A Photo of Billy the Kid Bought for $10 at a Flea Market May Be Worth Millions
Six years ago, North Carolinian lawyer Frank Abrams unknowingly bought a rare photograph that experts believe shows Billy the Kid hanging out with the man who would eventually kill him.
Billy the Kid, one of the best-known American outlaws, is thought to be included in the photo, second from the left. The man all the way to the right is Pat Garrett, who would soon become the sheriff of Lincoln County, N.M., and — as the story goes — shoot Kid dead in a darkened room.
The photo is a tintype about the size of a man’s palm. Tintypes are photographic images produced on thin sheets of metal and were popular during the late 19th century.
In 2011, Mr. Abrams thought nothing of the photographic piece when he saw it. For him it was just a photo of five men who looked like cowboys. He bought the photo for $10 and put it up in his home. Mr. Abrams said the people who sold him the photo told him it came from Clinton, N.Y.
A similar find — a tintype that showed Billy the Kid playing croquet with friends — was valued at around $5 million in 2015. A discovery which motivated Mr. Abrams to take a closer look at his own photo.
He recognized the man on the right with the severe features and the dark hat to be Pat Garrett. He eventually showed the tintype to Robert Stahl, a retired professor at Arizona State University and an expert on Billy the Kid. Stahl advised Mr. Abrams to show the photos to more experts.
Experts confirmed that the photograph was almost certainly taken between 1875 and 1880. The plate, the clothing, and the firearm all check out.
Mr. Stahl said that Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, were friends who once gambled together. But when Pat Garrett was about to become the sheriff of Lincoln County, he urged the outlaw to hit the road.
“Garrett said, ‘If you leave New Mexico, I’m not going to pursue you. But if you stay in the territory, then no matter where you are, I have to come after you." That would have been around the time the photo was taken.
The story goes that in 1881, Mr. Garrett, who was already a sheriff by then, was in Fort Sumner visiting a friend of the outlaw’s when the Kid arrived unexpectedly; the men couldn’t really see each other, but Mr. Garrett recognized Billy’s voice and quickly shot him dead.