The only known photograph of Wyatt Earp, his five brothers and his father is to be offered, along with two rare saloon tokens issued by Wyatt’s brother Virgil Earp, at auction Aug. 17 and 18 at the Atlantis Casino Resort in Reno, Nev., by Holabird-Kagin Americana.
The photograph “appears to have been taken in Dodge City [Kansas] in 1875 as part of Morgan Earp’s wedding,” according to the catalog. “The Earp men, as a close knit clan, would have gladly gathered for such a momentous occasion. They most likely served as groomsmen for Morgan. During this time, Wyatt was serving on the local police department, while his brother Morgan served as deputy marshal.”
In his catalog description of the photo Fred Holabird writes, “The photo was subject to an extensive forensic evaluation by FBI trained and former longtime assistant sheriff with Carson City [Nevada] Sheriff’s Office, Joe Curtis. The 21-page authenticity report of his findings accompanies the piece. This is probably the most important pictorial record of the Wild West to go on sale to the public since the Billy the Kid photo sold at the 2011 Denver Wild West sale for $2.3 million.”
Virgil Earp tokens
Of the two Earp-related tokens offered, the round aluminum token, issued circa 1902, bears the name V.W. EARP and SAWTELLE (a California town) on one side. The other side of the aluminum token states GOOD FOR 5¢ IN TRADE.
According to the catalog, “It is thought that there are only four of the aluminum and one of the brass tokens known in any condition.”
The aluminum token is known only in the 5-cent denomination, according to the catalog.
“This denomination could have covered a number of different things, though it was generally good for a glass of cheap beer,” according to the description. “A ten-cent beer would have been a better brand. Cigars sold in saloons were generally two and a half cents. Shots of bourbon were generally one bit, or twelve and a half cents.”
Holabird writes that, though no maker is shown on the tokens, they were probably made “by a Los Angeles die maker in 1902. The largest such company at the time was the Los Angeles Rubber Stamp Co., who made similar coinage, and later marked their tokens at the bottom of the obverse with ‘LARS’ or ‘LARS CO.’ ”
Holabird writes that the aluminum token “was found in the Goldfield [mining] dump by token hunter and antique dealer Lee Howard in the 1970s.”
According to Holabird, long-time collector and Carson City Sheriff Hal Dunn purchased the token from Howard, and it remained in his collection until after his death in 2007.
Holabird said the piece is “so rare that it was not known at the time of the publication of Charlie Kappan’s California Trade Tokens in 1976, but since was listed in the [Kappen] Supplement because of the Dunn specimen (this piece).”
Unique brass token
The other token is an eight-sided brass token circa 1902 that bears the name V.W. EARP and SAWTELLE on one side. The other side states the token is GOOD FOR ONE RIDE. According to the catalog the token “acted as a form of money for a buggy ride to and from the Veterans Home” in Sawtelle, Calif.
Sawtelle was located about 3 miles from Santa Monica and was later annexed by Los Angeles in 1922.
In the late 1800s Virgil’s father, Nicholas, became ill and was placed in the Veterans Home at Sawtelle. James Earp came to live nearby to care for his father.
“For the brief period of 1901-1903 both James and Virgil lived part to full time in Sawtelle overseeing their father Nick’s health. It was during this point that Virgil (or both) opened a saloon,” according to the Holabird-Kagin auction catalog.
“As long time saloon owners, the Earp family were experts at saloon management, and the tokens certainly must reflect the ownership of one in Sawtelle.”
By mid-1904 Virgil left California to join brother Wyatt in Tonopah, Nev. Virgil died in October 1905 and is buried in Portland, Ore.
The legendary Earp family
Members of the Earp family were involved, at one time or another, in many occupations, including serving as lawmen, miners and stagecoach drivers, as well as saloon operators, according to Holabird.
Wyatt Earp was born in Monmouth, Ill., in 1848. His two older brothers, James and Virgil, were both born in Kentucky.
The patriarch of the family, Nicholas, went to California to find gold in 1851 by way of San Bernardino, Calif.
According to the catalog, sometime after Wyatt was born, the family moved to Pella, Iowa. Two more brothers, Morgan and Warrren, were born in Iowa.
In 1864, the elder Earp along with Wyatt, Morgan, Warren and James moved west from Iowa.
Virgil was already a stagecoach driver and he worked in Nebraska, Iowa, Wyoming and Missouri.
By 1876 Wyatt was on the police force of Dodge City, Kan. He was listed as a deputy marshal as late as March 31, 1877.
By late 1877, Virgil was in Prescott, Ariz., probably as a wagon master or stage driver. By 1881 Virgil was joined by Wyatt and Morgan, and all three would be involved in the shoot-out at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Ariz., where the legend and lore surrounding the family became firmly established.
Morgan silver dollars
Also included in the auction will be 20 rolls of Uncirculated 1884-O and 1885-O Morgan silver dollars in their original paper wrappers.
The silver dollar rolls came “from one of the Reno gaming families. Rudolph A.G. Semenza collected these as a vault manager of a Reno casino in the late 1950s and early 1960s,” according to the catalog.
Two of the nine lots “have the original metal boxes these coins were stored in, the way it was done in Nevada casinos in the 1960s,” according to the catalog.
Five silver ingots will appear in the auction. One of those is a new discovery silver ingot from Pioche, Nev., engraved E. BOOTH NY FROM F.L. CORWIN, will also be offered at auction.
The circa 1871 ingot also has engraved, on the two ends, the location of the silver mine that produced the silver for the ingot.
The ingot measures 1.57 inches long, 0.6 inch wide and 0.6 inch thick. Although four of its six sides are engraved, none of the engravings contain information about the weight or fineness. It weighs 4.28 troy ounces, according to the Holabird-Kagin auction catalog description.
The 1870 census lists Frederick L. Corwin as an agent for an unnamed express company in Hamilton, Nev.
“Express agents in the Pioche/Treasure City/Hamilton region were taking on a risky job. Their mining camps were far from any other civilization ... [and thus] they were greatly isolated. As such, stage robberies were a constant, and any [express company stage] agent had to be careful of the many bullion shipments leaving daily. At times there were reported as many as ten stages a day entering or leaving Pioche or Hamilton,” according to the catalog.
Booth’s name is ornately engraved inside two hearts. The catalog description speculates that Corwin met Booth (a woman) as a passenger on the stagecoach.
The auction will also offer a heavily engraved unique 470.5-ounce silver ingot dated August 1892 that was designed as a presentation piece.
The ingot was presented during the Knights Templar 25th Triennial Conclave in Denver, Colorado.
The ingot is engraved PRESENTED TO ST. BERNARD COMMANDERY NO. 35 CHICAGO FOR EFFICIENCY IN EXHIBITION DRILL followed by DENVER, AUGUST 10TH 1892.
This silver ingot also bears an engraving of the Mount of Holy Cross in Colorado. Engraved on one end is a Maltese Cross, which is the emblem of the Knights Templar.
The other end is engraved CHAMBER OF COMMERCE COMMITTEE, followed by the names of the members of the committee presenting the ingot.
For more information about the more than 1,500 lots to be offered, call the Reno, Nev., auction house toll-free at 877-852-8822 or visit www.holabirdamericana.com
to view the lots.