Robert Lifson Fraudulent and unethical behavior Watchung New Jersey
(((redacted))) I invite anyone to contact me for additional information. BEWARE OF ROBERT LIFSONI consigned vintage high-grade baseball, football and non-sports cards to Robert Edward Auctions/Robert Lifson. He damaged some valuable cards. He said he would reimburse me. Instead he kept my cards, and sued me for my own cards!I had to get a New Jersey Attorney. I was charged $57,000 to get a $7,500 judgment vacated. The attorneys failed to include bailment in the counterclaim so I could not collect damages. I lost over $100,000 in property in addition to $57,000 in legal fees.Robert Edward Auctions has since been sued by others for fraudulent activities.I invite anyone to contact me for additional information.This is a letter sent to the Attorney General of Maryland:(((redacted))) October 25, 2004 Mac JacobsonOffice of the Attorney GeneralConsumer Protection Division200 Saint Paul PlaceBaltimore, MD21202 Re: MU-86499 Dear Mr. Jacobson: As you have requested I am responding to Lifson’s letter to you. Although I believe I have previously addressed most of the issues and my concerns, I will respond to his letter accordingly. I actually enjoy this opportunity, as I believe my response and supporting documentation will further prove his fabrications, falsehoods and untruthfulness to me as a consignor, and to you and your office as an investigative agency. 1) He solicited in June 2003. I reluctantly sent him my property based upon his misrepresentation of himself. Had he informed me that the auction was to hold 11 months from the date of contact, I would entrust neither he nor anyone else with my property. I assume he intentionally does not put the auction date in his advertisements, like Maestro and others in this industry do. 2) I am including as an attachment a copy of his advertisement in “Sports Collectors Digest“, Nov. 14 2003, page 79. (See #8 Below). This same ad appears in many issues of “The Wrapper”, and other periodicals. Please note his ad states, “If you have a significant high value item or collection that you are considering selling at auction, you can’t afford NOT to contact Robert Edward Auctions. His ad also states, “If you have high quality material to bring to auction...” This is the very ad and solicitation I had previously submitted to you on August 30. 3) First, I am forwarding the cover of his auction from March 2001. It clearly shows, “Robert Edward Auctions, a division of MastroNet”. In addition I am including the back page of a MastroNet auction. Again, it clearly shows his association. Finally, I am including a copy of my email to him dated June 15, 2003. I asked him about setting up with Mastro, because of the erroneous information he provided to my about his association. You will further note that he did not refute his association with Mastro in his reply of June 16. I am submitting to you another of his ads, which appears in “Sports Market Report”, January 2004, page 34 and 35. In his own words he refers to his association with MastroNet! I am also forwarding a copy of my September 18, 2003 letter to Doug Allen, the President of Mastro. I believe that he only began to inform the public about his disassociation with Mastro because of my complaints to them about his fraudulent activity, and his use of their name and reputation. As I mentioned previously, he only wanted high-grade, high quality material for his auction. He returned them to me because he said the cards were of such high quality that it would not warrant their inclusion and replacement of those in the set. He suggested that I have them professional graded and sold independently, or on the internet. He states my cards he damaged would not warrant a grade of “8” or higher. Common sense would indicate that if after damage he states they would be a “7”, then before his negligence they would warrant a higher grade, either an “8” near mint/mint, or a “9” mint. It doesn’t matter what holders he returned my cards to me. What matters are how securely they were packaged. In none of my communication from him does he ever state any of my cards I sent to him were damaged or trimmed, until months later. Please see as an attachment his email to me admitting that there was damage! I am including as attachments a “How to Use Condition Guide”, from a Beckett Baseball Guide. Beckett’s is recognized as one the foremost publications for grading and prices. You will note the difference between a Near Mint-Mint and Near Mint can be very minor. I also forward a copy from “Sports Collectors Digest” that shows for example the value of card 123, Sandy Koufax in NM is $685. Yet this same card is valued at $1800 in NM/M and $10,000 in Mint! I am including Card Valuations based on some of the most popular collector periodicals and price guides. He states, “Even if there had been any where to the corners in transit, it would have had to have been an issue involving tens of dollars, as opposed to hundreds or thousands of dollars.” He says he has been in business for many years. Even beginning collectors quickly learn the value of the grade of the card.Again, he has provided misleading and blatantly untrue information to your office. After my complaints to Mastro, and after I demanded what I thought at the time was fair replacement value, months later he indicated my Koufax was now mysteriously trimmed, as were “some”, “many”, and “about a dozen” of my 1952 football cards. Actually, he says “they are very obviously trimmed”. As the expert he portrays himself, wouldn’t he have noticed this damage to my cards particularly the Koufax card, upon reception or shortly thereafter? I told him I offered the Three Stooges set, and that set alone to Mastro. They declined only because the #1 card and two others were not NM/M and Mint condition like all the other 93 cards in the set. This was still a very high-grade Nm/M set.4) On October 6, I revoked my permission for Lifson to include any of my property in his auction. Another copy is forwarded for your convenience. His response stated that he “would demand shipping fees...related expenses(?). We will incur no shipping expenses”.Later that month he again begun sending emails saying he wanted to return my property. I responded by sending him the same letter of October 6. He later reneged on his proposal and said he would not return them to me. I wonder a consignor lives in Hawaii or elsewhere, they are obligated to fly or drive at their expense to retrieve whatever property Lifson decides to return? In his response of Nov. 2, 2003 he also indicates that he will reimburse me for some of the shipping expense if I drive to New Jersey! In essence, he knows that it will be more expensive in gas and tolls that his reimbursement is worth. 5) Again, I submit that if my Koufax card were trimmed, he would have brought it to my attention either before returning it to me, or after I returned it to him. It was not trimmed when I owned it. It mysteriously became trimmed on October 3, 2003! I never gave him permission to grade any of the three cards he damaged. He is correct when he says that “these doctored cards have little monetary value.” They only became “doctored” while in his possession. 6) He tells you I am a non-professional with respect...He has had no prior experience with me, and knows nothing about either my professional background, or my years of collecting. I submit that I have been grading cards for over 15 years. In addition I have been a contributor to Krause Publications for over 30 years. I have been an active collector for 45 years! 7) He repeats himself. My response to #2 above easily addresses this issue, and this misleading and untrue statement! 8) I have contacted “Sports Collectors Digest”. (See #2 above). I was never informed that this complaint was dismissed. It was agreed that since I would pursue legal action that it would be more appropriate to wait until a final resolution. I pursued this complaint at an early date to insure that there would be a record of contact. 9) See #3 above regarding his association with Mastro. Obviously, if I knew he had been associated with Mastro, I had no reason to believe otherwise. However, he still confirmed his association with Mastro in June 2003. During my telephone conversation with Lifson, I inquired specifically about two non-sports sets from the 1940’s and 1950’s. He called me back the following day, and said that although he had no Victoria Cross Heroes, Lowney Co., Crackerjacks, he had some Plane Cards by them. He further stated that although he had over 1,000,000 cards in his inventory there were mostly sport cards. As your office has suggested, I have also forwarding my copy of my complaint to the United States Postal Inspector, and another copy of my letter to you of October 6, 2004.This letter included most of the same attachments Lifson sent to you. This includes his letter of September 10, where he apparently feels it is perfectly legal to now dispose of my property. He portrays himself as a victim, seeks recovery of “any costs incurred”.In his letter to you (#8) he has the audacity to inform you he is preparing legal action against me! I’m also forwarding a copy of the letter written to me by George Golumb, his attorney. He states, “If you (I) sign a release I can retrieve my property in New Jersey.” He says his clients haven’t damaged me. If I even would agree to this, I would lose the value of the cards he damaged, and lose value of “some”, “many”, “about a dozen” cards he admitted were now trimmed. I wonder how many, if any of my original cards would be returned, particularly after I would waive damages? I believe the following to be true:He is guilty of a breach of contract.Active concealment and misrepresentation. The transferer was intentionally deceived as to the identity of the purchaser.Good faith and fairness.Bailment issues. He was under law duty bound to return my cards to me in October, 2003. Furthermore, he is obligated to return my identical property.Care of property. If the property is damaged or destroyed, the bailee is liable for the loss.Acceptance of goods. He had a reasonable opportunity to inspect my property for any damages. I feel the information submitted to you clearly shows Lifson in violation of the laws of the State of Maryland, and probably Federal rules laws and regulations as well. As I indicated in my letter to Steve Durst, US Postal Inspector, I now have additional information provided by Mastro that easily shows that I undervalued my cards. Any future actions will reflect this new information available to me. The auction catalogs from Mastro and Lifson, as well as the price guides referred to are available to you. In addition I can provide expert testimony as to the specific condition of the three cards before they were damaged, and to other cards. Please feel free to contact me should you have any additional questions. Clearly, I have been a victim of fraud. If you office chooses to ignore this issue, I feel Lifson will feel free to continue to defraud the residents of Maryland, New Jersey and other states. Sincerely, Anthony These articles appear in the internet under “Robert Edward Auctions.” Robert Edward Auctions Offered Rare Baseball Card Stolen From Baseball Hall of Fame; Swiped Card is Rarer Than The T-206 Honus Wagner Card Featured in New Cooperstown Exhibit// Share|// By Peter J. NashApril 23, 2010 “1891 Jos. Hall Cabinet Card of “Smiling” Mickey Welch”Appearing as lot 100 in Robert Edward Auctions’ Spring sale of baseball cards and memorabilia was a rare baseball card of Hall-of-Famer “Smiling” Mickey Welch. Welch won 315 games between 1880 and 1892 and was known as one of the greatest right-hand-pitchers of the 19th century. His 1891 cabinet card, which was slated to be sold at auction on May 1st, was produced by Brooklyn photographer Joseph Hall and is encapsulated in a plastic case and graded “authentic” by card grading company SportsCard Guaranty (SGC). The auction house headed by Robert Lifson describes the card as “the first example we’ve ever seen” and notes that “the reverse displays tape remnants, surface paper loss, and handwritten notations, one of which (the name “Bob”) is in red marker.” The card is quite possibly unique and far rarer than the $2.8 million-dollar Honus Wagner card put on display at the Hall of Fame this past weekend as part of the collection of MLB owner Ken Kendrick- there are at least fifty T-206 Wagner cards known to exist. The problem is, the possibly one-of-a-kind card of “Smilin’ Mickey” that was on the auction block appears to be the property of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.Evidence of the theft is revealed in the paper loss and apparent vandalism exhibited on the reverse of the Welch card. Both the auction house and the card grading company fail to disclose that the damage to the back clearly indicates information previously written on the card has been removed. In addition, the reverse shows the name “BOB” written in red marker in the upper right hand corner but, upon closer examination, it appears to have originally been “PD.” “PD” written in red marker on the reverse of a photo is a designation found on images that are “Public Domain” in the collection of the National Baseball Library at the Hall of Fame. The altering of the “PD” to appear as “BOB” and the additional paper loss on the reverse illustrate a clear attempt to conceal tell-tale ownership marks.The Welch card has been “slabbed” in an encapsulated holder that was originally developed for 20th century issues of traditional baseball cards, however, in recent years 19th century cabinet cards like the Welch have been graded in holders to enhance their value for collectors of graded material. In the case of the Hall of Fame’s Welch card, SportsCard Guaranty’s encapsulation of the card didn’t enhance its value, rather it preserved a crime-scene for the authorities who will ultimately investigate the theft. Further investigation into the matter has revealed that in 1957 the Hall of Fame received a donation of a group of Joseph Hall cabinet cards featuring the 1891 New York Giant players, including Mickey Welch. Records also indicate that in 1967 the cabinet cards were photographed by the library and a set of negatives were preserved. The inscription which has been defaced and vandalized on the reverse of the card most likely read: “Negatives 2/2/67.” That same inscription appears on another 1891 card in the Hall of Fame collection, referring to the set of negatives documenting the Joseph Hall cards in 1967. One of the negatives in the set is believed to bear the image of the exact same cabinet card of “Smilin’ Mickey” Welch being offered in the current Robert Edward Auctions sale. It’s solid proof that the New Jersey auction house was selling the Baseball Hall of Fame’s donated property. The Hall of Fame declined to furnish copies of the negatives when requested for this story.Sources indicate that Hall of Fame officials are currently conducting their own investigation into the matter. In regard to the issues related to the theft of the Welch card, Brad Horn, the museum’s senior director of communications, stated that the Baseball Hall of Fame would not comment on the situation.Other reports from sources indicate that the FBI is also investigating the theft in conjunction with an existing Federal probe into other stolen items sold by Robert Edward Auctions in the past. In addition to offering the Hall of Fame’s Mickey Welch card, Robert Edward Auctions has previously sold and handled several other items documented as stolen from the New York Public Library’s A. G. Spalding Baseball Collection . REA head Robert Lifson has also made a recent public confession that he was once apprehended while attempting to steal baseball material from the New York Public Library collection. Lifson was also the special consultant to Sotheby’s for the 1999 sale of the “Barry Halper Collection,” which also included many items stolen and suspected stolen from institutional collections, including the Baseball Hall of Fame. In 2007, Lifson sold the remaining collection of the deceased Yankee minority owner Barry Halper in a consignment from the Halper estate. That consignment from Halper’s widow, present Yankee minority owner Sharon Halper, included two stolen items from the Boston Public Library and at least one from the NYPL. The FBI and Boston Public Library confirmed that Halper’s widow and Lifson were compelled to return those items.Even more troubling than the theft and proposed sale of the Welch card is the possibility that other rare Joseph Hall cabinet cards of New York Giant players may also be missing from the Hall of Fame collection. In 1983, the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) published an image of an 1891 Joseph Hall cabinet card of pitcher Tim Keefe and credited it to the Hall of Fame. The card appeared in a “Special Pictorial Issue” of baseball photography entitled, The National Pastime: A Review of Baseball History. Haulsofshame.com recently requested to view that 1891 cabinet card of Hall-of-Famer Tim Keefe as well as others featuring Hall-of-Famer’s Roger Connor and James O’Rourke. The library staff, however, could only locate the O’Rourke card, which featured a “PD” designation on its back in red marker. Original contact sheets from SABR’s 1983 photo shoot at the Hall of Fame feature several images of the 1891 Joseph Hall cabinets including Keefe, Connor and O’Rourke. The Hall of Fame declined to answer inquiries as to whether other 1891 cabinet cards were missing from the collection. Million Dollar Litigation Rocks Memorabilia Industry Posted on April 11, 2011 by DaMMAgecontrol.com As first reported by veteran reporter Michael O’Keefe of the New York Daily News, Corey Shanus, a New York attorney and noted sports memorabilia collector, is suing the most prominent sports collectible auction house, the New Jersey-based Robert Edward Auctions (REA).In the suit filed in Manhattan courts, Shanus alleges that several pieces of nineteenth century memorabilia he purchased at auction in the early 2000s were later examined by experts who stated that they were not created until at least the 1920s. Shanus is seeking over one million dollars in damage in a move that is seen as yet another potential black eye for the auction industry.Shanus’ lawsuit and accompanying allegations are yet another link in the chain of public image problems for the auction industry that began with Operation Bullpen, an in depth investigation by the FBI that found evidence of forged autographs, counterfeit memorabilia, and shill bidding. The equivalent to baseball’s steroid scandal, the result was the closing of Mastro Auctions, the biggest target in the room.Like any good drama this story has an interesting cast of characters, with Peter J. Nash being chief among them. Nash, also known as “Prime Minister Pete Nice” in the hip hop community starred with 3rd Bass in the late 1980s. Following his career in hip hop, Nash entered the memorabilia industry and quickly amassed a considerable collection that was quickly overshadowed by considerable debt. Nash was the source of the items, having used them as collateral for loans that went unpaid.Robert Lifson, head of Robert Edward Auctions and formerly of Mastro Auctions, was quick to appear on several websites focusing on vintage sports cards and memorabilia to dispute the allegations and promising a counter-suit against Shanus to recover damages. It seems a long, costly courtroom drama is about to unfold. As more commonly found in a criminal preceding the case will be decided by experts representing the multimillion dollar collector who allege the items are counterfeit, versus experts representing the multimillion auction house who allege they are genuine.Due to the fact that an auction house is only as strong as its reputation, it seems unlikely that the two parties would settle out of court as is common in many lawsuits of this nature. However, news of the lawsuit has done little to damper the interest among collectors anticipating the 2011 Robert Edwards Auction, but a defeat in the courts could be felt in 2012 or beyond.It should be noted that the lawsuit seems carefully timed to coincide with the release of the 2011 Robert Edward Auctions catalog, considered by many collectors to be the most significant auction of the year. Michael O’Keefe is no stranger to the controversies surrounding the sports collectibles industry, having previously co-authored The Card, which details alleged fraud in the sports card grading field. Protecting Yourself Against High-Dollar Memorabilia FakesThe dangers of buying fake sports memorabilia are not confined to online retailers with limited sales and low positive feedback scores. What? A feedback score of 33 percent from three buyers? But he's selling an authentic Strasburg game-used jersey from two weeks ago. Even though he's on the disabled list. What a deal! High-dollar memorabilia from well-known collections and respected auction houses can also be suspect.Case in point, New York attorney Corey Shanus brought suit this summer against Robert Edwards Auctions, LLC (“REA) and Robert Lifson (Owner and Managing Member of REA) for allegedly selling him fake sports memorabilia. From the complaint filed in this case, it seems that between 2002 and 2009, Shanus made a number of purchases from REA and MastroNet, another company owned by Lifson. These purchases included an 1861 Grand Match Trophy Baseball, which MastroNet called a “spectacular trophy ball from the earliest days of organized baseball that “found a home in the fabled Barry Halper collection.Shanus paid $60,861 for the 1861 Trophy Ball. Yes, that ball probably cost more than your car or, possibly, both of them that are in your garage.But wait, there's more. Shanus also purchased an 1853 New York Knickerbocker Trophy Ball, which MastroNet described as the “earliest known trophy ball in existence and, “in our opinion, simply the finest and most historically significant trophy ball in existence, let alone to ever be offered at public auction. Shanus paid $161,992.45 for it.Think about that. For the price of a home mortgage, you could have, wait for it, a trophy ball. Shanus also purchased additional high-end items, including a Silver Trophy Ball from REA for $105,000.Most of the items Shanus bought were allegedly part of the Peter Nash collection. However, several red flags about that collection prompted REA to hire Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA) to inspect the items in 2006. After two weeks, PSA concluded that a number of items in the collection were fake.In 2009, REA auctioned off a number of these Nash pieces and included the following disclaimer, “‘The Collection' is sold ‘AS IS' and with all faults. The sale is made without recourse. ‘The Collection' includes items that may be authentic in part…. It doesn't take a lawyer to read between the lines of this warranty.Shanus saw the warning and became concerned about the validity of the Nash pieces he'd bought before the disclaimer was added. He consulted Lifson, who responded there may be potential problems with certain items from the Nash collection, and that there “might be questions as to the authenticity of items that Lifson had previously obtained from Nash. Shanus then had forensic tests performed on his items, which confirmed they were indeed fakes.To put things into perspective, if you feel sick that your house is no longer worth what you paid for it because the economy isn't doing so well, you can keep faith in the fact that your house still has value. The value of a fake trophy ball, however, is a lot closer to $0. A house that's dropped in value can still be lived in. A fake trophy ball, besides being presented as evidence at trial, can be used as a really tacky doorstop.This suit is still in its early stages. When the defendants moved to dismiss the action, Shanus filed an amended complaint. The court gave the defendants extra time to respond to the new complaint. Once the defendants answer the amended complaint, we will likely get the defendants' side of the story (the above all comes from plaintiff's amended complaint). Regardless of whether RAE or Lifson did anything wrong (if they believed the items were authentic when they sold them, it could be a difficult case for the plaintiff), the lawsuit highlights that Shanus' problems with high-end, fake sports memorabilia is just the tip of the iceberg for the baseball memorabilia community.For example, the complaint references that the 1861 Trophy Ball, before it was part of the Nash collection, was part of the famed Halper Collection. For those who don't know, Barry Halper had one of the most prolific sports memorabilia collection in existence. He even contended that his collection was better than Cooperstown's. The Hall of Fame even acquired a number of items from the Halper Collection including what was believed to be a Shoeless Joe Jackson uniform.Unfortunately, experts have started to contend that a number of these items, including the Shoeless Joe Jackson uniform, were fake [Editor's note: While there may be a lot of truth in the article, it should be noted that Peter Nash wrote the linked Halper article while having ongoing litigation with Halper's representatives]. The Hall of Fame even conceded the Jackson uniform was not authentic and it has since been removed.These recent stories highlight a serious concern with the sports memorabilia market. If the most prolific collectors (Shanus) can be duped, and if some of the most iconic collections (the Hall of Fame, for crying out loud) contain fakes, what can us mere mortals do to protect our collections?As I wrote earlier, for any purchase, use common sense. If it's too good to be true, it is. For high-end merchandise, use your own independent authenticator prior to purchase. Additionally, for both low- and high-end memorabilia, there are a number of legal remedies if you find you have purchased fraudulent items. Most reputable sellers and auction houses will offer your money back (for a limited time) if you can prove the item isn't authentic.However, if you feel bad about your purchasing a fake Babe Ruth autographed baseball for $50, look on the bright side. It still has more value than a fancy fake trophy ball because at least you can still play catch with it.The information provided in Paul Lesko's “Law of Cards column is not intended to be legal advice, but merely conveys general information related to legal issues commonly encountered in the sports industry. This information is not intended to create any legal relationship between Paul Lesko, the Simmons Browder Gianaris Angelides & Barnerd LLC or any attorney and the user. Neither the transmission nor receipt of these website materials will create an attorney-client relationship between the author and the readers. The views expressed in the “Law of Cards column are solely those of the author and are not affiliated with the Simmons Law Firm. You should not act or rely on any information in the “Law of Cards column without seeking the advice of an attorney. The determination of whether you need legal services and your choice of a lawyer are very important matters that should not be based on websites or advertisements.