People say to me all the time that they, “have a really collectible pair of ‘Garcia’ spurs!” Or, they will come into our store and ask, “Got any ‘Garcia’ spurs?” There are a lot of folks who think that any spurs with “Garcia” on them are highly collectible and worth big bucks. And they might be—if they are made by the right Garcia.
Generally speaking, there are three different “Garcia” shops whose spurs you most likely will see. First there was Guadalupe “G.S.” Garcia (1864—1933) who was in business from about 1884 (although his company did not start producing bits and spurs until the late 1890s) through the time of his death in 1933 (his sons, Walter and Leslie took over the daily operations of the business by about the mid 1920s however). The sons kept their fathers business open until about 1938 in Elko, NV.. Another branch was opened in Salinas, CA. during the late 1930s and remained in business until 1966. This was the business known as G.S Garcia Saddlery and after the sons took over, Garcia Saddlery.
Then there is Leslie “Les” Garcia (1901–1987) who took over his father’s business along with his brothers in about the early 1920s. As mentioned above, “Garcia Saddlery” continued until 1938 in Elko. The brothers opened another shop in Salinas, CA in the mid- 1930s and that store stayed open until 1966. Along the way, Les opened his own shop, Garcia Bit and Spur Manufacturing Company, which was in business from about 1957 until 1978 in Reno, NV. So Les Garcia was involved in the family business, Garcia Saddlery, and also his own, Garcia Bit and Spur Manufacturing Co. at different times.
Finally there was Eduardo Garcia who was born in Mexico (circa 1923) and passed away in 2009. He started marketing spurs with his name on them in the 1980s. He remained in business until about the time of his death. His spurs are known as “E. Garcias.” Eduardo is no relation to the former Garcias.
There are several other “Garcia” marked spurs out there that were not made by the businesses of the three men listed above. It should also be noted that J.M. Capriolla Co. bought Les Garcia’s business in 1978 and they still make spurs to this day under the Garcia name. What many folk do not realize however, is there is a huge price difference a knowledgeable collector will pay depending upon which Garcia shop produced the spurs.
The first one, G.S. Garcia is the most notable of the bunch by far. He is the one all others get confused with. G.S. Garcia’s business employed the very best bit and spur makers (and anything else for the horseman) of his day. These craftsmen built items in Garcia's shop and marked them with the business name. However, there was not an abundance of spurs made during his tenure with the G.S. Garcia mark on them. This group of spurs would have been produced from about the turn of the last century thru the early 1920s. Couple this with the fact that some of the primo, early bit and spur makers from those days were the ones making the spurs for G.S., and you see why those spurs are highly sought after today.
Then we have Les Garcia, who was one of the middle sons of G.S. and Saturnina Garcia. It has been said he was the most talented metalsmith of the Garcia siblings. He learned the trade from some of the master craftsmen working for his father and really took to it. After he retired from the family business and went into business for himself, he produced many fine spurs (and other goods). But he also had spurs made at his direction by Mexican silversmiths he contracted with. While Les’s name is generally associated with quality items, for the most part, they are not as rare, as old, or as well made as items made in his father’s shop in the early 1900s. Henceforth they do not (should not) demand as high of a price as the G.S. Garcia items.
Eduardo Garcia of San Ysidro, California, imported spurs from Old Mexico with his hallmark (E. Garcia) on them. They were made from the 1980s to 2000s, so they are not old or antique (as you sometimes see them advertised). There are several shops in Mexico which make spurs. If you make a deal with them, they will put your makers mark or shop mark on them and produce how ever many you want. This is done by many businesses to this day. For the most part, they are fairly quality items. In Eduardo’s defense, he always imported the better quality stuff. Eduardo’s main talent was that he was a good promoter. That and the fact many folks confused his name with that of the famous Garcia family mentioned above did not hurt sales. Eduardo is gone now so there will not be any more “E. Garcia” spurs produced (at least by him), so that should help the collectibility of his spurs over time. But still, his items do have a good following, which is fine, however folks should be collecting his items with the full knowledge of what they are—and not confusing them with the famous G.S. Garcia items.
So how do you tell which spurs are which? Who made them? And how old are they? Most spurs, with the exception of some of the real early G.S. Garcias, are hallmarked. Here is generally accepted information on the maker’s marks used.
“G.S. GARCIA, ELKO, NEV.” was the mark used while the shop was run by G.S. (circa 1894—early 1920s). It is reported that the earliest mark had a backwards “N” in Nev., this was supposedly changed around 1910 to a correct “N”. It is generally accepted that the reverse N indicates they were made prior to 1910 (although some sources claim it was the opposite and that mark was used circa 1910-20). Also, once G.S. turned the business over to his sons during the early 1920s, the name was changed from G.S. Garcia to Garcia Saddlery Co.. So collectors generally hunt for the early “G.S. Garcia, Elko, Nev.” marked spurs.
“GARCIA SADDLERY COMPANY, SALINAS CALIF.” was used by the sons after moving the business to Salinas in the mid-1930s. This hallmark would have been in effect from about 1935 through 1965. In 1957, Les retired from Garcia Saddlery and started his own business in Reno, Nevada (Garcia Bit and Spur Manufacturing Co.). Les Garcia’s work is marked with “LES GARCIA, RENO,” or “GARCIA,” or “GARCIA, RENO.” Les was in business until 1978.
“E GARCIA” was the hallmark used by Eduardo Garcia on spurs he sold from about the late 1980s through 2009.
“GARCIA, ELKO, NV” is still used on spurs sold by Capriolla’s out of Elko, NV. They bought the Garcia Bit and Spur business from Les in 1978. Since 1985, their spurs also contain a serial # which can be used in dating them.
One last thing needs to be mentioned about collectible Garcia spurs—FRAUD! Since the older, G.S. Garcia marked spurs are so valuable, of course there are unscrupulous folk out there who try to pass something of lesser value off as the real thing. I have seen numerous fraudulent hallmarks added, newer spurs aged to look older and false information used in order to try and convince unsuspecting buyers they are looking at a highly collectible pair of “old Garcia” spurs.
So do your homework and get educated about collecting. Always remember, it is best to deal with reputable and honest dealers and auction houses who properly represent what they sell (and will stand behind it if they got it wrong). Especially when a collector is in the “education” stage. The more you are around the real thing, the more of an expert you’ll become. Enjoy the hunt!
Jim Olson © 2019