Billy the Kid photo bought for $2 could be sold for $5 million
Only the second known photograph of the Wild West gunslinger posing while playing croquet could fetch $5 million at auction
Billy the Kid, the Wild West gunslinger, is usually associated with a Colt single action 44, not the genteel English elegance of a varnished oak croquet mallet.
However an extremely rare photograph of the legendary outlaw leaning on a croquet mallet has emerged – only the second known photo of "The Kid", whose real name is Henry McCarty, thought to exist.
he photo shows McCarty playing croquet with his gang of Lincoln County Regulators in late summer 1878.
It was bought by collector Randy Guijarro for $2 from a Californian junk shop in 2010 and will now be sold by Kagin’s auctioneers for an estimated $5 million.
“When we first saw the photograph, we were understandably sceptical — an original Billy the Kid photo is the holy grail of Western Americana,” said Kagin’s David McCarthy.
“We had to be sure 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.”
The only other known photograph of McCarty was sold for £1.4 million in June 2011.
Florida billionaire William Koch, an energy company executive and well-known collector of art and American artefacts, placed the winning bid in person at Brian Lebel's annual Old West Auction in Denver.
"I love the old West," he said. "This is a part of American history."
The metallic photo, taken outside a Fort Sumner, New Mexico, saloon in late 1879 or early 1880, depicts the outlaw gripping the upright barrel of a Winchester carbine, with a Colt 45 pistol strapped to his hip.
Born Henry McCarty, but also known in New Mexico as William Bonney, the Kid was shot dead at age 22 by lawman Pat Garrett in 1881, months after a jailbreak in which Bonney reportedly killed two deputies.
In the 130 years since his death, Billy the Kid has been depicted, with varying degrees of accuracy, in scores of popular culture movies and books.