Man Bought This Tintype in an Antique Shop for Only $2, And Now the Image Is Valued at $5M...
By | October 9, 2017
Seven years ago, antiques collector Randy Guijarro laid his eyes upon a dusty old tintype photograph at a junk shop in Fresno, California. He bought the picture for $2.
After enlarging the photo, he saw what looked to be a familiar figure—Billy the Kid. Guijarro also thought he recognized Kid's best friends Tom O'Folliard and Charlie Bowdre in the photo.
Now, it has come to light - after a painstaking journey to verify the photograph's authenticity - that one of the people in the photo is indeed the legendary outlaw Billy the Kid. Up until now, the photograph below (sold for $2.3 million) was thought to be the only image of him.
Billy the Kid (William H. Bonney) is an almost mythical figure of the old Wild West. Born as Henry McCarty in 1859 to Irish immigrant parents in New York City, he became an outlaw in New Mexico at the young age of 16. legend has it that he killed 21 men, though other accounts put his count at around seven.
In July of 1881, Billy the Kid was eventually killed by Sheriff Pat Garrett, at the age of 21. Though some legends say he survived and went into hiding/retirement.
Kagin's, a company specializing in Western Americana and rarities, spent over a year researching the new photograph and have confirmed that it is in fact the second known photo of Billy the Kid and estimate its value to be around $5 million.
To confirm the photo's authenticity, Kagin's looked beyond just facial resemblance of each member. They also examined the setting which they believed took place at a New Mexico ranch belonging to cattleman John Tunstall, who hired Billy and the Regulators to help him fend off rivals in the lawless West.
A close-up of the figure that Guijarro believes to be Billy the Kid, seen wearing a top hat and leaning over a croquet mallet. While croquet wasn't a popular sport in the American Wild West, it was popular in England during the time. It was believed that Billy the Kid and his group of friends were introduced to the game by Billy's boss and mentor, Englishman John Tunstall.
By late 1877, then 17-year-old Billy the Kid had killed a man in Arizona, and worked on various ranches in New Mexico. Tunstall, a burgeoning cattle rancher, wanted to challenge the cattle monopoly that Irishmen Lawrence Murphy and Frank Dolan controlled in Lincoln County, so he needed more muscles. It was while working for Tunstall that Billy befriended the gang that would later become known as The Regulators.
Guijarro believes the figures on horseback to be newlyweds Charlie and Manuela Bowdre. Charlie was one of Billy's most trusted friends and a loyal member of The Regulators.
Guijarro believes the man on the left to be Tom O'Folliard, one of The Regulators members and Billy's best friend. On the right is a woman Guijarro believes to be Sallie Chisum, niece of the prominent cattle rancher John Chisum. Hired with protecting Chisum’s cows from the Murphy-Dolan gangs, Billy and his gang made periodical visits to the Chisum ranch. Sallie had no shortage of suitors, and Billy was one of them.