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A Wyatt Earp carving by famous Scottsdale artist Dee Flagg sits inside J Levine Auction & Appraisal in Scottsdale. / Patrick Breen/The Arizona Republic

The West will be won by the highest bidder when Wyatt Earp guns, life-size wooden carvings of Billy the Kid and Jesse James, and more Western memorabilia go up for auction in Scottsdale, Arizona this week.

On the spurs of an April auction of guns reputed to belong to Arizona's most legendary lawman, collectors chose the same auction house to sell two more Earp guns and a collection of Wild West photos and art.

Among the items that will be offered at Thursday's auction is a signed photograph of Earp with other well-known bandits and lawmen from 1884 in Dodge City, Kan. It is valued at up to $15,000.

Josh Levine, owner of J. Levine Auction & Appraisal in Scottsdale, called the photograph "the star of the show."

"The best part is that it bears the original signatures of all the players in Dodge City," Levine said.

Another photograph, authenticated in part by facial-recognition software, is of Frank James and his brother, notorious train robber Jesse James, valued at up to $60,000.

Two guns belonging to Earp - an 1877 Colt lightning pocket revolver, valued at up to $60,000, and an 1895 Marlin shotgun, valued at up to $70,000 - also are on the block.

Unlike the April auction, in which a gun Earp was reported to have brought to the shootout at the O.K. Corral sold for $225,000 despite criticisms of the gun's dubious provenance, these guns are authenticated as belonging to Earp, Levine said.

Among the most striking items at this auction are the life-size woodcarvings of Earp, Billy the Kid, Daniel Boone and Jesse James in period attire, which also were the subject of a dispute. Each statue is expected to fetch $30,000 to $50,000, according to the auction house.

Dee Flagg, one of Scottsdale's most famous artists during the mid-20th century, carved the statues in the 1950s. Flagg, who died in 1999, was a spectacle in his Old West-style duds and handlebar mustache as he drove around in a 1914 firetruck or vintage Rolls Royce with a wooden Indian chief he carved beside him.

Flagg's art always garnered respect, however. It was collected by Gene Autry, Dale and Roy Rogers, J. Edgar Hoover, President Richard Nixon and Russell Knott, founder of Knott's Berry Farm.

"Fame is fleeting, I guess. And that's what happened here, although some of us remember," said state historian Marshall Trimble, who lived near the Flagg family. "You know, Scottsdale prides itself on being an artist community. It would be nice if some of the best pieces could be kept here in Scottsdale."

The carvings were purchased in 2003 for $75 by a Chandler antiques dealer from a blind auction of a storage locker's contents.

In addition to the carvings, the dealer discovered paintings, sketches, woodcarvings and a lifetime of letters, documents and press clippings valued at more than $3 million. A lawsuit was brought by the sole surviving member of Flagg's family, and an undisclosed settlement was reached. The antiques dealer sold the carvings to Scottsdale developer Gary Martinson.

Martinson displayed the carvings in the short-lived Bison Museum in Scottsdale before it closed in 2009, and they were briefly moved to the Western Discovery Museum in Tusayan, Arizona, just south of Grand Canyon National Park. The carvings have been in storage in Show Low until now, Martinson said.

"I really had hopes I never would auction them off and that they would go to the grave with me in another 30 years," Martinson said, adding that he's not in a financial position to display them anymore.

Martinson said it's the details of the statues that make them history, not just art.

"(Flagg) would spend months and months researching these Western characters before he would even attempt to carve them," Martinson said.

He still possesses Flagg's life-size carvings of Calamity Jane, Wild Bill Hickok, Buffalo Bill and Sitting Bull and is waiting to see how the public responds to the other statues before deciding whether to auction them as well.



Copyright 2014USAToday

Read the original story: More Wyatt Earp, Jesse James memorabilia up for auction

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