Sports Collectors

National Convention Closes: FBI Presence; Ruth Rookie Consigned; Big Soccer Break

The National Sports Collectors Convention closed Sunday afternoon after its five-day run at the Stephens Convention Center.  

Next year’s event is slated for the Atlantic City Convention Center July 27-31.

A few notes:

FBI Special Agent Brian Brusokas was once again in the building during part of the show.  Over the years, most of the major hobby-related cases have been investigated by the Bureau’s Chicago office, so having the NSCC there is certainly convenient.

We learned from multiple sources that there was a discussion after show hours involving the FBI and some sports memorabilia auction companies during which discussion centered around the case of Donald “D.B.” Henkel. 

Henkel’s Michigan property was raided by a large team of agents last year. While the investigation began over a long-running major art forgery scheme, the Detroit News reported that agents believe Henkel also used his creative abilities to create fake sports memorabilia, including Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig bats and other items that were convincing enough to pass professional authentication.

The News reported that agents found PayPal accounts linked to Henkel’s email address “made approximately 191 purchases, including vintage pens from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s…reprinted Babe Ruth baseball cards and lumber for custom-designed baseball bats.”

At the time of the raid, one industry source told us Henkel had hired people to offer what he believed to be phony stories about the provenance of potentially profitable fake pieces. Beckett Authentication’s Steve Grad and others in the hobby have known about Henkel’s efforts for several years.  Grad called him a “master forger” who “went to great lengths to make up provenance,” often using couples or older people to front items he had created.  

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Some auction houses are believed to have unknowingly taken in some of that bogus material and sold it. 

Another industry source familiar with last week’s meeting says some of those people who had worked with Henkel may have since offered the FBI key information about the scheme and it’s believed that case may be coming to a head soon.  As of yet, no charges have been filed.

Auction houses were taking in a lot of consignments during the show. Mile High Card Company snared a PSA 7 Babe Ruth rookie card that it will bring to market later this year.

National Convention Closes: FBI Presence; Ruth Rookie Consigned; Big Soccer Break

Bidding on the T206 Honus Wagner card at Robert Edward Auctions has now crossed the $4 million mark. The card was the center of attention at the company’s booth where it was held in a special display case.

You can add one more PSA 10 to the list of 1976 Topps Walter Payton rookie cards. The company graded one at that level on Wednesday.

National Convention Closes: FBI Presence; Ruth Rookie Consigned; Big Soccer Break

That makes 52 PSA 10 Payton rookies currently listed on the population report.

Exhibitor booths for the 2022 National are all spoken for. Prior to 2019, it was often possible to get one long after the previous year’s event had concluded.

Vintage Breaks opened a pack of 1969-70 Topps Basketball on the main stage Saturday afternoon.

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National Convention Closes: FBI Presence; Ruth Rookie Consigned; Big Soccer Break

While they didn’t pull a Kareem Abdul-Jabbar rookie card for one of the folks who bought in, they did land two giants back-to-back. First came Oscar Robertson….

National Convention Closes: FBI Presence; Ruth Rookie Consigned; Big Soccer Break

then a Wilt Chamberlain that appeared to be a candidate for a very high grade.

National Convention Closes: FBI Presence; Ruth Rookie Consigned; Big Soccer Break

The ruler insert was John Havlicek.

No, the gum was not eaten.

Yours truly sampled some 1978 Topps Baseball gum after opening a pack on Thursday. It was like chewing Pepto-Bismol tablets without the flavor.

The Miami Card Club broke a 2002 Mega Craques box valued at roughly $80,000 during a main stage event. They were in search of the only rookie card of Cristiano Ronaldo, a six-figure card if graded PSA 10.

The 2002 Mega Craques cards were manufactured in Italy but only sold in the Portugal leading to very low availability. 

National Convention Closes: FBI Presence; Ruth Rookie Consigned; Big Soccer Break

Halfway through the break of 36 packs conducted by Miami Card Club principal Matthew Weiss and Card Club partner David Gelfman of Ripping Wax, things were not looking good.

“No Ronaldos in sight and things got tense,” Weiss recalled. “Fortunately, the back end of the break was much more exciting with two Ronaldo cards being pulled.”

The cards were graded by PSA with each netting a somewhat disappointing Near Mint 7.

National Convention Closes: FBI Presence; Ruth Rookie Consigned; Big Soccer Break

Nevertheless, Weiss says both cards were quickly scooped up by a Los Angeles collector who appreciated the unique provenance.

For full coverage of the show up to now and all week long, click here.

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