Rare Book Monthly

Articles - November - 2015 Issue

A $5 Million Photograph, Purchased for $2 in an Antique Shop

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Billy (fourth from left) and friends on Tunstall's ranch?

Miracles do still happen. Collectors scour yard sales, estate sales, auctions, eBay, unappreciated items in dealer inventories, hoping to find that gem lost among the rubble. One such collector may have made such a find in the works on paper field. Randy Guijarro, of Fremont, California, discovered three old photographs in a Fresno area "memorabilia shop" five years ago that he liked. He bought them for $2. He now has an appraisal for $5 million on one of them.

 

The photograph shows a group of 15 people milling around a small building playing croquet. The photo and their dress imply a likely second half of the 19th century date. The area is slightly hilly, the climate evidently dry. The photograph is not identified. It is certainly worth $2, but why is it estimated at $5 million? The answer is that Mr. Guijarro believes that one of those 15 people is the legendary outlaw Billy The Kid. Now, Kagin's, an appraiser and seller (traditionally a coin specialist but a firm that opened a Western Americana division a decade ago) has authenticated his claim. We need to point out that not everyone agrees with Kagan's evaluation, but the firm did extensive research before reaching its conclusion. They have secured a $5 million insurance policy on the photo.

 

A photograph of Billy The Kid is, as Kagan's has said, the "Holy Grail" of Western Americana. It is because The Kid is probably the most storied of western outlaws, and there is just one other photograph known to be of him. That was sold at auction in 2010 for $2.3 million. That is an individual photograph taken of Billy standing with his rifle by his side. In this one, he is shown leaning on a croquet mallet, with a group of people believed to be his friends, some being fellow "Regulators" with whom he rode during New Mexico's Lincoln County War.

 

To better understand the picture, we need to examine the "career" of William Bonney (actually McCarty) that brought him to this time and place. Billy was born in 1859, many believe, in of all places, New York City. His family moved on to Kansas when he was a boy. By the 1870's, they were living in New Mexico, where Billy would make his mark. Young men in the West needed to find work early, so the teenage Billy found work as a ranch hand. He soon found a more lucrative career was stealing horses off of ranches. He joined up with some fellow rustlers in Arizona, and killed his first man when he was 17. He figured his safety required he get out of Arizona, so Billy returned to New Mexico in 1877.

 

After a brief stint rustling after his return, Billy moved on to Lincoln County. He hooked up with some men who had been hired by John Tunstall. Tunstall was an English immigrant who sought to make his fortune in the West. He already had a substantial head start – his father's money. He went into competition against a group known as the "House." The House controlled business and ranching interests in Lincoln County and did not welcome Tunstall's competition. They shot him dead.

 

Billy is a controversial figure. His negatives include his rustling and numerous killings, not generally considered good characteristics. However, he did have his bright side. He was sympathetic to the downtrodden. He was particularly friendly to poor Hispanics, having had several Mexican girlfriends and speaking Spanish fluently. He was not the crazy, violent tempered young man he is sometimes portrayed to be, but apparently an easy-going person with a winning personality and sense of humor. Most of all, he was intensely loyal to those who treated him well. Tunstall hired Billy and his friends to drive and guard his cattle, and the loyal Billy remained grateful to his employer, even after he was shot.

 

When Tunstall was killed by the House in 1878, Billy and his friends vowed revenge. They formed a group known as the "Regulators," and they were deputized to bring Tunstall's killers to justice. However, this was the Old West, and the Regulators were soon conducting justice with their guns. All out war broke out between the two factions. The Sheriff took sides with the established House, so the Regulators performed justice on him. Each side had its adherents, while the sensible people of Lincoln County kept their distance. In time, the state and other powerful forces would assist the established powers, and the fight turned against the Regulators. Billy seemed to have a deal to be pardoned, but authorities went back on it. He was captured, tried for the Sheriff's killing, and sentenced to be hanged. He escaped, killing two guards in the process. A few months later, the new Sheriff, Pat Garrett, tracked him down and shot an unsuspecting Billy in the dark. Garrett did much to build the legend of Billy the Kid, as by building up the Kid's reputation, Garrett hoped to build his own as the man who killed him.


Posted On: 2015-11-13 18:10
User Name: laurelle

And, The territorial Governor of New Mexico at the time was General Lew Wallace, author of "Ben Hur".


Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> E.H. SHEPARD, Original drawing for A.A. Milne’s The House at Pooh Corner.<br>$40,000-60,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> BERNARD RATZER, Plan of the City of New York in North America, surveyed in the years 1766 & 1767. $80,000-100,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> THOMAS JEFFERSON, Autograph letter signed comparing Logan, Tecumseh, and Little Turtle to the Spartans. Monticello: 15 February 1821. $14,000-18,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN C. FREMONT, Narrative of the Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains, in the Year 1842.. Abridged edition, the only one containing the folding map From the Sporting Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson. $3,000-5,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> ZANE GREY, Album containing 94 large format photographs of Grey and party at Catalina Island, Arizona, and fishing in the Pacific. From the Sporting Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson. $5,000-$8,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> WILLIAM COMBE, A History of Madeira ... illustrative of the Costumes, Manners, and Occupations of the Inhabitants. produced by Ackermann in 1821; From the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> ERIC TAVERNER, Salmon Fishing... One of 275 copies signed by Taverner, published in 1931,From the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN WHITEHEAD, Exploration of Mount Kina Balu, North Borneo. Whitehead reached the high point of Kinabalu in 1888. Part of a major group of travel books from the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN LONG, Voyages and Travels of an Indian Interpreter and Trader, describing the Manners and Customs of the North American Indians... The first edition of 1791. $3,000-$5,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> SAMUEL BECKETT, Stirrings Still. This, Beckett’s last work of fiction with original lithographs by Le Brocquy, limited to 200 copies signed by the author and the artist. From the Estate of Howard Kaminsky.. $1,500-$2,500
  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Jacques-Émile Ruhlmann, wallpaper sample book, circa 1919. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Archive from a late office of the Breuer & Smith architectural team, New York, 1960-70s. $3,500 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> William Morris, <i>The Story of the Glittering Plain or the Land of Living Men,</i> illustrated by Walter Crane, Kelmscott Press, Hammersmith, 1894. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Gustave Doré, <i>La Sainte Bible selon la Vulgate,</i> Tours, 1866. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Gustav Klimt & Max Eisler, <i>Eine Nachlese,</i> complete set, Vienna, 1931. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>Eric Allatini & Gerda Wegener, <i>Sur Talons Rouges,</i> with original watercolor by Wegener, Paris, 1929. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>C.P. Cavafy, <i>Fourteen Poems,</i> illustrated & signed by David Hockney, London, 1966. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Jean Midolle, <i>Spécimen des Écritures Modernes...</i>, Strasbourg, 1834-35. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>E.A. Seguy, <i>Floréal: Dessins & Coloris Nouveaux,</i> Paris, 1925. $3,000 to $4,000.
  • <b>Bonhams: Results from Fine Books and Manuscripts on March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> BEETHOVEN, LUDWIG VAN. Autograph Manuscript sketch-leaf part of the score of the Scottish Songs, "Sunset" Op. 108 no 2. [Vienna, February 1818]. Inscribed by Alexander Wheelock Thayer. SOLD for $131,250
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> Violin belonging to Albert Einstein, presented to him by Oscar H. Steger, 1933. SOLD for $516,500
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> EINSTEIN, ALBERT. Autograph Letter Signed ("Papa") to his son Hans Albert, discussing his involvement with the atomic bomb, September 2, 1945. SOLD for $106,250
    <b>Bonhams: Results from Fine Books and Manuscripts on March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> HAMILTON, ALEXANDER. Autograph Letter Signed, to Baron von Steuben, with extensive notes of Von Steuben's aide Benjamin Walker, June 12, 1780. SOLD for $16,250
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> NEWTON, ISAAC. Autograph Manuscript in Latin, being detailed instructions on making the philosopher's stone. 8 pp. 1790s. SOLD for $275,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> 1869 Inauguration Bible of President Ulysses S. Grant. SOLD for $118,750

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