The tintype went to private collector William Koch at Brian Lebel’s 22nd Annual Old West Show & Auction, where auction spokeswoman Melissa McCracken said the image of the 1800s outlaw was the most expensive piece ever sold at the event.
A 15 percent fee was added to the bidding price, making the selling
price more than $2.6 million. Organizers had expected it could fetch
between $300,000 and $400,000.
Nearly as legendary as the kid himself, the photo has been studied,
copied, scrutinized, portrayed in films, re-imagined, and immortalized.
Once thought to prove Billy was “The Left Handed Gun,” it later proved
he was not. The only time it has ever been available for public viewing was on loan to the Lincoln County Museum in New Mexico in the 1980s.
Billy the Kid gave the image to a friend, Dan Dedrick, and the tintype
has been owned by his descendants, the Upham family of California, ever since.
It’s a little known fact the tintype nearly spent its existence out of collector’s reach. In 1986 when the Upham’s came forward and donated
the tintype to the Lincoln County (New Mexico) Heritage
Trust, the gift had
a provision that if the Trust ceased to exist, ownership would revert
to the Upham family. That occurred in 1998.
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