Buffalo Bill & Pawnee Bill Wild West Posters

Value (2009) | $7,500 Auction$11,000 Auction
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GUEST:
I got these about 25 years ago. I was helping an older gentleman in New York move, and he was downsizing his house. And he was so grateful after several days of helping him that he just gave these to me. I knew nothing when I got them, but since getting them I've found out that there were bill posters who put these up ahead of a circus or a show as advertising. And that's about as much as I know about them.

APPRAISER:
All of these posters were printed by Strobridge, one of the greatest American lithographic companies operating around the turn of the century, known for their high-quality, beautiful works. They did a lot of advertising for circuses. If we start with the poster at the bottom, closest to you, the date on that poster is 1906. They're advertising Pawnee Bill's Wild West, one of the imitator shows that sprung up on the success of Buffalo Bill's show.

GUEST:
Okay.

APPRAISER:
And now chronologically we go from 1906, we go to 1907. Here we have just Buffalo Bill, a portrait piece of him on his horse. It would have been used, again, to advertise the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show. The third poster, which is on top, is dated 1909. Now, what happened in 1908, the one year we don't have here, due to some business problems, Buffalo Bill had to find a new backer for his show and he turned to Pawnee Bill. So, in 1908, the two shows combined, and you have the Pawnee Bill's Great Far East act combined with Buffalo Bill's Wild West. Now, do you have any idea of the value of these pieces?

GUEST:
A few years ago I was looking in the market, and at the time maybe $1,000, $2,000. But I really haven't followed it at all lately, so I have no clue what they might be worth today.

APPRAISER:
Art is a commodity, and as the general market suffers, so does the market for art. However, I think by and large these images for Buffalo Bill and the Wild West shows occupy a kind of micro niche within the collecting community, something that hasn't been affected too badly. Starting with the Pawnee Bill, I would estimate that at auction between $1,500 and $2,000.

GUEST:
Okay.

APPRAISER:
Then I think when we get to the combined act of Pawnee Bill and Buffalo Bill, the price is a little higher, because Buffalo Bill's name carries quite a premium within the collecting world. And I would estimate that poster at $2,000 to $3,000.

GUEST:
Okay, that's good.

APPRAISER:
So if Buffalo Bill's name can add value to a Pawnee Bill poster, what do you think his image and his name could add to the value of another poster?

GUEST:
I'm hoping a lot.

APPRAISER:
Well, it certainly is a fair bit more. It's such a proud and wonderful image of Buffalo Bill, with all of the trappings of the West-- with a covered wagon, with the buffalo hunting. I think at auction, for this piece alone, $4,000 to $6,000.

GUEST:
Wow.

APPRAISER:
One thing that would have added significant value to the two horizontal posters would be if they had any suggestion of a Western theme. Given that they're both advertising Western shows, neither one of them shows a Western theme, and that alone, like Buffalo Bill's name, would have added a premium to their value.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Swann Auction Galleries
New York, NY
Appraised value (2009)
$7,500 Auction$11,000 Auction
Event
Atlantic City, NJ (June 06, 2009)
Period
20th Century
Form
Poster
Material
Paper

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