Published: February 7, 2017
LAS VEGAS, NEV. – Morphy’s Gold Rush and Native American sale on January 19 offered collectors an opportunity to purchase “the best of the West” at Morphy’s Las Vegas gallery.
Antique signage and advertising materials relating to America’s expansion in the 1800s caught the attention of collectors at this sale. A bidding war erupted over a Battle Axe Tobacco reverse glass advertising sign featuring an image of a smiling Native American and an older well-dressed gentleman enjoying some Battle Axe product. Once the smoke cleared, it realized $73,800.
An advertisement from 1898 for “California’s Golden Jubilee and Mining Fair” picturing a miner with axe slung over his shoulder and raising a large gold nugget above his head was a favorite at $41,820. And it was a wild ride with a vibrantly colored Wells Fargo Express single-sided porcelain sign made by the B.S. Company, Chicago. Estimated at $600-$1,200, it delivered $19,680.
Native American cultural materials and weapons were two key categories in this auction. Many of these treasures and artifacts exhibited extraordinary craftsmanship and detailing. A circa 1860 Northern Plains contour pipe bag detailed with an unusual pony beaded panel with a stylized butterfly, copper cones and brass beads sold for $22,550. And a rare circa 1870 Plains pipe tomahawk unusually decorated with two bat wing cutouts, seven inlaid brass circles and design elements punched around the blade made $33,210.
This sale’s gold and Gold Rush-related selections were highlighted by an ornate pocket watch, which realized $45,510. This solid gold timepiece was made and signed by the Illinois Watch Company and featured elaborate gold in quartz and moss agate decorations, elegant engraving and watch chain. A patriotically themed, elaborately decorated circa 1855 man’s yellow gold ring with a secret compartment soared to $31,980. And an early Howard & Davis gold scale weighed in at $36,900. Used by Wells Fargo, this example came with nine different weights.
This sales event also offered a selection of American and English Bowie knives. One star in this collection was a circa 1835 knife stamped “Schively 75 Chestnut Street Philad.” This example, one of fewer than two dozen known, made $43,050. Another sterling example was a circa 1865 silver mounted Bowie knife by Samuel Bell. More of a “fashion” accessory than a weapon and made for dress, not fighting, it realized $39,975.
The sale was rounded out with antique back bar bottles and other antiques. A circa 1890 Fine Old Gin label under glass bottle featuring an attractive young woman wearing a large hat flirted its way to $24,600. And an all-original Wells Fargo & Co. wooden safe box with dovetail construction and cast iron latches locked things up at $25,830.
According to Dan Morphy, president of Morphy Auctions, “This themed sale was tremendously interesting and fun to pull together. Many of the items available were absolute rarities or one-of-a-kind selections. Clearly, this caught the eye of buyers from not only the Western United States, but from all over the world. As with any auction, there are always a few surprises. A big one here was the blue and white Wells Fargo Express single sided porcelain sign – it realized more than 30 times its low estimate.”
Prices reported include the buyer’s premium. For information, www.morphyauctions.com or 717-335-3435.
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