I was involved in a random Twitter exchange with Jason Collette and Kevin Goldstein from Baseball Prospectus today in which the subject of 3rd Bass came up. No, not the hot corner, but the hip hop group best known for the single “Pop Goes the Weasel.” Yeah, that was a long time ago, but neither Jason, Kevin nor I are that young, so it’s OK.
The mention of 3rd Bass reminded me that Pete Nash — more famously known as Prime Minister Pete Nice of 3rd Bass fame and the guy in the middle of the above pic — was a big baseball historian and memorabilia collector. I couldn’t remember where I heard that but I knew it was the case. Collette shot me a link to a Sports Illustrated story from a little over a year ago that jogged my memory. Seems that Nash/Nice was so big a memorabilia collector that it drained his fortune, got him involved in all kinds of litigation and eventually led to a determination that he committed fraud related to phony baseball memorabilia. Fun times.
It’s fascinating stuff, as is the whole memorabilia market, really. I dabbled it in a bit with baseball cards, which is the far more respectable end of the memorabilia pool. When you get into old jerseys and letters and equipment and various other sorts of arcana, it gets dicey and seedy pretty fast. This quote from the article sums up my experiences with it:
For all its many upstanding, passionate collectors, the baseball-memorabilia subculture is also a notoriously seedy shadowland of Mametesque schemers and dreamers, thick with forgeries and thefts, conflicts of interest, dubious “authenticators,” shill bidding, card doctoring and any number of other dubious practices. “The hobby is mostly filled with low-life hucksters, some of whom grow up to own important auction houses,” says a longtime collector of early baseball material. “You can count the number of people who are smart and educated and honest on one hand.”
I’ve mentioned that client I used to have who was a rare coin dealer and who got thrown in jail for 20 years over a $50 million fraud? Well, he dabbled in the memorabilia business too. He told me once that he never got into it too seriously, however, because it was “too damn crooked.” Really.
Anyway, if you like old baseball memorabilia or if you simply like 3rd Bass, it’s a good read.