27 Jun 2011

Billy the Kid photo fetches $US2.3m

12:06 pm on 27 June 2011

A faded photograph of notorious Wild West outlaw Billy the Kid, has been sold at auction in the United States for $US2.3 million.

The gunslinger, also known as William Bonney, Henry Antrim, Henry McCarty or just "the Kid", paid 25 cents to have his photograph taken outside a New Mexico saloon in 1880 or 1881.

According to legend the gunman shot dead 21 people - one for each year of his life.

He was himself gunned down by a sheriff in New Mexico in July 1881.

William Koch, the brother of prominent conservative political donors David and Charles Koch, won with the top bid at the Old West Show and Auction in Denver, AFP reports.

It was not clear what Mr Koch might do with the 5cm by 8cm tintype, the only known adult portrait of the outlaw.

At least two photographic portraits were taken of William Bonney as a schoolboy in Silver City, New Mexico.

He also appears in the background of a photograph of half a dozen cowboys at a ranch near Roswell, New Mexico.

He was about 20 when he had his portrait taken at a saloon in Fort Sumner, New Mexico, and received four identical images on a thin metal plate that was eventually cut into quarters. The other three images have been lost.

The remaining image was kept by one of the Kid's rustler partners, Dan Dedrick, who passed it on to his grand-nephew Frank Upham, who willed it to his sons Stephen and Art Upham of California and Arizona.

The Uphams let a museum in Lincoln, New Mexico, display the picture for several years in the 1980s. Since then, it has been kept in a nitrogen-filled envelope.