Happy Trails to Cowboy King’s Collectibles Firearms at Brian Lebel’s and the sale at Christie’s New York conclude the museum auction.

Firearms at Brian Lebel’s and the sale at Christie’s New York conclude the museum auction.
Firearms at Brian Lebel’s and the sale at Christie’s New York conclude the museum auction.

The storyline sounds eerily familiar today.

Crooked Wall Street bankers are unscrupulously trying to force Roy Rogers from his Circle R Ranch, after the cowboy hero has trouble making his mortgage payments.

If the foreclosure goes through, the bankers plan to purchase the property for a song and capitalize on the rich mineral deposits at Skeleton Canyon that Roy does not even know is on his land.

If you ever get the chance to watch Republic’s 1939 film Wall Street Cowboy, pay close attention to the double buscadero gun rig the cowboy star wears. It is the first out of the three he would own in his lifetime, and it hammered in as the top lot for $90,000 at Brian Lebel’s Old West Auction, held in Denver, Colorado, on June 25-27, 2010.

After starring in his first Western, Republic’s 1938 film Under the Western Stars, Roy bought the hand-carved rig at the North Hollywood saddle shop opened by Ed G. Gilmore in 1930. Two years later, Gilmore was murdered and his shop was taken over by Hollywood Saddlery; given the short life span of Gilmore’s career, the movie star gear he  made can be considered quite collectible.

Visitors lucky enough to meet Roy at the Roy Rogers-Dale Evans Museum in Victorville, California (the museum later moved to Branson, Missouri) might have gotten the full story of the rig directly from the famous retired actor, who was known to drop in at the museum from time to time.

If Roy had held out his first rig for you to inspect, you would have likely admired Gilmore’s floral tooled leather handiwork. But you also would have noticed the rig’s cracked leather, the tarnished and dented silver studs, and the broken strap billet.

Just what had happened to this rig exactly? Well, Roy would have told you, with his broad smile causing his eyes to disappear into a crinkle, the rig was in perfect shape when he worked on early pictures such as Wall Street Cowboy, but one of his scripts called for him to fistfight in a muddy stream while wearing his six-guns. The thorough soaking ruined the artistry of the rig. Gilmore had accented the floral carvings on the tan-colored rig with two-tone black dyed highlights; the black dye had completely rubbed off. Yet, as they say in show business, the “show must go on,” so the filming department restained the rig a single tan color.

Roy “Dusty” Rogers Jr. commissioned Jim Lockwood of Legends in Leather to restore the rig. Lockwood had apprenticed under Bob Brown, who he first met during his travels collecting memorabilia at Old West festivals. Brown had made movie rigs for Hopalong Cassidy, Wild Bill Elliott, Lash LaRue, Buck Jones and John Wayne, among others, and he agreed to give Lockwood the original patterns and carving designs. Included in that pile were samples of Gilmore’s rig design for Roy’s first rig.

The sale of the double buscadero rig included two .41 caliber Colt Single Actions dating to 1897, which were worn by the “King of the Cowboys,” as he would come to be known during his acting career with Republic Pictures.

Citing financial difficulties in keeping the Roy Rogers-Dale Evans Museum open after the 1998 and 2001 deaths of Roy and Dale, respectively, the Rogers family decided to close the museum in December 2009 and auction off the collection in Arizona, Colorado and New York City. Christie’s New York held the final sale. Since Christie’s is unlicensed for firearms sales, that portion of the sale was entrusted to Brian Lebel’s auction house.

The Roy Rogers-Dale Evans Museum Collection hammered in at the Cody Old West auction for $355,300.

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