A six-inch china ornament bought at a car boot sale for £2 turned out to be a rare sculpture worth £30,000.
The object, a white ceramic figure of a sleeping baby, has been described as the "holy grail" of English porcelain.
The eagle-eyed car boot enthusiast snapped up the six-inch white Chelsea figure at an car boot sale in Gloucestershire in the mid-1990s, but it was almost 30 years before they decided to have it valued.
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They were amazed to discover that the £2 ornament was one of the first pieces produced at London’s famous Chelsea factory around 278 years ago.
It is now going under the hammer with an expected sale price of between £20,000 and £30,000.
Auctioneer Charles Hanson said: “It’s extremely important because it demonstrates early attempts to make figures in the mid-18th century.
“A sleeping child in a horizontal position would have been far easier to make than a standing figure.
Charles says the piece was almost certainly made at the Chelsea factory during its early production period in 1746. “At that time the factory was led by Nicholas Sprimont, a silversmith and entrepreneur who became its first director," he said.
"A similar example is in the British Museum incised with the date June 26, 1746.
“A find like this is the holy grail for any keen collector of early English porcelain. Many would love to acquire it… it represents the most charming and rarest of English porcelain figures.
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The seller, who wishes to remain anonymous, snapped up the baby porcelain sculpture after he suspected it may be valuable.
Charles added: “The person who bought the item off the car boot was a knowledgeable person in porcelain and had a suspicion when he saw it that it could be something worthwhile.
"He had a hunch, and this has obviously been proven with our estimate."
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“After buying it the item sat on a shelf for many years as the buyer knew that the item had the potential to bring a huge monetary return and it was a bargain to buy.
“But in the end it was bought by the person as they had a big interest in porcelain and had a suspicion it could be something exciting.”
The sleeping baby figure will be sold at Hanson Holloway’s Ross Auctions in Banbury, Oxfordshire, on March 4.
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