2012 Black Hills Stock Show Old West Collector’s Auction draws new and old alike
Whether you’re looking to take a trip down memory lane or simply hold a pair of authentic spurs in your hand, the 18th Annual Old West Collector’s Auction, which is part of the Black Hills Stock Show, is something you should come and see. Win Bauer, from Vale, SD, is one of the chairmen for the event and has been a part of this auction from the beginning.
“The first sale was in 1994. Jay George and Bruce Blair were originators of the idea. They had kicked around the idea a bit and asked me if I wanted to join them with the project. Originally the sale was part of the Stock Show, so we knew we had to step forward and put on a sale that would complement the Stock Show. We feel this is a place where people can come and see a piece of history without sorting through a lot of junk,” Bauer says.
Bauer, who is currently retired, says one of his passions is restoring old saddles. He is also a saddle collector and dealer. While he attends several auctions throughout the year, this is the only auction he participates in. He says his wife, Diana, is an integral part of the auction as well. Without her help to keep him focused and on schedule, he says the auction would not be the same.
“We have a lot of great volunteers who have been with us since the beginning,” Bauer says. “Jack Gordon, our auctioneer from Crawford, Nebraska, has been with us since the first auction when no one had a clue if we’d make it through the first sale. He’s been with us ever since. I expect he will be there again this year. We are very fortunate that we have such a great collection of people to work with and everyone has a lot of pride in what we are doing with this auction.”
There is no buyer’s premium for the Old West Collector’s Auction. All items up for auction are consigned. Once commission has been paid out and costs for printing, advertising, etc., have been completed, proceeds from the auction go into scholarships for local students.
“We take a lot of pride in helping our young people. Investing in their future is one of the best things we can do,” Bauer says. “We give out six to seven scholarships per year as well as a few renewable scholarships. Over the years we’ve seen a lot of these young people make significant contributions to society. Without the young people, there isn’t much there for the future.
“We’re not doing this for ourselves. We feel if you live somewhere you should give something back to the community in which you live, which is what we are doing with proceeds from this auction.”
Bauer says this year’s auction has a good variety of bits and spurs as well as one of the best selections of saddles and guns they have ever had. Of course there’s a few of those unique, one-of-a-kind items, too.
“We’re thrilled to have a pair of missionary bells at this year’s auction,” Bauer says. “In the early days, when missionaries rode through Indian country, they wore these bells on their saddles so the Indians wouldn’t bother them. We also have a hand-crafted bear trap that was used out in the western Black Hills. We have two pennants in a nice frame that came from Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. Items like the missionary bells are so neat. We have a chance to let people see them, as well as having them available for someone who really wants them.”
As for the popularity and longevity of this auction, Bauer attributes that to the love affair people have with the American Cowboy as well as something people can relate to from their past.
“We have a lot of younger people who come to this sale who would like to have a saddle or a pair of spurs to put in their family room. It helps remind them of things their grandparents used to talk about,” he says. “It keeps them in touch with their legacy. I love seeing people get things they can relate to.”
People attending the sale, as well as the items sold at the auction, come from all over the U.S. and Canada. Bauer says the sale has a loyal following from the Rapid City area and over half of the items stay within a 300-mile radius. If people see something they’d like to bid on and can’t make it to the auction, Bauer works with them by phone. However, he notes that the auction has shied away from the use of newer technologies.
“We tried incorporating a video auction a few years ago and it just didn’t seem right,” he says. “Since we call this an Old West Auction, we want to run the sale like an Old West Auction where people can come in, sit down and actually see the items up for bid. That helps avoid buyer’s remorse. This is one auction you can come to and buy the real McCoy.”
The Old West Collector’s Auction is more than just an annual auction. Bauer and his crew have made it a place where people can come together to just enjoy themselves in a comfortable, inviting setting. Bauer explains that it was never intended to just be a sale, but a place where people can look at items and gain bits and pieces of information about the items they’re looking at.
“People like to do business one on one,” he says. “They like to come to a sale and feel like they have a chance to bid on these items. A lot of people come to just look at the unique items that are for sale. I’ve had several people come up to me at the auction to tell me how much they’ve enjoyed it and how they can’t believe some of these items are still around. We don’t want people to think this auction is too pricey. Some items bring good money, others go for as little as ten dollars.”
The Old West Collector’s Auction will take place on Saturday, Jan. 28, beginning at 10 a.m. at the Rapid City Civic Center. People can also stop by on Friday afternoon, Jan. 27, to see a preview of items that will be available.
“Without our volunteers, the Stock Show and the great support of the buyers, we couldn’t make this work,” Bauer says. “We are probably the only sale of this kind left that works strictly on volunteers with all profits going to a scholarship program. We must be doing something right, or we wouldn’t have lasted 18 years. Selling the highest-priced item is not our goal. We see ourselves as distributors of history.”