A Deeper Look into Operation Bullpen

ESPN Films: The Counterfeiter documents the once wildly successful autograph forger, Greg Marino.1 During the time of the 1998 Home Run Race between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, Marino was buying real estate and Ferrari’s. How’d he get the money to afford such nice things? Simple, forge signatures on sports memorabilia for profit. Marino signed hundreds of thousands of autographs from The Beatles to dead Presidents to some of the hobby’s most notable figures including Mickey Mantle, Ty Cobb, and Babe Ruth. The list goes on and on and the money came in hand over fist. Life was good.

Then reality struck.

The FBI got ahold of the case and spent a good amount of time investigating the forgery outfit. Verbal confirmation of fraud from wiretap recordings would eventually be the nail in the coffin. This forgery ring was one of the most notable in all of the hobby and the investigation would cleverly be called, Operation Bullpen. Over the course of Marino’s operating years, he forged hundreds of thousands of autographs with a combined value well into the 7 figures.

To get a copy of Operation Bullpen, click here or click on the image to the right.

After the sting happened in October of 1999, Marino and other offenders in the outfit did jail time. As a result, the operation was terminated and a number of reputable authentication companies entered the market. The cat was out of the bag so to speak. The result was a more educated market. Thing is, Marino’s outfit was responsible for a large number of fakes that entered the market. And these weren’t just any old fake turds, these were incredibly good forgeries. The worry is that, because they are so good, authenticity identification is made that much more challenging.

To watch the documentary, click here.

Bottom line – do your homework. This is especially important when you’re in the market for a significant item. I talk about this in a previous blog post. This is incredibly important when looking into growing your autograph collection and even more so when the items relate to key historical milestones such as: Ripken’s 2131 Game Streak, the 1927 Yankees (well really any historical Yankees item), etc. Be especially careful when considering a purchase of anything associated with the Home Run race of 1998 that is signed by Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire. Both autographs were forged extensively and were some of the first projects in the counterfeit ring.2

Watch the video to learn about how incredible this outfit was at producing signatures of unbelievable accuracy. It’s an interesting look at the unscrupulous side of the sports memorabilia industry.

To view the current eBay auctions for Mark McGwire baseball cards, click here.


  1. ESPN Films: The Counterfeiter. www.espn.com ↩︎
  2. Scoreboard Coa’s. www.freedomcardboard.com ↩︎

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