Grass Valley Old West Show celebrates American West milestone (and a special locket) |

Grass Valley Old West Show celebrates American West milestone (and a special locket)

Know & Go

What: 20th annual Grass Valley Old West Show featuring fine antiques

Where: Nevada County Fairgrounds, 11228 McCourtney Road, Grass Valley

When: Early bird advance and locket viewing, noon-5 p.m. May 9; main show, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, May 10; and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, May 11

Admission: $100 May 9 early bird; $10 May 10 and 11 general; May 9 locket display is free


Information: Brian Witherell, 916-446-6490,,

Treasure in the American West comes in all shapes and sizes. It can be tiny as a straight pin or big as a locomotive; its value often is in its unique history.

On May 10 and 11, the 20th annual Grass Valley Old West Show will offer treasure hunters a trove of possibilities at the Nevada County Fairgrounds. In addition, patrons may bring two items for free “Antiques Roadshow”-style appraisals.

“Our appraisals are not limited to western,” said longtime appraiser and “Roadshow” veteran Brian Witherell, of Witherell’s auction house in Sacramento. “We will be on hand to evaluate all the primary categories we represent at auction.”

This show coincides with one of the most important dates in the history of the American West: The 150th anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad.

The show will feature a special piece of railroad and American history: A one-of-a-kind commemorative locket attached to a tiny golden spike. That little spike, just under an inch long, was made from the same California Mother Lode gold used to create the full-size Golden Spike for the May 10, 1869, ceremony that marked the completion of the railroad, linking California to the East Coast.

The Golden Spike locket will be on display during a free special viewing from noon to 5 p.m. May 9 at the Grass Valley show.

“When you touch that, you’re touching history,” said Witherell, who coordinated the effort to bring the Golden Spike locket back to California. “This is real consequential history in your hands. It’s humbling.”

Kept in Florida for generations, the Golden Spike locket will soon have a new home in Sacramento at the California State Railroad Museum, where it will have a permanent display.

Considered the first national media event, the “Last Spike” finished 1,912 miles of track that stretched between San Francisco and Omaha, at that time the eastern-most railroad hub. Taking seven years to complete, the Transcontinental Railroad opened easy access to the West as well as allowed California products to be shipped east.

“The 150th anniversary is an opportunity to reflect on the importance of the Transcontinental Railroad as well as an opportunity to look forward to what’s next,” said Cheryl Marcell, president and CEO of the California State Railroad Museum Foundation. “The new exhibit will tell the story of the railway and get younger generations interested in history, perhaps attract a different audience. This is really significant for us.”

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