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Buster Welch Auction – Resounding Success

Buster and Sheila Welch
Nostalgia reigned as the Buster Welch antique spur and bit collection sold during a Western estate auction conducted by A&S Antique Auction Co. on June 7 at its facility in Waco, Texas.

The auction featured 468 items, including a beautiful aqua 1959 Edsel convertible that sold for $28,000. The building was packed when the auction began at 10 a.m., and 99 items were sold before 24 items consigned by Welch, Rotan, Texas, brought more than $117,900. Many people then left the building.

The Welch collection consisted of rare pieces by highly regarded early spur and bit makers. He said he liked the old spurs because they were light, nice-fitting and “stayed down good.”

Kelly Brothers spurs sold for $28,000.
Welch, who turned 80 on May 23, retained several items he still uses, and a set of spurs presented by trainer Gary Bellenfant and Bellenfant’s wife, Alycia. He admitted there was a touch of nostalgia involved in the auction.

“Oh yeah,” he said of his mixed emotions. “This is kind of a happening for me. An old-time cowboy never pulled his spurs off – he wore them all the time he had his boots on. When a cowboy said he was going to hang his spurs up, that always meant he was fixin’ to quit. You need a new saddle every five or 10 years, but the spurs will last you a lifetime and probably on down to your grandchildren.”

Welch is a four-time National Cutting Horse Association Open World Champion and a five-time winner of the NCHA World Championship Futurity. He is in the NCHA Members Hall of Fame, the NCHA Riders Hall of Fame and the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame. He also has received the Western Horseman Award (Western Horseman Magazine) and the Charles Goodnight Award.

J.O. Bass spurs brought $18,000.
Thus, it meant something for him to part with the spurs.

“I’ve really enjoyed them, but we don’t have a good way of displaying them and I’ve lost some. I thought I’d just put some of them up for sale and let people that have the means display them. It went well.”

His wife, Sheila, said she was pleased by the reception the antique collection received.

“The good thing is that some of the pieces were bought by friends and they won’t be far away, so we still will be able to see them,” she said.

Ken Welch, a Baird, Texas, rancher who is Buster’s son and attended the sale with his wife, Dixie, said, “It’s just ‘stuff.’ The memories I have of him are here [in his mind]. I was very fortunate. I grew up with a hero. I knew from the time I was 5 or 6 that he was different from anybody else. I went nearly every step he went and I remember nearly every one of them.

“Mainly what I learned from him was ranching. Everybody thinks he’s the greatest horseman that ever lived. I won’t argue with that, but I’m telling you he’s the greatest rancher that ever lived. He said one time, ‘They’re taking the profit out of it, but they ain’t going to take the fun out of it, if you’re doing it right.’ ”

Buster Welch and Billy Martin
The high-selling item was a rare pair of Kelly Brothers spurs in a Diamond Dick pattern, purchased for $28,000 by Jay Lyons of Montana, according to auctioneer Scott Franks.

Mark Patterson, Lubbock, Texas, bought four items for $27,550, including a pair of spurs crafted by J.O. Bass, Tulia, Texas, for $18,000, and a J.O. Bass bit for $5,000. The items, which made an attractive pair, were used by Welch while showing one of his World Champion mounts, Peppy San Badger (Little Peppy).

A pair of McChesney gal leg spurs sold for $10,000.

Billy Martin, a Millsap, Texas, non-pro competitor who is a longtime friend of Welch, purchased four items for a total of $17,250.

A number of other notable figures from the cutting horse industry were on hand, including the 2008 NCHA Super Stakes Co-Champion, Kory Pounds, and his girlfriend, Jessica Peel; Shannon Hall, an NCHA Futurity Open winner; and trainers Mark Chestnut and Rubin Pringle. Other attendees included Melissa Lyons Gardner, a non-pro rider whose horses often are shown by Pounds; and the father-son duo of Jim and Joey Milner, also non-pros. The Milners were particularly close to Buster Welch’s son, Greg, a champion trainer who is deceased.

Some other family members and friends of the Welches also attended the auction.


LOT 100–Pair of J.O. Bass spurs, Tulia, Texas. Marked silver-mounted spurs with swing heart buttons, spur No. 1552. Welch used this pair of spurs showing many of his world-class cutting horses, including Peppy San Badger (Little Peppy). Purchased by Mark Patterson, Lubbock, Texas. $18,000.

LOT 101–J.O. Bass, marked silver-mounted bit No. 162. Welch also used this on Little Peppy and many other horses. “My horses really loved the mouthpiece and the bit,” he said. Purchased by Mark Patterson. $5,000.

LOT 102–Kelly Brothers silver-mounted, silver and copper overlay spurs in rare Kelly Brothers Diamond Dick pattern. Large 6-point rowels. Purchaser, Jay Lyons, Montana. $28,000.

LOT 103–J.O. Bass No. 802 spurs with split heart, engraved swinging buttons. $5,700.

LOT 104–Scarce McChesney, double peanut and heart pattern, gal leg spurs, pattern No. 40, single mounted. $10,000.

LOT 105–Kelly Brothers single-mounted silver overlay ladies spurs with swinging buttons. $1,550.

LOT 106–Kelly Brothers single-mounted silver overlay spurs with scroll pattern on heel band and straight arrow shanks with heart buttons. $2,500.

LOT 107–McChesney single-mounted spurs with engraved heart and diamond on heelband. Purchased by Billy Martin, Millsap, Texas. $2,700.

LOT 108–McChesney bit with raised dome on cheekpiece stamped “H.” Welch used the bit with Little Peppy. $2,400.

LOT 109–Kelly Brothers marked single-mounted spurs, Hamley Specials pattern. $2,850.

LOT 110–K.B.&P marked single-mounted spurs, overlay clubs and spades on heel bands, and chap guards. $5,000.

LOT 111–Kelly Brothers marked spurs with steer heads on heel bands and arrow shanks (Dalhart, 1910). Purchased by Mark Patterson. $4,250.

LOT 112–Singled-mounted spurs with steer heads on heel bands, cutout coin rowels, attributed to Jess Hodge. $4,500.

LOT 113–Crocket single-mounted spurs, engraved silver overlay on heel bands with chap guards. $1,500.

LOT 114–McChesney marked silver- and copper-mounted bit with hearts. Purchased by Billy Martin, Millsap, Texas. $4,700.

LOT 115–Kelly Brothers iron bit with silver-mounted shield pattern. Purchased by Martin. $3,100.

LOT 116–August Buermann iron spurs with chasing on heel bands and drop shanks. $1,000.

LOT 117–Shop-made iron spurs with swing coin buttons, one of Welch’s first set of spurs, given to him as a youngster by another cowboy. $700.

LOT 118–Buster Welch’s hemp rope, reminded him of old-time cowboys; he never used it because he feared he would break it. $1,600.

LOT 119–Kelly Brothers silver-mounted high port globe bit. $2,750.

LOT 120–Early photograph (black and white, 8x10) of a string of King Ranch cowboys on Pinto horses, signed by what appears to be Will James. $900.

LOT 121–Full overlay spurs, single-mounted with engraved double buttons – attributed to Visalia. One of Welch’s favorite pairs. “I showed and cowboyed a lot in these spurs. I liked them because they stayed down good,” he said. Purchased by Billy Martin. $6,750.

LOT 122–Buffalo Nickel-mounted globe bit with Buffalo Nickels mounted on cheekpiece. $2,200.

LOT 123–OK spurs with double buttons. Purchased by Mark Patterson. $300.

More information on Welch may be found in the story, "Tall Tales of Buster Welch," by Betsy Lynch, in cutting/outside the pen on quarterhorsenews.com. For more information on auctions, contact http://www.asauctions.com.

BUSTER WELCH AUCTION PHOTO GALLERY (Click on images to enlarge)