FORT SUMNER, N.M. (KRQE) – It looks like a North Carolina man is holding a priceless piece of New Mexico history.
Experts have verified a tintype picture bought for just dollars is that of Billy the Kid and the man who killed him, Sheriff Pat Garrett. It’s a find that could be worth millions.
A cool old picture of five men in the Old West went up for sale at a flea market in Asheville, North Carolina in 2011. It caught the attention of history buff Frank Abrams, who decided to spend the $10 to buy it. The picture sat up on a wall as a decoration for years.
Then in 2015, news broke of a newly verified photo of Billy the Kid playing croquet. It was one of only two of the famous outlaw known to exist, and it was worth $5 million. That’s when Abrams started researching Billy the Kid, and noticed a familiar character in his picture.
“I said, ‘Oh my gosh, he looks like Pat Garrett,’” Abrams said.
If that was Pat Garrett, the Lincoln County Sheriff famous for killing Billy the Kid, who was that young man sitting to his right who looked eerily similar to Billy? Could it really be the famous outlaw who has spawned countless stories and become a New Mexico legend?
After months of analysis, facial recognition and other examination, experts say it is.
“It’s incredible… Five trips across the country, forensic experts, 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,” Abrams said.
The picture includes Billy the Kid, sitting next to one of the Old West’s most notorious outlaws, Dirty Dave Rudabaugh, Abrams said. Rudabaugh, who was captured with Billy the Kid, is holding a Colt revolver in the photo, Abrams explained.
Experts say further analysis of the picture revealed some writing that helped identify the characters, including Pat Garrett’s signature on his lapel and a date of Aug. 2, 1880.
That would have been before Billy’s arrest, and before his escape from the Lincoln County Courthouse when he murdered a deputy, urging the question: What was Pat Garrett doing posing with Billy and another outlaw, months before he would hunt him down and kill him?
It’s a mystery Abrams is determined to solve. In the meantime, what will become of the picture?
“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,” Abrams said.
Since the tintype is the only known picture of Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett together, many experts expect it to be worth far more than the other picture of Billy.