A painting bought on a whim in 1980 for $60 from a “peculiar artist” at a fair in Anchorage has turned out to be $10,000 windfall for a Minnesota couple. Larry Walton purchased the framed painting of the northern lights in a winter night sky because it reminded him of his bush pilot days in Alaska. Eighteen years after the purchase, Larry and his wife Denise were moving into a new house near the Twin Cities in Minnesota. The black painting didn’t match the new decor, so for 21 years the painting hung in the garage, exposed only to artificial light.

The couple recently decided to move to a retirement community. While helping to clean the garage, their son-in-law thought a painting on the wall looked familiar to a YouTube video image that had recently popped up on his “recommended” video list (a list generated based on a user’s viewing history). He hadn’t watched the video but remembered the screenshot of PBS artist Bob Ross (1942-1995) and his paintings of the northern lights. Sure enough, the Waltons’ painting was by Bob Ross, the creator and host of “The Joy of Painting,” an instructional TV program that aired from 1983 (three years after Walton made his purchase) to 1994 on PBS in the U.S., Canada, Latin America and Europe.

It turns out the “peculiar artist” at the fair was the distinctly bushy-haired Ross, now a cult icon because of his appearance and unique style of instruction.

The family did exactly the right thing while downsizing: They didn’t just tote boxes of stuff to donation centers. They looked at everything. Once the Ross painting was identified, another family member researched Ross and found a feature story from The New York Times noting that finding a Ross original — despite him painting as many as 30,000 canvasses for the show — was difficult. Nearly all the television-era paintings are stored in a warehouse owned by Bob Ross Inc.

An art gallery in Minneapolis paid the Waltons $10,000 for the painting. It is now on Modern Artifact’s eBay page for $18,450. “Pre-show” Ross paintings, however, aren’t worth as much as show artwork. An ocean scene from the 24th season is priced at $95,000.