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October 18, 2016

Man Paid $2 for This Tintype in an Antique Shop in California, And the Image Is Valued at $5M Because It's the Billy the Kid’s Second Known Photo

In a California memorabilia shop in 2010, collector Randy Guijarro bought this 4-by-5-inch tintype for just $2. After enlarging the image, he saw what looked to be a familiar figure—Billy the Kid—playing croquet with his gang known as The Regulators. Guijarro also thought he recognized the Kid's best friends Tom O'Folliard and Charlie Bowdre in the photo. As the gravity of the discovery began to set in, Guijarro initiated a chain of events that would lead him on a painstaking journey to verify the photograph's authenticity.

This 4-inch-by-5-inch tintype depicts Billy the Kid and several members of his gang, The Regulators, playing croquet in 1878. Billy is fourth from the left. (Courtesy of Randy Guijarro)

Billy the Kid is synonymous with the Wild West, a New Yorker who forged a brief, bloody career as an outlaw, reputedly killing 21 men before being gunned down by Lincoln County sheriff Pat Garrett in 1881, at the age of 21. Some historians estimate he killed just nine people. The only other confirmed photo of him, a portrait of him posing with a gun taken in 1880, sold for $2.3 million to billionaire William Koch in 2011, making it one of the highest priced photos in history.

This rare Billy the Kid photo was believed to have been taken in 1879 or 1880 in Fort Sumner, New Mexico. (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)


The Croquet Kid

(Courtesy of Randy Guijarro)

A close-up of the figure that Guijarro believes to be Billy the Kid, leaning on a croquet mallet. While croquet wasn't known as a popular sport in the American Wild West, it was hugely popular in England during the 1860s. It is possible that Billy the Kid and his friends were introduced to the game by Billy's boss and mentor, Englishman John Tunstall. By late 1877, 17-year-old Billy the Kid had killed a man in Arizona, and worked on various ranches in New Mexico rustling cattle and horses. Tunstall, a burgeoning cattle rancher, needed more muscle to challenge the cattle monopoly that Irishmen Lawrence Murphy and Frank Dolan controlled in Lincoln County. It was while working for Tunstall that Billy befriended the gang that would later become known as The Regulators.

Couple on Horseback

(Courtesy of Randy Guijarro)

A close-up of the figures on horseback that Guijarro believes to be newlyweds Charlie and Manuela Bowdre. Charlie was one of Billy's most trusted friends and a loyal member of The Regulators. In 1878, he married a woman named Manuela, and two years later, was shot and killed by Sheriff Pat Garrett.

Man and Woman

(Courtesy of Randy Guijarro)

Guijarro believes the man on the left to be Tom O'Folliard, one of The Regulators 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. Charged with protecting Chisum’s cows from the Murphy-Dolan gangs, Billy and his cohorts made periodical visits to the Chisum ranch. Sallie had no shortage of suitors, and Billy stood out among her admirers.


(Courtesy of Randy Guijarro)

A close-up of some unidentified characters in the recently discovered tintype photograph that Randy Guijarro believes to include Billy the Kid.

(via National Geographic Channel)


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