Discovering a Lost Gem: The Thrilling Tale of a Billy the Kid Photograph
Amateur antique collector Randy Guijarro sends a motivational message, “Explore the old trunks and dusty attics; you might discover a hidden treasure.” He speaks from experience as he stumbled upon a rare photograph of the infamous Wild West outlaw, Billy the Kid.
An Unexpected Find at a Thrift Store
Back in 2010, Guijarro bought three tintypes from a thrift store in Fresno, California, for $2 each. One of these, a 4×5 inch image of Billy the Kid playing croquet dating back to 1878, today holds an estimated value in the millions.
Guijarro, a telecommunications specialist, and his wife Linda have plans to use some of their unexpected fortune to delve into more explorations. They dream of uncovering neglected historical events, both within the USA and worldwide. “We love the thrill of the chase and exploring the world together,” Guijarro shares.
Unveiling The Secret of the Tintype
The tintype in question features Billy the Kid, born Henry McCarty, leaning on a mallet, surrounded by his gang members, the Regulators, in New Mexico. This discovery is significant as it is only the second authenticated photograph of the notorious figure.
This historic find underwent five years of scrutiny and investigation before it was deemed authentic. Guijarro reflects, “It was incredibly difficult for us to observe. We’ve been entirely open and honest with you; we hope the journey was enjoyable!”
Despite the challenges and setbacks, the couple’s passion for the past never faltered. “There are happy and unhappy moments. It had been a long and lonesome voyage,” Guijarro said.
The Legend of Billy the Kid
The name “Billy the Kid” is synonymous with tales of the Wild West. The infamous New Yorker had a brief but violent criminal career and was shot dead at 21 by Lincoln County Sheriff Pat Garrett. While the outlaw’s legend states he committed 21 murders, some historians believe the figure is closer to nine. The only other confirmed photograph of him, captured in 1880, sold for a staggering $2.3 million in 2011.
A Lifetime of Collecting
Guijarro, along with his wife Linda, has spent a considerable part of his life collecting various items, including coins, sports cards, comic books, and vintage photographs. It was during a trip to Fresno’s Tower neighborhood that Guijarro discovered Fulton’s Folly Antique Collective, where he made his historic find.
After haggling the price down to $2, he picked three photos, including the historic shot of Billy the Kid. It was only after a week of close examination that he recognized the legendary outlaw.
With the help of his wife, Guijarro managed to identify two other gang members in the photograph, Tom O’Folliard and Charlie Bowdre, thanks to online resources. “That was really fantastic,” Guijarro recalls.
Uncovering The Past
The couple, along with a team of researchers, facial recognition specialists, and other collectors, managed to identify all 18 individuals in the photo and traced the location to a schoolhouse in Chavez County, New Mexico. They concluded that the photograph was taken shortly after a wedding in 1878, barely a month after the gang’s involvement in the bloody Lincoln County War.
Kagin’s Inc., a California numismatics company, has insured the photograph for $5 million and is currently seeking a private buyer.
A Future of Exploration
The Guijarros plan to use their newfound wealth to buy a new car, pay off debts, and aid a few close friends and relatives. They also plan to launch additional treasure hunts. As Guijarro explains, “Hunting is essential because if we didn’t, we’d be sitting on a hundred acres of stuff.”
So, let the story of Randy and Linda Guijarro inspire you. You never know what lost gem you might discover in the unlikeliest of places.