California Riding Outfit

Value (2004) | $16,000 Retail$22,000 Retail

Well, I know it's a Visalia saddle. It was given to my great-grandfather by a brigadier general, John Koster, who was in the California State Militia. My great-grandfather worked for General Koster at the California Barrel Company and the general kind of took him under his wing and was somewhat of a mentor and gave him this saddle as a gift when he was a young man.

I see. And this is General Koster in the photograph?


What you have here is probably one of the finest California riding outfits I've ever seen. And it's made by Visalia-- the most important saddle maker in California from that time period. Probably dates to between the mid 1890s and 1900. It just doesn't get much better than this. I was very surprised to see you come in with it. The bridle was not made by Visalia. It was probably contracted out. As were the spurs. There is a chance that the silverwork was done by Shazline in San Francisco, but they would have to look at it and compare it to work that they had done in their dyes to figure out if that's who did it. Every piece is marked with a K for Koster, including the bit, the bridle-- everything, so it's a custom-made outfit from start to finish. The cinch is a horsehair cinch and it says Walker, Visalia, California, and everything's marked with the leather in the saddle. The name Walker, I found out, that the Visalia Saddle Company was sold to Walker about 1887, so the date you're giving me is right in there. And there's a different Walker imprint on the back of the saddle. It's possible that would narrow down the date closer. The bit and the spurs were obviously the same maker. Filigree cut on the side of the bit which is very unusual. Filigree cut on the side of the spurs. They were difficult to make. The headstall is a classic California rig. It's what's called closed reins with a romall. I've never seen one that's totally silver mounted, which this is.

How much is it worth? The butterflies in my stomach are killing me right now about its value, so...

Let's start with the spurs. Not knowing who made them, but knowing the documentation, it's $4,000 to $6,000.


Easy. Probably more. The head stall, $3,000 to $5,000. All of this is conservative. This isn't high retail pricing. The saddle, I'd say $8,000 to $10,000. And then you have the martingale that went around the horse's neck. Probably a replacement-- it's $1,000 easily. The rest of it is totally original. So, I mean, the whole rig, $16,000 on the low end, $22,000 on the high end.


If we went to the books, went to some other people that specialize in California spur making and bits, we could probably discover who made these spurs and this bit, start adding percentages to it-- ten, 20 percent. So then we're getting up towards $25,000 for the whole outfit.

I think I crawled all over this thing as a kid. Yeah, it's been a great heirloom to have in the family.

It's wonderful. It is the top of California saddle making.

Appraisal Details

San Antonio, TX
Appraised value (2004)
$16,000 Retail$22,000 Retail
Reno, NV (August 14, 2004)
19th Century
Leather, Silver

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