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Card dealer admits to doctoring the most expensive baseball card ever sold

Apr 11, 2013, 11:00 AM EDT

AP Honus Wagner AP

Honus Wagner fraud!

A judge has rejected a plea agreement from the former head of a sports memorabilia auction house who admitted to using shill bidders to drive up prices and to altering the most valuable baseball card ever sold.

William Mastro of Mastro Auctions admitted to doctoring the 1909 Honus Wagner cigarette card that was once owned by hockey great Wayne Gretzky. The card sold for $2.8 million in 2007.

This is the one that was purchased by Diamondbacks’ owner Ken Kendrick. Which is weird, because if anyone would have appreciated a less-than-perfect – dare I say gritty baseball card — it’d be the Dbacks’ owner.  Looks like he was totally ripped off here. It’s like the precursor to the Justin Upton deal.

The dealer is going to jail for up to 30 months. I’m sure he doesn’t have the means to pay Kendrick back, however.  In other news: just about every sports memorabilia dealer I’ve ever met is sketchy at the absolute best.

(Thanks to Daniel N. for the heads up)

  1. brewcrewfan54 - Apr 11, 2013 at 11:09 AM

    Oh no he di’int!

  2. bringbackkosar - Apr 11, 2013 at 11:12 AM

    CAVEAT EMPTOR as they said in Rome (I think…Latin is all Greek to me)

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Apr 11, 2013 at 11:28 AM

      Australian Guy: Carpe canem!

      Jay: YES! (runs out)

      Jay: Carpe noctem? Sieze the dog?

      AG: You heard me!

      Jay: Right! (runs out again) Carpe canem! Carpe canem! Carpe canem! (grabs dog and hugs it) This can’t be right! This can’t be right!

      [we need more Critic references imo]

      • historiophiliac - Apr 11, 2013 at 12:34 PM


  3. chacochicken - Apr 11, 2013 at 11:12 AM

    I’ve met my share of dodgy, smarmy bastards but the “sports memorabilia dealer” guy is only exceeded by “Owner of the Miami Marlins” guy.

  4. okwhitefalcon - Apr 11, 2013 at 11:14 AM

    The “gritty” angle (not narrative) is played, so played.

    Now only if Michael Young would draw and intentional walk or attempt a sac bunt.

    • ptfu - Apr 11, 2013 at 11:36 AM

      Michael Young has no control over drawing intentional walks. Well, maybe indirectly, if he scrapped and gritted his way into hitting like Barry Bonds.

    • stlouis1baseball - Apr 11, 2013 at 4:42 PM

      Michael Young is a “professionally pure” hitter.

  5. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Apr 11, 2013 at 11:30 AM

    Wait, so you are saying that a piece of cardboard with a picture of a baseball player on it is not REALLY worth $2.8 million? I am going to have to reassess my priorities now.

    Seriously, I will try to muster up some pity for the guy who spent this much money on a baseball card, but I ain’t making any promises.

    • KR - Apr 11, 2013 at 12:10 PM

      Not only that, but a piece of paper with a bit of cloth in it and a picture of Ben Franklin is worth $100, despite a) they’re not even rare and b) Ben Franklin wasn’t any good at baseball.

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Apr 11, 2013 at 2:09 PM

        I saw no evidence that Franklin was bad at baseball on BRef. The game was less about physical fitness back in the day, remember, so I wouldn’t put it past Ben to have a few 6+ WAR seasons in him.

  6. StottsEra - Apr 11, 2013 at 11:52 AM

    david copperfield ripped it up anyways

  7. pinkfloydprism - Apr 11, 2013 at 12:12 PM

    Wait, you just called a person that tries to sell things for a living, and will probably do what he can to make a buck sketchy? Say it ain’t so!!!!

    • badintent - Apr 11, 2013 at 6:08 PM

      Yeah, they’re called garmentos, fat slimy short guys with ugly noses shilling clothes on 7th Ave.
      Stones did a song called “Shattered” about them . “People dressed in plastic bags, new type of fashion………………….”

    • gloccamorra - Apr 11, 2013 at 6:08 PM

      He’s not exactly selling Ronco rotisseries. He altered the product. The only guy I’ll give a pass to is the old man who altered a Marc Chagall painting hanging in a museum, and only because the old man was Marc Chagall. Otherwise, it’s fraud.

  8. Mark Armour - Apr 11, 2013 at 12:31 PM

    A friend and I did 10-15 card shows (meaning: we rented a table and bought/sold stuff) at the height of the mania in the late 1980s and early 1990s. I met a few great people, and many who were … unforgettable. One fellow dealer had just gotten out of prison where he had done 3 years for selling cocaine. When he got out, he put his cocaine profits into baseball cards and put up a shingle. Shockingly, a year later he orchestrated a couple of break-ins at local card shops.

    For a sheltered middle-class dude like me, it was eye-opening to spend some time in the underworld.

  9. roverboy1949 - Apr 11, 2013 at 3:24 PM

    I have a few pieces of Red Sox and Patriots memorabilia, and I’m sure it’s all legit, but the only item I am positive is genuine is a piece of paper signed by Ted Williams, as he ate his lunch at the Somerset Hotel in Kenmore Square back around 1954 or 1955. I was only 5 or 6 years old and my grandmother, my brother and I were having lunch when she saw Ted Williams sitting alone having lunch. My grandmother was very forward and took us by the hand over to his table and introduced us to Ted, telling him what great fans we all were. He was very pleasant( contrary to some reports ) and gave us his autograph. I like to think there are still a lot of legit dealers, but I guess it’s truly “buyer beware”.

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