When trash becames TREASURE! UK’s rarest charity shop finds that were picked up for pennies… but worth thousands – could YOU spot a bargain?
Charity shops have long been celebrated by many as a crucial feature of the Great British high street.
They offer shoppers a unqiue experience of delving into the unknown, unaware of what they might come away with and the importance that it may hold.
It can be especially rewarding when you pick up much more than you bargained for and these charity shop finds really do put meaning to the saying ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure’.
And you will not believe how much these rare finds were sold for at auction, with some being picked up for nearly £500,000.
From a Chinese vase which was brought for a measly £1 to a first edition copy of the book Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone which was picked up for 30p, here we list some of the most expensive items that were found on the shop floor.
Most recently a first edition copy of J R R Tolkein’s The Hobbit book, which follows the misadventures of Bilbo Baggins in a prequel to the Lord of the Rings franchise sold for a whopping £10,099 at auction
The book, which was published in 1937, was discovered by chance at a Cancer Research UK chaity shop in Dundee by shop manager Adam Carsley
First Edition of The Hobbit – £10,099
Most recently a first edition copy of J R R Tolkein’s The Hobbit book, which follows the misadventures of Bilbo Baggins in a prequel to the Lord of the Rings franchise sold for a whopping £10,099 at auction.
The book, which was published in 1937, was discovered by chance at a Cancer Research UK chaity shop in Dundee by shop manager Adam Carsley.
It is one of just 1,500 copies released in the original run and features black and white illustrations by Tolkien himself, making it a super rare find.
He said: ‘I opened the first page to see it was a first edition and thought it may be worthy of sending to the eBay team.
‘At first, I thought we’d get a maximum of £500 if we were lucky, so I couldn’t believe it when I heard a few months later it had sold for over £10,000.
‘To my knowledge this is one the most valuable items donated to one of our stores. Most definitely the highest price achieved on our eBay site for a single item.
‘Donations like these help to fund lifesaving research across the whole of the UK.’
In 2019 a sharp eyed volunteer at the British Heart Foundations Midhurst charity shop spotted a unique and incredibly valueable first Beatles single
At one point during the Ebay auction, people were bidding as much as £3,000 for the record when it still had 1 day and 7 hours left to be sold
The Beatles Love Me Do Record – £8,000
In 2019 a sharp eyed volunteer at the British Heart Foundations Midhurst charity shop spotted a unique and incredibly valueable first Beatles single.
A 1962 promotional copy of the single Love Me Do was handed into the shop in Midhurst, West Sussex, among a plastic bag full of 25 other records by an unknown woman.
The 45 inch single was sold for just over £8,000 on Ebay back in March 2019.
It is one of only a handful pressed for radio play before anyone had ever heard of the Fab Four and even features a miss-spelling of bass player Paul McCartneys name, making it all the more unique.
The words ‘Lennon–McArtney’ appear on the label of the record instead, with the words ‘Demonstration Record’ and ‘Not For Sale’ also on the label.
The B side of the Parlophone single has another early Lennon and McCartney track ‘PS I Love You’.
Around 250 of the demos were pressed by Parlophone Records and sent to the BBC for radio airplay when the Fab Four were virtually unknown.
Preston Davies, of the Foundation, said he had to ‘pinch’ himself when he found out.
He said: ‘Our teams know what to look out for in terms of rare items. I don’t think the woman who dropped it off realised it was in the bag. We have tried to find out who she was but we have no idea.’
Referring to the eBay listing, he added: ‘Interest in it is going up and up. There are 260 watchers so who knows what the bidding will end up at.’
A humble Chinese vase bought for just £1 in a charity shop in Hertfordshire sold for a staggering £484,000 in 2019
Research revealed that it was made for 18th century Chinese Emperor Qianlong, who reigned from 1735 to 1796
Chinese vase – £484,000
A humble Chinese vase bought for just £1 in a charity shop in Hertfordshire sold for a staggering £484,000 in 2019 – after research revealed it was made for 18th century Chinese Emperor Qianlong.
At first the lucky shopper, unaware of its significance, listed the small yellow vase on Ebay – only to be inundated with messages and bids.
Realising it must be valuable, he removed it from the site and took it to specialists at Sworders Fine Art Auctioneers’ in Stansted Mountfitchet, Essex.
They studied the 8 inch tall vase and identified it as being Chinese imperial and made for the Qianlong Emperor, who reigned from 1735 to 1796.
The vase sparked a bidding war, with the successful Chinese buyer paying six times the auction house’s pre-sale estimate of £80,000.
Jim Spencer, books expert at Hansons Auctioneers’ salesroom pictured with the first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone which sold for £69,000
The near perfectly kept copy of the J K Rowling book about the boy wizard had been kept in darkness, unread and in a protective sleeve for 25 years
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – £69,000
A pristine first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone sold for £69,000 at auction – as well as a heavily doodled copy of the book.
The near perfectly kept copy of the J K Rowling book about the boy wizard had been kept in darkness, unread and in a protective sleeve for 25 years.
It sparked an auction bidding war in March last year at Hansons Auctioneers’ salesroom in Staffordshire, in England.
Online and phone bidders competed to buy the as-good-as-new hardback copy – one of only 500 in the first ever Potter book print run in 1997.
It had a guide price of between £40,000-£60,000 but ended up selling for much more to an online US bidder.
The seller, a 68-year-old retired paper merchant director from West Sussex, said: ‘I’m very pleased with the result.
‘Though it was a very good copy, the book wasn’t quite perfect. It won’t pay off my mortgage but it will go a long way towards it!’
Jim Spencer, books expert at Hansons, said: ‘I’m delighted for our vendor. It’s certainly a good return for the £12.99 he paid for the book and he nearly asked for his money back because he thought it had a fatal flaw.’
The book was sold in Hansons Auctioneers Library and Harry Potter Auction.
A rare £100 bank note found in an Oxfam charity shop Brentwood in Essex sold for £140,000 when it was acutioned off last year
Volunteer Paul Wyman spotted the unusual bank note in a box of donated items
£100 bank note – £140,000
A rare £100 bank note found in an Oxfam charity shop Brentwood in Essex sold for £140,000 when it was acutioned off last year.
Volunteer Paul Wyman spotted the unusual bank note in a box of donated items.
He decided not to put it on the shelves and contacted an auction house where experts valued it at £30,000.
The £100 Palestine pounds nore is one of less than ten known to exist and was issued to high ranking officials during the time of the British Mandate in Palestine in 1927.
It sold for more than four times that amount when it went under the hammer at Spink auction house in London.
Mr Wyman said: ‘I realised that I was holding something in my hands that was incredibly rare.
‘I couldn’t believe it when it went for £140,000.’
An unknown donor brought it into the shop in October 2020, and it was assessed at the auction house in February 2022.
Bidders from all over the world, including the US and the Middle East, placed bids in the hopes of getting their hands on the note.
In the end it sold for £140,000, with the money going towards Oxfam’s charitable work.
A book that was handed in to an Oxfam bookshop by Thom Yorke, the main vocalist and songwriter of the rock band Radiohead, was sold at auction for £12,000 in 2016
Songs Of Innocence And Experience – £12,000
A book that was handed in to an Oxfam bookshop by Thom Yorke, the main vocalist and songwriter of the rock band Radiohead, was sold at auction for £12,000 in 2016.
Volunteers at the charity shop in in Oxford were stunned found lyrics from bestselling album OK Computer scrawled in the margin of a 50p copy of Blake’s Songs Of Innocence And Experience.
Lines from the song ‘Airbag’, that features on the album, were found by workers at the shop in Oxford, and they then realised it must have been part of a recent donation from Yorke.
The Radiohead singer’s penned lyrics on the inside cover and notes scattered throughout the poems for songs on the album.
It led people to believe that some of the lyrics fro, the album, regularly voted as one of the best of all time, could have been inspired by the author.
Rare book specialist Andrew Chapman, 48, looked over the book and decided to take it off the shelves when it was being sold for 50p.
Mr Chapman said: ‘I’m a big Radiohead fan, so when another volunteer, Alex Barker, showed me the book, I immediately realised that it shouldn’t have been on sale for 50p and took it off the shelf.
‘Alex had been flicking through the poetry books on sale while he was stood at the till and told me to take a look. We knew it must have been one of Thom’s books as we had been talking about another one that he had donated only the week before.
‘The book is a tatty Penguin 1960s paperback of Songs of Innocence and Experience, but Yorke’s lyrics and the annotations make it very special.
‘It’s amazing to think this song on OK Computer was inspired by the poetry of William Blake – this could well be the first draft of Airbag.
‘One of the volunteers priced it at 50p and put it out but fortunately the mistake was spotted and it is due to be sold at auction in London – it could raise at least £1,200 for Oxfam.’
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