A rare 19th-century photograph of Wild West outlaw Jessie James that was sold on eBay for $10 has been examined by forensic experts who estimated its worth at $2 million.
In July 2017, Justin Whiting, 45, of Spalding, United Kingdom, purchased the rare portrait for £7 ($10) when he noticed that the man depicted in the photo had a striking resemblance to young Jesse James after seeing a different picture of the outlaw in a book.
“I noticed the picture for sale — it was $10. It was a bit blurry on the site but when I got it, it was a lot clearer,” Whiting said. “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.”
The infamous James, who was born in Clay County, Missouri, on September 5, 1847, is known for robbing banks and trains, and serving as a Confederate guerrilla during the Civil War. He was fatally shot by a fellow gang member on April 3, 1882.
Whiting was encouraged by friends to contact U.S.-based forensic experts to analyze the photo, Breitbart reported.
The authenticity of the photo was verified by 19th-century photography expert Will Dunniway of California, who verified it as a genuine portrait of James from 1861 when the outlaw was 14 years old.
“It was an easy match since it was compared to a longtime known image of the young Jesse James at 14,” Dunniway said. “Justin’s image, however, was the same pose taken the same day by the same photographer.”
Dunniway noted that Whiting’s photo was “an amazing find” and that it was likely an original portrait “handled by the teenaged Jesse James himself.”
The photo was also examined by Los Angeles-based forensic expert Kent Gibson.
“The Jesse at 14 tintype is very similar to an image I found on the James Foundation site. I presume taken at the same session,” said Gibson.
Whiting has reportedly approached auction house Christie’s regarding the James photo. A spokesperson for Christie’s declined to comment “on anything which is not consigned for sale.”