He bought a photo for 2$ which turned out to be worth a fortune. Why? Because of the famous person captured in it. And it all started when he walked into that antique store…
Randy Guijarro liked to collect things. His mother nicknamed him “the hoarder” when he was seven. Ever since he was a kid, Randy would pick up pennies from the street, scrap from the yard, and shiny buttons.
When he walked into the thrift shop on that fateful day, he didn’t realize he would buy something that would lead to an eventual treasure worth millions.
When he was a child, Randy’s mother figured his fascination with junk would pass. But in reality, his obsession only grew. And she was worried. Randy’s house became a pile of coins, books, comics, statues, paintings, clocks, trading cards, toys, stamps, and jewelry.
To his family, his possessions were junk. But Randy ended up turning his obsession into something profitable.
Making a Living
Randy actually made a living by selling the treasures he collected. The way he saw it, everything he owned had a story to it. But then he met Linda. And when they decided to move in together, he made a promise to cut back on the collecting. But old habits are hard to shake. And it can be said that the fact that he didn’t stop his hobby was a good decision.
Both him and Linda could never expect what Randy would eventually find one day.
Call it Fate
One day, Randy found himself in the Fresno Tower District after meeting a friend for coffee. As he walked down the street, he passed the red brick building of Fulton’s Folly Antique Collective.
Even though he had promised Linda he wouldn’t bring home anything else before selling the contents of their “spare bedroom”, he just had to go in. But he figured he would be in and out in ten minutes, and so he gave himself permission to go inside.
Like a Kid in a Candy Store
Randy walked through aisles, being already accustomed to antique shops. The store was full of stuff that Randy loves. It was like a kid in a candy store. Randy had never seen such a wide collection before. He kept picking up items but remembered the promise he had made to Linda, so he placed them back. But then, he saw something out their back door that made his eyes widen, and he just couldn’t resist.
And the thing is, Randy happened to be in the right place at the right time.
A Closed Deal…Or Was it…
Outside, Randy saw two men were shaking hands. Had they closed a deal? He walked towards them, seeing that they were surrounded by stacks of cardboard boxes. He could tell that it was a blind buy. Randy knew that there may be a hidden gem inside, and a wave of excitement washed over him.
The store was obviously overstocked and the owner probably needed to get rid items fast. The way it works is buyers only have a short amount of time to inspect items before bidding on them.
Randy couldn’t let this deal go. He had to say something to them.
A Quick Look
Randy was a friendly guy. And even though he knew these men had placed the highest bid, he was feeling brave.
So he went up to him and said, “Would you mind if I had a quick look?” Apparently, the men had heard of Randy from the online antique community. So, they let him rummage through the boxes before loading them into their truck. Nothing really stood out to Randy, but he kept looking.
And his intuition proved to be right.
Looking for Something
He didn’t know exactly what he was looking for, but he figured that he would recognize it when he saw it. Then, he found a small cardboard box. He never could have imagined that this ordinary-looking box had something of extraordinary significance in American history.
Yes, Randy still had Linda’s voice in his head telling him to stop. But then again, she was a sucker for a good photograph. The box contained three old black and white photographs. And to Randy, one man in the photograph looked familiar, but he couldn’t put his finger on it.
The man in the photograph was indeed someone worth noting.
A Good Buy
He had to purchase the photo. 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. Thankfully the men accepted the small payment, thinking nothing of this seemingly regular box.
Randy had to go home and tell Linda about his purchase. Neither of them could expect what would happen.
A Keen Eye
Randy presented Linda her with the three pictures. “How much did this cost you?” she asked. She looked closer and was astonished. “You do realize who this is?” she asked. And then, Randy saw it too. That unmistakable face was staring back at him with its eerie gaze. If Linda was right, this photo would be worth millions based on the person’s historical fame.
So who was in the photo?
The Famous Kid
Linda and Randy arranged a meeting with a local historian to inspect 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: “Billy the Kid”.
The amazing photo was from the year 1878. And Billy the Kid was a very well-known figure.
In Case You Didn’t Know
Billy the Kid is one of the most well-known figures of the American Wild West. His real name was William Bonney. He was one of the most wanted men in Arizona after being involved in multiple homicides. An outlaw, he managed to outrun the sheriffs and escape multiple prisons over four years until he was eventually shot dead at the age of 21.
He was famous among cowboy fanatics. But there was only one authentic photo of him ever found. Until now.
A Little Research
Randy made sure to do his research. 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 genuine.
They were determined to find proof and see how much this incredible photo was worth. And the amount was going to be unbelievable.
Took a While
Many collectors didn’t believe that the photograph was genuine. Randy and Linda knew they had to do some more digging into the history of the photograph before they showed their findings to the public. Over the course of a year, they had gotten different opinions from experts, but some were skeptical.
But when they finally took the photo to Witherell’s Old West Show in Northern California’s Grass Valley, their hearts dropped.
A New Intervention
Linda and Randy’s photograph got the attention of Jeff Aiello who was a local film and TV producer. He knew a good story when he saw one. He knew that the experts who had examined the photo had only given it a passing glance before hastily calling it a fraud. 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.
ABC7 San Francisco
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 just had to prove it to the world.
They would never expect which company would catch attention and bring their story to millions of people worldwide!
Who Were the Regulators?
Maybe you’ve heard of Billy the Kid. But in case you don’t know who The Regulators are, let’s just give you a little bit of information. The ‘Lincoln County Regulators’, or just ‘the Regulators’, 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 due to his fame.
National Geographic Joined Forces
The Hollywood Reporter
National Geographic took on the million-dollar project, with Aiello at the wheel. They were able to conduct further research to prove that the photograph was genuine. They were making a 2-hour National Geographic documentary called “Billy the Kid: New Evidence” and land Kevin Costner was to be the narrator.
Aiello wanted to place Randy’s fight against the corrupt process of authenticating historic material at the forefront.
Hitting the Road
Randy and Linda went out to visit all the known landmarks associated with Billy the Kid. One of the individuals in the photo had been identified as Sallie Chisum, which they managed to find an 80% match on facial recognition software. They also found the breakthrough they had all been waiting for, in Sally Chisum’s diary.
Randy and Linda had traveled 10,000 miles over four states. They needed to make one last stop, hoping it would be the jackpot.
All clues pointed to Tunstall’s ranch because Sally Chisum’s diary mentioned that she, The Regulators, and Billy the Kid himself had gathered there. Randy and Linda got to the ranch and stared in disbelief at the familiar landscape.
Randy really believed with all his heart that Billy the Kid had been there. With the help of Geographic mapping, the exact location where the photo was shot was finally found. Randy and Linda, feeling like they had finally won the battle, returned to California.
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.
Randy and Linda already felt so lucky to have figured out that the photo was real. But they still didn’t know its worth!
An auction house in California agreed to help Randy sell his photos. More importantly, they set the base price at $5 million! Thanks to National Geographic, their instincts were proven to be correct and their journey was made worth it. And now they know the worth of the historical photo.
But their story inspired someone else…
The Saga Continues
A lawyer named Frank Abrams watched National Geographic’s documentary on Billy the Kid. He also had an old photograph of Billy the Kid in his possession. He found photograph in much the same way Randy had. He bought it at a flea market in 2011 for $10. He was instantly drawn to the old photograph but assumed it was just an ordinary photo of a group of cowboys from the American South. He loved the vintage photo and hung it up in a guest bedroom that he rented out on AirBNB.
Did His Research
Frank started to research Billy the Kid extensively. That’s when a face in the photo started to look familiar to him. But where had he seen that face before? And then it hit him. He had a photograph of a man who looked strikingly similar! The face he was looking at was Pat Garrett. Garrett was an American Old West who became renowned for killing Billy the Kid. He was the sheriff of Lincoln County, New Mexico.
If the identity was correct, it would mean he hit the jackpot!
Billy and Pat
True West Magazine
If the photo was genuine, it would be the only surviving photograph of Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett together. And if that were true, it would only deepen the mystery around the infamous outlaw.
Frank also took it to the experts to identify the photo. After months of analysis, they confirmed that the photo was authentic. They had run it through facial recognition technology and managed to identify the men in the photograph. They even established a date: August 2, 1880. They also found a signature on Pat Garrett’s lapel.
So what did this new information mean for the history of Billy the Kid?
An Unanswered Question
The photo’s date of August 2, 1880, would mean that it was taken before Billy’s arrest and escape from the Lincoln County Courthouse, and his notorious murder of a deputy. So this raises a huge question: why was Pat Garrett posing with the infamous outlaw just months before he hunted and eventually shot Billy down?
Frank was determined to find out the strange circumstances of the photo’s history. His photo was actually estimated to be of at least double the value of Randy’s photo because it’s the only one ever found to contain both Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid.
But could Frank ever sell such a valuable photo?
Frank said in an interview: “It’s incredible… Five trips across the country, forensic experts, and professors have looked at it, others have looked at it… It’s… I’m ecstatic. I feel like one of the luckiest people in the world. To find this is a privilege.”
But there is only one question on everyone’s mind.
What’s it Worth?
Frank continued: “People ask me all the time, what do you think it’s worth, what do you think it’s worth. I won’t put a price on it, quite frankly it’s priceless.” If the photo has been dated correctly, it could change what we know about American history!
Ever seen the show Antiques Roadshow? It’s a long-running show where people take their “old junk” to get appraised. Well, some antiques really are junk. But some are actually extremely valuable! Let’s go over some of the most memorable antique finds that you just won’t believe were sitting in someone’s basement collecting dust.
Worth Half a Million
This is an oil painting by Joseph Kleitsch. Someone brought this painting to Antiques Roadshow to get it looked at. Their parents had purchased it for just $100 in the late 1920s. Turns out fine art expert Debra Force estimated that it was worth half a million dollars!
Found When Redecorating
“Halt in the Desert by Moonlight” is the name of this painting. While redecorating their house in 1986, a couple found this watercolor painting which turned out to have been missing since 1857! It was sold to the British Museum for $100,000.
This notebook from the 17th century is believed to be one of the oldest that the Shakespeare ever had. It even includes quotes and other notes regarding his plays. It was estimated to be worth roughly $30,000. That’s an unbelievable find.
World War II Cameras
Gold-plated Leica Luxus II cameras. This was one of just four cameras of its kind ever to be made. And this particular camera was used during World War II and into the 1950s. It was sold in 2013 for $380,000.
This English woven gold snake bracelet is from 1875. And the serpent’s head is where all the money is. Appraiser Peter Schaffer estimates that the large sapphire on the serpent’s head is of the Kashmir variety, which is a high grade of sapphire. He estimates the bracelet will retail from $25,000 to $27,000.
A student was ready to pack up her framed picture from her grandmother to bring to school, but the picture that hung over her grandma’s bed had a mosquito under the glass. She took the picture outside to open it and realized the picture could be an actual painting, and not just a print.
They took it to get appraised but they were told at first that it’s valued at $200. However, Antiques Roadshow appraiser, Meredith Hilferty, said it was worth much more. The painting (circa 1892) was done by Henry Francois Farny, a French-born American painter well-known for painting Native Americans. The granddaughter was stunned to find the auction value is $200,000 to $300,000!
A Pocket Watch
This is a Patek Philippe pocket watch. And in 2012, this item from the high-end watchmaking company from 1914 was at first estimated to be worth $250,000. Eventually, the pocket watch value increased to $1.5 million after it was reexamined. Good think they double checked!
What Looks Like a Plain Flower
The Fabergé flower. Considering how small it is, you would likely never guess that the worth of this thing $1.27 million. In fact, jewelry expert Geoffry Munn said that it could reach at least $1.5 million in an auction. Who knew?
It’s hard to imagine, but the designs in this bottle are made of single grains of sand! The owner received the sand art from his father but knew very little about it, except that it had been made by Andrew Clemens. Clemens was an artist who couldn’t hear or speak. Appraiser Allan Katz estimates the retail value to be $30,000 to $50,000.
Norman Rockwell’s “The Little Model” oil painting is another big find. The legendary painter’s 1919 work was valued at $500,000. What might be more surprising, though, is that the owner chose to keep it rather than sell it!