Morphy Auctions collaboration with Brian Lebel's Old West Events off to a roaring start at Cody Old West Show & Auction

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Morphy Auctions collaboration with Brian Lebel's Old West Events off to a roaring start at Cody Old West Show & Auction
Will James (American, 1892-1942), Untitled, graphite-on-board artwork depicting cowboy roping Longhorn steer. Size: 12½in x 19¼in (sight); 21½in x 28½in (framed). Artist signed, inscribed and dated ’34. Sold within estimate for $36,300.

SANTA FE, NM.- An affinity for the lore and history of the American West was the common denominator that connected premier dealers with enthusiastic collectors at Brian Lebel’s 33rd annual Cody Old West Show & Auction held June 23-25 at the Community Convention Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico. A much-anticipated highlight of the long weekend was the June 24 onsite auction of Western and Native American relics, produced in association with Morphy Auctions.

The lively specialty auction corralled many of the top collector categories, including cowboy antiques and collectibles, Native American artifacts, silver saddles, horse tack, antique and historic firearms; Hollywood cowboy memorabilia, Western fine art, Old West gambling and saloon items; Western decorative arts and furniture. In total, the auction took in $922,500 inclusive of buyer’s premium. The average selling price per lot was a buoyant $3,000.

To no one’s surprise, the magical Edward H. Bohlin name commanded top-lot honors in the form of a circa-1930s sterling silver parade saddle. An extravagant creation by the legendary saddlemaker to the stars, it featured both elaborately tooled leather and finely engraved silver components, and bore a strong resemblance to a style identified in Bohlin catalogs as the “Marietta.” Decorated with bucking broncos, Texas Longhorns and covered wagons, and lavishly mounted with silver conchos, it charmed bidders who pushed its price all the way to an estimate-topping $50,820.

As dazzling as the saddle was, it had to fight for the spotlight when a pair of Tony Lama “El Rey II” handmade cowboy boots crossed the auction block. Ordered through Luskey’s 1966 catalog and subsequently used as a roadside attraction on Route 66, the gold-leaf-inlaid boots were adorned with an incredible 54 carats of diamonds, rubies and sapphires. The fancy footwear settled within estimate at $24,200.

The tradition of Western artistry also extends to spurs and bridles, as seen in several prized auction entries. A fantastic pair of G.S. Garcia silver-inlaid spurs executed in Pattern No. 16, known as “‘Rattlesnake” lived up to their name with meticulously-detailed decorations of writhing rattlers and conchos engraved with images of their feared overhead enemies, eagles. Pattern No. 16 Garcia spurs are shown in the 1997 book Bit and Spur Makers in the Vaquero Tradition (Ned and Jody Martin). The auction pair sold near high estimate for $27,830.

Matching the spurs dollar for dollar was a Yuma (Arizona) territorial prison-made hitched horsehair bridle with American flags on the reins and romal, and diamond swells on the brow and nose bands. Horse tack created by prisoners between 1885 and the 1920s is avidly pursued by both equine and Western art collectors. Yuma prison productions, with their complicated diamond designs and unique color combinations, are among the most desirable of all. Against an estimate of $15,000-$20,000, the auction bridle galloped to a final price of $27,830.

Exceptional Native American artistry was on display in a circa 1870-1880 Cheyenne beaded cradle. Decorated in a traditional geometric motif in a colorful medley of turquoise, yellow, red, dark blue and green beads, the well-constructed cradle was backed by Native-tanned buffalo hide and mounted to wood slats studded with brass tacks. It ended its bidding run at $22,990.

The sale included seven artworks by Will James (Canadian/American, 1892-1942), all with themes involving cowboys and horses. Of that selection, a signed, dated (’34) but untitled graphite-on-board artwork depicting a cowboy roping a Longhorn steer fared best, finishing within estimate at $36,300.

Prior to auction day, many dozens of bidders had been following a scarce two-page November 14, 1904 pictorial “wanted” poster offering a $2,000 reward for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. The poster had been Issued by Pinkerton’s National Detective Agency after determining it was “George” (in actuality, Robert) Parker and Harry Longbaugh (Cassidy and Sundance) who had robbed $32,640 from the First National Bank of Winnemucca, Nevada, four years earlier. Against an estimate of $6,000-$8,000, the poster sold for $19,965.

Another novel entry was an original late-19th century Yellowstone National Park Observation Wagon, which would have been used as a sightseeing vehicle for tourists visiting the area. It rolled to the upper end of its estimate range, closing at $26,620.

Immediately after the June 23-25 show and auction, Brian Lebel remarked: “We couldn’t have been more pleased with the entire weekend. The show dealers were happy and busy, the auction buyers were thrilled with their purchases, and the auction consignors got the prices they wanted. It’s an incredibly difficult trifecta to pull off, but through the teamwork of both the Old West staff and the Morphy staff, we hosted an incredibly successful event.”

Dan Morphy commented: “It was a genuine pleasure for Morphy’s to work cooperatively with the Lebel team. There was a high level of professionalism throughout our first collaboration, and now we’re setting our focus on the next Lebel’s and Morphy’s joint event, which will take place under one roof in Las Vegas.” The January 26-27, 2024 edition of Brian Lebel’s Old West Events and Cody Old West Show & Auction will be held in tandem with Morphy’s Las Vegas Antique Arms show in a 130,000-square-foot three-ballroom space at the luxurious Westgate Resort and Casino.

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