In this day and age, photographs are everywhere. Not only is it easier than ever to take a picture, but just every one of them in existence ends up on the internet in one way or another.
Even so, some obscure photos have never made their way to the web. This was either because they were personal pieces of memorabilia that nobody ever bothered (or wanted) to upload, or it was simply because nobody thought they were special in the first place.
That seemed to be the case with one photo that Randy Guijarro found in an antique store. He bought it for a mere $2, but he was convinced that it was of great historical (and monetary) significance! And as it turned out, he was right!
Randy Guijarro loves collecting things. Sports cards, coins, comic books, you name it. It’s something that he and his wife, Linda, who collects old photographs, have bonded over since they first met.
Everything started to come together for the couple during the summer of 2010 when Randy decided on a whim to walk into Fulton’s Folly Antiques Collective. It was a Fresno, California, store in the town’s Tower District.
Inside the store, Randy met two men who had gone to an auction to buy a storage unit and were eager to get rid of things that they didn’t think they needed. One of these items was a cardboard box that immediately piqued Randy’s curiosity…
In the box were three old photos dating back to the 1800s, and Randy offered to buy it from the men with cash on the spot. All he had in his pocket at the time was $2, but luckily, the men accepted!
One photograph in particular, a 20-square-inch tintype, grabbed Randy’s attention. In fact, he was so intrigued by what he was looking at that he decided to take out a microscope to inspect the picture further.
Initially, the photograph in question may have looked like nothing more than a sepia-toned image of several people engaged in games of croquet. Yet it was who was depicted in that centuries-old picture that made Randy start to wonder…
Randy became more and more convinced that this figure in the photo was none other than Billy the Kid, the infamous, legendary, and, perhaps most importantly, rarely photographed outlaw of the American “Wild West.”
Randy was so shocked that he immediately asked Linda to take a look at the photos herself, and they both started to do more research. That’s how they observed that the photo included two other men who looked suspiciously similar to Charlie Bowdre and Tom O’Folliard, both of whom were in Billy’s gang, the Regulators.
It was becoming evident that Randy and Linda were on the verge of an amazing discovery. After all, Billy the Kid, born in 1859 as Henry McCarty, may have been an outlaw, but his story has continued to be romanticized for generations.
Billy’s life of crime began in his youth, and he even was imprisoned for some time as a teen. By 1877, when he adopted the moniker William H. Bonney, he killed an Arizona blacksmith, ran off to New Mexico, and joined the Regulators.
This conflict only helped Billy become more infamous, especially once he was given the “Billy the Kid” moniker by the press. Every crime by the Regulators was soon attributed to him, such as the time they killed three men, including Lincoln County Sheriff William J. Brady, in a shootout.
After being charged with murder, Billy was captured in December 1880, and he was promptly sentenced for a hanging the following May. Amazingly, he escaped from jail again, and wasn’t captured until 1881, when Sheriff Pat Garrett followed him to Fort Sumner, New Mexico.
Sheriff Garrett fatally shot Billy in the chest, but rumors persisted that the outlaw wasn’t really dead. Even to this day, well over a century later, there are people investigating whether or not that incident really killed him.
Perhaps part of the reason why Billy the Kid remains such a storied figure is because there is so little evidence of him left. There’s only one photograph of him, from roughly 1880, that historians are sure is genuine; it was purchased in 2011 for $2.3 million by an American businessman.
Wild West historians and enthusiasts, unsurprisingly, have searched far and wide for other pictures of Billy the Kid, so one could only imagine the thrill of Randy and Linda Guijarro felt in finding this one!
Randy and Linda spent an entire year researching the photo they found before making their discovery public. They encountered some skepticism, though, until they took the picture to Witherell’s Old West Show in Northern California’s Grass Valley.
They were looking for the man who initially brokered the deal on the Billy the Kid photo from 1880, Brian Lebel, but another expert came in and immediately wrote off what Randy and Linda thought was a real discovery, since they didn’t have proof.
Refusing to give up, Randy and Linda spent the next three years working with specialists and facial recognition software to prove the photo’s authenticity. Then, National Geographic released a documentary called Billy the Kid: New Evidence.
The documentary thoroughly details all of the reasons that may support the authenticity of the photograph, as well as the claim that its possible inclusion of Billy the Kid, but there are still some experts who remain extremely doubtful.
Luckily, things seem to have worked out for Randy and Linda. In the very same month that the documentary was released, Kagin’s, an auction house in California, claimed that the photo was authentic and even insured it for $5 million! Randy hopes that this inspires people to look for old treasures in their own homes.
It seems that all of Randy and Linda’s hard work and determination paid off. Plus, this could mean something huge for history!
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