Antique shops are full of items that we often disregard as junk. This is a remarkable story of one man’s unbelievable luck when he bought a historical photo for 2$. This tale may even inspire you to start checking your nearest flea market.
Randy Guijarro always had a passion for collecting things, and when he came across this old photo in an antique shop, his life changed profoundly.
As Luck Would Have It
Walking past a shop one fateful day, his luck changed forever when he decided to go in.
But what made him turn back around and head towards the front door?
Randy’s house was what some people might call a junkyard, but for him it was a treasure trove.
Piles of coins, books, comics, toys, stamps, and anything he could find. But Randy ended up turning his obsession into a gold mine.
Making a Living
Randy collected these treasures and sold them to make his living. For him, every object he ever found had its own story and placed it had been. That’s when he met Linda, and when they decided to move in together, he was forced to do something that he didn’t want to cut back on the collecting.
He never expected what was coming, and neither he nor Linda could have ever imagined that something incredible would have come from his ‘hoarding’.
Call it Fate
One day, he met his friend for a coffee. As he walked down the street, he passed the red brick building of Fulton’s Folly Antique Collective.
He just couldn’t ignore it, like a kid seeing a candy store, even though he had promised Linda he would cut back on his spending. However, he didn’t see the harm in window shopping.
Like a Kid in a Candy Store
These stores were like Christmas day for Randy. He kept picking up items but remembered the promise he had made to Linda, so he placed them back.
Suddenly, he saw something out of the corner of his eye that he could not ignore.
A Closed Deal…Or Was it…
Outside, Randy saw two men shaking hands. He walked towards them, noticing the stacks of cardboard boxes surrounding them. He also noticed that it was a blind person. He suddenly knew in his gut, that there may be a hidden gem inside, and he could not contain his excitment.The store was most probably overstocked and the owner was trying to get rid of stuff.
Randy was a pro at this game, and he knew that buyers only have a short amount of time to inspect items before bidding on them.
A Quick Look
“Would you mind if I had a quick look?” he said to the men. The men were familiar Randy from the online antique community.
So, they let him rummage through the boxes before putting them on the truck. Nothing really stood out to Randy, but he just had this instinct to keep looking, and his intuition was right.
Looking for Something
He didn’t know exactly what he was looking for, but he also felt that he would just know when he saw that object.
Then, he found a small cardboard box. He never actually believed that this ordinary-looking box had something of extraordinary significance in American history nestled inside.
Don’t Do It
However, Randy still had Linda’s voice in his head telling him off, but he had to follow his intuition and boy he was glad he did. The box contained three old black and white photographs.
And to Randy, one man in the photograph looked interestingly familiar, but he couldn’t quite work out what it was. The man in the photograph was in fact someone worth noting.
A Good Buy
He just had to purchase this photo, there were no ifs buts or maybes about it. So he reached for his wallet just as the men loaded the last few boxes. But he only had $2. He asked to buy the little box of old photos.
Lucky for him, the men accepted the small payment, thinking nothing of this ordinary box. Randy had to go home and tell Linda about his purchase, and hoped she wouldn’t be mad. Neither of them however, could expect what would happen next.
A Keen Eye
Randy showed Linda the three pictures. “How much did this cost you?” she asked. She looked closer and was floored. “You do realize who this is?” she asked. And then, Randy saw it too. That unmistakable face was staring back at him with its confident gaze.
If Linda was right, this photo would be worth millions. But how would they know?
The Famous Kid
Linda and Randy immediately arranged a meeting with a local historian to look into closer detail at the faces in the photographs. The historian said that the pictures were from the 19th-Century. Randy wasn’t surprised as the images were clearly dated.
Then Linda pointed to the man standing in the middle of the group of people gathered in the photograph and whispered something poignant. The amazing photo was from the year 1878.
In Case You Didn’t Know
William Bonney was a well known figure from that time, his real name being Billy the Kid. He was one of the most wanted men in Arizona and got quite the name for himself.
As an outlaw, he became famous for outrunning the sheriffs and escaping multiple prisons over four years until he was eventually shot dead at the age of 21.
A Little Research
Randy made sure to do his research on this photograph so that he had all the facts right. He discovered that the last original photograph of Billy was bought by collector Bill Koch at an auction in 2011 for $2.3 million.
But with no proof of who the photographer had been and the circumstances around the photo, Linda and Randy had no proof that it was even real. They wouldn’t stop until they found proof of how much this photo was actually worth. They wouldn’t regret it.
The Historic Find
National Geographic heard about this and took on the project. They were able to conduct further research to prove that the photograph was in fact genuine. They were making a 2-hour National Geographic documentary called “Billy the Kid: New Evidence” and Kevin Costner would narrate it.
It would also highlight the fight against the corrupt process of authenticating historic material.
What An ROI
Many thought he was wrong about the photo and others just didn’t want to listen. The reason for this, is that many times when a historic and valuable item is discovered, others come forward claiming they too own something similar.
Most of the time people are wrong, and especially in this case, as there are only a small amount of known Billy the Kid photos that still exist today. The very first picture found of Billy the Kid sold for $2.3 million.
Blood Sweat And Tears
Randy Guijarro spent five arduous years trying to get his tintype photograph authenticated. But in the end, it most certainly paid off. “There were highs and lows.
It was a bit of a lonely journey. This picture was almost Twilight Zone-ish. Too good to be true.”
Linda and Randy’s photograph got the attention of Jeff Aiello who was a local film and TV producer. He knew this was a juicy story.
He knew that experts before him had examined the photo and only given it a passing glance before quickly calling it a fraud.
What If They Were All Wrong?
He wondered: What if they were all wrong? He said to Randy: “Let me have the picture. My wife, Jill, is a fantastic researcher”.
Randy and Linda are lucky to have caught the eye of Aiello.
Aiello said, “We did photo overlays and all kinds of fancy computer stuff and dove into the history. After a month, we were both confident that was a photo of Billy and four of the ‘Regulators.’” Now, Randy and Linda could sleep easy at night, but they just had to prove it to everyone else.
They never actually believed that the documentary would bring their story to millions of people around the world.
You’ve probably heard of Billy the Kid, but just in case you aren’t familiar with The Regulators, they were an American Old West posse that fought in the Lincoln County War.
The group was formed out of numerous small ranch owners and cowboys in the Lincoln, New Mexico area. Billy the Kid was the most famous member of the gang.
Documentary Causes A Stir
The 2-hour National Geographic documentary, “Billy The Kid: New Evidence”, featured interviews with experts and used facial recognition on Randy’s photograph against existing images of Billy The Kid,
as well as placing his geographic position at the time and identifying the antique croquet set in the photograph.
An auction house in California agreed to help Randy sell his photos. More importantly, let’s get down to facts, they set the base price at an incredible….. wait for it……. $5 million!
Thanks to National Geographic, their instincts were right and their long task was totally worth it. What a result!
Randy Guijarro’s photo, was taken after a wedding, just one month after the Lincoln County war in 1878. He said that he is going to use the money from the Billy the Kid photograph to keep exploring and do more treasure hunting.
“I hope this prompts others out there to look into trunks and attics because there are so many lost treasures out there,” Guijarro told The Guardian. He also plans on paying off his debts and buying a new car.
The Legend Of Billy The Kid
Billy the Kid was born in the fall of 1859 in Manhattan, New York City. His birth name was Henry McCarty. Later in life, he also went by the name William H. Bonney.
Both of his parents were Irish immigrants.
The Life Of Henry McCarty
His father Patrick died years before. Over the years, the McCarty family moved several times. After the death of the father, they moved from New York City to Indianapolis. Then they moved to Wichita, Kansas and then lastly to the then-territory of New Mexico.
Billy was only 14 years old when his mother Catherine died of tuberculosis in 1874. Since he was left with not parents and tragically became an orphan, Billy the Kid moved to a boarding house where he worked for his room and board.
Just shortly after Billy’s mother died and he moved into the boarding house, he committed his very first crime (at least one on official record). He was caught stealing food. From there, his crimes escalated quite rapidly, both in nature and frequency. Just 10 short days later, he and a friend of his, George Schaefer, robbed a Chinese laundry.
Together they stole clothing and firearms. Both were charged with theft and put in jail. But as it turned out, it wasn’t easy to keep Billy the Kid behind bars.
The Great Escape
Just two days after being captured and put in jail, Billy the Kid escaped. He found his stepfather and stayed with him but was eventually thrown out. Before that, though, Billy stole a few guns and some clothes from his stepfather.
Now a fugitive of the law, Billy fled to Arizona Territory and earned money by helping out on a ranch.
Billy The Criminal
In Arizona, Billy started gambling and he became friends with another criminal named John R. Mackie. Around this time he started going by the alias “Kid Antrim.”
Antrim was his stepfather’s last name.
The man who was born by the name Henry McCarty was often referred to as “The Kid” due to his clean-shaven appearance, slight build, and his youthfulness. But he wasn’t just a cute little kid and he would soon become someone to be feared.
In August of 1877 a local blacksmith, Francis Cahill, who had been bullying The Kid took one step too far and had to be dealt with. Billy and Cahill got into an argument that escalated into a fight and Billy shot Cahill at point blank range. Cahill died the next day.
Billy the Kid was on the run for a few days but was captured by a justice of the peace. Yet again he proved to be hard to hold on to.
Before the sheriff could arrive, Billy escaped, making it the second time he escaped custody.
From there he fled back to New Mexico territory, where he had to be nursed back to health after being forced to walk part of the long way home because Apaches stole his horse.
Billy then joined up with a band of cattle rustlers in Lincoln County and pretty soon the war broke out.
War Breaks Out
By this point, Billy’s name had been mentioned in multiple newspapers and he was gaining notoriety as an outlaw. Then the gang he was a part of, known today as the Lincoln County Regulators, got into a feud with a rival gang.
The war started after a member of the rival posse shot and killed John Tunstall while attempting to seize his cattle. The murder was the starting point of the all-out war in Lincoln County between the two groups, both vying for power.
War Rages On
The war raged on for around six months, resulting in dozens of deaths and neither side coming out victorious. Both of the competing gang factions collapsed and distrust and hatred grew in the region.
The surviving members of the Regulators faction all became wanted men — including Billy the Kid.
Price On Their Heads
The various members of the gang scattered and all of them had a price on their heads.
Sheriff Pat Garrett, a former friend of Billy the Kid, vowed to hunt down every last one of them, including the Kid.
The Famous Outlaw
For the next few years, Billy the Kid was on the run from law enforcement and he had numerous near misses and escapes from their clutches.
Then in 1880, a bounty of $500 (around $11,000 today) was placed on his head.
On December 23, Sheriff Garrett and his team, after a long drawn out and bloody gun battle, captured four members of the Regulators and killed two other. Billy the Kid was among the captured outlaws. They were all shackled and their fate of sentencing was sealed.
The captured outlaws were met at one of the train depots by an angry mob and Billy later told reporters “if I only had my Winchester I’d lick the whole crowd,” referring to his Winchester rifle he was so known for.
Billy the Kid was given no leniency from the judge. Billy was sentenced on May 13, 1881 to hang for his crimes. He had one month to live. But would law enforcement be able to hold notorious Billy the Kid for that long without him escaping again?
No, they, in fact, were not capable of such a feat. After a scuffle, obtaining a gun, killing a deputy and getting a horse, he escaped jail yet again. According to some of the legends, Billy the Kid was singing a song while he rode out of town.