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Friday, July 27, 2012

Olbermann: FBI: “The” Honus Wagner Was Trimmed

Olbermann and The Plying Dutchman.

Now we have the answer, courtesy the FBI…

  According to the indictment, in advertising portraying Mastro Auctions as the premier seller of valuable items, including the world’s most expensive baseball trading card, a Honus Wagner T-206 card, Mastro allegedly failed to disclose that he had altered the Wagner T-206 card by cutting the sides in a manner that, if disclosed, would have significantly reduced the value of the card.

The “Mastro” in question is Bill Mastro, who I have known since we were both teenagers. At age 19, he had bought a Wagner for $1,500 and thus completed his T-206 set. Those of us whose own massive collections might have been worth a total of $1,500 were aghast. My friend and mentor Mike Aronstein told me that some of Mastro’s relatives had actually gathered together to consider what we would now call an “intervention” or forcing him to seek psychological help. It was believed that no Wagner had previously sold for more than around $250. At the left is how this startling development was contemporaneously covered by a monthly publication I used to write for called The Trader Speaks.

Mastro was already buying and selling cards that were not intended for his own collection. By the ’80s he had gone from card dealer to the founder of one of the first sports memorabilia auction houses, Mastro Auctions, and would regularly work the phones to try to drum up publicity for his auctions.

It eventually became a $50,000,000 business. And now it’s gotten Mastro and some of his colleagues indicted. And not just for the deception regarding the Wagner.

...In short, if you bought from Mastro, you stood an excellent chance of bidding against people who were there only to drive up the price.

Repoz Posted: July 27, 2012 at 09:10 AM | 45 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: cards, history

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   1. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: July 27, 2012 at 09:22 AM (#4193465)
FBI: “The” Honus Wagner Was Trimmed

I didn't even know he was Jewish! [/EdAmes]
   2. Shooty Is Disappointed With His Midstream Urine Posted: July 27, 2012 at 09:27 AM (#4193471)
I just assumed a lot of those cards were trimmed. The incentive to turn a 10,000 dollar card into a card worth over a hundred thousand is compelling for a lot of people. The collector obsession with condition is bizarre to me as I like the rounded edge look of really old cards that look like they lived a little, as long as the image is clean and sharp.
   3. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: July 27, 2012 at 09:43 AM (#4193476)
Olbermann's capable of writing some excellent copy when he doesn't have half his torso up his own ass. This is a very interesting little piece.
   4. Shooty Is Disappointed With His Midstream Urine Posted: July 27, 2012 at 09:49 AM (#4193478)
Olbermann's capable of writing some excellent copy when he doesn't have half his torso up his own ass. This is a very interesting little piece.

I doubt there are many people in the world who know more about baseball cards than Olbermann, despite what anyone thinks of his politics or him personally. On this particular subject, he is The Man.
   5. Steve Parris, Je t'aime Posted: July 27, 2012 at 09:52 AM (#4193480)
The other obsession I never got with card collectors was the error prints, like that Keith Comstock card. I get that they're rare, but who cares?
   6. Delino DeShields & Yarnell Posted: July 27, 2012 at 09:53 AM (#4193481)
#1. Hi-yo!
from TFA Before and after somebody with the guts of a burglar and the skills of a circumcision specialist had trimmed the thing.

   7. zack Posted: July 27, 2012 at 09:55 AM (#4193483)
Without RTFA, I have no idea why you'd cut a card like that, but I guess it's to hide damage to the edges?

Wouldn't the first thing any buyer would do is measure the width, or were those old cards non-standard?
   8. Shooty Is Disappointed With His Midstream Urine Posted: July 27, 2012 at 10:09 AM (#4193492)
Wouldn't the first thing any buyer would do is measure the width, or were those old cards non-standard?

This card was originally over-sized and was cut down to the size of a normal card.

Without RTFA, I have no idea why you'd cut a card like that, but I guess it's to hide damage to the edges?


The desire for a lot of collectors currently is not just to own a rare card, but to own the best condition possible of that rare card. Rich people...what're you gonna do? I actually own a few cards of negro leaguers printed in Cuba that are much rarer than the Wagner but since no one cares about them, they aren't worth much.
   9. phredbird Posted: July 27, 2012 at 10:22 AM (#4193500)
i have a nice little bob gibson rookie card some guy gave me cuz he knows gibby is like one of my favorites ... i asked him why he'd give me something so valuable and he said it wasn't worth more than a buck cuz some guy had trimmed it. like i cared. i just love having it. baseball card collecting mania is one of those things i'll never understand, like gambling addiction. i know its real, i just don't get it.

am i contradicting myself? i don't want a collection or anything like that.
   10. Shooty Is Disappointed With His Midstream Urine Posted: July 27, 2012 at 10:29 AM (#4193504)
i have a nice little bob gibson rookie card some guy gave me cuz he knows gibby is like one of my favorites ... i asked him why he'd give me something so valuable and he said it wasn't worth more than a buck cuz some guy had trimmed it. like i cared. i just love having it. baseball card collecting mania is one of those things i'll never understand, like gambling addiction. i know its real, i just don't get it.

I think at a certain level, collecting because conspicuous consumption whether it's baseball cards or art or coins or whatever. I was a maniac about it as a kid but I've settled into collecting a very narrow niche of cards and I only pick one up now and then and, while I know I'll never be able to afford the keys cards of the set I collect like Pop Lloyd or Oscar Charleston, I'm perfectly ok with that. A friend of mine sent me a trimmed Dick Lundy card for free, though, and it is ####### glorious. Dick Lundy!
   11. thetalkingmoose Posted: July 27, 2012 at 10:35 AM (#4193508)
The reason why this is such a big deal is that the card was professionally graded and encapsulated by PSA. PSA's existence and value is predicated on the fact that they, as a third-party vendor, will grade a card honestly and if it has been altered in any way (trimmed, retouched, bleached, etc.) they will refuse to assign a grade to it. The fact that one of the individuals who graded the card admitted they could tell that the card had been trimmed, but they went ahead and graded it anyway completely undermines their product. This should be major news within the hobby -- PSA is, by far, the largest and most used of the professional grading services -- and should deal a massive blow to the inflated values that graded cards sometimes receive. Unfortunately, I’m guessing that: 1) the revelation won’t get the coverage it should; and/or 2) too many people (both dealers and collectors) have a vested interest in PSA-graded material to allow the revelation to have the impact it should.
   12. phredbird Posted: July 27, 2012 at 10:35 AM (#4193510)
I was a maniac about it as a kid


to me this is the key. you'd think we'd grow out of this kind of thing; when adults get into it to extremes it just looks so ... unseemly.
   13. Shooty Is Disappointed With His Midstream Urine Posted: July 27, 2012 at 10:39 AM (#4193513)
This should be major news within the hobby


I knew about this card being trimmed 10 years ago and, even then, it was common knowledge. Kendrick MUST have known when he bought the card and just didn't care the way McNall and Gretzky didn't care.
   14. Shooty Is Disappointed With His Midstream Urine Posted: July 27, 2012 at 10:43 AM (#4193521)
to me this is the key. you'd think we'd grow out of this kind of thing; when adults get into it to extremes it just looks so ... unseemly.

True dat. I collected EVERYTHING when I as a kid. I was a greedy little, compulsive bastard. Nowadays, I like the occasional cuban baseball card of a negro leaguer and I have this weird compulsion to buy Raymond Carver books I already own if it's a different edition than the one I have. I was at the SF MoMA last year and one of the pop art pieces--I forget the artist--was a cardboard box filled with books and one of the books on top was a first edition copy of a Raymond Carver collection. Goddam I wanted to steal that book!
   15. The Long Arm of Rudy Law Posted: July 27, 2012 at 10:59 AM (#4193541)
I bought a pack of cards a few weeks ago, for the first time since I was about 13. The first few cards were baseball players, like I expected, but then there was a Florence Nightingale card and another one for Toto the dog. If I'd gotten them instead of, say, Barry Bonnell and Juan Eichelberger when I was ten, I would have been very angry.
   16. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: July 27, 2012 at 11:06 AM (#4193549)
Yeah! I did the same thing, because it looked like a cool retro style for the cards, and then after a couple of players I got a card of Wee Man from "Jackass".

Not really what I was looking for, y'know?
   17. JJ1986 Posted: July 27, 2012 at 11:19 AM (#4193569)
Were these Allen & Ginter packs? There was a thread the other day about them.
   18. Dale Sams Posted: July 27, 2012 at 11:35 AM (#4193597)
I have a good selection from the 1973 set and that's it.

Now comics...I have about 12 longboxes.
   19. The Long Arm of Rudy Law Posted: July 27, 2012 at 11:47 AM (#4193611)
Were these Allen & Ginter packs? There was a thread the other day about them.


That sounds familiar. I gave the cards away to my girlfriend's nephew. I don't think he knew who Florence Nightingale or any of the players were. He knew Toto though.
   20. Jim (jimmuscomp) Posted: July 27, 2012 at 11:57 AM (#4193621)
Was it trimmed in the shape of a landing strip? That would increase its value in my eyes...
   21. Random Transaction Generator Posted: July 27, 2012 at 12:03 PM (#4193628)
The fact that one of the individuals who graded the card admitted they could tell that the card had been trimmed, but they went ahead and graded it anyway completely undermines their product.

That sounds like derivatives and rating agencies in the world of finance.

I have a large collection of comics, and a fair sized collection of sports/comic cards.
I originally collected them as a kid for fun, then for "future investment" (in my twenties), but now that I'm okay financially and the market for both things have crashed, they are just sitting in bags in my closet, ready to be handed over to any future children I have (or my godchild, if I never have a kid).

Personally, I just enjoy flipping through them and seeing the names on the cards and remembering why I liked/hated them so much.
   22. Dock Ellis on Acid Posted: July 27, 2012 at 12:05 PM (#4193631)
The Allen & Ginter cards suck. I once pulled an autograph of the kid who holds the world record for most dominoes lined up without accidentally knocking one over or something. I sold it on ebay for $10. I can't imagine anyone outside of set collectors or the kid's family would even want it.

I bought some packs of the 2012 Topps Archives, which are actually very cool. It replicates the designs from 1954, 1971, 1980 and 1984 Topps sets, so if you want to know what a 1984 Topps Derek Jeter would've looked like, there's your set.

The 2012 Topps Heritage are also cool, if you like the 1963 Topps design.
   23. DiPoto Cabengo Posted: July 27, 2012 at 12:42 PM (#4193669)
YUUUUP!
   24. valuearbitrageur Posted: July 27, 2012 at 12:47 PM (#4193679)
I am forced to give KO his due, he's such a fine writer.

And he gave me this delicious tidbit to make me feel all warm inside.

The price has gone up and up and up, and “the” Wagner was finally sold to Conservative political figure and Arizona Diamondbacks’ owner Ken Kendrick, who five years ago paid $2,800,000 for it.
   25. just plain joe Posted: July 27, 2012 at 01:00 PM (#4193695)
The price has gone up and up and up, and “the” Wagner was finally sold to Conservative political figure and Arizona Diamondbacks’ owner Ken Kendrick, who five years ago paid $2,800,000 for it.


And if this isn't a perfect argument as to why people in the U.S. could (and should) pay more in income taxes I don't know what is. I am all for people making as much money as they can, and spending that money on what pleases them, but some people just have too much money.
   26. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: July 27, 2012 at 01:03 PM (#4193700)
Now comics...I have about 12 longboxes.


I have the equivalent of about ... uh ... 50 of those, all but about .001 percent accumulated in the last 8 years.

That's pretty much a cry for help, I think.
   27. Shooty Is Disappointed With His Midstream Urine Posted: July 27, 2012 at 01:13 PM (#4193718)
This card is better than a 100 of the T206 Wagners

I'd probably kill a couple of you guys for it. What the hell am I saying, that's all wrong. I would absolutely kill a couple of you for it.
   28. Dale Sams Posted: July 27, 2012 at 01:15 PM (#4193721)
all but about .001 percent accumulated in the last 8 years.


Ditto going back about 10 years. Ebay lots enabled me to recollect most of what I had as a child. (DC 20 centers) and what i collected in the 80's (Jim Shooter era comics)

And on the subject of grading, I could care less if the book i have is a 'reader'...as long as the cover is firmly attached.

edit: And i meant i have part of the 1972 Topps set (The psychadelic set) not 1973...if anyone cares.
   29. Tom T Posted: July 27, 2012 at 02:43 PM (#4193857)
And i meant i have part of the 1972 Topps set (The psychadelic set) not 1973...if anyone cares.


Always loved that set! First Rangers cards....

I have a decent sized collection of cards from each year back to '60...love to just look through them and enjoy all the players one would otherwise never hear of from today's writers/announcers. I think I have full sets back to '80 (picked up the '12 set yesterday). Kind of a reflex to still collect them, I suppose, but my oldest son is starting to enjoy them, so definitely worth it to share the experience. Haven't gotten into rare issues, but the middle of Indiana isn't a great place to find them, anyway.

Tried to sell a lot of my duplicates a number of years back (incl. '71 and '75 Ryan; '75 Brett; '64 Rose) but even before the "crash" of the market, dealers pretty much only wanted cards from the '50s. Think I managed to get some '60s cards for the bunch...not a "good" return, but I'm happy with what I have.

And, like Shooty, I don't mind a card that has been handled --- a good picture and not a ton o' creases is good with me.

I think that if you are truly collecting these things to "make money" you probably can't without (a) already having a lot of money, [and?] (b) doing something shady or (c) dealing in very large volume.
   30. The Well-Tempered Javier Vasquez (loungehead) Posted: July 27, 2012 at 05:36 PM (#4194065)
I think that if you are truly collecting these things to "make money" you probably can't without (a) already having a lot of money, [and?] (b) doing something shady or (c) dealing in very large volume.

This is pretty much spot-on in my experience. About a year and a half ago I got the bright idea to buy some Magic cards to flip. I started small, selling a few cards from my collection as seed money, and just buying what I could afford with the profits made. It's absolutely a high-volume, low-margin business (and way too time-consuming to be anything but a labor of love!), and from what I can see the sports card market would be significantly worse since the market just isn't as good.
   31. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: July 27, 2012 at 05:50 PM (#4194074)
And on the subject of grading, I could care less if the book i have is a 'reader'...as long as the cover is firmly attached.


Same here. Except that even the "firmly attached" proviso isn't make-or-break for me. As long as the cover is somewhere in the proximity of the staples, I'm pretty happy, especially with '60s issues (my personal comics Golden Age was '67-'69.)
   32. Bourbon Samurai Posted: July 27, 2012 at 06:03 PM (#4194081)
They have baseball cards at target, so I will get a few packs almost every time I go. I will usually save them for a game, and then hand them out to everyone and see who can assemble the best team out of their packs. If any of us want one or two guys for whatever reason, we pick them out. Then we give the cards away to kids.

It is vastly better than the obsessive collecting of my youth and makes me pretty happy.
   33. McCoy Posted: July 27, 2012 at 06:03 PM (#4194082)
This is pretty much spot-on in my experience. About a year and a half ago I got the bright idea to buy some Magic cards to flip. I started small, selling a few cards from my collection as seed money, and just buying what I could afford with the profits made. It's absolutely a high-volume, low-margin business (and way too time-consuming to be anything but a labor of love!), and from what I can see the sports card market would be significantly worse since the market just isn't as good.

I'll sell you mine. I have revised edition plus a few legends and other expansion packs from that time period and earlier. Dark Empire or whatever it was called, Antiquities, so on and so on. I think I have 90 or 95% of the green cards from that time period. KILLER BEES!

I also have a bunch of the werewolves one, I think it was called Rage, and I also have a bunch of the WW2 set as well. I forget what that was called.

I do remember during the height of Magic mania that the guys that got into Magic when there were Alpha and Beta editions available made a killing a few years later.
   34. The Well-Tempered Javier Vasquez (loungehead) Posted: July 27, 2012 at 06:45 PM (#4194108)
No guarantees, but shoot me an email - having an approximate number of cards would be good, as would an idea of what you're looking to get for them. If it helps your estimation, there are roughly 80 cards per inch.

The cards from Alpha/Beta have a limited market, but they do tend to get decent prices. A decent condition Alpha or Beta Black Lotus should fetch several thousand at this point. Unfortunately, things like that are the exceptions. Once we get to Revised there are only a handful of cards actually worth a bit of cash, and those are almost entirely dual lands.
   35. McCoy Posted: July 27, 2012 at 06:55 PM (#4194119)
Not really serious about it since all my childhood stuff is in boxes at my parent's house in the midwest while I live on the east coast.

My mom is the exact opposite of all those 1950's moms. She saved everything so all of my Star Wars stuff, Britain toy soldiers, baseball cards and such are all stored neatly away in boxes somewhere at their house.

As for my Magic cards I'd guess most of them are worthless nowadays. That bubble popped long ago but I was never into it because of the money.
   36. Dan The Mediocre Posted: July 27, 2012 at 07:13 PM (#4194133)
That bubble popped long ago


Power creep killed off cards that were valuable because they were good or very odd and thus hard to counter effectively.
   37. cardsfanboy Posted: July 27, 2012 at 08:51 PM (#4194203)
i have a nice little bob gibson rookie card some guy gave me cuz he knows gibby is like one of my favorites ... i asked him why he'd give me something so valuable and he said it wasn't worth more than a buck cuz some guy had trimmed it. like i cared. i just love having it. baseball card collecting mania is one of those things i'll never understand, like gambling addiction. i know its real, i just don't get it.


That is the thing, if I like something to collect it, yes I would want the best condition I could get it in, but not to the point that I would insist on perfection. To me, collecting something is because you want to own it and like keeping it. The obsession with the ultimate condition is not something I can fathom. I have a lot of things I have collected over the years, some valuable some not, but ultimately it's about what it means to me. Mind you I wasn't always liked that, I have several toys("Action figures!" my young self yells at me) that I never opened because I wanted to keep it mint, but eventually I have broken down, because I really wanted to build my Galactus figure. Once I broke the seal of one figure I've been able to allow myself to do it for other things I collect.
   38. McCoy Posted: July 27, 2012 at 08:53 PM (#4194204)
Stuff like power creep and the new rules are why if I ever played Magic again it would be with my old cards. I know some people say the rules are a lot more clearer now but I always found them perfectly fine back in the old days and I thought the cards were relatively well balanced*

*Well, some of the early expansion sets were horribly unbalanced but I hadn't gotten into Magic at that point.
   39. cardsfanboy Posted: July 27, 2012 at 08:58 PM (#4194208)
I have the equivalent of about ... uh ... 50 of those, all but about .001 percent accumulated in the last 8 years.

That's pretty much a cry for help, I think.


I started around '85 and got the biggest boost from early 90's when I was in the Marines and the only expenses I had was drinking and comics. Just a shade under 50 long boxes, but that was over a long period of time, I can't imagine getting that many at today's prices.
   40. Monty Posted: July 27, 2012 at 09:04 PM (#4194216)
I know some people say the rules are a lot more clearer now but I always found them perfectly fine back in the old days and I thought the cards were relatively well balanced*


The rules really are much clearer and more logical now. But if you already spent a lot of brain cells learning how Banding worked, they won't seem "intuitive" because they don't match what feels like "Magic rules" anymore.

(Disclaimer: I'm a WotC employee, so I may have a financial stake in supporting the game)
   41. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: July 28, 2012 at 12:44 AM (#4194325)
Power creep killed off cards


If "Power Creep" isn't the name of some super(anti)hero somewhere, it needs to be.
   42. Sunday silence Posted: July 28, 2012 at 01:06 AM (#4194333)
Can you explain how the stack works again?
   43. Monty Posted: July 28, 2012 at 12:16 PM (#4194473)
Can you explain how the stack works again?


When a new spell is cast, it goes on the stack, which is resolved Last In First Out. Most of the time there's only one spell to resolve. When there's more than one, they got there like this:

PLAYER A: I cast Spell X
PLAYER B: Before Spell X resolves, I respond with Spell Y

Then, if neither of them do anything else, Spell Y will resolve. Then they both have a chance to add more stuff to the stack before Spell X resolves.

Sorceries can be cast only when the stack is empty and it's your turn. Instants can be cast whenever you have priority.

It sounds complicated, but it's WAY easier than the pre-stack version, which had Interrupts and the rule that damage always resolved last, regardless of when it should have happened.
   44. Sunday silence Posted: July 29, 2012 at 01:35 PM (#4195161)
that question was meant as a joke, but that's actually the best explanation I've read on that. I sort of follow that game's issues on an academic (?) level not having played. tx.
   45. Squash Posted: July 29, 2012 at 04:30 PM (#4195248)
I originally collected them as a kid for fun, then for "future investment" (in my twenties), but now that I'm okay financially and the market for both things have crashed,

What's crashed is the market for "normal" stuff, i.e. low value cards and, more to the point, cards in poor condition. The market for high end stuff is pretty much as strong as it's ever been. In the same way your Picasso is worth more than it ever has been even though the world economy is bad.

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