Legendary U.S. Army Captain George Armstrong Custer’s gun holster, dispatch case, belt and brass buckle from the Civil War climbed to $37,500, taking top lot honors in a five-day, 3,100-lot November Wonders: Western Americana Auction held November 18th-22nd by Holabird Western Americana Collections, online and live at the gallery in Reno, Nevada.
The holster was standard issue for officers during the Civil War to fit the Colt model 1860 Army revolver. There are two photos in the book Custer in Photographs (Katz, 1985, paged 12 and 13) depicting Custer wearing this rig, about 1863. Close examination reveals that the same holster is worn with the same cut-away in the army issue holster, where the captain has carved out a notch.
The auction was loaded with Western Americana, mining, numismatics, stock certificates, rare books, art and more. “This was supposed to be an end-of-year, under-the-radar clearance sale, so we didn’t market it too heavily, but the results were a pleasant surprise,” said Fred Holabird of Holabird Western Americana Collections. “Collectors are out in full force with money to spend.”
Following are additional highlights from the auction. All prices include the buyer’s premium.
Day 1, on November 18th, contained just over 600 lots of art, firearms and weapons, foreign items, political memorabilia, militaria, tools, Native Americana, sports collectibles and items pertaining to transportation. The Custer Civil War holster and dispatch case was the undisputed Day 1 highlight, but other offerings from the aforementioned categories also fetched nice prices.
A 1982 painting of Native Americans on horseback on top of bluffs looking down on huge cavalry bluffs by Hungarian-American artist Americo Makk (1927-2015), titled Too Many Guns, realized $2,250. Also, a sterling silver vintage concho belt signed “TC” (possibly Tom Charlie), boasting 10 oval stamped conchos, each on a 39-inch-long tan leather belt, gaveled for $687.
Day 2, November 19th, was dedicated entirely to stocks and bonds (in categories that included mining, railroad, brewing and express). An 1891 stock certificate for the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railway Company for 100 shares, issued to wealthy oil tycoon and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller, signed by Rockefeller on the back and with a steam engine vignette, brought $750.
Day 3, November 20th, featured 609 lots of minerals, mining, numismatics, tokens and philatelic and postal history. One of the top achievers was the circa 1910 10-cent token for the H. (Henry) Champagne Bar in Genoa, Nevada – the only known token merchant from Genoa, a fact that wasn’t lost on bidders, who drove the final price of the 23mm brass octagonal token to $3,750.
Other tokens also did well. A rare, round, brass 12 ½-cent token for the Oxford Bar in Contact, Nevada, the only known merchant for this town located in Elko County, 21mm in diameter, rose to $1,952; while an equally scarce circa 1905 scalloped aluminum token, good for one drink at the R. G. Dickson bar in Empire, Nevada, situated on the Carson River, 28mm, realized $1,037.
Two Day 3 lots drew identical selling prices of $938. One was a circa 1960 replica Wells Fargo & Co. Express (Goldfield, Nevada) cast iron strongbox, spectacular and showy with loads of eye appeal, made as a museum display piece. The other was a beautiful banded gold in quartz matrix ore pulled from an unknown mine locale but perfect for being made into amazing jewelry pieces.
Day 4, November 21st, was a busy one, with many collecting categories: geographically sorted ephemera, general collectibles, souvenir plates, spoons and flatware, entertainment, circus, toys, marbles, bottles, saloon, tobacciana, gaming, cowboy and clothing – nearly 250 lots in total.
Certainly the most provocative lot of the day was an actual prostitute license from 1898. The professionally framed and mounted carte de visite of a woman named Amelia was issued by officials of Tombstone, Arizona Territory (Arizona did not become a state until 1912). The license, dated Feb. 1, 1898, reads, “Received from Amelia, Four Dollars, for License on the business of Ill Fame.” It was signed by the city clerk and the mayor and finished at $2,250.
The auction’s final day, November 22nd, had 614 lots of World’s Fair (Express and Expositions), firefighting memorabilia, fraternal organizations, badges, maps, books, furnishings, jewelry, music and photography. It was a jewelry lot that ended up being the superstar of the last day.
The ornate 14kt gold necklace with diamond bands and emerald eyes in a spotted leopard sitting on the bottom rung of a 17-piece articulated necklace, with matching ring and earrings, made by an unknown “South African” jeweler, went to a determined bidder for $11,560. The emerald eyes weighed about 0.02 carats each; the 18 round cut brilliant diamonds weighed 0.015 carats each.
Online bidding was facilitated by iCollector.com, LiveAuctioneers.com, Invaluable.com and Auctionzip.com. Anyone owning a collection that might be a good fit for an upcoming auction is encouraged to get in touch. Holabird Western Americana Collections, LLC has agents all over the country and will travel to inspect most collections. Their contact information is given below.
Holabird Western Americana Collections’ next big auction, December 17-19, is titled December Dreams and will feature parts of the Ken Prag postcard collection, the Bill McIver token and medal collection, the Mackenzie Montana collection and the Ron Lerch Western directory collection, supplemented by some world-class great rarities from other collections nationwide.
To learn more about Holabird Western Americana Collections, visit www.holabirdamericana.com. Updates are posted often.