Monday, August 6, 2012

Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Huge Vintage Collection Find

HUGE Vintage Find Heartbreaker
Sit down, grab a cup of coffee and kick back.  This is going to be a bit of a read.  I found someone online, in town here, who, had a "huge vintage
collection".  That has my name written all over it, so I decided to contact him.  Finally, after a number of days passed by, he sent me about 26 emails of pictures overnight.  When I woke up, I reached for my phone as I do ritually, and look at my email.  Needless to say, what I saw aided me in waking up that much quicker.  Many 1952 topps, an altered t206 Wagner, some Ty Cobb, rookies of Musial, Satchel Paige, etc.  Even authenticated autographed baseballs of Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb! 

I didn't notice this until later, but the '52 Topps Mantle is sitting pretty in the middle of this picture. 
 I searched my emails, and apparently, I had emailed him a month ago on some other things, though, I had questioned the authenticity of, so I passed.  This time, the pictures were good and I was KICKING myself for not following up.  I quickly responded telling him I was interested, giving him my number.  He said he was only taking bids right now, would not show the cards publicly and would wait until someone offers his price before showing the cards in person.  I tried contacting him again, requesting a call back, saying I was a very interested buyer.

Crickets.  Noooooooo!

The Ty Cobb - one of the TONS of pictures the guy sent me

As I waited to hear back, I was contacted about my vintage collection (I have a number of cards for sale right now - rookie of Walter Payton, '60 Topps Clemente, a few Rice rookies, etc.) by someone who had yet another collection for sale.  She sent me pictures, and there were some pre-war items, and various other things that looked fantastic.  I was 100% ready to trade, and asked for the back-story.  The lady replied, saying, they were her uncle's cards, they need money, so she paid some bills for them and in exchange got the cards.  She collects newer cards, so she wanted to see about doing a trade with me.  #YESYESYES


She gave me her phone number, and we setup a time to meet.  After looking at the cards in the pictures, I noticed something interesting.  Her collection, too, had the same Ty Cobb, Paige & Musial rookies as well as a similar Mickey Mantle.  Sure, I hardly EVER see these cards, and a few of them I have never seen before in my life - then I see them twice in two different collections in the same day - yeah, sounds fishy, but I was star struck.  I tried my hardest to sweep it all under the rug in my brain.  After scampering around the house to look for our 100x powered magnification device to check out these cards, I couldn't find it, so I reluctantly called her up again, saying I couldn't make it.  I was beyond bummed out, but didn't want to make a foolish trade.  I did ask her if she knew a guy by the name of the person who first sent me all the pictures, and she said no. 

At about 9pm, I looked at the pictures again of her collection and the guy that sent me the tons of pictures.  It still bugged me that they both had a few of the same pictures.  I then noticed one thing - the Ty Cobb picture the first guy sent me was severely off center on the back.  I asked the lady I was about to meet if she could send me a picture of the back of the Ty Cobb, and she did.  Here is what she sent.

This is what I was afraid of.  The back is identical to what the guy sent.

See anything interesting?  (scroll up to the first picture of the Cobb front and back.)
BLAST!  What is going on here????  I asked her why she and someone else were sending me the same pictures.  She just responded with:  "Do you want them, or not?"  I went back and forth a few times, and was basically met with the same responses "Do you want them?  I have a guy coming over now for them for $600."

Google "Ty Cobb 8/15/60" and see what comes up. 

The first guy, even though I said I was a buyer, never responded to me ... until the night all this happened after I found his Wagner, Mantle and Ty Cobb baseball on Google.  I confronted him with it.  Guess what?  He *QUICKLY* responded.  "What are you trying to say?"  very defensive.  I told him I found them on the internet, and was curious how #1 these pictures were on google, and #2 how someone else was sending me pictures of what he posted.  I suggested a way to clear all of this up would be to perhaps take a picture of himself holding the Ty Cobb ball. 

Here was his response:

"Thats about the stupidest thing i ever heard of i do not know you and i am not dumb enough to fall for your childish thinking I am not a kid and don't have anything to prove to you ...I have a collection for sale and that's that plain and simple and secondly if you could afford my collection you would just see it in person so please do not email me again..thanks "

I figured he would write something similar as this. 

The next day, the lady wrote again "after all of what happened last night, I'm still interested in your cards.  What is the least you'd take for them?"  I told her, and then asked what happened with the other cards.  She said that she ended up selling them, and decided to "sell them as reprints". 

Whether that is the case or not, I want to believe her that this is what actually happened.

In the aftermath of all that has happened, a lot of brainpower and time was wasted into going back and forth with these folks, researching, thinking, etc.  I groan to think what could have been.  What if I could have scored something huge like this?  Surely, there are deals out there to be had.  I like to think that my best deals are ahead of me.  The one thing I can take solace in, is that when it comes to people on the internet, you never know - these people might have set me up to rob me.  This has happened to a fellow collector not too long ago here, locally.  He was taken for $4,000 worth of cards!

The thing that doesn't sit right is that the lady's pictures have some old written documents - that gave the whole thing a "real" vibe to it.  Was this just some crazy elaborate scheme to "trap" someone into thinking they are getting a great deal, but it was all meant to look that way by design?  Was it truly all real, or a mix of both?  Why did I get a picture of the back of the same card from two people who claimed not to know each other?  Something else - The Satchel Paige of the guy looked like he had more bottom border than the lady had in her picture, though they were in the same type of semi-rigid holder.  There were just too many unanswered questions in this whole thing.  I guess if it is too good to be truth, it probably is just that - too good to be true.  Better safe than sorry, as well.  I am interested in hearing the thoughts of all you super sleuthers out there! 


  1. The stain on the Ty Cobb (dead center) is exactly the same shape and location in both pictures. As someone who scrutinizes photos all day (photographer), those are the same cards. It was the same people. You did good in avoiding that scam.

    Also, while some of the old documents may have been real, some of them could also be fairly easily faked. There's a very old photographic technique I was taught called wet collodion plate printing. It's normally only used by hobbyists these days, but it's especially popular among counterfeiters. The results of those prints look very old fashion and antique. Combined with old/yellowed paper, it would be fairly easy to produce aged-looking documents.

    You made the right call on that one. Especially based on their reactions to your questioning. Red flags all over the place. Good read too :)

  2. Yep. The Mantle card in the first picture looks as if it has a much different 'sheen' than the others. The Red Sox card on the bottom right (Mel Parnell) looks like a reprint.