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Valencia man’s photograph could lead to an Old West windfall

1884 photograph features signature from legendary lawman Wyatt Earp

Posted: July 25, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: July 25, 2014 2:00 a.m.

This nine-by-11 inch photograph, owned by Valencia resident Charles Allen, was taken in 1884 in Dodge City, Kansas, and is set to go up for auction next Thursday. Photo courtesy Charles Allen/J. Levine Auction & Appraisal.

A 130-year-old photograph signed by a legendary Old West lawman is expected to fetch a fistful of dollars for a Valencia man.

Charles Allen, a self-described fan of Old West history, remembers there wasn't much interest for the photograph when he bought it at auction two years ago, recalling: “I was actually the only bidder on it.”

The photograph, which Allen bought for an undisclosed amount, is mounted on card stock and roughly 11 inches by nine inches.

It was taken in Dodge City, Kansas, circa 1884.

Perhaps best known as the setting for the long-running TV series “Gunsmoke,” Dodge City also played host to a lawman named Wyatt Earp, who plied his trade there for a time before moving on to his more noteworthy exploits in Tombstone, Ariz.

Though the auction catalogue listing for the photograph noted only it was signed by Earp, Allen found signatures from a collection of Western contemporaries, including Earp, William Matthew Tilghman Jr., W. F. Petillon, Neal Brown, Luke Short and Bill Doolin.

“It was quite the find,” Allen said. “It was listed with only Wyatt Earp’s signature on it, but when I received it I saw there were more.”

Though he’s held on to the aged photograph for a few years, Allen said Thursday he decided now was the right time to sell.

The photograph is expected to be auctioned off next Thursday.

The estimated value of the photograph is between $10,000 and $15,000, according to Josh Levine, an auctioneer with Scottsdale-based J. Levine Auction & Appraisal, which is handling the sale.

Levine said the photograph is valuable both because of the subjects and time period it captures and because it is a rare example of photography from that era — being a fairly large photograph and in excellent condition for its age.

As a result, Levine said, the photograph could sell for markedly more than estimated.

“Our estimated value, I think, is considerably conservative,” he said.

Though other items that will be auctioned off next week include Earp’s Colt Lightning Pocket Revolver and 1895 Marlin Shotgun; a series of life-size sculptures of Earp, Billy the Kid, Jesse James and Daniel Boone from artist Dee Flagg; and a Diego Rivera painting, Levine described the photo as the “sleeper in the sale.”

“This was an unknown picture,” Levine said. “But this is as Americana as it gets.”

Earp’s connection to the Santa Clarita Valley goes beyond Allen’s photograph. He was a friend of film star and local legend William S. Hart.

For more information on the auction, visit or call 480-496-2212.
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