Notorious Wild West gunslinger Billy the Kid paid 25 cents to have his photograph taken outside a New Mexico saloon in late 1880 or early 1881. On Saturday, that faded picture sold for $2.3 million.
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 on Denver.
It was not clear what Koch might do with the two-by-three-inch (five-by-eight-centimeter) tintype, the only known adult portrait of the legendary outlaw known as William Bonney, Henry Antrim, Henry McCarty or just "the Kid."
The gunman, who according to legend shot dead 21 people one for each year of his life was himself gunned down by a town sheriff in New Mexico in July 1881.
At least two photographic portraits were taken of Bonney as a school child in Silver City, New Mexico. He also appears in the background of a photograph of a half dozen cowboys at a ranch near Roswell, New Mexico.
Auctioneer Brian Lebel said the bidding, mainly between William Koch and an unidentified bidder from New Mexico, went on about 10 minutes. Koch's bid of $2 million won out. With the 15 percent buyers premium, Koch's total bill comes to $2.3 million, Lebel said.
Koch lives in Florida and has extensive land holdings in the central mountain state of Colorado. Although he has donated money to Republican causes, he has separated himself from the support his wealthy brothers give to ultra-conservative "Tea Party" movement.
Bonney 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 onto 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.
Former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson had talked about posthumously pardoning Billy the Kid at the request of various people who believe they are his descendants. But Richardson left office at the end of 2010 without ever acting on the pardon.