Heading to Denver the right move for growing Old West event
October 16, 2013
The decision Brian Lebel made four years ago — to move his already successful Old West Show and Auction to Denver — proves to have been the correct one for the growth of the operation.
The Old West Auction had been operating in Cody, Wyo., for more than 20 years and the established auction was already widely considered to be one of the best for buying or selling Western collectables and antiquities.
"We love Cody. The people are fantastic," Lebel said. "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.
In its second year in Denver, Lebel and the Old West Auction were selected to auction the only verifiable picture of "Billy the Kid". Originally thought to bring $400,000, the 1.75-by-3-inches tintype sold to billionaire collector, Edward Koch, for $2.3 million.
Not resting on his laurels, in 2012, Lebel featured items that included an Edward Borein watercolor, one of the few remaining Buffalo Bill Wild West Show Parade flags, an extensive collection of Ortega rawhide work, and a Jesse James wanted poster that sold for $56,050, in addition to the more than 300 other examples of Western collectables.
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Lebel continued his offerings at this year's show, held last month, when the items that seemed to generate the most excitement were those belonging to Clayton Moore — the original Lone Ranger.
Clayton Moore was the star of the 169 episodes of the popular TV show, "The Lone Ranger," from 1949–1957. He was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1987. His star is the only one on the walk that includes both the actor's name and the character he was so intimately associated with.
Lebel was excited about offering items from the estate of Clayton Moore in the Old West Auction.
"We would like to thank Dawn Moore, daughter of the late Clayton Moore … for entrusting us to offer pieces from her father's collection," Lebel said. "The Lone Ranger was an icon of everything that is good and right and honest in America. Perhaps more than any other Western actor, Clayton Moore embodied his character and strove to always uphold the Lone Ranger's creed. There may be a new Lone Ranger on the horizon, but we all know who the real Lone Ranger was."
Brian Lebel's knack for finding and presenting unique and special items stretches across many categories.
For example, a collector of old Mexican sombreros — a pretty broad category — might be looking for one used in a pre-1960 American movie, and worn by Robert Mitchum.
The Old West Auction has exactly that — a pre–revolution Mexican sombrero worn by Robert Mitchum in the 1959 movie, "The Wonderful Country," and for only $3,025, you can take it home.
If fine art is more your style, the Old West Auction this year featured works by Bull Anton, Tim Cox, Will James, Edward Borein and Eanger Irving Couse.
There were pistols, rifles, shotguns, saddles, spurs and tack of every description.
There was a wide variety of Indian collectibles and Western historical documents.
Another notable item offered at the Old West Auction this year was the Ned and Jody Martin Texas Bit Collection.
The collection was the primary study group used by the Martins for their landmark book, "Bit and Spur Makers in the Texas Tradition."
The 68 bits by more than 28 different makers sold as a single lot for $145,200.
Sometimes overlooked is the fact that the complete name of Brian Lebel's event is the Old West SHOW and Auction.
The auction falls on a Saturday evening, but the show is three days.
"Three days, 200 dealers, and the most fun a collector can have," Lebel said, summing up the event. "We have the best dealers in the world, who always bring their best merchandise. If you haven't been, you don't know what you're missing. Come join us for the Show and the Auction. I promise you won't be disappointed."
Marketing director Melissa McCracken added, "It's difficult to describe what we do here, but if you come to the show once, you'll come back every year. You have to see it to believe it, and you'll never miss it after that." ❖
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