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Old 02-11-2017, 11:42 PM
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David Kathman
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Default Hobby history: The fake-card scandal of 1972

Collectors today know that fakes are all over the hobby, and that you always need to be on the lookout for them, especially when dealing with high-end cards. That's one of the reasons grading services have become so popular. But this wasn't the case in the early days of the organized hobby, when the idea of a fake baseball card never would have occurred to anybody. This was mainly because virtually no cards were worth enough to make it worth a counterfeiter's time and effort. Also, when advanced collectors bought or traded cards, it was either with people they knew, or through the mail with the buyer writing a check. I've read through a lot of hobby publications from the 1950s and 1960s, and I've never seen any references to fake cards, or people worrying about fakes.

This changed in the 1970s, once the hobby became more organized and prices began rising substantially. It was inevitable that fake cards were going to enter the hobby at some point, as the economic incentives started getting greater. I can't claim to know for sure when the first fake baseball cards were made, but the first instance of fakery to become widely known in the hobby happened in the spring of 1972. Rich Egan, one of the leading researchers on prewar baseball card sets over the previous decade, reported on the situation in the May 1972 issue of The Ballcard Collector (#80), in the two articles below. An antique dealer named Janet Hellein in Newark, Delaware had been writing to prominent collectors listed in Who's Who in Card Collecting, offering Old Judges and several more obscure sets for sale. She had apparently failed to deliver many of the cards people had bought from her, leading to an investigation by the U.S. Postal Service and the FBI, and some of the cards she did deliver were counterfeit, according to Egan. They included fake Old Judges, Home Run Kisses, D350-1 Standard Biscuit cards, and Henry A. Johnson cards.






The fake Old Judges were made from glossy photographic prints that collector Mel Bailey had been selling, made from the 8"x10" photos of Old Judges (24 to a sheet) that Goodwin & Company had deposited in the Library of Congress for copyright purposes, as described by Bailey in this article from the April 1970 Trader Speaks:




In the next issue of The Ballcard Collector (#81, June 1972), Wirt Gammon mentioned the scandal at the beginning of his front-page column, including "the possibility that some day some party will try to print fakes of the scarcest baseball cards". He expressed confidence that "a man experienced in handling old cards will be able to tell the difference", thus presaging grading services. In another article inside the same issue, Egan gave more details about the counterfeit Henry Johnson cards, which he had determined were TCMA reprints without the reprint notice on the back -- the beginning of the now-common practice of removing such notices from reprint cards and passing them off as genuine.




In the September 1972 Ballcard Collector, West Coast collector Jim Nowell reported that fake Zeenut, Remar Bread, and Sommer & Kaufman cards had been sighted. It's not clear whether these came from Janet Hellein, but my guess is that they came from somebody on the West Coast.



Finally, in the February 1973 Ballcard Collector (#92), Egan reported that some of the fake D350-1 and Henry Johnson cards had shown up in Charles Bray's auction in Card Collector's Bulletin, the beginning of the practice of auction houses being snookered by fakes:



All these fakes were undoubtedly very crude by current standards, but the hobby was a lot less sophisticated then. It wasn't long before the fakers would get more sophisticated, but that's a matter for another post.
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Old 02-11-2017, 11:59 PM
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Awesome ! Sounds like eBay user Battleships first feedback haha.
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Old 02-12-2017, 01:27 AM
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Mark Macrae
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The Henry Johnsons referred to above still rear their ugly heads from time to time, with many entrenched in longtime collections. A few years back some turned up in the hands of a larger auction house. Fortunately the buyer was able to get his money back thanks to this article.... The Sommer & Kaufman cards and mid 20's Zeenuts also pop up from time to time, and the Zeenuts have actually made it into holders. These counterfeits , believed to have been produced from two different individuals are now 45 years old and the paper has aged to where it can fool people, even the 'pros'. The Southern California individual was later identified by Nowell, but not publicly (lawsuits, you know), and he is still in the hobby......
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Old 02-12-2017, 02:15 AM
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Todd Schultz
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I won a few of the Henry Johnson's about twenty years ago, and the seller was kind enough to let me inspect them in hand before even requiring payment. I passed and returned them. Wish I could find the scans--I know one was Gilhooley.

Interesting to me that these articles misidentify the Standard Biscuits as being D350-1 when they are really D350-3. Lew Lipset's catalog listing shown on another of David's threads also makes this error--unless back then it was not considered an error.
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Old 02-12-2017, 02:31 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nolemmings View Post
I won a few of the Henry Johnson's about twenty years ago, and the seller was kind enough to let me inspect them in hand before even requiring payment. I passed and returned them. Wish I could find the scans--I know one was Gilhooley.

Interesting to me that these articles misidentify the Standard Biscuits as being D350-1 when they are really D350-3. Lew Lipset's catalog listing shown on another of David's threads also makes this error--unless back then it was not considered an error.
Actually D350-1 is the correct number that the ACC gave the E121 like cards but they didn't catalog the E135 like version at all and had the M101-5 like version listed as D350-2. I think over time we have always cataloged them chronologically (which makes a lot more sense to me), so I have always referred to the M101-4/5 version as D350-1, the E135 version as D350-2 and the E121 version as D350-3.

The Henry Johnson's are easy to tell the fakes, I haven't come across the mid-1920's Zeenut counterfeits (I'll have to get Mark to show me one at some point I suppose).

As far as the D350-1 Standard Biscuits, I wonder if they are the ones that were auctioned off a few years back that I brought to the attention of the board and right at that moment a fake Babe Ruth sold for a bunch of money and had a "stamped" and not "printed" look to the back. I am too lazy to look for that old thread but it is on here somewhere (I want to say it sold in a Hunt's? Auction, I apologize to them if it wasn't them).
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Last edited by rhettyeakley; 02-12-2017 at 02:34 AM.
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Old 02-12-2017, 02:35 AM
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Rhett Yeakley
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Felt un-lazy for a moment and found the old thread...

http://www.net54baseball.com/showthr...=201147&page=2
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Old 02-12-2017, 10:56 AM
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Todd Schultz
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rhettyeakley View Post
Actually D350-1 is the correct number that the ACC gave the E121 like cards but they didn't catalog the E135 like version at all and had the M101-5 like version listed as D350-2. I think over time we have always cataloged them chronologically (which makes a lot more sense to me), so I have always referred to the M101-4/5 version as D350-1, the E135 version as D350-2 and the E121 version as D350-3.
Thanks Rhett, I suspected as much, although I didn't know they missed the 1917 cards altogether. I wonder if the 1921's were discovered first; if so that is odd in that they are so much scarcer than the 1916's.

I too wondered if these were the ones discussed some time ago in that thread. I guess I hope so, rather than think that more were made.
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Old 02-12-2017, 01:37 PM
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Here is a link to a thread practically a decade old that has some good images and write-up about the differences between the real and fake Henry Johnson stamped cards.

http://www.network54.com/Forum/15365...enry+a+johnson

Brian
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Old 02-12-2017, 10:29 PM
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"...before it gets out of hand and somebody pays $10 for one of those fakes."

Those were the days.
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Old 02-13-2017, 01:51 PM
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I want to hear about Tom Hufford's success/failure rate with those 600 TTM autograph requests to Spring Training.
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