The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Courtesy of American Royal Arts

When Iowa custom home builder Rick Garceau found American Royal Arts, he thought he was in Rock 'n' Roll Heaven.

Owner Jerry Gladstone trumpeted ARA as the world's largest seller of autographed rock 'n' roll, and they had an eye-popping selection of rare, signed, classic rock memorabilia. Garceau spent over $88,000 with ARA in 2006 and 2007, snapping up Beatles-signed "Abbey Road" and "Sgt. Pepper's" albums; guitars signed by the Grateful Dead, Wings, and 32 Rock Legends; Bangladesh, Dylan and Woodstock signed posters, and more.

One of his favorites? A set of Jimi Hendrix Experience autographs, framed with, according to the COA, an "Original, August 19, 1968 First Edition Concert Poster for a Jim Salzer concert at the Earl Warren Fairgrounds in Santa Barbara, California." The price? $3,950.

Jimi Hendrix Experience autographs framed with 1968 poster

Garceau was particularly proud of that purchase. He checked prices before he bought, and found that firsts of the poster alone were being offered at $6,000. A set of Jimi Hendrix Experience autographs were at least $3,000, so he was getting $9,000 in value at less than half-price.

American Royal Arts Certificate of Authenticity. 

A year after his last purchase, the collapse of the real estate market left Garceau sitting on new homes that were digging into his savings, so he decided to sell his most expensive pieces: his $16,500 signed "Abbey Road" and $21,500 signed "Sgt. Pepper's" albums. But not long after he listed them on eBay, eBay cancelled the listings for authenticity concerns. 

Garceau was shocked. After all, not only were they sold by long-established American Royal Arts—they were authenticated by a so-called court-approved forensic document examiner, Christopher Morales. After getting nowhere with ARA, Garceau contacted a major auction house, which confirmed the albums were forgeries. Shortly thereafter, the auction house connected Garceau with Autograph Magazine, and we recommended he have all of his autographs evaluated by the leading rock authenticator, Roger Epperson Authentication.

The news was not good. The only genuine autographs ARA sold Garceau were on a 2006 Rock 'n' Roll Fantasy Camp poster signed by musicians in attendance. It was the only item not authenticated by Morales.

Garceau's forged Jimi Hendrix Experience autographs, authenticated by Christopher Morales

Morales Letter of Authentication. Click to enlarge.

Facing an almost complete loss of his $88,000, Garceau contacted rare poster dealer Wolfgang's Vault to see what he could reasonably expect to get for the poster in his framed Hendrix display. They told him he needed to remove the poster from the frame to check the condition and confirm it was a first printing, because second printings are only worth a few hundred dollars.

The obvious difference between the two is that second printings have a red border all the way around, while first printings don't. The edge of Garceau's poster was covered by matting, so while it looked like a first printing, the matting had to be removed to confirm it.

Garceau carefully opened the frame from the back and removed the matting and backing that held the memorabilia. Since ARA touted archival quality framing to protect the memorabilia they sold, he was surprised to see foam core board inside. Turning the matting and frame right side up, he gently removed the matting to reveal the complete poster beneath.

This is what he found:

It was a second printing poster, which American Royal Arts framed to hide the telltale border. One that would be worth $300 or less, except for one thing: it was cemented to it's foam core backing...rendering it literally worthless.

That's Garceau's Jimi Hendrix Experience, courtesy of the fine people at American Royal Arts.

Where Things Stand Today
for Rick Garceau...and ARA

Everything Garceau purchased from ARA was a completely worthless fraud...except for the Fantasy Camp poster worth perhaps $500. I'll show you each piece he purchased soon.

ARA owner Jerry Gladstone has been the subject of an ongoing FBI investigation, and American Royal Arts filed for an Assignment for the Benefit of Creditors, a type of Florida bankruptcy, in 2010. But that hasn't stopped Gladstone from turning several ARA locations into galleries for his two new companies, The Pop Culture Vault and Beyond the Cage. While he has hopefully learned his lesson about selling forged autographs, we assume that Gladstone is still selling fraudulently represented posters and other memorabilia—and ruining even those by gluing them in place.

Garceau filed a claim, but while Gladstone has reportedly paid close to a million dollars or more out of his own pocket to settle actual or potential litigation that might have kept ARA's liquidation from going through, Garceau and others in his position we've spoken to have heard little from the administrator handling the case.

At this point, things don't look good for any of them.

Views: 5750

Tags: Jimi, american royal arts, ara, beyond the cage, experience, forgeries, fraud, gladstone, hendrix, jerry, More…poster, the pop culture vault

Comment by Rick Meyer on January 9, 2012 at 8:03pm

Morales is a greedy turd. He thinks nothing of helping to scam somebody out of 80K so he can make 400 or 500 in fees. He should be in prison.

Comment by Peter Lougheed on January 9, 2012 at 8:17pm

How can fraud crimes of literally millions of dollars not get more attention and action by authorities? The bad guys are not hiding what they are doing.

Comment by Brandon Mysinger on January 9, 2012 at 8:40pm
Lets not forget the few people that have defended Morales and his coas on blogs and forums.
Comment by Steve Cyrkin, Admin on January 9, 2012 at 8:48pm

I'm hopeful that many members of the forgery industry are going to face charges. The most important thing we can do is get the message out to victims so that they can help get the fraudsters put away...for a LONG time.

Whether they're forgers, forgery sellers, or fraudulent authenticators...these thieves and fraudsters are dead men (and women) walking.

Comment by Steve Cyrkin, Admin on January 9, 2012 at 8:59pm


If you could say anything you wanted, as much as you wanted, to Jerry Gladstone and Chris Morales, what would you say?

Comment by Barry S on January 10, 2012 at 6:47am
I just checked out Pop Culture Vault. So he thinks he can sell fake memorabilia for around 25 years, pay a forensic examiner to say its authentic, dissolve his company, "the biggest RR dealer in the world", create a new co. and now sell legit items? Kind of start over with hundreds of millions in his pocket like the past didn't happen? And gets pissed off when someone from the past comes forward? He told me one time "the Mom and Pop memorabilia dealers" are jealous and trying to ruin his business. And now he runs a Mom and Pop business. You got to pay for the past.
Comment by Rick Garceau on January 10, 2012 at 7:05am
I have a great deal to say about Gladstone and Morales. They will soon find out how much media attention they can get with their scams. I would have a hard time believing Gladstone's new companies are legitimate at all. He wouldn't be happy without a victim!
Comment by DB on January 10, 2012 at 7:33am

unfortunately Barry, the bankruptcy laws protect both good & bad and with clever legal manuevering the bad can (and almost always do) come out on top...   for a while anyways.

Comment by Steve Cyrkin, Admin on January 10, 2012 at 1:44pm

I think the only reason they filed the Assignment for the Benefit of Creditors was to get rid of liability to customers who were sold fake or misrepresented memorabilia. American Royal Arts wasn't behind or losing money as a far as anyone I knew could tell. 

The thing is that someone had to sign under penalty of perjury that all the known or potential creditors were listed so they could be notified. But the only customers I know of that were listed were ones that had already tried to get their money back.

ARA sold untold millions in fraudulent memorabilia to customers who don't know it...and will not find out until it's too late.

It's the neutron bomb maneuver. You know...the bomb that destroys everything living but leaves assets untouched. 

Comment by Rick Garceau on January 10, 2012 at 1:57pm
I agree Steve. I believe this was a long planned out exit strategy that would be implemented when their scam caught up with them. They would keep the millions ripped off from people and start again. There's a lot more to this story.


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