A pair of Mahatma Gandhi’s glasses are to go on sale after spending a weekend sticking halfway out of an auction house’s letterbox.
Staff at East Bristol Auctions found the glasses in a plain envelope on a Monday morning.
Auctioneer Andrew Stowe said the eyewear, expected to fetch more than £15,000, was the most important find in the company’s history.
He said the owner “nearly had a heart attack” when he was told their value.
“Someone popped them into our letterbox on a Friday night and they stayed there until Monday – literally hanging out,” said Mr Stowe.
“One of my staff handed them to me and said there was a note saying they were Gandhi’s glasses.
“I thought ‘That’s an interesting one’ and carried on with my day.”
But when he investigated, Mr Stowe said he almost “fell off his chair” to discover the gold-plated, circular rimmed glasses had been worn by the Indian civil rights leader.
“I phoned the guy back and I think he nearly had a heart attack,” said Mr Stowe.
Mr Stowe said the owner told him the glasses had been handed down from generation to generation in the owner’s family, after a relative met Gandhi on a visit to South Africa in the 1920s.
“We looked into the dates and it all matches up, even the date Gandhi started wearing glasses,” he said.
“They are probably one of the first pairs of glasses he wore as they are quite a weak prescription.
“He was known for giving his possessions away.”
Mr Stowe said there had been a lot of interest in the glasses, especially from India, but that it was fortunate they reached him intact.
“They were just in a plain white envelope,” he said.
“They could quite easily have been stolen or fallen out or just ended up in the bin.
“This is probably the most important find we have ever had as a company.”
The glasses will go under the hammer as part of an online-only auction on 21 August.