A pair of Mahatma Gandhi’s glasses are going under the hammer after they were discovered in an envelope hanging halfway out of an auction house’s letterbox for two days.
Staff at East Bristol Auctions told Sky News that a man “popped them through” last Friday, but because they do not open at weekends, the “iconic” spectacles belonging to the Indian civil rights leader were not found until the following Monday.
“A colleague of mine picked them up, ripped open the envelope and found a brief note inside saying, ‘These glasses belonged to Gandhi, give me a call,'” said Andrew Stowe, one of the auctioneers.
He continued: “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.”
Mr Stowe says the glasses belonged to the seller’s uncle, who worked in South Africa around the same time Gandhi was there – between 1910 and 1930.
The uncle is said to have been gifted them after helping Gandhi in some way, and they were passed down from generation to generation.
“These are probably the most famous pair of spectacles we’ve ever had, and the most important historical items we’ve found”, said Mr Stowe.
“They are as iconic as Jimi Hendrix’s guitar is to Jimi Hendrix.
“They are a real and important and iconic piece of history, they’re very important, not just to us, but to the vendor and to the greater world as well, they are very special.”
Mr Stowe added that the glasses could actually fetch “way more” than their estimated price when they go on sale later this month.
He said: “Obviously Gandhi is one of the most iconic people in our modern history and when you think of Gandhi, one thinks of the glasses, the shawl, the sandals.”
Mr Stowe said he hoped that the glasses would end up in a museum, adding that they are “part of everybody’s history in the world and they probably deserve to be on display somewhere”.
Mahatma Gandhi’s glasses will go under the hammer as part of an online-only auction on 21 August.