Way back in 2010, Randy Guijarro and his wife Linda were out antique shopping in Old Town Clovis, California when they dropped in to the Fulton's Follies antique store. Randy only had $2 on him at the time, so when he found a few tintypes at the bottom of a box, he made his offer of $2 and headed home. To his eye, the photos were simply interesting outdoor scenes of California from the late 1800s. When he got home, however, he took out his magnifying glass and zoomed in on the fourth person from the left and though, "Oh my, what have we got going on here?”
Randy was very aware of the history and likeness of Billy the Kid and his Regulators gang, and the more he looked at the image, the more he thought that this WAS the infamous outlaw. He and his wife got to work researching to see if they could verify their hunch, and in 2011, they got additional evidence when the only known, verified image of Billy the Kid was sold at auction for $2.3 million. And guess what: the guys looked almost exactly alike.
Here you see the Upham Tintype, believed to have been taken in Fort Sumner, New Mexico around 1879 or 1880, the year before Billy's 21st birthday and subsequent death. When the photo sold for such a large amount at auction, Randy and his wife knew that they must take their research seriously and be as thorough as possible.
After two years, they developed the theory that their photo, which, amazingly, showed Billy, his girlfriend, and his gang all playing CROQUET (of all things), was taken in the fall of 1878 on the gang's ranch in Tunstall, New Mexico. They hired a number of scientists and researchers to help them go deeper, and after finding the exact location (with building still standing) and verifying some gang members through facial recognition software, they were convinced it was real.
This closeup of the purported Billy the Kid shows why this photo could be so valuable. The portrait that sold for $2.3 million is magnificent for the fact that it shows Billy in full costume and with gun ready, but this photo shows a very unique and unlikely day-in-the-life scene.
Much to Randy's delight, the tide began to turn from skeptics to advocates, and this came to a head when the Kagin Auction House decided to insure the photo for $5 million. That's right - Randy had paid $2 and now had a photo that could be worth $5 million! Talk about hitting the jackpot!
Left to Right: Randy Guijarro, Linda Guijarro and Don Kagin.
Here are the Guijarros and Mr. Kagin in May at the Witherrell's Old West Show, where they debuted the photo to the public for the first time. So what happens now? The couple is waiting to decide what to do next, but we can safely assume that we'll hear about it going to auction someday soon, and perhaps for even more than $5 million!
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