Valuation VS. Research And Provenance

We have sold individual paintings, diamonds and objets d’art for six figures a piece for clients all over the U.S. When an important piece emerges, our international buyers always bring up provenance (“proof” or “chain of custody”). In the case of this firearm, the provenance is exceptional — since the current owner has the original receipt from 1965 and it’s accompanied by a letter from Wells-Fargo Express Co. dated 1895.

purchase receipt

An Extraordinary Original Firearm

The letter clearly indicated that the pistol with accompanying serial number was sent to L. Goodman of San Francisco, and that it had belonged to Doc Holliday and was used in the “big fight at the OK Corral.” It further states that in that fight, the Clanton’s and the McLaury’s were killed.

While it looks ironclad, we have several obstacles to overcome for our client:

1. There is a gap of ownership from 1895 to 1965.

2. While our paper and ink expert confirms the characteristics are consistent with items of that period, there’s always a possibility that the supplier of the gun, one Jonathan Walcott Hayes, was mistaken or complicit in some kind of misdirection.

pistol firearm

$250,000 / 1880s DOC HOLLIDAY FIREARM

When something as important as this firearm (or any expensive antique or jewelry) is sold, there are several designations that can be used:

1. Further research dictates this gun will have an auction value of $150,000-$250,000.

2. It can be “attributed to” Doc Holliday — a term used when the auctioneer is reasonably certain of ownership but prefers a little wiggle room. As attribution, the estimate is $75,000–$150,000.

3. An auctioneer can designate provenance as “purported” or “thought to be.”

In fact, a revolver with this designation for Wyatt Earp fetched several times its auction estimate and went for $445,000. Regardless, our research continues. We will likely auction this in partnership with a Western U.S. auctioneer.

This is an archival article formerly written and is for informational purposes only. The valuations in this article have likely changed since it was first written.

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