Published March 25, 2014
It's high noon for one Arizona auction house that says it has two guns once owned by the legendary gunslinger Wyatt Earp.
The Arizona Republic reported that J. Levine Auction & Appraisal listed two guns, including a Colt .45-caliber revolver, that descendants of the famous lawman say he carried in Tombstone and possibly the shootout at O.K. Corral.
"This is American history here -- and not only is it that, it's Western folklore…..This gun, the O.K. Corral shootout, it's lived on where other stories have not stood the test of time," Josh Levine, the owner of the auction house, told the paper.
He reportedly said that he expects 6,000 bidders and thinks the two guns will fetch about $275,000.
But like most things that involve the Old West, the facts are challenged and appear to some to be as mysterious as an old ghost town.
These guns were previously owned by Glenn Boyer, an author of a few books on Earp who admitted one of the books was mixed with fact and fiction, the report said.
"The biggest problem is that anything that came through Glenn Boyer's hands -- how do we know Glenn Boyer didn’t write it himself," John Boessenecker, a San Francisco gun collector, told the paper.
Gary McLelland, editor of OldWestMagazine.com, told the paper that the "Tombstone crowd" is passionate about its history and all eyes will be on this auction. Boyer's relatives told the paper that the name "Wyatt Earp" is considered a family curse. They said they've received threatening messages and public vitriol. The auction house is doubling its security the night of the auction, the report said.
On Oct. 26, 1881, Earp, his two brothers and Doc Holliday confronted a gang of drunken outlaws, sparking a 30-second gun battle in the streets of Tombstone that killed Frank and Tom McLaury and Bill Clanton.
It made folk heroes of Earp and Holliday and inspired numerous movies about the untamed Old West.
Historians have long argued over who fired first and whether McLaury was armed when he was shot. Earp and the other lawmen said they were defending themselves. Friends of the outlaws called it murder.
Wild West fans still argue over who was right, even though a judge and grand jury found insufficient evidence to try Holliday and the Earp brothers.
One person who knew Boyer stood up for his research and said, "Maybe he wrote his opinion in his books and stretched reality, but he didn't make up the research." Boyer died last year.
The Arizona Republic reported that the serial number from the Colt. 45 is missing, but an X-ray showed the original number connected the gun to Earp. One firearms expert reportedly said no serial number is usually a "kiss of death" for the seller. But these guns will come with a sworn affidavit from Boyer supporting their authenticity.
Despite the critics, the auction is seen as a way to promote Western culture.
"I mean, this is the history of our state, and we're very much interested in putting Arizona on the map culturally and making our history available to our own citizens here," Daniel Coleman, Boyer's stepson, told the paper.
The Associated Press contributed to this report