After several rounds of authentication, rare coin experts Kagin’s, Inc.–known for handling such finds as the Saddle Ridge Hoard and the Butte gold nugget–has officially announced their latest treasure: a newly-discovered photograph that could very well be only the second known picture of Billy the Kid. A special two-hour documentary was made detailing its discovery and story, which will debut on the National Geographic Channel October 18 at 9:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.
Intriguingly, the photo shows a group of what appear to be cowboys or ranch hands playing croquet, along with several women and children. The portrait’s discoverer, Randy Guijarro, bought the 4” by 5” tintype for $2 as part of a junk lot in Fresno, California but soon suspected he might have something extremely rare (and valuable) on his hands. Working with experts in facial recognition, Guijarro and Kagin’s are convinced that it is indeed Billy the Kid (aka William Bonney, aka Henry Antrim, aka Henry McCarty) and his group the Regulators pictured in the image.
David McCarthy, Senior Numismatist at Kagin’s, Inc., said:
“When we first saw the photograph, we were understandably skeptical – an original Billy the Kid photo is the Holy Grail of Western Americana. 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. After more than a year of methodical study including my own inspection of the site, there is now overwhelming evidence of the image’s authenticity.”
It is believed that the photograph was taken in late summer, 1878. Just one month prior, Billy and the Regulators had taken part in the Lincoln County War, a blood feud between economic interests in that section of New Mexico Territory. Englishman John Tunstall had recently moved to the area and attempted to set up business, only to be murdered by his business rivals. The Regulators were a quasi-official posse originally established to bring the corrupt businessmen and lawmen to justice. This being the Wild West, justice was often meted out with the barrel of a gun.
It was the beginning of the legend of Billy the Kid.
Guijarro’s photograph is thought to portray a game of croquet at a wedding on Tunstall’s ranch after the hostilities had died down and the Regulators had been defeated. It’s assumed that the croquet set had belonged to the English-born Tunstall.
In 2010, the until-then only known photograph of Billy the Kid (taken at Fort Sumner in 1880) was sold to billionaire William Koch for $2.3 million dollars. Kagin’s has appraised and insured the 1878 photo for $5 million.
“The historical importance of a photograph of Billy the Kid alongside known members of his gang and prominent Lincoln County citizens is incalculable – this is perhaps the single most compelling piece of Western Americana that we have ever seen,” stated Don Kagin, President of Kagin’s, Inc.
Kevin Costner is the producer and narrator of the new documentary detailing this story.
Kagin’s, Inc., specializes in rare coins, currency and Western Americana. Any qualified individual wishing to review the authentication dossier and discuss the potential acquisition of the Billy the Kid Croquet Match Tintype are welcome to contact Don Kagin ([email protected]) or David McCarthy ([email protected]) or call 1-888-8Kagins.