Published: June 28, 2011
The Billy the Kidd tintype, said to be the only authenticated image taken of the outlaw gunslinger, is about as famous as the sitter himself and has been well studied, copied and even inspired the myth that the Kid was left-handed.
The circa 1879‸0 tintype shattered auction records for Western collectibles, antique photography and even contemporary photography with its sale on Saturday, June 25, for $2.3 million, including buyer’s premium, at Brian Lebel’s 22nd annual Old West Show & Auction at the Denver Merchandise Mart.
“This is the highest selling piece of Western Americana that has been sold,” said Brian Lebell, still processing the amazing results of the sale as he packed up trailers Monday morning after the event.
“I believe we broke a photography record. There were some contemporary photography pieces that sold for over a million, but I believe we have broken every record for photography.”
The photograph was given by the Kid, aka William Bonney, to his friend Dan Dedrick, whose family kept the photograph ever since. The photograph was sold along with a tintype of Dedrick and other letters and documentation. The Kid’s photograph is believed to have been taken at Fort Sumner, N.M., and shattered its auction estimate of $300/400,000.
Bidding opened up at the low estimate at $300,000 with five bidders, all in the auction gallery, and it took about 20 seconds to get to the million-dollar mark, Lebell said.
“From the time we started talking about [the lot] until the applause, it took 3 minutes 15 seconds to get to $2.3 million,” he said.
The buyer is private collector William Koch, who Lebell said, is “really trying hard to put a really great collection together” and wants to “preserve the history of the Old West.”
A full report on the sale will appear in a future edition.
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