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Collection of second-hand items from a charity shop.

We all dream of finding a rare antique worth thousands of pounds in a local charity shop or thrift store. It’s why millions of people tune into shows like Antique’s Roadshow and Cash in the Attic every week. 

If you enjoy scouring boot sales and charity shops hoping to discover an antique, read on to learn where these high-value treasures were discovered. 


1. First-edition copy of The Hobbit 

It’s hard to discover hidden literary gems without dedicating hours to flicking through the scores of second-hand books lining the shelves of charity shops – unless, of course, you manage one of these shops. 

Adam Carsley, a Cancer Research Shop manager in Dundee, can attest to this. He stumbled across a first edition of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, which later sold for £10,099. 

One of 1500 copies published in 1937, the book featured black-and-white illustrations of Bilbo Baggins and his motley gang of dwarves drawn by Tolkien. 

The proceeds of this rare find went straight back to the charity to fund life-saving cancer research. 


2. The ‘ugly’ lamp worth $15,000 

A woman in the US who found a lamp not far from her home discovered it was worth thousands when she appeared on the American version of the Antiques Roadshow sometime later. 

The lamp, which she described as ‘ugly’, turned out to be an original Louis Comfort Tiffany lamp with a damascene blown-glass shade in a rare caramel colour. 

The show’s antiques expert warned her that the base would only be worth between $500 and $1000 without the shade, while with the shade, it would be worth between $10,000 and $15,000.  

The woman found the antique lamp beside a sign saying ‘free’ outside her neighbour's house. 


3. 50p wine glass worth thousands

In the UK now, and a 50p wine glass that turned out to be worth thousands. 

Antiques expert Andy McConnell appraised the glass on the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow. He determined this was an incredibly rare ‘heavy baluster’ glass made with lead crystal. 

The owner of the 300-year-old glass was astounded when McConnell revealed it was worth around £2000. She described how her father had bought the glass from a market stall and paid more than the asking price of 10p because he liked it so much.  


4. ‘Battered’ Harry Potter first-edition 

A first-edition copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone sold for thousands at auction despite being drawn on by a child in their attempt to add to the illustrations of the boy wizard. 

The hardback – one of 500 copies printed in 1997– was bought for 50p from a charity shop in Manchester. The felt-tip doodles throughout the book didn’t put off the anonymous bidder from the US, who paid £15,000 online for it. 

Not a bad return on investment for a 50p book! 


5. Constable painting bought in ‘job lot’

Imagine buying a painting in a £30 ‘job lot’ and finding out later that it’s an original painting by a renowned artist. That’s the situation one man found himself in after his father gifted him a small landscape painting he had bought years earlier. 

When he appeared later on the US antiques TV show Treasure Detectives, he discovered that the painting by British landscape painter John Constable was worth £250,000.