Friday, October 21, 2016

From Trash to Treasure: Ansel Adams Photo Plates worth $200 Million

July 29, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

I have long been a believer that somebody’s trash could be somebody else’s treasure, but it was only probably two years ago that I have taken to buying “used” items at garage sales and thrift shops to start my own “collection”.

Aside from the “aged” character these old items naturally possess, buying used according to advocates of eco-friendly living, is a way to re-use and re-cycle, an advocacy I have quite recently acquired and decided to support.

I am certain, though, that Rick Norsigian will share in the belief that there really is such a thing as “from trash to treasure”, because he found one worth $200 Million in a garage sale!

Norsigian was actually scouring garage sales looking for a barber chair back in 2000 when he chanced upon two boxes containing some glass negatives. He said, “When I pulled one of those glass negatives out, I seen Yosemite… As a young man, I worked at Yosemite quite a bit. So, right away I recognized it as Yosemite.”

After bickering with the seller, Norsigian said he got the two boxes of glass negatives for $45.

Today, art, forensic, handwriting and weather experts have concluded that the 65 glass plates in Norsigian’s possession are indeed photographic negatives created more than 80 years ago by Ansel Adams, the iconic American photographer whose images of the West inspired the country.

Beverly Hills appraiser and art dealer David W. Streets said, “It truly is a missing link of Ansel Adams and history and his career.”

Streets also said it could take a a while before Norsigian sees the profits from the sale of prints from the negatives, but he estimates that over the next 25 years it could mean over $200 million for Norsigian.

If that does not make you want to scour garage sales and thrift shops, I don’t know what will.

More entries by Omar Mercado at

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