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 (Toll Free)

Murray Chass’ piece offers common sense in Halper mud-slinging

By Chris Olds | Beckett Baseball Editor | Commentary

If you’ve read an item or two mentioning Barry Halper‘s name recently, the portrayals of the deceased iconic collector have been far from flattering in items published by both Deadspin and The New York Post.

But there’s also a reason you didn’t read about the pieces here.

Why? The background of the writer (legal issues with auction houses and others) as well as his potential motives (readying a book to sell) are at a definite conflict to be pointing the finger at the supercollector of all supercollectors who, yes, had bad items in his collection. (He had the means to buy what he wanted … meaning it could happen.)

This wasn’t lost on a very qualified writer, Murray Chass — a former New York Times and Associated Press reporter who received the J.G. Taylor Spink Award from the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2003.

He called the Post piece “journalism at its worst” and I completely agree.

Read his item here.

Read it carefully. Note what is said by Halper’s son, Jason. Here’s one telling statement:

“My father was not a forensic expert,” Jason Halper told Chass, “and he never claimed to be an authenticator, and he certainly may have been gullible when he was presented with exciting finds.”

One should also note that Chass talked to several of the parties involved — and note the writer’s reply to him when he didn’t disclose his background. Note the lack of a response from the Post.

The telling passages come toward the end. Why did Halper buy the items he owned? Well, he wasn’t in the business of selling them … again, read the story.

There can be a lot of mud hurled in the hobby — perhaps moreso than in other businesses — and the first thing one should do is consider the source … and potential motives.

Consider the source on this one … Murray Chass.

Update: Baseball Digest has an even lengthier item about this — with additional comments from Jason Halper. Read it here.

Chris Olds is the editor of Beckett Baseball magazine. Have a comment, question or idea? Send an email to him at colds@beckett.com. Follow him on Twitter by clicking here.

8 Comments

I have always felt a little envious of Barry Halper; wishing I had the means to have a collection 1/10 the size of Mr. Halper. But I always felt he was an honest and good man. Thanks for this story.

Posted August 1, 2011 at 11:23 am | Permalink

As a long time member of the card & memorabilia industry and a collector for a longer time, I was shocked by the Post article, Barry deserved better. I met Barry Halper many times & spent time with him several times. I’m so pleased with Murray Chass’s story. Barry Halper was foremost a collector. A collector to the extreme. If he had bad pieces, and as Chass points out he did, he had them because of his trust in others, not knowing that they were bad. When I knew Barry, he was not interested in selling, he was collecting. It was only when his health turned bad that he started thinking about selling. A really good journalist would have investigated both sides of this store prior to filling his store. Thanks Mr. Chass & RIP Barry.

Posted August 1, 2011 at 5:02 pm | Permalink
Ben b.

Nash isnt a saint but neither is Lifson or the Halper. Nash might be trying to sell a book but at least I hope it cleans up some of the trash thats in the hobby. If halper was such a collector he would have known what he was buying. He fabricated some of those items and god knows what else to give the items “provenance.” He (Halper) was a scumbag. Halper took advantage of alot of people, mlb, hof, everyday fans who saved up and eventually bought something at auction.

From mod: To my knowledge, there were authenticators for all items at the Sotheby’s (and subsequent) auctions …

Posted August 1, 2011 at 6:16 pm | Permalink
Ben b.

Lifson was in charge of the sothebys auction. There was obviously something for him to gain since that auction was a record at the time.(still might be)

Posted August 1, 2011 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

My personal feeling is that the truth is somewhere between the extremes that either Nash or Halper’s son would like us to believe. Nash is involved in a legal dispute with the Halper estate and he has had his own issues with fraud in the hobby. However, that doesn’t change the fact that far too many of the items from Halper’s collection have been found to be forgeries. For a supposed expert who was shelling out a lot of money (thus a vested interest in checking the veracity of the stories submitted with items he acquired), it seems laughable that he would have accepted so many fakes purely on face value — he was a smart businessman, and smart businessmen do not make that type of mistake.

Sadly, it’s only Nash who is willing to engage in this battle. It would much better if someone with a far better reputation was openly questioning how so many “authenticated” frauds entered the market via Halper’s estate, but sometimes it takes the devil to start a necessary fight.

Posted August 2, 2011 at 8:23 am | Permalink

Just to add to my previous comment, if authenticators are truly to blame for frauds getting through during the Halper auctions (and Halper really was an incredibly stupid dupe — as unlikely as that seems), then the authenticators should be forced to explain their actions. They are the ones who said the items were legitimate 10 years ago, and now they are the same companies who are now either refusing to live up to their original guarantees or hiding behind legalese to avoid responsibility.

Posted August 2, 2011 at 8:26 am | Permalink
Danny Noonan

“My father was not a forensic expert,” Jason Halper told Chass, “and he never claimed to be an authenticator, and he certainly may have been gullible when he was presented with exciting finds.”

Great point. That explains why the autographs Halper personally got from Babe Ruth when he was 8, and Jimmy Foxx and Mel Ott when he did (not) play baseball at Miami were forgeries.

Yeah, so what if the provenance of the fake items have been shown to be lies. Halper was probably duped into lying. Maybe he was the Manchurian Candidate.

Posted August 2, 2011 at 6:19 pm | Permalink
Denny

Oh yes, Murray Chass is the journalist I’d side with here. A HOFer from the “writers wing” that doesn’t exist. I like to think of Murray as Joe Posnanski of SI does when he ripped him a new one writing this:

Murray Chass is a nobody now. He’s a bitter man with a past and a blog he refuses to call a blog. He seems to bring dishonor to himself and his work with such regularity now that I cannot help but wonder if he was in fact a vile hack throughout his newspaper career but few noticed because he happened to be on the right side of the baseball labor issue and the indomitable Marvin Miller. …

NOW THERE’S SOME COMMON SENSE!

Posted August 6, 2011 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

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