A 249,999,900% return on your investment in a photo
October 16, 2015 8:14 AM   Subscribe

A $2 photo purchased at a junk store has been verified as only the second known image of Billy the Kid. It may sell for $5 million.
posted by COD (52 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
 
Oh man, the pain I feel for that junk store owner.
posted by Melismata at 8:21 AM on October 16, 2015 [17 favorites]


I collect old photos. Mine are all worth about $4 a piece.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:30 AM on October 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


I wonder how much memorabilia of today's drug gang leaders and serial killers will be worth 100 years from now.
posted by beagle at 8:31 AM on October 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


I wonder how much memorabilia of today's drug gang leaders and serial killers will be worth 100 years from now.

Sadly, it's already worth something (Wikipedia on "Murderabilia").
posted by Etrigan at 8:34 AM on October 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


The croquet game might hurt his tough outlaw image a bit though.
posted by drezdn at 8:36 AM on October 16, 2015 [13 favorites]


The outlaws are surrounded by friends and family in Chaves County, N.M., in the summer of 1878. The company said a team spent a year dissecting the photo and determining the location, which required investigators to travel to the supposed site where it was taken.

If it's in the summer, why are there no leaves on the trees? He's wearing a sweater. In New Mexico. In the summer. Maybe they noticed that in the year they were looking at it?
posted by jimmythefish at 8:36 AM on October 16, 2015 [8 favorites]


Uh, what about this excellent picture of Billy the Kid?
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 8:37 AM on October 16, 2015 [37 favorites]


I wonder why Billy the Kid and Jack the Ripper are idolized? Does anyone memorialize those they killed?
posted by Carol Anne at 8:41 AM on October 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Know what else is in Chaves County? Roswell.
posted by emjaybee at 8:41 AM on October 16, 2015 [7 favorites]


Less legendary, it turns out, is the fact that the kid —?a.k.a. William Bonney — was a player of the popular 19th century British pastime known as croquet.

You can't make that kind of stuff up.
posted by klausman at 8:51 AM on October 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Ugh how come stuff like this never happens to meeeeeee
posted by pretentious illiterate at 8:53 AM on October 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Billy the Kid’s

defunct

who used to

swing a woodensmooth-unslivered

mallet

and break onetwothreefourfive wicketsjustlikethat

Jesus



he was a croquet man

and what i want to know is

how do you like your sepia pics

Mister Kagin
posted by Capt. Renault at 8:58 AM on October 16, 2015 [23 favorites]


I wonder why Billy the Kid and Jack the Ripper are idolized? Does anyone memorialize those they killed?

Billy the Kid wasn't a psychopathic killer like Jack the Ripper, despite Emilio Estevez's performance as the character. He was a horse thief and his fame mostly comes from his involvement in the Lincoln County War, which was a range war between competing merchants, which was primarily an attempt to upset a monopoly. And nobody had clean hands in this: The opening salvo was the murder of John Tunstall, one of the Monopoly breakers, who members of the monopoly had repeatedly tried to goad into fights. Billy the Kid worked for Tunstall and was deeply troubled by his death, and joined up with a group called The Regulators, who sought to avenge it.

It's a really complicated story, and a great one. Range wars are popular western tales, as a revenge narrative, and Billy the Kid was a sort of perfect cowboy outlaw -- he dressed flashy and apparently spoke Spanish quite well. So it's unsurprising that he became an outlaw hero.
posted by maxsparber at 9:00 AM on October 16, 2015 [52 favorites]


The croquet game might hurt his tough outlaw image a bit though.

and I can tell you the temptation to misuse (the mallets) is awful.
posted by
Ufez Jones at 9:02 AM on October 16, 2015 [10 favorites]


The croquet game might hurt his tough outlaw image a bit though.

What? Croquet is the shit!
posted by ian1977 at 9:11 AM on October 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


I want to know more about the guy who found it. Was he looking through photos and thought, "hey that tiny guy on the left looks like Billy The Kid"? Or did he buy a bunch of old photos because they were cool, and then tried identifying the people and made the discovery? Was he a B.T. Kid expert to begin with?

I hope he sends the shop owner a piece of his windfall if he sells it.
posted by Mchelly at 9:22 AM on October 16, 2015 [9 favorites]


The croquet game might hurt his tough outlaw image a bit though.

I figure any game where you hit people's balls with a giant mallet is sufficiently tough.
posted by solarion at 9:22 AM on October 16, 2015 [6 favorites]


It would appear that Billy was all duded up in a croquet cardigan, no less!
posted by Bob Regular at 9:26 AM on October 16, 2015


I read about this a few days ago, it really made me want to peruse junk shops for old photos. I really love old photos anyway, though they do make me so sad. Someone cared enough to take a picture, but all of that is forgotten and we have no idea who many photos subject are, they are left buried in junk, dusty and unloved. The subjects are nameless, often with no clue of the date or location, let alone the story behind the photo. Shudder!

But I'd love to make a cool five million over something I dug up in a thrift shop.

Also, how does the verification work. Who pays for that year of labor and expertise that goes into authenticating a junk shop find?
posted by JenMarie at 9:29 AM on October 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


Not to tamper with the Power Of Legend or anything, but he looks like a bit of a goofball.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 9:37 AM on October 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


Time to liquidate my beanie babies and convert my retirement plan to junk shop photos.
posted by staccato signals of constant information at 9:39 AM on October 16, 2015 [9 favorites]


more
posted by maggieb at 9:40 AM on October 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


The croquet game might hurt his tough outlaw image a bit though.

What? Croquet is the shit!


"one of the most self-serving, unsporting games ever played, requiring ruthless meanness and ungenerosity of spirit towards one's opponents". "a vicious game".

I love croquet... played it at university and yeah, you have to be / accept totally bastardary
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:40 AM on October 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


I wonder why Billy the Kid and Jack the Ripper are idolized?

Do people idolize Jack the Ripper?
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 9:46 AM on October 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


I want to know more about the guy who found it. Was he looking through photos and thought, "hey that tiny guy on the left looks like Billy The Kid"? Or did he buy a bunch of old photos because they were cool, and then tried identifying the people and made the discovery? Was he a B.T. Kid expert to begin with?

I was curious about this, too, and followed the rabbit hole just a little further. The press release on the authenticators' website says that National Geographic Channel will air a documentary about the photo this Sunday (Oct. 18). There's an interview with the collector in that link, as well.
posted by mama casserole at 9:46 AM on October 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


// Who pays for that year of labor and expertise that goes into authenticating a junk shop find?//

I'm guessing the auction house? Verification is probably a service they offer, as increasing the selling price increases their take from the auction.
posted by COD at 9:53 AM on October 16, 2015


"If it's in the summer, why are there no leaves on the trees? He's wearing a sweater."
Not sure about the leaves in late summer, but there are some serious mountains on the edge of Chaves where it abutts Lincoln county. It gets cold fast when the sun is setting. The rio Hondo valley is all apple and cherry orchards nowadays--very different from the dry plains to the east.
posted by Bee'sWing at 10:10 AM on October 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


>>The outlaws are surrounded by friends and family in Chaves County, N.M., in the summer of 1878. The company said a team spent a year dissecting the photo and determining the location, which required investigators to travel to the supposed site where it was taken.

>If it's in the summer, why are there no leaves on the trees? He's wearing a sweater. In New Mexico. In the summer. Maybe they noticed that in the year they were looking at it?


Hmm, same questions I had.

The press release on Kagin's web site has a few more details. It says "late summer".

It also has a better quality scan of the photo. A bunch of the trees are very clearly in focus and no leaves whatsoever there. Some of the tree lower and in the background might have a bit of droopy/skimpy foliage remaining, like late fall or early spring, but clearly not mid Summer.

In re: the sweater and other clothing, August and September in Roswell are going to have lows in the 60s and highs in the mid 80s to mid 90s. By late September you could have some lows in the 50s. By late October your high will be mid 60s and low in the 40s; by November it will be high around 60 and low in the low 30s. (Source) In short, August/September is unlikely be to sweater weather, while late Oct/November certainly is. Though we have to factor in historical standards of dress. If it's a wedding, perhaps the sweater is his dress-up costume . . .
This page has a helpful timeline of Billy the Kid's life and the Lincoln County War (see also wiki).

Kagin's article says, "late summer of 1878. Taken just one month after the tumultuous Lincoln County War came to an end".

That is a pretty vague time frame. There was a big battle in the Lincoln County War in mid July 1878 and according to the timeline, more action in August 1878 and then also late September 1878. Then Billy the Kid & pals spent most of the month of October in Texas. I'd believe this photo was taken in late October or November, maybe--but it's hard to characterize those as "late summer"!

I can't find any reference to the wedding they are talking about, which is probably what they are using for dating purposes.

Altogether, though, the photo seems far more likely mid autumn or early spring than late summer.
posted by flug at 10:11 AM on October 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Do people idolize Jack the Ripper?

There's definitely a kind of cult atmosphere to the Jack the Ripper obsession, although "idolize" is not the word I would use. Neo-Victorian fiction has an entire (tedious) subgenre of novels on the topic, many of which have an inedible fondant icing of supposed feminism (he killed marginalized women, bad) over a very bloody layer cake (ooh, gore! ooh, long and loving descriptions of how the Ripper kills women, who are barely characterized otherwise!). Paul West's The Women of Whitechapel and Jack the Ripper does try to redress the balance by paying actual attention to the women.
posted by thomas j wise at 10:28 AM on October 16, 2015 [2 favorites]




There's definitely a kind of cult atmosphere to the Jack the Ripper obsession, although "idolize" is not the word I would use.

Yeah, it's more "fascination" -- I've met a fair number of Ripperologists and associated followers of the story, and none of them are anything but interested in what really happened rather than "Ooh, I bet the Ripper was just misunderstood..."
posted by Etrigan at 10:38 AM on October 16, 2015


It's difficult to really fixate on a cipher, after all.
posted by cookie-k at 11:10 AM on October 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I love how the article acts like croquet is some sort of extremely obscure pastime. They sell croquet sets at Wal-Mart, for goodness sake.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:33 AM on October 16, 2015


What a find. Even if no one had ever made the connection with Billy the Kid, I'd think that photo would be worth more than $2. It's utterly gorgeous.
posted by oulipian at 11:35 AM on October 16, 2015 [7 favorites]


I love how the article acts like croquet is some sort of extremely obscure pastime. They sell croquet sets at Wal-Mart, for goodness sake.

People buy them, too and store them in their garages. Croquet is the candy corn of lawn sports. It looks like a great idea, but then you have one.
posted by notyou at 11:43 AM on October 16, 2015 [6 favorites]


as a photographer, I am glad to see this discovery of a photo of Billy the Kid. I expect this discovery to very slightly raise the value of all photographs, because it actually doubles the likelihood that any given photograph may have Billy the Kid in it.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 12:14 PM on October 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


Croquet is the candy corn of lawn sports.

I love candy corn. But I was also on my high school croquet team.
posted by maxsparber at 12:35 PM on October 16, 2015 [6 favorites]


Croquet is best played with drinking rules. It's the only way I can shrug off the extreme assholishness involved. I don't see a drink is anybody's hand so this surely isn't the refined and friendly, drunkfest-style of croquet I am used to playing. Hence, Billy the Kid was a bastard.

Also, flug, I concur with your opinion on the timing of the picture. That ain't late summer anywhere in New Mexico.
posted by Seamus at 12:37 PM on October 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


The photo is particularly significant because it’s the only known photo of Billy the Kid with his gang, The Regulators

The gang doesn't look very intimidating at first glance, but what you can't see is that the toddlers all have cool gang names like Doc Dribbles and Jimmy "The Teether" Chavez, the little kids are highly-trained snipers, the ladies all have crossbows concealed under their dresses, the blurry men on the edges are not blurry because of the camera but because they are ghost wizards who shift through time and space, one of the horses knows kung fu and the other one is two ninjas in a horse suit, and the cabin in the background transforms into a battle robot
posted by oulipian at 12:43 PM on October 16, 2015 [13 favorites]


Can't be all of the Regulators - no Nate Dogg *or* Warren G.
posted by Chrysostom at 1:01 PM on October 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


I would have bet they'd someday find another photo of BtK, but never (in the proverbial million years) that it would show him playing croquet. Here on this island in Maine it's been almost 40 years since the cold-blooded croquet players started showing up for a tournament every August (at a hotel that's been here 130+ years).

p.s. Capt. Renault: I am not much of an eec fan but I would favorite your poem 5x if allowed. It's excellent.
posted by LeLiLo at 1:05 PM on October 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I wonder why Billy the Kid and Jack the Ripper are idolized? Does anyone memorialize those they killed?

Well, there is that great garage band tune about ol' Jack.
posted by alex_skazat at 1:11 PM on October 16, 2015


Or if you need it more Disco
posted by alex_skazat at 1:12 PM on October 16, 2015


The lack of leaves on the trees is probably because New Mexico was in the middle of an historic drought at the time.
posted by jrossi4r at 1:30 PM on October 16, 2015 [9 favorites]


The Daily Mail article has a photo of Randy Guijarro and his wife in the approximate same location as the Billy the Kid photo on the Tunstall ranch.

So where is the ranch? What's it like today? posted by flug at 2:13 PM on October 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Hopefully he finished the game
posted by mannequito at 2:52 PM on October 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Ugh..I could set myself up on that island pretty sweetly with that dough...
posted by bird internet at 3:59 PM on October 16, 2015


A mallet on one hand,
a gun in the other.
posted by clavdivs at 4:49 PM on October 16, 2015


I read about this a few days ago, it really made me want to peruse junk shops for old photos. I really love old photos anyway, though they do make me so sad. Someone cared enough to take a picture, but all of that is forgotten and we have no idea who many photos subject are, they are left buried in junk, dusty and unloved. The subjects are nameless, often with no clue of the date or location, let alone the story behind the photo. Shudder!

An old girlfriend of mine had a painting of a great-great-great aunt posing with a beautiful beagle. Her family was Ojibwe, and the aunt was about 12 in the picture. Her grandmother was able to confirm that this was definitely the grandmother's great aunt, but she couldn't remember the lady's name. On the back of the portrait is the inscription "Bud with girl, 1898."
posted by 256 at 5:25 PM on October 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


I am so confused by how one of two photos of Billy the Kid can be "the rarest photo in the world." Surely the rarest photo in the world is one where it is the only photo of a given subject?
posted by DarlingBri at 8:02 AM on October 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Back when eBay was relatively newish I bought a few lots of old b&w photos, mostly from what looks like the 40s through the 70s. Some are boring, corporate or old photo shop proofs. Others are family photos (of what looks like a hard drinking, hard partying family) and some look like military events of some kind. I have one set of the strangest little boy and his dog in a variety of costumes. Anyway, I've always wondered who these people are and how I could possibly find out. Pretty sure there's no Billy the Kid in any of them, dang it.
posted by marylynn at 10:59 AM on October 18, 2015


Charles and Manuela Bowdre (the wedding couple). I love that photo of her, she looks like such a badass.
posted by mon-ma-tron at 11:31 AM on October 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


« Older The steam must flow   |   Bathe in Sith Lord Remorse Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments