Collector strikes out after paying $3,300 for phoney Blue Jays World Series memorabilia

The buyer has lost a civil claim for a refund after he bought a baseball and bat advertised as being signed by the 1992 World Series champions off eBay.

Buyer loses bid for a refund after learning autographs on baseball and bat weren't legit

Atlanta Braves manager Bobby Cox scratches his head in the dugout in the fifth inning of game six of the World Series in Atlanta, Ga. on Oct. 24, 1992, which his team would ultimately lose. A sports collector is likely feeling the same after buying what he thought was an authentic ball and bat from the game, only to find out the autographs weren't authentic. (Doug Mills/AP)

A collector who paid thousands of dollars for what he believed to be authentic, signed Toronto Blue Jays memorabilia from the 1992 World Series actually bought forgeries — and has now lost a civil claim against the seller.

Last week, a B.C. small claims court found that the seller — who had more than 15 years experience in the memorabilia market — had "had no reason to doubt" he was selling real signatures from the Canadian baseball team that made history.

The Jays celebrated their victory after winning the 1992 World Series in Atlanta, GA. Blue Jays catcher Pat Borders is centre. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

Keith Brown bought a baseball and bat advertised as being signed by the Jays' championship team off eBay last April. He paid $2,600 US ($3,360 Cdn) for the set.

Mike Squire had listed the ball and bat listed with certificates of authenticity from Argus Sports Marketing, dated 1993. 

Before he bought the set, Brown emailed the seller with reservations: he couldn't find any information about Argus online and asked if Squire had ever considered getting the memorabilia certified elsewhere.

Squire said no, and Brown bought the bat and ball anyway — $300 below asking.

Toronto Blue Jays pinch hitter Ed Sprague (33) is congratulated on Oct. 18, 1992 after he hit a two-run homerun in the eigth inning. Blue Jays Joe Carter (2nd L) and Jay Bell (14) also celebrate. The Blue Jays won game two of the World Series 5-4. (Chris Wilkins/AFP/Getty Images)

Two days after paying, Brown got an email from an authentication service he'd called himself. The company had looked over photos and said the signatures on the bat likely weren't real.

Brown emailed Squire, telling them what the company had said, but added he was still OK with buying the items anyway.

The ball and bat arrived a month later and Brown took them to a third authentication service, which said all the autographs were likely fake.

Brown then asked Squire for a refund, which was refused.

The Toronto Blue Jays and the Atlanta Braves prepare to face off in Game 3 of the 1992 World Series on Oct. 20, 1992. The Jays went on to win the series. (File/Canadian Press)

Lawsuit filed

Brown sued Squire in small claims court last year, asking for a full refund as well as repayment for the authentication teams he hired.

He claimed Squire must have known the signatures were fake — or that he'd forged them himself — and knowingly duped him.

The civil resolution tribunal denied Brown's claim, saying Squire "had no reason to doubt" he was selling authentic merchandise.

The Jays celebrated their victory after winning the 1992 World Series in Atlanta, GA. Blue Jays catcher Pat Borders is centre. (Robert Sullivan/AFP/Getty Images)

Squire ran a sports memorabilia store for at least a decade, buying dozens of pieces from Argus with authentication certificates during the mid-1990s — including the bat and ball. The decision said he'd never had a complaint reselling any of those items before.

Given his general experience and loyal relationship with Argus, the tribunal said the seller would "have no reason to doubt" the signatures were legit.

With that, Brown's claim was denied.

'Clubhouse version'

One authentication company that looked at the bat and ball, PSA/DNA Authentication Services, said the set was likely a "clubhouse version" — meaning it could have been signed by a clubhouse staffer, not players.

Toronto beat the Atlanta Braves four games to two to win the series on Oct. 24, 1992. It was the first time a team based outside the United States won the championship.

The Jays won the series again the following year.

They're still the only Canadian-based team to have played in — and won — the World Series.

Baseball fever swept across Canada after the Jays won the series in 1992. Watch below: 

Canadians and Torontonians celebrate as the Blue Jays bring home baseball's top prize. 2:47

About the Author

Rhianna Schmunk

@rhiannaschmunk

Rhianna Schmunk is a writer with CBC Vancouver. Reach her at rhianna.schmunk@cbc.ca.