A pair of Levi’s jeans from the 1880s found in an abandoned mine some five years ago has sold for nearly $90,000 at an auction in a small town in New Mexico.
The jeans – found by Michael Harris, a self-described “denim archaeologist” – were bought by Kyle Hautner and Zip Stevenson, a veteran of the vintage denim market.
“We didn't have any plans to buy the jeans together until the auction started, which is kind of insane looking back on it,” Stevenson told CNN.
The jeans were sold for $87,400 – one of the highest prices ever paid for a pair – including a 15% buyer's premium. The auction was held at the Durango Vintage Festivus on the outskirts of the small town of Aztec, New Mexico. The four-day festival is put on by vintage denim expert Brit Eaton – who described finding items like this as “a total addiction.”
The jeans are in surprisingly good condition. There’s plenty of wear, of course – one of the legs has a sizable hole – but they wouldn’t look out of place on the street today. And just like modern Levi’s, this pair has the iconic Levi’s tag on the back waistband and the company’s signature riveted pockets. (The waist is 38 and the length is 32, in case you’re curious.)
They were used by a miner and feature suspender buttons on the waistbands and a single back pocket, according to Long John, a denim magazine that first broke the news about the winning bid. The pants are marked by candle wax.
What does Stevenson plan to do with the jeans now? “We would consider offering them for sale to an extremely interested private buyer,” he said, but added that the owners would prefer them to be bought and displayed in a museum “such as the Smithsonian or the Metropolitan Museum of Art.”