Sports Memorabilia - a fly in the ointment (or glove)

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An interesting story from the Mercury News (use Bug Me Not to get around their stinky login requirement)
DiMaggio glove at the center of memorabilia controversy
Their pockets bulging with cash, checkbooks and credit cards, memorabilia collectors flocked to New York from every corner of Baseball Nation in 1999 to battle over the legendary collection put up for sale by New York Yankees minority owner Barry Halper.

Serious collectors wanted a piece of the treasure Halper had accumulated during 50 years of wheeling and dealing, and the weeklong auction racked up $25 million from the sale of everything from a Ty Cobb jersey to a jar of Vaseline autographed by Gaylord Perry.

North Carolina collector Ralph Perullo arrived at Sotheby's with his eye on Lot No. 1118, advertised as the Rawlings Red Rolfe glove used by the great Joe DiMaggio during the late 1930s. Joltin' Joe even vouched for the glove himself: It was accompanied by an index card that said, "This glove was used in my first years as a Yankee - Joe DiMaggio."

But Perullo says he backed off bidding on the mitt after running into glove expert Dennis Esken at Sotheby's. Esken told Perullo the glove, despite the Hall of Famer's blessing, wasn't even manufactured until 1954 - three years after Joltin' Joe retired. One telltale clue: The glove had lacing through the fingers, a sure sign it was a postwar model.

"If Joe were standing next to me, I'd shake his hand and tell him he was a hell of a ballplayer," says Esken, regarded as the nation's top authority on baseball mitts. "I'd also tell him he's no glove expert."

Even more infuriating, says Esken, the misidentified glove remained on the trading circuit long after the Halper sale, passed along like a rare painting, picking up a letter of authenticity from the hobby's most influential evaluators, Dave Bushing and Dan Knoll, whose seal of approval can make or break an item's sale price. All told, the glove was sold at least three times and brought in thousands of dollars before finally being pulled off the market in 2003. In December, it was returned to Sotheby's, the auction house that originally sold it.

"Bad pieces that continue to circulate through the hobby - that's a major problem," says Josh Evans, president of Lelands, another prominent sports auction house. "People don't want to take the financial hit, so these things continue to go round and round."
Heh -- sort of a nudge nudge wink wink -- we both know it is fake but lets just pretend and you can always sell it to another sucker for more a few years down the road. I know that in the art world, establishing the provenance of a work is sometimes downright impossible. Some museums found out they had fakes and kept the knowledge quiet for as long as they could. In Seattle, there was a major scandal last year with Thesaurus Fine Arts -- the news was broken with an in-depth series by the Seattle Times who purchased a few pieces, had them authenticated and then started to dig. Here is the Seattle Times summary page with links to the various articles and external links to other information.

1 Comment

catchers and first basemen use mitts. mitts have no fingers.

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This page contains a single entry by DaveH published on May 11, 2005 9:48 PM.

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