tony-greco-b tony-greco-b

Gallery on Baum Sells Cartoon Art Forgeries?

Tony Greco drawing

Tony Greco, who run Pittsburgh’s The Gallery on Baum, has had a tough year. First, there was a lengthy exposé in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette that claims most of the cartoon, animation and illustration art he sells is forged. Then, Charles Schulz’s wife made a statement that the Peanuts art Greco sells are forgeries. Then, cartoon art bloggers like Mike Lynch and Joakim Gunnarsson began piling on and writing that the artwork the artwork is fake, with Gunnarsson even saying that, “Luckily the fakes are so poorly done that real collectors will stay away from these fakes.”

The way people are bashing this poor guy, you’d think he was a delusional nutjob sitting at home tracing poor imitations of other people’s work over a light box. Greco says that’s certainly not the case. His story is simple: he inherited all of the artwork from the fine art department of Kaufmann’s Department Stores back in the 1960s. He’s also not going to allow any of the artwork to be authenticated by artist estates, living artists, historians, or museums because he knows that everybody is out to get him. Greco told the Post-Gazette:

“They don’t want to believe someone like me could have all this great stuff. The art world is very cliquey, and I’m an outsider they can’t control. They’re scared of me because I have so much, they don’t know where it ends. And you know what? It never ends. If I let it all out, it would depress the market overnight.”

Plus, Tony says that he’s been doing this kind of stuff since he was a kid:

“Everyone’s an expert, but it’s just their opinion! I’m the one who’s been doing this the longest, since I was a kid. I have the most stuff. I’m the real expert!”

So exactly what kind of cartoon art does Tony sell on his eBay store?

He’s currently auctioning the rarest piece of Frank Thomas art in existence: the only time Frank decided to draw with pencil and then go over the same drawing with ballpoint pen:

Tony Greco drawing

Also on eBay right now, a one-of-a-kind drawing by John Kricfalusi in which he not only forgot how to draw his own character Jimmy the Idiot Boy, he also forgot how to sign his own name! Talk about having a bad day.

Tony Greco drawing

Here’s an interesting drawing by Friz Freleng unit animator Virgil Ross. It makes sense when you remember that Ross was a real jokester and often liked to pretend that he had no drawing skills when he drew. This gem, from Ross’s “incompetent period”, already sold for a cool $45 on eBay.

Tony Greco drawing

Here’s a classic drawing by Ward Kimball currently selling for $150 on eBay. Be forewarned, Tony says that, “Left edge is choppy due to pull from sketch book. Does not effect image in any way!”

Tony Greco drawing

Some lucky person on eBay already snatched this Bill Hanna drawing of Yogi. This appears to be from the days when Hanna would attend comic conventions and draw characters blindfolded to entertain his fans.

Tony Greco drawing
  • Can’t you guys let ebay know and get them taken down and his membership revoked? Surely John K can verify that not his drawing for them.

    I agree that these are all too bad for collectors to by them, but an innocent fan may waste a lot of money on these.

  • Has anyone considered he might be a little bit schizo? Seriously, if a person has spent their whole life building up a collection that big and that varied, of weird sketches they presumably all did themselves…
    I’m just reading here, but this whole story says to me ‘mental illness’ rather than just regular shyster. I mean, the investment of knowledge in drawing fakes of all the right things, but then drawing them all wrong – that must take an intricate sustained state of delusion, no?

    • diego

      Well, he does look weird in the picture. Scary-weird.

      • SJ

        At first I thought he was in a straight jacket. He should be.

  • Julian Carter

    Thumper: “Tony Greco don’t draw very well now, do he?”

  • Hey! I’ve got a couple of Da Vinci’s, a Renoir and a few of those Michaelangelo’s lying around in the basement – if anyone’s interested…

    If there’s something specific that you want, I can whip it up for you.

  • Seriously, when it comes to collecting art (or anything for that matter) you should only buy what you personally like. If you plan or expect your “investment” to go up in value, you’re better off investing in stocks, land, etc.

    If your art investment does go up in value, you’ve had the pleasure of owning it and the profit is a bonus. If it doesn’t rise in value, you’ve still had the pleasure of ownership.

  • Clearly he is not a full shilling. Those pictures are terrible and ‘I have the most stuff, I’m the real expert’ hardly sounds like the statement of a level headed gallery owner

  • Rufus

    That is so embarassing. These drawings look like the poor imitations I used to draw when I was 9. Nowadays I could draw him MUCH better copies than he can produce… He clearly doesn’t draw very much. Or maybe his 9 year old nephew draws pretty fantastic for being 9. Either way, this is not what high-ranking animation professionals draw like, even when they’re drunk, even when they’re blind.

  • chris allard

    How shameful-the drawings by world famous animators he has on ebay are painfully fake,no natural flow of the pencil and not even constructed shapes! Tracing all the way.

  • jordan reichek

    wow. just, wow.

    the blatant quality of fakes he offers reveal a mind that is both unhinged and greedy. a classically potent combo.

    this guy should run for public office.

  • amid

    This slideshow shows some of the “Picassos”, “Matisses” and “Warhols” in his collection. They’re pretty funny.

    • Oh GOD! Most of them look like they’re done in crayon!

    • Wow, the Thomas Nast drawing nearly had me in tears.

    • Ben

      OMG, I couldn’t stop laughing at the “fine art” he has! Wow…just incredible that he’s that delusional. I’m wondering if he’s just been so fascinated by art, and really has loved it since he was a boy, but couldn’t afford any himself, so took to copying it. Now, he seems like he’s convinced himself that it’s all authentic. Who knows, but by the quality of all of it, it’s fairly obvious…

    • Ben

      Oh, and I love that Picasso happened to “draw” on a 3×5 index card…uh…

  • gd0

    The guy’s freakin’ delusional. Does anybody else see “mental patient” in this bozo’s face? Most hucksters at least make some effort at appearing legit. Or at least creating better forgeries.

  • Rubber Chicken Circuit

    Wow. Selling jaw-droppingly obvious fakes on eBay is one thing, but daring people to disprove him in print was borderline surreal.

    The guy’s counting on (A) average people being unable to recognize professional art, and (B) the mainstream media turning a clear-cut case against him into a he-said she-said “controversy,” where he becomes a plucky victim and his lies become a Fox News “equally valid interpretation.” Gotta give 50% of Columbus Day airtime to those flat-earthers, don’tcha know…

  • HB

    The beautiful thing about Frank, Ward, and all the others’ drawings is the sheer power of life and gesture they had. They glowed. They breathed. These seem lifeless and stiff. It reminds me of when it was all the rage in elementary school when it was all the rage to trace all those school resource illustrations we got. My art school brain is hurting right now.

  • Re:
    –His story is simple: he inherited all of the artwork from the fine art department of Kaufmann’s Department Stores back in the 1960s–

    It’s amazing that Kaufmann’s art buyers managed to obtain sketches from the ten-year-old John K of a character invented thirty years in the future.

    Greco looks like his face is coated with Vaseline and insanity.

  • Come on guys, he’s friends with Hugh Hefner!

    Seriously, though, I think this guy is a classic pathological liar – the kind who utterly believes in his own fabrications. I’ve come across a few like him in real life, and they all assume this attitude, whenever they’re questioned, of an interesting mix of outrage, hurt, and not caring what you think because they’re telling the truth, so there, and they’re not going to sink to your level by catering to your vulgar demands for PROOF.

    Usually it’s just sort of sad, kind of irritating, and occasionally very amusing, but THIS guy’s delusions are actually causing harm. He’s cheating people out of their hard-earned money for some fugly scribbles I could have drawn in fifth grade. I hope he gets shut down real soon.

  • Also, one of the posters on his website for an upcoming show uses Comic Sans, so I think we can all safely agree that this guy knows jackshit about art.

  • Tee

    I dunno- that Bill Watterson drawing in the slideshow looks like the kind of artwork one of America’s most beloved living comic strip artists might have done at the peak of his game- in a moving bus.

    Also: the Charlie Brown-like Picasso dovetails nicely into the rest of his “brown” period.

    Chagall’s “Elephant” is part of the work he did when designing for Fisher Price.

    This all looks very legitimate. I’ll get the markers and glue and whip up a credit card and make some offers.

  • Dr. Seuss signed Grinch drawings by Chuck Jones with a fluorescent green highlighter marker? Wow!

  • Wow those forgeries are REALLY bad.

  • amid

    Making fun of the guy is one thing, but perhaps people can also make productive suggestions about how this situation can be addressed. Is there any legal recourse for getting this guy to stop his scam operation?

    It’s worth noting that The Gallery on Baum also has shows of local Pittsburgh artists. Can we warn the Pittsburgh art community and let them know that by allowing themselves to be exhibited in a sham gallery, they are enabling this guy (and his wife who runs the gallery) to scam customers?

    Is there a way to connect with the Pennsylvania attorney general or Better Business Bureau and have them shut down the operation?

    What is the process for having eBay remove a store that is selling fake goods?

    This guy is ruining the reputations of deceased artists who can no longer defend themselves, and he’s also KNOWINGLY misleading people into buying counterfeit merchandise. Surely, that is a criminal act.

    If there are any lawyers in Pennsylvania, please speak up.

    • I don’t think this fellow is ruining anyone’s reputation….

    • Here’s how to report a seller & a few of Ebay’s rules in regards to this sort of behavior, including what they’ll investigate:

      I’ve done this before when I found a seller who was selling pages out of a cookbook of illustrations by Alice & Martin Provensen and trying to pass them off as “original prints.” They were simply pages torn out of a cookbook! And trying to sell them 4x more than what the entire book was worth. They had set up an “official” organization that would “verify” that these prints were “authentic” with a seal of approval. It was ridiculous. Ebay eventually shut down their page.

      If Ebay gets enough complaints about this guy, they will respond. Plus, it’s illegal what he’s doing. Hopefully, having the law on our side will be beneficial.

    • Funkybat

      One good way to make clear that these are fakes is to have a living artist come out and plainly state that what he is selling is not his or her work. John K. is alive last I checked, and not afraid to speak his mind, either. He could call out that “Jimmy the Idiot Boy” sketch. I’m sure at least a few other pieces of “art” he has are attributed to living artists.

      This guy’s stuff is obviously phony to anyone familiar with those artists’ work, but to “Uncle Joe” or “Aunt Minnie” this stuff might look like a great thing to get their artist niece or nephew or friend for Christmas or their birthday.

      Also, Pittsburgh is off the beaten path for this kind of stuff. If he tried to run his gallery in L.A. or San Francisco he’d be laughed out of town, fast.

  • I have no idea how this guy is keeping this gallery open. I’m really wondering if this whole thing is a front for a drug or other illegal trafficing operation. No person of any resonable intelligence would buy this crap. I’m a student at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. I’ve never been to this gallery personally, but I’ll try to spread the word around to anyone who might not know. On a more positive note Pittsburgh is home to the Toonseum which does have genuine cartoon and animation art!

  • You know what? Let him sell his crap. If anyone is dumb enought to believe those sketches are legit, let them waste their money. You don’t need to be an expert to realize how pathetically absurd those drawings look. It’s obvious this guy is making those abominations himself.

    • pheslaki

      What if the person buying is not any kind of art expert, but is buying it as a gift? I’d hate to think of one of my loved ones getting burned by the d-bag just because they don’t happen to be educated in art.

  • dbenson

    What’s really funny is his 100% favorable eBay ratings. But when you think about it, feedback is limited to the poor souls who put down money for it — and now have a literal investment in it being real (especially overconfident “collectors”). Besides which, most just talk about the transaction, not the merchandise. Something to keep in mind when you’re shopping outside your specialty.

  • I agree with Reynaldo except for one thing, I don’t think it’s a matter of people being dumb, rather I think it’s about them not being able to “see” what’s wrong with the drawings.
    When I look at the ” Frank Thomas “, I see a labored tracing. There isn’t a follow through with the shapes to get to the pose. The shirt stops at the belt, the legs stop at the shirt, etc.
    But to the non-artist, they wouldn’t see it.
    But, as he is selling these knock offs as originals, I do think that eBay owes it to their bidders to take his store site down.

  • Hans W.

    The best thing on the Frank Thomas drawing is probably the signature. That one is really well done…

  • After opening a random selection on his ebay page, i noticed all four (supposedly by different artists from different decades) looked to be done in the same marker pens, with the same shaky hand. Bob Kane’s Joker looks like it was done with my nephew’s felt-tips about a week ago.

  • NY Animator
  • what in the cel?

    I just want to know what’s wrong with his face?

  • Cole Johnson

    How about that Santa Claus by “Thomas Nast”? The image is a direct swipe from a mid-20’s political cartoon by Clive Weed.

  • I’ve contacted eBay a few times regarding Grecos forgeries. No result so far. But if all of the Brew readers report him we might see a change.
    Sad thing is that some of his forgeries has been pretty hard to rule out as fakes if seen one at a time. But once you see several drawings done with the same pen you can tell they are fakes. I know at least one collector with an otherwise nice colection who got fooled by him.
    BTW: Thanks for the link to my blog. :)

  • Say! I live in Pittsburgh! I should drop by and cash in on these rare gems while they’re still affordable!

  • Kris

    He’s not a “poor guy”, Amid. I’ve been there and know him fairly well. In fact, when he took me to the back room to look at “original” Calvin and Hobbes and other animation art, I took some snapshots. My favorite fake is Ward Kimball’s signed crappy watercolor Simba. I have loads of pictures, though I wussed out on uploading them.

  • BSH

    Glad this is getting some exposure! I have a bunch more. Check them out:

    • Those “Hirschfelds” are INSANE.

  • BSH

    We have a fairly large following in the Pittsburgh art community, and shared your post in our post to help warn other artists that may want to exhibit there.

  • Martin Juneau

    His face makes me sick. I don’t understand why someone wants to sell fake arts, even someone on DeviantArt will not sell fake ones.

    • he looks like one of those guys shootin’ dice in the back of a smoke filled bar!

  • I once gave a fella certification on an obvious fake so he could get his money back. A few months later, the same drawing was on Antiques Roadshow and some clueless person from an auction house was saying it was worth half again as much as any animation drawing had ever sold for up to that time. Go figure.

  • Was my face red

    What is it about these things? I keep going back to look at them again!

  • Dan S

    I swear I thought this guy was a bloated sculpture in his photo.

    • pat i

      Has anyone thought of checking the signatures on these pieces?

      I’m still waiting for the Chagall’s digital art collection to come up for sale.

  • Holy crap!!! This place is down the street from me. I had no idea this was going on! I used to work across the street in the Porsche dealership. The Gallery on Baum is in a former Papa John’s/Radio Shack location next to a storage facility on a busy road. Not your typical gallery, if you will. I was always so confused why someone put one there anyway. Plus, I was even more confused by the crappy sign out front. It all makes sense now — fake gallery in a busted down location.

  • On the plus side… he puts out a nice spread at his openings. I think I ate like twenty meatballs and two plates of cheese at the last show. Yum!

    • Ohio Bill

      Mr. Greco looks retarded, really. A shame what he is doing to the cartoon art world. I have heard through the grapevine that his friend “Burns” is also a cartoonist of sorts, and responsible for the creation of much of this bogus artwork.

  • Darren

    The funny thing most on here probably dont know is that Tony is considered by the collecting world to have the largest Munster (tv show) collection out there . He is well known amung collectors , this site makes him out to be an unknown selling fakes . I guess Ken Burns the director does alot of business with Tony G.

  • Sparky

    Sure, it’s easy to make fun of obvious forgeries, and all forgeries present dangers to the art market. But are any of you skilled at detecting much better forgeries which sell for much higher prices? These can occur with artists who do not rely so much on fine draftsmanship but instead paint in large fields of color. A couple of deceased Disney story artists come to mind. Forgeries in the style of these artists’ work tend to start out small, but they become larger, more detailed, and much more impressive, at least at first glance, as time goes on and the forger(s) become more confident in their ability to fool the “discriminating” art dealers and buyers. Hasn’t anyone wondered why new, spectacular pieces of DIsney story art just keep coming onto the market and why none of these works can be found in old auction and sales catalogues, along with those smaller paintings with fewer and less detailed figures which were unquestionably authentic? Some of you might try testing your artistic eyes and detective skills on some of these new discoveries, many of which sell for more than $10,000 each.

  • Heat Death

    How in the world can he claim to have inherited this stuff from Kaufmann’s back in the 1960’s and yet be selling so much contemporary stuff that could not have come from that time period- like Watterson, Larson, Kricfalusi, etc. What’s his explanation for all that stuff?! I guess it really is a blessing that most of the likenesses are so bad that any experienced collector can easily spot them.

  • Scott

    While in Pittsburgh last week I visited the Gallery on Baum with some family members. Tony kept asking us: “Whaddya like? Ya like Warhol? Haring? Watterson?” Then he would head to the back room and return with portfolio after portfolio of drawings, doodles, sketches. The Calvin & Hobbes and Far Side drawings were embarrassingly bad, really amateurish tracing jobs. He reminded me a lot of Ratso Rizzo from Midnight Cowboy, talking a mile a minute and answering questions that none of us asked. According to Tony he started collecting in the 1960s, and his collection now numbers a half million pieces. By my calculations that means he’s been acquiring “art” at the rate of 30 pieces a day for the past 46 years, weekends and holidays included of course.

    • markjsunz

      Ratso Rizzo Excellent

  • markjsunz

    Greco sold a drawing of W.C. Fields to me signed by Shemp Howard and dated 1945. I sent the sketch to PSA and they said it was no good. I e-mailed Greco, he sent a fast refund and never ask for his item back.
    I have purchased thru the years Shemp Howard items thru a family member. This prints autograph of Shemp is not close.
    He knew the name of Shemps wife and claims to have gotten the item from Moe Fineberg who was Larrys brother.
    If no one complains he gets away with it. If he has to give you a refund he is out nothing.