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Home arrow Forgery News arrow Ex-Cricketer Dermot Reeve in Bradman Forgery Scandal

Ex-Cricketer Dermot Reeve in Bradman Forgery Scandal Print E-mail
Written by Autograph Collector's Daily   
Sunday, 11 October 2009

Ex-Cricketer Dermot Reeve in Bradman Forgery Scandal

Examples of fake Don Bradman signatures

Exemplars of Don Bradman's authentic signature - Dermot Reeve knows better than most the highs and lows of being a public figure.

He has played Test and one-day cricket for England, was once voted Wisden international cricketer of the year and is an OBE.

The lows have also been stark.

In 2005, while still living in the UK, he admitted to a £200-a-week cocaine addiction.

It was a confession that resulted in him resigning from an English TV commentary job and abandoning his hopes of coaching in England again.

Now an extensive investigation can reveal the latest twist in the colourful life and times of Dermot Alexander Reeve - this time in Sydney.

The controversy has dragged in the name of Australia's greatest sporting figure, Sir Donald Bradman.

It involves claims by Chris Anderson, the international expert on Sir Donald's signature, that Reeve may have been selling Bradman memorabilia - including his autograph - that is not the real deal.

Reeve - again working as a BBC cricket commentator - claims to be an expert on Bradman's autograph.

Reeve issued certificates "authenticating" autographs he believed were signed by Sir Donald.

Bradman memorabilia experts - including Mr Anderson, who the Bradman Foundation uses as its sole consultant on Sir Donald's signature - have analysed the autograph that was sold by Reeve.

Mr Anderson alleged the Bradman signatures sold by Reeve are "non-genuine". Reeve denies this.

The controversy comes at a time when Bradman memorabilia is worth more than ever, eight years after his death. Prices range from $200 for single autographs to more than $400,000 for the baggy green cap he wore in his final Test.

Bowral's Bradman Museum curator David Wells said the value of the great man's signature remained as strong as ever because he represented the "pinnacle" of cricketing achievement. But he added: "It's been a concern whenever non-genuine signatures have entered the market (in the past)."

Following his cocaine revelations in 2005, Reeve's family, who have no involvement in his memorabilia business, built a lucrative new life in Australia and New Zealand. Their assets include a $4 million waterfront mansion at Clontarf that is for sale.

Reeve also built a reputation as a prolific seller of memorabilia on the online auction site eBay.

Memorabilia industry figure John Alvarez bought the disputed Bradman signatures from Reeve on eBay last year. A signed authentication certificate issued by Reeve stated the autographs were "genuine originals of Sir Don Bradman". Reeve has confirmed the certificate was his.

Mr Alvarez sent the autographs to Mr Anderson, the forensic document examiner who the Bradman Museum calls the "world authority" on Bradman's signature, to analyse.

"I am certain these Bradman signatures are just not genuine," Mr Anderson said. "In fact, they are very poor simulations of a genuine Bradman signature."

But the charismatic Reeve was defiant after arranging a meeting at a Sydney shopping centre last week. When shown the disputed Bradman signatures, he said: "I'm giving my opinion these autographs are real."

He also responded angrily to a question of whether the disputed signatures - which he claimed were from the mid-1980s - represented fraud: "Of course it's not. It's ridiculous." He added he would "never knowingly pass an item on if I did not believe it to be authentic".

Reeve admitted, however, that he had not seen Sir Donald sign the autographs, nor could he prove he had done so: "I'm telling you: in the legal part of the world of memorabilia, an authentication is just a person's opinion. That's all it is."

Asked whether he saw himself as an expert on Bradman's signature, Reeve replied: "Yes, but without wanting to sound arrogant."

Others who have collected and analysed Bradman's signature for decades have had question marks about some of the Bradman autographs for sale on eBay by Reeve.

Last year, Mr Alvarez was worried about the impact of non-genuine Bradman autographs on the market.

As the Bradman Museum's official framer of genuine memorabilia, much of Mr Alvarez's livelihood depends on the industry's credibility.

It was at this point he encountered Reeve's autographs. "Reeve had Bradman signatures on eBay," he said. "I took one look at them and said 'There's no way in the world they're Don Bradman's.' And I wanted to get one as proof so I could have it analysed, so I bought a sample. You could tell just looking online - it was clear it wasn't a Bradman signature."

Mr Alvarez agreed to buy one of the signatures for $150. He warned Reeve in an email exchange he would have the signatures analysed and that he had the "authority to inform the Bradman Museum" if they were not genuine. Reeve has a vague recollection of Mr Alvarez's warnings. "Someone had emailed to say I don't like the look of these," he said.

Mr Alvarez was ultimately sent four Bradman signatures and Reeve's certification of them as genuine.

"He authenticated them himself. It's standard practice for the seller to be fully identified on an authentication certificate. But he hasn't even put his address on the certificate," he said. Mr Alvarez sent the signatures and certificate to Mr Anderson.

Asked for a technical explanation of why the Bradman signatures sold by Reeve were not genuine, Mr Anderson responded: "They are not written with the same speed and fluency as the Bradman signature. There are pen lifts in places where there shouldn't be. A number of letter formations are totally wrong, with one obvious example being the letter 'B' in Bradman. And the 'man' part of the 'Bradman' name is illegible, when it is usually a very legible part of the Bradman signature."

Mr Anderson also challenges the worth of Reeve's certificate, stating that it is "not worth the paper it's printed on".

After being quizzed on the phone about his memorabilia collection, Reeve initially invited The Daily Telegraph to view his entire collection of memorabilia at his Clontarf home. Then he changed his mind, eventually telling The Daily Telegraph to meet him at a Balgowlah shopping mall, where he would bring some items of Bradman memorabilia.

The memorabilia he brought included a letter he claimed was written by Sir Donald, two bats, Weet-Bix cards he claimed to be signed by Bradman and two photos of a number of items from a memorabilia shop he once owned in New Zealand.

Asked repeatedly if any of his items could be taken away for analysis, Reeve refused. At one point he said: "I don't see the point." After another request, he became annoyed: "I'm getting riled. I haven't had a problem for 15 years (of collecting)."

Reeve also denied he had stopped trading on eBay because of Mr Alvarez's warnings. "No, not at all. I've stopped selling partly because I have only a few signatures left of Bradman. I'm a very busy man - I don't need to defend myself," he said. He added he was now "happy to refund the guy's money" if the "leading Bradman expert" was "not comfortable" with them. And he said he would even be happy for the signatures to be "destroyed".

Reeve said the signatures had been purchased for him by an employee.

"I employed a guy years ago in England and I purchased hundreds of Don Bradman's signatures," he said.

Reeve claimed he had every right to personally authenticate the Bradman signatures: "If you had collected Bradman's signature for 15 years, and had letters written by Bradman - handwritten letters - would you not consider yourself a good judge on whether something is authentic?"

He said he would be willing to certify as genuine the Bradman items he brought to the centre - even though he had not personally seen Sir Donald sign most of the memorabilia.

But Mr Anderson said: "If someone hasn't seen Bradman sign them, they can't be certifying them as genuine originals of Sir Donald. Dermot Reeve is not a recognised expert on Bradman's signatures."
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