When Is an Adams Not an Adams? When the Expert Changes His Mind.

Ansel Adams is one of the most well-known American nature photographers — http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ansel_Adams . Original works by him are thus quite valuable. It was thus quite exciting when Rick Norsigian bought a box of negatives at a California garage sale for $45 and, through the assistance of experts, was able to authenticate the negatives as original Adams’s works with a value of more than $200,000,000. Robert Moeller III was the lead expert who authenticated the find.

Now, just as the prints are about to go on sale, Moeller has changed his mind — http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/31/arts/design/31adams.html?ref=arts. He no longer believes that the works are Adams, but rather are the works of Earl Brooks, an unheralded photographer. Since the $200,000,000 valuation is nowhere close to the value of Brooks’s originals – a Brooks negative might sell for $25 whereas an Adams negative might fetch $7,500 – the authenticity dispute is only likely to increase. It should make for an interesting diminution in value claim if a loss ever results!

If you have any questions about this post, please contact Bob Cosgrove at rcosgrove@wcmlaw.com.