HOP­ING IT’S JESSE JAMES

Old photo could be valu­able

Regina Leader-Post - - FRONT PAGE - pcowan@post­media.com PAMELA COWAN

A Regina cou­ple could make out like ban­dits if their tin­type photo of out­law Jesse James turns out to be au­then­tic.

For more than a decade, avid an­tique col­lec­tors Rob and Karen Baron from Regina have been scour­ing lo­cal garage and estate sales and on­line sites for trea­sures.

In late Fe­bru­ary they pur­chased a tin­type photo for $15 from VarageSale.com.

“We like old pho­tos,” Rob said. “Our house is full of old pho­tos of peo­ple we don’t know.”

Shortly af­ter the pur­chase, the seller in­formed the cou­ple that some­one re­quested their in­for­ma­tion be­cause he be­lieves they might have un­know­ingly pur­chased a lost photo of Amer­i­can out­law Jesse James.

In­trigued, the Barons con­tacted a num­ber of ex­perts. They were ex­cited when they re­ceived an email from pro­fes­sional foren­sic ex­am­iner Kent Gib­son in Los An­ge­les.

Gib­son told Rob and Karen that he was hes­i­tant to take on more clients be­cause he’s just be­gin­ning two tele­vi­sion se­ries on au­then­ti­ca­tion. How­ever, he did run their tin­type photo through one of his five fa­cial recog­ni­tion pro­grams.

“His soft­ware came out with a 80-per-cent match, which was within the thresh­old of be­ing a plau­si­ble photo of Jesse James,” Rob said.

“It’s an ex­cit­ing ad­ven­ture for us and we’re go­ing to keep dig­ging to get in­for­ma­tion.”

The Varage Sale seller be­lieves she bought the photo from Cir­cle H Auc­tions in Saska­toon in the mid-’90s so Rob con­tacted the auc­tion house.

That was a dead end. The auc­tion house couldn’t find any in­for­ma­tion about the pic­ture that could be the Wild West leg­end.

“Un­for­tu­nately dig­ging up the prove­nance on it is go­ing to be very dif­fi­cult, which will di­min­ish the pos­si­bil­ity of a pos­i­tive iden­ti­fi­ca­tion,” Rob said.

Col­lec­tors want to know the chain of cus­tody so the Regi­nans are hop­ing some­one will con­tact them with in­for­ma­tion about the photo.

“I hope we’re able to trace the item’s prove­nance and find out when it was taken — even if it isn’t Jesse James,” Rob said. “It’d be good to know the his­tory be­hind such an old piece.”

But if it’s the real deal, the Barons could reap the re­wards of hav­ing a photo of the gun­slinger in their cus­tody.

In his re­search, Rob dis­cov­ered an au­then­ti­cated photo of Jesse James was pur­chased on eBay for $10 and sold at auc­tion for $2 mil­lion.

“If our photo is truly the Amer­i­can out­law, it would be like win­ning the lot­tery,” Karen said. “Things of tremen­dous value have been bought at garage sales be­fore ... It’s ex­cit­ing. You never know what you’re go­ing to find!”

The cou­ple are not an­tique deal­ers, but they’ve made some won­der­ful finds that they share in their YouTube vlog called Bar­gain Barons.

“We’re not re-sell­ers, but we do have to sell some­times so we don’t be­come hoard­ers,” Rob said.

Their find has spurred them on to keep look­ing for trea­sures.

“Ev­ery­body is sur­prised in what we find in Regina,” Karen said. “Some­times the fam­ily is not in­ter­ested so it is of lit­tle or no value to them whereas it is one of the prizes of our col­lec­tion.”

To fol­low the Bar­gain Barons go to www.youtube.com/Bar­gainBarons/videos.

PHO­TOS: TROY FLEECE

Rob and Karen Baron are try­ing to trace the prove­nance of a tin­type photo they think could be a long lost im­age of Jesse James that they re­cently pur­chased on VarageSale in Regina.

Fa­cial recog­ni­tion soft­ware says this im­age is an 80-per-cent match for Jesse James.

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