Despite the newly discovered Billy the Kid tintype debuting at Witherell’s Old West Show in Grass Valley, Calif., May 6 and 7, 2016, the talk of the show was a single-action Colt revolver that sold for $500,000.
“That gun is arguably the best Colt single-action known,” said Brian Witherell, Witherell’s chief operating officer and a featured appraiser on Antiques Roadshow.
Dealers also sold a wooden Cigar Store Indian for $30,000; a Wells Fargo strong box for $25,000; a Buffalo Brewing advertising calendar for $17,000 and a bronze for $10,000.
Witherell had re-configured the lay-out and added booths with walls to the center aisles. The change made the room look larger, eased the flow of traffic while giving a sense of intimacy to the vendors.
“I enjoyed how Brian has taken it to the next level,” said Jason Baldwin, a vendor and a director of Chicago-based Terra Incognita. “It looks a lot more professional with the booths in.”
Like many other vendors, Baldwin said he enjoyed being there not only for business, but for the pleasure of socializing with other vendors and collectors.
“It’s always good to get to California and see people I don’t always see, people I’ve known for a long time, but don’t see often.”
Known for dealing in Native American antiquities and Bowie knives from 1820 through the Civil War, Baldwin has been attending shows and collecting since he was “four or five” years old.
His father, John Baldwin, was a noted author on Indian weapons, including a book series titled “of the American Frontier.”
Of the Old West Show, Baldwin said “Just about everything there is of interest to me. I never know what I’m going to find.
“I don’t have to sell first. A lot of times I buy first.”
His inventory changes so rapidly, he said he never knows what he’s going to bring until he starts to pack.
This year, he brought gold and gold quartz, pearl gambling chips from the Victorian era, Native beadwork, Bowie knives and spurs, among other items.
Baldwin also enjoys collecting gun and gun-powder advertising as well as cartridge, counter-top felts.
Memphis-based Peter McMickle, an authority on knives and co-author of the book “Sheffield Exhibition Knives” was at the show for the first time.
He displayed four Bowie knives that were in the Brad and Brian Witherells’ book, “California’s Best: Old West Art & Antiques”.
“I came for the contacts,” said the University of Memphis professor. “And I got a lot of leads, so the show was very valuable. I have about three deals pending.”
Although he started collecting Bowie knives in 1988, California knives became his main area of interest.
“There’s more Bowie knife collectors in Memphis than any other city,” said McMickle. “Because they had the Southern and Northern Bowie’s pretty well tied up—and because I’d lived in California—I had a big interest in Western artifacts.”
McMickle wore a California dress knife marked “Michael Price” that had a silver-and-gold mix sheaf and a whale’s tooth scrimshaw handle, both with floral designs.
Author of books on California shotguns and manufacturers, vendor Larry Shelton also fancies California made knives, saying he has a “small collection.”
He brought—and sold—one of the knives from his collection that he hadn’t really intended to part with, but “got quite a bit of money for.”
“I didn’t really want to sell it, but I had it there,” said Shelton. “So now I can regret it—and have ‘seller’s remorse’, but the money made it better.”
Shelton got into collecting with his father at age 18.
His first purchase was a Kentucky rifle.
He and his wife, Sandy, now collect fancy canes while Sandy also collects fancy ladies purses and napkin rings.
They have been participating in the show since it first started.
There were nearly 1,000 people attending with more than 100 vendors.