"the most important historical item we've found."
A pair of glasses belonging to Mahatma Gandhi have sold for £260,000 at auction, 26 times the guide price.
They were discovered hanging halfway out of East Bristol Auctions and they estimated that the spectacles would sell for approximately £15,000.
The seller had inherited them from an uncle who worked in South Africa around the same time Gandhi was there, between 1910 and 1930.
The gold-coloured glasses were given to him by the famous civil rights leader.
They were passed down from generation to generation before ending up in the letterbox of East Bristol Auctions. The rare item was left in an envelope, with a note inside saying:
“These glasses belonged to Gandhi, give me a call.”
Mahatma Gandhi used non-violent resistance to lead the campaign for Indian independence from the rule of Britain in the 20th century.
He developed a distinctive look which many recognise him by, which included the glasses.
A sale price was set between £10,000 and £15,000, however, they ended up fetching £260,000.
The auction house announced the sale on August 21, 2020, describing it as an “incredible result for an incredible item”.
Andrew Stowe, of East Bristol Auctions, said:
“These are probably the most famous pair of spectacles we’ve ever had, and the most important historical item we’ve found.
“I read the note, carried on with the morning duties, and then around lunchtime I thought, ‘Well let’s give this gentleman a call, let’s see what the story is’.
“A few hours later, we were digging around and doing some research and we discovered that they are a very important historical find. I phoned the gentleman back… his exact words were ‘if they’re no good, just throw them away’.
“I told him I thought they were worth £15,000, and I think he nearly fell off his chair.”
On the large sum of money, Mr Stowe said:
“It’s a phenomenal result. These glasses have been lying in a drawer for the best part of fifty years.
“The vendor literally told me to throw them away if they were ‘no good’. Now he gets a life-changing sum of money.
“It’s the ‘good news’ story that we all want – as an elderly gentleman, our vendor has probably had a rough time in recent months and to be able to change his life is just incredible.
“The price is outstanding, but its not about the money
“We had interest from all over the world – bids came from India, Qatar, American, Russia, Canada.
“It’s completely spellbinding, and a wonderful thing to be a part of. It’s been a complete honour to handle these spectacles and find them a new home.
“These glasses represent not only an auction record for us but a find of international historical importance.
“Gandhi’s glasses have surpassed all expectations, and previous house records. It’s been a great day.”
Mr Stowe went on to say that Mahatma Gandhi was known to give away his personal possessions to those who helped him.
He added: “The uncle in question worked for British Petroleum at the time, and the family legend was that he had helped Gandhi in some way during his visit and in return for the favour, he was gifted these glasses.
“It’s just the most incredible story. The owner had no idea of their value, and would’ve been quite happy to receive fifty pounds for them I’m sure.
“When I told him of the valuation, the line went quiet for a moment – he was rather surprised.
“It’s one of those moments we all dream of – discovering something we’ve owned for years is worth thousands of pounds.
“It’s always a complete joy to make these discoveries.”