Category Archives: Fakes and Frauds
Deceptively Authentic: Always Practice Due Diligence Before Buying
In the past several months, Chevrons and Diamonds has fielded several inquiries from interested collectors, baseball and militaria collectors and potential buyers regarding a vintage military baseball uniform group that has been listed online for months with an asking price nearing $9000.00.
After glancing at the listing’s photos, the jersey, trousers, and ball cap uniform grouping is quite remarkable in terms of condition and authenticity. The Rawlings manufacturer’s tags in both the jersey and trousers are what one would expect to see in a flannel set from the 1940s. The Special Services U.S. Army tags are also correct for the era. The dark blue (nearly black), six-panel ball cap with white soutache applied to the panel seams is also a fantastic piece, featuring Wilson’s own Special Services U.S. Army tag. There is nothing about the group that would be cause for concern. Issues lie within how the uniform group is presented to potential buyers.
Buy the item, not the story.
Collectors are often lulled into overspending or making foolish purchases for items that are presented with a fantastic narrative from the seller. Often, the stories are so incredibly concocted that even the most seasoned collectors set aside reason in order to make a dream acquisition.
While it is quite easy to lambaste sellers who present wonderful stories, they are not necessarily the authors of the stories they associate with their items. However, for those who do concoct narratives and combine them with incredibly inflated prices, it is not a difficult step to call attention to nefarious activities.
“WW2 U.S. 3rd Army Baseball Championship Nurnberg, Germany Soldiers Field August 7, 8, & 9th 1945 Uniform Jersey, Pants, & Cap of 76th Infantry 3rd Army Baseball Player Lawrence James McNeely #4 (b. 26 Oct 1919 – d. 7 June 2002) US Army Service from 28 Dec 1942 – 28 Jan 1946. The uniform jersey is tagged ‘Rawlings St. Louis U.S. Army Special Services Size 42’ and remains in fine condition, the trousers are similarly tagged in size 34 also remain in fine condition, and the cap is tagged ‘Special Service U.S. Army Wilson’ (larger size) Lawrence “Larry” McNeely additionally played Minor League Baseball in 1941 for Sioux Falls and again in 1946 / 47 St. Cloud and 1948 St. Hyacinthe. McNeely went on to study law and had a law practice until retirement. Estate of Lawrence J. McNeely (SIC)”eBay seller, tortugaacquisitions, August 25, 2022
The uniform is authentic, but when was it used?
Emblazoned across the front of the size-42 jersey in royal blue block letters between two equal length horizontal bars, “THIRD ARMY” is spelled out quite beautifully. Flanking each edge of the button placket are two thin black rayon soutache strands that encircle the standard open collar. The sleeves feature single strands of the same material placed approximately 3/4-inch from the cuff edges. Sewn to the jersey’s back is a single numeral, “4,” in royal blue, corresponding to the front lettering. The matching size-34 trousers lack adornments entirely.
None of the pieces in the group are marked with the player’s name, Army laundry tag or anything that could assist in identifying the veteran who wore it. The seller implies, though never explicitly states, that the group came from a known professional ballplayer, Lawrence J. “Larry” McNeely, “Estate of Lawrence J. McNeely,” but fails to provide any provenance in the listing, which should be a red flag for potential buyers. Also provided with the listing images is a “borrowed” image of the Third Army Championship scorecard from our online library. The auction item’s description also includes sourced text from one of our articles describing the Third Army Championship Series games, appearing to many who have reached out to us to be an implied Chevrons and Diamonds authentication of the seller’s listing.
Regardless of the price tag of the item, collectors must perform their due diligence prior to making a purchase. So far, many are taking steps to research this Third Army baseball uniform group before being drawn into a heavily overpriced group. One of the overarching questions regarding the authenticity of the auction listing posed to Chevrons and Diamonds focuses on the assertion that this group was worn for the Third Army Championship.
“WW2 U.S. 3rd Army Baseball Championship Nurnberg, Germany Soldiers Field August 7, 8, & 9th 1945 Uniform Jersey, Pants, & Cap of 76th Infantry 3rd Army Baseball Player Lawrence James McNeely #4”
Regarding the 1945 Third Army Championship game between the 71st Infantry Division’s Red Circlers and the 76th Infantry Division’s Onaways, only the victorious team would go on to wear uniforms emblazoned with Third Army adornments in the 1945 GI World Series. Erroneously suggested by the seller, 76th ID player McNeely wore this uniform in the losing effort against the Red Circlers.
Another issue with the seller’s listing resides in the false claim that the uniform dates to 1945. Unfortunately for the seller, and quite fortunate for potential buyers, a verified and named example of an actual 1945 Third Army Champions jersey exists and was sold through Goldin Auctions on January 29, 2017. The jersey and trousers, coincidently bearing the same Rawlings and Special Services U.S. Army tags, were worn by Red Circlers (and former St. Louis Cardinals) catcher, Herb Bremer. Both the jersey and trousers are named (the trousers are named to Red Circlers first baseman Milt Ticco, likely provided to Bremer during the GI World Series).
Some behind the scenes collector speculation surrounding the auction listing is that the uniform group might date to the following season, when some former major and minor league players were still serving a full year after the German surrender. While it certainly is an avenue worthy of exploration, this particular road leads to an abrupt end for two reasons. First, following Larry McNeely’s January, 1946 discharge from the Army, his professional baseball career was reinstated on February 8, 1946 as he resumed play with the class “C” Northern League’s St. Cloud Rox, which eliminates him from having worn the uniform that year. The second and more defining reason is that the 60th Infantry Regiment “Go-Devils” team, featuring former Philadelphia Athletics pitcher Carl Scheib (see: Pro Ball Players Still Filled Army Rosters in 1946: “Go Devils” G.I. World Series Champs), wore an entirely different Third Army championship uniform.
In answering a frequent follow-up question as to the seller’s false usage assertion, the year that this grouping was worn is not specifically known. The immaculate condition of the material, including the apparent absence of dirt or grass stains, could indicate that the uniform was unused and not worn by any ballplayer. While post-war occupation duties continued for the U.S. Armed Forces, the Third Army was recalled back to the United States in 1947. Perhaps the veteran who owned this group was discharged following the Third Army’s transition back the States.
Originally sold through Manion’s in 1992
The seller’s inference that the uniform group originated in McNeely’s estate is a false claim. While we are unaware of how the group reached the current owner’s possession, we do know the person who owned it in May-June of 2021 when he had it listed at auction. That particular seller, “Stan” (we will not disclose his full identity), had also listed the group as the 1945 Third Army Champions.
“This is unquestionably one of the RAREST and UNIQUE items I acquired in 25+ years of collecting: A COMPLETE 3rd Army Baseball uniform, as worn during the Occupation of Germany following VE-Day! I was lucky enough to be the successful bidder for the uniform in the late, great Manion’s International Auction back on September 26, 1992, almost thirty years ago! Since that time, it’s been carefully stored in a mothproof environment in my storage. The 3rd Army “Red Circlers” of the 71st Infantry Division went on to win the “1945 GI World Series” in the sixth game at Soldier’s Field in Nuremberg, no doubt to the great satisfaction of General George S. Patton, Jr. Unfortunately, I was unable to locate a team roster to determine who wore number 4, so if anyone has access to that roster, I would appreciate hearing from you.
The uniform is comprised of the following items:
(1) A wool worsted jersey, number “4” on the back, size 42″ chest;
(2) A pair of wool worsted “knicker” style baseball pants, size 34″ waist;
(3) A wool worsted baseball cap, size 7-1/4 to 7-3/8; and
(4) A pair of modern baseball “cleats”, size 10-11, which I wore during my play in American Legion baseball. All three uniform items are labeled “Special Services U.S. Army” (see images).
The jersey and pants were manufactured by Rawlings and are so labeled in the neck and waist band, respectively. The cap was manufactured by Wilson Sports Equipment and is labeled in the leather sweatband. The actual measurements of the jersey lying flat are as follows: (1) Chest 22.5″ from armpit to armpit; (2) Short sleeves 9.25″; (3) Waist 23″; and Overall length 31″. The actual measurements of the pants are as follows: (1) Waist 34″; Inseam 24″; and Overall or “Outseam” length 33.5″. The uniform will easily fit a man of 6′ and 180 pounds, perhaps heavier if slim at the waist. The uniform is in VERY GOOD condition with minor soiling here and there and slight yellowing of the white wool, but nothing unattractive. The cap still has strong dark blue color with a supple leather sweatband.”eBay seller, stan****, May 28, 2021
Following a lengthy exchange of correspondence with the seller, he recognized that the uniform group he acquired from Manion’s in 1992 was from a later year following the 1946 season and corrected his listing to reflect the information we provided regarding the 1945 and 1946 teams and their respective uniforms.
Upon seeing tortugaacquisitions’ listing, we contacted and provided the seller with the correct information along with a request for cessation of incorporating our content into the listing. Rather than responding or taking corrective action, the seller blocked our account, preventing the receipt of further communication from us.
It is unfortunate that individuals and businesses knowingly present false information to defraud buyers while garnering considerable, ill-gained profit. The motivations of tortugaacquisitions are entirely unknown to us and we will refrain from making accusations of fraud or intentionally misleading claims regarding this or any other listings by the seller. One of the primary objectives of Chevrons and Diamonds is to provide our readers with research data, photographic evidence and artifacts serving as a trusted, reliable and growing reference resource.
Vintage Military Baseball Fakery: Straight Deception or a Picker’s Ignorance?
Once again, fraud being perpetrated upon the unsuspecting collectors is pushing me to expose the deed and provide a measure of awareness for those who are unfamiliar with collecting baseball militaria. Online sellers, predominantly within the liar-laden sphere of auctions in what is known as eBay. Fraud and deception are so rampant and blatant that the company that facilitates criminals and deceivers also has in place a substantial program to thwart them after the transactions have been completed. With an item, such as the subject of this article is addressing, is listed for sale, it is incumbent upon the buyer to perform due diligence before pulling the trigger to bid or click the “buy it now” (BIN) button as the folks at eBay lack the expertise to discern fakes from real artifacts.
I have written several pieces regarding fraudulent military baseballs being sold online (see: Fake Military Baseballs) where I have covered many features that are consistent among faked balls. The sellers, hoping to capitalize upon the emotions of the prospective buyers by listing one of the most difficult-to-find artifacts from this time in baseball history, love to capitalize on the understanding that there are so few authentic items with which to perform comparative analysis. In the absence of genuine artifacts for verification, common sense should prevail as one analyzes the artifact using the details presented in the listing.
The latest example of a fraudulent military baseball is listed by a seller with nearly 5,000 transactions and 100% rating which certainly lends a certain measure of credence to the listing. However, one cannot rely solely upon the seller’s positive sales history to lend credibility any item that is listed. Not to disparage the seller and accuse them of intentional fraud as it is quite possible that the item was obtained from a reputable source.
STAMPED U S M C
FROM ESTATE OF VETERANS MARINE
IN WELL PLAYED CONDITION BALL
The description indicates that the seller obtained the ball from a veteran’s estate. One can only assume that the ball was either given to the veteran or he purchased it from a source that was in the business of faking baseballs for profit. What the eBay seller is guilty of doing, at the very least, is perpetuating deception by pushing the bad ball back onto the market and validating it by associating the listing alongside his lengthy, credible sales history.
As with all of the other faked examples that have been on the market over the last decade, this baseball does nothing to set itself apart from the fraud-field, aside from the use of “U. S. M. C.” stamped on one of the panels. On the surface, this might seem to be a legitimate mark as the unsuspecting buyer would assume that the Marine Corps applied this stamp to every piece of issued gear. In giving the benefit of doubt and accepting this marking at face-value, one would have to ignore that the baseball has two diverging planes of use and aging. In addition, the USMC stamp itself would not have made an appearance on the baseball as these were not “issued” by the Corps or sourced by the War Department for the military supply system.
Visible above (and to the left) of the USMC stamping are faint markings that are residual from the manufacturer’s marks (also stamped onto the baseball with an ink stamp) – though the mark is indistinguishable for identification purposes. Due to wear (either from game-use or synthetic as part of the faking process), the manufacturer’s mark is nearly eliminated which then calls into question the Marine Corps stamp. With such heavy usage and staining, how is the Marines stamp so vivid and showing very minimal wear?
It is quite obvious that the USMC lettering was applied after most of the original wear. Aside from the aging (it has been roughed up after the stamp was applied), the stamp shows that it was applied twice, possibly in an attempt to obtain better coverage for the letter “C” while leaving a sloppy, unprofessional marking.
The issues with the ball are substantial and call into question the validity of the seller’s claims. Besides the concerns regarding the apparent synthetic aging and that there are no existing valid examples of any baseballs bearing the USMC marking, the seller’s actions displayed within the listing are enough to steer anyone away from submitting a bid. Authentic military baseballs (such as those provided to the troops by the Professional Base Ball Fund that were marked accordingly) are valued in the $40-70 range, condition-dependent. This seller has this faked ball listed with a starting bid of $150. Along with the price gouging, the exorbitant shipping costs coupled with the seller’s no-returns policy are both red flags.
It is difficult to determine where the deception lies with this auction listing. What is certain is that potential buyers need to perform their due diligence before they decide to pursue such purported artifacts – especially when they are as overly-priced as this one. As an aside, I did reach out to the seller to provide the reasons supporting my recommendations that the auction listing be discontinued and the ball destroyed. Expecting to receive some sort of pushback in response to the message, I was surprised that the seller considered the information that I provided. In addition to the reasons that I listed in my message as to the why the ball is not genuine, I also recommended that it not be sold to prevent it from being used to defraud another interested party. The seller’s response was to merely reduce the opening bid amount by $100 and to cherry-pick some of the details from my email.
Photography Class: A Negative Original: Vintage Photo Fraud
Collectors are always learning and developing their expertise as they progress and grow their collection. Some areas of collecting have many pratfalls and entrapments that can draw us in and cause us to set aside certain obvious indicators when the item is something that is truly eye-catching. Vintage photograph collecting is an area of collecting that has been a long-standing pursuit, commencing well ahead of my militaria and military baseball interests, several decades ago. In addition, I have years of experience in the darkroom and digital studio directly pertinent to vintage photograph reproduction, editing, repairing and restoring that has served me very well in steering clear of the entrapments and obvious fakes and fraudulent photographs that dominate the hobby.
Before I delve too far into the subject of this article, I will insert a caveat – a rather significant one at that – I do not profess to be an expert in the realm of vintage photograph collecting. Though my collection of vintage prints (military baseball in particular) numbers in the hundreds, I am still learning. There are collectors that possess exceedingly greater knowledge that I tap into in hopes of preventing myself from being a victim of a seller’s ignorance or deception.
Though I have been focusing my photograph interest in the realm of military baseball, one ballplayer who, a professional prior to World War II, traded his San Francisco Seals flannels for the olive drab wool uniform of the Army Air Forces along with the flannels of a few USAAF ball clubs. Ferris Fain, following his three-plus years of wartime service, returned to the Seals for the 1946 season before being signed by Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics, commencing his major league (if not somewhat mercurial) career in 1947. When I saw an image of Fain in his third All Star Game (1952) posed along with Al Rosen, Dom DiMaggio, Eddie Yost and Mickey Mantle, I foolishly ignored certain aspects of the photograph along with my own gut instinct before I commenced my pursuit.
The photograph has everything; three prominent stars of the game including the greatest Yankees center fielder, snapped at the All Star pregame festivities and four men who served during World War II (Mantle being the exception). Though the image was taken well after the war, it still had great baseball militaria-appeal. However, the principal factor for pursuing the photograph was centered on the As first baseman, Fain.
The seller’s description (and his 100% rating over a few thousand transactions) was a good sign.
“This is an 10×8 original photo from the negative of Ferris Fain, 1947-1955 with a .290 life time batting average. 2 time batting champ . Al Rosen, 1947-1956 .285 life time batting average. 5 years in a row 100 + Rbi’s. In 1953 he had 201 hits, 115 runs, league high 43 home runs and 145 Rbi’s. He also batted for a .336 average and was league MVP. Dom DiMaggio, 1940-1953 with a .298 life time batting average. 6 time 100 + runs. Brother of Vince and Joe DiMaggio. Eddie Yost, 1944-1962 with a .254 life time batting average. 5 times 100 + runs and 8 times 100 + walks. Hall of Famer Mickey Mantle, 1951-1968 with a .298 life time batting average. 536 home runs. 3 time MVP. Thank you for stopping by. At my Ebay Store I have autographed historical books, sports art work, cards, photos, photo negatives, autographed 16×20 photos, Hollywood and music stars, records and autographs. Buy 5 or more items and shipping is free.”
Even in the listing’s field stating if something is new or original, this seller indicated that the photo was not a new print. As with so many other vintage images that I have purchased at online auction, all previous sellers were quite accurate with both this field and their description. In hindsight, I should have sought specificity, avoiding what I now see as ambiguity with the the way the photo was listed.
When the photo arrived and I saw it with my eyes, I knew that I had been taken. The image was not only a copy, it wasn’t even a copy of an original or 2nd generation print. This photo was a copy of an image that had been published in a newspaper or magazine. To boot, the source that was duplicated still had tape-residue (as seen on Mickey’s legs at the bottom right of the image) which was discernible in the auction listing and I overlooked it.
When examining the photo with my naked eye, I could see the poor contrast (not always a sign but a good starting point in factoring originality) as pro-photographers produced crisp, high contrast images without fail. I noticed an overall lack of crispness to the image. When I scanned it (at 1200 optical dpi), immediately discernible was the screen pattern (dots) that are part of the mass-production from printing plates (halftoning).
My disappointment was substantial. The photograph was such a nice capture of the American League batting stars of the 1952 season and it truly would have been a great addition to my growing Ferris Fain collection but being so deceived took every bit of the shine off the photo. When I requested a refund, the seller wasn’t in any hurry to rectify the situation other than to offer a refund but the shipping was on my dime. I typically try to give people the benefit of doubt and I thought of the possibility that he didn’t know that the image was not what he had listed. However, when he responded, he insisted that HE printed the photo from the “original negative.” I knew then that he was in the photo duplication business and had no problem using deception with his listings and that his customers were happy with his work or completely unsuspecting.
Rather than ship the photo back and see it re-listed to defraud another photo collector, I am keeping it to serve as an example of how easily fooled anyone can be (even me). However, this seller could simply make more prints defeating my decision to keep this one off the market. I will continue to watch this seller and call him out if I see him continue to fraudulently list “original” photographs. For now, I am leaving him anonymous.