Halper bashers have their own agenda …


   I saw on a thread on one of the collecting forums where somebody alluded to Barry Halper and offered a view that the famed collector’s credibility had taken a hit in recent months with all of the online meanderings about the provenance of some of the items in the 1999 auction.
   Gone now all of five years, it’s more than a little annoying to see one of the genuine hobby icons getting pummeled in online forums in a situation where he can’t defend himself. Such is our system that the dead wind up being largely defenseless and without much recourse even when a lifetime’s work – or hobby – comes under attack.
   So let’s be as clear as we can about all these rumblings about the authenticity of some of the pieces in that historic 1999 auction at Sotheby’s. Even before the first lot was hammered down that September in New York City, hobby insiders knew that there were likely going to be pieces that weren’t precisely as described. You can’t put tens of thousands of items into a once-in-lifetime mega-auction over the course of a single week and not expect that there would be issues and often disagreement.
   What seems to get lost in our tawdry, decade-later review of Halper material is the realization and understanding that at the time of the sale, the very finest dealers and auctioneers in the country provided the very best authentication that they could with the information and technology that was available at the time.
   That’s another big part of what frosts my grommet about this frenzy of Halper bashing: It’s not just his good name and reputation that are getting smeared, it’s the good name and reputations of a whole battalion of people who worked on that epic auction.
   There was no greater baseball scholar than Halper and his love of baseball history was at least the equal of his affection for the stuff that so eloquently represented and recounted it. The obvious inference from the online assaults is that notion that details of a piece might have been fudged or overlooked in order to either: a) attach greater historical significance and provenance to something otherwise undeserving; or b) enhance the monetary gain from the sale.
   I submit that from what we know of Barry Halper and the aforementioned battalion of experts who labored on behalf of that auction, we have no right 11 years later – or any other time, for that matter – to impugn their integrity based on new evidence that comes to light.
   If, in fact, the provenance is faulty for some of the items, it should be perfectly legitimate to revise the prevailing assessment of an historical artifact without trashing the person who owned it at one time or another or the experts who in good faith examined it way back when.
   The vitriol that has been directed toward the hobby pioneer can be far better understood with the realization that the people and organizations engineering it have an agenda or their own that is far more intricate than simply correcting the public record about a piece of memorabilia.
   There’s a couple of important things we need to remember in all this: Barry Halper’s reputation as perhaps the most important collector in hobby history ought to be far more resilient than to be capriciously sullied five years after his passing. And the “revelations” that seem to be oozing out of the cyber-marshland ought to be assessed for what they are: an orchestrated attempt to discredit an important hobby figure for reasons that fall far short of championing the public good.
   I don’t like hidden agendas. Not even from me. Barry Halper was my friend, but I’d like to think I’d be grousing about this latest bit of nasty business even if we had merely been acquaintances.
   We ought to pay as much respect to the memories and reputations of those was have passed just as we would to our own.


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9 thoughts on “Halper bashers have their own agenda …

  1. Ron on said:


    This article makes me think of how the Ty Cobb family felt beginning in December 1961, when Al Stump wrote that fantasy article about him in True Magazine. Ty Cobb had only been dead for 5 months. Stump’s article was the beginning of a 50 year decline in Ty Cobb’s reputation, based on lies, deceit, forgeries, theft and fraud. You must know that Barry Halper was a part of this deceit, as was proven in my recent article:


    It is impossible to conclude that Halper was an innocent victim and not a willing accomplice. Who knows what his motives were.

    My article was published by the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) in the August 2010 issue of The National Pastime. More than one reader has told me that it was the best researched and the best written article they have ever read. I invite you to read it, and make your comments known.

    Ron Cobb

  2. John Bateman on said:

    From what I Heard the FBI was investigating

  3. Major Elvis Newton on said:

    I don’t get it. What’s the hidden agenda? What a worthless response to some outstanding research by Ron Cobb (and others).

  4. Jason Christopherson on said:

    A few comments:

    1. I’m far from a hobby insider, but I would think the news that one of the most important auctions in sports memorabilia history may have some items that "weren’t precisely as described" would make it to the pages of SCD in a timely manner. I’m not saying SCD didn’t report it, but I believe I would have remembered if it did.

    2. I’m still not sure what exactly the hidden agenda is from all of these bashers. I guess that’s why it’s hidden. I view it as a collaborative effort to find the truth rather than a conspiracy.

    3. Commenter Ron Cobb, fellow SABR-ite (and an amazing researcher, I will add), is dead-on by saying that it is impossible to know what Halper’s role was in this. I really, really want to believe that he was just a trustworthy person who accepted people and stories at face value. This post doesn’t sway me to that side, much to my disappointment. In fact, it only scolds me for considering the other side. You make a great point by saying it was authenticated (admittedly quickly) by the best information available at the time. But I’m not going to close my eyes to new technology and countless hours of research just to try to preserve what I HOPE is true.

    The hobby’s fascination with the collection is not just the items themselves–it is that one person was able to accumulate them. You didn’t see an article or TV spot just looking through the stuff without also including a "how/why did you get THIS?" question of Mr. Halper. Mr. Halper was given all the deserved accolades and more when he was alive because he will always be tied to this collection. Unfortunately for him, those ties also bind him to the possibility that maybe he knew some of his things either were fakes or stolen. As Mr. Cobb said, we don’t know. Like you, I can only hope Mr. Halper, too, was a victim.

  5. Calling Halper a great historian demeans those who really were. He was a collector who sold suspect items.

  6. No Hidden Agenda on said:

    Really, T. S., what is the hidden agenda? Ron’s excellent research demolished the provenance of the Cobb items Halper obtained from Stump. That Halper was taken in and accepted the items at face value is not remarkable; he was a collector, not a historian. I’m sure he got the materials at a price that, for him, fully discounted the possibility they were fakes. I’m positive that if he were alive today he’d remove them from his collection or at least document them for what they were. How does this in any way demean Halper? You may be taking offense at the suggestion that he wasn’t a careful researcher, but he wasn’t, that’s been proven beyond a doubt. He was just a collector with a lot of dough. He collected some cool stuff, and some stuff that was bogus. What’s the big deal?

  7. Alex Jones on said:

    Obviously, the Reptilian Humanoids are behind the evil forum posts.

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