Elderly man's Chinese art valued at £300: what did it fetch?

the highly-prized Chinese panels that sold at auction for £516,600

A widower put four Chinese panels up for sale when he moved into a care home. They had been in his bungalow since his father passed away, and while two were hung in his bedroom, the other two had been languishing under the bed.

The auctioneer called around a few experts, and received very little interest, so valued them at £300. However, they were in for a surprise.

The panels fetched £420,000 at auction.

They had been brought back from Hong Kong by the owner's father in the 1960s, they depicted the four seasons, and were painted on porcelain and mounted into wooden panels.

Richard Bromwell of Charterhouse Auctioneers of Sherborne, Dorset told the Daily Mail he didn't think they were very visually appealing, and had initially received very little interest, so hadn't put a particularly high value on the works.

However, when the auction catalogue was published, the auctioneer received an offer for £10,000, and so many enquiries from overseas that ten telephone lines were opened for the auction. The works were eventually sold to an anonymous bidder from Shangai.

Lying around

And this isn't the first time that valuable works have been found lying around in people's homes. Here are five of our favourites.

1. One of the most dramatic was the couple who put an antique vase up for auction in 2010 and received an astonishing bid for £43 million. Sadly the buyer pulled out, but eventually another buyer was found who paid £25 million to the delighted pair.

2. Then there was a cracked vase which was being used as an umbrella stand by a couple in Dorset. It turned out to be a 1740 pot made for Emperor Qianlong and sold for £750,000.

3. In 1986 a couple took a watercolour to the Antiques Roadshow. They were about to move it to the shed while they redecorated the lounge, but changed their mind when they discovered it was The Halt in the Desert, by Richard Dadd, which had been missing since 1857. It was sold to the British Museum a year after the programme for £100,000.

4. Last year we heard the tale of the couple from Northumberland who sold a rare Roman coffin for £40,000. For the previous 30 years they had been using it as a garden planter.

5. And then there was the story of the moss-covered stone, which had been used as a doorstep by a couple from Exeter. It turned out to be a Buddhist temple step that was up to 1,300 years old, and sold for more than £550,000.

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