Law of Cards: Bill Mastro To Enter Guilty Plea
Last summer, Bill Mastro and three other employees of Mastro Auctions were indicted on charges related to manipulating auctions and selling allegedly fraudulent or doctored sports memorabilia. Most notably, the Gretzky T-206 Honus Wagner was alleged to have been trimmed by Mastro to improve its value. This was a shocking allegation, given that the card first sold to Wayne Gretzky in 1991 for $451,000. After several subsequent sales, the card was last sold to Ken Kendrick, managing general partner of the Arizona Diamondbacks for $2.8 million.
Mastro originally pled not guilty to these claims. However, according to case documents filed this week in the Northern District of Illinois, "William Mastro, his attorneys and the attorneys for the government have signed a written plea agreement." The contents of this plea agreement are not publicly available at this time, but according to the New York Daily News, Mastro will plead guilty to trimming the T-206.
This could be disastrous for the value of this card. It's also bad news for the sports memorabilia industry as well.
Mastro's guilty plea is the latest black eye for an industry mired in allegations of misdeeds. This plea differs, however, because it involves one of the most iconic pieces of sports memorabilia. It's the equivalent of athletes of the caliber of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens setting record after record, only to have those records potentially forever sullied with an asterisk.
The asterisk has now moved from Major League Baseball to the sports memorabilia industry. How comfortable are the Mastro's clients with their purchases now, even if they are legitimate? Similarly, when Brad Wells' FBI interview was released, it also called into question still unidentified trading cards as containing allegedly fraudulent jersey swatches. As a result, the proverbial asterisk was placed on trading cards of a certain time frame and from certain vendors.
Mastro will appear in court in February, at which time his plea will likely be made public. Many eyes in the sports memorabilia industry will be watching to see just how far the asterisk reaches.
Regardless, just as baseball's "Juiced Era" stained many famous players' names either explicitly or implicitly with the use of performance enhancing drugs, the trading card and sports memorabilia industries are going through their own "juiced" period now.
Here is a copy of the motion to change the plea date.
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1909-11 T206 T-206 Bridwell Portrait No Cap Piedmont 150 Fac 25 VA
1909 t 206 Rube Oldring SGC 30 (2)
1909-11 T206 T-206 Burch Fielding Piedmont 350 Fac 25 VA
1909 t 206 Bill Bradley SGC 30 (2)