WATERLOO, Iowa — The sun was high in the bright blue Arizona sky and the shadows of the Bradshaw mountains loomed in the background. They said it would be a showdown in Dewey, Ariz., and that it was. At high noon May 28, the Rich Penn Auction company opened up the first lot in the Weber Bros. Western Showdown auction event.
Nearly 1,000 bidders were part of the event, with just under 300 on site and more than 600 joined the online action. Lot after lot, on each of the 2,100 lots offered, the bidders fought it out to see who would be the last bidder standing.
The Weber Bros., Tom and Terry, had amassed an incredible 50-year collection of Western personality items: Hopalong Cassidy, Tom Mix, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Lone Ranger, Davy Crockett and many others. Collectors were offered hundreds of cap guns and holster sets, many in original boxes. There were more than 200 firearms (including Winchesters, Colts, Sharps, Springfields and others), along with many Prussian Pickelhaube army helmets, saddles, Civil War items, wagons and carriages. It was an interestingly diverse collection, even including juke boxes, slot machines and other coin-operated machines.
Rich Penn Auctions brought most of their crew from their Rock & Ride at Riverside auction held at the beginning of May. Auctioneer Steve White from Atlanta’s Four Seasons Auction came in to call the auction with support from auctioneers Chad Shepard (Waterloo, Iowa) and Kurt Vogel (Prescott, Ariz.).
The Friday session was, as Penn said, “For just those in attendance”; there was no Internet or absentee bidding. Starting at “High Noon,” Penn’s crew split into two auction rings to sell more than 600 lots. One ring was outside for the bigger pieces, while the other was for the 400 to 500 box lots. Guest auctioneer Chad Shepard took his crowd outside and started through the wagons and antique implements. The top lots of the day came from his outside ring. About a dozen of the wagons sold in the $500 to $1,000 price range. All prices reflect the hammer price and don’t include the buyer’s premium.
The Saturday session opened at 8 a.m. with a one-hour preview before auction time. Just 20 minutes in, the 20-foot long horse-drawn covered wagon display for Lamm’s Produce pulled up a winning bid of $3,250. Another 20 lots later, the Brainerd & Armstrong triple stack spool cabinet rolled up a top bid of $2,250. The top wagon lot was the 3/4-size stage coach used by Roy Rogers in the 1960s Rose Bowl parades. A california bidder took that stage coach home for $5,000. Another one of the top selling wagons was Ol’ Doc Bradshaw’s peddlers wagon. The circa 1905 wagon rolled away with a bid of $3,500. The Studebaker grain wagon, in nice original condition, hauled in a winning bid of $3,000. Three other wagons rolled up bids near the $3,000 mark. The International water wagon with a wooden tank brought $2,900, while the covered wagon, the Civil War US Escort wagon and the US Mail Rural Route wagon from Prescott all packed away bids of $2,750.
A restored Gene Autry girl’s 20-inch bicycle peddled away to a happy bidder for $5,250. Another bicycle, this one an original condition Hopalong Cassidy boy’s 26-inch version, took a top bid of $3,000.
A 1929 Ford Model A pickup, a second owner, clean and original Arizona truck picked up a bid of $11,500. A 1931 Ford Model A Dually stake bed, owned by New Orleans Jazz musician Pete Fountain, struck up a bid of $9,000.
The top lot in the auction was John Wayne’s own 1970 Pontiac Bonneville station wagon. Customized by George Barris in 1971, it had a 6-inch roof extension, so the Duke could wear his cowboy hat when he drove. With the original interior, title, steer horns on the hood and documentation from George Barris, the car caused a showdown: Floor bidders dropped out, one by one, and the battle continued on the phone. Finally, two phone bidders blasted away at each other until a bidder from Alabama came out on top. The Duke’s Bonneville sold for a winning bid of $67,500.
There were a number of pieces from other movie stars. Most notable were the great personal pieces from Tom Mix, a great American cowboy entertainer from the 1930s.
Perhaps the keystone piece from that collection was Mix’s personal safe. The large combination safe had his logo painted on the door along with the names of some special friends and family members. The impressive piece brought an equally impressive top bid of $4,250.
The auctioneers moved the bidders through the variety of merchandise. Bidders shifted gears in a flash and never missed a step. One lot would be cap guns and the next would be a soda fountain piece. Lot 415 was a hanging display of copper ice cream cones. In sizes from 1 cent to 15 cents, the soda fountain piece scooped up a bid of $3,900.
The cowboys sat patiently while dozens of cap guns were sold, waiting for the serious guns to come up. That started about noon on Saturday. The Webers offered in excess of 200 guns, among them, more than 30 Centennial Winchester rifles and carbines, many in original boxes. The top Winchester Centennials were both ‘94s. Lot 473 was a “Chief Crazy Horse” 38-55, selling at $1,300, while the 30-30 “Cherokee Carbine, Trail of Tears” loaded a top bid of $1,000.
The Saturday session included most of the coin-operated machines. There were juke boxes, arcade machines, vending machines, slot machines and trade stimulators. A rare Gabels Entertainer juke box from the 1930s was the top selling juke box. It played up a high bid of $3,500.
The top slot machine lot was the circa 1895 floor model 5-cent Mills Owl. With a number of online bidders competing with house bidders, the machine opened for $4,000 and quickly reached the winning in-house bid of $6,750. Another arcade machine, the cast iron clamshell Mutoscope, offering a view of “Beauty & Riches” flipped up a top bid of $4,100.
Several early trade stimulators sold in the $3,000 to $4,000 price range. Top trade stimulator dollar came from the two-wheeled Waddel Bicycle, made in Ohio, circa 1900, by The Waddel Wooden Works. A 5-cent machine and in an oak cabinet, it rode off with a $4,000 bid. Its single-wheeled companion machine, also by Waddel, and distributed by Poole Bros., brought a close $3,750.
A circa 1900 country store seed cabinet sold for $1,800. A Babe Ruth Abbotwares clock, the first of two, but with damage, sold for $1,400. The second one sold on Sunday at $2,500.
There were dozens of Abbotwares clocks. Among the rarest was an Art Deco version with a graceful nude in flowing hair strutting atop the radio. That piece had serious bidding up to $2,800.
The auction offered a number of interesting pieces that crossed several collector categories. Among them was a Hopalong Cassidy standup cardboard store display, full of a dozen original Hopalong Cassidy pocket knives. In excellent condition, the display carved out a top bid of $1,800.
Another unusual Western personality piece was the Lone Ranger Majestic radio. With the Lone Ranger and Silver riding on the front, the radio in excellent working condition galloped off to a new home on the range for $800.
Also offered in the auction was a collection of nearly 70 World War I period Prussian Pickelhauben spiked helmets. Some of the more unusual ones brought strong bidding. One example, an 1842 variety in very nice original condition, commanded a $1,400 bid. Many of the other more common helmets brought prices from $300 to $500.
Sunday’s session continued in the vein of diversity. A Woody Woodpecker one-of-a-kind prototype telephone, which had belonged to Walter Lantz, earned a winning bid of $3,500.
Hopalong Cassidy fans were treated to a beautiful three-sheet color poster of Hoppy staring in “False Colors.” Perhaps the most colorful poster in the auction, it’s dramatic size and content required a winning bid of $1,100.
For more information contact Rich Penn Auctions at 319-291-6688 or visit www.richpennauctions.com. ?
You might also enjoy:
• Wayne, Mitchum on the trail to El Dorado
• Ruger papers top the sale bill at Cowan’s Auction
• Collectors bringing order to vintage badges
• Discover stellar art that won’t blow your budget
• Cowboys, Indians still dominate Wyoming landscape
• The star power of Lassie
MORE RESOURCES FOR ANTIQUE COLLECTORS and DEALERS