When it comes to the world of sports collectibles, it seems as though fakes and frauds are the rule, rather than the exception. Such is the case when it comes to this photo of Old Timey ballplayer Nap Lajoie, which was listed as available for bid with Heritage Auction Galleries. It was thought that the photo would fetch $15,000 when all was said an done–that is, at least, until the auction was removed after allegations that it was stolen surfaced.
The details of the photo’s journey from the National Baseball Hall of Fame Library in Cooperstown, NY, to the auction block are chronicled on a Deadspin post penned by Peter Nash, author of the forthcoming book Hauls of Shame: The Cooperstown Conspiracy and the Madoff of Memorabilia. The post documents the history of memorabilia that’s been pilfered from the Hall of Fame, pointing the finger at Mike Gutierrez, who is currently the Heritage Auction House’s consignment director, and who in the 1980s was banned from ever entering the National Baseball Library after suspicions of widespread thefts were directed at him.
Nash’s post explains that after numerous pieces were stolen from the Hall of Fame and were subsequently sold at auctions over the last few decades, the Hall has been shy about publicizing the thefts. In addition to the bad publicity news of the thefts would generate, it also seems they feared having people dissuaded from donating other artifacts from baseball’s history.
The post on Deadspin is a great read, and offers some shocking revelations about the far-reaching effects the thefts have had over the years. Two things are for sure: be careful about bidding on any sports items for sale from Heritage Auction House, and make sure to pick up Nash’s book when it comes out. In the meantime, his website devoted to tracking collectibles frauds, Hauls of Shame, seems like a great resource for knowledge on the seedier side of sports memorabilia.