A tintype photo reportedly of the notorious 19th century outlaw Billy the Kid will be exhibited Friday and Saturday at the Witherell’s Old West Show in Grass Valley.
The annual show is hosted by the Witherell’s auction house headquartered at 300 20th St., in midtown Sacramento.
The 1878 tintype, which researchers contend shows the outlaw also known as William H. Bonney playing croquet with members of his “Regulators” gang after a wedding, has an estimated value of $5 million, according to its handlers.
The handlers of the photo say the owner bought it in 2010 for $2 at a Fresno thrift store. The owner spent five years authenticating the photo.
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Donald Kagin, president and CEO of Kagin’s – the Tiburon-based rare coins and collectibles business – spent another year validating the historic and scientific research related to the tintype. Kagin is bringing the photo to the Witherell’s event and is handling a private sale.
While there is debate among historians and rare photo experts about whether the individual in the photo is Billy the Kid, Brian Witherell, chief operating officer of the Sacramento auction house, said: “We are as excited as everyone else to have a close look at this photo, given the way it came to light.”
The outlaw known as Billy the Kid was born Henry McCarty in 1859 in New York City. His mother ultimately moved to Santa Fe, N.M., and McCarty would later find work as a cowboy in Lincoln County in what was then New Mexico Territory. McCarty would become involved in the bloody 1878 Lincoln County War among rival business/ranching factions.
Lincoln County Sheriff Pat Garrett and his posse captured the outlaw in December 1880. McCarty was tried for murder and sentenced to death, but he escaped on April 28, 1881. Garrett tracked down McCarty and shot him dead on July 14, 1881, in Fort Sumner, New Mexico Territory. McCarty was 21.
There are disputed accounts of how many men Billy the Kid killed in his short life, ranging from eight to 21.
Besides the tintype, the Witherell’s Old West Show includes numerous vendors selling and trading collectibles, plus items up for bid in an ongoing auction. Items on-site include Western art, American Indian baskets, Gold Rush era memorabilia, saloon artifacts, jewelry, silver and various antiques.
The Old West Show runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Nevada County Fairgrounds, 11228 McCourtney Road. A one-day pass is $10; a two-day pass is $15.
For more information, visit witherells.com or call 916-446-6490.