Some words about fraud

The past several weeks have been difficult ones for our hobby, for sure.  Information has come to light which has long been the subject of speculation, but which the Federal Court has crystallized quickly and definitively this week.  Without describing the sordid details, you can read a news story about the incident here.  Part of the considerable fallout from this has been an (understandable) desire on the part of the collecting community to hear from auction houses.  After some thought, we’ve decided that the appropriate place for us to sound off is here, on our own blog.

The short answer: We do not shill our auctions, nor have we ever.  

We also do not alter cards.  We do not perform undisclosed restoration on memorabilia.  We do our best to accurately describe everything in our auction with educational and interesting copy, and if we discover an issue that materially impacts the value of a piece after the auction goes live, we publish an addendum and give each bidder an opportunity to cancel their bids if they choose.

Additionally, we do not have hidden reserves.  Occasionally, we offer an item that does have a reserve, and we identify such items clearly, and we publish the amount of the reserve one week before the auction closes.

The longer answer:

We do our absolute best to ensure that our bidders participate in an honest, ethical auction in which real people can bid and win at real prices, and in which consignors can enjoy consigning to an auction in which its bidders trust the process.

We have several safeguards in place to help our bidders feel more comfortable.

  1. Our auction software is configured so that we cannot see what your max bids are when you place them.  This is a deliberate safeguard that prevents us from ever knowing how many – if any – bid increments exist between the current bid and a max.  As we say in our rules, we don’t have a fancy name for this; we just call it “integrity.”
  2. Our auction software is configured so that we cannot see the passwords of our bidders.  This prevents us from logging into their accounts and viewing your private information.  Because of this, if you lose your password and call us, we have no way of telling you what it is – the only remedy is to send a “password reset” email.
  3. Our auction software does not permit consignors to bid on their own material.  We explicitly prohibit this in our consignor agreement, and if we feel a bid is made by a consignor under a different account, or by a consignor’s proxy, we reserve the right to cancel the bid.  There is no circumstance under which we permit a consignor to win their own item and pay us the buyer’s premium.
  4. While we can never tell why a person might be bidding on an item, or who might be friends with whom, we do look for signs of shilling between consignors and a proxy bidder.  On one occasion, we banned a bidder – and a consignor – for bidding activity that we felt was illegitimate.
  5. We do not bid in the auction.  There is no “house account.”  We understand why some auction houses feel it’s okay to bid in their own auction, but we feel that when we can see who we’re bidding against, when we know who the consignor is, and when we have a 20% advantage because we do not pay the buyer’s premium, it’s unethical for us to bid in the auction.
  6. We do not withdraw items from the auction if they do not appear to be selling well.  If an item that does not have a reserve is in our auction, and has a bid, it will sell.

Collecting sports cards and memorabilia is a fantastic hobby.  It’s the greatest hobby.  It’s the best way to see how tightly sports is woven into the fabric of American history, and each artifact is special.  Each tells a story, and each collector that preserves an artifact in his collection is saving a piece of history, and passing along stories that otherwise would be long forgotten.

When we read or hear accounts of fraud in the hobby, it disgusts us as much as it does you.  Shill bidding – even if you still win the shilled item for less money than you’re prepared to pay – is robbery.  We’re serious about this.  It’s a big part of the reason why this company was founded.  The hobby will tell us whether or not it’s possible for an auction house like ours to survive in the long-term without engaging in unethical behavior.  Maybe it will, maybe it won’t.  Our survival will depend not only on the confidence of bidders, but on the consignors who are willing to contribute material to an auction where the house will not engage in unethical practices to help inflate prices.  But one thing we can unequivocally promise our customers, our consignors, our families and our friends: you will never, ever see us deliberately engage in fraudulent behavior.



Some words about “Auction LOAs”

In each of our auctions, we’ve been fortunate enough to have offered a growing number of quality autographed items.  Each auction, the selection we offer has gotten larger, more varied, and certainly more interesting.

As a result, though, we’ve felt the need to clarify our position on “Auction LOAs.”

Autograph collectors have a variety of opinions about the rise in third-party authenticators in the hobby.  Our opinion is that with the large amount of fraud pervasive in the hobby, third-party authenticators have done a world of good.  Sure, they occasionally make mistakes.  Sure, they are providing opinions that are, from time to time, frustrating.  However, on balance, they have an immense amount of knowledge, enormous databases of exemplars from which to compare, and large networks of experts with whom to consult.  Most importantly, the two largest authenticators – James Spence Authentication and PSA/DNA – have simply seen an incredible number of autographs, and have a wealth of experience from which to draw.

Our primary partners for the authentication of autographed material are JSA and PSA/DNA.  We are comfortable with their expertise, and are thrilled to work with them on the authentication of the autographed items that we sell.

Occasionally, however, we receive autographed items that have been authenticated with an Auction LOA.  These LOAs have been utilized by Auction Houses as a sort of limited LOA, featuring the opinion of a third-party authenticator but not an actual LOA.  The auction houses, perhaps to save money, enlist the authenticator to review a large volume of material in a short period of time, issuing these auction LOAs as a Seal of Approval but not a final verdict on authenticity.  Upon the auction close, the winning bidder receives the item along with the Auction LOA, which is described as a “preliminary review” of the item in question.  The winning bidder is then required to resubmit the item for a “full” LOA, for an additional fee.  It is explicitly stated in the auction LOA that it is entirely possible that upon full review, the item in question could be rejected as inauthentic.

Typically, the LOA incorporates the auction house’s catalog description of the item into the LOA.  They do this for the purposes of properly identifying the item (since no photos are included in the auction LOA), but the result is misleading.

Recently, we received a consignment consisting of a Babe Ruth autographed check.  The check came with an auction LOA, and the auction house described the signature as being a “10”.  Unfortunately, the consignor was under the impression when purchasing the check that he was getting a Babe Ruth check with the signature graded 10 by the authenticator.  Unfortunately, there was no way this signature would have graded a 10, or anywhere close.  When the consignor received the item, he continued to think he had a Ruth signature graded 10, because the auction house’s hyperbolic description was written into the LOA.

When we received the check, we immediately realized that the LOA was simply an auction LOA, and the signature was by no means a 10.  After breaking the bad news to the consignor, we submitted the check to JSA and received a full LOA.  Sadly, however, we returned it to the consignor, who would surely have taken a loss on his purchase since he thought he was buying a “10” when he won it.

We do not feel the Auction LOAs are unethical.  They are what they are.  We do, however, feel that some auction house descriptions are misleading – sometimes intentionally so – and when these descriptions find their way into an LOA, they can artificially inflate the value of a signed item, and even provide bidders with a false sense of security.

As such, Love of the Game has elected not to offer items with Auction LOAs for sale in our auction.  While we will take them on consignment, we will submit them to a third-party authenticator for full LOAs or Basic Certs (depending on value).  This is, of course, more costly, but in the end, we feel that it provides our customers with a level of confidence and comfort that the Auction LOA does not provide.  Furthermore, we feel that when our customers purchase signed, authenticated items from us, they should not have to pay additional money to obtain a “full” LOA.  They’ve already purchased the item!

Going forward, any authenticated item sold by Love of the Game will have a full LOA or a basic certification, with the exception of those signed items that are authenticated and encapsulated by PSA, SGC, or JSA (those items, of course, do not require certs since they are encapsulated).

On a similar note, we are occasionally asked why we sometimes sell signed items that are not authenticated.  There are two reasons why this may happen: 1) The item was submitted too close to our auction deadline, and time did not permit us to obtain the authentication.  2) The item is simply not valuable enough to justify the investment.  In both of those cases, please know that we do not sell non-authenticated, signed items unless we are certain of their authenticity, and we guarantee that such items will pass muster with JSA or PSA/DNA.  In the event that they do not, we are happy to issue a full refund on your purchase.

We hope that this clarifies our position regarding autograph authentication.

Road Trip!

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Today we announced our upcoming consignment trip, which will take us all across the country over a three-week span.

During that time, we’ll be gathering consignments for our Winter, 2015 auction and also sharing some of the consignments we’ve acquired with the collectors we meet.

We’re making appointments to visit with consignors all along the route. Our schedule looks like this:

• September 24 – Burlington, VT
• September 28/29 – New York, NY
• September 30 – Detroit, MI
• October 1 – Columbus, OH
• October 2 – Louisville, KY
• October 3 – Kansas City, MO
• October 4 – Wall, SD
• October 5 – Cody, WY
• October 6 – Seattle, WA
• October 7 – Portland, OR
• October 9/10 – Los Angeles, CA
• October 11 – Phoenix, AZ
• October 12/13 – Moab, UT
• October 14/15 – Denver, CO
• October 17 – St. Louis, MO
• October 18 – Pittsburgh, PA

We’ve got some special consignment offers during the trip:

• NO CONSIGNOR FEES on anything consigned during our trip
• WE PAY 102% on all consignments valued over $20,000 total
• WE PAY 105% on all consignments valued over $50,000 total
• WE PAY 105% on any individual item valued over $20,000

We do have some specific items on our “Want List” for this auction, so if you’ve got any of these items in particular and would be interested in meeting with us, please contact us at (973) 452-9147 or

• 1909-11 T206 Eddie Plank & Sherry Magie error
• 1909 T204 Ramly Walter Johnson
• 1914/15 Cracker Jack Ty Cobb, Joe Jackson & Christy Mathewson
• 1916 M101-4/5 Babe Ruth
• 1933 Goudey Nap Lajoie
• 1935 National Chicle Bronko Nagurski
• 1952 Bowman Large Jim Lansford
• 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle
• 1954 Topps Hank Aaron
• Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Honus Wagner, Ty Cobb, and Christy Mathewson
• Complete sets (graded and ungraded)
• High-grade Hall of Famers
• Rare type cards
• 19th Century Hall of Famers

• Game-used memorabilia (bats, jerseys, etc)
• Prewar autographs
• Advertising display materials
• Rare baseball postcards
• 19th Century memorabilia
• Early scorecards
• Single-signed baseballs
• Type I Photos

If you have any of this type of material, and you’re considering selling, please contact us – if you’re along our route, we can come visit you!

Love of the Game Auctions Sets Records with Summer Auction

Only known photo-matched Gehrig “miracle” bat sells for $437,000

GREAT MEADOWS, N.J., August 18, 2015 – Led by the most famous game-used bat to hit the auction block in recent memory, the 2015 Love of the Game Premier Catalog Auction realized record prices on significant sports cards and memorabilia, helping solidify the company as the hobby’s fastest-growing young auction house. With total sales approaching $900,000, the auction was the company’s biggest and most exciting sale to date.

Closing in the wee hours on Sunday, August 9, the auction generated a company-high 5,239 total bids from 558 different bidders, resulting in total sales of $895,976. Factoring out the phenomenal Gehrig bat, the realized prices averaged nearly $660 per lot, the auction’s 697 lots generating an average of 7.5 bids each.

“We’re thrilled with the results of our Summer auction,” stated Auction Director Al Crisafulli. “Since our inception it has been our goal to deliver a trustworthy auction, in which bidders can have total confidence. We’ve always felt that confident bidders can help restore integrity to the auction process and that as long as we present a high-quality auction, that bidder confidence will help realize record prices. This auction proves that theory, as we’ve realized record or near-record prices in many areas.”

1930 Lou Gehrig Game-Used Bat

The auction highlight was, of course, the hobby’s only photo-matched Lou Gehrig game-used bat. Graded GU 9 by PSA/DNA, the bat was consigned by a Northeast family that depended on it for protection from potential burglars; for 35 years, the bat rested behind the family’s front door. LOTG was able to find a fantastic photo match – a picture of Gehrig sitting alongside Babe Ruth and Bob Shawkey at Comiskey Park in 1930 proved to depict Gehrig holding the very same bat! Thus, the “miracle bat” added another miracle to its impressive resume, becoming the only known Lou Gehrig game-used bat with photographic documentation. As a result, the bat sold for nearly $437,000, the highest-ever price for a Gehrig bat, and one of the highest recorded prices for any game-used bat, ever.

“The Gehrig bat has become the most famous Gehrig bat in the world, and one of the hobby’s most desirable game-used bats,” Crisafulli noted. “The story behind the bat is fantastic, and the winning bidder has received an incredible piece of memorabilia. We couldn’t be more overjoyed for our consignor.”

Record Prices Realized

The Summer auction also featured a number of other record or near-record prices on cards and memorabilia of all kinds. The most notable, of course, was the amazing price recorded on the 1916 M101-4/5 Famous & Barr Babe Ruth, which sold for $44,100, an increase of nearly 20% over its last sale. The 1952 Topps #311 Mickey Mantle PSA EX 5 also approached a record price, hammering down at $32,400, becoming just the second recorded example in that grade to eclipse $30,000.

The following ten lots achieved the highest realized prices in the auction:

  1. Lot #1 – 1930 Lou Gehrig game-used bat – $436,970
  2. Lot #3 – 1916 M101-5 Famous & Barr Babe Ruth rookie – $44,100
  3. Lot #4 – 1909-11 T206 Near-Complete Set – $37,200
  4. Lot #5 – 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle – $32,400
  5. Lot #6 – 1888-89 N173 Old Judge King Kelly – $14,400
  6. Lot #10 – 1915 Cracker Jack Joe Jackson – $13,200
  7. Lot #11 – 1916 Famous & Barr Joe Jackson – $9,600
  8. Lot #9 – 1911 T5 Pinkerton Cabinets Honus Wagner – $9,000
  9. Lot #464 – 1953 Topps #82 Mickey Mantle – $9,000
  10. Lot #367 – 1933 Goudey #53 Babe Ruth – $7,200

Additional highlights include the 1906 Scranton Miners postcard signed by Moonlight Graham, which sold for an astonishing $5,100; the 1964 Bazooka Stamps panel featuring Mickey Mantle and graded NM-MT 8 by PSA which sold for $3,600; the 1949-52 Los Angeles Angels PCL game-worn jersey and cap which attained an incredible price of $2,100; and an incredible 1888 Detroit Wolverines advertising trade card that reached $1,680.

Bidding activity was brisk across the board, with a company record number of bids placed during the frenzied final 36 hours. “We realize that the auction business is a crowded field, and it’s difficult for collectors to pay attention to all of them,” explained Crisafulli. “That’s why we try and make each auction an event, with truly special items with fantastic stories and a deep sense of history. We want our auctions to be exciting, and judging from the amount of activity on the final day, it seems to be working. Our auctions are special events – we want everyone to bid, and enjoy watching the fantastic finishes.”

Indeed, in the Summer auction, 91% of the items featured in the auction ultimately sold, with a record number of bids placed for the company. The bids were spread across the board, with significant bidder activity on both high and lower-dollar items. A list of items that received the largest number of bids is as follows:

  1. Lot #1 – 1930 Lou Gehrig game-used bat – 46 bids
  2. Lot #21 – 1910 Philadelphia Athletics Cardboard Display – 27 bids
  3. Lot #3 – 1916 M101-5 Famous & Barr Babe Ruth – 27 bids
  4. Lot #108 – 1909 E101 Christy Mathewson – 25 bids
  5. Lot #11 – 1916 Famous & Barr Joe Jackson – 24 bids
  6. Lot #382 – 1933 Worch Cigar Lou Gehrig – 24 bids
  7. Lot #279 – 1916 Famous & Barr George Sisler – 23 bids
  8. Lot #624 – Mickey Mantle & Roger Maris signed, framed photo – 23 bids
  9. Lot #174 – 1910 Plow Boy Tobacco Shano Collins – 22 bids
  10. Lot #630 – Thurman Munson Signed 3×5” Card – 22 bids

All the auction lots, along with descriptions and high-resolution photos and prices realized are archived on the Love of the Game website.

Love of the Game is currently preparing its Winter, 2015 auction, which will run in November and December. The company is currently accepting consignments for the sale, and offering excellent incentives for early consignment. LOTG is also planning its Fall Roadshow; a cross-country consignment-gathering tour that will take the company on a coast-to-coast trip to meet with consignors and accept consignments for the sale. Interested consignors can contact Al Crisafulli at (973) 452-9147 or by email at


About Love of the Game Auctions

Newly Discovered Lou Gehrig Interview

1926 Exhibits Gehrig FrontWe interrupt this auction to bring you this cool recently-unearthed interview.  After his retirement, Lou Gehrig stopped into the studios of KROC-AM of Rochester, Minnesota, while he was a patient at the Mayo Clinic.  The interview discussed nothing but baseball, but Gehrig gave some great opinions on the state of the game, circa 1939.

Check it out here. 

Extraordinary Babe Ruth Famous & Barr Rookie Card

M101 Ruth

We’re proud to feature a beautiful 1916 Famous & Barr Babe Ruth in our upcoming Summer auction.

The Summer, 2008 edition of Old Cardboard contains what we believe to be the definitive word on the various M101-4 and M101-5 issues, in an article entitled “Making Sense of M101-5 and M101-4.”  Written by hobby scholars Tim Newcomb and Todd Schultz, the article makes sense of the various card issues produced in 1916 by Felix Mendelsohn, including the Famous & Barr issue.  The article discusses Meldelsohn’s visionary use of black and white action photography on baseball cards, a practice seldon seen in 1916 but which remains in practice today.  As collectors dig further into the complexities of the M101-4 and M101-5 issues, the beauty (and difficulty) of the various sets is helping to increase their popularity.

Of course a larger contributor to the issue’s growing popularity is the presence of what is often considered Babe Ruth’s rookie card.  The card is one of the hottest in the hobby at this time, with record breaking prices realized virtually every time an example becomes available.  Examples of the card are known with a variety of advertising backs, and most are considered rare.  The significance of this card cannot be overstated; it is one of the most important cards in the hobby, its rarity increased by the difficult Famous & Barr advertising back.  In fact, just six graded examples of this card are known to exist (one of which does not appear on any population reports, but according to another auction house, does exist).

1916 Famous Ruth BackThe card, which depicts Ruth as a young Red Sox pitcher, is graded POOR 10 by SGC though the aesthetic appeal of the card is far greater.  The primary flaws lie in two tiny, barely perceptible pinholes at the top and bottom of the card.  In addition, the card is marred by a thin crease that traverses the center of the card, as well as mild soiling and what appears to be glue residue on the reverse.  That glue residue, however, is likely what maintained the card is such presentable condition, as mounting cards in vintage scrapbooks was a practice that helped preserve their appearance for many years.  Such is the case with this card, which boasts a sharp, clean image and centering far superior to most examples of this card.

Few cards in the hobby are true “blue chip” cards.  A 1916 Famous & Barr Ruth rookie card, however, certainly qualifies, as few cards in the hobby are more desirable.  As we approach the 100th anniversary of the card’s production, we are pleased to offer this amazingly rare specimen, a centerpiece of even the most World Class collection.

We have a winner!

It took us a couple of weeks to begin to entertain the idea that perhaps the “guy in the middle” of this postcard was, perhaps, not a pro ballplayer.

First, we thought he might be a minor leaguer, or someone given a tryout with the Pirates or something of that nature.  He seemed a little old for that, but we’d found photos of every person who played a game for the Pirates between 1906 and 1910, and this gentleman was simply not among them.  We had a host of great guesses, from Butts Wagner to Lew Ritter with many others, but none seemed plausible.

Trying to identify a random person in a photo is difficult.  There are lots of people out there, and many have one or two facial characteristics in common.  Sometimes you’ll see two guys with the same nose, or the same cleft chin, or the same hairstyle, and you’ll be convinced that they must be the same guy.  Once you’ve done all the homework, and chased down every lead, you want it to be your guy.

That being said, it was Net54 member Todd, who wrote this on the board:

let me throw out the wildest theory yet.  There was an alderman/magistrate (low level judge) named Louis Alpern from Pittsburgh’s 3rd ward in 1909, and there is a person by that name said by to have been residing in the area in both 1920 and 1940 who was born around 1880, putting him in his late 20’s – early 30’s in 1909.  It looks like he may have been the subject of corruption charges later on, and it’s possible he considered himself quite the big shot.  Could the photo be of a Pittsburgh politico who wanted his fantasy pic with the local boys of summer?”

Well, Todd, allow us to introduce you to Louis “Squire” Alpern.

Screen Shot 2015-03-11 at 2.20.47 AM

Screen Shot 2015-03-11 at 2.21.56 AMAlpern was born on September 25, 1875, taking an early interest in politics, eventually running for alderman – and winning – in 1905.  In 1909 he was appointed police magistrate as well.  He married Lillie Cohen, and passed away of influenza and pneumonia on January 22, 1937.

Once you’ve got the guy and you’ve got his picture, it’s pretty easy to fill in the blanks.  We can now date the postcard photo to March of 1911, probably to March 13 exactly.

The March 12 issue of the Pittsburgh Post contains an article entitled “Rear Division Of Buccaneers Off For Camp.” It goes on to describe a party of nine people, headed by Pirates owner Barney Dreyfus, who were heading to Hot Springs, Arkansas for spring training.  Buried in the article is this paragraph:

“The baseball party consisted of nine persons, but only four of these were players.  They were Thomas W. Leach, John B. Miller, William B. McKechine and Rivington Bisland.  The others who accompanied President Dreyfus were John P. Harris, who is now one of the stockholders in the club; Police Magistrate Louis Alpern, William J. Murray, former manager of the Philadelphia Nationals, and now the chief scout for the Pirates, and Michael J. Feeney, a local baseball enthusiast.”

So we can place Alpern with a group of Pirates heading to Hot Springs on March 11 or 12 of 1911.

Even better, the March 14 edition of the Pittsburgh Gazette contains this tidbit:

“In the morning the 14-pound medicine ball figured prominently in the stunts on the athletic field.  The players kept it going in a circle, which embraced also Vice President John P. Harris and Squire Louis Alpern, for whom Trainer Ed Laforce dug up uniforms.  Harris evidently came out here to take off weight, and he succeeded on the first day to the extent of six pounds.  He thoroughly enjoyed the sport, and the players had a lot of fun at his expense.”

Wagner PCIf you look off in the distance behind Wagner, to his left, you can see the 14-pound medicine ball in question, sitting on the ground near a small group of players.  In the foreground, manager Fred Clarke (HOF) and shortstop Honus Wagner (HOF), flanking Third Ward Alderman and police magistrate Louis Alpern, wearing a catcher’s mitt and the uniform provided him by trainer Ed Laforce, the players also having fun at his expense.

The supporting documentation makes this postcard, on our opinion, one of the coolest pieces we’ve ever sold.  We offer our thanks to our friends over at Net54 for giving us a venue for a collective brainstorming session, and we offer our thanks to Todd for finding Louis Alpern’s name and offering his wild theory.

And of course, we’re happy to award Todd a $200 credit to use in the auction!

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Rare backs? We’ve got ’em.

T206 McMullen backT206 McMullin FrontAmong the most popular (and fastest-growing) items in our auctions have been the rare-backed tobacco cards.  Our Spring auction should prove to be no exception, as we’ll be featuring an outstanding selection of difficult backs, not only in the T206 set but also in the T207 Brown Background issue as well.  Beginning with this lovely T206 George Mullin with the ultra-rare Uzit Cigarettes back.  Graded VG 40 by SGC, there are no higher-grade examples among the six specimens that have been graded.  It is the boldness of the reverse that makes this card so special, however, as the Uzit ad, often faded or washed-out, is bold and deep blue, an extremely strong image.  Considered the 6th most rare of all the T206 backs, behind only the incredibly rare Cobb, Old Mill Brown, Lenox, Broadleaf 460 and Drum backs, a Uzit back is an outstanding addition to any collection of rarities.

T206 Clymer FrontT206 Clymer backEqually stunning is this Carolina Brights Bill Clymer.  Graded VG+ 3.5 by PSA, the card is simply gorgeous, with bold, vivid color and no surface blemishes.  The oversized borders make the top-to-bottom centering issue much less pronounced, and the reverse is clean and sharp.  Carolina Brights have been ultra-hot lately, and this example should be no exception.

1911 T206 Joss front1911 T206 Chase Throwing FrontWe’ve also got a host of tough Cycle 460 cards in our next two auctions, with a half dozen represented in the Spring sale.  These Addie Joss and Hal Chase examples, both extraordinarily rare, low population cards, will be featured.

Hindu, American Beauty 460, and more common difficult backs are also represented in large quantities.

1912 T207 Miller BackIt’s not just T206, however – we’ve also got a host of tough-backed T207 cards in this auction, starting with one of the toughest cards in the set: Ward Miller.  Our Miller has the Broadleaf back, and we’ve also got a number of other Broadleafs to join the Miller in this auction.





1912 T207 Phelan Back1912 T207 Blackburne backWe don’t stop there, however – the T207 set is extraordinarily complex, with three different “series” of cards and very specific back possibilities with each (similar to T206).  We’ll be featuring a Red Cycle back in our auction, along with one of the very difficult Anonymous backs.

Get ready: the auction goes live next week!