Mastro pleads guilty to mail fraud, admits trimming famed Honus Wagner card

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Wagner

By Chris Olds | Beckett Baseball Editor

Former auction house executive Bill Mastro pleased guilty to mail fraud in a U.S. District Court on Thursday and in the process admitted that he had trimmed the most-expensive and most-famous baseball card in existence as part of his testimony.

The card is the 1909-11 T206 Honus Wagner, which was once owned by Bruce McNall and Wayne Gretzky and most recently sold for $2.8 million to Arizona Diamondbacks owner Ken Kendrick.  It was graded a Near Mint-Mint PSA 8 card by PSA, Professional Sports Authenticator, as its first graded card back in 1991. The trimming was not disclosed to the buyer when Mastro originally sold the card for $110,000 back in 1987.

According to a story in the New York Daily News, Mastro faces up to five years in prison for his company’s acts of fraud — shill bidding to drive up prices of auctions — but awaits sentencing at a later date.

According to the PSA grading standards, PSA “will not grade cards that bear evidence of trimming, re-coloring, restoration, or any other forms of tampering, or are of questionable authenticity.”

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

12 Comments

  1. Richard Hardy
    Posted Friday October 11th, 2013 at 12:24 PM | Permalink

    I am horrified……..and speechless.

  2. Posted Friday October 11th, 2013 at 12:49 PM | Permalink

    I guess PSA has some ‘splaning to do

  3. Posted Friday October 11th, 2013 at 01:11 PM | Permalink

    Although I was prepared for this verdict, it is still a sad day. However, the hobby lives on. Another reason to get your best cards graded by Beckett Grading.

  4. James
    Posted Friday October 11th, 2013 at 01:29 PM | Permalink

    And as bad as PSA is, Beckett is infinitely worse. But they’ll still go with the “holier than thou” approach to this story.

  5. Rick
    Posted Friday October 11th, 2013 at 01:39 PM | Permalink

    I love BGS and BVG holders. They are so much better in every aspect. Protection, presentation and so on and so on. Yet some people say tabacco cards must be in SGC holders. Pre 1980 to the 50’s must or is better for PSA (same as above). Why do these results in auctions hold true. There must be more then me out there that feel the same way. I could continue on, but I’ll see if I can get any feed back on what I think, feel, just wrote.

  6. Posted Friday October 11th, 2013 at 02:32 PM | Permalink

    Rick, I also prefer the look of Beckett Grading holder. However, I prefer to have my cards graded by Beckett Grading because I have found them to be the most consistent with their grading standards. I know what to expect when I get my graded cards back. I prefer to have all my cards graded by Beckett no matter how old the cards. I have gone to Beckett with Tabacco, 30s, 40s, and 50s.

    I also agree there are a number of collectors who have always gone with PSA or SGC and will continue to do so. When these collectors look to add to their collection from eBay, they only look for PSA or SGC. When I sell my BVG cards on eBay, I only sell them using “Buy it Now” or “Best Offer.” Eventually the PSA and SGC collectors find my cards and I have been able to get TOP DOLLAR for my BVG cards.

    When it comes to newer cards, no one comes close to Beckett Grading. BGS 9.5s and BGS 10s crush the competition.

    I have had a great working relationship with Beckett Grading for nearly 5 years. Their customer service is great. I will continue to have all my vintage and new cards graded by Beckett Grading. I found there is no reason to look anywhere else.

  7. Jason K
    Posted Friday October 11th, 2013 at 04:06 PM | Permalink

    My guess is, PSAs explanation will be something along the lines of “cards of that era varied in size, so there no way of knowing that it was trimmed.”

    The question is, with this rumor now becoming fact… Will this cause the value of the card to drop next time it hits auction?

  8. Andrew
    Posted Friday October 11th, 2013 at 05:00 PM | Permalink

    I have many graded cards and I prefer the packaging/looks of Beckett Grading far more than PSA. Unfortunately, I think Beckett need better needs better quality control in their grading process. I recently had around 65 cards graded and I have to send 7 back because they are graded to the wrong set or card. This is the second time I’ve had to send cards back for problems. They wouldn’t fix a problem on another. You can guess who has to pay for the shipping on this also…me. On the most part they do fix their mistakes. My concern is if they can’t get the set or card right are they really examining the cards thoroughly on the grading. The thing is when Beckett runs their grading specials they are tough to beat. So I will be back.

  9. D D D
    Posted Friday October 11th, 2013 at 10:08 PM | Permalink

    I felt I got shill bidded the other day on ebay. I had to run off to work and bid on a card. Got home to check and see if I won and someone bid me up right under my max bid. So I checked to see how many bids he placed with the seller before and it was 100 Percent.
    I asked the seller to cancel the sale, but he turned me over as a non payment anyway. Kinda shady

  10. Ben
    Posted Saturday October 12th, 2013 at 09:56 PM | Permalink

    Bill Mastro, Bernie Madoff, Rod Blagojevich…… just add another greedy sociopath to the long list of powerful people helping to ruin the world for us common folk. Hopefully he at least gets the 5 years, but unfortunately he will probably weasel his way out of the full sentence like rich people usually do.

  11. Todd Nelkin
    Posted Sunday October 13th, 2013 at 10:35 AM | Permalink

    The sad thing is, someone would probably want the trimmed edge for the right price….

  12. Robert Braxton
    Posted Wednesday October 16th, 2013 at 12:49 AM | Permalink

    LoL @Todd, I guess a trim piece of Honus Wagner is better than no Honus Wagner at all. (I doubt Beckett would grade it though. LOL)

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