Mastro, Allen indicted on fraud charges

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By Chris Olds | Beckett Baseball Editor

Sports auction house executives Bill Mastro and Doug Allen were indicted by a federal grand jury in Chicago on Wednesday on charges of fraud for allegations that include auction manipulation and, in the case of Mastro, altering one of the hobby’s most-famous baseball cards, the PSA 8 T206 Honus Wagner that has sold for $2.8 million.

Mastro, the founder of defunct Mastro Auctions which closed in 2009, faces one count of mail fraud. Allen, who was the president of Mastro before it closed and is now president of Legendary Auctions, faces 14 counts. Another former Mastro executive now with Legendary, Mark Theotikos, faces six. According to a New York Daily News report, the maximum penalty for the charges is 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

The allegations on the Wagner card are not new as they were documented in The Card, a 2008 book written by the Daily News’ Michael O’Keeffe and Teri Thompson.

For more on the case, read the Daily News story by clicking here.

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


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  1. zotster 26 July, 2012 at 12:36

    Wow … The amazing part for me was that the Wagner card was trimmed, which I hadn’t heard before, although I guess the info was out there. After reading the comment from the PSA grader, how could anyone ever trust that company again? Isn’t it’s whole purpose for existing to protect collectors from altered or fake cards such as this? And they let the single most valuable card in the hobby get a prime grade even though they know it was trimmed? The current owner of that card should file a lawsuit, big time. Maybe even file a class action suit on behalf of the entire hobby.

  2. Josh 26 July, 2012 at 14:47

    PSA should be ashamed. I wonder if they even care enough to make a statement to their customers.

  3. ddizzal 26 July, 2012 at 14:49

    seems crooks are everywhere right now in the hobby, if its not the show dealers with reopened boxes or people online selling cards and then not shipping, its something else. I hope they throw the book at every person there that had any knowledge of this!!

  4. joe rezendez 26 July, 2012 at 14:53

    they always grade friend had a peyton manning rookie that had a grade 9.0 sent it back to psa and it came back a 10…crooks

  5. Matthew 26 July, 2012 at 15:54

    Agreed. PSA’s standing in the hobby should absolutely take a massive hit over this. However, given the current state of the hobby, I’m guessing that: 1) the revelation won’t get the coverage it should; and/or 2) too many people (both dealers and collectors) have a vested interest in PSA-graded material to allow the revelation to have the impact it should.

  6. Richard 26 July, 2012 at 15:58

    Sad, if true.
    Of course when we think about it, don’t all the cards get cut from sheets in the first place?
    I mean, the Tiger Woods XRC all come from hand separated/cuts from the Sports illustrated Jr. pages.
    At what point does it become “wrong” to correct errors?

    Obviously once you cut a card down to smaller than its intended size you have a problem.
    I have to wonder the about the “why” behind what we choose to assign value changes.
    It’s easy to see that a nicer condition item should sell for more than a lesser condition, but have we made
    the differentials so high to become absurd? A blemish invisible to the naked eye can make the market
    value of a card drop to a small percentage of one without such flaws.

    I’ve never thought the Wagner card should be as highly priced as it is.
    There are other, rarer cards, including rookie cards that are tougher to find.
    And that does not even consider the modern day cards with their artificial scarcity.

    Of course in the end we are trading pieces of paper with pictures of dead presidents (mostly) on it for pieces
    of paper with athletes on it. The difference being the degree society accepts that money has universal value
    vs those with the athletes on it.

  7. james 26 July, 2012 at 18:25

    I have been collecting, buying and selling sport’s “Stuff” most of my life, in the last few year’s since they started selling cards with everything from “cut” singtures,pieces of cloth, bat’s,shoe’s,what ever they can think of to sell a card…i m waiting for them to sell a “Spit” wad,or a “Tobacco wad”, i mean there is already bloody spot’s on cloth, WOW…there’s NO END to what the companies will do to sell cards, the whole buisness is gone to the “Dog’s”…and who’s more of an “Expert” on what is a GRADED card from 1 to 10 than the person who is willing to pay for it….you either want it because of Who it is….or what game it is, or you don’t, No matter who say’s what condition it’s in….give me a break…..what piece of paper is worth Million’s of dollars anyway?

  8. charles faires 26 July, 2012 at 19:37

    i guess what gets me is some of these guys are still in the industry, like nothing happened, just change the name, this is 1 reason i stay away from graded cards, its not a perfect science to start with,i don’t like the premiss that a card is worth more than one of the same, by verture of someones else, saying it is. to many hands in the cookie jar is not always fair. to me with todays tech, no card should be miss cut, or scratched, but they are. and whats up with this get your cards graded here, oh and buy the way we will also tell you how much more you mite get for it, come on it doesn’t mater what they claim to do or not to do, there’s only 1 rag that is used to determin value, it’s kind of like a card show paying different prices for the same players auto on different size or make items, its a scam, that player has to put know more effort into that auto, its about money, grading is the same its about money.

  9. Mark 27 July, 2012 at 07:53


    You are making a common economics mistake when only considering the scarcity of the Wagner card vis-a-vis the price. The ultimate price is going to be the intersection of the supply curve and the demand curve, which you have completely ignored. There may be rarer, harder to find cards out there, but none of them match the demand of the rare card of a charter Hall of Famer in the most popular tobacco-era set. It is easy to say the Doyle variation is rarer, but if more people want Wagners, the Wagners are going to be more valuable.

  10. Bobby Currier 27 July, 2012 at 09:06

    I don’t believe in grading cards and here’s one of the biggest reasons why.

  11. Charlie DiPietro 27 July, 2012 at 09:14

    Collecting is what YOU want it to be. If you hold an ungraded card in your hand and your happy to add it to your collection, great. If you are planning to keep the card until the day you enter “The Card Shop in the Sky,” there is no need to have your cards graded. However, there are very many people in this hobby who look at their collection as an investment for some time in the future or as a legacy to pass on to their children. For these collectors/investors grading is a must.

    I am shocked to find that the “Holy Grail” of baseball cards was cut from a sheet, then cut again without passing that information to the buyers at the time of sale. This situation is not good news for serious investors. However, at the same time, to think that this means it is best for investors not to buy graded cards is TOTALLY INCORRECT. I have been collecting since 1957, sold at shows since 1985 and I have operated my store since 1992. Every once in a while (less often now), I get fooled.

    I had James Spence Authentication JSA in my store this month to certify nearly 300 of our autographs I had already judged to be authentic. This is to protect myself and my customers/investors for years to come. There are people in our hobby who know more than I do (and probably 99% of you reading this). That is why I have chosen Beckett Grading to be the source for grading cards for me and my customers. Beckett Grading comes out to my store to do in-store grading about 3 or 4 times a year.

    Beckett has probably graded over 20,000 cards for me and my customers. We find them to be the most profession and most consistent grading service. They pass on “bad news” along with the good. They have found many fakes and altered cards (bought by unsuspecting good people). When this happened to me, I got it slabbed and sold it with a Beckett “Altered” label. If you are an investor, you can trust Beckett Grading to be he best in the hobby.

  12. Richard 27 July, 2012 at 18:07


    I do understand economics, thanks.
    I certainly do not think any of my modern day 1/1 cards will ever break the bank, even if they are
    of HOF players.

    Consider Babe Ruth who is considered by most to be “the” man when it comes to Baseball.
    There are perhaps 10 1914 Baltimore News known to exist, and yet despite being far rarer and
    the player being more desirable, the Wagner sells for many times more.

    I refer to this as the inertia of value. Kind of like a celebrity that is famous for being famous.
    People often think of the Wagner card as being the rarest most desirable card simply because
    in the past it was considered such.

    The Wagner card gets much of its desirability from the old saw about Wagner not wanting to
    have kids buy tobacco to get his cards. This was dispelled years ago by his daughter who stated
    that it was a compensation issue. Wagner was not getting his price, so he told them to stop printing.

    If you buy something because you want it, and can afford it, I’m not about to judge.
    If you buy it based on the expectation that someone else will pay more for it, well, I can certainly
    comment on the likelihood of the “greater fool” coming along.

    Sooner of later prices get a bit too surreal and people start noticing that the emperor has no clothes.

    Part of this has to do with price relativism.
    When I noticed that the cost of the 52 Mantle was higher than entire 48 Leaf set, I figured it was way out
    of line. Eventually, enough others (who actually had the money) made a similar evaluation.

    Consider that Beckett has graded only 9 Satchel Paige rookies vs over 100 52 Topps Mickey Mantle
    and you catch a bit of my reasoning.

    We are now at the point where the Honus Wagner is the big prize in a contest where many of the
    participants want the card solely because others want the card. It’s a contest staring people with
    lots and lots of money and apparently a desire to impress others or deny others the ability to impress
    others. *shrug*

  13. charles faires 27 July, 2012 at 18:41

    i’m sorry but grading is the biggest reason fakes and altered cards came about, i have no interest in them myself, and i’m not going to pat anyone on the back that grades cards, as far as i’m concerned its just another way to make a buck, sorry i don’t need to grade a card to pass it on,i guess this means i will not be onPSA,or Becketts christmas list, its funny no one ever says anything about the thousands of collectors that get ripped off by fakes, everyon’se an expert until they get fooled, then its well i’m not perfect.

  14. Moneil Patel 28 July, 2012 at 01:12

    Definitely a black mark on PSA. Man, with the shenanigans of Upper Deck and now PSA, I’m not sure where to turn to? There is definitely a conflict of interest when Beckett has a grading component and then publishes prices on the values of cards. For that reason alone, Beckett is questionable. So essentially we are left with a hobby where the company that grades, also sets prices of the market, where rookie cards are out 2-3 years before a player is actually a rookie and then an RC card is issued, where marketing rights leaves only 2 companies standing per sport if that. So now I’m forced to by Topps products for baseball, which produced an inferior product for a good 20 years.

  15. Matthew 28 July, 2012 at 07:34

    Charles, you actually have it backwards. One of the stated intents of PSA was to provide third-party assurance that a card wasn’t trimmed or altered. I’ve known for sometime that people have been able to sneak such cards past PSA (there are websites that provide examples of how it was done) and accordingly took their ratings with a grain of salt. The revelation about the Wagner card, however, is something very different and far more sinister.

  16. Johnny Hodge 28 July, 2012 at 08:48

    Wow! This scares me to death. More than anything else I am concerned about the autographs. I was wondering last night as I watched Ali at the Olympics how he could have signed all those cards for those high end Ali products lately. I wondered how many his wife signed for him. I hope those products made sure to witness all of his signings. Also I am concerned about my PSA Wilt Chamberlain authenticated autograph. Who really knows who signed this bad boy?

  17. steve-o 28 July, 2012 at 12:30

    just out of hospital-after two surgeries within 8 days….anyways, dont think I saw it mentined-about this rather large (and valuable) collection of (what year I cant recall)….but did contain a PSA10 Honus card……..and if this sort of altering went on with the ‘holy Grail’ card; how do we know that this newest lot hadnt been ‘snipped’ as well ?!?!?!?! And……how will it be addressed in terms of trust ??


  18. chrisolds 28 July, 2012 at 21:42

    Moneil: The grading department and editorial/pricing departments are separate. The price guide values are based on actual sales of actual cards, so there’s no “setting” of prices on the market — it’s a reflection of the market. Moreover, the graded card price guide columns are listed by the stated condition or number, not the grading company.

  19. glen 29 July, 2012 at 02:06

    If yu havent read the card or the card shark book you might need to the same people that did the wagner also ran auction house founded upper deck which was just as bad and this people are still running auction houses and on regular bases trimmed and docotoreed vintage cards they sold and manipulated auction which in turn manipulated the prices so the big wiggs in the industry are defruading the collector . which is why there in court but they have already mad there money and the fine wont even be close

  20. glen 29 July, 2012 at 02:08

    moniel this guys were fixing auctions to and thats were you get some of your piring data

  21. berny schmidt 29 July, 2012 at 03:34

    I had consigned many times with masrtonet , now it has me wondering if I myself was manipulated and screwed by mastro . I would like to see and or know who purchased the items that I consigned through the years . His personal collection is being auctioned off , I will be checking that auction for several items were noteworthy of he himself buying . One was a first ever known to surface for sale . As for PSA they are a bunch of crooks in y mind as someone else said . If one person grades it an 8 then the same guidelines should be used by all and it should come back an 8 no matter who for the company grades it . And I know for a fact some dealers that use PSA on a regular basis get better grades because they spend more money with them . One dealer bought a psa graded card from another dealer got it the hands of psa and it dramatically changed from a 7 to a 9 . So whos srcewing who . Psa should go down with mastro and allen .

  22. Rob Braxton 29 July, 2012 at 07:21

    I have NO problem with how that card looks, nor EVEN the fact that it was trimmed.
    HOWEVER, I have a HUGE problem that they hid the FACT that it had been trimmed.
    And, I have an ENDLESS problem with whoever it was that thought it was ‘okay’ to trim it in the first place.

  23. Cincyscott 29 July, 2012 at 17:58

    Wow who would of thought someone with some influnce of the third party grading company could make a altered card into a PSA 8 . I have sent a Willie Mays catch card that I thought was in nr-mint condition to beckett and it came back in a top loader with a description of what was altered. I didnt notice the erasing mark when I bought it but Beckett caught it and sent the card back ungraded. Some vintage cards look too good to be true like my Mays catch card. I eventually sold the Mays card on Ebay saying that it was altered so I got my money back. The funny thing is this is nothing new people have been trimming cards for years even before the grading started. Didn’t Charlie Sheen own this card?

  24. Tim Jones 31 July, 2012 at 09:39

    What surprises me is no one is saying anything about Beckett and its grading of cards. One, isn’t there a conflict of interest between setting/reporting card prices and grading them to price. Why are Beckett Gem Mints more valuable than PSA Gem Mints. Isn’t what Beckett doing a manipulation of the market? Isn’t card grading an evaluation of how well the card companies produce a product? I know collector’s who had a card graded, didn’t like the final grade, broke it out of the case, then, sent it in to be re-graded. They got a better grade the second time. So isn’t there an issue with the grading of cards for the industry?

  25. Ben 31 July, 2012 at 10:29

    The thing about this is that Mastro and PSA were so intertwined that the fraud casts a pall across the entire hobby. The Wagner was given an outstanding grade because of greed, and to put a company (and a larger idea: grading cards) on the map. Where were these charges four or five years ago? Why were hobby publications quiet when the story broke back in 2007 and 2008?

  26. chrisolds 31 July, 2012 at 10:50

    Tim: The BGS system is actually different than the PSA system. (Don’t compare the numbers on the slab — compare the numbers and the stated grade.) The BGS staff does not price cards — and prices are set based on data from actual sales — and the pricing staff does not grade cards.

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