Junk shop photo spurs quest to confirm Billy the Kid image

Fri Oct 16, 2015 10:25am EDT
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By Keith Coffman

DENVER (Reuters) - For the $2 he spent to buy three old photographs, Randy Guijarro may have hit the mother lode. Among them was a tintype purported to be of Wild West gunslinger Billy the Kid, now valued at $5 million.

The 4-by-5-inch image shows Henry McCarty, also known as William Bonney, playing croquet with accomplices from his New Mexico gang known as the Regulators, according to experts retained by the firm selling the artifact.

Guijarro, who describes himself as an U.S. history buff, said he bought the photo at a junk shop in Fresno, California in 2010. It was not until he studied it closely that he realized he might be holding an important 19th-century historical item.

"The faces in the picture were very clear, and I thought that one of them sure looks like the Kid," Guijarro said.

Guijarro took the ferrotype print to Kagin's Inc., a San Francisco company specializing in U.S. gold coins and Western Americana, to determine whether it was genuine.

Kagin's ultimately authenticated the photograph as only the second known image of Bonney, and the only one that includes members of his gang, said David McCarthy, the company's senior numismatist.

The firm is brokering the sale of the metallic image, which it has appraised and insured for $5 million, he said.

Much of Bonney's life is steeped in myth, including reports that he killed 21 men. What is certain is that he was shot dead at age 22 by Sheriff Pat Garrett in 1881, months after a daring jailbreak.   Continued...

A newly discovered 4-by-5-inch tintype photograph featuring legendary Wild West gunslinger Billy the Kid (4th L) playing croquet with accomplices from his New Mexico gang known as the Regulators, is seen in this image provided by www.kagins.com.  REUTERS/www.kagins.com/Handout via Reuters  A