Morphy Auctions mid-winter gold rush


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07 February 2017
Lot_54-64479.jpg Silver Mounted Bowie Knife by Samuel Bell
This event featured almost 500 remarkable examples of museum-quality Indian and western materials, hand weapons, gold quartz jewelry, currencies, and early back bar bottles.

Morphy’s recent premier gold rush sale offered collectors an opportunity to purchase the best of the west at this memorable auction event, held on 19 January in Las Vegas.  All prices reported include Morphy's 23% buyer’s premium.

Antique signage and advertising materials relating to America’s expansion in the 1800s really caught the attention of collectors at this sale. A bidding war erupted over lot 146, an outstanding Battle Axe cigar reverse glass advertising sign featuring an image of a smiling Native American and an older well-dressed gentleman enjoying some Battle Axe tobacco. Once the smoke cleared, it sold for $73,800. Lot 313, 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, went for $41,820. And it was a wild ride with lot 320, a vibrantly coloured Wells Fargo Express single sided porcelain sign made by the BS 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 exquisite treasures and artifacts exhibited extraordinary craftsmanship and detailing.  Lot 4, a beautiful c. 1860 Northern Plains contour pipe bag detailed with an unusual pony beaded panel with a stylised butterfly, copper cones, and brass beads sold for $22,550. And lot 13, a stunning and rare c. 1870 Plains pipe tomahawk unusually decorated with two bat wing cut-outs, seven inlaid brass circles, and design elements punched around the blade made the cut at $33,210.

Not a minute was wasted on lot 104, a spectacular and highly ornate pocket watch, which realised $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 a highly desirable watch chain. Lot 296, a patriotically themed, elaborately decorated c. 1855 man’s yellow gold ring with a secret compartment went for $31,980. An early Howard & Davis gold scale, used by Wells Fargo, weighed in at $36,900.

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This sales event also offered a large selection of American and English Bowie knives. A knife stamped Schively 75 Chestnut Street Philad, c. 1835, was one of less than two dozen known in existence, and made $43,050. A silver mounted Bowie knife by Samuel Bell, c.1865, made for dress, not fighting sold for $39,975.

Dan Morphy, President of Morphy Auctions, commented, "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 realised more than 30 times its low estimate.”