Bill Mastro, Mark Theotikos and Doug Allen, former executives of Mastro Auctions, a former major vendor of sports memorabilia, were indicted in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois last week on several counts of fraud, per the New York Daily News. The charge against Mastro, Theotikos and Allen relate to the famous T206 Honus Wagner baseball card. Johannes Peter “Honus” Wagner, who was nicknamed “The Flying Dutchman,” was a shortstop for the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1897 to 1917. Wagner was considered one of the greatest players of the “dead ball” era and one of the greatest shortstops of all time. Ty Cobb referred to Wagner as “maybe the greatest star ever to take the diamond.” From 1909 to 1911, the American Tobacco Company (ATC) printed a card featuring Honus Wagner as part of its T206 series. Wagner himself objected to the production of the card in relation to promoting cigarettes, and only 57 copies are known to exist. In 2007, a T206 Honus Wagner sold for $2.8 million–the highest price ever paid for a baseball card.
Mastro, Theotikos and Allen are charged with cutting the sides of a T206 Honus Wagner card and failing to disclose the fact, which would have significantly reduced the value of the card. Mastro allegedly purchased the card for $25,000 in 1985. The card was purchased in 1991 by professional hockey legend Wayne Gretzky and Bruce McNall, owner of the Los Angeles Kings, for $451,000. The defendants have all pled not guilty.
Mastro Auctions, which generated as much as $50 million in sales per year, closed in 2009. Mastro auctioned off his legendary memorabilia collection in 2010. His counsel has made statements indicating that Mastro may be cooperating with authorities.