RENO, Nev. – A California Gold Rush-era bond from 1856 signed by Cornelius Vanderbilt, a photo of the execution hanging of outlaw Fleming “James” Parker taken in 1898, and a gorgeous circa 1880-1920 Red Mesa Navajo rug in near-perfect condition all triumphed at a huge five-day Western Americana Signature Sale held May 13 through May 17 by Holabird Western Americana Collections.
The auction featured more than 3,000 lots of historical autographs, gold nuggets and high-grade gold specimens, minerals and mining collectibles, reference books, firearms and militaria, numismatics, stock and bond certificates, silver ingots, Native Americana, gaming collectibles, firefighting memorabilia, artwork, turquoise jewelry, medals, tokens, and more. (Linked images reflect the hammer price for the item.)
The May 13 session featured original artwork, stocks and bonds (including mining and non-mining), and autographs. The Vanderbilt-signed bond certificate, as president of the Accessory Transit Company of Nicaragua, which transported gold prospectors from the East Coast to the West Coast, was the star lot of the day. Issued on Feb. 9, 1856 for $5,000, with early bond number 14, the bond was signed front and back by Vanderbilt. It realized $11,250.
Also sold on May 13 was a 1921 stock certificate for the Houdini Picture Corporation in New York City, signed by Houdini himself as company president. It garnered $3,375. Houdini produced and starred in two films with the corporation.
The May 14 session showcased mining and mineral collectibles, railroadiana and transportation, and philatelic material, including covers, stamps and postcards. A top lot was a pair of albums containing photographs and diazo copies of photos of the construction of the concentrator and smelter by the Nevada Copper Corporation from 1907-1908, which sold for $6,250.
Session 3 took place on May 15 and featured firearms, military and political memorabilia, cowboy and Western items, jewelry, badges, and numismatics, such as ingots, coins, medals, so-called dollars, and tokens. A silver ingot weighing 5.15 troy ounces, engraved circa 1874 from Julius A. Turrill, who owned stock in the Comstock mines, to his nephew, Clayton, changed hands for $5,875.
A historic original 1909 Wild West poster bearing the slogan, “Pawnee Bill’s Great Far East combined with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West,” and advertising the show’s “Marvelous Musical Elephants,” sold for $4,375; while an exceedingly rare Giles token, one of only three known and promising it was “Good for One Bucket of Water,” garnered $4,000.
The fourth session, held on May 16, was dedicated to Native Americana and general Americana and was arguably the most active day of the auction. It was led by the photo of the hanging execution in 1898 of Fleming “James” Parker, taken by photographer H. L. Hamaker in Prescott, Arizona. Parker was arrested for robbing a train, then escaped jail and murdered the Prescott district attorney, E. Lee Norris. He was later captured and sentenced to death by hanging in the city’s courthouse square. The macabre image sold for $9,062.
Day 4 also featured the beautiful circa 1880-1920 Red Mesa Navajo rug, a gorgeous example that was only recently professionally cleaned and restored. Red Mesa rugs incorporated dramatic, exotic colors, inspired by Hispanic weavings. It sold for $5,000.
An oil on canvas advertising painting for Moon Castle Whiskey, including the phrase,“Now serving here at Tombstone’s own Birdcage Theater,” went for $3,875. The painting was probably a fantasy advertisement, meant to attract people to Western saloons and the Western saloon historical concept, which was popular in the 1960s and 1970s.
The fifth and final session on May 17 featured general foreign, bottles, sports, and bargains and dealer specials, as well as general Americana, philatelic, stocks and bonds, numismatics and tokens. A beautiful group of four Russian Orthodox Church bishop’s bells, made in Russia circa 1997-2000, was offered as one lot, and finished at $3,250.
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