$200 Million Ansel Adams Negatives Found at Garage Sale
Boxes of glass plate negatives, which a California man bought at a Pasadena garage sale ten years ago for $45, have been authenticated by photography experts who insist they are the work of Ansel Adams. Appraiser and art dealer David W. Streets, who will be displaying the plates tonight in his gallery in Beverly Hills, says the images, taken between 1919 and the 1930s, told CNN that they represent “a missing link of Ansel Adams and history and his career.” He estimates the collection is worth $200 million.
According to CNN, Rick Norsigian of Fresno, California found the boxes at a garage sale in 2000, and thought they looked familiar. The owner of the boxes (who is probably rather upset with himself as he reads all the press reports about this find) said he had found them in warehouse salvage sale in Los Angeles in the 1940s. He asked Norsigian for $70; they haggled, and Norsigian bought them for $45.
Norsigian then consulted art historians, handwriting experts (who say the notes on the manilla envelopes holding the plates were written by Virginia Adams, the photographer’s wife) and photo expert Robert Moeller, who spent six months studying the negatives and determined that the silver tarnish left on some plates dated them to the 1920s.
Adams historians had believed the negatives were destroyed in a darkroom fire in 1937. According to another historian Norsigian consulted, Patrick Alt, Adams taught a class in Pasadena in the early 1940s, and may have brought the glass negatives along as a teaching tool. How they ended up in a warehouse, however, is still unknown.
Streets estimates that Norsigian’s finds may be worth $200 million. In June, a single Adams print, “Clearing Winter Storm, Yosemite National Park,” sold for $722,500, setting a new auction record for an Adams print.
(Photo courtesy of David W. Streets via CNN)