You never know what kinds of treasures you can find online. Old and interesting items have captured people’s imaginations and pocketbooks for decades.
There’s something to buying items that are older than you are: there’s story to them. They’ve seen things you’ll never see.
But without extensive or specialized knowledge of the items you’re looking at, there’s no way to tell if something is a genuine article or a knockoff, but for $10 the price of potential disappointment outweighs the potential score.
A man named Justin Whiting spotted an interesting photo on eBay. The tintype photo was merely listed as “Victorian Tintype Photo Young Man in dark Suit Standing by Chair.”
The listing also mentioned that the photo was probably from the United States some time during the 1870s, based on the setting and characteristics of the photo itself.
Intrigued, Whiting sprang for the $10 investment because he had a hunch. He recognized something about the young man’s face.
Whiting was fascinated with outlaws. He’d spent hours reading about them and looking at images of oldschool American criminals.
One of those outlaws that Whiting had been interested in was Jesse James, and the young man in the photo bore a striking resemblance to a photo he’d once seen in a book.
“I noticed the picture for sale,” said Whiting, “It was $10. It was a bit blurry on the site but when I got it, it was a lot clearer.”
“I thought to myself: ‘Gee wizz, this could be a real photo!’ I’ve been obsessed with American outlaws for years and read lots of books and study their faces.”
Once he had the photo, he went to an expert. Will Dunniway was well-know for authenticating images of other outlaws, and he recognized the famous youngster right away.
“It was an easy match since it was compared to a longtime known image of the young Jesse James at 14,” he wrote. “Justin’s image, however, was the same pose taken the same day by the same photographer.”
But that’s not all — there’s the possibility that this particular photo was one that the infamous then-14-year-old actually kept for himself.
“There are no others like it. A one-of-a-kind original that most likely was handled by the teenaged Jesse James himself,” revealed Dunniway.
Another expert also examined the photo and proclaimed it as authentic. The $10 find could go for as much as $2 million.
Allegedly, Whiting has been in contact with an auction house, but there’s no word on whether or not the image will be available for purchase in the near future.
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