News

Cash-strapped city to sell Wild West collection

Cash-strapped city to sell Wild West collection

Teddy Roosevelt's three-barrelled rifle is pictured in this undated handout photo courtesy of Rubenstein Public Relations. Photo: Reuters/Rubenstein Public Relations/Handout

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania (Reuters) – Thousands of Wild West artifacts, collected by a former mayor for a museum that never materialized, will be auctioned off next week by the capital city of Pennsylvania to help pay down more than $300 million in debt.

The long-awaited auction is part of Harrisburg’s efforts to recoup some of the city funds spent by former Mayor Stephen Reed to acquire the rare artifacts for a tourist-drawing Wild West museum. Featuring items ranging from the very valuable to knick-knacks, it is scheduled to start Monday and continue through the week.

Arlan Ettinger, president of Guernsey’s auction house in New York City, said the sale was the largest of its kind. “I’ve said it a few times, that it’s the largest auction of Wild West items ever, and no one has challenged me on it,” he said. “So we’re sticking with it.”

Joanne Grant, the auctioneer who cataloged each item, said about 6,700 people had signed up to bid online. By Monday, she said, that number could be as high as 10,000. That does not include people who will be at the live auction at Harrisburg’s City Island from Monday through July 21.

Bidders will see a warehouse packed to the rafters with vintage Wild West artifacts and other items related to the 19th Century conquest of the American West and figures like Buffalo Bill Cody, Wyatt Earp, Jesse James and Doc Holliday.

There also are artifacts from Native American tribes, a collection of pieces relating to the Battle of Little Big Horn and more than 500 vintage firearms, as well as a Stetson hat belonging to former President Lyndon B. Johnson.

Other historical items to go on the block include Teddy Roosevelt’s three-barreled rifle, hand-written notes from George Washington and John Hancock and the uniform worn by General George Patton in World War Two.

Arnold Duke, owner of the Ruidoso River Museum in Ruidoso, New Mexico, flew to Pennsylvania for last week’s public preview and was flabbergasted at the selection.

“The collection is vast. It’s staggering,” he said. “It would have made an incredible museum. I’m not sure the best place for it was Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, but it would have been impressive.”

Reed’s huge collection was stored in warehouses at the Harrisburg Department of Public Works.

The auction is not expected to solve Harrisburg’s massive debt problem, caused by a costly and mismanaged incinerator project. Ettinger, the auctioneer, would not say how much he believed the collection to be worth. What it can bring is an end to the long-debated Wild West museum idea.

“It will be closure for a lot of people for a project they never really understood,” said Brian Enterline, 38, a Harrisburg collector who viewed the selection on Thursday. “By next week, hopefully we can all put this behind us and focus on moving the city forward.”

Recent Headlines

in Sports

This week’s top sports shots

little

A look at the biggest stories and best photography in sports this week.

in Sports

This weekend’s sports schedule

yankees

A complete look at this weekend's sports schedule.

in Music

Robert Plant urges Jimmy Page to give up Led Zeppelin reunion

2012 Kennedy Center Honorees and members of the band Led Zeppelin, from left, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, and Robert Plant chat on the red carpet after arriving at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts for the 2012 Kennedy Center Honors Performance and Gala Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012 at the State Department in Washington.

Robert Plant has urged his former Led Zeppelin bandmate Jimmy Page to end his war of words with the singer and concentrate on recording new music.

in Sports

Tony Stewart returns to NASCAR racing after fatal accident

Tony Stewart smiles as he speaks with his crew before the start of the rain delayed NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 race at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida, February 27, 2012.

Tony Stewart will return to racing this weekend at the Atlanta Motor Speedway for the first time since he struck and killed a young racer at a dirt track earlier this month.

in Sports

Mismatch fears over Paul McGinley dispelled

Europe's Paul McGinley of Ireland watches his shot on the third hole during the second day of foursomes competition against Asia at the Royal Trophy golf tournament in Chonburi province, near Bangkok, January 10, 2009.

Four-times European Tour winner Paul McGinley won the Ryder Cup in 2002 but Phillip Price says next month's matches at Gleneagles could end up defining his career.