Collector Buys Antique Photo for $2, But It Turns Out to be Worth $5 Million
In this day and age, photographs are everywhere. Not only is it easier than ever to take a picture, but just every one of them in existence ends up on the internet in one way or another. Even so, some obscure photos have never made their way to the web.
This was either because they were personal pieces of memorabilia that nobody ever bothered or wanted to upload, or it was simply because nobody thought they were special in the first place.
That seemed to be the case with one photo that Randy Guijarro found in Fulton’s Folly Antiques Collective, an antique store in Fresno, California, during the summer of 2010.
For $2, he spent to buy three old photographs from two men who had gone to an auction to buy a storage unit and were eager to get rid of things that they didn’t think they needed. Among them was a tintype purported to be of Wild West gunslinger – the infamous, legendary, and rarely photographed outlaw of the American “Wild West.”
The 4-by-5-inch image shows Henry McCarty, better known by his moniker “Billy the Kid,” playing croquet with accomplices from his New Mexico gang known as the Regulators. Two of these men looked suspiciously similar to Charlie Bowdre and Tom O’Folliard.
Born in 1859, Billy’s life of crime began in his youth, and he even was imprisoned for some time as a teen. By 1877, he k*lled an Arizona blacksmith, ran off to New Mexico, and joined the Regulators. This conflict only helped Billy become more infamous.
Much of Billy’s life is steeped in myth, including reports that he k*lled 21 men. What is certain is that he was shot dead at age 22 by Sheriff Pat Garrett in 1881, months after a daring jailbreak.
Perhaps part of the reason why he remains such a storied figure is because there is so little evidence of him left. There’s only one photograph of him, from roughly 1880, that historians are sure is genuine; it was purchased in 2011 for $2.3 million by an American businessman.
Wild West historians and enthusiasts, unsurprisingly, have searched far and wide for other pictures of Billy the Kid, so one could only imagine the thrill of Randy and his wife, Linda, felt in finding the photo!
They spent the next three years working with specialists and facial recognition software to prove the photo’s authenticity. Then, National Geographic released a documentary called Billy the Kid: New Evidence.
The documentary thoroughly details all of the reasons that may support the authenticity of the photograph, as well as the claim that its possible inclusion of Billy the Kid, but there are still some experts who remain extremely doubtful.
Luckily, things seem to have worked out for the couple. In the very same month that the documentary was released, Kagin’s, an auction house in California, claimed that the photo was authentic and even insured it for $5 million! It seems that all of Randy and Linda’s hard work and determination paid off.