A pair of 100-year-old jeans was hand-delivered to the Levi Strauss museum on Wednesday after the company paid $25,000 for the rare find.
The company plans to clean the newly bought pair - apparently once owned by a coal miner in Colorado - and display it near one almost the same age but in poorer condition.
The acquisition is important because the company lost most of its inventory in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire, company historian Lynn Downey said.
“When we acquire something from the 19th century it’s like finding a first folio of Shakespeare or the first pressing of an Elvis record,” Downey said. “I’m just thrilled.”
The pair dates from 1886 to 1902, when the jeans cost about $1.25, Downey said. It and the other pair will be displayed in glass and placed under 24-hour security at Levi’s headquarters in San Francisco.
The jeans, which have a single back pocket and a leather patch on the waistband, were found in remarkably good shape in November by someone combing an old mine. That person sold them for $10,000. Another investor paid $15,000, and the owners of What Comes Around Goes Around, a vintage apparel store in Manhattan, paid $20,000.
“The biggest market for vintage jeans is Japan, but I wanted to keep them in the country,” said Seth Weisser, co-owner of the store.
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