For auction houses, few items are as big of a draw as the guns of an Old West legend. According to The Arizona Republic, J. Levine Auction & Appraisal in Scottsdale, Arizona will be putting up two firearms reportedly owned by lawman Wyatt Earp. One of the guns, a Colt revolver, is believed to have been used at O.K. Corral, the gunfight that propelled Earp to national fame in 1881.
“This is American history here, and not only is it that, it’s Western folklore. […] This gun, the O.K. Corral shootout, it’s lived on where other stories have not stood the test of time,” Levine told The Republic.
The Colt revolver is expected to be the highlight of the auction, with an estimated price tag of between $100,000 and $150,000. In addition to the handgun, 32 boxes of Earp-related memorabilia, photos, and historical evidence will be at auction, along with a Winchester lever-action shotgun once owned by the lawman. The collection belonged to the late Glenn Boyer, a Wyatt Earp biographer and researcher.
“These documents have more information than anyone’s really seen. We have Wyatt Earp’s shotgun. We have Wyatt Earp’s OK Corral gun. We have voice recordings of people who knew Wyatt Earp,” Levine told KPHO.
However, the bidding may not be as straight-cut as the auction house hopes. Levine will be increasing security during the auction to four off-duty police officers, an unusual move. This is due to the controversial nature of the items and the man who once owned them. Glenn Boyer is a divisive figure among Wyatt Earp historians, and some say his books are more fiction than fact. Over the years, the Boyer family claims that conflict over the books boiled over into open hostility.
“The biggest problem is that anything that came through Glenn Boyer’s hands, how do we know Glenn Boyer didn’t write it himself?” asked collector John Boessenecker.
Boyer’s critics are suspicious about the guns’ authenticity, but some historians support Boyer. For its part, the auction house said that the firearms have been scrutinized by professionals and are well-documented. Levine says that bidding will start at $50,000 for the Colt revolver, which he calls the O.K. Corral gun. Bidding will take place at 6 p.m. on April 17.
Wyatt Earp himself is as equally divisive among historians. Although Earp was proclaimed a hero after the shootout at O.K. Corral, where he killed three outlaw cowboys, he became a notorious figure later in his life. In what is called the “Earp Vendetta Ride,” Earp led a posse to kill four men believed to have assassinated one of his brothers. The event caused some negative publicity, and Earp was later pursued by a local sheriff. Earp’s image in modern times has taken a more positive turn, and the lawman is now generally known as one of the most famous gunslingers of the Old West.
Images courtesy J. Levine Auction and Appraisal