Expert Mike Graham offers information on an Adolf Bayers bit.
I was raised in southwestern New Mexico, and my grandfather came there from Oklahoma. After he died in the late 1960s, his tack just hung in the barn. In 1973, I found the bit shown here on one of his old headstalls. The mouthpiece was covered with some kind of rubber, so I cleaned it off and started using the bit.
It is marked “Adolph Bayers,” as well as number 279. I was told the log of this bit is in a book. Several years ago, I was at a steer roping at the Lazy E Arena in Guthrie, Oklahoma, when someone offered to buy it. I didn’t accept the offer, but I have always wondered about the bit’s value.
– WH Reader, Nevada, USA
Expert: When I received your letter, I called my friend Larry Peck of Whitesboro, Texas, whom I have known for more than 20 years. Larry has probably sold more bits and spurs than anyone I know. He sells at gear shows throughout Texas and the western United States. He helped me verify your bit’s pristine condition and determine its current market value.
According to Larry, Adolph Bayers paved the way for a large group of contemporary bit and spur makers.
I also called J. Martin Basinger of Slaton, Texas, who compiled the book Artistry in Silver and Steel, The Adolph Bayers Legend Volume III, in which your bit appears. Basinger was a customer and friend of Bayers. Before Bayers died in 1978, he gave Basinger a collection of drawings, ledgers and spiral notebooks in which he had recorded all of the bits and spurs he had made during his 40-plus-year career. From those records, Basinger compiled three volumes with more than 1,100 pages combined. The first two volumes detail Bayers’s spurs, and the third shows his bits. Basinger plans to release a fourth volume with the balance of the bit information.
Bayers was born October 26, 1912, in Knox County, Texas, the youngest of seven children. From a young age he enjoyed working on farm implements and with metal. While serving in the U.S. Navy aboard the USS Kittyhawk, he worked as a machinist and die-maker.
When he was discharged, demand for his knives, bits and spurs increased. His number 218 spur became popular with polo players throughout the world, and allegedly some of his spurs are in Buckingham Palace in London, England.
Bayers worked in a dirt-floor shop near Truscott, Texas. After his death, his shop and its contents were donated to the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum in Canyon, Texas. Bayers may have created a few 279 bits. He numbered his work using even numbers for spurs and odd numbers for bits. Your bit is in original condition without alterations or repairs, and it has a great history.
Estimated Value: $4,500
Expert: Mike Graham is the owner of Ruxton’s Trading Post in Manitou Springs, Colorado. He and his wife, Gretchen, specialize in collectible pieces of Western Americana. The couple wrote the book Old Cowboy Saddles and Spurs, Identifying The Craftsmen Who Made Them. For more information, visit online at ruxtons.com