Two antiques shoppers got much more than they bargained for when a photo they picked up at a Fresno shop for a measly $2 turned out to be a one-of-a-kind picture of the notorious outlaw Billy the Kid.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Randy and Linda Guijarro were shopping at a Tower District antiques shop in 2010 when Randy noticed some old photos. He picked up three photos for $2 and promptly left the shop.
But what the Guijarros didn’t know is that one of the photos was the second known photograph of Billy the Kid (real name William H. Bonney) in existence. According to Kagin’s Incorporated, which recently authenticated the photo, the shot depicts a roughly 17-year-old Billy the Kid playing croquet along with several members of his gang, the Regulators, in 1878.
The photo has now been appraised and insured for $5 million.
In a statement, Kagin’s senior numismatist David McCarthy said that his team studied the photograph for a year to ensure its authenticity.
“When we first saw the photograph, we were understandably skeptical – an original Billy the Kid photo is the Holy Grail of Western Americana,” McCarthy said. “We had to be certain that we could answer and verify where, when, how and why this photograph was taken. Simple resemblance is not enough in a case like this – a team of experts had to be assembled to address each and every detail in the photo to insure that nothing was out of place.”
National Geographic is set to air a new documentary about the photo’s authentication process. Billy the Kid – New Evidence, narrated by Kevin Costner, premieres October 18 on National Geographic.
Jeff Aiello, executive director of the documentary, took it one step further in describing the significance of the photograph.
“It’s the holy grail of not just western photography. It’s the holy grail of photography,” he told Freno ABC affiliate KFSN. “It is the rarest photograph in the world and it was found in a Fresno junk shop.”