A Very Old Pair of Jeans, Dated to 1873 and Rescued From a Nevada Mine, Fetched $100,000 at Auction

The pair, attributed to Levi's, has not been authenticated by the brand.

The Levi's jeans, dated to 1873. Photo: liveauctioneers.

A pair of jeans attributed to the denim brand Levi’s being billed as the world’s oldest has sold at auction for $100,000 to an anonymous online bidder based in Thailand.

The jeans, dated to 1873, were found two decades ago in a mine in Nevada, long a hotspot for vintage denim hunters on account of the state’s arid climate and number of abandoned mines. The pair has not been authenticated by Levi’s.

The sale took place on September 30 as part of the second edition of the Durango Vintage Festivus, a four-day lollapalooza of sorts for vintage aficionados held in New Mexico.

Last year, a pair men’s work pants, also believed to be Levi’s, that were salvaged from a 1857 North Carolina shipwreck sold at auction for $114,000.

At the Durango Vintage Festivus, the jeans were the marquee item in a 138-lot sale. The seller, Brit Eaton, was also the event’s organizer. Eaton acquired the Levi’s through a trade with Japanese collector in 2022. He had been hoping to attract bids north of $150,000, but ultimately received the reserve price.


The Levi’s jeans, dated to 1873. Photo: liveauctioneers.

Unsurprisingly, the jeans, which measure a 34-inch waist and 31-inch leg, are in a distressed condition. A portion of the lower left leg is missing and the front right leg has been repaired. The pair sports a back buckle and a single back pocket, a style that was common to pre-1900 jeans.

It was somewhat by chance that Eaton, who previously ran a vintage store in Durango, Colorado, called Carpe Denim between 1997 and 2015, launched the Durango Vintage Festivus last year. Faced with paying off the costs of a new warehouse for his vintage business, he decided to host a party and a sale, which quickly developed into a multi-day event that drew collectors from around the world.

It’s now an annual event held on a “Costa Rican-inspired resort,” with Eaton bearing the costs of hosting the Festivus in exchange for receiving the 15 percent house fee of all auctioned items.

Last year, Festivus saw the sale of a pair of Levi’s from the late 1800s for $87,000, then among the most expensive vintage jeans ever sold.

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