A 19th-century photograph of Wild West outlaw Jesse James, sold on eBay for $10, is estimated to be worth $2 million, according to forensic experts who examined the rare portrait.
Justin Whiting, 45, who resides in Spalding, United Kingdom, purchased the rare photo for £7 ($10) in July 2017 when he noticed that the young man in the photo had a striking resemblance to young Jesse James after seeing a different photo of the outlaw in a book.
“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,” he said, according to Metro UK. “I thought to myself: ‘Gee wizz, this could be a real photo!’ I’ve been obsessed with American outlaws for years and read lots of books and study their faces.”
James, who born in Clay County, Missouri, on September 5, 1847, gained infamy for robbing banks and trains and served as a Confederate guerrilla during the Civil War. Robert Ford, a fellow gang member, shot and killed James on April 3, 1882.
Friends encouraged Whiting to contact U.S.-based forensic experts to analyze the photo.
Whiting first contacted 19th-century photography expert Will Dunniway of California to verify its authenticity. After Dunniway studied Whiting’s photo, the expert told Whiting that the photo was an authentic portrait of James from 1861 when the outlaw was 14 years old.
“It was an easy match since it was compared to a longtime known image of the young Jesse James at 14,” Dunniway told Fox News. “Justin’s image, however, was the same pose taken the same day by the same photographer.”
The photo expert added that Whiting’s photo was “an amazing find” and that it was likely an original photo “handled by the teenaged Jesse James himself.”
Los Angeles-based forensic expert Kent Gibson also examined the photo to verify its authenticity.
“The Jesse at 14 tintype is VERY similar to an image I found on the James Foundation site. I presume taken at the same session,” Gibson said.
Whiting has reportedly approached auction house Christie’s about the photo, but a Christie’s spokesperson declined to comment “on anything which is not consigned for sale.”