The Gary Cypres Q&A continues:
Q: You also see some players donate items to the Hall of Fame. But from we understand, sometimes those things get circulated in the memorabilia market, and the family can’t figure out why that happens. Is there a problem today with things on the open market that don’t belong, a need for better authentication?
A: Oh, yes. In 1999, Barry Halper, one of the most well-known collectors in the industry, became ill with cancer and died a few years later. His entire collection (above) went up for auction, but prior to doing that, he sold many of his own items to the Hall of Fame. They created a room for all of that at one point. Unfortunately, it was discovered that a lot of it was bogus. Now, this is the Hall of Fame. You’d think they’d have the ability to siphon through that. For reasons I don’t quite fathom, the Hall of Fame never made any issues about it, maybe because they were embarrassed to admit they paid millions for items that weren’t real. So, many of items that came out in the market were also bogus. Clearly, in the memorabilia field, especially 15 or 20 years ago, there weren’t the procedures, and not the sophisticated methods to verify things, including with things I owned. Remember, for the most part, we weren’t there to see the players wear these uniforms or used these gloves. I have some that are store models and no one can tell if they were used by a player in a game. You’re always looking for the providence of something but sometimes can never really tell. There’s issues, too, with autographs, too. But then a lot of authenticators have come up, and there are questions if they can do the job honestly. There are some federal cases ongoing against Mastro Auction for fraud charges, and they sold more than $40 million a year at one time. The owner has pleaded guilty and two associates have been indicted. That raises issues as to what’s good. And quite honestly, I’m sure in my own collection, I’ve got some real bogus junk in here. It happens at museums, with forgeries occurring even in the best of circumstances. Every collection, no matter how diligent you are, has some degree of fraud. One day the feds contacted me and told me a couple of items I had were fraudulent. I told them, ‘Thank you very much,’ and they actually sent some people to jail for that.
Q: It’s part of the business you find in dealing with art, wine, books … all things collectable?
A: There’s a huge issue with wine right now about bogus labeling. Look, every collector runs the risk of this happening. But like everything in life, there’s a risk. Hopefully, it’s not too bad and inflation and price increases offset the losses you take. You hope it all balances out.
But you still have the joy of collecting, right? That never goes away. What’s that worth? I don’t know. Would I ever change anything? No.
Q: What, then, are the key personality traits for someone who to become a sports collector – patience, skepticism, sentimentality?
A: It’s insanity. You missed that one (laughing). There’s a loose screw up in your head. You had all the nice things there. Face it, to collect on a major scale you have to be slightly insane. I won’t run away from that. I readily admit to being a little nuts in this area. But I don’t know a serious collector who isn’t a little irrational about all this. The auction houses are very smart. One thing they like about live auctions versus Internet auctions is this loss of discipline that occurs even with the most sophisticated business people. Two guys bidding against each other can go way over the value of something being auctioned. In any other situation, they would not let their associates do something like that. But they wind up overspending. That’s their joy. That’s human nature. We appreciate that we have excesses in live.
Q: And maybe buyer’s remorse too?
A: You always have that, and then buyer’s joy. I gotta tell you, sometimes it’s: “Why did it do that? (groaning). I promised myself not to do this. Now what do I do?” Five years later, it’s: “What a smart thing. Look how much it went up in price.” Remorse can turn into euphoria as things turn out. How do you know?
Q: Are you also driven by the fact your mom probably threw away all your baseball cards when you were a kid?
A: Oh, definitely. But then, if all the moms kept them, they wouldn’t be worth anything like they are today. Scarcity creates value, remember? I tell people, don’t feel bad. If there were hundreds of one card left, the one you had wouldn’t be worth as much.