RENO, Nev. – A Wells Fargo Express Chinese Western directory from 1878 sold for $13,750, while signed and numbered photographs by Ansel Adams and tokens from the glory days of America’s Gold Rush era all did well in Holabird Western Americana Collections’ December Dreams: Premier Americana Auction held December 17-19.
The three-day sale featured more than 1,900 lots of rare books, art, mining, numismatics, stock certificates and postcards, and recorded an 80 percent sell-through across the whole. About 7,500 people registered to bid, with the top categories being art, directories and numismatics. “We’re attracting hundreds of new collectors with each sale that goes by,” said Fred Holabird of Holabird Western Americana Collections.
Day 1 contained more than 600 lots of philatelic (stamps); military, political and firearms; gaming collectibles; and model railroad and toys. Postcards, many of them from the Ken Prag collection, included California, Hawaii, Disney, Titanic and Pioneer cards. The gaming section included items from the Shirley Bovis Cowboy Museum in Tombstone, Arizona.
Day 2 was packed with 683 lots of books, including Part 1 of the Ron Leach Western directory collection; mining artifacts and ephemera; and stock certificates and bonds. There were about 200 directories from the Ron Lerch collection. Directories are considered a “primary source” material and, as such, are essential aspects of historical research.
The Wells Fargo Express Chinese directory from 1878 is one of the most sought-after and important of all the Western directories and sold accordingly, for $13,750. It was a directory for Chinese houses in San Francisco, Sacramento, Stockton, Marysville, San Jose, Portland and Virginia City for that year. It was well-used and worn, with Chinese notes on pages throughout.
Other Day 2 highlights included a handbill issued by Wells Fargo in 1866, excoriating the thefts of company monies used by several Wells Fargo agents to gamble on mining stocks, which sold for $3,375; and a Britton & Rey lithograph depicting a pair of life scenes of gold miners in the 19th century, titled Bar Room in the Mines and Long Tom. It realized $1,625.
A stereo view of gold miner Ed Schieffelin, who founded Tombstone, Arizona in 1877, showing him breaking a rock with a pick, achieved $3,125.
Day 3 was a busy one, with 614 lots of Native Americana, art, numismatics, tokens and general Americana. The aforementioned signed and numbered photographs by Ansel Adams were from a special edition of fine prints from Photographs of Yosemite (Calif.) by Ansel Adams. Images included Moon and Half Dome, the 10th print made of this world-class photograph from 1960, which achieved $9,687; Bridal Veil Fall, from circa 1958-1970, which realized $7,500; and El Capitan in Winter, also printed circa 1958-1970, which rose to $5,625.
Offerings from the Bill McIver Nevada token and medal collection included the centerpiece of his collection, possibly the finest known 12.5-cent token from The Payteller of Rhyolite, Nevada. The token shows a bearded miner with a pick, shovel and lunch bucket, plus a mountain and rising sun. It sold for $5,500.
A great numismatic rarity was offered in the form of an 1851 letter. Prior to the establishment of a Branch US Mint in California, private firms made their own gold coins. Some came under fire in 1851 for not containing sufficient gold. These firms, including Dunbar & Co., were “attacked” in the local press, which adversely affected their value. Reacting to this adversity, the letter addresses how Dunbar would cure and defect. It is the first original document to discuss this important period. The letter was signed by Dunbar & Co. and dated March 31, 1851, noting the receipt of 192 9/16 ounces of gold dust at $17.125 per ounce to be paid in Dunbar & Co.’s (gold) coin on demand, “or if said coin will not pay at par at the time of such demand, the amount shall be redeemed at the office of Dodge & Co. in current silver at the hands of Henry D. Cogswell.” The historic letter achieved $2,500.
A pair of magnificent signed and labeled art prints by the renowned Japanese landscape artist Hiroshi Yoshida (1876-1950), titled Kura at Tomonoura and Lugano, went for $3,125. Also, a signed and numbered print by the Spanish Surrealist master Salvador Dali, titled Thumb Tree (although the actual title of the work wasn’t found online and is therefore unknown), realized $2,625.
Native Americana was led by a circa-1900 Tlingit Indian basket that achieved $1,000; a large Haida (Alaska) ornate design box with patterns on all sides with shell inlays as eyes of birds and animals, which sold for $625; and a vintage museum-quality sterling silver and turquoise squash blossom necklace with 20 turquoise stones, which went for $938.
To consign a single piece or a collection, you may call Fred Holabird at 775-851-1859 or 844-492-2766; or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about Holabird Western Americana Collections, visit www.holabirdamericana.com.
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