Brian Lebel’s Old West Auction in Mesa, Arizona, is always a movie collector’s paradise.

All Images Courtesy Brian Lebel’s Old West Auction Unless Otherwise Noted

Western outfits make a statement from top to bottom. The crown of the outfit is the cowboy hat, something which has become a symbol of the American West. So when it comes to collecting the West, it is not surprising that cowboy hats, particularly from American celebrities, are hot items. That certainly was the case at Brian Lebel’s annual Old West Auction in Mesa, Arizona, on January 22. A total of 65 cowboy hats brought in prices from $100 to $45,000 each, fetching a cumulative $128,400. 


John Wayne continues to be a favorite at the Lebel auctions. The personally signed hat he wore in The Undefeated went for $45,000, while a costume worn by him in the same movie pulled in $7,000, and the frock coat he wore in his last movie, The Shootist, fetched $19,000.


The hats that brought the highest bids belonged to cowboy stars. Top seller was John Wayne’s autographed hat from The Searchers, which went for $45,000. A hat presented by early cowboy star Tom Mix to a friend fetched $7,500, while a hat made by Hollywood designer Nudie for occasional cowboy actor and crooner Dean Martin went for $4,250. 

Among other items at Lebel’s Mesa auction was a wide diversity of horse gear, American Indian artifacts and works of art. A special feature was the Flood family’s collection of art, photos and archival materials from Western artists Joe De Yong, Will James and Maynard Dixon. There were also several notable hats in the Flood collection, including Charles Russell’s personal hat and Joe De Yong’s hat, illustrated by him with two cowboys.


This hat (top) that belonged to Charles Russell was presented by Mrs. Russell to their friend, artist Joe De Yong. It sold for $16,000. De Yong’s hat (bottom), with its illustration of cowboys and brands, went for $4,250.


In addition to hats, other Western-worn items did well at the auction. A frock coat and an ensemble of shirt, pants and kerchief worn by John Wayne went for $19,000 and $7,000. Edward Bohlin’s personal gold-filigreed belt buckle brought $40,000, while a pair of spurs created and worn by Bohlin hammered out at $200,000, far exceeding the highest estimate of $125,000. Three-thousand-five-hundred dollars was the going price for a pair of Tres Outlaws boot with an O.K. Corral theme, while another pair of Tres Outlaws “Poker” boots went for $2,750. 

From head to toe, the Mesa auction proved to be a Western haberdasher’s delight.  


Singer and actor Dean Martin’s Stetson, designed by Nudie and created specially for him, drew a commanding bid of $4,250.


The Resistol hat from Universal City Studios worn by Once Upon a Time in the West star Claudia Cardinale went for a cool $600, a good price for any fan of the lovely Italian actress.


A pair of Tres Outlaw’s boots, complete with inlaid poker chips, pulled in a bid of $2,750.


Edward Bohlin’s personal silver and gold parade spurs, exhibited at the 1967 World’s Fair, drew $200,000, the highest price at the Mesa auction.


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