It’s every garage sale shopper’s dream: Find two boxes of old negatives for $70, bargain the price to $45, and discover 10 years later that they’re worth at least $200 million. That’s what happened to Rick Norsigian, who spent the past decade proving the negatives he found in Fresno, Calif., were pictures taken by Ansel Adams in the 1920s, before the photographer became well known. Photography, handwriting, and art experts, art appraisers, and even meteorologists helped authenticate the photos.
The 65 glass negatives, originally thought destroyed in a 1937 darkroom fire, are “a missing link of Ansel Adams and his career,” one appraiser tells CNN. The person selling them 10 years ago bought them in the 1940s in Los Angeles, and one expert says Adams brought the negatives—some of which have fire damage—to a class he was teaching “to show students how to not let their negatives be engulfed in a fire.”