Introduction - This cover was brought to my attention on the Philatelist's Board on October 3, 2000. It was slated to be sold by Butterfield's on eBay in conjunction with a History Channel promotion on October 27, 2000. This cover contains a letter relating to the whereabouts of the famous outlaw Billy The Kid. This item was withdrawn - See Linn's Article Here
It was listed with the following "teaser" description: "Billy the Kid, legendary outlaw of the Old West, is said to have killed as many as 21 men. It is no wonder that the state of New Mexico placed a $500 bounty on his head, and put Lincoln County's Sheriff Pat Garrett on the job. With the help of the information in this letter, Garrett tracked down the elusive gunslinger and, on July 14, 1881, shot him through the heart."
Although I rarely try to expertise covers from a scan, this item is clearly not genuine. On first glance the 1964 slogan postmark tying the 1c stamp would certainly be an indication that something odd is going on.
Further study resulted in the following observations:
1. The Carrizozo postmarks are not correct ink for the 1881 period and are far too black. Also, the form of the cancel using "N.M.T." designation is unknown in my experience as having been used in New Mexico Territory. Postmarks of that period simply stated "New Mexico" or "N.M." or "N. Mex." as abbreviations. Further proof that the postmarks are fake is the fact that Carrizozo, New Mexico did not have a Post Office until 1902 as reported several places including Sheldon Dike's book "New Mexico Territorial Postmark Catalog" published in 1986.
2. The postal rate in 1881 for a letter between post offices was 3c and this cover only bears a 1c stamp.
3. The envelope is of a size not normally found in the period.
4. The address repeats the "N.M.T." designation found in the postmark. In handling several thousand New Mexico Territorial covers I have never seen that designation used.
5. The staining on the cover does not look like staining typically associated with that found on old covers but rather modern staining. It was possibly done using tea or coffee.
Information From Butterfields:
In response to an email to Butterfields about this item I received a phone call from the owner. He told me that the letter and envelope came from the famous "Jarvis" collection of Billy The Kid material. Further that the envelope had been delivered by the Post Office in 1964 to a descendant of Pat Garrett and had received substantial press at that time.
If the above is true, and I have no reason to question it, I conclude that it was a hoax perpetrated in 1964. Somebody must have made up the envelope, and presumably the enclosed letter, and mailed it.
Richard Frajola (October 5, 2000)