A California man with a penchant for antique shopping at garage sales — and an eye for artistic gems — may be more than $200 million richer.

And all it took was $45 and the find of a lifetime.

Back in 2000, painter Rick Norsigian purchased two boxes filled with 65 glass negatives from a garage sale in Fresno, Calif., for $45 — after bargaining down from the original price of $70.

Norsigian thought the negatives bared a slight resemblance to the work of famed nature photographer Ansel Adams. Ten years, and a team of stunned experts later, it turns out that Norsigian's hunch was right.

"It truly is a missing link of Ansel Adams and history and his career," David W. Streets, the appraiser who is hosting the unveiling of the negatives, told CNN.

It's estimated that the photos, which feature various scenes from Yosemite National Park and San Francisco, were taken between 1919 and the early 1930s. It was originally thought that Adams' early work was consumed in a darkroom fire that destroyed some 5,000 slides in 1937.

Long considered the "father of American photography", Adams was an environmentalist who urged conservation for the stunning black and whites scenes he captured on film. Beyond helping to promote the initiatives of the Sierra Club, he's also credited with expanding the National Park System and encouraging a greater appreciation of our natural treasures.

"It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment," he once stated.

As for his rediscovered early work, plans are afoot to begin selling original prints to museums and collectors in about six months. Whether any of that money ends up supporting the very places Adams loved to capture is anyone's guess.

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