Benji Kuehling (1938-2020)

  • June 22, 2020
  • News

benji kuehlingOur friend Benji Kuehling passed away recently after a short illness. While he was a major mineral collector, I think he had as many friends as he did minerals, a true testament to the friendly and open nature of this kind man. It is hard to imagine anyone as active as Benji in the later stages of life. He never slowed down until the end. I knew him as a wonderful man, full of life, who loved rocks, minerals and mining – especially artifacts, and the constant hot pursuit for these.

Benji ran into me long, long ago at the Tucson Gem & Mineral Show – he had a way of finding people. For more than twenty five years he constantly tried to get me to Ouray. As a mining geologist, I was lucky enough to work ore deposits all over Nevada, California and parts of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and other places, but never got a chance to work in the San Juans. Interestingly, one of my professors got his PhD on San Juan geology, so I had been filled with stories of this fantastic region long before I met all my Colorado friends. I finally got there a few years ago and spent the better part of a week with Benji showing me all his favorite haunts. The first morning set the stage. Benji told me about a new trail built in the mountains around the town, and off I went, running by old mine sites, through a tunnel carved in a cliff and more.  My most memorable trip with him was to the Sunnyside mine, where we hiked out along the ridge under the old tram line, where I found a heck of a nice huge chunk of high grade ore that had fallen out of a tram bucket. I persuasively twisted his arm and he made me a beautiful pair of bookends, I’m sure the last of them that he made.

Many of you have seen his massive mineral collections, which are planned to keep intact and open to the public – a big plus for Ouray. Somewhere in his massive mineral collection are some great quartz crystals I sent him from Placerville, the center of the Motherlode country.

Benji’s proudest achievement, which I heard about many times, was that he could provide for his family without having a formal advanced education. He found a way to excel in a business of his own creation, while at the same time accumulating real estate to ensure longevity.

I have long enjoyed an equal friendship with his best friend, another ore deposits geologist like myself, and fondly recall Benji telling me “not to tell him what I’m up to” otherwise he would “snatch it up.” It was always good for a laugh. He created laughs for the whole office, and his favorite target was Uwe. We always knew when Benji called, because Uwe would be doubled over with laughter.

Benji had a special eye for collectibles. His brass early car accoutrement collection is remarkable, as are his collections of minerals, San Juan collectibles and mining artifacts of all sorts. He certainly enjoyed adding to them from our company!

RIP Benji- We’ll never forget him.

Fred Holabird

On The Passing Of Dr. Robert Chandler 2019

On the Passing of Dr. Robert Chandler 2019

  • March 14, 2019
  • News

One of my best friends in life, Bob Chandler, died last night. I felt it in my sleep.

Dr. Robert Chandler, “Bob” to everybody, was a historian for the Wells Fargo Bank History Department for decades. I met Bob about 1980 through Doug McDonald, and we were best friends forever more.

Bob was a unique historian – one with a tremendous sense of humor, wit and an uncanny ability to tell stories. His specialties were certainly the Express business, but also Gold Rush monetary systems and California in the Civil War.

Our first mutual project was going to be a Wells Fargo display in Reno in 1983. We built cases, got everything ready, then the economy tanked, and we shelved the project.

My own passion for collecting rare western documents led to many discussions, as we learned things together about the western financial systems during and just after the Gold Rush and the Comstock rush. We wrote a number of short papers together on these matters, perhaps best summarized in one of our sales catalogs where we typed and listed western exchanges, and more. We got on a big roll with the Totheroh catalog, where Bob wrote several papers, including an important one that got left out  for no reason by the company owner at the time.

Meanwhile, Bob had papers published in nearly every western historical journal, and gave well over 100 talks to various groups -maybe even 200!

At Wells Fargo, he shined. He constantly worked on advertising campaigns to be sure the information was well written (he wrote much of it himself), and properly well illustrated. He was a consummate historian, helping any of us who needed quality research that only he had access to. He was also a die-hard supporter of Bank President Anderson’s “NO TRADE” policy of items within the Collection, of which some collectors were always after.

At home, I have a rubber cockroach named “Archie”. I don’t remember how in the heck it started, but Bob started talking about his pet cockroach Archie, and I adopted him ever since.

Bob and I shared a tremendous passion for western history. He, and he alone, was unarguably my biggest supporter through time, always pushing me, always encouraging me to make moves never done before. He was one of several people that were on my permanent “Peer Review” committee for my papers, and I on his.

When I ran mines, we often compared the historical systems of gold and money flow in antiquaria to today’s systems. This led to a rather unique experience for me that in turn led Bob to recommend me for work on the SS Central America Project, for which I am forever grateful.

Just a month ago, he encouraged me to continue his work on GT Brown and write a paper on the competition between Brown and Britton & Rey, which I will do. Back in the early 1980’s, it was Chandler who introduced me to Brown and I proceeded to find more Brown stuff for him and other collectors than is known today.

In later years, I visited Bob every chance I got in San Francisco. As I worked for various banks there and law firms on important historical projects, we’d share secrets, and of course lunch. Bob walked the streets of the financial district in his black top hat and bright red vest, a true “E Clampus Vitus” outfit!. He was so well known that local comic strip writers often included his persona in the comics of the Examiner.

In my world of western history, no other person had a greater impact on my life than Bob Chandler. God Bless Him!

We all – all of us – owe a great debt of gratitude to Bob. Never forget his humor. Never forget his depth of knowledge. Never forget his wit and charm. Never forget his love and charity.

RIP friend Bob!
Fred N. Holabird

Bob Palazzo RIP 2019

  • January 26, 2019
  • News

palazzo fam


My friend of 40 years Bob Palazzo died on Thursday. Cancer grabbed him from behind.

Bobby was a monster of a friend. As a lawyer and CPA, he had terrific insight and knowledge that helped me and this company over the years.

I met Bob about 1980 at the Long Beach Coin show. He and his friend Bob Varlotta would pal around at all the southern California shows looking for additions to their collections.

Bob was an inveterate collector of Inyo County material, especially Darwin, where he owned a small house. I had worked the Darwin district in detail over several years at that point, leading to acquiring an option on the Anaconda property and doing extensive exploration and development work. Darwin was near and dear to both of us. Coincidentally, my great great uncle was the first District Recorder at Darwin in the 1870’s, and the family had retained some papers from that period, which Bob (and the County Recorder) said were the only things known from that period. A few years ago, I gave my family’s Darwin papers to Bob. That’s how close we were.

The two Bobs, particularly Palazzo, were instrumental in starting the Inyo collecting craze. They branched into Mono County, which was also heavily collected by Mammoth resident Chris Martin. Bob’s collections spanned many genres. He was also president of the Manuscript Society and authored several books about Death Valley and Darwin.

It didn’t stop there. Palazzo was a studied Egyptologist, studying the ancient cultures and languages for years. He taught classes in Southern California on a variety of professional subjects. We shared many a story on both Egypt and teaching, as well as Italy, especially after we visited his namesake’s town.

But all Bobby ever wanted was a happy family life. He found it with Vivienne, and the couple have a son Joey. He loved taking drives up through California and the desert on adventures that led them to unknown conclusions.

RIP Bobby!

RON LERCH (1938-2018)

  • April 17, 2018
  • News

ron lerch

My good friend Ron Lerch passed away last night at the age of 80 years young. When I spoke to him last week, he was happy as a lark and full of life.

Ron and I met at Wendall Hammon’s new shop in Old Sacramento in 1974 or 1975, about the time I also met Ken Prag and Bob Greenwood in the same shop. Back then I was a budding young collector, mostly of stuff from my hometown area of Pasadena. It wasn’t until I moved to Nevada for my new job as an exploration geologist in 1976 that I started collecting Nevada.

Over the first few years of the mid-1970’s, Ron and I would see each other at various events around Sacramento. The paper collecting hobby was really just in its infancy, fed by John Howell, Bob Greenwood and Wendall. Wendall seized on the opportunity and created a book and paper show in Sacramento. This is where the world got to meet Ron Lerch and friends and experience his deep knowledge in western collecting. At the show, instead of splitting up the four paper guys – Ron, myself, friends Ken Harrison and Bob Greenwood, Wendall put us all together. It was a masterful move which kept us all close as friends and colleagues. As I recall, Ken Prag was also nearby, as were old friends Bill Berger and Jim Smalldon.

Ron was a staple at all the great western bottle shows since the 1970’s, setting up to trade, buy and sell tokens. He loved the collecting and the commraderie of the diverse interests of the collectors.

Ron and I became fast friends way back then, which continued forever. Whenever one of us needed info, we’d call. It was interesting that our two giant directory libraries were a compliment to each other – what I didn’t have, he did, and vice versa. We made great research friends.

Ron’s collecting passions crossed many, many collecting fields. I considered him an expert in a huge number of fields, especially western trade tokens.

He was a champion of men, a true gentleman, and a champion collector.


-Fred Holabird-

Holabird January Auction Press Releases

Holabird Western Americana collections is looking forward to our first auction of 2018  to be held on Saturday and Sunday January 20-21st.  Below are some press releases discussing the upcoming sale.

Come see us in Reno, NV for this highly anticipated event!


PR Log Holabird Auction Press Release

The Scoop

PR News

Artfix Daily

PR for us

Elko Daily

EIN Presswire

Art Daily

Auction Publicity