The Red River D Belt Buckle

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    There are 98 replies in this Thread. The last Post () by Drpmkp.

    • Here is another Red River D belt buckle that was auctioned in London in 2013.
      I don’t believe it to be accurately described. I would like to know the winning bid for it.


      The described item is, "A Red River D belt buckle, the white metal buckle with decoration in relief Red River/1946/JW [John Wayne], worn by John Wayne during the filming of the 1969 Paramount film True Grit"

      I do not recall John Wayne wearing this buckle in any of his scenes in 'True Grit' or even in the film 'Rooster Cogburn.' In those two films he wore a Civil War Officer's belt buckle. If it indeed was used in 'True Grit' it could have been worn by an extra such as one of the dozens used in perhaps the scene watching the hanging. I don't believe it though!

      I have a beautiful replica of Rooster Cogburn’s Civil War Officer’s buckle made by the Hanover Brass Foundry in Virginia that specializes in Civil War reproductions.

      This Red River D buckle was apparently cast in pewter, however, looks like it was cast in genuine concrete!
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    • Some of the finest Red River D replica buckles have been produced by The Bohlin Company.

      Edward H. Bohlin, saddle maker and silversmith, died in 1980. The company currently operates under different ownership.

      The Edward H. Bohlin Company was active in Hollywood in the 1920s to 1980s. The company was most active and popular in the 1930s during the height of classic westerns and manufactured saddles, spurs, holsters, and a variety of other items used in iconic western films.

      It is sometimes mistaken that Bohlin made the original Red River D buckles in 1946. However, they were made at the La Azteca Silver Shop in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico by the Martinez Family.

      After John Wayne's death in 1979, his son, Michael Wayne wanted copies of his father's Red River D buckle made for friends and family members. He sent Wayne's original buckle to the Bohlin's shop in Hollywood a couple of times when he wanted copies. It was one of these such times in 1981 that the buckle was stolen from the shop never to be seen again. It’s whereabout’s is still a mystery to this day.

      The Bohlin company does, however, offer a limited edition buckle created for the 70th Anniversary of the filming of 'Red River.' The buckle is made in solid sterling silver with 14k yellow gold trim with a price tag of $5,500. While beautifully made it is not an accurate reproduction of Wayne’s buckle.

      I have been recently informed by a Bohlin Company representative that this buckle will no longer be for sale after the end of the year. Their contract with the Wayne Foundation to sell them ends on December 31, 2018. After that date they probably will only be available used from the various auction sites.
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    • Item #44171 was a smaller replica of the original. This smaller version was worn by him in his personal life. It sold for $16,000.

      Item #44502 was a rough copy of the original not in very good shape. It was used for stunt work. It sold for $4,750.

      There was suppose to be another buckle with the initials of NC but it disappeared when it was sent to Heritage. It was mentioned in a previous post of mine. It was from one of the original cast members. Insurance settled the disappearance.

      The contract with Bohlin's is expiring and JWE is going with another company. A 70th Anniversary buckle came out in 2016 and sold for $5,500.

      There are new buckles that debuted last year at the traveling exhibit. Made of solid sterling silver and I believe are sold out now, not sure, but they were commissioned by JWE for the last buckles with Bohlins and the stock number is $466, selling for $1,395. I picked one up in Nashville.

      They may go with another company after talking to Ethan.
    • Thanks for the clarifications lvellek.
      Was item #44171, the small replica Red River D buckle perhaps made years later in the 1960s by the same silversmith that by that time had moved to Scottsdale, Arizona?
      Is the buckle with the longhorn on it a perhaps replica of the one that John Wayne wore as Quirt Evans in the 1947 film 'The Angel And The Badman?'
      I assume that the Norman Cook Red River D buckle was never located. The auction price reached $17,000 before it was discovered missing. I hope that she got at least that amount for the insurance settlement.
    • #44171 was worn by Duke in his personal life... There was no documentation with the buckle as to who made it, it was assumed because the lettering and style was the same as the originals. Any good silversmith can copy another design.

      44171 A ‘Red River D’ Belt, 1950s
      A sterling silver buckle with a ‘rope’ trim, with 14k gold details reading “Red D River” and “JW” plus two wavy lines and a tiny steer head; belt made of black leather, inside lining embossed “Sy Devore,” size 42, with evident heavy wear.

      Buckle: 1” x 2 1’2”

      This is a smaller version of Wayne’s famous ‘Red River D’ belt buckle where the design was based on the cattle brand his character, “Thomas Dunson,” used in the 1948 United Artists film, “Red River.” Wayne wore the bigger buckle in countless films and kept it for the remainder of his life. After his death, it was stolen and has not surfaced since. He wore this smaller buckle in his personal life.

      The story about the bid getting to $17,000 and then being pulled is false, the buckle was never bid on and was totally pulled from the auction and never even placed in the auction booklets because it was discovered to be missing long before the booklets were printed. The author of the story had the bidding and item confused, the item that was bid on and then mysteriously pulled the day of the auction was item number #44004, (A Stetson Cowboy Hat from “Hondo”) that the family decided to pull at the last minute for reasons I can't go into. Item #44511 (14K Gold ‘26 Bar Ranch’ Medallion, 1960s) was also pulled at the last minute from the auction.

      The NC buckle was never located and the settlement was sealed.

      The longhorn buckle is not being advertised as being from any certain film but Ethan told me that is where the idea came from since they have the original buckle in their archives along with a few others he had that people had given him over the years.
    • The Bohlin Company, several years ago, made a very few ‘Limited Edition’ Red River D buckles to celebrate the 100th anniversary of John Wayne’s birth (born in 1907).

      A Solid 14k gold buckle @ 193.3 grams. Only 5 were made

      A Solid sterling silver/14k gold plating buckle @ 155.1 grams. Only 150 were made.

      A Solid sterling silver buckle @ 151.1 grams. Only 250 were made.

      The back side of these buckles is signed “100th Anniversary Limited Edition John Wayne” and each one individually number stamped. Each one also reads; “Edward H. Bohlin Hollywood CA.”

      These buckles are different than the ‘70th Anniversary’ of the filming of ‘Red River’ buckles made by Bohlin. The rope loop in the lower left corner of the ‘100th Anniversary’ buckles do not have any initials on them.

      They were sold individually and sometimes you can find all three offered together as a set.
      Here is a link to a 3-pack offer or these buckles at 1stdibs where you can see several photos of them.

      Due to the amount of silver and gold used to make these buckles the asking price for all three of these buckles at 1stdibs is $70,000. I’ve seen the price as high as $78,000 at other places!

      Although they are mighty fine works of craftsmanship the investment is way too steep for me. They’re worth more than the value of my home and all my vehicles combined!
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    • Any ideas why Bohlin will be loosing the contract to product the buckle?
      Kevin - Moderator/Administrator
      Official JWMB online store
    • Let’s all saddle up as we journey deeper into Red River D Country.

      Our next stop is Great American Adventures, LLC is a company that offers Wild West Horseback Rides and Tours in and around: Monument Valley, UT, Tombstone, AZ, Palo Duro Canyon, TX, Durango & Silverton, CO, Santa Fe, NM, Deadwood, SD… and more.

      Steve and Marcie Shaw, the creators of Great American Adventures, LLC, offer historic Old West tours on horseback. Guests can ride in the hoofprints of Wyatt Earp, Butch Cassidy, Billy the Kid, George Custer and John Wayne. These unique riding vacations allow folks to pursue their passion for Western history and adventure. What a wonderful way to experience the scenery of John Wayne Country while wearing your Red River D buckle!

      There are several custom-designed belt buckles made to commemorate these various rides made especially for Great American Adventures by Santa Fe, New Mexico artisan Clint Mortenson.

      The Red River D belt buckle for sale is individually made from one client with approximately 4 to 6 weeks delivery time. Dimensions: 2 1/4″ x 3 1/4″. The buckle is not made from precious metals so the price is incredibly reasonable for a custom-made buckle. The cost of this buckle is $295 and Clint will even add your own three initials in the lower left rope loop.

      These buckles are made in three versions; bronze color, silver color and gold color. Same price for each. According to Steve Shaw, the owner of Great American Adventures, “Clint does a wonderful job on all my custom buckles. We've reworked this one a few times and now it really pops!I must say the photos don't do any of the buckle’s justice... in person, they are works of art. Never had a disappointed client.”

      Link: Red River Belt Buckle

      My mind would certainly love a horseback tour like this through the Old West. Unfortunately, I don’t think my body would! I’ll just explore from the seat of my Jeep Wrangler!
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    • Today we’ll mount up on ole Dollor and mosey up to Gilbert, Arizona to check out another buckle.

      The company is Alltribes Indian Art LLC in Gilbert, Arizona. They have been in the Indian Arts business for over 50 years buying and trading with artists from the many tribes around the United States. The majority of their Native American jewelry is produced by Navajo, Zuni, Hopi, Pueblo, and other Native American tribes. At one time, they had stores in New Mexico, Colorado and Arizona, but then, the internet came on the scene, and they converted over to online stores, now just having the shop in Gilbert.

      Alltribes offers a unique oval shaped Red River D buckle that does not have any year or initials, it just has the ‘D’ with the two wavy lines. The buckle is handmade of tarnish resistant German Silver & Jeweler's Gold (Red Brass). It features free-hand engraved, western scrolls with a border of twist wire rope. The buckle is 3-1/4" x 2-5/8." It shows a list price of $299 but is currently being sold at the wholesale price of $188.

      The buckle is made in their Gilbert shop by artist J.R. Jackson. The buckle is stamped on the back with the artist’s hallmark ‘JXN’ along with the Alltribes Indian Art™ - Broken Arrow Hallmark: "Made in our Shop." The shop is located at 75 W. Baseline Road - Suite 6, Gilbert, Arizona.

      I have attempted to contact Alltribes several times ask about this buckle. However, I never have received a response. I assume it’s still for sale as it is listed on their website.

      Link: John Wayne D Ranch Belt Buckle 25884
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    • Here is a great source for many genuine Old West and Western film artifacts.

      Chisholm’s Trail Old West Leather, LLC is a company in Newnan, Georgia that produces Western movie and historic vintage belt buckles, badges & jewelry. They have a highly skilled designer and a casting source for brass, white bronze, Sterling Silver and gold. The company can directly trace its roots to Jesse Chisholm who blazed the first famous cattle trail North out of Texas.

      Their website is very interesting and educational as they sell reproductions of buckles from several Western films, such as, ‘The Outlaw Josey Wales,’ ‘Hondo,’ ‘Lonesome Dove,’ ‘Rio Lobo,’ ‘Angel & The Badman,’ ‘Rio Bravo,’ ‘Pale Rider’ and others.

      The company sells both the 1946 and 1948 version of the Red River D buckle.

      The 1948 buckle is thinner and leaves the rope loop in the lower left-hand corner open to have your own initials engraved or have a jeweler apply raised letters. It is made in solid white bronze and sells for around $50. It also can be cast in solid sterling silver.

      The 1946 buckle is thicker than the 1948 buckle. It is made in solid white bronze and sells for around $60. It also can be cast in solid sterling silver.

      Link: Western Belt Buckles, Historic Buckles, Jewelry | Old West Leather, Buckles, Cowboy Holsters, Custom Western Belts

      My personal 1946 Red River D buckle looks exactly like the Chisholm Trail’s design. However, I purchased it from another seller on Ebay. It is cast in solid brass. Alan Soellner at Chisholm’s Trail informed me that they do not cast their Red River D buckles in solid brass. They are made in solid white bronze and are nickel plated. The 1948 buckle is cast directly from his own personal original buckle he owns from the film. The 1946 buckle is their own design and is the most common design that that I find being sold. According to Alan the design is copyrighted by Chisholm’s Trail Old West Leather, LLC.
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    • Today we’ll travel to the Austin,Texas area to check out another interesting place for exploring the Old West and acquiring the Red River D buckle.

      Historic Fort Tumbleweed is an authentic Old West Town near Liberty Hill, Texas just northwest of Austin. The property is owned and managed by Texas historian Leonard Kubiak who bought the place in 1977.

      Leonard has piece by piece re-settled 12 old bits of Central Texas’ history to make a Wild West town of his own. The 16-acre site already included the original buildings on the 1850's Bryson Homeplace and Stagecoach Stop. Over the past 40 years he has added the old Round Rock bank once held the dubious honor of being targeted in 1878 by the bandit Sam Bass and his gang. Then there’s the country store, Pony Express office, the gambling saloon, the horse carriage, the barns and outhouse, cabins, cisterns and water wells.

      According to an article written by Waylon Cunningham in 2017, “Kubiak used to guide historical tours through the stagecoach stop and other buildings located on State Highway 29 just west of town, which held hundreds of old West antiques he had collected through the years. People used to throw parties, play concerts and hold photoshoots out there. No other venue in the region was quite like it. The sagging wood cabins and fence-to-fence cacti lent it a uniquely historical atmosphere, and Kubiak had even secured its status as a historical site on both the state and national registries.”

      According to the same article, “Kubiak and his wife, Lynda Kubiak, once had plans to open Fort Tumbleweed up as a historical site open to the public, as recorded in a 2010 Austin American-Statesman article anticipating its launch. They cleared brush, arranged some of the antiques stored there for display, and even started writing historical plaques. But health issues soon got in the way, Kubiak explained.”

      In a more recent article in 2018 Ricardo Gandara writes, “The couple is cleaning the property and organizing. Len Kubiak, a jack-of-all-trades, is in the middle of several remodeling projects to shore up buildings. Lynda, a retired schoolteacher of 36 years, is designing a Texas history timeline using signs and pictures on the walls of Fort Tumbleweed’s trading post. When Fort Tumbleweed does open for business, it will be the “grand reopening” said Len Kubiak.”

      I think Fort Tumbleweed would perhaps be a great location to shoot movies. I certainly wish the Kubiaks well on the project.

      Kubiak also operates the website “,” where he sells antiques, jewelry, American Indian crafts, and of course several versions of the famous Red River D buckle.


      The website also offers several other John Wayne buckles and links to other catalogs where you can find numerous Old West collectibles, jewelry and books.
    • Today we’ll travel on up the Mississippi River and explore an authentic 19th century dry goods store.

      The River Junction Trading Co, started in 1973 when there was no Internet. Today they do 99.9% of their business online. They have an old-fashioned 19th century dry goods store in McGregor, Iowa.

      If you want to shop in the store it is by appointment only. The store produces 19th century dry goods with a strong emphasis on the Old West. They have been in business over 40 years servicing the historic, re-enactment industry with their 19th century dry goods business. You can check the website for making an appointment. McGregor is located in northeastern Iowa along the Mississippi River.

      Jim Boeke, the owner, says, “If you do decide to come and visit my store call first so I can put another log in my ol' round oak stove. We can sit by its warmth and jaw about the Old West.”

      The Red River D buckle sold at River Junction Trading Co. is made in solid brass and nickel plated. Size is 2 ½” by 4.” Jim did not want to share with me where he gets his buckles, but there are several in stock for $100 each.


      Also, if you are ever roaming around Iowa be sure to check out The John Wayne Birthplace & Museum. It is located in Winterset, Iowa, about 35 miles southwest of Des Moines. Address: 205 S. John Wayne Drive, Winterset, Iowa. Winterset lies just off two major Interstate highways, I-80 (east/west) and I-35 (north/south).
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    • Gary Mathis of Gary's Custom Saddlery & Silver Buckles is a master craftsman that makes heirloom quality custom solid silver and/or gold belt buckles, quality hand-made custom belts, completely custom western saddles, custom turquoise and other leather products related to the western and horse industry. With over 40 years in the industry, he strives to build nothing but the finest product with the finest proven materials available. He does all his artistic work from the garage of his Fullerton, California home. Most of his motifs/figures are copyrighted custom original designs.

      According to the article ‘The Red River D Belt Buckle Mystery’ at years ago Gary Mathis worked with Michael Wayne, John Wayne’s oldest son, and Chris Hearn on copies of the Red River D belt buckle from photographs of John Wayne’s original buckle to recreate the closest reproduction of the buckle possible. And they certainly succeeded!

      Folks, I have to say this is the real deal! It’s the closest reproduction to the original you will currently find anywhere. After reading the article I had Gary make me one. It is beautiful! A work of art indeed. I will proudly wear it as my way to remember John Wayne as my favorite movie star while growing up in the 60’s and 70’s. Great work Gary!

      Link: garyscustomsaddleryandsilver.c…dles_JohnWaynebuckles.htm

      I never met Gary. I have, however, read a few things about him in a 2014 Orange County Register article written by Anders Howmann;…sman-carves-cowboy-flair/. There are several photos of him working in his shop. The article says he is a “self-proclaimed cowboy." I must say he definitely looks like a genuine cowboy with his handlebar mustache and Western style shirt!

      The buckle is so beautiful and shiny my pictures do not do it justice!
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