Jerry Schuster's Bag of Tricks
Object ID Checklist
FBI Art Department
Internet Fraud Complaint Center
ANATOMIES OF THE FRAUDS
JERRY SCHUSTER'S BAG OF TRICKS
A FAKE WITH A TWIST
Schuster's presentation of a painting supposedly by California
impressionist Guy Rose was more complex. Schuster listed the painting as
by "Coy Rose," though the signature read "Guy Rose,"
an impressionist artist whose mature paintings sell for as much as
$630,000, according to the fine art auctions database at Artnet.com.
Texas resident James G. Baker noticed the
listing on eBay. He is director of information services at College
Architecture A & M University and teaches course in Texan artists. He
grew up household full California impressionists and had once made a lucky
score. He bought a group of 25 paintings for $20 at a roadside junkshop.
Among the works was a magazine illustration by Rose that restored later sold $12,500.
The fake Guy Rose painting
surrounded by real ones.
When Baker came across the Schuster painting, he compared it to other
Roses. While not as bright and airy as mature Rose works, it looked like
it might have been a student work, dating to the time that Rose was
studying in California, before living in France and studying the impressionists.
On the last day of the auction, and on the fence about whether to submit a
final bid, Baker called Schuster. The auctioneer told him that he had
misread the signature when cataloguing the painting. He said it wasn't signed
"Coy Rose" but "Guy Rose." Baker pulled the trigger
and submitted his last bid. He paid $9,830 for the painting.
After receiving it, he sent it to several historians and dealers. Each
said it might be an early work by Guy Rose but weren't quite convinced.
Baker began to feel increasingly uneasy about the painting.
In looking to document the painting's authenticity, Baker says, he
"asked Schuster who had owned it. He gave me the name of someone who
had died, and I looked him up on the Internet and there was a record of
his death. Then I asked him for the names of the kids. He would never give
me the information except to say there was a son who was a bandmaster at
West Point. I called and there was no connection. He was giving me a
Baker ultimately sent it to a conservator who found that an area on the
lower part of the painting had been repainted and the signature of Rose
then added to make it appear that the signature blended in with the
Baker called Schuster repeatedly and asked for a refund, though he never got it.
LEAPS OF FAITH
Both Beverland and Baker had suspicions at
some point between the time they first saw the works listed on eBay and
the time they first called Schuster. Beverland says, "everything was
photographed under glass. That got me suspicious of them right off. I
asked them why under glass and why they hadn't taken better photos of
them. They were just blurry enough with the reflection on them so you couldn't really tell."
This comparison could have saved
one man thousands of dollars:
the real signature is on top.
The Vonnoh painting that Beverland bought, if authentic, would have cost
"a lot more money in a gallery," he says. "It would have
been a lot more money. But that's the fun of eBay - try to find something
and outwit somebody else."
Beverland was offering a painting he attributed to Pierre-Auguste Renoir on eBay for $7,000. If authentic,
it would be worth over $100,000. The reason for the discount, the listing
clearly explained, was because Beverland hadn't had the work authenticated by an expert.
Baker's first tip-off was the "Coy Rose" signature. "I
frankly consider myself to have been fairly dim-witted to have fallen for
this. I'm absolutely convinced that it was put up that way to give Jerry
Schuster plausible deniability. And the signature was very close to Guy Rose's signature."
Baker describes himself as "a prime sucker" for crooks on the
net "because I've never been able to afford things from a gallery. So
I buy where the galleries buy. I've been wrong. I'm willing to take my
knocks. But I'm not willing to do that with people like Schuster, who I believe are trying to defraud people."
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