Only extant photo of Wild West outlaw Billy the Kid draws $2.3m in Denver


Incredibly, there is only one authenticated photograph of Billy the Kid in existence - and it appeared for sale at Brian Lebel's 22nd Annual Old West Show & Auction in Denver, Colorado, US, on Saturday (June 25).

In the end, the piece was bought by Florida billionaire William Koch. As well as being an energy company executive, Koch is also among the world's top collectors of art and American West artefacts.

The final price? No less than £1.4m ($2,233,550) above a relatively low estimate of $300,000-400,000. Saturday's sale was the first time this unique and one-of-a-kind tintype had ever appeared on the auction block.

Crucial to the metallic photograph's immense value are both its singularly and its provenance. It was apparently owned by descendants of Dan Dedrick, who rustled cattle with Billy the Kid himself.

Even though he was hunted down and shot by Sheriff Pat Garrett aged just 21, the Kid is today still regarded as the outlaw who became the prototype of the American western gunslinger.


As legendary as he is notorious... and worth up-to $2.3m on the collectors' markets: Wild West outlaw Billy the Kid

This tintype image, often referred to as the "Upham tintype" was captured 130 years ago when Billy the Kid had his "picture made" in a saloon at Fort Sumner, New Mexico.

At the time, the outlaw couldn't possibly have know that his photo would more than a century later be regarded as one of the most recognisable images of the American West.

For a long time, it was even thought that this image proved that The Kid was a "Left Handed Gun", in accordance with his nickname. Although historians have since learned otherwise.

Since then, the Kid's legacy lives on; including being immortalised in Hollywood in films starring Paul Newman, Kris Kristofferson and others.

William Koch can now count himself as an owner of one of the most important and singular Wild West artefacts - testament to how the world's top earners are throwing their finances into investment-grade collectibles.


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