Benjamin Ranch sale opens nostalgic wallets

Never undervalue the prices nostalgia can fetch.

A wooden nickel — something that would technically not be worth five cents — from Benjamin Ranch announcing a long-ago July rodeo went for $35 at auction on Sunday.

“I just had to have it,” said Joy Coons of Bucyrus, Kan., who had her niece bid on it. “I basically grew up here.”

Benjamin Ranch, Kansas City’s most equine landmark, is closing down at the end of this month.

On Sunday, memorabilia from the ranch in south Kansas City was sold to the highest bidders.

Buyers bid for hundreds of items, from boot vases to vacuums, from lamps to cowboy hats, from livestock to a stagecoach.

For Coons, it was a chance to recapture a memento of her childhood.

Howard Benjamin had given her a wooden nickel when she was a little kid so she could get into the rodeo for free. In the multiple decades since, the ersatz coin had gone missing.

When she heard that a wooden nickel was the first thing up for bid, “I knew I wanted it,” said Coons, who also worked at the ranch when she was a teenager.

Zach Smith of Holden, Mo., returned for the auction to visit where he worked, too.

“It was my first job,” said Smith, who was a ranch hand. “It was a little bit of country in the city — a different way of life.”

It was also where he married his wife, Brittany, in September 2010.

“It’s a sad day,” Smith said of the ranch’s closing. “I hate to see it go. I came back to see if I could get a piece of history.”

Bob Faulkner, who with his family has leased and produced events at the ranch for 25 years, said the ranch will be torn down to make way for the Cerner Corp. office development at Interstate 435 and Bannister Road.

“I’m sad to see its demise,” he said of the ranch that has been in Kansas City for more than 125 years.

Bidding on the items was brisk. A cane sold for $10, a boot vase sold for $8, and an old yoke went for $75.

A print artwork of Warpaint, the mascot for the Kansas City Chiefs, sold for $155. An oil-on-canvas painting of the horse sold for more than $1,000. Warpaint’s original bridle went for $90.

Jim and Jayne Nash of Westwood Hills came for at least two reasons.

The couple operate a booth at Hickory Dickory in the West Bottoms, so they were looking for bargains on items they could resell.

Meanwhile, Jayne Nash, who grew up in south Kansas City and remembers going to the ranch for the hayrides and the horses, was looking for something personal.

“I was a big Gene Autry and Roy Rogers fan,” she said of the cowboy actors and singers. “When I came here, I got to be one of them.”

For Sue Burns of Paola, Kan., the auction offered a chance to find draft horse equipment at a bargain.

“I’m here just for the equipment — if the price is right,” she said. “Memorabilia goes only so far. I got a lot of that in my barn already.”