Seized Baseball Memorabilia Up for Auction

By Lauren Wanko

It’s all up for auction — a baseball autographed by the legendary Mickey Mantel, a Yankees bat signed by just about player on the team in 1996, when they won the World Series.

“We have a signed Sandy Koufax baseball player with a certificate of authenticity,” said Ron Caspert.

The Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office is auctioning off about 750 pieces of baseball memorabilia tomorrow at the County Police Academy in Mahwah. These bats, jackets and baseballs have been sitting in the evidence vault since 2007. The Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office seized the items when law enforcement busted an illegal prescription drug ring. Normally, the Prosecutor’s Office auctions seized items like cars, but never baseball memorabilia.

“Definitely uncharted territory for me, but I had to do something because we didn’t want to destroy it because we could have been destroying something that could help defray the cost taxpayers pay for law enforcement,” Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli said.

So Molinelli hired Drew Max, a Las Vegas-based authenticator, and shipped the material to Nevada to be examined. That process took about a month. Only 25 percent of the memorabilia was deemed authentic. All the phony material will be burned.

“I think the reason 25 percent came back was because I told him I want to be absolutely sure it’s authentic is when I met with Max I said that I was going to be the best customer he ever had because he deals with customers that are begging him to authenticate something. I said I am not that way, I want you to be absolutely sure on your authentication. He is so absolute on this that if there ever is a challange to anything that is sold at the auction, at no cost to the county he will come to New Jersey to defend its authenticity,” said Molinelli.

As the auction approaches, other authenticators have criticized Max’s prior work. The prosecutor says he’s not surprised skeptics are speaking out.

“It’s a very competitive industry. I think if I went to every authenticator in the country, sooner or later there would be a claim,” Molinelli said.

The Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office has received more than 100 calls leading up to the auction. The items will be displayed in this room tomorrow. An online auction will be simulcast at the same time as the live one. So what will the high bid be for this baseball?

“You could say X and I can say it’s worth two times that but at the auctions, it’s gonna bring the real price,” said Caspert.

All the auction’s proceeds will end up in the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Forfeited Assets Account. That money can generally only be used for law enforcement purchases like police cars, along with training. The live auction starts at 11 a.m. tomorrow.