A Treasure Trove of Artifacts

Brian Lebel’s annual Old West Auction in Santa Fe gaveled out a weekend of surprises.

A Harrington and Richardson Arms Company countertop display, with period revolvers from different manufacturers, brought $8,260, which was more than twice the projected high bid.

 

The ancestors of today’s museums were “cabinets of curiosities” compiled by private collectors in the 16th and 17th centuries. They contained an assortment of artifacts, some remarkable or unusual, some of great scientific interest, and others of great monetary value. Their contents were determined by the collectors’ interests. German collectors referred to them as Wunderkammers or rooms of wonder. Brian Lebel’s Old West Auction in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on June 26, offered what could truly be called an Old West cabinet of curiosities, filled with items of wonder. Advertising signs and posters, badges, spurs, buckles, horse gear, American Indian artifacts, art and firearms were presented. It was a treasure trove for any collector seeking items to add to their own Western Wunderkammer. 

 

Worn by Clint Eastwood in Joe Kidd and documented with four photographs from the movie, this hat by Nudie’s Rodeo Tailors landed in a collector’s “cabinet” for $8,850. “Joe Kidd” Hat Courtesy Brian Lebel’s Old West Auction Clint Eastwood movie still (below) courtesy Universal Pictures

One of the biggest surprises of the evening was a piece of advertising ephemera from the Americana collection of Earl Hagerman. The framed Ditto Cigars poster with an image of freight wagons and a mounted cowboy was projected to bring close to $900. Instead it went for a whopping $27,140. Another novelty from the Hagerman collection, a unique Harrington and Richardson Arms Company countertop display, also greatly exceeded expectations at $8,260. 

Western celebrities’ hats did well, with Ben Johnson’s Resistol hat and Clint Eastwood’s Nudie-created hat worn in Joe Kidd bringing $8,850 each. And, even though it was not one of his signature Stetsons, Buffalo Bill’s top hat went for $6,490. A pair of miniature Mexican sombreros, one accompanied by its original hat box, were among the smallest items offered, but they still brought $1,298. There were other miniatures, including salesman’s samples. A 20-inch pair of wooly Angora chaps, a salesman’s sample from Hamley and Company of Oregon, went for $3,245. That final bid was nearly three times the estimated price and twice the price of a full-sized pair of woolies sold earlier in the auction. Like the hats, the chaps will likely be a welcome addition to some collector’s cabinet of curiosities. 

All Images Courtesy Brian Lebel’s Old West Auction

Upcoming Auctions

September 14-18, 2021

Buffalo Bill Art Show & Sale | Rendevous Royale (Cody, WY)

RendevousRoyale.org | (307) 587-5002

October 7, 2021

Sporting & Collector Firearms Auction #1038 | Rock Island Auction Company (Rock Island, IL)

RockIslandAuction.com | (309) 797-1500

November 17-18, 2021

Extraordinary Firearms & Early Arms | Morphy Auctions (Denver, PA)

MorphyAuctions.com | (877) 968-8880

 

A framed Ditto Cigars poster pulled in a whopping $27,140, the top price at the Lebel Old West Auction. It had been expected to net under $1,000.

 

A carved bull head, with real horns attached, from the notorious Bulls Head Saloon in Abilene, Kansas, went for $12,980. The saloon was operated by Ben Thompson, a gunfighter who straddled both sides of the law.

 

Two exquisite miniature Mexican sombreros with braided edges and tassels went for $1,298.

 

A beautifully decorated badge presented to Huerfano County, Colorado’s controversial sheriff J.B. Farr brought top dollar among a large assortment of badges, hammering in at $22,420.

 

Measuring only 20 inches high, these Angora chaps were used by a salesman with the Hamley Saddle Company of Pendleton, Oregon, to sell his merchandise. They sold for $3,245.

 

A distinctive addition to any Edward H. Bohlin collection, a tin and wood “Parking for Customers Only” sign from Bohlin’s Hollywood shop, went for $5,310.

 

An example of Victorian erotica, this six-inch “naughty” bronze of a woman in a gown (which pivots down to reveal her concealed charms) went for $1,770.

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