“An incredible result for an incredible item,” says the auction house, which had estimated the glasses to sell for about £15,000.
A pair of glasses belonging to Indian icon Mahatma Gandhi have sold for £260,000 after they were discovered hanging halfway out of an auction house’s letterbox.
East Bristol Auctions had estimated the glasses would sell for about £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.
They were given to him by the famous civil rights leader, and were passed down from generation to generation.
Announcing the sale on Friday on social media, the auction house described it as an “incredible result for an incredible item”.
The glasses were left in an envelope in the auction house’s letterbox, with a note inside saying: “These glasses belonged to Gandhi, give me a call.”
“These are probably the most famous pair of spectacles we’ve ever had, and the most important historical item we’ve found,” said Andrew Stowe, one of the auctioneers.
“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’.”
He added: “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.”
Gandhi was a lawyer and political activist who led the campaign for Indian independence from British rule through a non-violent protest movement.
His style of attire – a loincloth, shawl, sandals and glasses – became firmly associated with the nationalist movement.