Crafty Investor Makes $199,999,955 Off Ansel Adams Photos

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Victor Rice-Wray/Corbis

(Updated on Wednesday, July 28 at 12:00 p.m. EST)

A man in California bought a collection of never-before Ansel Adams negatives at a garage sale for $45 and now they’re worth $200 million. But we’re sure those old stuffed animals you bought from your neighbor were cool too.

Rick Norsigian, a painter from Fresno, spotted the collection in an envelope at a yard sale in 2000. After negotiating the price down from $70, Norsigian began suspecting that negatives were some of Adams’ early work that had gone missing after a fire. He spent the ensuing decade attempting to verify that the collection was genuine

After assembling art and Adams experts Norsigian found that, though they suspected the photographs were genuine, none of them would go on the record authenticating the claims. However, with the work of a handwriting expert and a meteorologist, he was able to conclude that Adams’ wife had written on the envelopes, and that some of the photos had been taken on the same day as other known Adams photos in the same location.

The collection was subsequently appraised at $200 million. “It truly is a missing link of Ansel Adams and history and his career,” appraiser David Streets told CNN.

However, some of Adam’s relatives are skeptical. A Los Angeles Times report on Wednesday shows that both dealers and people from Adams’ inner circle still seriously question Norsigian’s claims.

“I really resent people who have gone out and hired some so-called experts. I give them no credence in terms of their knowledge of Ansel’s work,” William Turnage, Adams’ business manager until his death in 1984, told the Times.

The photos go on display tonight at Streets’ gallery in Los Angeles.

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