Sold! Collectors love the Old West, and Western art, firearms and collectibles remain popular coast to coast.

As the 19th century turned into the 20th century, people in the United States looked to both the future and the past. Visitors to Chicago during the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893 could see products of the future and ride the newly invented Ferris wheel. But they could also visit Buffalo Bill’s Wild West, where the recently ended American frontier was brought back to life. Like those visitors, but 130 years later, collectors in 2023 were presented with both the old and the new in the West.

A beaded dress that belonged to Jenny Yellow Elk Woman, a performer with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West in 1893, brought nearly twice the projected sale price at the Bonhams’ auction of the Robinson collection. At the 1893 exposition, Pabst got a blue ribbon for its beer (PBR anyone?), Aunt Jemima started making pancake mix and Smith and Wesson was a featured firearms manufacturer. One of the new revolvers at the company’s booth was the Model Number 3; that revolver was sold at the Rock Island Premiere Firearms Auction in 2023. Twelve years after the exposition, a dentist named Zane Grey started writing novels about the American West, creating a place that was both real and imaginary. His Model 1895 Winchester commanded a premium price at another Rock Island Auction.

Brian Lebel’s Old West Auction in Mesa, Arizona, kicked off the year with a bow to the legendary West, a place introduced by men like Cody and Grey. That Mesa auction and Lebel’s Santa Fe auction later in the year included several Edward H. Bohlin parade saddles, never used for riding the range but always popular with collectors. The Santa Fe auction also offered a Buffalo Bill’s Wild West advertising poster and an original wanted poster for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, inhabitants of both the real West and the movie West.

The Western landscape and its peoples have inspired artists from the 19th century through the 21st century. Ed Mell’s Cloud Force presented a very abstracted vision of the desert at the Scottsdale Art Auction. While interest in the contemporary art of the West is increasing, it was paintings by the “Old Masters” that commanded the highest prices. An aspen forest was the setting for The Hunters, Taos by Oscar Berninghaus. Its sale at the Scottsdale auction established a world record price for one of his paintings. As might be expected, works by Charles Russell captured the highest bids at The Russell, the Charles Russell Museum’s premier event in Great Falls, Montana. The top seller was Piegans, an early oil painting (ca. 1895) by Russell, which shows three members of the Piegan sub-tribe of the Blackfoot Confederacy in Montana.

The future and the past, the old and the new, the real and the legendary…all attracted collectors to the Best of the West in artifacts and collectibles in 2023.


Zane Grey’s well-documented Model 1895 Winchester hammered down at a price sold of $440,625 at the Rock Island Premier Auction in May 2023. Courtesy Rock Island


Best Western Museum

Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West, Scottsdale, AZ

The beautiful design of this building and its outdoor sculpture gallery offer just a taste of what you will experience inside this state-of-the-art museum filled with paintings, sculptures, cowboy gear and ranch paraphernalia, including the Abe Hays Spirit of the West Collection. Western Spirit recently acquired the Eddie Basha Collection of Western American fine art and a new wing will be built to exhibit it. Major exhibitions in 2023 included “The Gather—A Portrait of the American West—Scott T. Baxter,” “William Matthews: Decades,” “Western Pop: Andy Warhol and Billy Schenck” and “Werner Segarra: Vaqueros de la Cruz del Diablo.”

Readers’ Choice
Boot Hill Museum, Dodge City, KS


Best Western Art Collection

Museum of Western Art,
Kerrville, TX

After celebrating its 40th anniversary with “40 Years of Western Art,” an exhibition featuring 86 pieces of Western art since 1983, the former The Cowboy Artists of America Museum this year looks ahead to the next 40 years and beyond. In celebration of another anniversary, “100 Years of Schreiner Treasures” salutes the local university’s centennial in an exhibit November 4-December 16, 2023. The next exhibit, “Glory and Grime: The Art of Suzanne Vincent,” opens on January 13, 2024.

Readers’ Choice
Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, Canyon, TX


Hopi Basketmaker, Hopi Towns, 1900 Arthur C. Vroman, The Getty Online Collection


Best American Indian Collection

Buffalo Bill Center of the West,
Cody, WY

Except for the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., the five-museum complex in Cody stands singularly in the United States for the breadth and depth of its collections and exhibitions on the American West. A visitor to the BBCW should stay at least three days in Cody to take in all the museums’ exhibits, but if time is limited and you love American Indian history, start with the world-class Plains Indian Museum and the Whitney Western Art Museum.

Readers’ Choice
Heard Museum, Phoenix, AZ


Best Western Art Collector

Philip F. Anschutz, Denver, CO

Billionaire Western art collector Philip Anshutz’s passion for Western art has led him to become one of the most influential collectors and donors of the genre in the country. The Anschutz Collection at Denver’s American Museum of Western Art has over 600 paintings, drawings and sculptures representing more than 180 artists. The collection provides one of the nation’s finest surveys of American Western history from the early 19th century to the present.

Readers’ Choice
Tim Peterson, Cape Cod, MA


Best Western History Collector

Bob Nelson (Nelson Museum of the West), Cheyenne, WY

Wyoming native Bob Nelson had a career as a successful attorney, but his real passion is Western history. A lifelong collector, the Nelson Museum of the West in his hometown of Cheyenne is a showcase for his collection. Seeing works by Will James, Frank Tenney Johnson, Charles M. Russell and Joseph H. Sharp is reason enough to visit this gem. But add the wearable and functional artwork of Plains and Pueblo Indians and transplanted Californian Burt Procter’s works exhibited in his “studio” and you’ll understand why the Nelson consistently draws accolades and crowds.

Readers’ Choice
Richard Fike (Museum of the Mountain West) Montrose, CO


Best Pioneer History Collection

Legacy of the Plains Museum, Gering, NE

Located on the route of the Oregon-California Trail and near Scotts Bluff, the natural landmark that was a key travel marker for 19th-century wagon trains, this museum tells the stories of the trails by showing various modes of travel. Other exhibits focus on dryland farming, livestock production and early settlers in the region. A sod house, blacksmith shop and herd of longhorn cattle are part of the museum’s outdoor exhibit area.

Readers’ Choice
Cowtown, Wichita, KS


Best Old West Collectibles Auction

Morphy Auctions, Denver, PA

For the second year in a row, True West’s editors honor the excellence of Morphy Auctions. In 2023, Morphy acquired Brian Lebel Wild West Auctions and is now considered the premier Western collectibles auction house. Morphy has five collectible divisions: Advertising & General Store, Automobilia & Petroliana, Coin-Op & Gambling, Fine & Decorative Arts and Toy & Doll. Collectors can find hundreds of items from the Old West in the annual auctions.

Readers’ Choice
Richmond Auctions, Greenville, SC


Best Western Collectibles Gallery

Cowboy Legacy Gallery, Scottsdale, AZ

For the second year in a row, True West’s editors honor the excel-
lence of Cowboy Legacy Gallery. Over 100 nationally known artists are represented by the gallery, which has been in business for 35 years. The popular gallery is highly regarded for the diversity of art
and artists—and variety of mediums and subject matter, including Western, wildlife, figurative, landscape and still-life—they represent for their customers.

Readers’ Choice
C.M. Russell Museum, Great Falls, MT


Best Old West Art Auction

Heritage Auctions, Dallas, TX

Heritage Auctions in Dallas is an internationally recognized leader in selling Western Americana, Texana, art, movie posters and collectibles. Major Western artists’ originals auctioned in 2023 included pieces by Maynard Dixon, Bill Nebeker, Remington Schuyler, Frank Tenney Johnson, Olaf Wieghorst, Peggy McGivern, Oscar E. Berninghaus, Edward Borein, Joe Beeler and Thom Ross.

Readers’ Choice
Scottsdale Art Auction, Scottsdale, AZ


Best Old West Firearms Auction

Rock Island Auction, Rock Island, IL

For the second year in a row, True West’s editors have selected Rock Island Auction as the best firearms auction house in the country. Rock Island prides itself on its integrity and the quality and rarity of the antique firearms, collectors’ firearms, rare guns, modern guns and other firearms-related items auctioned since 2003. Annual events include Premier Firearms Auction, Sporting & Collector Firearms and nine regularly scheduled online firearms auctions.

Readers’ Choice
Amoskeag Auction Company, Manchester, NH


Best Historic Firearms Museum

Northeastern Nevada Museum,
Elko, NV

The Bob Chow Collection showcases a unique exhibition of firearms that were popular during the settlement of the West in the 19th century. The museum has a great collection of original art by Will James and seasonal exhibitions of cowboy gear, wildlife and pioneer items.

Readers’ Choice
Museum of the Fur Trade, Chadron, NE


Best Treasure Hunting Device

Electroscopes by Thomas,
Jersey Shore, PA

An internationally recognized metal detector company founded 35 years ago, Electroscopes has five models that are popular for detectorists and treasure hunters. All of Thomas Afilani’s unique electronic products, including the Regulator, Gravitator Recovery System, Model 301, Fieldscope and Ancient Artifact Relic Hunter, are made in the USA.

Readers’ Choice
Garrett Metal Detectors, TX


Best Western Painter

Oscar E. Berninghaus

Born in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1874, Berninghaus was one of six artists who founded the Taos Society of Artists in 1915. Before making his home permanently in Taos in 1925, the influential Western artist spent many years working as a commercial artist in St. Louis and summers painting in Taos. Today, Berninghaus’s art is highly sought after and is part of the permanent collections of major museums across the United States.

Readers’ Choice
Frederic Remington


The wife of Western star Montie Montana rode this ornate Bohlin saddle in parades. In January it sold at Brian Lebel’s Mesa Auction for $82,600. Courtesy Morphy’s-Brian Lebel’s Old West Auction


Best Western Painter (Living)

Mark Maggiori, Taos, NM

Award-winning, French-born artist Mark Maggiori makes his home today in Taos, one of the most important centers of Western art in the country. Trained as an artist at Académie Julian in Paris, Maggiori was the front man for the acclaimed rock band Pleymo before he turned to art fulltime in 2014. Since the French artist has focused his career on Western American art, he has become one of the most collected and lauded artists of the West. Many art critics compare his style to that of Frederic Remington, Maynard Dixon and Frank Tenney Johnson.

Readers’ Choice
TIE: Sherry Blanchard Stuart/Andy Thomas, Carthage, MO


Best Western Art Gallery

Taos Art Museum, Taos, NM

Located in the former adobe house of Russian-born artist Nicolai Fechin (1881-1955), the Taos Art Museum is an intimate, extraordinary experience that celebrates the Taos Society of Artists and the life and work of the immigrant painter who made his home in Taos from 1927 to 1933. New exhibitions in 2023 include “Art of Timeless Beauty, the Navajo Child’s Blanket,” “Atmospheric Pressure Works” by Anaïs Rumfelt and “Natural Forms” works by
Britt Brown.

Readers’ Choice
Legacy Gallery, Scottsdale, AZ


Part of the Robinson collection, a fully beaded dress that was worn by Jenny Yellow Elk when she and her husband John Y. Nelson performed for Buffalo Bill’s Wild West in 1893 sold for $214,575 at the Bonhams’ auction. Courtesy Bonhams


Best Western Art Museum Gallery

The Museum of Indian Arts & Culture, Santa Fe, NM

The state museum is internationally recognized for its excellence in curating the rich and diverse art of the indigenous people of New Mexico. Exhibitions in 2023 and 2024 include “Down Home” featuring the work of MIAC’s 2023 Living Treasure Anthony Lovato (Kewa/Santo Domingo Pueblo), “Here, Now & Always” and “Horizons: Weaving Between the Lines with Diné Textiles.”

Readers’ Choice
The Brinton Museum, Big Horn, WY


Best Western Bronze Foundry

Pyrology Foundry & Studio,
Bastrop, TX

Founded by a renowned sculptor, Pyrology is one of the few full-service foundries in the world. It has earned a great reputation from artists who seek out the foundry to cast their monumental art for public and private exhibition.

Readers’ Choice
Bronzeworks, Prescott Valley, AZ


Best Western Bronze Artist

Erik Christianson, Texas Hill Country, TX

In the United States, Hawaiian-born artist Erik Christianson is considered one of the finest and most respected monumental, historical bronze artists. Based in Texas, the sculptor is well-known for his horse sculptures and has received commissions from United States Horse Cavalry, the Vaqueros Association and the First Cavalry Division.

Readers’ Choice
Bill Nebeker, Prescott, AZ


Best Classic Western Bronze Artist

Alexander Phimister Proctor

Born in Ontario, Canada, in 1860, Proctor moved with his family to the United States when he was a child and was raised in Iowa and Colorado. Formally trained in art in the U.S. and France, Proctor became renowned for his bronze sculptures of domestic animals and wildlife. He was also sought after for his monumental bronzes, which he made his specialty. An avid outdoorsman, the award-winning artist was a great admirer of President Theodore Roosevelt, who was the subject of his monument, The Rough Rider. Other famous works are Bucking Bronco and On the War Trail, both in Denver, Colorado, and the four Buffalo on the Q Street Bridge in Washington, D.C.

Readers’ Choice
Frederic Remington



January 26, 2022

34th Annual Old West Show & Auction

Morphy Auctions & Brian Lebel’s Old West Events

(Las Vegas, NV) • 480-779-9378


March 21, 2024

Art of the West

Heritage Auctions (Dallas, TX) • 214-528-3500


April 12-13, 2024

Western Fine Art Auction

Scottsdale Art Auction (Scottsdale, AZ) • 480-945-0225

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