Look Out for Sports Souvenir Crooks

I’m as big a sports fan as the next guy. I watch NFL and NBA games on the tube and catch a live contest every now and then. Following my favorite teams and checking the scores often is a longtime habit.

I’m not big into sports collectibles even though I have a batting helmet and some old T-shirts stashed away in a closet. Plus I wish I still had the baseball cards from my childhood that got tossed in the trash by my mother.

I have never understood the compulsion to collect or pay big bucks for unsigned baseballs that are supposedly tied to a key event, such as a game-winning home run or a strikeout recorded at a crucial time in the game.

No identifying markings

One ball looks pretty much like another. To shell out money for a historic baseball or football with no identifying markings requires a leap of faith that I am not capable of making.

Yes, it calls for a certain level of trust. My trust level drops to zero when I hear about situations like the one in the Midwest where crooks were caught tampering with sports memorabilia and rigging auctions.

The head of an auction business that specializes in sports souvenirs had an unsportsmanlike habit of using phony bids to inflate the price of his company’s auction listings. The practice is called “shill bidding.”

Nice guy. And it didn’t stop there. He also practically made a career out of buying and selling a valuable Honus Wagner baseball card from the early days of the sport. The problem was he tampered with the card and enhanced its value by trimming the margins with a paper cutter.

Trophy baseball misrepresented

There’s more. The guy handled an item that he represented as a trophy baseball from the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings even though he knew there was paint on the ball that was manufactured after World War II.

Fortunately, the guy got nailed for mail fraud. He paid a $250,000 fine and was sentenced to 20 months in prison. Other people at the same company are also in hot water.

Sports competitions needs to be squeaky clean and above any suspicion of cheating in order for fan interest to remain strong. Who wants to watch a game where the outcome has been determined in advance.

The same standards should apply to sports collectibles. A few scoundrels like this guy can distort the true value of merchandise and ruin the hobby for everyone.

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