Dear Al: I'm a researcher and investigator. Although the book probably makes my opinion pretty clear, I wasn't out to pass judgment. My mission was to pile up the facts and expert opinions so the reader can make an informed decision. I think you'll find enough information in the book, both historical and technical, to make up your own mind.
Dear Mr. Elvin: I've seen where there are hundreds, maybe thousands, of these images that have sold for very high prices over the Internet. What are those buyers going to do if that's not Josie? Lauri R., Little Rock, AR.
Dear Lauri: Well, that's a question that launched me on six months of digging into this mystery. I guess you might say the answer is between the buyer and their God; this is a case of possible misrepresentation rather than outright fraud. Auction lore is rich with stories of sellers sticking it to buyers and more of those stories are being created every day. At least potential buyers who read this book can make an informed decision.
Dec. 26, 2007: Just noticed on eBay you can buy a reprint of the Josie/Kaloma photo for about $20 ... http://cgi.ebay.com/Vintage-B-W-Kaloma-Wyatt-Earps-Wife-Josie-4-x-10_W0QQitemZ260187321347QQihZ016QQcategoryZ1507QQcmdZViewItem
New Book Probes Photo Mystery:
Is This Wyatt Earp’s Wife, Josie?
A new book, “Kaloma: The Josie Earp Mystery Photo,” by investigative reporter and antiques researcher W.J. Elvin III, probes the authenticity of a controversial vintage photo identified as legendary lawman Wyatt Earp’s third wife, Josie. While buyers treat the photo as a valuable rarity, experts interviewed in the book charge that the Josie Earp attribution is bogus.
“I went digging for the truth about a quirky mystery that sparked a storm of arguments among western history buffs. In the process I discovered that collectors who buy via the Internet face perils and pitfalls unknown in the past,” Elvin said.
The pin-up style portrait has reportedly sold for as much as $4,500 and often appears in auction sites offered for hundreds. “Those who have bought the photo are not going to be heartened by my findings,” Elvin said. “It’s very possible that their hundreds or thousands of dollars bought a photo worth twenty-five dollars -- if it’s in a twenty dollar frame.”
“Kaloma” includes extensive exclusive comments from experts in historical, technical and commercial aspects of vintage photography. “I interviewed insiders,” Elvin said, “so the reader isn’t just wading through a rehash of twice-told tales.”
A rare photo of Josie from her Tombstone days, a portrait by noted western photographer C.S. Fly, appears in a “Photo Gallery” section of the book. Experts who question the authenticity of the “Kaloma” photo agree that the Fly portrait is genuine.
The book sheds new documentary light on the uproar surrounding Glenn Boyer, author of “I Married Wyatt Earp.” Having vowed never again to discuss the issue, Boyer ultimately answered many questions posed by the author. Scholars, history buffs and Wyatt Earp fans, as well as those intrigued by tales of controversies in the antiques field, will find much to ponder in “Kaloma.”
“Investors in vintage photography who want to avoid costly mistakes should read this before they spend another penny on their collections,” Elvin added. It explores the fundamentals and spotlights the traps of the field -- such as the distinguishing characteristics of fake and genuine photos. A detailed directory of resources is included for those wishing to learn more about vintage photos as well as the Boyer controversy.
A nationally known investigative reporter and columnist, Elvin edited several popular publications in the antiques field. He is author of hundreds of feature articles and now researches and writes about antiques, antiquities and collectibles as investments, focusing on fraud and misrepresentation. Among Internet sites he maintains is antiquetreasures.blogspot.com.
The privately-published 138-page paperback is available from Lulu: http://www.lulu.com/content/804307 for $14.95 plus shipping. Credentialed reviewers may request a pdf version from firstname.lastname@example.org.