau, Albert & Wohlfeil LLP
A QUESTION FOR PSA: Facsimile signatures of their authenticators are printed at the bottom of the COA's. Who is authenticating these autographs? Collectors don't you want to know who examined your autograph? Is it a former hotel autograph chaser examining your autographs? They have such people on staff. Is it someone who authenticates autographs with barely a look? Is it someone who examines autographs under glass, without removing the glass first, to see if the signature is pre printed? Their most experienced authenticator is no longer with the company.
Bill Miller's name is on thousands of COA's. He never examined one item. A question for Spence, Rullo, Grad, Epperson, Reznikoff, Eaton, etc. whose names appear or have appeared on PSA COA's. Are you examining the items that have your name on the PSA COA? Mr. Miller did not examine any items. Just because a facsimile signature appears on a COA, that does not mean it has been examined by that authenticator.
More news about the Bill Miller lawsuit against Collectors Universe:
NEWPORT BEACH, Calif., Nov. 21 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Collectors Universe, Inc. (Nasdaq: CLCT), a leading provider of value-added authentication and grading services to dealers and collectors of high-value collectibles, today announced that the Orange County, California trial judge presiding over the previously reported lawsuit brought against the Company by William Miller, informed the parties on November 18, 2005, that he intends to render his final ruling on the issue of damages on December 1, 2005. The trial judge on November 18, 2005, also issued a "tentative ruling" to indicate his current intention as to how he will rule on December 1, 2005. That tentative ruling is set forth below.
A tentative ruling is not binding and, although it does not often occur, the judge could issue a final ruling that differs from his tentative ruling. Despite the tentative ruling, which indicates that the judge is not willing to render a judgment of $10 million against the Company, because he believes that such an award would be excessive, and the Company's continued belief that it will not incur any material liability in this case, that tentative ruling also indicates that there continue to be a number of relatively novel legal issues involved in this case. As a result, it is not possible to predict, with certainty, what the ultimate outcome of this case will be.
More news about PSA.
Mike Gutierrez, according to the PSA website, has joined PSA as an "autograph consultant." I am wondering what exactly that term means. What does an autograph consultant do, as opposed to an autograph authenticator? Will he be a facsimile signature on the bottom of the PSA COA, or will he be taking an active part in authenticating? "Autograph consultant",,, what do you think? PSA President, Joe Orlando, described Gutierrez as "one of the top autograph authenticators in the sports memorabilia business." Is he an authenticator or a consultant? If he is a "consultant" what will he be doing? Apparently he is one of those facsimile signatures on the PSA COA. Is he actually examining autographs? If anyone can supply the answer, please let me know. Or is this another example of a signature on a COA when the item was not examined?
Phillip and David Scheinman pled guilty in Federal court on August 12 for selling forged sports memorabilia. They owned and operated a store in Las Vegas called Smokey's Sportscards. They were prominently featured on TV when the FBI raided numerous establishements in Operation Bullpen. The raid on their store made TV news all over the country. The father made a fool of himself on national television. They also sold on ebay. The father-son combination will be serving at least one year in Federal prison.
Check this URL for an interesting story about Muhammad Ali forgeries. Ali sued three memorabilia dealers: Grey Flannel of New York, B&E Collectibles of New York and Broadway Rick's of Florida for selling forgeries of his signature on lithographs. He settled the lawsuit for an undisclosed sum and all the material that was forged was destroyed.
Let me let Jim Caravello tell this story: "I recently won the Ernie Banks Game Used bat in the American Memorabilia Auction from the 50's. The bat I purchased is unsigned - the way I like my gamers. Its an incredible piece of wood and I couldn't have been happier in winning the auction. It had a COA from Taube and Malta, game used examiners. Then I received a letter from American Memorabilia with another COA on the bat - this one from PSA / DNA authenticating the autograph on my Ernie Banks bat!! What autograph! I pulled the bat down from my rack again - there is no auto - I checked the Auction Catalog again and it didn't mention that it was autographed. The bat has no auto, yet I have a full COA from PSA / DNA on the autograph on the bat!!! What a Joke!! I guess if I sign the bat, the auto is real?!?" No comment is necessary from me.
Here is the link to the bat in the American Memorabilia catalog:
http://www.americanmemorabilia.com/Auction_Item.asp? auction_id=16475&aucsearch=banks% 20bat&aucperiod=&auclisttype=&auccat=&tfm_orderby=&tfm_order=
Now it seem PSA-DNA is authenticating invisible autographs. Another cursory examination I guess. (I had to comment :) ). Here is the COA for the autograph:
There was an auction on ebay:
The auction is for a "signed" Mark McGwire card, authenticated and graded by PSA. The "signature" on the card is rubber stamped. Thanks to Randall Hahn for this information. Randy is the foremost Mark McGwire expert in the country and he has this rubber stamp exemplar. Looks like another "cursory review."
On June 7th an ebay auction was started for a baseball purportedly signed by Joe DiMaggio (auction #5206467320). The baseball had an "In The Presence" COA from PSA, supposedly meaning a PSA representative witnessed the signing.
A potential buyer submitted the auction ad to PSA for a "Quick Opinion," which came back "unable to render opinion." This despite the fact that the ball was supposedly "witnessed" by a PSA representative. (The COA was pictured in the auction ad, as was the PSA sticker on the baseball. They had matching ID numbers, 1A 37058).
The buyer stated that he was puzzled: PSA cannot authenticate a signature that they witnessed? How can that be possible? What is the implication of this?
The buyer says he confronted the seller, who appeared to be as puzzled as the potential buyer. The buyer claims he has e mails showing that the seller contacted PSA. The e mails stated that (a) there are some “problems” with some of the DiMaggio balls, and (b) PSA would purchase the ball. If they "withnessed" this signing, why offer to purchase the ball?
The seller ended the auction early and promptly removed all pictures from his ad.
Did Joe DiMaggio sign this baseball or any balls in the presence of PSA? That is the main question. Would PSA have stated that they witnessed this signature if they did not witness the signature? I know the answer to that question.
Are there other such “problems"? Have they "witnessed" other signatures that they now have "problems" with. What does this mean about the PSA In Person authentications?
Both of these auctions have been pulled by ebay and are no longer viewable.
An autograph seller named Randy Smyly, from the great state of Arkansas, has copied parts of my web page, which have been critical of PSA, and circulated it in an e mail to various individuals, in an attempt to discredit PSA. But Mr. Smyly has been using PSA COA's in his ebay ads. This is the height of hypocritical behavior, don't you think? Mr. Smyly usually endorses forensic authenticators over hobby authenticators. I AM NOT ASSOCIATED WITH RANDY SMYLY and I never have been in the past and never will in the future.
A statement had been posted on the PSA website: "Some of you may or may not have encountered a PSA/DNA Auction Letter in the marketplace...Please keep in mind these Auction Letters are NOT representative of full PSA/DNA authentication...Prior to the sale, the items are presented for a cursory review only. The items are NOT tagged with our synthetic DNA, are not issued with PSA/DNA serial numbers, and the items are NOT photographed (as they are on our full PSA/DNA authentication letters)...The full letter can be provided for ,, fee." The dictionary definition of cursory is "HASTY and without attention to detail, NOT THOROUGH." They admitted that they conduct hasty exams that were not thorough, and now want collectors to PAY MORE MONEY to make up for the cursory work they did.
For YEARS auction houses have been stating "authenticated by PSA-DNA." Auction houses that use PSA include Mastro Net, Hunt, Grey Flannel, Clean Sweep, American Memorabilia, Guernsey's and more. And now we find out that these autograph exams were cursory exams only. They had admitted to this on their website. Millions of dollars of autographs have been sold with cursory exams. And now PSA wants more money from the collector, after the auction houses have already paid them thousands of dollars for these cursory exams.
PSA changed the wording on their website to read "authentication review" instead of cursory review. What does that mean? "Collectors give us more money" it seems to mean to me. Authentication review? What does that mean? Auction houses - are your items thoroughly examined by PSA?
PSA has changed the website yet AGAIN. It now reads "the (auction) items ,,, have been examined and deemed authentic by PSA/DNA."
Make up your mind PSA. Cursory review? Authentication review? Examined and deemed authentic? (How and by who?). If they were indeed examined why did PSA initially state the items only had cursory reviews.
A QUESTION FOR PSA: Facsimile signatures of their authenticators are printed at the bottom of the COA's. Who is authenticating these autographs? Collectors don't you want to know who examined your autograph? Is it a former hotel autograph chaser examining your autographs? They have such people on staff. Is it someone who authenticates autographs with barely a look? Is it someone who examines autographs under glass, without removing the glass first, to see if the signature is printed? Their most experienced authenticator is no longer with the company.
Bill Miller's name is on thousands of COA's. He never examined an item. A question for Spence, Rullo, Grad, Epperson, Reznikoff, Eaton, etc. whose names appear or have appeared on PSA COA's. Are you examining the items that have your name on the PSA COA? Mr. Miller did not examine any items.
From Collectors Universe financial statement: (parent corp. of PSA) Units authenticated by PSA/DNA decreased by 40% to 15,000 units, in the third quarter of fiscal 2005 from 25,000 in the same period in 2004.
The second lawsuit against PSA has recently been filed by Bill Daniels, a dealer in Indiana. The lawsuit is filed against Mastronet and PSA-DNA. Click this link to read the lawsuit.
I just received some new information about PSA from autograph dealer Kevin Keating. He was the winning bidder of what appeared to be a Charles Ebbets (Owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers and Ebbets Field) 1915 signed letter on Dodger stationery from a local auctioneer. The letter came with a COA from PSA. When Kevin received the letter it turned out to be a letter signed by Charles Ebbets Jr., who was the secretary of the Dodgers, and listed on the letterhead, and not THE Charles Ebbets, who was President of the Dodgers, and also listed on the letterhead. The autograph of Charles Ebbets Jr. was authenticated by PSA as the autograph of Charles Ebbets. Their signatures bear no resemblance to each other. Was this letter examined at all?
Authenticators disagree about authenticity. Authenticators make honest mistakes. However, authenticating a Charles Ebbets Jr. signature as his father's signature, authenticating George Bush autopen signatures as genuine, authenticating Bruce Springsteen facsimile signatures as genuine, these are not disagreements over signatures. (read the next few paragraphs for the details). These errors were all done for auction houses. These mistakes are coming from the authentication service that likes to boast in their advertising that the item is not real unless PSA says it's real. Really? These errors were made because the items were examined in a HASTY manner and without attention to detail.
Here is another example of their work: In the American Memorabilia auction ended 10/21/04 Lot #1 was a Bruce Springsteen "Born In The USA" RIAA Platinum Album Award, allegedly signed by Bruce Springsteen and authenticated by PSA-DNA. However if you look at the following link -
you will see that the exact same album/award is being offered by Rockaway Records for $750 and they state that the signature is a facsimile. The signatures on both these albums match exactly.
Here is the link to the American Memorabilia sale at $6060 for the Springsteen award, with a signature authenticated by PSA.
On 1/14 I wrote to American Memorabilia suggesting that they issue a refund.
Here is a copy of an e mail sent to American Memorabilia to alert them of this problem:
> From: Smith
> Date: Wed Sep 15, 2004 4:47:03 PM US/Eastern > To: firstname.lastname@example.org > Cc: email@example.com > Subject: SPRINGSTEEN- Non-Authentic item in your auction > > Hi-- I thought you'd like to know that the Springsteen USA platinum
> award pictured in SCD was NOT authentically signed by Bruce as you've
> described. Every single one of these awards (& they presented
> hundreds & hundreds) contains the very same label with the same
> PRE-PRINTED facsimile signature. I have several of these labels and
> a scan is attached. PSA/DNA is completely incorrect. (Just so
> you know, I have authenticated Springsteen memorabilia for many years
> for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Odyssey Group , R&R Enterprises and
> others). Sincerely, Billy Smith. (Former owner of "The Asbury Park
> Rock & Roll Museum")
I want to thank Shelly Jaffe who suggested I contact Columbia Records. We did that by phone and here is the e-mail reply we received from Columbia:
Sent: Thursday, January 13, 2005 1:51 PM
Subject: Re: FW: Emailing: Auction_Item.htm
The company that made it stamped the signature on, it is NOT authentic!
I wrote to Kieta at American Memorabilia informing them of what Columbia Records said. She never replied. Did the buyer ever get a refund?
Here are the scans from both catalogs. The first American Memorabilia. The second from Rockaway Records.
The following information is from Kevin Keating. A December auction by Grey Flannel contained: Lot #7 "President George Bush Correspondence to Coach Dale Brown" which contained three letters "signed" by George Bush. Two were signed as President. The three were authenticated as genuine by PSA. Kevin purchased this lot. Upon receiving the letters, it was obvious that the two that were signed as President were signed with a mechanical device called an autopen and were not signed by George Bush. Kevin sent copies to me, and it is OBVIOUS that these letters were signed by an autopen as you can lay one signature over another and see the overlap. PSA had two George Bush autopenned letters and did not even attempt to determine if they were signed by an autopen. If they had made even the most minor effort, the fact that an autopen was used, would have been revealed to them. PSA did not make this very minor effort to determine authenticity. How could they deem these letters as real? PSA is now authenticating autopen presidential signatures as genuine. The third letter was genuine and not signed as President. Kevin returned the three letters to Grey Flannel for a refund. He sent a copy of his cover letter, which he had written to Grey Flannel, to Jimmy Spence of PSA. Kevin received an immediate refund from Grey Flannel for these letters. No response from Jimmy Spence.
The December print edition of the American Memorabilia auction catalog contained item #725 a photo which is titled "Babe Ruth Signed Photo", COA: PSA-DNA. An e mail, sent to their mailing list, was received by me stating that there are updates, changes and corrections in their auction, which are then posted on their website. Item 725 is now called a Babe Ruth Secretarial Signature, "which in itself is rare." (they state that in their description of the photo). A rare secretarial? Wow!. Authenticators PSA-DNA. What does the original COA from PSA state? Did the COA state it was an authentic Babe Ruth signature? It is obviously a secretarial. Did the COA state that it was a secretarial signature? What did happen here? The photo, according to their website, sold for over $800.
It's been revealed that PSA has an "unsatisfactory" record according to the Better Business Bureau of the Southland for a "pattern of unanswered and unresolved customer complaints.
Kevin Keating has written to me about a number of problems he had with PSA-DNA. All his information is very well documented. He purchased a Roberto Clemente single signed ball from Hunt Auctions. The ball had a COA from PSA. After owning the ball for a period of time he submitted the ball to Mastro Auctions, to sell for him, and the ball was returned to him. (they also use PSA). The rejection letter stated that the Clemente signed baseball had signatures removed from three panels and that they cannot determine the authenticity of the Clemente signature. This incident happened over a period of only a few months. In addition Kevin had purchased auction items with PSA authentication some time earlier, and then resubmitted them for sale later on, to the same auction house. They were rejected.
MAJOR INDICTMENTS - Stan Fitzgerald, his wife and his mother were indicted by the Federal government, on April 20,2004 and taken into custody on April 23. The business he ran was STAN'S SPORTS MEMORABILIA. Tim Fitzsimmons of the FBI accumulated evidence that purportedly shows that Stan Fitzgerald sold at least $2,000,000 worth of fakes from Nov, 1995 to Oct, 1999. His fake autographs were always accompanied by COA's from SCAA or J. DiMaggio. Stan did have some private signings. Those items did not have those COA's.
Click above to read a story about a former major league umpire who has pled guilty to selling forged memorabilia!
In a follow up to the American Memorabilia-PSA story below, two days after I e mailed the original story to my mailing list and posted it on my website and on the autograph newsgroup, there was a change on the American Memorabilia web page which listed that 500 HR baseball. The bid, formerly listed at $1429, is now listed as $0 and no winning bidder listed. The authenticator listed on this lot now reads: PSA/DNA James Spence, where previously it had listed PSA/DNA and Mike Gutierrez with no mention of James Spence. They made changes on that web page and added the name of James Spence as the authenticator. Why did American Memorabilia make so many changes to that web page and leave PSA/DNA as the authenticator, eliminate the name of Mike Gutierrez as the authenticator, and add the name of James Spence as authenticator to the page? Mr. Spence has stated that the ball was knocked down by PSA yet he is listed as the authenticator. Why?
I wrote to American Memorabilia for an explanation. They never replied. The page has been changed again. Now PSA/James Spence is no longer listed as the authenticator. Why?
A fact that you should know, I am also in the authentication business and I have in the past been an authenticator for American Memorabilia, and an employee of PSA (I left years ago) but my motivation here is to get to the truth in this matter.
In the March,2004 auction of American Memorabilia, Lot 190 was a signed 500 Home Run baseball with 12 signatures. The online catalog and printed catalog listing for this baseball stated that PSA/DNA and Mike Gutierrez had authenticated the baseball. Several experienced collectors and dealers, viewing the catalog and the online pictures, were of the opinion that the ball contained at least one very questionable signature. One of them communicated with Jimmy Spence of PSA/DNA, questioning the authenticity of the baseball. Mr. Spence stated that PSA/DNA had not authenticated the baseball. He further stated "the ball was knocked down by us" and that American Memorabilia "inadvertently forgot to pull it." Mr. Spence then stated that Victor Moreno (head of American Memorabilia) was "notified to remove the baseball from the auction." According to the American Memorabilia website the baseball was never removed, the wording on the website always stated PSA/DNA and Mike Gutierrez had authenticated the baseball, and the ball sold for $1429 to bidder 7197. After the auction ended I contacted Victor Moreno of American Memorabilia for his side of this story. I asked him if he had a PSA COA for this baseball. He stated "PSA pulled out on that." When I asked him why he still stated in his auction that PSA had issued a COA for the ball, he said "I better let you talk to Kieta." (his partner). I was put on hold for seven minutes and Kieta finally got on the phone. She said "Richard, I am gonna have to call you back." I told her I was sending out my newsletter and I wanted to get their side of the story, but she repeated "I am gonna have to call you back." I waited for a call back, it never came. Let me sum up. Mr. Spence said PSA/DNA knocked down the baseball. Yet the American Memorabilia website stated that they had a PSA COA for the baseball. When questioned Mr. Moreno claims "PSA pulled out on that." Mr. Spence stated that Mr. Moreno was "notified to remove the baseball from the auction." Yet the ball was sold in the auction, with the claim that there was a PSA COA with the baseball.
Really bad items on ebay.
These two baseballs were recently on ebay. They both had probable shill bids. These two qualify as among the worst forgeries I have ever seen.
A brief interview with Tim Fitzsimmons of the FBI.
The August,2003 issue of "The Forbes Collector" had an article about ebay. The writer interviewed many people including FBI agent (in charge of Operation Bullpen) Tim Fitzsimmons. Mr. Fitzsimmons says "forgers are very sophisticated. Combing thrift stores for old paper and pens." He comments about how even authenticators have come into question. Mr. Fitzsimmons states in this Forbes article that "Donald Frangipani was the "authenticator of choice" of many of the forgers Operation Bullpen convicted. Though Frangipani denied any wrongdoing and has not been charged, his name has appeared on hundreds of certificates of authenticity that vouched for fake sports autographs."
A client of mine just sent me a Babe Ruth signed photo to examine. The autograph looked bogus to me and the photo was not a first generation copy. Second/third generation copies would have been highly unlikely to have been signed by Babe Ruth. Look at the back of the photo. I have illustrated the photo here.
Note the address of the company on the label on the back of the photo. The address includes a zip code. Zip codes came into existence in the 1960's. This copy photo was printed after Babe Ruth died. Just another case of an idiot forger not doing any homework.
"FBI PROVIDES COPIES OF FAKED COA's" by Rocky Landsverk, May 16 Sports Collectors Digest
The FBI provided SCD with many COA's that came with fake autographs. They include COA's from companies such as: J. Dimaggio, Hollywood Dons, Universal, W. W. Sportscards, Stardust Collectibles, Aladdin Collectibles, Hollywood Memories, General Pictures, Sport Card Kid, Prize Possessions, Sports Management Group, Legacy Sports Memorabilia and Jungle K. There would be virtually no real autographs connected to any of these COA's.
In addition the FBI supplied SCD with other COA's because the FBI has a large quantity of fake autographs in its warehouse with these COA's/ But the FBI states that it is also possible to find real items with these COA's also. These COA's included ",,,", Donald Frangipani, Truly Unique Collectibles, Sports Alley Memorabilia and others. This story is based on information provided directly by the FBI.
I have always been skeptical of signed vintage wire photos. In my opinion they were just not that plentiful and available for players to sign. I received a Babe Ruth wire photo to examine today. I was somewhat skeptical of the signature. The paper caption on the back referred to a mid century poll taken by the Associated Press to name the greatest baseball player ever. I researched the poll on the Internet and found out that it was conducted in 1950. Babe passed away in 1948. Seems he kept on signing, even after he passed away. Here is the photo.
I think that I have found the dumbest autograph seller ever to exist on ebay. He attempted to sell a very bogus cut signature of Babe Ruth. In his ad he stated that the signature came with a Scoreboard COA. Scoreboard issued COA's for signings they WITNESSED. Scoreboard started business about 30 years AFTER Ruth died. Here is a copy of this doctored COA. This seller really takes the prize for stupidity. He actually stated in his ad "Scoreboard COA." This is the copy that he sent out upon request. Ebay has removed this moron's ad.
I received a photo to examine on 1/14/03 from a client. It was a "signed" photo of Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris. When I started my examination it immediately appeared to me that the photo was a computer generated photograph and was not signed. An examination under magnification confirmed that there did not appear to be any ink on the photo. The reverse side of the photo had a "Kodak Image Magic Paper" imprint. I called Kodak in Rochester, NY. I spoke to their product information department. A Kodak employee told me that this paper was first manufactured by Kodak in 1996. That would make it difficult for Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris to sign it. They both died before the paper was printed. Here is the photo. It was sold on ebay. This seller has sold two copies of this and other "autographed photos." My client and one other buyer have received refunds. The seller was suspended.
I win a lawsuit against a slanderer.
In July, 2001 a slanderous e mail campaign was begun against myself and others, over the Internet, by people using an AOL account. These people also had ebay accounts. Ebay has suspended these accounts. My ebay feedback was used to obtain names of my clients, and they received slanderous e mail via ebay's e mail system. The people who conducted this campaign hid behind the AOL account and thought that they were anonymous and "bulletproof." I filed a lawsuit in Federal court, and subpoenaed AOL and ebay. AOL immediately supplied me with the real name of the account owner. Ebay supplied me with information about all sales activity related to the accounts, revealing a great deal of interesting information. Many autograph items on ebay were sold by the account holder, most with forensic authentication. I then served these people with the lawsuit and presented them with deposition questions. No longer able to hide anonymously they offered a full retraction of the slander and a sum of money to settle the case. I did not regard the money as sufficient and they raised their offer, more than once, to a significant five figure sum. I accepted their offer at that point and the case has been settled to my satisfaction. I received the full signed retraction and a significant five figure sum.
Here is another anti forgery website that I recommend. Click the link.
What to do if you have been defrauded.
If you feel you have been defrauded by a seller on the Internet, report that seller to the Internet Fraud Complaint Center (IFCC). Here is their link:IFCC Link
The Internet Fraud Complaint Center (IFCC) is a partnership between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C).
Read about what I have accomplished:
READ HOW I HELPED A FORGER GO TO PRISON:
READ HOW I IDENTIFIED FORGERIES ON EBAY:
Here is a quote from the U.S. Attorney's report of 2/14/2001: "To date Operation Bullpen has uncovered numerous counterfeit items THAT HAVE BEEN ACCOMPANIED (emphasis added) by certificates of authenticity from a number of nationwide operations. These operations include S.C.A.A., J. Dimaggio & Company, ".." and Donald Frangipani (authentication services). Although it has not been determined that all items from these companies are counterfeit, consumers should be aware of the fact that VARIOUS COUNTERFEITS HAVE BEEN LOCATED (emphasis added) associated with these concerns." Those COA's were all over ebay. Did you buy autographs on ebay with those COA's?
If you have any SOLID information about big money forgers then call Tim Fitzsimmons of the FBI. His number is 858-499-7814.
Click for page 2 of Forgery Alert, including a study of Babe Ruth's ghost signed autograph.
CLICK HERE FOR A PAGE PICTURING QUESTIONABLE AUTOGRAPHS.
Click to read some pages from the INDICTMENT of Greg Marino, the major forger in California, now in Federal prison. The information in this indictment comes from the FBI. This will give you the inside story about the forgery ring and tell you what the FBI found out about forgers, sellers and COA's and it will help you avoid problems now. Find out what the Federal Government says about WHO AUTHENTICATED FORGERIES AND WHAT RETAILERS BOUGHT THEM!
Click to read an interesting story on another forgery alert site.
Laser printed forgeries.
It appears that the forgers have gotten even more sophisticated. Apparently a laser printing device is now being used to exactly duplicate autographs. This can be detected by the lack of pen pressure on the item and the fact that the autograph just seems to "lie" on top of the page with no indentation from the pen and no interruption in the flow of ink. The signatures are dead on accurate though, so be careful.
Theft from the Hall of Fame.
A story in the NY Daily News on April 13 reveals that four Presidential signed balls which had been given to Walter Johnson had been stolen years ago. They have been recovered by the FBI and returned to the Hall of Fame. The balls turned up in auction catalogs and were spotted by the grandson of Walter Johnson. This is only one of several incidents of theft from the Hall of Fame. One of them involves a very well known dealer, who under the pretext of "making photocopies" stole numerous items. This took place a number of years ago. I have interviewed the eyewitness to this theft, who confirmed the entire story to me, including the name of the dealer. I know of three people who separately purchased autographed items with white out on the back from this dealer. The white out covered up the words "Property of Baseball Hall of Fame". The FBI is aware of who the guilty party is, but the Hall of Fame declined to press charges. This incident was written up in the New York Daily News. Click the link to read this story. These stolen items have been passed into the hobby by this dealer, who denies the story to this day, despite the evidence (four witnesses).
READ WHAT THE FBI HAS TO SAY ABOUT THE "AUTHENTICATORS"
While portions of the FBI presentation at a trade show rehashed facts already divulged in the past year and a half, much of the information was original, including the revelation that besides those who were arrested, there are several authenticators who certified the bad product who either have shrewdly escaped being charged or were simply wrong in their authentications, Fitzsimmons said. He mentioned several fake items with COAs from Donald Frangipani, who hasn't been charged. "That's true with many, many authenticators in the business and that's one of the true problems in this business," Halpern added.
If you have bought items with COA's from Donald Frangipani, how do you feel now? Unfortunately you are probably out of luck, many of the autographs he "authenticated" were sold by people who are now in Federal prison, and they are not in a country club prison either, and the IRS has confiscated all of their money. Just ask FBI Agent Tim Fitzsimmons. Sherlock Holmes and chicpea from Kentucky, where are you guys now? Chicpea (a pseudonym) stopped selling autographs virtually the day that the Marino family got busted. Think that is a coincidence? Chicpea is a SUSPENDED ebay seller who insisted Mr. Frangipani was bulletproof and "Sherlock" Holmes :), is a friend of Donald (FOD), who keeps insisting I am wrong. Chic is also a FOD, he also threatened to sue me. That was over two years ago. I am still waiting. Who did you suck in on that Mathewson bat chic? He actually sold a Christy Mathewson signed bat on ebay for $2500. Can you imagine, a $40,000 item for $2500. When I first wrote about this he threatened to sue me. Not a peep from him since the FBI busted the Marino family. Can you stand up to discovery motions chic?? Not likely. Here is the equation: Marino family > middle man > chic > ebay buyer. The autograph on the bat is a forgery!
Forgery ring busted.
Two brothers who led a ring that distributed forged sports and celebrity memorabilia have been sentenced to nearly 3 1/2 years in prison. Gregory Marino, 39, and John Marino, 37, were sentenced this week in federal court. In April, they and three relatives pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and tax evasion. They were among 25 people charged after a three-year federal investigation called Operation Bullpen. Fake items seized by authorities bore the names of Mark McGwire, Michael Jordan, Albert Einstein, Abraham Lincoln and Jerry Garcia. Even a baseball supposedly signed by Mother Teresa was found. The Marinos also forfeited a home, land, a boat and cash.
This link will take you to a story about autograph theft from the Baseball Hall of Fame, published in the NY Daily News, August 20,2000,, very interesting reading - just click the icon and read this VERY INTERESTING STORY.
IF YOU HAVE ITEMS FOR SALE OR CARE TO SEND ME YOUR COMMENTSCLICK THE MAIL ICON TO SEND ME AN E MAIL.
CLICK for information about getting autographs authenticated.
Click to read some pages from the indictment of forger Greg Marino who is now in Federal prison.
NEW NEWSfrom the AP: On April 27, FIVE MEMBERS OF THE MARINO FAMILY PLED GUILTY in Federal court. They can be sentenced to a maximum of four years in prison. They admitted to producing THOUSANDS OF FORGERIES a month. A large percentage wound up on ebay with "handwriting expert" COA's.
NONE OF THOSE ARRESTED WERE UACC REGISTERED DEALERS OR IADA DEALERS.
Operation Bullpen targeted a network of forgers and distributors AS WELL AS OTHERS who provided FAKE AUTHENTICATION DOCUMENTS intended to persuade buyers items were legitimate. The press release details how the operation was run. How the "distributors utilized individuals who purport to examine the item and render an "expert" opinion as to the authenticity. Frequently, the authenticators have forensic expertise and claim to (or actually) have scientifically compared the signature to known examples.
THE ROLE OF THE AUTHENTICATOR IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT TO THE SUCCESS OF THE CRIMINAL VENTURE".That is a quote from the U.S. Attorney. The FBI reported that the operations of the J. Dimaggio Co. (authenticator on ebay) were shut down. They state over 1000 taped conversations took place between their agents and FORGERS, SELLERS and AUTHENTICATORS of forged memorabilia. The report goes on to discuss the operations of the authenticators and the sellers, and how they would shift blame upon the other if an item was proven to be bogus. Here is a quote from the U.S. Attorney:
"The forgers searched for vintage paper and ink, and hired UNSCRUPULOUS AUTHENTICATORS to falsely verify their work".
Here are some QUOTES from the full 72 page indictment of Greg Marino: (forger who is going to prison) (much of this information was obtained from FBI wiretaps, recordings of those indicted)
THE U.S. ATTORNEY STATES IN THE INDICTMENT:This is from page 58:
"On or about July 7,1999, Stan Fitzgerald (Stans Sports) , in Caldwell, NJ, sent a second fax to Wayne Bray (head of SCAA, prolific on ebay) in San Marcos, California, ordering over 1,000 autographed photos, including 100 John Lennon, 100 Mantle/Maris, 50 Jerry Garcia and 50 John Wayne".
"On or about July 8, 1999 in Tustin, California Sheldon Jaffe told Wayne Bray that he should ship the rest of his order of COUNTERFEIT MEMORABILIA TO DON FRANGIPANI so that he could provide him with certificates AUTHENTICATING THE FORGERIES AS GENUINE". Reread that.
From page 68:
"On or about August 19,1999, in Tustin, California, Sheldon Jaffe spoke with Wayne Bray and told him that FRANGIPANI HAD AUTHENTICATED AS GENUINE THE COUNTERFEIT BASEBALLS THAT WERE FORGED BY GREG MARINO". Reread that.
"On or about August 20,1999 in San Clemente, California, Rino Ruberti , shipped to Stan Fitzgerald (Stans Sports) approximately SEVERAL HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS WORTH OF COUNTERFEIT MEMORABILIA".
Paragraph 53 - "As a further part, and to conceal the existence of the conspiracy, other coconspirators began utilizing both SCAA and J. Dimaggio Company to authenticate their forgeries. Wayne Bray would check the forgeries to ensure they were high quality". (high quality? Most of what I saw was VERY low quality).
Paragraph 54 - "As a further part, and to conceal the existence of the conspiracy, the coconspirators also obtained certificates of authenticity from "..." , Authentic Autographs Unlimited ("AAU"), Donald Frangipani and others to disguise the fact that the memorabilia they were selling was counterfeit".
Paragraph 109 - "James Dimaggio would authenticate anything when he needed money", the Marinos' stated. The Marino brothers also asserted that the authenticators were the true crooks "cause everybody authenticates s---". They went on to state that the government most likely is "not gonna look at the guy who's sellin' 'em or doin' 'em. It's the guy authenticatin' 'em that was most likely to be the focus of law enforcement efforts".
Note how Mr Frangipani is mentioned THREE times in this indictment. Note the context he is mentioned in, though Mr. Frangipani has not been indicted.
Forged items that were confiscated, all had COA's, (according to one of my very good sources) which are mentioned in the report include: forged baseballs of Mother Teresa, Ruth, Cobb, Mantle, McGwire and Sosa. Cut autographs included Washington, Lincoln, Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe, Presley, Cagney, Disney, Chaplin, Cobb, Ruth, Mathewson, Young and Clemente. There were many more. MANY ARE RESOLD ON EBAY.
The FBI report states that:
"IF THE PRICE IS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE, IT IS PROBABLY A FAKE".
This is a statement from the FBI:
"THE AUTHENTICATOR IS EITHER A KNOWING OR UNKNOWING, BUT INCOMPETENT, PARTICIPANT IN THE FRAUD".
They also state "before purchasing vintage memorabilia, ask questions about the history and circumstances relating to the autograph. Be wary of far fetched or elaborate stories which are difficult, if not impossible to verify." Many ebay autograph sellers like to write their own rules which no other autograph dealers operate by.
Only forgers, distributors, sellers of forgeries and a handful of "handwriting examiners" are mentioned in the indictment and FBI reports. Only handwriting examiners (or self appointed examiners) issued COA's for this forgery ring. A law enforcement source has told me that THOUSANDS of handwriting expert COA's were found with the forgeries.
The forger who couldn't shoot straight.
READ THIS:I noticed a signed photo on ebay. There was definitely something wrong with it. It has a "signature" of Ford Frick on it. That is how it was advertised, sold, and "authenticated". What a "clever" seller. Can you imagine, she did not even have the vaguest clue as to what she was selling. My attorney (also a collector) and I decided to buy it. But is it an attempt at a signature of Ford Frick, or was it a lame attempt at a signature of Kenesaw Landis?? Can you believe it was authenticated as a Ford Frick signature by Mr Frangipani? Do you know what Frick and Landis signatures look like? Look and compare. This photo has a COA (JT 864) stating that Mr Frangipani has authenticated the Ford Frick signature on it. It was bought from an ebay seller who uses Mr Frangipani all the time. She states in her ads, very firmly, NO REFUNDS. Yet a refund was immediately offered on this photo, when she was questioned by my attorney about its authenticity, after the sale. No thanks on the refund. We'll keep the photo. Many people who stopped at my table at the Ft Washington, PA show commented about this photo story, laughing gleefully.
Here is that photo, Harridge, Landis and Frick:
Here is a genuine Frick signature:
Here is a genuine Landis signature:
Here is the Frangipani COA that came with this photo.
The signature on the photo was authenticated as being that of Ford Frick (why would Frick sign the photo right above Landis' head??), as you can read in the COA. Mr Frangipani states the exact type of photo in his COA and that he authenticates the "Ford Frick" autograph on the photo after careful (??) scientific examination and based on the principals (?) of forensic handwriting identification. Hah! What a poor, PATHETIC, awful joke this is. Wonder what forensic principles (correct spelling) he used? If he used forensic principles and scientific examination on this photo, than I have VERY grave doubts about forensic principles and scientific examination. His supporters (how many are left now?) will certainly say it is another "mistake" on his part. How about the seller? Was it a mistake on her part too? Yeah, I guess it is another mistake. Right.
How in the world did this authenticator sign the back of this photo with his initials and COA number and provide a COA indicating that a Landis autograph, that in my opinion is not even a Landis, was a legitimate Ford Frick signature?? Another "mistake?". I was told many months ago that an explanation of this matter would be forthcoming. I am still waiting and not holding my breath for that answer.
But Mr Frangipani has stated his COA's have been forged. Is this a forged COA?? If it's forged, please let me know. I know who the seller is and I will be HAPPY to report her to the FBI. Mr Frangipani's supporters keep using the forged COA's as their excuse. If so prove it now. Name the ebay sellers who have used forged COA's. Numerous sellers have been using Frangipani COA's for many, many months if not years.
If someone was forging my COA's, and ruining my business I would make certain that law enforcement went after them.
HERE IS A GREAT STORY about a fake baseball - I received a ball to authenticate,"signed" by Lou Gehrig. The ball had a Spalding logo above the sweet spot and a weird looking "Official American League Ball" logo on the sweet spot. I had never seen a ball that looked like this. Spalding didn't make Official American League balls until 1975! The Reach Company manufactured Official American League baseballs throughout Lou Gehrig's lifetime. I contacted one of the top authorities in the country in regard to old balls. He wrote me back saying "the ball is an absolute joke". He examined it and told me that "Official American League Ball" was probably handwritten on the ball and that Spalding logo below the sweet spot, identified the ball as coming out after Gehrig's death. It had been bought on ebay with a Donald Frangipani COA. The COA states "Official American League Spalding ball, signed by Lou Gehrig", (Gehrig died in 1941), the ball if real couldn't have come out until 1975. Can you even imagine anyone writing that on a COA? (COA #JT759). That same number is written on the ball (followed by the initials DF) as you can see on the scan. Was any research done on this ball in this examination? I did my research. The buyer faxed me a copy of the COA, which I have. The seller posted the ball on ebay again after I sent it back to the buyer. That seller is no longer selling on ebay. Here is a scan of the Official American League logo on this ball. An Official American League baseball with only red stitching from the Gehrig era, SHOULD HAVE William Harridge's facsimile signature directly underneath the words Official American League Ball.
Here is what the logo on that ball should look like. Note how the printing appears on each baseball. Note the crude uneven printing on the above ball. Which is the real ball? Easy. Obviously these are old balls and in very different condition, but look at the printing on the balls. Autograph collectors and dealers with some experience in the hobby should be able to tell the difference. I have shown the scan of the ball to eight experienced dealers and one experienced collector. They are unanimous in their opinion that the ball logo is a fake, with one exception. One dealer who claims he has seven years in this business and is conducting his own investigation into this matter has stated in an e mail to me: "From the scans you sent me on the ball I can't tell you anything. Even if I was qualified to render an opinion which I am not, I would not do so from scans. I have sent copies of these scans to Mr Frangipani for his review and comment, his written response will be forth coming". He openly stated in his e mail to me, that with seven years experience in this business, he is not qualified to render an opinion on this ball.
Here is the complete e mail I received from a very experienced dealer about this ball: "Rich, There is no way this is a legitimate baseball. Spalding only produced American League balls during two years, 1975 and 1976. Also the labeling is totally incorrect for any period." Mike Hefner, President of Lelands Auction House.
HERE IS THE STORY ABOUT THE BLACK AND BLUE INK ON COA'S FROM MR. FRANGIPANI.
"My COA's have been forged" he states. According to the interview in Sweet Spot Magazine he says "I had a detective in Boston area purchase Foxx, Gehrig and Ruth cut signatures with my letters that were faked". Thus the Boston police should have a report of his forged COA's. I have tried to get the police report number and date of this incident, I have asked for a copy of the report. If this happened it is a matter of public record. I have had no success. "I know a guy in Canada who is forging my letters", he states. Do the Canadian police have a report on this? Through another party, who provided me with the contact information, I have now talked to a police detective from Fall River, Mass. Here is what that detective told me. In 2000, on his own initiative he saw three autographs on ebay offered by a Canadian seller, they were advertised as having COA's from Mr Frangipani. At that time he did not even know who Mr Frangipani was. The autographs were cuts of Ruth, Gehrig and Cobb. He won the three items on ebay for a total price of less than $1000. Ebay had a power outage at the end of those auctions, ending bidding early, and the seller sold the items anyway. The detective told the seller that he would check the autographs out. He paid for the autographs via credit card and when he received them, he sent them to Mr Frangipani. Mr. Frangipani did not examine the autographs, though he offered to, but stated that the COA's were not his, that his were signed in blue and that these COA's had a black signature. The detective believes that these COA's are photocopies of original COA's from Mr. Frangipani, and that the seller had originals and made photocopies of the originals for subsequent fraudulent sales. The detective cancelled the purchase on his Visa card, and still has the COA's and autographs. The detective has signed a notarized statement, he recalls probably at Mr Frangipani's request, regarding this. The seller never requested the return of the autographs.That tells you a lot about the seller. So it would appear that at least 3 COA's of Mr Frangipani have been recopied by a questionable seller in Canada. I am unaware of any action taken by Mr Frangipani against this seller who used bogus COA's. If any of my readers have COA's of Mr Frangipani which appear photocopied and would have a black "signature", then you apparently don't have an original Frangipani COA. The COA with the Ford Frick photo mentioned above is signed in blue ink. Click here to return to top of page.
READ THIS NOW!!!
Sweet Spot Magazine in the Feb/March issue has several articles about buying autographs on the Internet, a story about equipment expert Dave Bushing and his comments about Internet auctions, read his comments about autographs on items that the player could not have possibly signed and the COA's that came with them. The COA's coming from Mr Frangipani. Read about the balls that were produced in 1950 signed by Ruth and Gehrig, the balls produced in Jamaica by Worth in 1966 or later with signatures of Hornsby (died in 1963) and Alexander (died in 1950). A Worth ball produced in the mid 1940's signed by Christy Mathewson (died in 1925), all these balls had COA's from Mr Frangipani. Read about the Haiti balls (1960's or 1970) signed by Babe Ruth and submitted to American Memorabilia to auction with a COA. These forgers don't even do minimal homework. Read about the Devega ball produced in the 1970's signed by Lou Gehrig. All these balls had COA's from the same Mr Frangipani. How many mistakes can he make?? How many self admitted "mistakes" will we have to see. He makes "mistakes", that is his answer. I am not guaranteeing the item he states. These are quotes from his interview in Sweet Spot Magazine. What does his COA represent? If he admits to these documented mistakes, what does his COA represent? What good is his opinion on a COA when items that were absolutely impossible to have been signed by the player in question have been "authenticated"? His COA has appeared with many baseballs that came out after the signer had died according to the story in Sweet Spot Magazine c/oKaufman Communications, 816 Congress, Suite 1280, Austin, TX 78701
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Click for page 2 of Forgery Alert (Autograph News), including a study of Babe Ruth's ghost signed autograph.
Several years ago also on an Internet auction site a Babe Ruth signed baseball was advertised. The ball was stamped "Haiti" and came with a COA from an authenticator. Balls with Haiti on them did not come into the US until the 1960s. All autograph experts know that. Handwriting experts do not.
Thanks for visiting.
RICHARD SIMON SPORTS INC.
215 East 80th Street
New York, NY 10075
646-319-7531 (9-5 EST only) - phone
The above address is not a store, please do not drop by unannounced. Thanks very much.
Click this link to view my price lists of baseball autographs.
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