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A great, though not new story about Prime Minister Pete Nice and baseball memorabilia

Feb 17, 2011, 3:30 PM EDT

Pete Nice

I was involved in a random Twitter exchange with Jason Collette and Kevin Goldstein from Baseball Prospectus today in which the subject of 3rd Bass came up.  No, not the hot corner, but the hip hop group best known for the single “Pop Goes the Weasel.”  Yeah, that was a long time ago, but neither Jason, Kevin nor I are that young, so it’s OK.

The mention of 3rd Bass reminded me that Pete Nash — more famously known as Prime Minister Pete Nice of 3rd Bass fame and the guy in the middle of the above pic — was a big baseball historian and memorabilia collector.  I couldn’t remember where I heard that but I knew it was the case.  Collette shot me a link to a Sports Illustrated story from a little over a year ago that jogged my memory.  Seems that Nash/Nice was so big a memorabilia collector that it drained his fortune, got him involved in all kinds of litigation and eventually led to a determination that he committed fraud related to phony baseball memorabilia. Fun times.

It’s fascinating stuff, as is the whole memorabilia market, really.  I dabbled it in a bit with baseball cards, which is the far more respectable end of the memorabilia pool.  When you get into old jerseys and letters and equipment and various other sorts of arcana, it gets dicey and seedy pretty fast.  This quote from the article sums up my experiences with it:

For all its many upstanding, passionate collectors, the baseball-memorabilia subculture is also a notoriously seedy shadowland of Mametesque schemers and dreamers, thick with forgeries and thefts, conflicts of interest, dubious “authenticators,” shill bidding, card doctoring and any number of other dubious practices. “The hobby is mostly filled with low-life hucksters, some of whom grow up to own important auction houses,” says a longtime collector of early baseball material. “You can count the number of people who are smart and educated and honest on one hand.”

I’ve mentioned that client I used to have who was a rare coin dealer and who got thrown in jail for 20 years over a $50 million fraud?  Well, he dabbled in the memorabilia business too. He told me once that he never got into it too seriously, however, because it was “too damn crooked.”  Really.

Anyway, if you like old baseball memorabilia or if you simply like 3rd Bass, it’s a good read.

  1. mattraw - Feb 17, 2011 at 4:08 PM

    He also used to run baseball-related guided tours of Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, and has apparently written a book on the subject:

    A friend and I tried to go on the tour once, but were too poor at the time to scrounge up $20 between us.

    Still, The Cactus Album and Derelicts of Dialect are stone cold classics.

  2. cgraydonhudson - Feb 17, 2011 at 4:09 PM

    Give ’em the gas face!

  3. Chipmaker - Feb 17, 2011 at 4:09 PM

    You repped Noe (I’m assuming)? Huh.

    I remember reading about that mess, and once or twice there was mention that, among the not-nearly-enough assets, were some baseball cards, held as investment pieces. I always wanted to learn which cards were held, because the investment potential of nearly all cards is nil. Have the assets ever been detailed in a public document?

    • Craig Calcaterra - Feb 17, 2011 at 4:13 PM

      Yes, Noe. There were far less cards than other things like autographs, photos, letters, etc. And way more political memorabilia than sports memorabilia. The confusion was that — separate and apart from the state investments he got in trouble with — Noe owned a baseball card shop. The state-invested memorabilia, coins and his baseball cards were all in the same building.

      There was a detailed inventory list at one point and it was public — there was an auction — but I wouldn’t know where to find it online. I probably have a hard copy of it in my basement.

  4. Jonny 5 - Feb 17, 2011 at 4:23 PM

    Well he sucked as a musician too!!!! That’s all I have to say about that.

  5. xsorethumbx - Feb 17, 2011 at 5:43 PM

    once the next royalty check comes in for Cactus album, im sure he will be able to afford a few packs of Topps again

  6. henrydonor - Feb 18, 2011 at 10:30 AM

    That article is very interesting. Here are more recent articles about Nash, his legal woes, and activities:

    Here are articles about ANOTHER lawsuit against Peter Nash, involving allegations of fraud, fake items, using items that don’t belong to him to borrow money, even threats of broken legs, etc:

  7. jkay123 - Feb 18, 2011 at 10:44 AM

    Jonny5, i know we’ve had our ups and downs, but, 3rd bass was one of the most innovative rap groups of all time. gas face was about 20 yrs ahead of its time, what they were talking about all came true in the music industry. Lyrically they were both advanced, and daddy rich did things on the turntables at that time which were unheard of. Not to mention all the artists they put on as guests or signed and ended up having good careers. mc serch is still real nasty too.

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