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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Treasures Discovered in Unexpected Places

What comes to mind when you think of garage sales? Do the words dirty, old, and trash come to mind? How about ugly and cheap? The image of my grandma’s outdated ceramic lamp with a bright yellow sticker labeled $1.00 crosses my mind. What about a price tag of $200 million? That’s the incredible profit a lucky Californian may be making from a box of supposed "junk" from a garage sale. It was 10 years ago when Fresno, California native, Rick Norsigian, stopped by a garage sale and picked up two boxes full of negatives for $45 bucks. The negatives are now being attributed to the famed photographer Ansel Adams, whose photographs of the American West made him one of the most recognized and famed photographers of all time.

Experts believed the negatives were destroyed in a fire in 1937 at Adams’s studio, however, after much research it is now believed that the plates survived and can be attributed to the artist. This treasure, “is going to show the world the evolution of his eye, of his talent, of his skill, his gift, but also his legacy,” said David W. Streets, the appraiser and art dealer who is hosting the unveiling of the photographs.

The most incredible part? The plates, which were originally purchased for $45 are now reportedly worth $200 million! That’s enough to get everyone rethinking a visit to their local garage-sale and flea market circuit. This isn’t the first time art treasures have been salvaged from the trash. In fact, a work by an iconic Spanish artist was found in an attic in the UK in 2008 that scored $200,000 at auction. Additionally, a genuine Da Vinci painting was found hidden behind another painting. And in 2007, a man bought an old parchment from a Tennessee thrift store for $2.48 that turned out to be an original version of the Declaration of Independence! True, these stories of hidden treasure are few and far between, but the fact is, many people have something worth more than they think. It’s a stretch, but you may be the next Rick Norsigian and score it big!

The role of an appraiser or art expert was significant in all these cases. In the case of Mr. Norsigian, expert Manny Medrano was hired to authenticate the negatives. Michael Nattenberg and Marcel Matley were called in to study the handwriting on the deteriorating envelopes the negatives were found in. Art Appraiser, David W. Streets stated that, "It truly is a missing link of Ansel Adams and history and his career." The photographs will be unveiled at his Beverly Hills gallery in the upcoming week.

With the help of these professionals, what was once garage sale "junk" is now an astonishing investment for the lucky Norsigian.

MIR Appraisal Services, Inc. employs a team of researchers and appraisers who are dedicated to our clients’ needs. Whether you want to know more about the "hidden treasures" in your home, or are seeking a detailed report for insurance purposes, please visit our website at to learn more about our services.

Written and researched by Taylor Maatman

MIR Appraisal Services, Inc.

307 N. Michigan Avenue, Suite 308

Chicago, IL 60601

Phone: (312) 814-8510

Works cited:


We are pleased to present a list of our favorite art-programming events in Chicago for the upcoming month of August. Happy summer from your friends at MIR Appraisal Services!

Fiesta del Sol

August 1st, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.

1400 W. Cermak Road

Arts and crafts, live music, carnival rides, and soccer games featured at the 38th annual Pilsen street festival.

Fantastic Landscapes

August 2nd-October 1st

310 S. Michigan Avenue

Featuring Chicago photographers, sculptors, and painters who complicate and create new ideas concerning the art landscape genre.

Public Works Opening

August 6th, 6 p.m.-9 p.m.

Andrew Rafacz Gallery

835 W. Washington Blvd., Chicago, IL 60607

Showcasing the works of Dan Funderburgh, with his “unabashed love for decorative arts”; Mike Perry, who believes that “the generating of piles is the sincerest form of creative process”; Nick Butcher and Nadine Nakanishi of Sonnenzimmer, who interestingly braid together inspiration from music and painting in the art of printmaking; and the experimental screenprinted posters of Yannick Desranleau and Chloe Lum from Seripop.

Evanston Lakeshore Arts Festival

August 7th and 8th, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.

Dawes Park

Family activities, jazz and classical music in Evanston’s lovely Dawes Park. A lakeside tradition for more than thirty years.

Summer Sounds—Jason Simon’s One-Minute Film Festival

August 13th, 9 p.m.-12 a.m.

Pritzker Garden

Art Institute of Chicago

Witness filmmaker Jason Simon’s presentation of a wide-range of motion films, each 60 seconds or less in length, from various contributors, in a “decidedly party atmosphere.” Simon is accepting film submissions; details here:

Land Without End and Other Works by Theo Leffman

August 15th, Sunday exhibition tours, 1 p.m.

(tours every Sunday through August 28th)

Alsdorf Gallery

The Block Museum, Northwestern University

Exhibition of Leffman’s masterful fiber artworks from the museum’s permanent collection.

Awareness Practice and Talk with Jackie Kazarian and Ginger Farley

August 18th, 12:15

Chicago Cultural Center

75 E. Washington Street

Chicago, IL 60602

As part of the exhibition Expect Nothing: New Works by Jackie Kazarian, this event features Kazarian and choreographer Ginger Farley in artistic communication with one another, as they “observe one another spontaneously moving and drawing with eyes closed.”

Gold Coast Art Fair

August 20th, noon-7 p.m.

August 21st, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.

August 22nd, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

Grant Park

For more than half a century, this “giant craft happening” annually offers free music, art events and children’s activities.

Ukranian Heritage Festival

August 21st-22nd, noon-10 p.m.

Smith Park

2526 West Grand Avenue

In its 27th year, this Ukranian cultural celebration offers music, dance, food, and arts and crafts.

Bucktown Arts Festival

August 28th-August 29th, 11 a.m.-7 p.m.

Senior Citizens Memorial Park

2300 N. Oakley Avenue

The festival’s 25th anniversary art event features the works of visual artists, as well as music, dancing, poetry and more.

Containing Emotions: Chairs

Smart Museum of Art

August 29th, 12:00 p.m.-3:00 p.m.

As part of the exhibition Mid-Century: “Good Design” in Europe and America, 1850-1950, poet Matthias Regan leads a workshop in which poetic and philosophic excerpts from Lorine Niedecker, John Dewey, Gertrude Stein and Martin Heidegger will be considered in relation to our felt experience with everyday objects. Free event, but advance registration necessary; contact Kristy Peterson at kristypeterson@uchicago.ed or 773.702.2351.

MIR Appraisal Services, Inc.


View works in our collection and bring in works from your own collection! With an attitude of reverence and with supreme skill, the experts at MIR Appraisal Services, Inc., extensively research fine art and personal property, providing in-depth analysis, consultation, and formal appraisal reports for your most prized works of art. Please do email or call (312) 814-8510.

Written and researched by Jessica Savitz

MIR Appraisal Services, Inc.

Principal Appraiser & Director: Farhad Radfar, ISA, AM

307 N. Michigan Avenue, Suite 308

Chicago, IL 60601

Phone: (312) 814-8510


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    Chicago, Illinois, United States
    Welcome to our blog site! MIR Appraisal Services, Inc. is a fine art and personal property appraisal company dedicated to serving clients throughout the United States and abroad since our incorporation in Chicago in 1994. We specialize in the multi-faceted field of appraising fine art, jewelry, antiques, and decorative items. We also provide professional fine art restoration and conservation treatment for various media, including but not limited to, artworks on canvas, board, masonite, and paper. We offer professional and precise appraisal services carried out by our team of accredited appraisers for the purposes of insurance coverage and claims, charitable donations, estate planning and probate, equitable distribution and fair-market value. We started our art commentary blog site as a venue for colleagues and fellow art enthusiasts to share their experiences within the art community.