In 2010, New Mexico art and antiques dealer Forrest Fenn hid a Romanesque bronze chest filled with an estimated $2 million in gold coins and other valuables somewhere in the Rocky Mountains, and then challenged the world to find it.
The hunt ended in June 2020, just months before Fenn’s death at the age of 90, when a researcher finally found the treasure. But now the rest of the world has a chance to own a piece from Fenn’s storied art collection when it is auctioned off by his family at Hindman in Cincinnati, Ohio on June 9th.
The sale entitled “Native American Art: The Lifetime Collection of Forrest Fenn‘ will feature 168 lots including a selection of beadwork originating from his museum home.
“Beadwork from various Plains tribes filled two entire walls, and one table displayed a collection of rare Plains dolls. The collection spilled onto the floor, under tables and over doors,” said Wes Cowan, Hindman vice chairman Explanation.
The top lots of the auction are expected to include: a Sioux Twisted Pipe Stem with Catlinite bowl once owned by Sitting Bull estimated at $60,000-80,000 and one from the 19th century Sioux Grizzly Bear Claw Necklacewhich could fetch $40,000 to $60,000).
A pair of Cochiti storage jars from Fenn’s extensive Pueblo pottery collection are expected to sell for $20,000 to $30,000 each, while Native American dolls featured in his book Historic American Indian Dolls include examples that could fetch up to $25,000.
Other highlights include Native American photos taken by William J. Lenny and William L. Sawyer’s photo studio in Purcell, Oklahoma, including a selection of 19 portraits of Quanah Parker, a key Kwahadi Comanche leader, estimated to number 10,000 Estimated to $15,000.
“Forrest began collecting at a young age, scouring the plains of Texas and the mountains of Montana in search of arrowheads. He was hooked,” Fenn’s family credited in the introduction auction catalogue. “He loved the lure of ancient places and the lore of ancient peoples. This wonderful collection is an example of a lifelong dedication and passion for Native American art and all that surrounds the West.”
An Air Force veteran, Fenn entered the art business in the 1970s as a partner in Santa Fe’s Arrowsmith-Fenn Gallery, which eventually became the Fenn Gallery. The gallery specialized in Native American art and the Taos School of Southwestern.
“Fenn was a celebrated figure in both the Native American collecting and Western art worlds, and the auction offers bidders a unique opportunity to purchase works from a storied collector,” added Danica Farnand, Vice President of Native American Art at Hindman, added.
Fenn began his treasure hunt in 2010 with the publication of his self-published memoir. The thrill of the hunt. The book ended with a riddle in the form of a cryptic poem which, if solved, would lead the reader to the hidden gold.
The challenge spawned an enthusiastic community of treasure hunters, many of whom have spent years hunting down the hidden chest. The quest proved fatal at times, as five treasure hunters died on the trail of Fenn’s elusive riches.
A 32-year-old Michigan medical student, Jonathan “Jack” Stuef, finally cracked the code and discovered the treasure at an undisclosed location in Wyoming. Stuef is reportedly considering auctioning off the contents of the chest.
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