Three years ago, Brian Lebel moved his Old West Auction from Cody, Wyo., to Denver, Colo. Over the 20 years that he was in Cody, Lebel established Old West Auction as a premier auction house for western collectables. The move from Cody to Denver has been a good one for the Old West Auction. “We love Cody. The people are fantastic” said Lebel, “but we just outgrew Cody. We just turned into a different kind of event.”
In its first year in Denver, Old West Auction offered a large portion of the material from the Roy Rogers Museum in Branson, Mo. Included was Rogers’ entire collection of guns. Last year, Brian Lebel and Old West Auction pulled off an unbelievable coup in being selected to auction the “Billy the Kid” tintype. Originally thought to bring $400,000, the 1.75-inches wide by 3.0-inches high tintype sold to billionaire collector Edward Koch for 2.3 million dollars.
So how does Brian Lebel top last year? “As human nature is, you always want to get better and better every year.” said Lebel, “After doing Billy the Kid, that’s almost impossible, but we feel like the combination of several amazing items that we have this year is even more important because it is more affordable for people and we have some amazingly rare pieces such as the Jesse James wanted poster.”
Marketing Director, Melissa McCracken, said “Everyone keeps asking us what this years ‘Billy the Kid’ is, and since they were referring to that as ‘the holy grail’ of western collectables, how can you beat ‘the holy grail’? What was interesting this year was the number of great items that we got.”
One thing that you can count on in Brian Lebel’s Old West Auction is that each of the 418 items have been thoroughly documented and authenticated and its provenance is impeccable. Provenance is best described as being the documented history of ownership of a valued object or work of art. An expert certification can mean the difference between an object having no value and being worth a fortune.
A case in point is one of the show vendors that has a revolver and holster. Scratched into the wooden grip of the pistol is “Billy the Kid” and the date of May, 1880. He described that experts had said that the pistol was the same as Billy used, the grip was original, and the holster leather was original, but, because he has no other documentation that proves this gun belonged to Billy the Kid, it is worth no more than any other gun of the time. He said that the gun was not for sale and he would keep searching for the documentation that would turn his curio into a priceless collectable.
“We’re so happy with the show. We had a larger crowd on Friday afternoon than we ever had.” said Melissa McCracken, “We have 239 dealers this year. This has got to be the largest western collectable show in the country - more than 20 percent over last year. Attendance is up and the dealers are thrilled.”
The Old West Auction continues to get better every year in it new home of Denver, Colo. If you have any interest at all in western collectables it is worth the trip to the Merchandise Mart next June. The auction items are open for public viewing and the many vendors have a variety of less expensive collectables for sale. Even if you have no intention of buying, it is a great way to spend an afternoon. ❖