RENO, Nev. – Holabird Western Americana Collections, LLC is famous for its five-day auctions featuring thousands of highly collectible items in a rainbow of categories, but the firm will end 2021 with a tidy, three-day affair, taking place December 17-19 and boasting more than 1,900 lots of rare books, art, mining, numismatics, stock certificates and postcards. Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.
The December Dreams: Premier Americana Auction will begin at 8 am Pacific time on all three days. Day 1, December 17, will contain more than 600 lots of philatelic material (aka stamps); military, political and firearms; gaming collectibles; and model railroad and toys. Postcards, many of them from the Ken Prag collection, will include California (especially wine country), Hawaii, Disney, Titanic and Pioneer examples. The gaming section includes items from the Shirley Bovis Cowboy Museum in Tombstone, Arizona.
Of the 500 postcard lots from the Ken Prag collection, about 350 lots are California-related and 40 lots or so are Hawaii-themed. A group of ten Titanic-related postcards dating from around the time of the tragedy should realize $700-$1,500.
Day 2, December 18, contains 683 lots of books (featuring Part 1 of the Ron Leach Western directory collection); mining artifacts and ephemera; and stock certificates and bonds, to include mining and railroad. There are about 200 directories from this first installment of the Ron Lerch collection. Directories are considered a primary source material and, as such, are essential aspects of historical research.
Two key pieces from the Lerch collection are the Wells Fargo & Co. Express Directory of Chinese Houses (all in California) from 1878, one of the most sought-after of all the Western directories; and a Montana Territory History & Business Directory from 1879, when Montana was not yet a state, 218 pages, with original fold-out map. Both have estimates of $3,000-$6,000.
Other Day 2 highlights include a handbill issued by Wells Fargo in 1866 excoriating the thefts of company monies used by several agents to gamble on mining stocks, which is estimated at $2,000-$4,000; and a Britton & Rey lithograph depicting life scenes of gold miners in the 19th century, titled Bar Room in the Mines and Long Tom. It is one of only five known copies, and it is estimated at $1,000-$2,000.
From the Joe Elcano mining stock collection is a certificate for the Grosch Consolidated Gold & Silver Mining Company of Virginia City, Nevada, for one share. It was issued to Benjamin Nickerson on Dec. 31, 1864, signed by the company president and secretary, and shows two vignettes: a bare-chested allegorical woman and a gold prospector on the move. Its estimate is $1,200-$2,000. The certificate is important because the company was a scam market play on the original Comstock discoverers, the Grosch Brothers.
The auction’s final day, December 19, promises to be a busy one, with 614 lots of Native Americana, art and photography (featuring Ansel Adams, Salvador Dali and Thomas Kincade); numismatics (including coins and currency, medals and so-called dollars), tokens (featuring Part 2 of the Bill McIvor Nevada token collection), and general Americana.
Antiquarian photography is a key category for collectors. Day 3 will feature historic and possibly unique Western stereo-view cards and photographs, led by a fabulous Ansel Adams original photograph group from his Yosemite Series (all signed), including Moon and Half Dome (1960), print No. 10, considered one of Adams’ greatest photographs. It is estimated at $10,000-$20,000.
Offerings from the Bill McIver Nevada token and medal collection are not to be missed. They include the centerpiece of his collection: possibly the finest known 12.5-cent token from The Payteller (Rhyolite, Nevada), showing a bearded miner with a pick, shovel and lunch bucket, plus a mountain and rising sun. It carries an estimate of $7,000-$10,000.
The MacKenzie Montana collection continues with historical documents and ephemera. A spectacular and large artisan pot by Montana artist Randall Blaze (American, b. 1949-), is expected to bring $4,000-$8,000. The pot is from an exhibition titled Shields by Randall Blaze, which took place October 16-December 11, 1988, at the Museum of the Plains Indian and Craft Center in Browning, Montana.
A great numismatic rarity is represented by an 1851 letter estimated at $3,000-$7,000. 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. Directly reacting to this adversity, the letter on offer is the first original document found to date to discuss this important period.
The letter is 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.”
Another numismatic treasure of note is a 6th century BCE ring of 1 troy ounce of 14K solid gold, carefully holding a 1/3 stater gold piece with a lion motif. It is estimated at $7,000-$8,500. The ring features 12 diamonds, six on either side in rows of two, with a combined weight of 0.84ct. It is one of the world’s first gold coins, is in great XF+ condition and comes with a certificate of authenticity.
To consign a single piece or a collection, you may call Fred Holabird at 775-851-1859 or 844-492-2766; or, you can send an e-mail to email@example.com.
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