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Chess Piece That Was Bought For £5 Sells At Auction For £735,000

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Chess Piece That Was Bought For £5 Sells At Auction For £735,000

A chess piece that was missing for almost 200 years sold today for an eye-watering £735,000 ($926,000) after it was purchased in 1964 for just £5.

The previous owners had kept the item in a drawer with no idea that it was in fact one of the long-lost Lewis Chessmen.

Some of the pieces were used as models for a chess scene in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone but the whereabouts of five of the objects remained a mystery.

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Now one of them has been found by a family whose grandfather bought it for £5 in 1964.

According to the Mirror, the antiques dealer from Edinburgh had no idea of the significance of the 8.8cm piece, made from walrus ivory, which he passed down to his family.

The chess piece sold for £735,000. Credit: Sotheby's
The chess piece sold for £735,000. Credit: Sotheby's

Alexander Kader, Sotheby's co-worldwide head of European sculpture and works of art, said that his jaw 'dropped' when he saw what the family had in their possession.

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Speaking to Press Association, he said: "They brought it in for assessment. That happens everyday. Our doors are open for free valuations.

"We get called down to the counter and have no idea what we are going to see. More often than not, it's not worth very much. I said, 'Oh my goodness, it's one of the Lewis Chessmen'."

The auction house couldn't believe what came through the doors. Credit: Sotheby's
The auction house couldn't believe what came through the doors. Credit: Sotheby's

Mr Kader added: "This is one of the most exciting and personal rediscoveries to have been made during my career."

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The family who wish to remain anonymous said that the piece was 'treasured' by them despite not knowing its significance. The current owner's late mother even believe it 'almost had magical qualities'. For £735,000 I'd expect it to as well.

A family spokesman said in a statement obtained by the Mirror: "My grandfather was an antiques dealer based in Edinburgh, and in 1964 he purchased an ivory chessman from another Edinburgh dealer.

"It was catalogued in his purchase ledger that he had bought an 'Antique Walrus Tusk Warrior Chessman'. From this description it can be assumed that he was unaware he had purchased an important historic artefact.

The owner's late mother believed that the piece has some 'magical significance'. Credit: Sotheby's
The owner's late mother believed that the piece has some 'magical significance'. Credit: Sotheby's
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"It was stored away in his home and then when my grandfather died my mother inherited the chess piece.

"My mother was very fond of the Chessman as she admired its intricacy and quirkiness. She believed that it was special and thought perhaps it could even have had some magical significance.

"For many years it resided in a drawer in her home where it had been carefully wrapped in a small bag. From time to time, she would remove the chess piece from the drawer in order to appreciate its uniqueness."

Featured Image Credit: Sotheby's

Topics: News, UK, auction

Rebecca Shepherd
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