View Full Version : Barry Bonds---Wall Street Journal Article

05-19-2006, 02:57 PM
Barry Bonds's Other Campaign: Fake Sports Memorabilia
Slugger Says Bats, Jerseys Aren't Authentic, Jolting a Market; FBI Arrives With Suitcases

By SAM WALKER, The Wall Street Journal

As he chases Babe Ruth on Major League Baseball's all-time home-run list, Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants is engaged in another campaign, one that has the $500-million-a-year market for high-end sports collectibles buzzing.

In recent weeks, the ballplayer and his business associates have stepped up an effort to discredit hundreds of Barry Bonds memorabilia items now in the hands of collectors or dealers -- from signatures posted on eBay to jerseys and bats he used in games that go for thousands of dollars. The effort has been under way for some time. One collector, Jeff Kranz, says that in 2003, Mr. Bonds showed up at his Melville, N.Y., home with agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation to search for items that may have been stolen, forged or sold without his consent.
Word of these challenges in the close-knit collectibles market, combined with the allegations that Mr. Bonds took steroids, has put a damper on demand for his memorabilia -- even as he approaches one of baseball's most hallowed records. Some dealers say the market price for certain items he used in games has fallen by at least 50% this year. Doug Allen, president of Mastro Auctions in Burr Ridge, Ill., says one collector who paid $25,000 for a Bonds jersey in late 2001 recently sold it for $4,400. "He just wanted to get rid of it," Mr. Allen says.

For memorabilia dealers and authenticators, Mr. Bonds's challenges have created an unusual predicament. Some auctioneers have voluntarily pulled disputed items, while one has informed the bidders of Mr. Bonds's claims and continued the sale. "There's a great cloud surrounding Bonds in the marketplace right now," says John Taube, president of JT Sports Baseball Memorabilia of Margate, N.J., a dealer and sports-memorabilia authenticator.

Mr. Bonds, through a spokeswoman, declined to comment for this article. Jeff Bernstein of Pro Access, the Miami-based company that handles the ballplayer's marketing business, says his client's goal is to prevent people from unknowingly buying fake or unauthorized items. "No other athlete wants to protect his fans and collectors more than Barry Bonds," Mr. Bernstein says.

For years, memorabilia sales have been a thorny issue for professional athletes. Although they make millions while playing, many tend to view the collectibles market as a way to generate income during retirement. And the nature of the memorabilia business, which is often conducted in cash, can lead to problems. In 1990, Pete Rose, baseball's all-time hits leader, pleaded guilty to failing to report $346,000 in income from shows, personal appearances and the sale of memorabilia -- he paid a fine and spent five months in federal prison. Fellow ballplayers Darryl Strawberry, Willie McCovey and Duke Snider also entered guilty pleas on similar charges of tax evasion involving memorabilia.

According to allegations made in the new book "Game of Shadows," by two San Francisco Chronicle reporters, Mr. Bonds used sales of memorabilia during the 2001 season to raise large sums of cash that he didn't report to the Internal Revenue Service.


To be sure, fake or unauthorized sports memorabilia isn't uncommon, and if Mr. Bonds discovered it he would have an incentive to point it out, both to preserve the value of his authentic memorabilia and protect himself from tax-evasion questions. The IRS says it doesn't comment on individual tax matters.

Special Holograms
According to dealers and collectors, Mr. Bonds started taking a more active interest in selling his game-used equipment in 2000 as he began to hit home runs with greater frequency. In 2001, the season when Mr. Bonds broke baseball's single-season home-run record, sports dealers say they saw a noticeable influx of his used equipment, including jerseys and bats. "They were aggressively being sold by the Bonds camp," says Mr. Allen of Mastro Auctions.
A key player in the Bonds memorabilia business is Steve Hoskins, who was in charge of selling the ballplayer's game-used equipment in 2001. Mr. Hoskins, a childhood friend of Mr. Bonds, also served as his assistant. In an interview on Oprah Winfrey's show in October 2001, Mr. Bonds called Mr. Hoskins "my best friend." Mr. Hoskins worked from an office in San Carlos, Calif., where he sold memorabilia through an entity known as Barry Bonds Authenticated. By the standards of the time, Mr. Bonds had gone to great lengths to give collectors a level of insurance against fakes by attaching specially designed holograms and by sewing patches to his game-used jerseys. He also included his own letters of authenticity.
Before the 2001 season, according to Mr. Hoskins, Mr. Bonds had an ambitious plan: He agreed to sell 50 game-worn jerseys from the coming season to a major dealer whom Mr. Hoskins declines to name. Mr. Hoskins says the deal provided that Mr. Bonds be paid before the season began.
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What followed, dealers say, was the most prolific disbursement of Barry Bonds collectibles anyone could remember. Brad Horne, a South Carolina memorabilia dealer, says he visited Mr. Hoskins in the spring of 2001 at his office in San Carlos. When he arrived, Mr. Horne says the office was packed with game-used equipment -- from elbow guards and cleats to uniform pieces stuffed in duffel bags and dozens of bats resting against the walls. At one point, he says, Mr. Bonds came in and talked with Mr. Hoskins about matters unrelated to the memorabilia sales. Mr. Hoskins confirms that Mr. Horne visited the office and purchased "numerous things." In total, Mr. Horne says he made about 12 transactions with Mr. Hoskins over three years that ranged from $10,000 to $50,000. While he never negotiated with Mr. Bonds or handed him money, Mr. Horne says the relationship between the two and the volume of material in the San Carlos office left him with no doubt the items were being sold with Mr. Bonds's consent. "Barry knew Steve was selling game-used items for premium dollars," he says. "Barry was not oblivious to anything Steve was doing."
By 2003, according to Mr. Hoskins, his friendship with Mr. Bonds had deteriorated for personal reasons and by the middle of that year he was no longer working for the ballplayer. Mr. Bernstein from Pro Access says Mr. Hoskins was fired. Mr. Hoskins declines to comment on the circumstances of his departure.

A Visit by the FBI
According to dealers who have spoken with his representatives, Mr. Bonds believes that Mr. Hoskins had sold memorabilia without authorization from Mr. Bonds and, in some cases, forged the ballplayer's signature on the merchandise. Mr. Hoskins denies this and says Mr. Bonds was paid for all the items sold.

When Mr. Bonds made the agreement to sell 50 jerseys before the 2001 season, Mr. Hoskins says, nobody knew he would break baseball's home-run record and the value of these items would skyrocket. When jerseys he had already agreed to sell began trading in auctions for more than he had been paid, Mr. Hoskins says the ballplayer was furious because he wasn't sharing in the proceeds. In addition, Mr. Hoskins says he believes Mr. Bonds may be trying to discredit items they sold together in order to avoid tax problems. "That's just Barry trying to cover his tracks," Mr. Hoskins says, adding that he doesn't know what Mr. Bonds put on his tax returns.
In 2003, according to Michael Cardoza, Mr. Hoskins's lawyer, the Bonds camp contacted the FBI and asked the agency to investigate Mr. Hoskins.
Mr. Kranz, the memorabilia collector in Melville, N.Y., says that in August 2003, Mr. Bonds arranged to visit the collector's home accompanied by two FBI agents. Mr. Kranz, a former bond broker, says he spent at least $250,000 on game-used Bond items since 1988 -- buying about 30% of them directly from Mr. Hoskins. During the visit, Mr. Kranz says, the ballplayer led the agents through his collection room and pointed out dozens of items he said had been forged, stolen or sold without his consent by Mr. Hoskins. "It was an upsetting situation," Mr. Kranz says.
Eight months later, in April 2004, Mr. Kranz says FBI agents returned to the house with suitcases and carried off 14 items, leaving him with a detailed receipt and a file number on Justice Department letterhead.
After holding this memorabilia for two years, Mr. Kranz says the FBI returned the items to him earlier this month without comment. Mr. Cardoza, the attorney who represents Mr. Hoskins, says his client was cleared by federal investigators.

A Change in Approach
In the past two years, Mr. Bonds has changed his approach to memorabilia. According to his Web site, items he signs now come with a hologram from Major League Baseball's authentication program and a new numbered, "tamper proof" Bonds hologram. Every signing is witnessed by a notary public and a league representative from Deloitte & Touche.
Dealers and authenticators say Mr. Bonds has dramatically cut down sales of memorabilia he used in games, though he continues to offer unused items. He has changed his signature to a more attractive script and is guarded about signing items for the public. When an Air Force airman caught one of his recent home-run balls in the stands, Mr. Bonds declined to sign it.

But the authenticity challenges he has made have created a stir. The most recent one began early last month when Robert Lifson, president of Robert Edward Auctions in Watchung, N.J., offered a uniform worn by Mr. Bonds during the 2001 season. The lot, which had been purchased by a New York investment executive for $20,000, included a Giants home jersey, pants, hat, cleats, team jacket and wrist bands. Some items had signatures from Mr. Bonds and carried the special Bonds patch and hologram. The lot came with a letter of authenticity from Mr. Horne, the South Carolina memorabilia dealer, which stated they had come from Bonds Authenticated.

Before placing the lot on sale, Mr. Lifson contacted two of the top authenticating companies in the baseball field to examine them. One said the signatures were real, and the other gave the jersey its highest possible authenticity grade.

But on April 25, four days before the online auction was scheduled to close, Mr. Lifson received an email from Mr. Bernstein of Pro Access that said: "This entire uniform is counterfeit. I have this confirmation not only from Barry himself, but I have also seen the real items in his possession in storage."

After receiving the note, Mr. Lifson traced the uniform back to Mr. Hoskins. He relayed this information to Mr. Bernstein and asked if there was any chance Mr. Bonds could be mistaken. In a letter emailed to Mr. Lifson on April 28 and copied to Mr. Bonds, Mr. Bernstein wrote: "I showed the auction that you are featuring to Barry again, and he is comfortable saying with 100% certainty that these items are fakes. He is in possession of all of [sic] 2001 game used uniforms, and we have this confirmed through the clubhouse equipment manager and the jersey supplier."
Mr. Bernstein added that Mr. Bonds had been "totally shocked" to hear these items had been purchased from Mr. Hoskins. "In his entire relationship with Mr. Hoskins, he never authorized or allowed him to sell an entire uniform from any season, much less 2001." In a separate phone conversation, Mr. Lifson says, Mr. Bernstein offered to have Mr. Bonds call him personally to discuss the issue. After informing all bidders of the challenge from the Bonds camp, Mr. Lifson decided to let the auction run its course and the uniform sold for $9,280. "It was all a bit surreal," Mr. Lifson says.

Mr. Bonds recently told reporters he has no interest in the ball he hits to surpass Babe Ruth on baseball's career home-run list. On an episode of his ESPN show, "Bonds on Bonds," he gave a tour of his stockpile of game-used equipment, which some dealers interpreted as a not-too-subtle advertisement to future collectors. But Mr. Bernstein says his client may not sell any of the items. He says Mr. Bonds will probably give some of them to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and keep the rest for himself. "I'm not sure that Barry is in memorabilia for money," he says.

05-19-2006, 03:21 PM
Wow! Thanks for posting that. Bonds is a strange dude. What's to keep him from saying a few years from now that the crap he's selling today is fake? If he can't keep track of the stuff his own company hologrammed, why put faith into the hands of someone else, i.e. Deloitte & Touche? And to say that he wants to protect his fans is laughable. Pulls the needles out of your brain, Barry, and face fact: your credibility bloooooows.

05-19-2006, 03:47 PM
Yeah Andrew, great article find. This memorabilia story with Bonds just gets stranger by the minute. Why would anybody at this point trust anything that is purportedly Bonds game used if he is running around pointing the finger at everything out there including what his own company rep sold. I know I will sleep much better tonight knowing that Barry is just looking out for his fans. This questioning of everything on the market by Barry may serve to drive his memorabilia even lower. Collectors will be so fearful of whether or not the stuff is real or fake and or afraid Barry will change his mind in a couple of years as to whether it is real or not that they won't even touch his stuff. Very, very strange


05-19-2006, 07:38 PM
Barry Bonds has got to be one of the most worthless human beings on this planet. I believe his goal is to eventually make everyone hate him. How many "childhood best friends" can you lose in a lifetime? He thinks he is so smart. All he is doing is reducing the value of his stuff. Like the article read, he simply cant take the fact that others are making some money off of him or his stuff. There is really no way in my opinion he can look at some of this stuff and say its fake, especially if he is wearing 50+ jerseys a season as the article states. I am 100% certain that Barry cares nothing about his fans or anyone else. Also the article says Barry is not intersted in money when it comes to memorabilia. All Barry cares about is money and has pretty much said that himself in the past.

I have no use for Barry Bonds and personally hope he doesnt hit another homer ever.