Man buys photo for $2 and finds out it’s worth millions

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There are two kinds of people in this world. There are those who will happily pay full price for an item they wish to purchase, and there are those who will shop around and try their hardest to pay less for the exact same item. One of the best ways to do this is to become the ultimate thrift shop shopper! Yes, whether you call it an op shop, a resale shop, a charity shop or even a junk shop, thrift shops offer people the chance to buy priceless antiques and bric-a-brac to fill your home. Most of the time, these stores offer pre-loved items such as clothes, furniture, jewelry and more, which have either been sold or donated by a previous owner.


While some people recoil at the idea of buying pre-loved items, those who have spent their time learning the ways of thrifting have actually managed to build up businesses and hobbies. In fact, some people spend all of their time traveling the world one thrift store at a time to add more and more pieces to their collection. That was exactly what one man was doing when he stumbled across an old photograph. After finding it within a junk shop, the man was rather taken by what it showed. Intrigued by the photo, he decided to shell out $2 to take it home with him. Yet, what he didn’t realize was that he had just paid $2 for something that was really worth millions of dollars…

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Getting thrifty

Rather than spending hundreds of dollars on new additions to your home, more and more people are choosing to buy their household goods from thrift stores around the world. Not only is this a great way to save money, but it also gives you the chance to uncover unique and original trinkets that could be worth a lot more than you paid for them. Rapper Macklemore even wrote a hit song about the cost-cutting hobby. The world agreed, sending the track to the number one spot in dozens of countries. That’s exactly what one man discovered when he discovered an old photo and bought it for $2.

The man in question

So who is the man in question? Well, the man who bought the photo was Randy Guijarro. Hailing from Fremont in California, Randy worked as a telecommunications technician before one photograph changed his life. Although he had always been interested in history and been a collector of antiques for most of his adult life, Randy had no idea that something he bought from a junk shop would have such a profound impact on his life. He enjoyed checking out historical artifacts and reading about some of our country’s most interesting time periods. He wandered around looking for anything that caught his attention. Nevertheless, his keen eye for antiques worked in his favor.

A lifelong collector

Throughout Randy Guijarro’s life, he had always had a soft spot for history and old artifacts. In fact, he had been a lifelong collector of various items, such as comic books, sports cards, coins, and more. His house was full to the brim! Together with his wife, Linda, the pair used all of their knowledge of history to find some of the coolest and quirkiest items in thrift shops around the country. Linda especially had a fondness for old photographs, which seemed to rub off on her husband.

Taking a pit stop

Because of this, Randy and Linda would often spend their free time checking out local thrift, junk, and antique shops to see whether there were any more items to add to their ever-expanding collection. This is exactly what Randy did in 2010. As he drove home from work one summer’s evening, Randy noticed a thrift store located in the Fresno Tower District called Fulton’s Folly Antique Collective. So, he decided to stop by to see whether they were selling anything of interest.

Sifting through boxes of junk

As Randy entered the shop, the antique dealer ushered him over to two men who were struggling to carry large boxes in their arms. According to the two men, they were simply throwing out “old boxes of junk” that they didn’t need anymore, as they were trying to completely clear out the storage unit the boxes came from. Immediately, Randy began to sift through the boxes of junk, in an attempt to find anything of worth. His eyes were caught by two old photographs.

The two photographs

One of the photos in question featured a 19th Century scene that Randy thought looked old and unique enough to make the cut. Yet, it was the second photograph that really caught his eye. This photograph featured a group of men playing croquet, and Randy knew there was something special about it. Unfortunately, Randy only had $2 in his pocket at the time – but offered it to the men just in case. They surprisingly accepted his offer, and Randy drove home with two new antiques to add to his collection.

His immediate reaction

When he took the photographs home, Randy couldn’t help but wonder who the men in the photograph were. Although he could see that they were obviously playing croquet, he had, “No idea who they were. It’s almost like a shadowy haze.” Randy continued to question who the men were, and couldn’t help but look at the photograph over and over again because he liked the composition of the colors and the quality of the photograph. Yet, the questions still plagued him, so he decided to do something about it…

He had an inkling

Although he didn’t know who the men in the photograph were, there was one man in the middle of the photograph who looked strangely familiar to him. This man was wearing a stripy sweatshirt and a hat while leaning on the croquet stick in his hands. While he wasn’t entirely sure, there was something about the man, his outfit and his stance that made Randy think that the man in the photograph was the notorious gang member and gunfighter, Billy the Kid.

Doing his research

With an idea in his mind, Randy wanted to know whether his inkling that the man in the photograph was Billy the Kid could be true. So, he enlisted the help of his wife Linda, who he calls a “wonderful, pragmatic woman” to help him research Billy the Kid and his gang, the Regulators. As they researched the notorious bandits and their photographs, the married couple were able to identify the two other men in the photograph as Charlie Bowdre and Tom O’Folliard. This almost solidified their belief that the man in the center of the photo was the inconspicuous Billy the Kid.

There’s only one

However, neither Randy or Linda could be 100% sure that the man in the photograph really was Billy the Kid – considering there is only one photograph of the infamous gunfighter in existence. Indeed, historians have only ever seen one famous photo of the New Yorker, which featured a portrait of the bandit holding a gun. In 2011, the owner of this photograph had its validity confirmed and later sold it for a whopping $2.3 million. After all, history is plagued with assumptions and rumors surrounding Billy the Kid…

Who is Billy the Kid?

Born Henry McCarty, this New Yorker was often called William H. Bonney, but is more often known by his outlaw name, Billy the Kid! Although his date of birth is often disputed, it is known that he was born in 1859 – in either November or September of that year. Despite the fact that Billy the Kid was born in New York, his family moved from place to place after the death of his father and eventually settled in Silver City in New Mexico. Sadly, his mother later died when Billy was just 14 years old.

A life of crime

After the death of his mother, Billy the Kid was offered the chance to work and live in a local boarding house – but this wasn’t enough for Billy. In 1875, he took part in his first robbery that would spark his life of crime. Just ten days after this original theft, Billy the Kid and George Schaefer stole clothing and guns from a Chinese laundry and were later arrested and jailed. However, Billy the Kid wasn’t planning on staying in jail for long, and he escaped just two days after his arrest.

Living as an outlaw

While he is known for living life as an outlaw, Billy the Kid is notorious for his role in the Lincoln County War in New Mexico. After escaping from jail, Billy the Kid traveled to and from the Arizona Territory, where he joined the infamous deputized posse by the name of The Regulators. After numerous altercations, The Regulators and the Lincoln Sheriff Department entered into a bloody battle that killed numerous men – including the famous sheriff, William J. Brady. After escaping from jail once more, Billy the Kid was shot dead when she was just 21 years old.

Professionals were skeptic

Considering Billy the Kid spent most of his life on the run, we have never been able to build up a large picture of his life – both historically and physically. Because of this, professionals were skeptic of Randy’s discovery and were not convinced that the antique lover had really found a genuine photograph of the bandit in a local antique store. This is because these professionals had come across many people who thought they had had the real deal – but it was just another fake.

Creating a documentary

Despite the lack of faith from numerous historical and antique professionals, Randy was determined to prove that he had the real deal and that he really did have the second ever photograph of Billy the Kid. So, Randy contacted Jeff Aiello, a producer for National Geographic. Together, the pair documented their five-year mission to prove that the photograph was an original photograph of the notorious outlaw. Amazingly, this forensic and historical documentary was narrated by the acting legend that is Kevin Costner!

Still not believable

Despite undertaking a five-year mission to prove that the photograph of Billy the Kid was real, enlisting the help of experts and creating a popular documentary, there were still people who did not believe Randy and his efforts. In Randy’s words, “It was a bit of a lonely journey.” He also called the photograph “almost Twilight Zone-ish” because many people believed it was just too good to actually be real. Nevertheless, his efforts soon paid off, as science helped him prove the haters wrong.

Science on his side

As more and more people heard of Randy’s discovery and wanted to help him with his cause, he soon had science on his side. With the help of forensic scientists, historians, art collectors and antique experts, the experts were able to use facial recognition to examine the photograph further. Although it may have taken five years of hard work, the team of experts eventually discovered something that would get them ever closer to their goal. Yet for Randy, the time didn’t matter. The end result was worth it.

Naming The Regulators

It was the use of facial recognition that worked in Randy’s favor the most. Although Billy the Kid was relatively undocumented throughout history, many other members of The Regulators were documented – which proved vital in their mission. By examining historical artifacts and the photograph further, the experts were able to identify all of the 18 different people in the background of the photo. As if that wasn’t cool enough, they were also able to identify the building the men were standing in front of.

Piecing together the puzzle

With this new information in tow, the experts were able to piece together the puzzle and get even closer to their conclusion. They noted that many of the other people in the photograph were members of The Regulators – which made them even more sure of the fact that the unnamed man could be Billy the Kid. The experts also enlisted help to excavate the remains of the schoolhouse located in Chavez County in New Mexico, the building the men were standing in front of. The experts were then able to determine that the photograph was taken in 1878.

The Croquet Tintype

Finally, the photograph was confirmed as a photograph of the one and only Billy the Kid, which meant collectors and antique dealers across the world were clutching at the chance to buy the priceless photograph. After the authenticity of the photo was verified by a numismatist firm by the name of Kagin’s, the company has decided to insure the photograph for a whopping $5 million. Randy has no desire to keep the photograph, so intends to sell it on to another budding historian.

Making use of the money

While the photograph has yet to be sold, Randy and Linda are already planning what they will do with the money that they earn from their impressive find. It’s believed that they will make use of the extra money to pay off their debts, help out their friends and family with their own financial situations, buy a brand new car for them both, and use what they have left to explore even more thrift shops and junk shops to see if they can uncover any more treasure.

You never know what you might find

One of the main things Randy and Linda have got out of their extraordinary experience is that their love for junk stores and thrift shops has just been heightened. He has since asked others around the world to not throw away their old treasures without properly looking at them first – because you never know what you might find! After all, the men who threw away the photograph in the first place had no idea that they were throwing away a priceless antique that would change the course of history…