Wednesday, July 28, 2010

$45 Yard Sale Discovery Actually Worth $200 Million!

Rick Norsigian, a 64-year-old painter and habitual thriftier in Fresno, made the ultimate discovery. He paid $45 for a box full of black and white glass negatives at a California yard sale in 2000. The $45 price was a bargain- especially when it turns out the purchase has an estimated value of $200 Million!

After a six-month expert examination the 65 negatives are proclaimed as the early “lost” works of famed nature photographer Ansel Adams. These very same negatives were belived to have been obliterated when Adam's Yosemtie Park Studio burned down in 1937.

Ansel Adam’s heirs are skeptical about the lost negatives claims for several legitimate reasons. It’s curious that the negatives were “misplaced” when Ansel Adams was known to be meticulous about his negatives; he stored them in a bank vault after his studio was destroyed by a fire.

One of the "lost negatives". See more on Yahoo News.

Regardless, Norsigian is already profiting from his discovery. He’s set up a website to sell prints made from 17 negatives from $45 for a poster to $7,500 for a darkroom print with a certificate of authenticity. A documentary covering his quest to have the negatives authenticated is entitled “Ansel Adams: Lost and Found” is in post-production. Even a touring exhibition is in the works!

It’s hard to say if these negatives are the works of the famed photographer but you can’t deny prints are strongly reminiscent of his work.  Either way, this is an incredibly inspiring example to thrifters and junkers everywhere. Finds like this are incredibly rare, but this reminds you to check the value of anything you have even a slight inkling about. Hunt diligently; you never know what you’ll uncover!

Rick Norsigian may make a profit from the discovery of these negatives but what made Ansel Adams world famous were his moody prints, masterfully produced in the dark room using techniques and tools (like dark red filters) to heighten contrasts and create a larger than life play on light and shadow. Those skills went with the legend when he died in 1984 at age 82.

I have no illusions about discovering a box of something worth $200 Million, but this certainly inspires me to look at every item and contemplate its value and potential.

This post is linked to: Welcome Wednesday / Works for Me Wednesdays / Creative Therapy Session / Show and Tell / Penny Pinching Party / We Did it Wednesdays / Make it Yours Day


  1. Hmm interesting, I knew as soon as you said black and white it would be Ansel Adams. Who else pushed Chiaroscuro in the photography world more than Adams. I think his grandson is right in that the real magic happened in the dark room so how could these possibly represent Adams? Ah well, either way this guy deserves to make a profit on these slides and Adams family are acting like jackals. I understand protecting a legacy but try to keep an open mind and realize your grandfather was human maybe he lost a few negatives, who knows things happen in a lifetime.

  2. Wow, those are really great pics too!
    I am a new follower from Welcome Wednesday, so glad to have found your blog. Hope you have a wonderful Wednesday!


  3. following from take it from me,

    I love thrifting :o)

  4. This is a yard sale dream come true. While I would be awesome if the negatives are absolutely authentic, just making a print from them will never be a true Adams. I remember from working in a darkroom in film photography classes how much work it takes to add extra depth to a photo while printing it. My instructor told us that Adams would spend HOURS in the darkroom trying to print one of his photos just right.

  5. I am following from Welcome Wednesdays!


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