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LOS ANGELES — Lively bidding was seen on the phone, online and in the sale room on August 27, as Bonhams sold the gun Pat Garrett used to kill Billy the Kid for $6,030,313, a world auction record for any firearm. It was estimated at $2-3 million. The firearm was the top lot in the single-owner sale, “The Early West: The Collection of Jim and Theresa Earle,” which achieved a total of $12,387,124, selling 92 percent by lot and 99 percent by value.
The gun, a Colt single-action revolver owned by Sheriff Pat Garrett was used to kill Billy the Kid on July 14, 1881, at Pete Maxwell’s Ranch. It stands as a relic of one of the most important and well-known stories of the Wild West. Now part of the American mythology, Garrett’s friendship with the Kid, their mutual respect, and his subsequent hunt, capture, escape and death have become the stuff of legend.
Catherine Williamson, Bonhams’ director of Books & Manuscripts, said: “This sale was a tribute to Jim and Theresa Earle, and it was a tremendous privilege to bring their historic Western collection to auction. The top lot, Pat Garrett’s gun that killed Billy the Kid, attracted attention from all around the world and lead to a world auction record for a firearm. This momentum continued and we saw determined bidding from clients that drove the sale as one of the most valuable private collections of Western memorabilia offered at auction.”
Additional highlights from the Earle Collection included the double-barrel shotgun taken from Deputy Bob Olinger by Billy the Kid and used to kill Olinger ($978,313); a Colt single-action army revolver used by John Selman to shoot John Wesley Hardin ($858,313); the Smith & Wesson double-action “frontier” revolver carried by John Wesley Hardin when he was killed by John Selman ($625,313); and a Springfield trapdoor rifle that had belonged to Wild Bill Hickok ($475,313).
For information, www.bonhams.com.
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