William H. Bonney

Photo Of The Day

Western Americana and Rare Coin experts, Kagin’s, Inc., announced that the firm has authenticated and will be the exclusive seller of a newly discovered photograph featuring several of the Lincoln County Regulators, including legendary gunman, Billy the Kid. The original 4x5 inch tintype not only depicts Billy the Kid, but several members of his gang, The Regulators, playing a leisurely game of croquet alongside friends, family, and lovers in the late summer of 1878. Taken just one month after the tumultuous Lincoln County War came to an end, it is a window into the lives of these gunmen as they were still fighting the injustices of a lawless land. It’s a carefree moment after an important life event - a wedding - which is rich in content, movement and texture. “When we first saw the photograph, we were understandably skeptical - an original Billy the Kid photo is the Holy Grail of Western Americana,” remarked Kagin’s senior numismatist, David McCarthy. “We had to be certain that 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 historical importance of a photograph of Billy the Kid alongside known members of his gang and prominent Lincoln County citizens is incalculable - this is perhaps the single most compelling piece of Western Americana that we have ever seen,” stated Kagin. The Billy the Kid Croquet Match Tintype has been appraised and insured for $5,000,000. Photo: Courtesy of Randy Guijarro.

Taken just one month after the tumultuous Lincoln County War came to an end, it is a window into the lives of these gunmen as they were still fighting the injustices of a lawless land. It’s a carefree moment after an important life event – a wedding. Photo: Courtesy of Randy Guijarro.

Billy the Kid

Billy the Kid, lived a brief and violent life, stealing and killing before his death in a gunfight aged 21. He lived with a gun in his hand – and sometimes, it seems, a croquet mallet.

In a surprising historical twist, the second photo of Billy the Kid ever to be authenticated shows him and his posse, the Regulators, playing the sport in New Mexico in 1878.

The faded image was among a pile of photos inside a cardboard box at a junk shop in Fresno, California, unearthed by a collector in 2010. Randy Guijarro paid US $2 for the image, which is now estimated to be worth millions of dollars. The only other confirmed photo of Billy the Kid, from 1880, sold for $2.3m (£1.5m) in 2011.

The photo was authenticated by a San Francisco-based Americana company, Kagin’s, which identified Billy the Kid along with several members of the Regulators, as well as friends and family. It was taken after a wedding in the summer of 1878, just a month after the gang took part in the brutal Lincoln County war.

When the photo was first brought to the company, its experts were “understandably sceptical”, said David McCarthy from Kagin’s. “An original Billy the Kid photo is the holy grail of Western Americana.

“We had to be certain that 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 ensure that nothing was out of place.”

The team spent a year investigating the photo, and even found the location where it was taken, in Chaves County, New Mexico. There they unearthed the remains of the building shown. “We found the old lumber underneath,” said Jeff Aiello, director of a National Geographic “We found those exact rock piers are still there.

The series of photos from the scene left little doubt what game was being played: “It’s clearly croquet. You can see the hoops, the balls, the mallet, the centre peg. They’re all there. It’s a fascinating picture.”

In early October 2015, Kagin’s, Inc., a California-based numismatic authentication firm, determined the image to be authentic. Kagin’s has insured the tintype for $5 million.

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