It first cost $2 at a junk shop in California. Now it’s assessed at $5 million and is going on sale again: a photo of Wild West gunman Billy the Kid.
It is said to be one of only two authenticated images of that iconic figure of frontier America.
The tintype shot shows the outlaw — real name William Henry McCarty — pausing during a game a croquet in what is now New Mexico in 1878 with members of his gang, called the Lincoln County Regulators, and other people, said Kagin’s, a firm that specializes in Western Americana and rare coins.
In the 4 x 5 inch (10 x 13 cm) photo, Billy the Kid seems to be smirking or grinning as he rests his croquet mallet on the ground. He is wearing a dark hat that appears to be a battered, shorter and wider version of the Abe Lincoln-style stovepipe.
He stands in front of a small wooden building, to his left is a woman in a ground-length skirt holding a baby. Further still to the left is a group of children.
Kagin’s said in a statement it will be the exclusive seller of the photo, which was first purchased at a junk store in Fresno, California in 2010 by an Old West enthusiast named Randy Guijarro.
It took a year of study to authenticate it, including travel to New Mexico to view the spot where the photo was taken, Kagin’s said.
“When we first saw the photograph, we were understandably skeptical -â€“ an original Billy the Kid photo is the Holy Grail of Western Americana,” Kagin’s senior numismatist, David McCarthy.
The only other authenticated photo of Billy the Kid is a portrait of him taken in 1880. It sold in 2010 for $2.3 million, Kagin’s said.