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Levi's from 1880s that can be 'worn to Starbucks' goes for an eye-watering $76K at New Mexico auction

The jeans were discovered in an abandoned mine and passed a few hands before vintage apparel dealer Kyle Haupert won them at the auction
UPDATED OCT 12, 2022
The Levi's jeans still have vestiges fromt he era it was produced in, including the phrase, 'The only kind manufactured by white workers' (goldenstatevtg/Instagram)
The Levi's jeans still have vestiges fromt he era it was produced in, including the phrase, 'The only kind manufactured by white workers' (goldenstatevtg/Instagram)

NEW MEXICO, UNITED STATES: A pair of vintage Levi's from the 1880s has gone for a whopping $76,000 at an auction held in New Mexico. According to The Wall Street Journal, Kyle Haupert, a 23-year-old San Diego-based vintage apparel dealer, snagged them on October 1. "I'm still kind of bewildered, just surprised in myself for even purchasing them," Haupert said.

As per the publication, he got his hands on the jeans along with Zip Stevenson, who owns the vintage apparel store Denim Doctors. Haupert contributed altogether 90% of the price quoted and hoped that Stevenson, who has wider expertise in the matter, will help in finding someone to buy the jeans from him. With the buyers premium added, the jeans cost $87,400. On the Instagram page of his store, Golden State Vintage, Haupert posted photos of the auction and the prized pair of jeans.


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"These speak for themselves," Haupert captioned the post. The prized jeans were reportedly discovered by Michael Harris, a self-proclaimed "denim archeologist", in an old mine years ago in the west, the publication says. The jeans have suspender buttons on the waistbands and a single back pocket with candle wax all over. The auction listing stated that these Levi's were the oldest known from the Gold Rush Era and "the holy grail of vintage denim collecting." The listing added that the jeans were in a "good/wearable" condition.

Haupert posted the picture of the jeans on Instagram with the caption, "The $76,000 Jeans. 1880’s Levi’s One Pocket Buckle Back Jeans. One of the oldest known pairs of Levi’s to exist. These speak for themselves.Thank you to everyone who’s been supporting me throughout the years, very blessed to be able to own these." Stevenson said, "You could wear them to a Starbucks." 


The jeans are still carry vestiges of the era they were produced in. Inside the jeans is printed the phrase, "The only kind manufactured by white workers." This expression can be traced back to the time when the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was still in force. This act prohibited Chinese labourers from entering the US. The expression was dropped in the 1890s.

Brit Eaton, an authority on all things vintage who has been selling priceless jeans since the '90s, was the auction's seller. He claimed to have paid Harris $23,000 for the jeans five years earlier. Eaton said, "I thought they'd be a tremendous draw."