Wednesday, August 5, 2015

John Rogers
Used Car Salesman

For those of you that either collect the various versions of Charles Conlon's baseball photography - usually through baseball cards published by the Sporting News, Marketcom, World Wide Sports, or Megacards - you are well aware that in 2010, John Roger's purchased 8,354 original glass negatives of Conlon's work from 1904 to 1939.

Much was hoped when this happened, including the possibility that Rogers might continue the baseball card collection that was stopped abruptly in 1994 during the baseball strike. Rogers even claimed, in 2012, that he was considering restarting the collection.

Instead, Rogers company produced high priced "Museum Quality" prints from the Conlon negatives to an audience willing to pay the exorbitant prices.

In the meantime, Rogers began buying up newspaper photo collections for huge sums of money, under the promise to organize and digitize these collections for easy access. It is estimated he purchased up to 200 million historical newspaper photos.

Well, long story short, Mr. Rogers' actual intentions seemed to be what in the reality business we call "flipping". Many of the collections, and/or parts of the collections, were resold to other buyers for profit. It didn't take long before questions rose as to what was being purchased; originals, rights, or fakes.

In a very short time, many lawsuits were brought against Rogers, and the FBI ultimately took control of most of his photo collections.

Getting back to the portion of the story I'm interested in, that means the Conlon collection (or whatever part Rogers actually owns at this point if any) is no longer in possession of a single owner that could, at some point, do something productive with these photos.

It is likely these photos will remain under FBI control for years - if not decades - before anyone will have the chance to consider doing anything with them.

It's tempting, and too easy, to blame the Sporting News for selling such an important collection to Rogers in the first place - but the Sporting News is not the criminal here - John Rogers is - and because of his greed, our generation will likely not see the vast majority of Conlon's work made into the baseball cards we've loved to collect.