Rare Alfred Jacob Miller Watercolor Sells for $141,600 at Lebel’s Old West Auction

The top lot at Brian Lebel’s 28th annual Old West Auction was a small watercolor by American frontier artist Alfred Jacob Miller that realized $141,600 after spirited bidding.  

FORT WORTH, TX – 420 auction lots crossed the block on the evening of June 10, 2017 at Brian Lebel’s Old West Auction, held live at the Amon G. Carter, Jr. Exhibits Hall of the Will Rogers Memorial Center in Fort Worth, Texas. Total sales were just shy of $1 million with an astonishing 94% sell-through rate. Approximately 300 people attended the live event, with several hundred more bidding on the Internet and phone.  


The top seller of the night was lot 179, an Alfred Jacob Miller watercolor that sold for $141,600, firmly within its $125,000 - 175,000 presale estimate. Miller traveled and painted the far American West in the early frontier years, and though he was not particularly famous in his lifetime, he is now considered among the greatest painters of the American West. 

As always, cowboy artifacts and trappings were strong sellers, with a custom and rare pair of Bob Boone spurs bringing $41,300 to an excited floor bidder, and realizing more than twice their low estimate. A pair of custom Bohlin spurs designed to commemorate the Texas Sesquicentennial realized an impressive $17,700. Also by Bohlin was a stunning “Beverly Special” parade saddle, which brought $20,650, just surpassing its high estimate of $20,000.

There are always a few surprise run-away items, and this sale was no exception. A wonderful photograph of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West cast that had been taken at Auburn prison sold for $4,720, which was more than 5 times its low estimate. Also selling at more than 5 times its low estimate was a Colt revolver that had been used by actress Gail Davis in the television character of Annie Oakley. Estimated at $1,800 – 2,400, it sold for $10,030 to a phone bidder.

Auction owner, Brian Lebel is pleased with the results, and equally pleased with the overall interest in the sale. “We had great response,” Lebel says. “We had an increase in bidders over last June on every level: live, phone and internet.” He attributes the uptick to the wide variety of material offered. “This was one of those auctions where there was a little bit of everything, in all price ranges no less. That keeps it interesting for more people.” 

Lebel’s Old West Events also hosts the annual Brian Lebel’s High Noon Show and Auction in Mesa, Arizona, which will be held January 20-21, 2018. For more information about either event, including how to become a Show vendor or Auction consignor, visit www.oldwestevents.com or call 480-779-9378.
(all prices include buyer’s premium)

Rare Billy the Kid 1880s CDV for Sale at Old West Auction


1880s CDV of Billy the Kid for Sale at Old West Auction

An original, incredibly rare, cartes-de-visites of the famous image of Billy the Kid for sale by the same auction house that sold The Kid's tintype in 2011 for $2.3 million .

DENVER – Brian Lebel's Old West Auction will offer an original CDV of Billy the Kid, dating from the 1880s, at its 25th annual auction, June 28, 2014 at the Denver Mart. Though photographic historians have long suspected the existence of Billy the Kid CDVs, this is the first to come to public attention and sale. The image is the iconic picture of The Kid taken from an original tintype, one of which Lebel's auction sold for a record-breaking $2.3 million in June 2011. The presale estimate for the CDV is $8,000 - $10,000.

Billy the Kid Original CDV

Billy the Kid Original CDV

CDVs, or cartes-de-visites, were popular at the time The Kid's tintype was produced. They are small paper photographs mounted on cards that were inexpensive to make and mass produce. Photographers often took photographs of existing photos to create a CDV image, which is how the Billy the Kid CDV would have been produced. That is, it is an authentic, period reproduction of the original Kid tintype. The CDV was passed down through a New Mexico family, and shows the wear-and-tear of its 130+ years.

Though CDVs of Billy the Kid were likely mass produced, they weren't valuable in their time, which may explain why none have surfaced to date. Bob McCubbin, western photography historian and collector, said in an essay for Lebel's auction catalog, "a photo of Billy the Kid, purchased for a few cents, was not thought of as something worth saving." According to McCubbin, "to my knowledge, like the original tintype, this is the only known copy." Brian Lebel states, "I like to imagine kids in the 1880s sticking them in the spokes of their wagon wheels like I did with my baseball cards and bicycle."

The June 28th Old West Auction includes over 350 total lots of western artifacts, art and collectibles. The live sale is scheduled for 5:00 p.m. and is held in the Expo Building of the Denver Mart, Denver, Colo. Bidding can be done in-person, by phone, online or absentee, and auction catalogs are available for purchase. Details at www.denveroldwest.com or 480-779-9378.

Billy the Kid Tintype Brings $2.3 Million

Billy the Kid Tintype

Billy the Kid Tintype


Billy the Kid Tintype Brings $2.3 Million at Record-Breaking Auction

Denver, CO -- The famous “Upham tintype” of Billy the Kid sold on Saturday, June 25, 2011 at Brian Lebel’s Old West Auction, bringing $2.3 million including the premium. This is a record price paid at auction for an historical photograph, and is a record for any single item at Lebel’s event, now in its 22nd year. Total sales equaled $3.6 million for 444 lots, a total sales record for the auction house. An impressive 94% sales rate was realized overall.

 It took 2 1/2 minutes from the opening bid to the fall of the hammer for Billy’s tintype to sell, with 5 bidders involved to 1.2 million and 2 bidders through the final stretch, all of whom were present on the floor. The winning bidder was Florida billionaire and collector, William Koch, who graciously granted interviews, posed for photos and even signed autographs after the sale.

 A number of pieces brought well above-estimate prices, including a John Wayne Productions movie hat that sold on the telephone for $17,250, more than 10 times the low estimate. The Andy Warhol serigraph, “Mother and Child” (est. $8 -10,000), brought $18,400. Other notable pieces include the Ed Borein watercolor, “California Vaquero” which brought $138,000, a record auction price for a Borein watercolor. A Colt Single Action with provenance to the Johnson County War brought $46,000 in a heated bidding contest.

 Brian Lebel, auction owner, stated, “Across the board, prices were strong, and good pieces brought good money, as they always do. I hear people complain that no one is interested in Western art and Americana anymore. I would like to think that this past weekend proves otherwise.”

 A complete list of prices realized is available at www.denveroldwest.com. Additional details from the auction appear below.


Personal belt buckles of rodeo legend Jim Shoulders sold in 3 consecutive lots for a total of $27,600 combined, with the first offered bringing an impressive $12,650.

Phone bidding was fast and furious for a unique and finely woven Navajo “cow rug” that brought $8,625 (est. $3,500 - 5,500).

The personal scrapbook of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West performer, Jordan Cottle brought $20,700 after a lively battle between bidders on the floor and the phones. Cottle’s Wild West presentation Colt Double Action was equally sought after, realizing $26,450 in another contest between the phones and the floor.

 The best line of the night was likely heard during the sale of original copies of the divorce depositions between Buffalo Bill Cody and his wife Louisa Cody. When the bidding stalled at $5,000 a ringman exclaimed, “They’re the cheapest divorce papers you’ll ever get!” They sold for $6,325.

(All prices include buyers’ premium.)