June 17 - A British antique dealer who picked up a London 1948 Olympic Torch for £20 ($31/€24) in a charity shop is set to make a big profit when the historic lot goes to auction this week.
County Durham shop owner Colin Bruce found the iconic Torch, one of only 1,720 designed by Ralph Lavers and made for the 1948 London Games, in a box of "mixed items" – similar items have fetched up £5,000 ($7,856/€5,898) at previous auctions.
"I didn't spot it at first as the box contained a number of different bits and pieces and when I did see it, initially I couldn't be sure if it was real or a copy of the Olympic Torch from the 1948 Games," Bruce told the Northern Echo.
"Once it had been verified as being an original Torch, I couldn't quite believe that it had just been sitting there in amongst a host of other items as the torches are one of the most iconic and remembered objects from all the Olympic events."
The history of this particular item is unknown, but the Torches were designed and produced in Britain and were used during the Olympic Relay that travelled from Greece to Britain and passed through Italy, Switzerland, France, Luxembourg and Belgium before returning to France and crossing the English Channel to complete the journey by visiting towns across the South of England.
Newcastle-based Anderson and Garland will auction the Torch and its collectors' items specialist Fred Wyrley-Birch could not believe that no one had discovered the item sooner.
"The discovery of such a wonderful item in a charity shop box just goes to show that it is still possible to have one of those moments where you stand back and can't quite believe what it is that you are seeing," he said.
"There is so much information readily available now that it is quite extraordinary to think that nobody had spotted this wonderful item.
"This is one of those occasions where somebody has more than likely cleared out a home, loft or cellar and donated unwanted bits to charity shops without even realising how significant this particular item was.
"Due to the manner of the find, we have been unable to uncover its provenance, which will have a potential impact on its selling price.
"Torches with a documented history have previously fetched several thousand pounds at auction.
"For an Olympic enthusiast, this piece would make a fabulous addition to their collection and it could achieve a price well in excess of its estimate."
The Torch is due to be sold on Thursday (June 20).
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