Why this photo is worth $5 million

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but it turns out that one in particular is worth a whole lot more than that. In fact, a photograph in California was just valued at $5 million.

Bought by collector Randy Guijarro for $2 at a secondhand shop in Fresno, California, the image is thought by authenticators at Kagin’s Incorporated to be only the second confirmed image of Billy the Kid, one of the most infamous outlaws of the Wild West. No, he’s not firing his gun up in the air or anything like that. . . he’s just playing a nice, relaxing game of croquet, as one does.

“It’s the holy grail of not just western photography. It’s the holy grail of photography,” Jeff Aiello, executive director of the documentary Billy the Kid: New Evidence, told the San Francisco Chronicle. “It is the rarest photograph in the world and it was found in a Fresno junk shop.”

The 4×5 inch image depicts The Kid and his gang, The Regulators, at a wedding in Lincoln County, New Mexico. The photograph was thought to be taken in the summer of 1878, and Billy is believed to be the man fourth from the left, being pointed at by the man on the right.

“When we first saw the photograph, we were understandably skeptical – an original Billy the Kid photo is the Holy Grail of Western Americana,” Kagin’s senior numismatist, David McCarthy, said in a statement. “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 [ensure] that nothing was out of place.”

However, after over a year of careful studying, there is now “overwhelming evidence of the image’s authenticity,” said McCarthy.

McCarthy told Fox News that they also determined with facial recognition software that four others in the photo were people who spent time with Billy the Kid. Using the diary of Sally Chisum — which described a cattle drive featuring all the players in the photograph, as well as a wedding — they were able to figure out the location in New Mexico where the photograph was taken. McCarthy actually flew out to the site and found a building that was built over a structure that was in the photograph, he told Fox News.

“I was standing at an angle from the building and I could see the texture of the stucco on the front of the building,” McCarthy said. “You could see the vertical wooden supports through the stucco and I looked at the picture and they were in the exactly the same place.  I was amazed. That clinched it.”

Guijarro’s quest to authenticate the photo will be illustrated in a two-hour long documentary narrated and produced by Kevin Costner for the National Geographic Channel.

“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,” Dr. Donald Kagin, president of Kagin’s, Inc., said in the statement.

(Images via Twitter.)


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