The most expensive item ever sold at Brian Lebel’s Annual Old West Show and Auction is a ferrotype of the 19th century outlaw Billy the Kid.
The ferrotype or tintype is a portrait of Billy the Kid, also known as William Henry McCarty, Henry Antrim and William H. Bonney. He is noted for his active presence during the American frontier era, such as being a gunman in the Lincoln County War.
Indeed he had killed quite a number of people, but his being personable and a neat dresser, as well as impressive with firearms, earned him the reputation of both notorious outlaw and beloved folk hero.
His portrait sold at auction is believed to have been taken in 1879 or 1880 in Fort Sumner, New Mexico. It shows the outlaw in his favored unadorned sombrero, and resting his right hand on a carbine.
Because ferrotypes are made by creating a direct positive on a sheet of iron that is then blackened, the resulting product is a reverse image. This led people to believe that Billy was a lefty, with the movie “The Left Handed Gun” clearly inspired by the myth.
Last month, the Billy the Kid ferrotype went under the hammer for USD2.3 million, which experts previously pegged at only around 300,000 to 400,000.
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