According to the Daily News the FBI is interested in another problem at Mastro Auctions
These guys are having a tough year....
There is only one Jordan
Auction jersey revealed as fraud
BY MICHAEL O'KEEFFE
DAILY NEWS SPORTS WRITER
Sunday, August 19th 2007, 4:00 AM
It was a hell of a party, according to the press release issued by Mastro Auctions. About 300 sports collectible movers and shakers, many in town for the National Sports Collectors Convention, bid on 83 coveted pieces at Mastro's inaugural live auction, held Aug. 3 at the House of Blues in Cleveland.
A collection of rare T215 Pirate cigarette cards sold for $960,000, a record for a set of cards. Yankee manager Miller Huggins' 1927 World Series ring went for $204,000. One collector even spent $192,000 on a T206 Honus Wagner card in poor condition. But the event wasn't just about conspicuous consumption; Mastro Auctions also raised $20,000 for the Lance Armstrong Foundation.
"It's a terrific exclamation point to an already spectacular evening," Mastro Auctions president Doug Allen said in the press release.
The hangover from the event, however, just won't go away. One item, advertised as a Michael Jordan North Carolina warm-up shirt, sold for $11,000 even though questions had been raised about its authenticity well before the auction took place. Collectors cried foul on Game-Used Forum.com, a memorabilia Web site, and began investigating the shirt. Mastro Auctions voided the sale and sent the jersey back to the authentication service that raised the initial doubts for further review.
But the controversy over the "Jordan" shirt appears far from over: It has added new pressure to calls for greater regulation and standards for the dog-eat-dog world of sports memorabilia. The shirt has also attracted the interest of the FBI, which as the Daily News reported last month, has already begun an investigation into business practices at Mastro Auctions, sports memorabilia's largest auction house.
To prepare for the live auction, Mastro employees sent the shirt and other items to Memorabilia Evaluation and Research Services, one of the hobby's leading authentication services. MEARS examined the shirt on July 1, and concluded that while it appeared to be a North Carolina shooting shirt from the 1980s, it did not belong to Jordan.
When the shirt was placed over a light table, it was apparent that another name had been removed from the back and replaced with "JORDAN." The letters also seemed to be made of different materials than other patches on the piece, according to the MEARS work sheet.
"The Michael Jordan shirt we evaluated did not start its life as a Michael Jordan shirt," MEARS authenticator Troy Kinunen said.
MEARS' opinion was seconded by the University of North Carolina; officials there told the Daily News that Jordan still has his warm-up shirt.
Mastro Auctions, however, submitted the shirt to another authenticator, Lou Lampson; the auction catalogue said the shirt was accompanied by a letter of authenticity from Lampson but made no mention of MEARS' evaluation or opinion. In the days before the auction, Game-Used Forum members posted numerous comments about the conflicting opinions; one member said he E-mailed Mastro's Allen about the jersey but Allen did not respond. The shirt received seven bids and sold for $11,000, according to Mastro Auctions Web site.
"If Mastro did not inform the winning bidder of MEARS' findings, then, that is damn shady," one forum member wrote.
A week after the auction, another Game-Used Forum member said he had been contacted by an ACC basketball fan who said stains on the "Jordan" shirt looked remarkably similar to stains on a shirt he owned for several years. The ACC fan, a collector named Jim Reed, told the Daily News he had purchased the shirt from Ranzino Smith, who joined the Tar Heels in 1985, the year after Jordan left school and was drafted by the Chicago Bulls.
Reed said he sold the shirt to Eric Inselberg, a New Jersey dealer/collector, late last year, but he is convinced it is the same item Mastro sold this month. "This thing was in my display room for three years," Reed said. "I know my shirt."
Inselberg told the News he sold the shirt at a Westchester memorabilia show in January. Inselberg claimed he didn't know the buyer and since the buyer paid cash, he had no way to contact him.
Allen told the Daily News before the auction that he was not aware that MEARS had doubts about the jersey; he did not return calls last week. But in an e-mail to Kinunen that was posted on the Game-Used Forum, he said Inselberg was not the consigner. The shirt was one of the last items sent to MEARS and Allen blamed deadline pressures for the screw-up.
"I had gotten the message from my guys that you 'were not comfortable signing off on it' so I told them to go ahead and run it with the Lou Lampson letter since he was comfortable issuing an LOA on the shirt. Unfortunately we never received your 'letter' which explained the details of the name change and the reason you were not comfortable opining on the shirt. If I had known this I would have immediately pulled it from the auction," Allen wrote.
"The first time I had been informed about potential issues with the shirt was on August 2nd when a reporter inquired about the letter you issued. At the time I was not aware a letter detailing findings had been issued and I notified him of that fact. When I got back to the office after the National I was finally able to review your letter and review the concerns expressed on the Game-Used Forum."
But by the time Allen's E-mail had been posted on the Game-Used Forum, the FBI had already begun investigating the sale of the jersey. The bureau's Chicago office - whose "Operation Foul Ball" smashed a multistate autograph forgery ring in the '90s - has already interviewed an authentication-service executive and two collectors about the jersey, according to sources.
As the Daily News reported in July, Chicago-based investigators have already questioned Bill Brandt, the president of Development Specialists Inc., the company hired by the state of Ohio to liquidate coins and collectibles purchased with state money by Tom Noe, the Republican Party official convicted last year of stealing from a $50 million workers compensation fund and sentenced to 18 years in prison. Noe had purchased thousands of dollars worth of memorabilia from Mastro, Brandt and Ohio law-enforcement officials have said. The investigators have also questioned two hobby executives who asked not to be identified.
An FBI official said he could not confirm or deny an investigation is underway, but regardless of what happens, the incident has left a bad taste in some collectors' mouths.
"I saw this warm-up at the National and thought it was awesome," one collector wrote on the Game-Used Forum. "I was gonna have a friend bid on it for me ... thank goodness that I didn't."
Once again they did the right thing by pulling an auction item...Kudos for them....Doug is a class act and honest person and this once again proves it....thanks again for posting the article.... I knew that NY Daily News and Michael O'keefe, would do the right thing and print good stuff too .....
MEARS saw a name change on a light table. Lou Lampson obviously didn't see a name change meaning he did not closely examine the shirt. People bid on an item that had an LOA by someone who didn't do a thorough job of examining it.
I think he did the wrong thing. Mears wasn't comfortable signing off on the Jordan, so he gave it to Lampson who did. Sorry, but that doesn't make it a good shirt.
First of all what is your last name? If you don't want to post it then you shouldn't be posting on this board about these kinds of things. The reason is, is that we need to know who posts stuff in these kind of situations. As I said in my email to you a little while ago AND YOU DIDN'T respond to it is for the protection of the whole board. If someone came on spouting stuff about you or posting articles I would do the same for you. So, your last name please?
Also, in my eyes this says it all:
"Mastro Auctions voided the sale and sent the jersey back to the authentication service that raised the initial doubts for further review."
Its getting kind of obvious this writer for the news does not like Mastro and wants to pin something on them. I also fund the underlying dig to a former "republican" in nearly every of his articles intriguing. I'm shocked he didn't get the Rudi Guliani connection (former lawyer) into this one...shameful.
Thanks for your understanding...and I will second what others have said in this thread concerning O'keefe's reporting concerning Mastro and the autograph and game used market/hobby....Too much of a leap of faith for myself....though I am sure there is a big audience for this form of collecting.....Whatever makes you happy and keeps you out of bars at night.....
Did O'Keefe remove the letters from the back of the warmup jacket and put Jordan's name there? Was O'Keefe the Mastro employee who sent the jacket to MEARS but apparently didn't tell Doug that it had come back as questionable? Damn that O'Keefe -- he really has it in for Mastro!
If you read "The Card" you will find that Mastro and O'Keeffe didn't like each other one bit, and Bill stopped talking to him during the process. So I do think O'Keeffe is making sure he gets the last word.
Leon, unlike you, I'm capable of being objective. Wow -- Mastro voided the sale after the s&**& hit the fan -- but how is it that Doug had the warmup sent to MEARS, had it come back questionable, then sent it to another authenticator that blessed it and yet he failed to supply the MEARS conclusion in its listing -- and even claimed he was unaware that MEARS had even been sent the warmup by his own company? And keep in mind that I like Doug and am trying to be fair here (I'm the one that posted the Mastro court win out here, recall?). But being fair sometimes means you have to call a spade a spade - which you are just unwilling to do whenever it comes to Mastro. You even went so far to call the news reported in this article as a "feather in the cap" of Mastro! So which is it -- is O'Keefe's reporting of the latest Mastro debacle (which comes about once a week now it seems) a feather in the cap for Mastro or more shoddy reporting?
O'Keeffe may indeed have it in for Mastro, but there is a serious pattern going on here that is disturbing....I just don't buy the fact that Mastro didn't get MEARS opinion on the jersey in time...this is BS. Those guys all know each other and they're located in the same city. Mastro even did the press release for MEARS online!!!!
When the Behrens boys and I flew to Chicago to go over the DiMaggio streak bat where do you think we met with the guys who now run MEARS??? That's right...the MastroNet office.
What's really disturbing though is that these types of "mishaps" continue with Mastro knowing full well that the Gameused universe and Net54 are watching them like hawks. If they think they can get away with it they're wrong because these two forums and Michael O'Keeffe have become the watchdog of the industry.
And anything with a Lou Lampson COA should be as questionable as an autograph with a Frangipani COA.
edited to add: that Doug Allen surely knows that Lampson's COA isn't worth sh!t anymore and there shouldn't be any kind of time pressure in his business when it comes to making sure you get it right the first time...the jersey should have been held back for the August auction if there were any doubts...you don't put something in your catalog that is questionable.
I doubt I speak only for myself when I say I don't hear much objectivity from Jeff or Leon on this issue. It's pretty clear that each of you has a distinct point of view (expressed now in many different threads), and that both of these positions have at least some merit.
I suggest (obviously only a suggestion) that since we have seen these exchanges many times before, that you two guys call a moratorium on Mastro for a little while, and see where this thread goes with other posters.
I have no issue calling Mastro out on something if they did something wrong. It just gets old when we continually see the same person reporting the same kind of crap....and there really isn't ever a smoking gun or bad ending. On this issue it seems to me that Mastro realized they made a mistake and voided the transaction...Whether that mistake should have been known earlier is debatable....According to the story it looks as though O'keefe reported that Doug said he didn't see a letter or email. I believe him.....If this forum helps keep everyone honest then that is a good thing....I just wish it wasn't always the same ole people jumping on the bandwagon....and yes, I do over compensate on purpose because it's always the same crap the other way....
Collectors are becoming very sensitive to issues where there is the appearance of large auction houses having their way with graders and authenticators. Any time one of these topics comes up it is going to ruffle some feathers.
Leon, yours was the first response on this thread. There was hardly any bandwagon jumping before you felt the need to spin away. Mastro's failings on the issue of the warmup jersey, another 'game used' helmet, altered cards, items at auction which were authenticated by the consignor, etc. have been discussed for a while on this and other forums. Blaming all of Mastro's problems on O'Keefe is just not fair. As Dan pointed out, the guy may hate Mastro but that doesn't mean he's inventing this stuff. What bothers me is that it seems like Mastro has problems pop up like this very, very often yet they still seem to be coming up with regularity, with no slowdown. As a collector who spends plenty of loot with Mastro I just want their act to be clean. How can I be biased against Mastro when I spend 5 figures routinely on their auctions?
I can't really state what side I fall on publicly (I will privately though), because it just wouldn't look good either way. However, why does O'Keefe have it in for Mastro? What is the history? I really want to know.
As far as I know it's been ongoing for years now and dates back to even before the Joe DiMaggio streak bat that sold about three years ago. I can not tell you specifically where or how it started just that it's been ongoing for quite a good while now.
Is why Mastro bothers with even a couple of dodgy items.....With catalogs brimming and bulging every few months, SO MUCH money being made, why would you even risk possibly damaging your image by including pieces not 1000% kosher?
Seems to me they would still own/co-own much of the memorabillia market regardless if they knocked back the odd card or helmet, and likely maximize their high bids (and total profits) if they had total and complete confidence of ALL the high rollers. Talk about risking screwing the golden goose.
Dan B., correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't you post something on this board weeks ago about the controversy involving the Jordan shirt and Mastro? I find it odd that only after O'Keefe writes about it does it prompt so much response on this board, particularly in the form of diehard defenses of Mastro.
say someone buys a card, alters it then try to get it slabbed. sgc rejects but psa gives it a grade. then he/she tries to sell the card until the original owner speaks up. will they still get kudos and commended for doing the right thing? i'd hope not but i'm sure this kind of things goes on more than it should and mastro seems to be in the middle of it more than most.
as a show of protest i will lower my max bid by 1 on the 4 items i'm seriously going after.
OK, I just finished my last final for the term so all of my good thinking and good words may be gone, but I'll try to articulate this anyways.
It seems like if O'Keeffe wanted to do a series of articles as an expose on Mastro, then fine. Let him do it, let it be out there for what it is, and let people make up their minds about it.
But he doesn't present it that way. He couches his articles as being about the collectibles hobby/industry. As an example, in the article posted today he says "But the controversy over the "Jordan" shirt appears far from over: It has added new pressure to calls for greater regulation and standards for the dog-eat-dog world of sports memorabilia." So it looks like he is writing about the world of sports memorabilia, not about Mastro specifically.
If this is the case, why no or few references in his articles to any other auction house? To any other major dealer? To any of the grading companies (other than incidental references)?
So to me it comes down to one of two things:
He is writing about the hobbies in general, and if so it is inevitiable that other major players will be in the spotlight of future articles - or at least mentioned prominently.
Or, he really is writing about Mastro specifically and for whatever reason doesn't want to (or feel like he can) just be up front about that. He has to bury the Mastro material within the larger so-called point about the collectibles hobby as a whole.
I'll withhold opinion about which it is for now. But if he truly thinks he has an ongoing story about Mastro he should put it in exactly that context. If it continues to be about "the world of collectibles" but only seems to pick on Mastro, then I might decide that he really does have an ax to grind with Mastro and is using a generic topic as the vehicle for grinding it.
Now if he ever did want to do an investigative piece on the relationships between auction houses, consignors and grading companies - THAT would be a series to read. It may even get more exposure than his current articles that are more narrowly targeted.
Leon, you have to be kidding me. The questions raised about that shirt on the Game used forum and on this forum (which linked to the game used forum thread) were done so well before the auction occurred (and so were the Game used forum's attempts to contact Doug Allen).
Had he done the right thing, the shirt would never have been listed because of MEARS letter. Had he done the next right thing the auction listing would have made mention of MEARS letter to at least warn potential bidders of the conflicting opinions. Had he done the next right thing he would have pulled the shirt from the auction once the issue was raised on these forums.
What Doug instead did was run the shirt in his auction, not disclose the MEARS letter, and then not pull the item from his auction.
Only after the fact (after missing three opportunities to "do the right thing" and then being confronted by the media after the auction ended) did Doug void the sale -- which at this point is simply akin to covering his ass.
I have read alot of the threads in this forum re: Mastro alleged unethical and/or fraudulent business practices and not commented (I figure if there's really something to these allegations, the FBI won't leave much doubt), but your post crossed the line from defending your friend to full-blown drinking of the Kool aid.
There is no way to reasonably spin or interpret what happened as some sort of positive for Doug and Mastro. Rather your response indicates that no matter what Mastro does or is alleged to have done and no matter what sort of evidence and charges are leveled against them, you are prepared to blindly defend them. I would expect more from you -- if not objectivity, then at least common sense.
I'm not sure that I expect Mastronet (or any other auction) to declare in their description that they tried to get something authenticated by PSA or Mears but couldn't. If they get conflicting opinions, I expect them to decide which opinion is most plausible and, if they do run the item in the auction, to accept a return on the item if the buyer finds further evidence against the authenticity of the item. Not knowing exactly what went on inside Mastronet but focusing on what they say happened, it seems to me that Mastronet acted in an acceptable manner--even though I wish as a buyer that auction houses were so candid that they did mention problems with authentication. More practically, I expect buyers to be very cautious in any auction for high priced items. I sometimes bid on baseball bats. If a description doesn't refer to a loa from PSA/DNA or from Mears, I wonder why not. And I usually ask to see a copy of the letters of authenticity that the ads do mention: they can point to questions that are omitted from descriptions.
I also want to add this re: the issue about whether O'Keefe is "biased" or has some sort of "vendetta" against Mastro.
Mastro is not our "friend". Mastro is a business enterprise that seeks to make as much money off of us as they possibly can (both as bidder and consigner). Which they have every right to, if they are doing so honestly.
That's not say that Mastro is our "enemy" or that people shouldn't do business with them. I have many Mastro items in my collection and intend to add many more.
But if they are "up to something", I for one am happy that there is someone out there riding them and reporting on them. If nothing else it makes them more transparent, more accountable, and perhaps even less likely to do "shady" things (although they obviously failed miserably on that count with the Jordan short debacle). That can do nothing but benefit those of us who do business with Mastro.
And if there is something going on significant enough that it leads to formal criminal charges from the FBI, good heavens, don't we want to know that??
So whether O'Keefe is biased or not, he is doing us all a favor, and nothing whatsoever that is not in our best (or at least honest for those of us who rue Mastro being taken down because they fear it will diminish the value of their collection) interests.
I appreciate O'Keefe's work and hope he continues it despite the astonishing lack of gratitude (or at least detached tolerance) displayed by the very collecting community whose his efforts stand to benefit.
I expect Mastro to tell the truth...period. unfortunately I have doubts that they ever will. Aaron M. is right. it seems like Mastro auctions had a few chances to "do the right thing" and didn't....plain and simple. Regardless of who reproted these facts....that's how it happened mastro fans. Seems like they have had the chance to do the right thing in the past also, but conveniently didn't then either.
I believe this simply comes down to the almighty dollar being more important to them than our opinions on the validity or not of the merchandise they auction off. I bet the principles at Mastro live pretty darn comfortable lives right now, and could care less about any controversy caused by items that might be fake.
I'm all for defending the defensless on this board , but I think some board members view Mastro in such awe that they can never do wrong in their eyes.
I completely agree that Mastro stands to take what is due based on its actions. Personally, I really couldn't care less if they do or don't end up in some kind of hot water. I simply don't have an opinion yet.
But I think the issue of bias is extremely important, especially when it comes to a reporter for a major daily newspaper. If there is bias then it's possible that the facts are being presented in a way that, while correct, is misleading.
This is important to the hobby b/c Mastro is such a big player. For exactly that reason I think it's also important for people to know or decide whether there is any reporter bias influencing the stories. If O'Keeffe is biased, it in no way means Mastro isn't doing some shady things. But it is an important piece of information for readers to include in the mix as they decide what to make of the stories and of Mastro.
As I said upthread, jury's out for me. But I am curious to see how O'K's future articles are framed. If there is a bias, then to me it puts any decision on my part to judge Mastro on hold until the other side is fairly presented. If no bias, then I'll take it more at face value.
And I'll wait and see if I think there's a bias - with nothing else to go by, I'll probably base it on the context and focus of future articles as described above.
Joann -- let's assume that O'Keefe hates Bill Mastro's guts. Did that bias cause the shirt to be a fake? Did that bias cause Mastro to fail to provide the MEARS opinion to the selling public? Did that bias cause them to sell game used items that have been authenticated by the consignor of the item?
Joann, you should skip the lawyer part and go straight to being a judge.
Other than noting the FBI was looking into the Jordan jersey, nothing O'Keeffe wrote in that article was not already discussed and known at the gameused forum...I do think that O'Keeffe is biased...heck it seemed to me he took the obvious wrong side in the fake T206 Wagner owned by the two guys from Cincy. Even embellishing how this forum felt about the issues regarding race. But he just seems to be reporting to the world what is already being discussed at GU in his latest articles. Bias or not Mastro is really screwing up a lot lately...is it intentional? I don't know....Lelands and REA don't seem to have these types of problems.
I am not "blindly" defending Mastro. Unless I missed something (and I might have) Doug Allen said he didn't see a letter or email from MEARS before the auction. If he did see one then I do think something needs to be said about it and should have been said. Also for the record I disagree on a Mastro policy of showing ownership of an item that is being consigned and authenticated by the person. I think it used to be, and still is, a policy to only tell if it were an issue or after the auction. I think if a bat, for example, is authenticated by MEARS, is owned by a principal of MEARS, then it should be disclosed up front. I also would like to see articles from someone less biased on Mastro's mishaps.....Okeefe has a vendetta plain and simple....and just because he has a vendetta does not make it right if Mastro did something wrong...to say I am implying that is also very wrong.... regards
I completely agree with you that a reporters bias (or lack of bias) is completely irrelevant when it comes to the underlying issue of Mastro's actions wrt the Jordan jersey. It stinks to high heaven no matter what.
But I also think that there may be another way to present the facts such that they don't look so overwhelmingly negative to Mastro. I just don't know what that presentation is. I'm not even sure there is another way to present it. But I think that if O'K is biased, it will leave me thinking that there is an alternative presentation of the facts. If he's not biased, then I would take the facts as presented as being more directly aligned with reality.
Could another presentation change some of what went on? No. It may not even be sufficient to make Mastro seem clear of all of this. But it might make it look different - at least to me.
All I know is that I have had my share of people that would like to present things I've done in the worst possible light, and would hate for people to take those representations as gospel without allowing room for another point of view.
So I guess all I'm saying is that I'd really like to know if O'K has some reason to pick at Mastro. If so, I look at the facts as presented more skeptically. It doesn't mean I discount them completely, it only means I leave room for doubt as to the reality or context behind them.
As I said above, if O'K really wants to do an expose on Mastro I say have at it. It just seems odd to me that he doesn't really present this as a "Mastro problem". He presents it as a hobby problem but Mastro is always the chief villian. I guess I'm just a cynic, and wonder what's going on that hasn't been mentioned.
Mastro gets praise for canceling an item after the sale but Verkman gets crap for it? Seems to me that both auctioneers showed equivalent negligence in vetting the items before sale.
I do not accept that a leader in its field putting together a premiere auction at a once-a-year major trade show didn't get the letter on time from MEARS. Mastro obviously had the letter and had the time to send the jersey to the second authenticator. It was just whore-shopping for a favorable opinion. Nothing wrong with that; lawyers do it all the time in retaining experts. But let's not canonize Mastro over this incident because it sure as heck isn't a good one for them.
You can have a vendetta against someone or a company...
August 19 2007, 9:27 PM
You can have a vendetta against someone or a company, yet still present factual information about their misdeeds. In this case Mastro is just providing O'Keefe with plenty of ammunition for his feud.
Sorry, but the idea that it was rejected by their primary authenticator without disclosure is pretty odd, especially since they went through such a song and dance about the MEARS rejected Ted Williams jersey in the same auction.
Our regular hours at work are 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. with an hour for lunch. I don't remember the last time I got to work earlier than 8:15. It's usually somewhere between 8:15 and 8:30, but it's not that uncommon for me to get there a little after 8:30 even.
So suppose someone at work had a negative bias towards me (believe me, they exist!). They could easily start a buzz about Joann never gets to work at 8. Joann is late every single day. Joann didn't get here until 8:40 yesterday. And it would all be true. Suppose they start saying it to people that work 500 miles away at corporate in St Louis, who aren't here to see my comings and goings? Now that would look bad. Really bad.
Does the bias of the person change the fact that I don't get there at 8? No, not at all. That underlying fact would still be true, and clearly true. And it's on me - I simply don't get there at 8 and that has nothing to do with the bias of anyone reporting that.
But here's the rest of it - the part the the biased person would probably omit. I rarely leave before 6 pm. Being at the office until 6:30 or a bit later is not that uncommon, especially if I don't keep an eye on it. If I leave by 6 it is usually because I've made up my mind to do so. There is kind of a running joke with my boss that if I am leaving at 5:00 I let her know that I am "cutting out early - you know - at 5". I don't remember the last time I went out for an hour at lunch. I usually go for carryout, and am gone maybe 20-30 minutes.
I am on my email by 6:30 every morning to see if there is anything I need to do to get my dept going, and catch up on emails. I keep an eye on it at night in case anyone from our office in China needs anything - if I can answer that night it saves them an entire day. I also catch up on other emails occasionally in the evenings. I do my weekly Close of Business report on the weekend, and also read the COB's from other Senior Managers.
I probably average somewhere between 50 and 55 hours per week, as a best guess. That doesn't even count the days (such as next Thursday) that I get up at 3:00 a.m. to catch the 5:00 flight to St Louis, and don't get to check into my hotel there until maybe 9:00 at night.
Not crying about it - not at all. But someone with a bias could easily complain widely and publicly that I don't get in on time at 8. Ever. And that person would be perfectly correct, with that fact unaffected by the bias.
But it doesn't tell the whole story - far from it. So I guess that's why I wonder if there is a bias in the Mastro reporting, and think I will reserve opinion until I can tell if there is or not.
Sorry for the long post - it was the best (read, only) analogy I could think of.
Leon, seriously, you need to quit posting in Mastro threads or quit taking their money for banner ads. Your initial post was laughable, at best.
More people than me are seeing you for what you are, a shill for Mastro, which wouldn't be such a bad thing if you weren't taking money from them.
On the subject of the shirt, I don't buy Doug's explanation. If it was a last minute submission, then that should have been an item that was being closely monitored to make sure everything was OK before going to auction. If the MEARS report was late and handed in after the Lampson report, the item should have been yanked immediately, not after it was sold.
How's that old saying, Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice shame on me. How many times does Mastro have to fool us before we say enough is enough?
The richest person is not the one who has the most, but the one who needs the least.
I'm not at all saying you're blindly accepting of Mastro, but can see why others would think that way. In past threads you have stated how wonderful of a person and friend Doug Allen is, that you will consign your collection to them, that the writer has a vendetta and hence his opinions should be devalued, that Mastro should be given credit fo refunding a tainted jersey, the FBI, etc. etc. My question is, and I mean this honestly, what would it take? Would it take someone else other than O'Keefe? Would it take more FBI action? In no way am I disparaging or trying to insinuate anything. I've dealt with you and can vouch for your character. However, can't you see how someone could conceivably feel that way about your statements? Would it take videotapes or audiottapes? If Mastro didn't offer the stellar material they did, I think there would be a whole lot more outcry from the hobby at large.
Joann: I agree that if you use a newspaper as your sole source of information, you are not likely to be very well informed. But in this case, either the FBI is involved, or they are not. If they are, then getting in at 8AM is no longer a potentially valid analogy, imo.
James, exactly my point. What will it take for Mastro to actually be held accountable and possibly removed as an advertiser. As we've seen before, when it's a lesser auction house/dealer, they are roundly taken to task by everyone and even removed as an advertiser for less than what Mastro has done.
The richest person is not the one who has the most, but the one who needs the least.
It was part of their live auction at the National. Refresh your screen a few times, and you'll see that Leon still has one of the banner ads for the auction up and in rotation (it's on my screen now as I type this). Click through it, and you'll find the shirt.
<<It was part of their live auction at the National. Refresh your screen a few times, and you'll see that Leon still has one of the banner ads for the auction up and in rotation (it's on my screen now as I type this). Click through it, and you'll find the shirt. >>
each time you click through, this site makes more money from Mastro. It's a function of a) people seeing the ads (CPM) and b) the click-through rate (CTR)
Did Doug not see the e-mail that the Gameused forum's administrator sent him?
Did Doug not see the threads on this forum and on the Game used forum openly discussing the shirt several days before the actual auction?
Did no-one at Mastro alert Doug to the MEARS letter and/or to these threads and/or to efforts to contact Mastro about the shirt?
At minimum, this indicates: (1) a shocking lack of over sight over what was a very small auction (just 80-somthing items), (2) a shocking lack of checks and balances within Mastro's authentication system, and (3) and a shocking willingness within Mastro to list an item that had been strongly discredited by an authentication service not known for standing up to Mastro. (Or are you willing to go so far as to assert that no-one at Mastro ever read the MEARS letter or was aware of the discussions threads or e-mails?)
I complained about not receiving photos of a set of cards in a Mastro auction earlier this year on this site and within hours was called by a very apologetic Mastro employee and had the photos sent to me.
You're telling me two forums discussing a $10,000 shirt that was carrying a questionable LOA that was about to sell in Mastro's inaugural live auction just slipped under the radar?
Uch, leon, come on.
In this instance Mastro screwed up (perhaps fraudulently, perhaps simple bad management). And they owe the collecting community a forthcoming explanation and an apology and publicly stated new measures to ensure that this doesn't happen again (like either declining to sell items that their authenticators have been unable to authenticate or at least disclosing such in an item's description).
Simply voiding the sale for the deceived buyer is not nearly enough, because it doesn't address everything that went wrong before Allen voided the sale.
As to your belief that O'Keefe has a vendetta against Mastro as fact, by the same token posters can just as credibly assert as fact that you are an apologist for Mastro, hopelessly biased because of personal and financial reasons. I'm not saying either stament is true. Just that the neither statement is any more a "fact" than the other.
And again, I don't care if O'Keefe is biased. I think what you see as a "vendetta" is his belief that there's a story at Mastro and he wants to be the reporter who blows the lid off it. And like I said in my earlier post: more power to him. His applying heat to Mastro is in our best interests (this article is yet another example because it shed light on Mastro's authentication process and an obvious breakdown in ethical judgment), so have at it.
Joann, that was a very thoughtful response, but I would again have to repeat: O'Keefe's bias (whether it exists or not) is irrelevant to the collecting community.
Take the Mastro name out for a second and think about the consequences of his stories even in a biased light:
At worse, he is sensationalistic in shedding light on some of the misdeeds of the major auction house in our collecting field, which benefits us by bringing more information to the table and applying public pressure on that auction house to act more honestly.
And at best, he is on the cusp of a major story involving corporate and consumer fraud, which also benefits us by leading the charge and keeping us updated as to a possible criminal investigation into that major auction house.
I just don't see a down side to O'Keefe's articles. Biased or not, his articles help collectors.
Jim--With all due respect, the board is not a cooperative. Leon owns the board and the revenues that he takes in from banner ads in some very small way compensate him for his time, effort and expenses. It is not your choice or my choice to decide who should be allowed to post ads-it is Leon's. That being said I support Mastro and hope that he decides to keep their ad.
1. They either knew the jersey was a fake and sold it anyway
2. They didn't do the proper research and let a fake slip through the cracks
Both produce the same results (the buyer gets screwed) and both are UNACCEPTABLE!!
I'm not impressed with MASTRO refunding the $$ (just as I wouldn't be impressed with a bank robber offering to return the $$ to the bank after they got caught to avoid prosecution). MASTRO had no other choice.
Now if there are instances in the past where MASTRO discovered an item was fake after an auction ended, notified the buyer and refunded $$ without any pressure from any outside party that may help their credibility (or even hurt it more depending on how you look at it).
I don't trust any autographs, game used bats, shirts, etc. I don't care who authenticated them!!
I for one also find it difficult to believe that the company was not aware of the questions surrounding this jersey in time to pull it from the auction. Call me a skeptic, but I wondered whether the sale of the Jordan jersey may have been cancelled for ulterior reasons. While I dont collect memorabilia, and dont know this for sure, but I would have thought that an unquestioned Jordan jersey would have sold for far more than the 11k this one sold for. If so, I wonder if the cancellation had more to do with the price realized than it did with the item's authenticity.
O'Keeffe clearly has an anti-Mastro bias, but has been said, that shouldn't matter as long as what he writes are facts. The facts are pretty damning.
Any memorabilia item with a Lou Lampson letter is considered to be suspect by most in the memorabilia collecting community and has been for quite a while. That doesn't mean that every item is not what it purports to be, but many, many people will just skip any item with a Lampson letter. This is akin to Mastro offering up PRO authenticated cards - people here would seriously question the legitimacy of any card offered and likely the overall auction. Ignoring the fact that people were waving the red flag on this Jordan item before the auction went off, why Mastro continues to align itself with Lampson is a mystery.
I stated what I stated on purpose full well and knowing that what I was doing was overboard in the OPPOSITE direction of O'keefe. I did it for that very reason. He is so one sided that I wanted my statement to be that way too. That was probably a mistake on my part. The auctioning of this jersey was a mistake on their part. Their mistake was corrected. I still get to deal with mine ......
Jay M is correct...this is not a cooperative and the time I put into this board vis a vis the little bit of banner ad revenue I get from it is almost negligible. It is not even a question in my mind as to "allowing" Mastro to advertise if they so desire. I hope they will continue forever. For the record I also don't mind O'keefe and internet forums being watch dogs for the hobby. If they make it a safer place then that is all the better
None of this adds up Leon, and the fact that they continue to make "mistakes" like this when you don't see REA or Leland's making these monumental mistakes on a regular basis tells you something. Their own guys (MEARS) gave this jersey the thumbs down and they went with the guy who will authenticate anything...the same guy who was mixed up in their last debacle with the football helmet. (which still has never been explained satisfactorily)
Mastro's excuses are starting to sound like my six year olds excuses when he gets in trouble. What's their excuse going to be next??? "My dog ate the COA".
I just thought with all the recent negative stuff regarding Mastro Auctions that if Leon did not want to ban them as an advertiser because of a personal relationship then a way out for him would be to put it to a vote of the board. My humble opinion but saying that one hopes they advertise forever no matter what the evidence turns out to be is not the right answer.
Leland's may not have made mistakes, but they have put up questionable items, such as pieces of the plane Roberto Clemente crashed in.
I feel it is Leon's board to run, and he is entitled to his opinion. I think his integrity does not need to be questioned, and while I can't speak for him, I would bet that his opinion in this situation would be the same, even if there were no banner ads.
While some people seem to have it in for Mastro, there are a few who seem to have it in for Leon. If you don't like the banner ads, or his implied defense of Mastro, you can start your own board; oh wait, that's been done already.
This is the last thing I wanted to here again, but its news to talk about. Anyways Mastro really needs to start selling what may be questionable such as game used items. They really need to get back on track or they will lose good customers.
The item in question amounts to approximately 0.25% of the gross of the auction, truly a de minimus amount. It would be beyond imbecilic for a profit-maximizing auction house to consciously misrepresent such an item, the ramifications of which could materially impact the future profitability of the company. That's not to say it can't happen, or that companies don't do stupid things. But between choosing between that scenario or an alternative one (i.e., oversight in need of improvement) that does not involve intent to defraud, I would choose the latter. As to the point that the auction in question had only 80 or so lots, I am certain Mastro Auctions at the time the authenticity issue came up was also dealing with the thousands of lots to appear in its other upcoming auctions.
Presumably the company will have learned from this episode and will going forward implement better oversight procedures.
on this one. Hopefully they will rectify the situation going forward. I don't know how anyone can realistically collect game used jerseys, bats, gloves, etc, etc given the amount of mistakes that we've seen. I remember Billy Crystal or someone buying a glove of Mantle's that turned out to be completely represented (not by Mastro either!). There have been multiple issues with things like that in the hobby. Also, the supposed EXPERTS are really just people who've handled hundreds or thousands of items during their long career. While that makes them experts to a certain extent, I don't see how someone can say that without question a certain player wore, used, etc an item unless the provenance is just so overwhelming that an EXPERT really isn't needed to begin with.....
I don't think leon should stop accepting ads from Mastro -- that's akin to making a final judgment on them and agreeing with those that believe Mastro is up to no good. We aren't in a position yet to do either.
Until (and if) the FBI formally charges Mastro with some sort of criminal charges, I don't think any of us needs to do more than make their own judgment as to whether or not they as individuals wish to continue to do business with Mastro and even then, it's still up to each person (although you would have to be pretty foolish to continue to do business with Mastro at that stage).
I have had nothing but positive experiences with Mastro (as far as I know). They have solid customer service and terrific material and they are reliable. But that doesn't make me any less inclined to want to know if they are up to something (hence my appreciation of O'Keefe's articles) or look at how they handled the Jordan jersey and think that it was a major (and easily avoidable) screw-up.
Thanks for clarifying that leon -- you had me worried! But I don't think you need to "editorialize" in that manner in order to even things out. Bruce ("We") Dorskind just linked a very positive article about Mastro from USA Today a couple days ago. That allows for balanced representation of Mastro from the media in general (and not just O'Keefe) that doesn't require any of the board's posters to appear like a "sucker".
I couldn't agree with you more. It just pisses me off so much I do stuff that I eventually regret..I am sure most board members have done the same thing before......I don't regret taking up for a company that hasn't been found guilty of anything but I regret the way I did it. I am going to try to stay out of threads from now on when they concern an advertiser. No promises but I am going to try. Thanks for your understanding... I do hope that Mastro has learned from this experience but quite honestly, with game used equipment and memorabilia the way it is, I bet something happens again...If any advertiser is found criminally guilty of something we can debate their banner at that time....Actually it can be debated anytime, as it was in this thread, but I am probably not going to do anything about it.....This needs to remain as open a forum as possible and I hope everyone can see that it is that way....best regards
Are you personally boycotting all future Mastro auctions, no matter what card comes up that you may need? If so, then I appreciate your conviction. If not, then why would you ask Leon to do so?
Your reasoning, interestingly, parallels that of the US Supreme Court in a recent securities fraud case: you must consider the competing plausible non-fraudulent inference as well as the fraudulent inference.
I REALLY doubt anyone tried to commit fraud here. Doug surely understands the issues with memorabilia and obviously is aware of the scrutiny to which Mastro is subject in the media, on chatboards, and so forth. Absent anything more compelling I would go with the inference there was some sloppiness here and miscommunication but not attempted fraud.
I am not participating in the next Mastro Auction and I did not participate in the last one. As long as I am not happy about the way they conduct themselves I will not participate in their auctions--and I have spent a lot of money with Mastro over the years.
For the first time ever they took my name off their mail list.
Doug Allen has admitted to taking creases out of cards to prepare them for grading.
That in my book is plain and simple card alteration...and it is unacceptable.
I think my new friend Dan Bretta said recently that all this stuff about Mastro won't matter because at the end of the day collectors will still buy if they see a card they need. Well I for one won't--and I know others who have told me they won't as well.
Just for a little edification I did personally ask Doug about his policy, for his company, as it pertained to removing wrinkles or creases. I know I have changed my view on them as it's too gray of an area. He told me that it wasn't worth the grief and that he no longer has his staff remove wrinkles or creases from cards. This was right before he got up and spoke at the Net54 Dinner at this last National. I sort of wanted to know since I figured the question would be asked. It wasn't.....Whether you bid in Mastro Auctions or not is obviously up to you. I know I put in extra bids last night just for general principle. Somehow I still don't think I will get any steals.....If you ask why Doug wouldn't come onto the forum again I think the answer is obvious. I am sure anything I say here will be taken to task by Jay B...but I know it's coming so what the heck...Again, just wanted to shed some light on that one fact...I will try to keep my nose out of these threads for the most part...best regards
My recollection also was that Doug said he would not do it any more after it was pointed out PSA officially considers that alteration. Of course if it can't be detected there is no way to know he isn't still doing it, but I believe he did say the policy had changed.
Peter, I have no idea if the Mastro blunder was intentional or not. My point is that this sort thing shouldn't happen to one of oldest auction houses in the hobby. If it was an honest mistake by Mastro, it doesn't speak well to their competence to be selling this sort of stuff. If it was deliberate, then we are all in trouble.
The richest person is not the one who has the most, but the one who needs the least.
I agree that it's good you don't bid if you state you have concerns and I think that's admirable.
BUT.....do any of the guys or other dealers you buy from buy from Mastro? If so, you would be buying PSA stuff from them. I'd bet that MANY of the people you might otherwise buy from buy from Mastro. Kinda hard not to I guess if you're in the business--especially for high graded cards.
We all make mistakes. I know that I sure do.
But some things I do not make mistakes on because the subject is important. some of these subjects include driving at 65 mph, others are work related, some are payment related (such as taxes), and others are personal (I again remembered our wedding anniversary - whew).
At this stage of the game, I find it difficult to believe that Mastro has holes in their communication network. Authentication is a key element in what they do. It is extremely high on the "must not err" list. I find it very, very difficult to accept that this error is possible.
Its like Ford saying "what? you wanted tires that don't explode? Nobody specified that". Well ... going foward we will be sure to include that value added feature. Spare me the cliches, neither of us were born yesterday.
I agree with you. Mastro probably has dozens of items in their warehouse that are more valuable, why would they want to defraud somebody on a Michael Jordan shirt? All I can say is that they have a problem with their quality control. That being said, they need to get their act together or their customers will go elsewhere.
Where are the customers going to go Peter? I still think Mastro can continue to make "mistakes" like this and get away with it because of the nature of the market. They have it and nobody else does which means people for the most part are going to continue to do business with them. I like to think of myself as principled, but if they come up with a rare Nebraska related baseball item that I "need" I'm probably going to bid on it.
At the moment I tend to believe that this was not a mistake...I'm not saying that they knew it wasn't Jordan's jersey, but I think they had a good amount of reasonable doubt and still put it up for auction.
Pete, money is a great motivating force and makes people do things they would otherwise not do. Also, any game used Jordan item is something of a coup and a highlight in any auction regardless how much or how little it is worth. If they can cover up a questionable report and get the item sold for maximum $$$ without getting caught, then they've just put a nice chunk of coin in their pocket. If they get caught, as here, they say oops, come up with a plausible deniability story and void the sale to try and make themselves look like good guys.
The richest person is not the one who has the most, but the one who needs the least.
In Leon's defense, when I posted the problem I had about the T207s having paperloss and that the backs were not pictured and no paperloss mentioned, Leon allowed the post to stay up when it technically violated the rules. I like and agree with Jeff most of the time, but Leon will also take the defensive against Mastronet or anyone else when he feels they are wrong or negligent. Doug Allen is a true class act and has an excellent staff. I am game worn and game used ignorant but agree that Mastronet acted as best they could here. But then again, I have been shredded on here before! Dan.
Dan McKee wrote: "In Leon's defense, when I posted the problem I had about the T207s having paperloss and that the backs were not pictured and no paperloss mentioned, Leon allowed the post to stay up when it technically violated the rules."
I vaguely remember that thread, but I don't remember that you technically violated the rules. Which rule did you technically violate?
While the purpose of this post is not to defend Mastro's actions, I'm trying to see the distinction between their actions here and the actions of shopping a card around among the different grading companies and failing to disclose if the card had ever been rejected as altered (or if not altered been given a lower grade). My understanding is that this kind of "card shopping without disclosure" is routinely done by the great majority of auction houses, and I dare say with the full blessing of their consignors. I'm also struggling to see the ethical distinction between what happened with the Jordan shirt and the actions of collectors/dealers/auction houses to consign or sell slabbed cards from certain issues (e.g., T206s) that have not been re-examined, knowing full well that a number of the cards are altered and will be acquired by good faith purchasers who will not be getting what they paid for. Just seems to me that there is a lot of hypocrisy at play here and maybe the best thing to come from this incident is to highlight the need to impose a duty on all auction houses and other sellers to disclose all opinions rendered by reputable grading/certification companies regarding for auction/sale items. Perhaps in the alternative the grading companies could compile a data bank of rejected cards, which would show an image of the card, the date of submission, the basis for rejection and (assuming any privacy issues can be overcome) by whom the card was submitted.
A seller has a duty to disclose all "material" facts. A material fact is one that, in layman's terms, significantly affects the total mix of information available. At first blush, one would think in certain cases grading history is obviously material. For example, a PSA 8 Ruth card that had been previously rejected twice by PSA itself and once by SGC for trimming. Then again, I am not sure buyers really care, as long as the card eventually is slabbed. One could cynically take the point of view that buyers know the games that are played and the fact that (except for Corey) no one seems to be demanding to know grading history shows they don't care.
I for one think there is a huge difference in shopping around a baseball card which everyone can at least agree the card is a card of the person pictured, and shopping around a jersey which belonged to a specific person when one company says they don't believe the jersey belonged to that specific person. It's like sending a Heinie Wagner card to PSA and having them certify it as a Honus Wagner card. You must also consider that a prominent forum of experts have already provided evidence that the jersey was not what it was claimed to be, and then be prepared to believe that nobody at Mastro reads that forum. Of course after the debacle with the football helmet in April maybe Mastro doesn't read that forum?
If Mastro acted "as best as they could" in this situation....that's just plain pathetic. why can't people just call a spade a spade anymore ? Mastro auctions has been exposed again....this is so transparent.
as far as autographed and game used stuff goes. My advice is to not spend a load of money on any of it unless you have 1st hand knowledge of the items history. My brother will not even buy PSA DNA stuff anymore , and that's a whole other thread of horror stories !
Dan I understand your distinction but I am not sure if it holds up. Why isn't an opinion that a card is trimmed (which, if true, would render most cards relatively worthless or certainly worth only a fraction of their value if they were not trimmed) just as relevant as an opinion that there isn't enough evidence to authenticate a Babe Ruth autograph or Michael Jordan jersey?
So long as a seller honestly answers inquiries from people like Jim to whom grading history matters, and I cannot think of a context where there is not opportunity for such communication, I am not sure there is an affirmative obligation to disclose it. I guess one possible response might be that all buyers are not as sophisticated as Jim and would not know of the issue and therefore would not know to ask. I would think most people buying expensive cards DO know, but I am just speculating.
I know you guys demand high standards. However, I will tell you what the California Evidence Code requires and you can say whatever you want. The California Evidence Code does not require disclosure. For instance if you were trying to prove your case and you got 3 medical reports, two medical reports were favorable and the third wasn't. You are not required to produce the third report. However, if you are asked a direct question, you are required to answer that you obtained a third opinion.
Peter or other lawyers on the board....I'm just curious as to how courts of law view baseball cards. I've always been under the impression that no matter what you pay for a card or piece of memorabilia that it really has only an intrinsic value.
I believe that in California there is a specific state statute regarding the sale of collectibles such as cards. Adam W. has posted it several times and I believe that it does specifically require disclosure.
Interesting perspective that perhaps (at least at the expensive level) buyers know the games that are being played and really don't care about grading history as long as the card ends up in a graded slab. I would think if that is indeed the case then auction houses would be bending over backwards to disclose grading history. After all, what would be the harm, not to mention it would forestall any claim by a disgruntled buyer that all material facts were not disclosed. Or, to put it another way, if your perspective is true either we are dealing with auction houses that have not been legally advised or by their actions of nondisclosure feel that buyers would in fact care about grading history.
I can't wait to see the first case of some buyer trying to cross over a six-figure card only to find out that the company he just sent it to had rejected the card as altered a few years prior. Word then gets out what happened and then, presto, when the guy tries to sell it it is regarded as tainted goods and he takes a whooping loss. He then sues the action house for failure to disclose a material fact (i.e., the card's grading history). I believe a case such as this is destined to show up, and boy will I love to read the auction house's brief explaining why the card's grading history was not material information.
And I am curious to see how the grading services respond when they discover that cards they graded years ago, and are worth five-figures today, have been deemed altered. How will the unlucky owner of the altered card be compensated? This hasn't happened yet to my knowledge but it will become an issue in the future.
Your scenario is not necessarily governed by the Evidence Code. In the course of discovery, if you are asked to produce ALL information pertaining to a certain category of documents/information, you are legally AND ethically bound to produce ALL of them.
With regard to duties of discloure, both common law and statutes require full discloure and the failure to fully disclose with the intent to deceive, is actionable, both civilly and criminally.
Your argument seems to proceed from the premise that avoiding legal liability is what drives auction houses. To summarize: 1) It is in their interest to disclose as much as possible that people don't care about; because that will minimize their chances of being sued. 2) Ergo, if they aren't disclosing grading history, it can only be because people DO care about it.
I don't think that sort of proof by inductive reasoning works here. I prefer the logic that if this really mattered to bidders, they would be pressuring auction houses to disclose it, and competition would require them to do so. Therefore, the fact that auction houses are not disclosing it must mean that bidders don't care, in general.
EDITED TO ADD There may indeed be such a lawsuit, but how would the plaintiff respond if cross-examined as to why he didn't simply inquire as to grading history if it mattered to him? Surely, given the industry practice not to disclose (I have NEVER seen such a disclosure) the buyer could not reasonably assume there was no prior history.
I am not a Mastro apologist nor am I a Mastro hater, but I can tell you the situation with the Jordan shooting shirt is not right. I have had been a customer and consignor with Mastros for 8 or 9 years now and I have also had an experience with them knowingly selling a bad item.
I was the one who called and questioned Mastros on the Darrell Griffith University of Louisville game used jersey" that was in the October of 2006 auction. When I saw the auction I called up and spoke to Brian Marren and told him why I thought this item was no good and that I wanted to see documentation on what Lou Lampson used to authenticate this particular jersey. I also provided him with pictures detailing that Griffith did not wear this type of jersey while playing at U of L. I was told that he would get with Lou and pass on this info to him. A couple of days later which was well before the auction was supposed to end I inquired about the findings and was told that Lou is staying with his opinion that the jersey was good and that he would not pull the auction. I was also told that they couldn't pull the jersey as it could cause legalality issues. I then contacted a person within the sports department at U of L and provided her with pictures of the jersey. It just so happened that the particular day I sent this Darrell Griffith was in her office where she showed him the pictures and he told her that they did'nt wear mesh jerseys while he played there. In fact they did not begin wearing mesh jerseys until 2-3 years later well after his #35 was retired by the university. This info and email from the university was passed on to Mastros and Lou Lampson but the jersey was still sold in that auction. When an auction house wants to side with a person that has experienced questionable abilities to properly document authentic jerseys to the person that actually supposedly wore the item then I have a big problem with it.
Take this latest information about the Jordan jersey for what it's worth but I highly question what really happened. I can also tell you that alot of the questionable things that has happened concerning Mastros has caught the attention of the FBI as I was contacted just this week by an agent from Chicago concerning the Griffith jersey. Hopefully Mastros will take greater steps in the future to authenticate ALL items before someone pays alot of money for something worthless.
I'm not sure what "it" refers to in your statement "...the fact that auction houses are not disclosing it," but there ARE auction houses that do in fact disclose cards as possibly trimmed and recolored. I've seen REA do it. Here are just two such examples:
What drives any rationale profit-maximizing auction house is the desire to maximize future net income stream. That net income stream is impacted both by money going in (consignment fees and buyers premiums) and money going out (a component of which are future liabilities). So of course avoiding future legal liability should be part of current considerations. If there is to be no reduction to the inflowing income stream by disclosing a card's grading history, then in my view it would be irrational not to make the disclosure. There is no downside. The fact that they don't do it I believe means more than their perception that their customers don't care. Maybe they don't care now, but they sure as heck might when down the road they take some huge economic hit on some altered cards, and a company acting rationally would take this future change of heart by their customers into consideration. I believe that the reason companies don't make the disclosure is because they feel both (1) they can get away with not doing it because nobody else does and (2) disclosure can be the economic kiss of death for a card. Both factors are at play here and a company could rationally feel that the future legal liability resulting from their current no-disclosure policy is more than outweighed by the big boost to current inflowing income allowed to take place by the no-disclosure policy.
In regard to a company's defense against a future lawsuit predicated on no disclosure, your argument seems to be that provided everybody else does not disclose material information, the burden has shifted to the buyer to make the inquiry. So my response then on cross examination would be twofold: (1) just because other sellers breach their duty of disclosure doesn't mean that I should assume you will, especially given the barrage of advertising that you do extolling how you hold yourself to a higher ethical standard than your competition, which advertising I reasonably relied on; (2) by law the duty is on you to disclose, not on me to ask, and the fact that others might be breaching this duty doesn't relieve you of your obligation to comply.
I think we are talking apples to oranges when talking about cards to game used material. It would be almost impossible to know if a card was earlier graded or rejected by someone like PSA or SGC and then have the auction house print those findings. You have cards that have been submitted multiple times to try to achieve higher grades by the same company as well as different ones so there could be no possible way for an auction house let alone a consignor to know unless they were to one that submitted it to be graded. Sure it probably could be done with some of the more rare cards but to do it on a 1956 Topps Mickey Mantle would be virtually impossible.
When it comes to game used it's much easier as their are far less quantities of like game used items although with as many game used jerseys now being used and marketed it's becoming more difficult. When a auction house has an item authenicated by two different companies then they should be required to disclose the findings of both companies and not the favored one which is the case with the Jordan jersey. You can't tell me that if MEARS would have signed off on the Jordan jersey that Mastro still would have given this to Lou Lampson for his opinion.
Good points certainly, but (and this reminds me of our prior discussion on a related point) I do think a tribunal trying to decide whether there was a "material" omission might pay at least some attention to prevailing standards in trying to decide whether certain information met the litmus test. It would be a pretty cynical view (although not out of the question I suppose) that every single auction house, card show dealer, and ebay/internet seller regularly commits fraud by omitting known information about grading history (including bumps and rejections). And it seems to me at least in the present environment, you either have to draw that conclusion or you have to conclude that at least the majority of buyers do not consider this sort of information to be material to their purchasing decisions, and THAT (not a widespread pattern and practice of fraud) explains why the industry practice is one of non-disclosure. I don't see a middle ground on how else to explain it. Also, I repeat my view that this is a highly competitive market and if customers were demanding that information, sellers would get that message and start providing it. I believe in the free market, and if this information really mattered to the majority of people, sellers could not continue not to disclose (conceal?) it.
What seems different to me between hawking baseball cards between grading companies and this jersey between the two named authenticators, are the players involved.
The equivalent in terms of hobby respect between Mears and Sampson is SGC versus Pro.
If a card turns up in a PRO holder, having been rejected by SGC, there is absolutlely every ethical requirement to mention its history. Too few people trust and believe in PRO's judgements and give great weight of trust to SGC's. Similarly with Mears and Sampson.
Of course If the card had failed PSA testing but passes SGC, we're more able to make a judgement that the opinion was probably borderline for both but fell on either side of the fence between the two respected companies.
It all comes down to the credibility of the players involved who are giving judgement. IMO, Mastro knows the competence and credibility perfectly well of the two authenticating agents who looked over the jersey, and chose the money-making avenue. The rest of the story is run-around.
It seems appropriate to mention that wrt keeping track of items that fail authentication, MEARS does keep such a record. This record is available to members on their website in their bat/jersey trade index area.
Along these lines, MEARS is getting serious about cleaning up the memorabilia business, particularly as it pertains to auction houses. Although somewhat lengthy, check out the new requirements auction houses are going to be forced to comply with if they want to submit to MEARS:
Cost is another difference between MEARS and Lou Lampson. Sure a company like MEARS is going to charge more for actually taking the time to inspect and do research on an item compared to Lampson who is more cost effective but also passes almost every item that is put before him. Another difference is that MEARS is readily available to dicuss the facts of their findings to where it is impossible to even track Lou Lampson down. Why any auction house would want to put themselves in this position is beyond me. The money made off those items can never replace the respectability and confidence that is lost in the collecting community.
This again might be a point on which we agree to disagree.
Commiting fraud may be a perfectly rational economic decision to make (though ethically reprehensible). Ever see the movie "Class Action"? In it an automobile manufacturer makes a cold-hearted decision not to order the recall of a car with a propensity to explode under certain conditions. The company knew that down the road people would die and they would have significant legal payouts. However, they rationalized that the present value of those payouts would be less than the cost of the recall. So too (though thankfully on a much less morbid scale) with an auction house's non-disclosure policy. The anticipated future legal payout, factoring in the evidentiary problems of proving the auction house knew the card's grading history and the reluctance of people to sue due to the inhibiting legal expense, could be insignificant compared to the hit to inflowing income.
So you see from this perspective one could forcefully rebut the presumption of non-materiality created by industry practice of non-disclosure by establishing the economic rational behind the fraud. And it seems to me it would be one terrific argument. "So please, Your Honor, do not give this greedy auction house a windfall by not imposing on them the legal payment they rationally expected to pay when they made the decision to commit the fraud!"
Unfortunately many of our states go through the same analysis in deciding whether to make our highways safer. A particular turn may kill a dozen people a year but in order to make that turn safe it would cost $500,000.
I am familiar with the Ford Pinto. That type of cost/benefit analysis goes on all the time, in many contexts, to be sure. However, how do you respond to my point that if the market were truly demanding this information, sellers facing robust competition would have no choice but to provide it? EDITED TO ADD Also, Corey, I doubt the auction companies go through the sophisticated calculations to which you allude. These are not huge public companies. I would guess the thought process is more along the lines of well no one else does it and no one is pressuring us to do it, and it might affect some sales, so why do it?
Auction houses factor in the needs of both buyers and consignors. Inasmuch as nobody seems to disclose this info at present, an auction house will not lose a buying customer to their competition over the issue. However, they will lose consigning customers. In addition, even if an auction house wanted to make the disclosure, how would it be able to if the consignor pulled the item (which almost certainly it would) and gave it to another auction house that did not disclose?
Also, and I say this very respectfully, simple common sense screams out that a person about to plunk down 100 grand on a SGC 88/PSA 8 piece of cardboard, the overwhelming majority of its value being tied up in the perception that the card is not altered, would be keenly interested to know there is split opinion as to whether the card might be altered.
I do have a question for you, Peter. In deciding issues of materiality, would a legal tribunal interpret the law as favoring disclosure in cases where the issue is not so clear cut?
EDITED TO ADD: Peter, think about what you just said in your "edited to add". If auction houses really do think in their truncated calculations that disclosure might affect some sales, isn't that a criteria for materiality!?
If you are correct, and buyers were so keenly interested, they can (and would, in my opinion) just ask. Maybe they do. Or they can (and would) demand better disclosure. They haven't, as far as I know, at least not in compelling numbers.
As for your other points, I would guess you are right that most tribunals would in close cases err on the side of requiring disclosure. I don't think I have contradicted myself although of course I understand the tension. Materiality is not judged on a buyer by buyer basis but on an objective standard. Obviously some buyers want to know more than others, and there is almost nothing (for example, soaking) that SOMEONE wouldn't want to know about. So the mere fact that an auction house might not disclose grading history because SOMEONE might be dissuaded from bidding does not necessarily translate into that information being material to the objective composite reasonable buyer.
This sort of takes us back to where we started. Of course they can ask, and perhaps some/many do, at least for the high-priced cards. But the fact that someone didn't and down the road is stuck with a card that will not cross over, a card that he would not have purchased had disclosure been made originally, should not preclude him from bringing an action for fraud.
It might add to the discussion if other folks related their experiences. As a buyer, have you asked for a grading history (and did you get it)? As a seller, have you been asked to provide a grading history (and did you give it)?
In the action you describe, Corey, what are the damages? You aren't out the value of the card, presumably it has the same worth as an ABC 8 (or more, in a rising market) as when you bought it. Perhaps you wanted to cross it over and couldn't, but how have you been harmed economically?
I can no longer stand to look at the card because every time I do I conjure up images of a scissor. So I decide to sell the card. Being the ethical person I am I insist that the auction house disclose the grading history and the fact that the card will not cross over. The card then sells for 10% of what I bought it for.
To anticipate a response (and an auction company's defense) -- Well, why were you so stupid to disclose the grading history when you went to sell it? My response -- I was not aware the law required me to commit fraud to mitigate my damages.
Do you REALLY think if I had (just by way of example) a PSA 8 Goudey Ruth, and I disclosed that SGC had rejected it, it would sell at a 90 percent discount? I don't for a minute. Indeed, and this goes back to where we started probably, I think most buyers of PSA 8 Goudey Ruths today recognize there is a possibility that precisely that has happened (or that the card used to be a 7) and don't care. EDITED TO ADD In my opinion people are buying the opinion of the grading service whose name is on the flip, period. Not some implicit assurance that the other grading service would see things the same way.
materiality CAN be judged on a buyer by buyer basis
August 21 2007, 5:25 PM
I don't necessarily agree with you that materiality is always based on an objective standard. At least where I practice, our civil jury instructions define materiality as folllows:
A fact is material if a reasonably careful person under the circumstances would attach importance to it in determining [his/her] course of action.
A fact may also be material even though a reasonably careful person might not regard it as important, if [(the person stating it knows)/(a person conceals it knowing)] the person with whom [he/she] is dealing will very likely regard it as important in determining [his/her] course of action
The first definition is rather clearly based on an objective standard. Therefore, I suppose evidence that the industry standard is non-disclosure is arguably relevant to the issue of what the mythical "reasonable buyer" would think is important when making a purchasing decision.
However, under the second definition, materiality could very well be judged on a buyer by buyer basis, particularly when expensive/high end cards are involved. IMO, someone who is thinking about plunking down $100,000 on a card would almost certainly attach importance to information tending to indicate that another (undisclosed) grading company has previously deemed the card to have a problem. That seems to me to be true regardless whether the industry standard is non-disclosure, and regardless whether buyers of less expensive cards would care or even think about the issue. Moreover, while buyers can always ask such questions, I don't think they have any obligation to do so. Rather, the disclosure obligation rather clearly rests upon the seller who has the knowledge.
Kenny that is interesting, but would that apply in an auction where the seller isn't dealing one on one with buyers and indeed doesn't know until it is over who won? It sounds to me like that provision applies or certainly was intended for the special circumstances of direct dealing where the seller knows particular characteristics of the buyer.
Also, and forgive the defense bias here, wouldn't the fact that the buyer never inquired suggest the information really wasn't that material to him? I know there generally is no duty to investigate etc. etc. but it just strikes me as common sense that if someone is spending 100K on a card, in an industry where no one discloses grading history, and it is obvious there MIGHT be grading history, and he doesn't even ask, that suggests to me it wasn't so important.
First, to clarify, I'm talking here about an instance where the card doesn't cross over because of concerns the card is altered, not because the 8 should be a 7. My view is that in such an instance (i.e., a split decision among the grading companies) it could sell for much less than it would had the cross-over rejection not been disclosed. We can argue as to how much less, but I firmly believe it will be a material reduction, especially if the card received its original numerical grade from PSA, say, ten years ago and was only recently rejected by SGC.
In regard to your other point that there is never an assurance that another grading company would see the card the same way, on that one I agree. But it's all a probability game. It's one thing to talk about the risk abstractly, quite another to say it already happened and it is now a known fact that other experts believe the card to be altered. The latter instance in my view to the reasonable buyer would be regarded as material information.
Peter, if you owned an auction company and there is documentary evidence that a card's grading history has been provided to you, would you make the disclosure? Let's assume we are talking about a PSA 8 Plank originally slabbed in 1998 and only last year rejected by SGC as being altered?
Corey your example is interesting. Typically I would think of the sequence as card gets rejected, THEN slabbed. SGC refusing to cross-over a card ALREADY in a holder, without cracking it out, means very little to me. SGC would be crazy to cross over a card worth that much just looking at it in the holder, without being able to examine the edges. Indeed I think they have a policy that they typically won't do it over a certain value.
In the end, the arbiter is whether or not the item matches the sales description. If a Near Mint card is being sold as Near Mint, it doesn't matter if someone else incorrectly said it was trimmed-- the sales description is accurate. If this someone else correctly said it was trimmed, then there would be an issue with the sales.
If the North Carolina shirt was Michael Jordan's, there would be no need to mention that MEARS wouldn't authenticate it. If it turns out not to be Jordan's shirt, then that seller didn't mention MEARS' opinion, and MEARS qualms were correct, would become an issue.
Corey, I think we are back where we started, or at least I am. The very first thing I said was that at first blush grading history at least in certain circumstances would seem to easily meet the definition of materiality, but I questioned whether it really was material in light of what seems to be happening in the marketplace, namely that sellers don't tell, people generally don't seem to ask, and cards keep selling for more and more. I understand your points and certainly one could make out a strong plaintiff's case for the reasons you and Kenny state. But I keep coming back in my mind to the notion that very few people seem to care, and I am trying to assess what impact that has on the legal analysis.
We can play around with different sequences. I chose that one, but the issue remains the same -- disclosing what the other grading service thought of the card.
BTW, my understanding of what SGC will do is as follows. They will not officially opine a card is good without seeing it out of the holder. However, they can in certain instances tell you a card is no good by examining it in the holder. True, perhaps there is a margin of error to the in-holder examination that would not be present if the card was cracked out, but they still can give you a pretty good idea. Also, some alterations do not involve trimming (e.g., rebacking) and my understanding is that in certain instances you can see clear evidence of that with the card in the holder.
"The industry standard is non-disclosure" sounds to me a lot like "no one expects the truth from a seller"
Does anyone else find that unacceptable?
What is wrong with identifying completely and clearly what is for sale, and forget this caveat emptor bs. Let the seller beware. You lie, you cheat, you lose.
What is wrong with that rule? It has precedent.
Dump all this lawyer jargon and go back to a sidearm justice system.
Oh no Gil, we are civilized now.
Then be civil.
Sorry it took so long to respond. I've been having power outage issues.
In any event, I agree with you that the second definition of materiality set forth in my previous post is most applicable to one on one transactions. However, I don't necessarily think it is limited to that situation. For example, speaking only about high end cards, the pool of potential buyers is going to be pretty small due to the financial constraints most people have. Excluding eBay (where I think your argument is more valid), and limiting the discussion to auctioneers such as Mastro, I suspect that most of those potential bidders will be known by virtue of prior dealings. Perhaps not all, but most. It really isn't an offering to the world at large. For the most part the prospective bidders aren't unknown.
Maybe I'm wrong, but I just don't buy the argument that someone who is contemplating spending what amounts to at least a year's wages for most people doesn't care about the existence of information tending to indicate that the card they are looking at may have issues. That doesn't make sense to me. In fact, I think I could probably make a pretty compelling argument that the "circumstances" attendant to the sale of a high end card require full disclosure of known grading history under a purely objective standard. However, I think I could also argue that, given the limited pool of prospective bidders and the seller's knowledge of the other grading company's rejection, definition number two also applies even if the specific identities of the bidders aren't known. IMO, that is information that most, if not all, of the potential bidders in the limited pool would "very likely regard as important" in determining whether to buy the card and/or how much to pay for it, regardless of whether the normal industry standard for "normal" cards is non-disclosure. I would try to frame the materiality issue in terms of the very few people who could actually afford to bid on that specific card. I suspect you would try to frame the issue in terms of the normal industry practice regarding disclosure applicable to all cards. It's an interesting issue however framed.
As for the issue of asking questions, I agree with you that it would be a good idea to do so. However, I'm not sure how or when it should become "obvious" to a potential purchaser that a given card "might" have a grading history. IMO, that is a problematic standard to apply. Moreover, using it doesn't make much sense to me when you consider that the seller presumably KNOWS that the card DOES have a grading history. If I was defending the case, I would make precisely the argument you make. My response, which I really think is right btw , would be that in assessing responsibility, what a buyer "might have found out" had the right questions been asked should not exculpate a seller from liability for failing to disclose what he/she actualy did know.
Looking at the equities, I think that requiring someone to inquire about whether the card in question really is as represented probably is not as important as requiring the person representing the characteristics of the card to be completely candid when making the representations. That's probably just my plaintiff's bias though. .
Kenny, that is very convincingly put. There still, however, seems something unfair to me about a buyer who sits mutely instead of asking the obvious question, "is there a grading history," and then if things don't work out turns around and sues the seller for nondisclosure. It's litigation as insurance policy. Then again, I guess you would say well it's even more unfair for a seller to sit there silently knowing he is sitting on adverse information about grading history. Point well taken. I guess in your view, then, fraud is the industry norm. Not in the case of every card, of course, but in the case of every card where there is a known adverse grading history, because it just NEVER gets disclosed except perhaps in response to private inquiries. As I mentioned in my prior post, that was my initial reaction purely on the law of materiality, but it's hard for me to swallow the notion of fraud as an industry standard. Interesting discussion for sure. EDITED TO ADD I think the question, "is there a grading history," is a pretty obvious one even though nothing about a PARTICULAR card suggests it. Everyone knows the practice of cracking and resubmitting and trying to cross cards in holders is widespread.
I wonder if the auction house that seeks to distinguish itself as morally/ethically superior has a position on disclosing known grading history, or on resubmitting rejected cards attempting to get them in a holder.
As an abstract legal theory, I suppose that disclosure should occur in every case. That's not going to happen though. I understand that. If there is a failure to disclose on a $30 card, it seems different to me. I'm not comfortable with fraud, at least not actual fraud, in a circumstance like that. I might argue constructive fraud, but don't think I'd argue actual fraud. I don't think I could get there on the intent issue because in that context your point is absolutely valid -- on a $30 card, I don't think a jury will hold the seller to the same disclosure standard as it would were the card worth six figures. Moreover, that sort of thing probably wouldn't involve a lawyer in any event. While the issue might pose an interesting law school exam question, it wouldn't really be something that I could tell a client to pursue. Anticipating a question, I don't know where the line is or where it should be drawn.
It seems to me that the issue shifts somewhat when you are talking about what are undisputedly high-dollar cards, or other memorabilia for that matter, which is really what I was discussing. In that circumstance, I absolutely think that there is a duty to disclose adverse information. In that regard, like Corey, I'm not talking about whether a card that was previously a 7 was cracked out and got an 8. What I'm talking about is a card that was previously rejected as trimmed, bleached, recolored, etc., which subsequently received a grade from a different grader. Granted, it may be argued that the difference is one of degree, but failure to disclose that a card used to be a 7 and is now an 8 doesn't give me too much heartburn. On the other hand, knowingly failing to disclose that the card being represented as a wonderful 8 was previously deemed to be altered by a reputable third party is an entirely different situation IMO. I can't precisely articulate why it is so different in a manner that will withstand attack, but I know that it is. I suspect that you do too.
I sell slabbed baseball cards almost exclusively now and nearly all are consigned to me in that form. I can not tell you the history of a single one of them. I wouldn't know if they were submitted only once or resubmitted eight times. So what legal liability would I have if one of those cards turned out to be bad?
Barry I would argue none, but then I am biased towards defendants.
I suppose a good plaintiff's lawyer might be able to argue that if one of your cards turn out to be bad, you were under a duty to inquire of your consignors whether there was a grading history and to disclose if there was; or to disclose any private doubts you had based on your own examination of the cards.
I attended every Carolina home game between 1977-1989, and still make most of them today. I also was lucky enough to get to know most of the players and the staff including the managers, so I know a little about how jersey's were distributed. I'll dig out my pictures of Michael in the warm up shirt in question and post them when I can this afternoon or evening, and maybe even a few practices jersey's given to me by some of the guys, including Joe Wolf.
While I'm sure Michael does have his original cover up, it is very possible that he had several during that 3 year period, and that one could have been recycled for another player. It's also even more likley that Jordan's name could have been replaced on one of Jimmy Black's or Buzz Peterson's shirts. After all this wasn't an uncommon practice before the shoe companies started providing the schools with enough equipment to arm a small army. I'll do a little digging tonight and post my findings, and let you make your own decisions. Be well Brian
Peter- I agree I should look at the cards and make my own decisions. But very few people know the history of the cards they bought. And there is no practical way to trace their past. This is getting into such a murky area that I can't see how it can be practically assessed.
Could you imagine a consignor offering me a hundred graded cards for my next auction, and I ask him for the history of each and every card- who did you buy them from, did you submit them to grading yourself, have any of the cards been submitted more than once, etc.
He would probably get fed up and ask for the consignment back.
Barry there seems an inherent conflict between the interests of consignors (don't say anything bad about the card) and potential bidders (who presumably want the fullest possible disclosure). For a long time it seemed third-party grading solved this conflict, but now I am not so sure, as arguments can be made, in light of some of the failings or inconsistencies of third-party grading, that there may be additional information that should be disclosed.
Brian, there is no need to do your research as the jersey has already been indentified as Ranzino Smith's shooting shirt that was replaced with Jordans name. The stains on the jersey match up perfectly as well as the puckering on the patches. Here is a link to show you the two compared side by side.
"I will tell you what the California Evidence Code requires and you can say whatever you want. The California Evidence Code does not require disclosure. For instance if you were trying to prove your case and you got 3 medical reports, two medical reports were favorable and the third wasn't. You are not required to produce the third report. However, if you are asked a direct question, you are required to answer that you obtained a third opinion."
Of course the Evidence Code doesn't require disclosure...because the Civil Code contains the definitions for the various forms of misrepresentation.
Your statement not only cites the wrong set of laws, it utterly misstates basic black-letter law with regard to fraud. A seller of any item is required to disclose any material fact not known to the buyer. The MEARS rejection is material. Also, if Lampson can be proven to be an industry joke and/or if the sloppiness argument is accepted, a case for negligent misrepresentation can be made out
Barry first of all I am only saying that a good plaintiff's lawyer could make the case for additional disclosures. I personally think an auction house is entitled to rely on third-party grading because that is what they are offering, a card graded by the third-party whose name appears on the flip. But in any event you are right that if information is not knowable, there is no liability for failing to disclose it. Now maybe I shouldn't speak so fast because perhaps our friend Kenny could come up with a plaintiff's argument there too. Indeed, I do recall him posting something once about a cause of action for INNOCENT misrepresentation, if memory serves correctly.
LOL, I think the post you are referring to concerned constuctive fraud -- where no showing of intent to deceive is necessary in order to impose liability. However, even in that type of case, you have to show a breach of duty. In that regard, I don't think one generally has a duty to disclose information of which they are unaware.
Barry, to answer your question, my posts have assumed that the seller knows the card's history. I am not arguing that a seller has a duty to investigate the bona fides of every card that comes into his/her possession because I don't think they do. What is generally required of them is disclosure of material facts they know about. To my way of thinking, particularly with respect to high end cards, knowledge that it has previously been rejected is such a material fact.
Hi Kenny- I am a regular seller of many high end graded cards, and I have to tell you I don't know the history of any of them. If they were consigned to me, I am seeing them for the first time when I open the package. And that is probably true of most dealers.
But let me share an example with everyone and I entertain all feedback. I am not one to repeatedly resubmit the same card again and again until I receive the grade I want; however, if I think a mistake was made I have the same right as anyone to ask for a review.
Last year I sent three cards that I owned to SGC for grading (let's leave them anonymous) and all three came back SGC 40. Two had noticeable creases, the third was crease free, so I was puzzled as to why all graded the same. SGC suggested I send back the card I questioned for review. They agreed with my assessment and regraded it a 50, which I in good conscience felt it should have gotten all along.
I sold it in my auction as an SGC 50, and did not reveal the past grade, which again I felt was in error. Did I leave out material information? Or does this apply only to cards deemed at one time trimmed or altered?
That instance is somewhat different because you had the card re-evaluated by the same people who made the initial determination, unlike the other instances where it was a different company that formed the other assessment. Therefore, because there still remains only a single view as to the proper grade of the card, I could make a forceful argument your re-evaluation does not require disclosure. With that said, there is a rebuttal: the fact that SGC changed its mind means the proper grade of the card is not clear cut (at least more than is typically the case), and because some reasonable buyer would be troubled by a card teetering on the edge, you should make the disclosure. I personally think that argument would not prevail, at least in the case of a card being bumped from a 40 to a 50. If it was bumped from an "altered" to a 50, the argument would be stronger.
Okay, here is my opinion, and again for the sake of discussion.
I know how to grade too, I've been doing it for 25 years. When I submitted the cards I made a mental note of what I thought they would grade, and that is: VG, VG, and VG-EX. Ultimately, after that third card was reviewed, all three of my assessments were correct, and I was in agreement that all three had their proper designation.
So why bring a mistake into the mix, just to muddy the waters? We both felt that the VG was incorrect, and the VG-EX was in fact the proper grade. So doesn't my own opinion (grading is no more than an opinion) count for something?
As I said, I don't think you have to make the disclosure. However, your argument about your expertise could cut both ways: Ergo, "Mr. Sloate, if indeed you are that qualified and highly regarded as a grader such that your customers would have confidence in your opinion that the 50 was the proper grade, what was the down side in making the disclosure? Surely no one would have paid less for the card, so what was the harm in making the disclosure?"
As noted earlier, what matters is whether the sales description matches the identity. It isn't fraud if you are selling something that is accurately described. Just as aren't libeling someone if what you say is true. If the description and item match, past opinions will usually be irrelevant. If the description and identity don't match, then suppressed official opinions that say they don't match are significant information if fraud is alleged.
Exceptions are when law requires disclosure or where disclosure is legitimately important to most buyers. Ala, saying 'don't bother sending the Jordan shirt to MEARS as they won't give an LOA for it.' As many buyers plan on getting a MEARS LOA, this info is important. Also, that MEARS didn't authenticate, is relevant information that would impact potential buyers' bids. Again, the problem with the Jordan jersey comes down to its authenticity. If the jersey is authentic and has letter of provenance from Dean Smith, lack of disclosure would be less significant. It's that the authenticity is now question that makes the lack of disclosure significant.
I don't see proof of fraud by Mastro. All collectors disagree with authentication and grading companies at one time or other, so dismissing an expert's opinion doesn't in and of itself prove malicious intent. That Mastro may have been wrong and MEARS right still doesn't prove fraud.
Not sure you're correct about that one. There can still be fraud even though in the end the description ended up being accurate. Just then in that case there would be no damages, but there was still fraud (i.e., the failure to disclose material info). Let me give a real example, which Barry and I discussed on this Board some months ago -- the sale by Sotheby's some years ago of a tintype they opined was of Jim Creighton. We produced voluminous documentation to establish the image could not have been of Creighton. Sotheby's ended up disclosing none of it, and we wrote an article describing the incident and opining that the intentional withholding of that documentation constituted fraud. Now suppose years later it turns out that for reasons nobody could have imagined at the time that the image was of Creighton. That doesn't mean that Sotheby's did not commit fraud, only that now the buyer has suffered no damages.
Assuming there are no other identity/grade/valuation issues, if Sotheby's sells a tintype they say is of Creighton and is of Creighton, you're going to have a darn hard time convincing a judge Sotheby's defrauded you. If, as you say, the tintype never was and isn't of Creighton and Sotheby's knew this, then you'd have a case for fraud. There is such a thing as attempted fraud where no financial harm was done. Akin to a robber stealing what he thought was a bag of diamonds but turned out to be gravel. Even though the robber only stole 10 cents worth of gravel-- financially the same as taking two nickels from a tip jar-- he can still be in big legal trouble.
If by sheer dumb luck it turns out to be Creighton, the case will never get before a judge because the buyer will have suffered no damages. But, again, that doesn't mean there couldn't have been fraud at the outset.
If there was a crime under your miracle tintype scenario, I would say it would attempted fraud not fraud. They can potentially convict the above mentioned robber for many things, including intent to steal diamonds, but not for stealing diamonds. One can potentially convict a nefarious seller for many things, including attempt to defraud, but not for fraudulent description when the description is proven to be correct.
Maybe one of the other attorneys can help me on this one but I would think attempted fraud would be an instance where Sothebys did not disclose the documentation and believed you would never know of its existence, but before the sale you found out about it anyway.
David- Corey and I went to Sotheby's together and explained that we were both baseball historians, and we were able to explain to them categorically why it couldn't be Creighton (the fact that he died in 1862 worked in our favor, among countless other points). Their photo experts also made it clear to us they had never even heard of Creighton before this image was consigned to them. But they refused to listen and adamantly refused to add to the description that it very well may not be and probably isn't Creighton. Frankly, they didn't even seem to care. They saw us as a couple of gnats who needed to be swatted away.
I don't necessarily agree with your initial analysis either. Fraud can be by omission as well as misrepresentation, so that if I accurately described an item that is not necessarily satisfactory disclosure if I omitted a material fact about the item. Now reasonable people can disagree over whether the omission was material to be sure, but as a general principle I believe you have overstated the case.
I have read a few of these and opinions and topics tend to stray a little, so let me give you my take on this.
Simply put, we as a (collecting) society place too much faith in what we believe is the "unknown truth", the opinion of something because it is stated as so. With a shirt like this, the value (if research is correct) is basically a hundred bucks, not the hefty final hammer price. If Mastro did not contact the winning bidder, then it's a company that should be shunned to a certain degree. How much else goes on that isn't reported is the main question here.
I enjoy Mr. O' Keefe's writing as it exposes the dark side of this business because he doesn't have to worry about upsetting advertisers. It appears he does have a vendetta against Mastro which most watchdog sites do have, but if he was really looking out on the behalf of the hobby, Mr. O' Keefe, there is this little company called Coach's Corner you should know about and their relationship with their authenticators (and the authenticators of ther past) and "the voice of the hobby" (an anemic periodical that is dying) that you should look into. That would make a far better story...better book...better mini-series than one dirty shirt.
It isn't about one dirty shirt, but an army of them. Since I know nothing about Game Used Uniforms, the minute a catalog comes out, the detectives at the Game Used Universe go through their photo match database to prove the experts and the auction house wrong. I'm thankful that I never got excited about something someone wore...in most cases now, once at the most.
If you guys want to see something TRULY amazing, check out the September Coach's Corner Auction (www.myccsa.com).
The images aren't up (at this moment) but I can't wait to see the Martin Luther King Jr. hand signed baseball bat or the 1927 Yankees complete signed bat that they are offering this month.
They estimate the Yankees bat at $40,000. How much do you think Mastro could get for this? $75,000? $100,000? How much do you think it will sell it for in CCSA land?
Expectations and reputation. No one expects good or legit items from CC, as their reputation is well past the point of salvation. Mastro on the other hand still has somewhat of a good reputation in the hobby, which causes people not to expect these kinds of problems with their auctions.