Brian Lebel’s Old West Show & Auc­tion

A stun­ning pho­tog­ra­phy col­lec­tion and a Billy the Kid knife will hit the auc­tion block at the Old West Show & Auc­tion.

Western Art Collector - - CONTENTS -

The best part about Brian Lebel’s shows is that they paint a whole pic­ture of the West. Yes, there is art. But there’s also sa­loon bot­tles, poker chips, Na­tive Amer­i­can blan­kets, sad­dles, chaps, ri­fles and re­volvers, and ev­ery man­ner of Old West ar­ti­fact. One year there were vin­tage spit­toons. Thank­fully, they were empty and clean. Lebel’s shows are one of only a few events where you can hear spurs jan­gling, which is mu­sic to West­ern ears.

All these items and many more will be re­turn­ing to Mesa, Ari­zona, Jan­uary 25 through 27 for Brian Lebel’s Old West Show & Auc­tion at the Mesa Con­ven­tion Cen­ter. The show comes on the heels of a tremen­dously suc­cess­ful Cody Old West Show & Auc­tion held in June 2018.

It was the event’s in­au­gu­ral show in Santa Fe, New Mex­ico. Turnout for both deal­ers and buy­ers was so great it served as a mar­ket­ing tool for the Mesa show. “Those are the kinds of shows we live for,” Brian Lebel says. “If we would have known it would have been that suc­cess­ful we would have moved it to Santa Fe a long time ago. The re­sponse was tremen­dous, and we’re already look­ing for­ward to go­ing back. If any­thing, that show’s success is also drum­ming up in­ter­est in Mesa.”

This year’s Old West Show & Auc­tion will once again of­fer nearly 200 dealer booths, each packed with unique as­sort­ments of West­ern art and ar­ti­facts, as well as an auc­tion com­po­nent. Previous sales in Mesa have featured one auc­tion held on Satur­day night, but this year’s show has ex­panded to two sales, one on Friday and an­other on Satur­day. Both start at 5 p.m. The ex­pan­sion to two ses­sions was a welcome ne­ces­sity af­ter Lebel landed the Robert G. Mc­cub­bin Pho­tog­ra­phy Col­lec­tion, the bulk of which will be sold on Friday, Jan­uary 25.

“It’s the sin­gle great­est West­ern pho­tog­ra­phy col­lec­tion we’ve ever had,” Lebel says. “It’s just un­be­liev­able what’s in it. It’s go­ing to be a lot of fun to see these pho­to­graphs, in­clud­ing some truly amazing cab­i­net cards, come to our bid­ders.”

The Mc­cub­bin Col­lec­tion in­cludes a CDV— or carte de vis­ite, a pho­to­graph type that was originally de­vel­oped in Paris—of James

Beck­wourth, the Amer­i­can moun­tain man and ex­plorer who was born into slav­ery and even­tu­ally dis­cov­ered a pas­sage through the Sierra Ne­vadas. The pho­to­graph, es­ti­mated at $20,000 to $30,000, is a stu­dio shot of Beck­wourth with a rifle. “This photo must have originally been a da­guerreo­type or pos­si­bly an am­brotype. This is the only known copy. It is one of the most trea­sured pho­tos in my col­lec­tion, and one of the most sought af­ter among my col­lec­tor friends,” says Mc­cub­bin. “The photo was re­quested by the De­golyer Li­brary for their 1998 ex­hi­bi­tion The Fur Trade in the Amer­i­can West, and was featured as the fron­tispiece in the cat­a­log.”

Other im­ages in­clude a rare, and pos­si­bly only, cab­i­net card of Calamity Jane (est. $18/24,000); a cab­i­net card of Co­manche leader Qua­nah Parker (est. $3/3,500); a cab­i­net card of Geron­imo (est. $8/12,000); and a cab­i­net card of gun­fighter and Dodge City sher­iff Bat Masterson (est. $15/25,000). “This is the best and most im­por­tant photo of Masterson,” Mc­cub­bin ex­plains. “This photo, with his derby hat and cane, be­came the standard for Masterson when por­trayed in TV or movies.”

Other pieces in­clude a cab­i­net card of Ben Thomp­son with in­scrip­tion to King Fisher. Thomp­son had in­scribed the photo to Fisher on the day both men were gunned down. The photo was taken from Fisher’s pocket and the back is stained with his blood. The card is ex­pected to fetch $25,000 to $35,000.

One of the high­lights from the pho­tog­ra­phy

col­lec­tion is the fa­mous “Fort Worth Five” pho­to­graph of the Wild Bunch, which in­cluded out­laws Robert Parker and Harry Longabaugh, oth­er­wise known as Butch Cassidy and the Sun­dance Kid. “This is the orig­i­nal pho­to­graph that was dis­cov­ered by a po­lice de­tec­tive at the Swartz Pho­tog­ra­phy Stu­dio in Fort Worth, which was sub­se­quently ob­tained by the Pinker­tons,” Mc­cub­bin says. “The Pinker­tons had copies pro­duced of each in­di­vid­ual ban­dit for dis­tri­bu­tion to other po­lice agen­cies.” The pho­to­graph, which was ob­tained by Mc­cub­bin di­rectly from the Pinker­ton De­tec­tive Agency, is es­ti­mated at $100,000 to $150,000.

Two other note­wor­thy lots in­clude a mag­nif­i­cent CDV of Wild Bill Hick­ock (est. $25/35,000) and a cab­i­net card of the out­law Jesse James (est. $10/15,000).

While the bulk of the pho­tog­ra­phy col­lec­tion will be of­fered Friday night, other pieces from the Mc­cub­bin col­lec­tion will ap­pear in the auc­tion’s sec­ond ses­sion on Satur­day. The big high­light for the ses­sion is Mc­cub­bin’s Billy the Kid knife, which the out­law was car­ry­ing when he was gunned down by Pat Gar­rett in 1881. The knife was used to cut meat and not a weapon, so it was never taken by au­thor­i­ties, though its pres­ence was noted in many accounts of the shooting,

in­clud­ing in Gar­rett’s ac­count. The knife was passed down through the Maxwell fam­ily, who owned the house where the out­law was killed. It was later sold to West­ern his­to­rian Fred­er­ick Nolan, who later sold it to Mc­cub­bin. Lebel, who is no stranger to Billy the Kid ar­ti­facts—he sold the fa­mous tin­type of the West­ern fig­ure for $2.3 mil­lion in 2011—says the prove­nance on the knife is im­pec­ca­ble and in­cludes af­fi­davits signed by Maxwell fam­ily mem­bers and oth­ers.

“There are a hand­ful of ar­ti­facts in the West­ern Amer­i­can col­lect­ing in­dus­try that have that ‘Holy Grail’ mys­tique and de­sir­abil­ity about them,” Lebel says. “Billy the Kid’s knife, like au­then­tic Kid item, is definitely one.”

Other auc­tion lots in­clude Joe Beeler’s oil The Hun­gry Sign (est. $20/25,000), Ray Swan­son’s oil Old Navajo (est. $25/30,000), Olaf Wieghorst’s paint­ing Horse Ranch (est. $30/40,000), and the Ed Mell bronze Jack Knife (est. $8/10,000).

Cab­i­net card of Com­modore Perry Owens, 7¼ x 3¾” Es­ti­mate: $5/8,000

Vis­i­tors browse dealer booths at the 2018 Old West Show & Auc­tion.

Billy the Kid knife, ca. 1870s Es­ti­mate: $800/1,200,000 “Fort Worth Five” pho­to­graph, 75/8 x 9¼”. Typed on pa­per af­fixed to verso: “THE WILD BUNCH / Left to Right: Stand­ing: Wm. Carver; Har­vey Lo­gan / Sit­ting: Harry Longabaugh; Ben Kilpatrick, Geo. Parker, alias ‘Butch Cassidy’” Es­ti­mate: $100/150,000

Olaf Wieghorst (1899-1988), Horse Ranch, oil on can­vas, 28 x 38” Es­ti­mate: $30/40,000

Joe Beeler (1931-2006), The Hun­gry Sign, oil on board, 20 x 34” Es­ti­mate: $20/25,000

Cab­i­net Card of Jesse James, 63/8 x 41/8”. Printed on front of card: “JESSE W. JAMES, / I hereby cer­tify that the above is the only late Pho­to­graph of my de­ceased husband, taken be­fore death. / MRS. JESSE W. JAMES.” Es­ti­mate: $10/15,000

CDV of Wild Bill Hickok, 4 x 23/8” Es­ti­mate: $25/35,000

Cab­i­net Card of Bat Masterson, 6½ x 4½” Es­ti­mate: $15/25,000

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