Santa Fe Art Pilgrimage

hats true west magazine
— All images courtesy of Brian Lebel’s Old West Shows and Old West Auction ­—

Long before rappers layered on “bling,” Hollywood cowboys and Western musicians donned their shimmering silver, gold and copper. Arguably the premier creator of Western glitz was a Swede—Edward Bohlin. As a teenager Bohlin boldly signed on to a four-mast schooner’s crew, but the sea was only a means to reach his dreams. The lure of Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West brought him to America, where he soon headed to Montana to herd cattle. Eventually, the talented risk-taker opened his first saddle shop in Cody, Wyoming. From there, he never looked back.

Nearly 125 years after Bohlin’s birth, his artistry remains a magnet for discriminating collectors. A silver parade saddle and other tack proved this case as the top seller at Lebel’s Cody Old West Auction in Santa Fe. The grouping brought $26,000 from its live auction bidder, one of over 300 attendees on June 23, 2019. The striking Bohlin ensemble was one of hundreds of lots featured at the Santa Fe Convention. At the end of the lively sale of nearly a half-million dollars’ worth of Western Americana, the more than 350 registered onsite, internet and phone bidders ensured a 93 percent sell-through rate.   

Several additional Bohlin items, including another saddle, a pair of spurs and jewelry also fetched impressive prices. Besides Bohlin’s items, the offerings ranged from a framed collection of outlaw John Wesley Hardin artifacts, with original Hardin signatures and a nine-of-hearts “shot-card,” to classic Silver Screen headgear.

In the latter category, auction owner Brian Lebel exuberantly claimed: “Everyone loves cowboy hats. When those hats are Stetsons, and they belonged to Roy Rogers, Tom Mix and John Wayne, people pay attention.” Rogers’, Mix’s and Wayne’s hats sold for $3,835, $5,015 and $8,260 respectively.

The auction serves as the capstone of this annual event held in conjunction with the Cody Old West Show, a weekend vendor show, which in 2019 hosted over 130 dealers, and drew nearly 3,000 attendees over three days. Among them were numerous younger shoppers. Lebel observed: “We have been trying to reach a younger audience for
some time.” His team hit their mark, he indicated, “through expanding our social media efforts” and other means in a successful, concerted game plan to capture all age groups, and thereby helping to keep enthusiasm for the Old West alive and well.

santa fe art true west magazine
Lot 134, an Edward H. Bohlin silver parade-saddle ensemble in the much sought-after Dick Dickson Jr. model, realized $26,550, exceeding its low estimate. The saddle was won by a live bidder on the sales floor after a spirited bidding war. Ed Bohlin items were popular all evening, with another Bohlin parade saddle exceeding its high estimate and bringing $12,980. All prices include buyer’s premiums.
santa fe art
A classic Ed Borein ink drawing ended as the top fine-art lot of the night, realizing $18,880 after a rapid bidding war between live bidders on the sales floor.
santa fe art true west magazine
Like many Westerners, Edward Bohlin haled from abroad. During his long career, the gifted transplanted Swede crafted saddles and other hallmarks of the West adorned with precious metals, including these early custom gold-mounted spurs. The pair realized $8,260 at auction.
santa fe art true west magazine
John “The Duke” Wayne regularly appeared on camera and off in his own custom-blocked Stetson like this iconic version
that went for $8,260.
true west magazine hat
During many of his movie and television appearances “King of the Cowboys” Roy Rogers donned a low-crowned signature white Stetson apropos of a silver screen good guy. This example sold for $3,835.
true west magazine art
Notorious John Wesley Hardin continues to appeal to bad men enthusiasts, as indicated by the fact that a framed assortment of his items was the auction’s second-highest seller at $23,600.



November 2, 2019

Texas Art Signature Auction Heritage (Dallas, TX) • 877-437-4824

November 15, 2019

American History: Premier Auction Cowan’s (Cincinnati, OH) • 513-871-1660

November 21, 2019

Online Gun Auction Rock Island (Rock Island, IL) • 800-238-8022


John Langellier’s most recent book, “Trapdoor” Springfield, was released last summer by Osprey of London. He currently is completing his next book, Scouting with the Buffalo Soldiers: Lieutenant Powhatan Clarke, Frederic Remington and the Tenth U.S. Cavalry in the West.

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