Barry Halper (December 3, 1939 – December 18, 2005) was an extensive collector of baseball memorabilia who had been a limited partner owning about 1% of the New York Yankees. During the auction of Halper's collection, Sotheby's Auction House called it the "World Series of Sports Auctions."
Halper lied to reporter Robert Creamer about playing baseball for the University of Miami; Halper never played for the team. Halper compounded this lie by stating that his baseball coach at the University of Miami was former major leaguer and Hall of Famer Jimmy Foxx. In fact, Foxx had retired as a coach several months before Halper enrolled at the school.
Halper also told conflicting stories about his acquisition of a 1919 Joe Jackson jersey, which in 2011 was revealed as a forgery. Halper at different times stated that he'd bought the jersey in the 1950s from Joe Jackson's widow, and told others that he'd bought it in the 1990s from Jackson's heirs through the mail. Halper himself was directly involved in forging these items, and used his clout in the collecting community and his status as a limited partner in the New York Yankees' organization to lend an air of credence to these forgeries. Many items in Halper's collection were also stolen in the 1970s and 1980s from public libraries. Halper's name was removed from the "Memories of a Lifetime" exhibit at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2011.
A resident of the New Vernon section of Harding Township, New Jersey at the time of his death, Halper had been a longtime resident of Livingston, New Jersey. George Steinbrenner called Halper "a great baseball fan" who was a "dear friend, a valued partner for many years and a decent, genuine person".
Barry was close friends with many baseball legends including Joe DiMaggio, Micky Mantle, Pete Rose, Don Mattingly and Tommy Lasorda, among other professional athletes, who regularly visited his home to admire the world's most impressive baseball collection. His wife Sharon would cook special meals for those who came to visit "The Cooperstown of New Jersey" in their Livingston home.
Halper had two other passions: Sharing his baseball stories and relationships with the local community at annual round table discussions at Temple B'Nai Abraham and The Burn Center at Saint Barnabas Medical Center. A member of the hospital's board of directors, he helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars. And when an organization would ask to showcase some of his memorabilia at an event, he would agree while making one request of the group: to make a donation to the burn center. "He always put that Burn Center at Saint Barnabas above everything else," said Marty Appel the Yankees' former public relations director. "He never had a family member at the unit, he just had a great affection for his hometown hospital where he eventually died at."
Halper's baseball memorabilia collection was thought of as the finest, being both extensive and unusual. Many items, such as the uncut strip of T-206 cards with a Honus Wagner, were one of a kind. Halper's collection was housed in his basement, which had been outfitted like a small museum, including a hidden switch to a swing open panel, behind which were some of his most game-worn jerseys of famous players. The collection of game used jerseys included the only known examples of such players as Pud Galvin, Christy Mathewson, Cap Anson, King Kelly, Dan Brouthers, and the famed trio of Tinker / Evers / Chance. The infamous Joe Jackson was represented with jerseys from his minor league team as well as his Cleveland Indians jersey. The collection of dead ball era player jerseys was unrivaled.
Some of the notable items in Halper's collection included:
- Ty Cobb's 1928 autographed Philadelphia Athletics Jersey. (Sold for over 300,000 USD.)
- Lou Gehrig's last baseball glove. (Sold for nearly 400,000 USD.)
- Cap Anson's Chicago White Sox jersey
- A glove from Mickey Mantle. (Purchased by Billy Crystal for over 230,000 USD.)
- Mickey Mantle's 1956 New York Yankees World Series ring.
- The 1920 signed sale agreement that marked Babe Ruth's sale by the Boston Red Sox, to the Yankees
- A 1903 ticket to the first World Series.
- Lou Gehrig's 1930's Yankees hat.
- Ty Cobb's dentures.
- King Kelly's New York jersey
- Christy Mathewson's first minor league jersey (Taunton)
Following the Sotheby's auction, Halper remarked:
|“||It makes me feel so proud that my collection will be carried on by everyone who participated in the past week's sale. I am also glad that the Hall of Fame has part of my collection where it will reside in perpetuity.||”|
Sotheby's released a three-volume book, The Barry Halper Collection of Baseball Memorabilia, that included over 1,500 color photographs of the collection, giving history for many of the items, details about Halper's collection through the years, and a history of baseball.
In 1998, Halper sold the collection, with Major League Baseball purchasing many items, donating them to the Baseball Hall of Fame. The rest were auctioned off by Sotheby's for a record 21.8 million USD.
In October 2010, Hall of Fame spokesman Brad Horn told the New York Post that a Halper-donated jersey, supposedly worn by Shoeless Joe Jackson, was a fake. Horn stated that the logo utilized acrylic coloring first created in 1941. The jersey had been removed from display in 2008. Issues of authenticity have been raised with other auctioned items, including items purported to belong to Cy Young, Joe Dimaggio, Mickey Mantle, Ty Cobb, and others.
Subsequent reports alleged that certain of items in Halper's collection at some point in time were stolen from the Baseball Hall of Fame, the New York Public Library, or other institutions. There have also been allegations that items in his collection were stolen from the wives or family members of deceased baseball stars.
These accusations have been made almost exclusively by Peter Nash, a former rapper-turned-memorabilia collector, culminating in an article that Mr. Nash wrote for the New York Post in July 2011. The New York Post published some of the very same accusations, but they have since removed Mr. Nash's entire article from its website .
Murray Chass, the long-time baseball writer for the New York Times, opined that Mr. Nash's article in the New York Post was "journalistically indefensible" and "defamed the late Barry Halper." Mr. Nash's credibility and motivations against Halper have been questioned, given that he has been involved in a long-running litigation with the memorabilia auction house that was instrumental in preparing, organizing, and cataloging Halper's memorabilia auction at Sotheby's in 1999. In that litigation, Mr. Nash admitted in court papers to committing fraud against the auction house, and he invoked the Fifth Amendment in response to questions about his own memorabilia transactions to avoid incriminating himself. An outstanding arrest warrant for Mr. Nash exists in connection with that litigation. Others prominent journalists, including Murray Chass and Sports Illustrated have raised doubts about Nash's motivations.
- Associated Press (December 19, 2005). "Baseball collector Barry Halper dies". USA Today. Retrieved November 17, 2007.
- Collectors Universe, Inc. (1999). "Sotheby's Wins World Series Of Sports Auctions: Barry Halper Collection Totals $21,812,577". Collectors Universe, Inc. Archived from the original on February 8, 2008. Retrieved November 17, 2007.
- Shouler, Ken. "Diamond Dreams: Baseball Memorabilia", Cigar Aficionado, September / October 1987. Accessed February 24, 2011. "Born Dec. 3, 1939, Barry Halper grew up near Rupert [sic] Stadium, a semipro baseball park in Newark, New Jersey."
- Ron Kaplan (2005). "Sports memorabilia maven Barry Halper is remembered for what he gave". New Jersey Jewish News. Retrieved October 24, 2008.
- Goldstein, Richard. "Barry Halper, Baseball Memorabilia Collector, Dies at 66", The New York Times, December 20, 2005. Accessed February 24, 2011. "He once owned at least 80,000 baseball items, most having been displayed at his former home in Livingston, where a visitor pressing the front doorbell heard a rendition of 'Take Me Out to the Ballgame.'"
- via Associated Press. "Barry Halper, noted memorabilia collector, dies at 66", ESPN, December 19, 2005. Accessed February 24, 2011.
- Goldstein, Richard. "Barry Halper, Baseball Memorabilia Collector, Dies at 66"
- "Barry Halper Obit".
- Sotheby's, Sotheby's (1999). The Barry Halper Collection of Baseball Memorabilia. New York: Sotheby's. pp. 930 pages. ISBN 978-0-9622588-7-9.
- Golenbock, Peter (2000). Barry Halper Collection of Baseball Memorabilia. New York: Harry N. Abrams. pp. 928 pages. ISBN 978-0-8109-6704-5.
- Bill Sanderson (2010). "Sox your knockoff". New York Post. Archived from the original on 14 November 2010. Retrieved November 10, 2010.
- Staff Report (2010). "The Top 10 Fakes and Frauds in the Barry Halper Baseball Collection". Hauls of Shame weblog. Archived from the original on 15 November 2010. Retrieved November 10, 2010.
- Michael O'Keefe (2005). "DiMaggio mitt at center of latest memorabilia firestorm". Daily News (New York). Retrieved March 4, 2011.
- Michael O'Keefe (2003). "Buyer Beware: Crystal's glove affair a lesson for Mantle Auction". New York Daily News. Retrieved March 4, 2011.
- Ron Keurajian (2010). "Ernie Harwell Autographs". Autograph Magazine. Retrieved March 4, 2011.
- "Cobb Diary in Halper Collection Was a Fake". Sports Collectors Daily. 2009. Retrieved March 4, 2011.
- "The Knife in Ty Cobb's Back". Smithsonian. Retrieved November 18, 2012.
- Dave Wedge (2009). "Stolen Boston memorabilia traced back to dead Yankees owner". Boston Herald. Retrieved March 4, 2011.
- "Louisville Slugger: stolen contracts sold to collector". Associated Press. 2000. Retrieved March 4, 2011.
- "Stolen Items Part of ‘99 Halper Auction". Sports Collectors Daily. 2009. Retrieved March 4, 2011.
- Peter J. Nash (2011). "The Halper HOT 100: The Top 100 Stolen Baseball Memorabilia Items Once Owned By Collector Barry Halper". Hauls of Shame weblog. Retrieved March 4, 2011.
- Pete Nash (2011). "The Messy History Of Charlie Sheen’s "Winning" Ring". Deadspin. Retrieved March 4, 2011.
- "Local Treasure Trove Is Baseball History".
- "Healey: Peter Nash Way Off Base With Barry Halper Smear".
- The Bonus (2009). "From rapper to baseball collector, the wild tale of Peter Nash". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved December 9, 2009.
- Murray Chass (2011). "Journalism at Its Worst". Murray Chass. Retrieved July 31, 2011.