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Ten Valuable American Old West Collectibles

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Valuable American Old West collectibles include the one and only Billy the Kid tintype, Wild Bill Hickok cut signatures, Buffalo Bill Cody signed business cards, George Armstrong Custer handwritten letters, Sioux Indian pictorial beaded vests, Colt .45 re

The Old West continues to fascinate. Stories of lawmen, gunfighters, cattle barons, gold miners, cowboys, settlers, Indian chiefs, gamblers and other personalities and components of the American West of the 19th and early 20th centuries remain the stuff of legend. Here are ten valuable American Old West collectibles that are sure to interest historians and collectors of Americana...

Billy the Kid Original Tintype Photograph

Henry McCarty a.k.a. William Bonney a.k.a. Billy the Kid (1859-1881) still reigns as one of the Old West's iconic figures. A participant in the infamous Lincoln County War, Billy the Kid was alleged to have killed 21 men during his brief period on this earth. One image of Billy the Kid – the only photo known to exist of the outlaw – pictures him standing outside a saloon in Fort Sumner, New Mexico Territory, circa 1879 armed with a Winchester carbine and a six-shooter strapped to his hip. The original metallic tintype photo sold for $2.3 million at Brian Lebel's Old West Show & Auction in Denver on June 25, 2011. The buyer was Florida billionaire William Koch.

Billy the Kid original tintype $2.3 million - Brian Lebel's Old West Show & Auction

Wild Bill Hickok Autograph Display

James Butler "Wild Bill" Hickok (1837-1876) was one of the Old West's best-known lawmen, gunfighters and scouts. Wild Bill's bloody end came on August 2, 1876, when he was shot in the back while playing poker at Nuttal & Mann's Saloon No. 10 in Deadwood, Dakota Territory. Wild Bill's final poker hand – now aptly referred to as the "Dead Man's Hand" – was a pair of aces and eights. A cut signature matted and framed with a photo of Hickok brought a top bid of $6,500 at auction.

Wild Bill Hickok framed signature cut with photo $6,500 - Heritage Auctions

Mahogany Saloon Keno Goose Circa 1880s

Gambling played a huge role in the American West. Keno, faro, poker, roulette and other gambling endeavors were pursued with zeal. A circa 1880s mahogany keno goose used in saloons sold at auction for $717. 

Saloon keno goose gambling device $717 - Heritage Auctions

Buffalo Bill Cody Autographed Personal Card

William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody (1846-1917) was one of the most colorful figures of the Old West, later organizing Wild West shows which toured the United States and Europe. A signed Buffalo Bill personal card – "True to friend & foe, W. F. Cody, Buffalo Bill, 1887" – fetched $896.25 at auction.

Buffalo Bill Cody signed business card $896.25 - Heritage Auctions

George Armstrong Custer 1859 Handwritten Letter

George Armstrong Custer (1839-1876) was a West Point graduate who served in the Union Army during the Civil War and later met his untimely death on June 25, 1876, in the disastrous Battle of the Little Big Horn. A January 19, 1859, eight-page handwritten letter from Custer to his girlfriend Minnie while the former was a cadet at West Point sold at auction for $14,340. The young, 19-year-old Custer gets a bit racy in his letter, kidding his gal pal that he expects her to pay damages for her alleged "slander," duly informing her that "when I come I shall tell you in what form they shall be paid."

Sioux Indian 1890s Pictorial Beaded Men's Vest

Vintage 19th century American Indian items are big sellers at auction. An 1890s Sioux pictorial beaded men's vest brought $6,900 at auction.

Sioux pictorial beaded men's vest $6,900 - Brian Lebel's Old West Show & Auction

J.A. Garrett's Colt .45 Single Action Revolver

Texas gunfighter J.A. Garrett was involved in Wyoming's infamous Johnson County War of 1892, hired on as a regulator by the big cattle ranchers. Garrett's Colt .45 single action revolver with F.A. Manea, Cheyenne, Wyoming, holster sold at auction for $40,000.

Mexican Spurs Circa 1880s

Spurs were the necessary tools for many cowpunchers. A pair of circa 1880s Mexican spurs with silver inlaid brought $1,700 at auction.

Mexican silver spurs circa 1880s $1,700 - Brian Lebel's Old West Show & Auction

Santa Fe Daily New Mexican 1882 Newspaper

Old West newspapers are highly collectible in that one can actually read of the events of the day. The April 11, 1882, issue of the Santa Fe Daily New Mexican announces the sale of the book The Authentic Life of Billy the Kid - Noted Desperado of the Southwest by Pat F. Garrett. A framed copy of this historic newspaper brought $350 at auction.

Santa Fe Daily New Mexican, April 11, 1882 $350 - Brian Lebel's Old West Show & Auction

Charles Bowdre Photograph

Charles Bowdre (1848-1880) was a cowboy and outlaw involved in the bloody Lincoln County War in New Mexico Territory, riding with Billy the Kid and his gang. Bowdre met his inglorious end at Stinking Springs on December 23, 1880, when Sheriff Pat Garrett's posse riddled him with rifle slugs as he emerged at dawn to feed the horses. A rare photo of Bowdre in a locket mounted behind glass sold at auction for $10,000.

Charlie Bowdre photo $10,000 - Brian Lebel's Old West Show & Auction

American Old West Memorabilia Credits & Top Image

  • Auction results and images courtesy Brian Lebel's Old West Show & Auction, Denver, Colorado, and Heritage Auctions, Dallas, Texas
  • Top image: Original signed watercolor titled "California Vaquero" by Edward Borein (1875-1945) $120,000  - Brian Lebel's Old West Show & Auction

4 comments

William J. Felchner
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Posted on Jun 30, 2011
John VanCott
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Posted on Jun 30, 2011
Roberta Baxter
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Posted on Jun 28, 2011
A. Smith
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Posted on Jun 27, 2011

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William J. Felchner

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