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Tuesday, July 23, 2024 | Back issues
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Famed Baseball Auction at Sotheby’s Challenged

PHILADELPHIA (CN) - A baseball collector paid more than $75,000 for knockoff Willie Mays memorabilia at a Sotheby's auction, he claims in Federal Court.

Michael Jacobs, of Bala Cynwyd, says he learned about the sale when Sotheby's published a three-part auction catalog in early 1999 for "The Barry Halper Collection of Baseball Memorabilia."

The New York Times had described Halper in a 2005 obituary as a limited partner in the Yankees' ownership since the 1970s who was "something of a one-man Smithsonian."

Jacobs allegedly spent more than $75,000 in the auction on a travel bag and a jersey that Sotheby's and Halper's estate claimed belonged to Willie Mays.

When Jacobs tried to sell the jersey to Leland Collectibles for $670,000 in 2012, however, an appraiser concluded that the jersey was a fake, according to the complaint he filed on Wednesday.

It allegedly said Mays' number and name had been attached later to a standard 1951 New York Giants jersey, and that the stenciling on the travel bag was inconsistent with the style at the time.

Jacobs claims his repeated attempts to contact Sotheby's and the appraiser for Sotheby's, Grey Flannel, went unanswered.

Halper's obituary in the Times noted that the Sotheby's auction of the bulk of Halper's collection fetched $21.8 million. The Major League Baseball commissioner's office reportedly bought 20 percent of the collection before the sale and donated those items to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Jacobs seeks punitive damages for misrepresentation and fraud. He is represented by Alex Murland of Powell Trachtman Logan Carlle & Lombardo.

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