Ansel Adams-signed Modern Photograph

Value (2015) | $2,000 Auction$3,500 Auction

Unfortunately, I don't know a lot. It is an Ansel Adams signed print. It is a picture of Yosemite Valley in California, in Yosemite National Park. It's my understanding that when he was younger he took a lot of pictures. On one weekend, he would make the prints, and he would go back the next weekend and sell them in the park himself. When I moved out there I was introduced to his work, liked it a lot, and one day a friend of mine had this beautiful print delivered to my home as a gift.

Ansel Adams made many trips to Yosemite, because he fell in love with the natural landscape and found that that was going to be the subject matter of his photography. The first trips he made were actually with his family as a teenager, and that was in the '20s. In the '30s, when he committed to becoming a fine art photographer, he really focused on the California landscape, and Yosemite, of course, was one of those places that he recognized was a fragile, majestic, and beautiful wilderness. This image is entitled Valley View. It was made about 1936, so the negative was generated in Adams's early career, before he became an environmentalist and a public figure. What's interesting, as we know, Ansel Adams became a pretty famous photographer. In 1958 he decides that he's going to work with a team of darkroom technicians, he himself is no longer going to do a lot of the printing, and make what he referred to as open ended editions. If we turn your picture around, there's a hand stamp on the back of the mount that reads, "Special edition of fine prints." So this special edition is introduced about 1958, and in the 1960s and 1970s, Adams revisits older negatives, like this one from 1936, and he supervises the printing of those negatives.

I see.

So here's the man who wrote the book about the zone system and the perfect photographic print, and in a sense, he's relinquishing the production of his prints to very able darkroom assistants. Indeed, this special edition print is signed by Adams in the lower right corner. Today, you can go to the Adams Gallery in Yosemite and buy a print of Yosemite for $250. But they're not signed by Ansel Adams. Do you have any idea what this print might be worth?

Because I lived in California and I saw some others, and again, I haven't been in California for almost 15 years, I would always tell people, "Maybe 500 bucks."

Well, when these prints come to the auction market, they generally sell between $2,000 and $3,500.


Appraisal Details

Swann Auction Galleries
New York, NY
Appraised value (2015)
$2,000 Auction$3,500 Auction
Omaha, NE (June 27, 2015)

Executive producer Marsha Bemko shares her tips for getting the most out of ANTIQUES ROADSHOW.

Value can change: The value of an item is dependent upon many things, including the condition of the object itself, trends in the market for that kind of object, and the location where the item will be sold. These are just some of the reasons why the answer to the question "What's it worth?" is so often "It depends."

Note the date: Take note of the date the appraisal was recorded. This information appears in the upper left corner of the page, with the label "Appraised On." Values change over time according to market forces, so the current value of the item could be higher, lower, or the same as when our expert first appraised it.

Context is key: Listen carefully. Most of our experts will give appraisal values in context. For example, you'll often hear them say what an item is worth "at auction," or "retail," or "for insurance purposes" (replacement value). Retail prices are different from wholesale prices. Often an auctioneer will talk about what she knows best: the auction market. A shop owner will usually talk about what he knows best: the retail price he'd place on the object in his shop. And though there are no hard and fast rules, an object's auction price can often be half its retail value; yet for other objects, an auction price could be higher than retail. As a rule, however, retail and insurance/replacement values are about the same.

Verbal approximations: The values given by the experts on ANTIQUES ROADSHOW are considered "verbal approximations of value." Technically, an "appraisal" is a legal document, generally for insurance purposes, written by a qualified expert and paid for by the owner of the item. An appraisal usually involves an extensive amount of research to establish authenticity, provenance, composition, method of construction, and other important attributes of a particular object.

Opinion of value: As with all appraisals, the verbal approximations of value given at ROADSHOW events are our experts' opinions formed from their knowledge of antiques and collectibles, market trends, and other factors. Although our valuations are based on research and experience, opinions can, and sometimes do, vary among experts.

Appraiser affiliations: Finally, the affiliation of the appraiser may have changed since the appraisal was recorded. To see current contact information for an appraiser in the ROADSHOW Archive, click on the link below the appraiser's picture. Our Appraiser Index also contains a complete list of active ROADSHOW appraisers and their contact details and biographies.