SAN FRANCISCO — One of the world’s oldest pairs of Levi’s jeans — made in the 1880s and sold for around a dollar — was reacquired by Levi Strauss & Co. for $46,532.
In what is believed to be the highest price ever paid for denim, Levi’s bought the jeans during an online eBay auction. Levi’s historian Lynn Downey said the company will use the jeans as a template for part of a vintage collection.
The jeans were found in the mud of a one-time Nevada mining town. The owner, who has remained anonymous, brought the jeans to an appraiser for eBay, which promoted the auction with The History Channel.
The jeans are in "fair to good" condition, said eBay spokeswoman Jennifer Chu — faded, ripped in the inseam, but still intact and even wearable.
Historians for Levi Strauss examined the fabric and patented copper rivets and concluded the jeans — technically, denim waist coveralls — were produced between 1880 and 1885.
The company, founded in 1873, has several pairs of jeans in its own museum collection that date to around 1890, but was not aware of any older pairs. Levi’s bought an 1890 pair from a New York City dealer for $25,000 three years ago.
Until Thursday, no one had bid during the weeklong period the jeans were offered online. Then, in the two minutes before the auction closed Thursday night, a tussle of five bids saw the price shoot up from an initial $25,000 asking price.
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