A couple of weeks ago now, Cardboard Connection's legal analyst, attorney, Paul Lesko, was doing some research and fact checking into a follow-up on a case involving four sports memorabilia dealers convicted of various fraud charges related to the sale of bogus sports memorabilia. In so doing, he came across an interview with one of the defendants that alleges some pretty damning charges against the trading card manufacturers and Upper Deck in particular.
You can read the whole article here and listen to a spirited discussion on the topic on last Wednesday night's Cardboard Connection Radio show here. Since that time, we have invited the trading card manufacturers to make a statement about these allegations. To date, we have not heard one single tangible comment other than from Panini's Tracy Hackler who said the company will be making a statement at some point in the future. In all fairness, Donruss was the company mentioned which as you know, is no longer a legal entity.
The crux of the issue came to a head with this comment in the FBI interview with Authentic Sports Investment's (ASI) owner, Brad Wells, where he states the following:
"WELLS was asked if the card companies knew that what he was selling to them was not game used. WELLS said that the card companies were too smart to put their beliefs in writing but they knew a lot of what they were buying from resellers like WELLS was not game used. WELLS recalled a conversation he had with UPPER DECK buyer MIKE O'GRADY at the Anaheim, California National Sports Collectors Convention approximately three years ago. During the conversation, O'GRADY told WELLS that UPPER DECK needed eight DEREK JETER jerseys and they were willing to pay between $1,000 and $1,200 each. WELLS told O'GRADY that he was paying between $3,500 and $5,000 for JETER jerseys from STEINER SPORTS and STEINER SPORTS obtained their JETER jerseys directly from the New York Yankees. WELLS told O'GRADY that by only paying $1,200 for JETER jerseys, UPPER DECK was inviting fraud. O'GRADY said that UPPER DECK knew what they were getting, but they needed the JETER jerseys at the minimum price."
In my most humble of opinions, this is pretty damning stuff at the worst and reputation damaging at the least. The alleged activities took place from 2005 - 2009 and would include some of my favorite Upper Deck products of all time. While all the manufacturers were named, it appears that it was specifically Upper Deck that was willing to "play ball".
We as collectors deserve a statement, an explanation, a promise of remedy, something, ANYTHING, but all we have received so far is silence in the hopes that we as collectors are too ignorant or uniformed to know or care about the issue in the hopes that it will just go away.
It's not going to go away. Not if collectors inundate Upper Deck for answers. Knowing the financial straits they have found themselves in as of late, and in light of these allegations and their guilty verdict in a previous counterfeiting case (Yu-Gi-Hh) how does it make you feel about their $570 hockey product, The Cup, their $610 football product, Exquisite, and their $675 basketball product Fleer Retro?
Your turn. What do you think after reading or listening to the aforementioned information?