Published: March 13, 2007
On the evening of January 20, the Hyatt Regency was the site of a Western Americana auction conducted by High Noon in which approximately 400 lots brought $3 million.
More than 1,000 bidders took their seats in the Regency Ballroom at 5 pm when the auction was set to start. In addition to the bidders in the saleroom, hundreds were ready to bid via the Internet and phone bidders were on hold as the first lot hit the block.
A Herman Heiser fully tooled satchel, which was estimated to bring $1/$2,000, quickly escalated to sell for $3,450. It was followed shortly by a bucking horse weathervane that was estimated at $1,600 on the high side. Competitive bidding drove this lot quickly to more than $4,000. The tone had been set, but no one could have anticipated the resonance this tone would carry.
Saddles took center stage throughout the sale, hammering at astounding prices. The first to bring the audience to its feet in applause was an important Santa Barbara, Calif., saddle, circa 1870, made by Sherman Loomis and originally owned by one of the richest men in America, C.K.G. Billings. Estimated to bring $15/20,000, this saddle quickly skyrocketed to sell for $109,250.
A 1920s Mexican saddle made by Fructuoso Ochoa & Hijos of Pueblo, also carrying an estimate of $15/20,000, elicited fierce bidding from the floor and phone, driving the final price to $92,000.
Just 12 lots later, a major new world record was set. The cover lot, a fabulous 1880s Main & Winchester (San Francisco) three-quarter, square skirt California saddle was, in 1887, Main & Winchester’s top of the line saddle, selling for $125. It was touted as “the finest saddle manufactured on the Pacific Coast and was the centerpiece at the Mid-Winter International Fair in San Francisco in 1894. With this provenance and notability, this saddle was expected to bring $100/150,000. The high side estimate was quickly history as floor and phone battled it out to the end, and the hammer dropped at a new world record of $230,000.
A few lots later, auctioneer Mike Eckles offered an elegant 1930s Edward H. Bohlin Hollywood saddle that would again have him yelling out increasing increments almost faster than humanly possible. This beautiful work by Bohlin carried an estimate of $15/20,000. Once again, fierce and excited bidding drove this lot to an amazing sale price of $74,750.
This year, there was some always popular John Wayne memorabilia featured as part of the auction.
When a Stetson hat came on the block almost three hours into the auction, because of the popularity of Wayne, no one was surprised at the number of phone bidders registered to bid on this hat. But no one anticipated the frenzy that was about to take place.
Eckles opened the bidding on the hat at $3,000 and off it went. Standard auction increments went out the window as paddles flew up in the saleroom and phone bidders yelled out increasing bids. The floor was steadily engaged up to $50,000, then it became a serious one-on-one battle between a floor bidder and phone bidder.
The room became quiet as, in increments of $5,000, Eckles looked right to the floor then left to the phone, going back and forth until the bidding stalled at $70,000. With the phone bidder high at $70,000, Eckles looked to the floor for $75,000. The floor went for $75,000. Then $80,000 went to the phone bidder. You could hear a pin drop in the packed saleroom as all eyes were on the phone bidder. No, the phone bidder had dropped out and the hammer dropped at an astounding $75,000. The final sale price of the hat was $86,250.
Each year, High Noon offers an increasing number of works of fine art by noted cowboy and Western artists, and this year, the category broke records as well. Among the artists represented in the auction were George Phippen, Tom Ryan, Edward Chambers and Will James. It was a signed oil on canvas by Edward Chambers (1883‱941) that solidly set a new world record. Titled “Model A Meets the West,” this expressive and colorful oil sold for $26,450, tripling his preexisting auction record. A signed charcoal on paper titled “Bustin’ Broncs Rain or Shine” by Will James (1892‱942) sold for $20,700, and a grouping of sporting art by Henry Hintermeister brought $17,250.
All prices noted include the 15 percent buyer’s premium. For information, 310-202-9010 or www.highnoon.com.
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