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April 6, 2024

$10 Photo of a Young Old West Outlaw Jesse James From eBay Turned Out to Be Worth Over $2 Million

A collector hit the jackpot when a photograph he picked up on eBay for just $10 turned out to be genuine and potentially worth a whopping two million.

Justin Whiting of Spalding, U.K., was browsing eBay in July 2017 when he came across a photo that looked remarkably like the photo of outlaw Jesse James that he had seen in a book. Having been obsessed with American outlaws for years, Whiting purchased the tintype for its Buy It Now price of $10 in July 2017.

This is the earliest known photo of legendary outlaw Jesse James at the tender age of 14 years old, when the baby-faced teenager was just a Baptist minister’s son from a prestigious farming family in Missouri.

“Anything is possible on eBay so I kept buying the odd photograph for a few quid, like other people would buy a lottery ticket,” Whiting said. “I noticed the picture for sale – it was $10. It was a bit blurry on the site but when I got it, it was a lot clearer. I thought to myself: ‘Gee whizz, this could be a real photo!’ I’ve been obsessed with American outlaws for years and read lots of books and study their faces.”

“The picture was identical to the one in my book, except it was full length,” he added. “All my friends said it was the same but I knew I needed to contact experts. I didn’t dare to believe they would say it was genuine and worth at least two million.”

The eBay list where Justin Whiting picked up an old photo of outlaw Jesse James.

Whiting then took the photo to forensic experts in the United States, including California-based 19th-century photo expert Will Dunniway, who confirmed the photograph was a genuine portrait of bank robber Jesse James taken when the baby-faced outlaw was just 14.

His report said: “The age of this image was about 1861-1862 and is correct in every way to this period. When it is compared to the much used comparison image I believe it was taken on the same day by the same photographer. It is very evident by the face, haircut, jacket, shirt and tie that this is the same image of Jesse James at 14-years-old. One of the originals.”

The photo of Jesse James (right) and an existing picture of the outlaw at a similar age (left). An expert confirmed the photograph was a genuine portrait of the bank robber and said it taken when the baby-faced outlaw was just 14 years old.

Whiting then sent the 3.5 inches by 2.5 inches Victorian tintype photograph to Los Angeles forensic expert Kent Gibson, who has verified evidence for the FBI. Mr Gibson confirmed the image was authentic and said: “All power to Justin. An authentic photograph of outlaw Billy the Kid sold for $5million in 2015 so the sky’s the limit. Jesse James is a very famous outlaw so this is obviously a valuable image.”

Justin Whiting, who has been out of work since 2003 due to back problems, has already been in touch with top London auction house Christie’s and is looking forward to spending his windfall. He said: “I’m definitely selling it. I’ll be able to buy my own house and my own car. I can’t wait. Good things do happen sometimes.”

Justin Whiting with his rare photo of Wild West outlaw Jesse James.

Jesse James may have robbed a few banks in his time, but Justin isn’t taking any chances with his haul. He said: “I’m being super careful. That photograph is the most valuable thing I’ve ever had in my possession. It’s staying in my friend’s safe for now.”


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