A careless gander at Scott’s geese cost me £250
I used to live near a warehouse used for storing and selling goods. The place was stacked to the roof with old books, china and antique furniture. It was always worth a browse to check on any gems that might have been overlooked.
One afternoon I spotted an oil painting of a flight of geese by moonlight. It wasn’t that appealing as a piece of art. It might have been the work of an artist still developing his or her skills. Then I noticed the signature. The name was clearly that of a Peter Scott.
Peter Scott is a name synonymous with wildlife paintings so I look closer and decided it was worth the asking price of just £2.50. But I had left my wallet at home.
Not far from the warehouse was a antiques shop and art gallery. A month or two later, my jaw dropped at the sight of that same painting in a new frame. It had star billing in the shop window with a sign saying, “Geese by Moonlight by Sir Peter Scott”. The price tag was a hefty £250.
I’ll never know if it was an authentic painting by Scott, the son of the Antarctic explorer Robert Falcon Scott, but I certainly let slip an opportunity to grab a work which at least the owner of the antique shop believed was by the famous wildlife artist.
I was stupid and unlucky but there are those moments when people get lucky and discover artefacts which turn their lives around. The stuff hidden in darkest corners that turns out to be worth millions.
If it happens, it must feel better than winning the lottery.
Here are five examples that captured the public imagination.
Cheque-mate? Chessman netted a £735,000
A medieval chess piece, bought originally for £5, recently sold at a Southeby’s auction for £735,000.
The owners of the piece had kept it in a drawer for 50 years before discovering that it was one five missing pieces from a twelfth century set known as the Lewis Chessmen.
The Lewis Chessmen are a famous hoard of 93 characters discovered in 1831 on the Isle of Lewis. The pieces were all carved from Walrus bone and are believed to have originated from Norway.
This particular piece, representing a rook on the chess board was bought by the owners’ grandfather in Edinburgh in the early sixties.
However, at the time of the original discovery in 1831, five pieces were missing – one knight and four rooks. The missing pieces are still out there somewhere.
TV table turned lives around
My memory of the Scott flying geese painting brought to mind the story of the Japanese box being used by an elderly gentleman to prop up his telly.
When the man died, the man’s children became overnight millionaires. The “battered old box” was in fact one of only ten in the world of the “Mazarin” style made in Kyoto, Japan in the late 17th century and brought to Europe. A Dutch auction house bought it for £6.3 million.
Art dealer splashed out £2 million for Chinese “cornflake” bowl
A New York family had the ultimate car boot sale experience when they bought a dull looking bowl for few cents.
They didn’t realise at the time but it was a bowl which had survived for a 1,000 years back to the North Song Chinese Dynasty.
The only other example of such a bowl is in the British Museum. London dealer Giuseppe Eskenazi, regarded as the Godfather of Chinese art, paid £2 million for the New York version at auction. It measures just over five inches in diameter. Just big enough to hold Giuseppe’s breakfast Cornflakes.
Here’s the news about that car boot diamond: It’s not fake!
A woman who paid £10 for what she thought was a fake diamond ring at a car boot sale at West Middlesex Hospital, London in the 1980s now knows why a diamond is a girl’s best friend.
She wore the “fake” almost every day for 30 years thinking it was a piece of costume jewellery.
But, in 2017, the woman — who wished to remain anonymous — discovered that the ring was actually a 26-carat diamond.
“It was only early on this year that she wanted to see if it had any value,” Sotheby’s Jessica Wyndham, told a BBC reporter in 2017: “It was a total surprise to her when the jeweller said that it looks like a diamond.”
The £10 ring was suddenly valued at over £350,00 but it sold for more than £656,000. Talk about shine on you crazy diamond.
Geiger revealed identity of 007’s watch
In 2013, a bargain hunter couldn’t believe his luck after he picked up an old Breitling watch at a car boot sale. He paid 25 quid. But this was no standard Breitling watch because closer inspection revealed it also had a Geiger counter mechanism.
Although it was a fake Geiger counter mechanism it proved this was the watch worn by Sean Connery as James Bond in the movie Thunderball.
The Geiger counter feature was what clinched the watch as being from the movie.
The customised Breitling Top-Time watch sold later that year for a timely £131,000. That’s what I call a licence to thrill!
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