Broward News

Bill Koch Buys Billy the Kid Tintype Photograph for $2.3 Million at Auction

Bill Koch, one of the poorer Koch brothers -- by "poor," we mean he's worth $3.5 billion, compared to Charles and David Koch's $21.5 billion fortune, according to Forbes -- dropped a cool couple of million on a rare portrait of Billy the Kid over the weekend.

Koch, head of the energy holding company Oxbow Group in West Palm Beach, adds the tintype photograph to a ridiculous collection of top-shelf collectibles -- which you can get a taste of from this profile of his part-time home in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

Apparently Koch really wanted this photograph, since he dropped $2.3 million on the piece at a Denver auction on Saturday, a bit higher than the $400,000 maximum it was expected to go for, according to New York Daily News.

The photograph, called "the last remaining original portrait of one of the Wild West's most notorious outlaws," was sold out of the 22nd Annual Old West Show & Auction in Colorado.

It's believed to have been taken outside a Fort Sumner, New Mexico, saloon between 1879 and 1880, with an 1873 Winchester rifle in one hand, and a Colt sidearm on his hip, according to New York Daily News.

According to the paper, Billy the Kid gave the picture to a friend named Dan Dedrick, and it's stayed in the possession of his family ever since.

It was displayed publicly for only a short time inside a museum in Lincoln County, New Mexico, in the 1980s, but Koch may change that.

He's already got a pretty good Wild West collection going, including guns that once belonged to Gen. George Armstrong Custer, Jesse James, and Frank James, but he might show off the Billy the Kid photograph a bit.

"I love the Old West," Koch told New York Daily News. "I plan on enjoying it and discreetly sharing it. I think I'll display it in a few small museums."

The picture itself has a storied past, which led to one of the largest rumors surrounding Billy the Kid's legacy -- that he was left-handed.

Now the only remaining picture of Billy the Kid, it was printed on a two-by-three-inch piece of metal and reproduced in newspapers with the image reversed, according to New Mexico's Tourism Department.

It wasn't until 1954 that historians declared that based on the mechanical aspects of his guns in the picture, it was clear that the photo had been reproduced into newspapers in reverse -- and that Billy the Kid was actually right-handed.

Back at the auction, people were pretty impressed by Koch's cash, as he paid just about $2.3 million more than Billy the Kid originally paid to have his picture taken -- 25 cents.

"When the bidding ended, the whole room erupted in clapping, and people leapt to their feet," the auction's spokeswoman, Melissa McCracken, told CNN. "I've never experienced anything like this before."

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