All of the items in the auction of Roy Rogers memorabilia at Christies this week were sold, fetching a total of $US2.9 million.
The auction included more than 300 iconic lots from Roy Rogers and Dale Evans – the King of the Cowboys and Queen of the West.
Most items sold for prices far in excess of their pre-auction estimates.
Roy’s favorite, and most photographed plastic saddle, the American Eagle, fetched $50,000; a CF Martin acoustic guitar fetched $27,500; two wrought iron wall medallions expected to sell for $200-$300 fetched $11,250; a pair of rare Kelly Bros Diamond Dick pattern spurs overlaid with Navajo silver and mounted with turquoise fetched $10,625.
Among the many pairs of boots sold was a colourful pair attributed to Nudie Taylor which fetched $21,250, far in excess of their pre-auction estimate of $1000 to $2000. A blue gabardine lace-up top made by Nudie for Roy sold for $11,875. The shirt features a Native American theme with embroidered headdresses on the white leather fringe yoke, tomahawks on the sleeves and arrows on the collar and pearl buttoned fringed cuffs, a large embroidered headdress adorns the back, and is embellished with rhinestones throughout.
Another shirt of Roy’s, a brown wool lace-up top featuring a Trigger theme with embroidered horse heads on the suede fringed yoke and back, saddles on the sleeves and spurs on the pearl buttoned cuffs, embellished with rhinestones throughout, fetched $16,250.
The 1946 Willys CJ-2A Jeep known as Nellybelle and used on Roy and Dale’s TV show, fetched $116,500.
A framed photograph of Gene Autrey, with a message from the singing cowboy to Roy written in 1976, fetched $17,500. Its estimate was $300-$500.
Dale’s red and white plastic parade saddle, expected to bring $20,000 to $30,000, sold for $104,500. The saddle was displayed on Dale’s horse Buttermilk in the Branson Museum.
Buttermilk, who died at the age of 31, fetched $25,000, less than his pre-auction estimate of $30,000 to $40,000. Buttermilk was a young colt when he was rescued by a cattle farmer on his way to the slaughterhouse. The farmer bought him from a horse trader and he had been severely abused which resulted in a very unkind demeanor. The new owners quickly began to work with him, and through lots of dedication and care he eventually came around to become a friendly, affectionate and playful horse.
After renaming the bubbly Quarter Horse Soda, Randall introduced Soda to Dale Evans because her movie horse Koko was too much to handle and also resembled Trigger too much. Dale fell in love with Soda and bought him immediately. He was renamed Buttermilk after Dale saw a cloud pattern in the sky that reminded her of the Hoagy Carmichael’s song, “Ole Buttermilk Sky.” Dale rode Buttermilk in almost all of Roy’s movies and in all but six of The Roy Rogers Show television episodes that aired from 1951-57.
A true Quarter Horse, Buttermilk displayed bursts of speed and could outrun Trigger. On the set, Roy asked Dale to please hold Buttermilk back when riding alongside him, since Trigger always had to lead.
The horse Trigger Jr was expected to fetch $30,000 to $50,000 but realised $18,750. Trigger Jr. (1941-1969) was a purebred Tennessee Walking Horse named Allen’s Gold Zephyr who was bred by C. O. Barker of Readyville, Tennessee.
Paul K. Fisher of Souderton, Pennsylvania, who claimed to be the world’s largest breeder and dealer in yellow horses, sold Trigger Jr. to Roy Rogers in 1948 when he was still registered as Allen’s Gold Zephyr. Fisher often took his horses to the Madison Square Garden Rodeo to show or sell and Roy stated that it took him six years to buy Trigger Jr. – finally succeeding after Fisher was forced into a well publicized dispersal sale in 1947.
Trigger Jr. had beautiful conformation and a very stylish way of going. He was perfectly schooled and could accomplish a variety of difficult tricks including high stepping dances – always a crowd pleaser on Roy’s national tours and the perfect protege to Trigger.
Bullet was expected to fetch $10,000 to $15,000 but sold for $35,000. He was an AKA Registered German Shepherd originally given the name of “Bullet Von Berge”. He was billed as the ‘wonder dog’, and made his debut in the Roy Rogers film Spoiler’s of the Plains in 1951, produced by Republic Pictures. Bullet was a regular on The Roy Rogers Show on NBC television from 1951-1957 and CBS from 1961-64. In real life the German Shepherd that played Bullet had the same name, and was also the family’s pet.
“This highly anticipated event brought out thousands of Roy and Dale fans whose emotions and memories flooded our galleries,” said Cathy Elkies, Director of Iconic Collections at Christies.
“We were privileged to handle a collection that resonated so deeply with so many people.”
Linda Kohn and Joseph Sherwood of High Noon Western Americana added: “We were thrilled that the collection has found its way into homes of Roy and Dale fans around the world insuring that their legacy continues. The highlight of the week was the saleroom’s spontaneous round of “Happy Trails” sung at the conclusion of the auction.”
One of Roy and Dale’s nine children, Roy Rogers Jr, said the sale of the Roy Rogers Museum was the most difficult decision for our family to make.
“Dad acknowledged many years ago that if the museum ever became difficult to maintain after he died, then we should let it go. We thought we’d always be able to keep it open, but my dad, smart as he was, knew that some day his fans would get older and they would slowly become unable to travel to Missouri,” Rogers jr said.
“With the economy the way it is, and visitor traffic slowing dramatically, the expenses of operating the museum eventually outweighed the profit. Without being able to break even, we simply couldn’t support it anymore,” he said.
He also spoke of the bond his father had with Trigger. “Dad and Trigger were both young when they started – Trigger was only four years old, and Dad was 26 – and on some level I think they both felt this was the start of something special. Over their years together, they established a bond of trust and mutual respect.
“When Trigger passed, my dad was so distraught he didn’t tell the family for over a year (we didn’t know, because he was kept in another stable off our ranch). I think to him it was like losing a child. He told my mom, ‘I can’t just put him in the ground.’
“He had Trigger beautifully mounted and installed in the museum. A lot of people were upset about that, but I think he made the right choice. Trigger was one of the most popular attractions at the museum,” Rogers Jr said.