Bullpen & More, by Kevin Nelson

Forging Hall of Famers

with one comment

I enjoyed Scott Kelnhofer’s interview with the authenticator James Spence in the latest Sports Collectors Digest, especially this exchange:

SCD: Are you still seeing items on the market from the forgers that were convicted as part of the FBI’s Operation Bullpen?
James Spence: That stuff still comes in on a daily basis. In a sad sense, it’s profitable for us to knock this stuff down. When it gets back into the hands of some collectors, they might not destroy it or be able to get their money back, so they might try to pass it along to another unsuspecting party. I can’t put a big X through the signature. I wouldn’t want to have to deal with the legal issues that would come with that. Those items will always be out there, because I don’t know of anybody having this big bonfire where they’re putting all this bad stuff.

SCD: Are you surprised anymore by anything you see in terms of forgeries?
James Spence: I don’t think there’s any level that hasn’t been hit. We saw a bad Bob Feller autograph recently. Who would have thought that? We receive, on a daily basis, items that indicate just how bad it is out there. Whatever can be sold in bulk or where people can make money, you’ll find problems.

The Bullpen gang did indeed forge Feller and every other Hall of Famer of note, and as Spence notes, these counterfeits are still bought and sold every day despite the bust of the ring in 1999. Here are three previously unpublished fake Hall of Fame baseballs, probably done by Greg Marino, the ring’s “master forger” as the media always referred to him:

lou-gehrig-baseball_11Lou Gehrig

christy-mathewson-ball_1Christy Mathewson

mantlewilliams-comboMickey Mantle, Ted Williams, and 500 HR Club


Written by Kevin Nelson

March 26, 2009 at 4:59 pm

One Response

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  1. Did all of the forged mantles look that off? Do you have any other examples of Marino’s mantles?

    greg marino

    June 14, 2009 at 2:10 am

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