Vintage denim: 125-year-old Levis sell for nearly $100K


1893 Levis made in San Francisco from cotton denim produced at the Amoskeag mill in Manchester, N.H. Image courtesy of Daniel Buck Auctions and LiveAuctioneers

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) _ A buyer with a penchant for vintage denim has plunked down nearly $100,000 for a pair of truly vintage jeans that come from the American Old West.

The 125-year-old Levi Strauss & Co. blue jeans, which failed to sell at auction in 2016, now have a new owner somewhere in Southeast Asia.

“It’s somebody who loves old Levis,” said Daniel Buck Soules from Daniel Buck Auctions, who worked for 11 years on public television’s Antiques Roadshow.

The price puts it near record territory for old Levis. But the private sale agreement prevents Soules from disclosing the exact price or the buyer’s location, he said. The buyer sent a representative to Maine to inspect the jeans before buying them on May 15, he said.

There’s no mystery behind the jeans.

They were purchased in 1893 by Solomon Warner, a storekeeper in the Arizona Territory. Warner was a colorful character who established one of the first stores selling American dry goods in Tucson and survived being shot by Apache Indians in 1870.

The denim was produced at a mill in New Hampshire, and the jeans were manufactured by Levi Strauss & Co., in San Francisco. Unlike modern Levis, the jeans in those days had only a single back pocket. There were no belt loops because men used suspenders back then.

The denim befits a larger-than-life character. The cotton jeans, with button fly, had a size 44 waist and 36-inch inseam, suggesting Warner was not a small man.


Incorporated into the design is a metal buckle at the rear of the waist, but there were no belt loops because at that time, men wore suspenders. Image courtesy of Daniel Buck Auctions and

The pants had been stored for decades in a trunk and were in pristine condition because Warner wore them only a few times before falling ill, Soules said.

Soules originally entered the jeans in a 2016 auction, but they were later offered via private sale.

There’s a market for rare jeans. A pair of 501 jeans manufactured in the 1880s sold for $60,000 to a Japanese collector, Soules said, and another pair, from 1888, sold for six figures.


By DAVID SHARP, Associated Press

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