Real Sports With Byant Gumbel goes one-on-one with NBC Sports Chariman Dick Ebersol and examines the mystery of the hottest baseball collective. Premieres Tuesday, August 15 at 10pm ET/PT. It will be rerun throughout the week on a number of the different HBO channels.
While Hall of Fame shortstop Honus Wagner hung up his spikes more than 85 years ago, he is still the hottest commodity in the sports collectible field. With only about 50 copies believed to exist, his 1909 T206 baseball card is the most sought-after baseball card in the world. This August, in Binghamton, NY, two Cincinnati men will attempt to sell one of those tiny pieces of cardboard for perhaps as much as one million dollars amidst questions about its authenticity. In collaboration with Sports Illustrated, REAL SPORTS correspondent Bernard Goldberg examines the history of this tantalizing card and explores the current controversy. Is the new buyer really purchasing the holy grail of collectibles?
Should be interesting how they handle the latest attempt to pass along a fraudulent piece on a sale that never happened.
Since I know that a hearty thread will start on this, thought I would start it and if I have nothing going on Tuesday night, will transcribe the show for those who don't have the pay channel or haven't seen the episode yet.
A little rough around the edges...but you get the jest.
Bernie: "This is where the story ends, in a run down strip mall in Binghampton, NY. It is Saturday. There is one item that won't come cheap at all. One baseball card they say won't come cheap at all and that's a 1909 T206 Honus Wagner baseball card."
"This little card has taken over your lives" says the interviewer, Bernie Goldberg.
"Yes it has! Yes it has!" says Ray Edwards. Edwards and John Cobb are cousin's in Cincinnati who own the card and the dream that comes with it.
"Before the hammer comes down for the last time today, Cobb and Edwards will turn them into millionaires. There's one tiny hitch. Many think it's a fake, a countefiet, not worth the paper it's printed on. That's why it's here in Binghampton so far, no one had been willing to buy it anywhere wlse."
"Is this frustrating for you guys?" says Goldberg.
"Very frustrating. It's like having a lottery ticket that you can't cash it and you know that number came up." says Edwards.
Back in Cincinnati, Cobb, who had seen magician David Copperfield tear it up in an trick based on illusion said "I got that card". John Cobb had been collecting anything he can get his hands on since he was a kid.
(video of John Cobb going through a tupperwear box that housed current Superman comics, new trading cards, Pokemon, Kung Fu magazine, Star Wars collectibles and a Charles Barkley card).
"I have been a collector of many things" said Cobb.
Including a piece of buried treasure where he bought this Honus Wagner twenty years ago for $1,800 at an estate sale.
They were ready to cash in on eBay but when one lawyer saw this on the local news, he nearly fell of my chair.
"I'm not saying they stole my card. All I know is I had a Honus Wagner card in this office that looked identical to that appeared on eBay....that was my card", says James Kidney.
The one that vanished from his office showed up on eBay, six miles from where Cobb and Edwards lived. Kidney says that the card was not real, just a novelty item and he went straight to the police.
"I was concerned about the people who were going to buy it." says Kidney.
Cobb and Edwards say that they had nothing to do with it. Ebay still cancelled the auction.
Looking for proof that the card was real, the cousins came to Steve Walter, a well known card deal who said it was 100% sure it was a grade a fake. It took him 2 seconds to come to that conclusion.
"We have probably had four of those come in here in thirteen years" says Walter.
Back To Joe Orlando. When asked how many fakes are out there to every original one, Orlando said: "Hundreds, if not thousands".
Orlando has not seen the Cobb and Edwards card in person, but also says that he doesn't need to.
"Down by the lettering, everything is one consistent capital lettering. formation...and it goes into smaller..." etc.
But Cobb and Edwards have ignored the experts and have spent the last four years trying to prove that they have the real thing. Piling up a stack of research binders and a lot of sleepless nights.
"I have been obsessed to a point where I block everything out. In a relationship that can be a problem. Trying to solve the mystery." says Edwards.
"From what I see, I think this card is real" says Arnie Shwed, a master printer. "I think it was printed around early 1900...1906 to 1917...no doubts."
Shwed says that it was printed in an old fashion press and that the paper in the card is just as old fashion.
"The way the paper was woven and manufcaturerd is far different then anything I saw printed since 1965 and suggested to have the paper anaylzed" says Shwed.
They went to Walter Ranton (sp?), the expert who helped the FBI crack the Unimbomber case. He did a 6 hour chemical evaluation. His conculsion was that the card had some fiber components that were in early 1900's and missing all paper made since then 1920's had.
"To try and counterfeit this thing." says Ranton. "It would be impossible. You would need an antique printing press... paper sits 70-100 it will fall apart, moisture in air. The knowledge to work the press."
Armed with scientific proof, Edwards and Cobb went back to eBay to sell again and (and again) as bids got as high as $200K, not Honus Wagner money though. Not even close.
Back to Joe Orlando: (about all this scientific data) :"It is not enough!"
Without the support of hobby insiders, they turned to Bob Connolly, a former cable TV appraiser who told them their card was worth $1 million and he was shopping the card around. HBO Real Sports caught up with Connolly in New York City to show a card to a broker.
(Connolly emphatically slams the oversized lucite protected card on a glass table with a little spin to a man with a crazy mustache and a loud shirt that went by the name of Mike Mango).
"Seems fine to me" says the Mango. "I will want to touch it at some point but everything looks to be in order...they all the feel the same so when my fingers touch this one, I will know."
One man has a warning for him...(dum, dum, DUM!) Joe Orlando who has invited Cobb and Edwards repeatedly to show the card at PSA. PSA is about the only place they have refused which makes them wonder.
"If they are as confident as they say they are, they are leaving potentially hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars by not having it certfied." says Orlando.
"If they say its fake, they get nothing?" says Goldberg.
"My guess is that they don't want to face the truth" says Orlando.
"He has already made up his mind that the card is a what it is. I just want the public to look at the facts and the sceintifc proof that we have." says Edwards.
Which brings us back to where this story ends. Bob Connolly's auction house.
(Mike Mango is rubbing the card in a semi-rough fashion)
"I'm looking for a $300,000 opening bid....(crickets)...any interest?"
"Last call at $300,000! Pass!"
Not one bid was made.
"It was a little glossy and I didn't feel like the thickness was correct there were too many alarms and bells ringing" says Mango.
Ray Edwards and Cobb are where they started. "The fight continues...take that chance. Life is nothing but a chance" says Edwards.
This message has been edited by OJ-Collector on Aug 15, 2006 11:25 PM This message has been edited by OJ-Collector on Aug 15, 2006 11:22 PM
Re: Reminder:Tuesday, HBO Real Sports 10 P.M East @ Wagner T206
August 14 2006, 11:53 PM
I wish the show asked someone like me to give my personal opinion on the card because i have the exact same reprint theyre trying to push off as real.Id bring it to them so they can see its the same card,let them take a look at my financial records so they can see im poor and then id take my reprint out of its toploader and bend the card in half for them as my proof of when their card was actually made and what its worth.I think ive seen,held and owned enough t206s to be considered an expert.
Its a joke theyre getting any airtime at all unless theyre going to be berated in public
Re: Reminder:Tuesday, HBO Real Sports 10 P.M East @ Wagner T206
August 15 2006, 12:17 AM
I talked to the writer of the Cincinnati newspaper article after the article was published, and he told me he personally assumed the card was a fake. I don't see how an HBO reporter would come to a different conclusion, though the show may have a balance of viewpoints for aethetic purposes.
This message has been edited by drc1 on Aug 15, 2006 12:38 AM This message has been edited by drc1 on Aug 15, 2006 12:35 AM This message has been edited by drc1 on Aug 15, 2006 12:19 AM
the piece was ok...it portrayed the 2 scammers as hopeful dudes who truly believe they have the winning lottery ticket. The piece did give the general impression that the card was fake...which was good!
That printing guy they talked to couldnt have been more off-based . Especially in the area of paper quality and durability . They over looked all the obvious ways to forge and fake a card . I can show you paper 100 years older that looks better than that card . I can understand why PSA wouldnt say they dont want more of these coming and getting so much attention . Biggest thing I think it showed is the two owners of the card as just people looking for money for a questionable card .
They should just say theyve spent the last 4 years looking for a sucker with money and no knowledge.An example of a real Wagner can be found on the internet in many places and if they really want to know, just go to the Hall of Fame,be as discreet as they want and compare the hall of fame example to theirs.Obviously they dont want to know the truth because theres plenty of experts who dont have to do more than an eye test to see its not real,but they dont want their opinion,no matter how many people with nothing against them could give an honest expert opinion.Im willing to bet with the money and time theyve spent with this card they couldve done something much more constructive and maybe,just maybe,made money honestly.
I doubt the story of how much they paid for the card too but if its true theyve spent much more than $1800 trying to find someone else to negate their mistake and i have a feeling theyre not done trying.They couldve saved alot of money by buying a few t206 low grade commons off ebay and comparing them or just attending a big card show.
No one will ever accuse them of not being persistant though!
i found it interesting that this lawyer who is 6 miles from them had a wagner stolen from his office???? kind of a twist to the story. these 2 guys came off as scammers. the piece fell short of calling them thieves.
That was an interesting segment to watch. I enjoyed the Josh Hamilton and Philadelphia Polo pieces more though. I can't believe that these guys just don't have the card sent to PSA or SGC for authentication. Just get it over with. I also find it hard to believe that someone with little or no knowledge of baseball cards would put out $1800 for something that they didn't know about. I mean there are some pretty stupid saps in this world but come on now, how many people would do something that stupid. I think that $1800 is a lot of money to those guys. It'd have been interesting to have them show the proof of purchase of that card. I somehow doubt that the one guy paid 18 cents for it.
I didn't get to see the show but I am not surprised at how it was handled. I expected that they would offer both schools of thought, as if the believers and nonbelievers each have a valid case, and that therefore the jury is still out on whether or not it is authentic. As such, the segment was worthless drivel.
fake card. Unfortunately, I think the two dupes that own it are just that--dupes.....wanting to hit easy street and not have $1800 they got suckered on be wasted. If they REALLY spent $1800. And who is this card buyer that looks like Leroy Nieman on crack? Never heard of him.....Surprised they haven't been back on the board to defend themselves......
We litigators have an expression. It isn't pretty but it is an accurate portrayal of how the expert situation works: "Whore Shopping". If you search around enough you can find someone with credentials to say anything you need him to say. That's why I think these guys are fronting for a very savvy lawyer or businessman. That HBO piece gives them publicity that can only help them since it showed them as well intentioned rather than as total scammers, a la a Mike Wallace piece on 60 Minutes. Believe me, they are trolling for a wealthy viewer who wants to buy the card under the radar so he can say he owns a Wagner, and they may just find one.
As was stated in a previous post, these guys will never go away until they find a buyer. Of course, after this buyer sends the card to PSA or SGC, how does he get his money back? I understand that the two owners see this card as their meal ticket, but I still can not fathom why Bob Connelly was willing to get involved in this sordid mess. This only brought him very negative publicity, not to mention thousands of dollars wasted on pointless advertising and marketing.
from selling those W600's that fell into his lap, so I guess he's trying to be a bigger player. You can tell from the settings of the HBO piece (dilapidated strip mall) that he's not quite ready for prime time like the boys at Mastronet, REA, Hunt, Lelands, etc....Binghamton, while I'm sure very picturesque, ain't NYC......sadly, he did have some legit T206's which even casually looking at them and looking at this farce of a Wagner card anyone can tell the difference. That begs another question, why did he (and the HBO piece) show PSA-graded T206's in his auction and then the Wagner was not.
My wife was watching that segment with me and she said "I can see you're getting mad". The capper was the last statement by Bernie Goldberg when he proclaimed that it's a possibility that the card was reprinted before WWI.
THose guys who think of the card as their "lottery ticket" that is going to make them rich paid $1800 for a baseball card 25 years ago at an estate sale?!?!?!?!?!? Sounds fishy to me. What about the angle of that story where the guy living six miles away from them had an identical FAKE Wagner stolen from his office? That sort of got swept under the rug.
why doesn't someone offer the 300K and ask that it be held in escrow until the buyer has the chance to have it PSA, SGC or GAI authenticated? Or, are the sellers os dead set against any third party recognized grading service that they would even resist this reasonable approach?
They would never agree to let PSA or SGC look at it. They have to know on some level that the card is no good and that it would be rejected. They couldn't possibly be so thick headed that they still think every single collector is wrong and only they are right. Some of this has to be sinking in, wouldn't you think?
As a journalist, I couldn't believe Bernie Goldberg's last statement wasn't in the main story. Then again, it would have negated the whole story. Connelly says that IF the card proved fake, it's possible that it's a reprint from pre-WWI?
Why would someone back then reprint a card that was worth what, $2? And who would buy that card back then? This doesn't even sound plausible.
Connelly's statement should have been taped. Who stands behind something potentially as valuable as a Wagner card, and then, after it doesn't draw a single bid, intimate that it could be fake? That's pretty shady.
I really think this card was made by skinning the back off a real T206 and gluing it to a fake front. Since they had a sampling taken from the back to be tested, it checked out fine. This is the stupidity of the whole thing- it passes the old paper test but they refuse to subject it to the baseball card authentication test. And it keeps going round and round.
The part that I found most disturbing is the fact that the collector took you through items that he has purchased in the past and present time. A tupperware container full of rather common items. Nowhere in his small tour of his collectibles did he show off anything of worth.
I mean you can pick up unopened Star Wars figures for a buck on wholesale level and glossy trading cards can be purchased by the pound. How does one supposidly put $1800 out there and not know what he has until he sees David Copperfield tear up the card in an illusion trick?
If I was to put out close to $2,000 for something, I would sure as hell know what I was buying. I would feel more comfortable with that side of the story if he showed some Ruth Goudey's, maybe a Keeler Portrait or something along that lines, not brand new signed Superman comics or Kung Fu magazines. Did I see a Charles Barkley insert card in a hard lucite?
In the autograph business, there is and will always be an authenticator to agree with you for a buck. If you have a misspelled Babe Ruth (Bage Root) autograph, you will still find an authenticator who will say that he signed it in a dark movie theatre or he had just consumed a barrel full of moonshine.
I think with "the card", it's impossible to ever convince a hobby expert to agree with those stacked up binders and the stubborn thoughts that this item is authentic.
Anyone try Pro?
Honestly, I think the card is a T206 type II variation. Anyone agree?
Goldberg could have cut these guys up into little pieces.
He could have said something like..."In the trading card business, the vast majority of high dollars get graded by companies like PSA. Paper authentication doesn't carry any weight with anyone. Why not send it in for grading or sell it contignent upon it being deemed authentic?"
The logical extension of this would have been a little bit deeper background into grading and authenticating. Goldberg could have brought up the famous 1952 Topps Mantle that's been graded. Or Goudey Ruths, or whatever. There were no "paper authenticators" at the National for obvious reasons.
To the novice watching this, paper authentication and "PSA" (whatever that is) might sound similar.
There was also no mention of various reprints that have been sold over the years. If I didn't know anything about cards, I might think that they just created it in their basement. The piece could have shown any number of ads for reprints over the years (i.e. in a Sears catalog, Larry Fritsch catalogs, etc).
Who in the world would spend $300,000 on a card and authenticate it by "feeling it"?!?
The funniest part of the piece was at the end, when there was dead silence at that auction. There will be silence around that Wagner for a very long time.
As stated before, what really bugs me is that someone actually tested the back of the card which is probably real and did not test the front but they had many real T206's to compare it to.
They could have easily done conclusive testing using a spectrophotometer to measure the color and light waves of the front and back of this card and a genuine T206 and compared it..The T206 Wagner "fake" has a different reflection that a genuine T206, the light will be reflected at a different angle as is done in our industry using paint chips, which will show a distinctive wave and light variation pattern. I have analyzed old paint samples vs. new paint samples on customer failures in my real job and we have concluded if the color and sheen of paint was used matches our samples" and in the same way, this method can be used.
The last comment about a pre war reprint is so ridiculous and that someone would have the capabilities to reprint a card that was worth $2 or less pre war is the absolute stupidity...
No doubt, if we use a 30x microscope at the sides on the card, there will be evidence as Mr. Sloate stated that the card was a fake, had a rebacked original and the front was aged or oxidized using coffee, stain, heat or some method to proiduce the effect of aging to mask the gloss...
In the 1970's, there was a classic card reprint book that featured nice quality reprints of historical cards and there was a Wagner in that book, I bet that card's front came from that book...
steve, i think you have a point. put up 300grand. if the card can be authenticated by a reputable grading company, then the sellers can have the money. as we are certain that the card won't hold up as real, i am happy to put up some money. anyone want in? it'll just be tied up long enough for psa or sgc to check it out.
So I just saw the HBO show- it was repeated this evening- and here are my two cents: Several things are going on here. I am convinced that somewhere in the distant past a fake front was glued to a real Piedmont back, and that is why the paper is testing out old. I also studied these two characters who owned the card, especially the younger guy who did all the talking. He is so obsessed with it- he even admitted missing meals- that if it proved to be fake he wouldn't know what to do with himself. As long as he can perpetuate the glimmer of hope that it is real, his life has a purpose. I think deep down he knows it isn't, but life without his treasured Wagner just wouldn't be worth living. Of course I don't condone this, as he is pawning off a fake card, but I am fascinated by the psychology here because nobody holds onto to a false dream that long. I also thought Joe Orlando should have been more emphatic and simply said the card is fake, period. Steve Wolters wasn't afraid to say it and Joe knows darn well PSA wouldn't authenticate it. I am also puzzled by the statement one of the talking heads made that if it is an early reprint, and not a counterfeit, then it still has considerable value. Where did he dig up that pearl of wisdom? I have been following this story closely because it is just so bizarre but I think I understand the owners a little better now. Take away his beloved baseball card and you are taking away a piece of his life. And Bob Connelly- he was a cipher, I got nothing at all from him. And who was this unctuous broker that needed to feel the card before he bought it for his client? Glad he's not my broker.
This message has been edited by barrysloate on Aug 16, 2006 6:58 PM
I agree with that totally! I watched that and came up with a few things of my own:
-The most interesting thing was when they replayed when Copperfield tearing up Gretzky's Wagner. I saw that when it was originally broadcasted years ago, but when I saw it last night I saw that the card he tore up was an easy fake! I guess it isn't rocket science that he didn't tear up an original Wagner, but I thought it was neat that he actually tore up a fake that had an enormous white border. It wasnt even close.
-Also, I really think the sellers actually believe that the card is real. They are very ignorant, but they are not scammers.
-The odd thing was the fact that the printer guys thought that the paper was from the early 1900s. I know the card is a fake, but what the heck were those guys smoking?? The only thing that would make sense would be that they attached an original back.
-The reporter that was interviewing everyone was a moron. He said the card would still be worth money as a reprint, but didt't say how much... It would be worth five bucks at best.
-I like Real Sports... problem is, when they do a story on something like cards... stuff we really know about, we can see right through the story. I wonder how many times we watch skits that we aren't that familiar with and they are just as poorly done. We wouldnt even know it!
Here's something I left out that also seemed kind of suspicious. One owner claimed that when he saw David Copperfield tear up a Wagner on TV, he seemed to remember that somewhere he had that very same card. However, these guys also claimed they paid $1800 for it. If that were the case, how could they have kind of forgotten about it and only by seeing the card on TV did it seem to ring a bell? If they really did pay $1800 for it, they never would have forgotten they owned a Wagner. Their story isn't jelling.
That was the point I made above that if I paid $1,800 for something, I would/should know what I had, not see some magician clown on TV CLEARLY tearing up a reprint to remind me that I owned something. They claimed to have turned down $200,000 because it wasn't "Honus Wagner" money? C'mon.
Chris hit it on the head above with good points. I just watched it again and more questions and bells and whistles go off.
My two favorite parts of the special is when Connolly flips the hard lucite on the glass counter and the part where the broker is rubbing the s--t out of the million dollar card (?).
I agree, I don't think these two are scammers...they just refuse to listen to the masses and reason and instead want us to "take a chance".
Not my favorite thing to discuss but I thought I would note that there is also a piece about the card in SI this week that seems to bend over backwards in an attempt to be "evenhanded". (this problem usually doesn't afflict the sports media to the same degree it does the news media in general)
Probably won't make the Colbert Report or the Daily Show (where I usually get my news
Hmmm..speaking of front/back being different pieces...I remember going to a show back in the stone ages where some guys were talking about that. One guy mentioned that one collector thought a rare T206 was discovered with a previously unknown front/back combo..the guy took the card and dipped it in some solution and voila the card separated in two...
I don't know if the intent was to deceive..it may have been an attempt by a collector to either repair a card that had a damaged back or one who was simply trying to fill a hole in a collection by creating a phantom variation for himself...
If you notice in the HBO piece, they have a shot of Joe Orlando "examining" a stack of E90-1's. Those are my cards. I brought them to the national for an expert opinion. I have had no prior experience with E90-1's and questioned their authenticity. Sure enough, the same cards filmed by HBO for a segment about a high end reprint, turned out to me nothing more themselves.
As long time lurker,I thought I'd make my first post to share this with the most knowledgeable folks in the vintage community. Keep up the good work Net54!!