“World’s largest” autograph collection may have a few fakes, says 10 News investigation

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The St. Petersburg Museum of History has a new addition available to the public — the world’s largest privately-held autographed baseball collection. But according to 10 News, some of the signatures may not be real.

10 News found signs that a few of the prized autographs just might be fakes.

Dennis Schrader of Oldsmar owns the collection, which is now on loan to the museum for 20 years. “Schrader’s Little Cooperstown,” took a year to construct and cost $300,000.

“I think I have more balls than (the Hall of Fame),” Schrader told 10 News. “It’s the big one, Guinness Book of Records, certified by them: biggest in the world.”

The collection took Schrader’s 57 years to accumulate; everything from signatures of a majority of Hall of Famers to balls with the names of Holocaust and Titanic survivors.

Joe DiMaggio, Marilyn Monroe, as well as Elvis and Priscilla Presley signed Schrader’s baseballs. Over 4,600 autographed balls cover various celebrity genres, most collected over the last 15 years from his regular Tropicana Field seats.

Although the collection is impressive, Schrader did not get the most memorable autographs himself, but purchased online or at auctions. 

Schrader admits memorabilia fraud is an industry-wide problem, particularly in the last few decades. He acknowledges the collection may have a few fakes, but fails to provide reporters with details on the legitimacy of individual items.

Memorabilia fraud has “gotten really bad,” Schrader told 10 News. “I’m glad I built this collection before it got really bad. But there’s a lot of fraud out there.”

Schrader puts the value of his collection around $2.5 million, the most expensive being autographs of both Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio. According to Schrader, it was “a steal” at $25,000 when he bought the ball about 25 years ago.

But in a 2006 St. Petersburg Times article, Schrader said he “would love to find a baseball autographed by the pair of (Monroe and DiMaggio).” At that time, only one was known to exist, and it sold at auction for $191,200, further bringing the ball’s credibility into question. 

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.