Imagine being told that a quirky little heirloom that your grandfather passed down to your mother is actually worth more than a million dollars. That’s exactly what happened to a family when they brought a tiny ivory chess piece to an auction house. As it turns out, their grandfather’s old antique house purchase is one of the missing Lewis Chessmen pieces worth about $1.2 million or a little bit more.
The chess piece, which is made of walrus ivory and stands about 8.8 cm-tall, was originally purchased from an antiques dealer in Scotland back in 1964. Amazingly, the seller gave it to the buyer for only $6 and it became a unique little family heirloom for 55 years. However, the “warder”, which is equivalent to the rook in modern chess, is actually part of a medieval board 180 years ago.
It is unclear if the buyer or seller knew how important the ‘heirloom’ truly is.
When the buyer’s grandchildren brought the chess piece to a Sotheby’s auction house in London, they were possibly expecting to learn how old the artifact truly is. However, Sotheby’s expert Alexander Kader gave them the shock of their lives.
“They brought it in for assessment,” he said. “We get called down to the counter and have no idea what we are going to see. More often than not, it’s not worth very much. [But] I said, ‘Oh my goodness, it’s one of the Lewis Chessmen.'”
The Lewis chessmen (or Uig chessmen) were discovered in Scotland’s Isle of Lewis in 1831. However, the chess set itself is believed to have been created in the 12th century. Only 93 pieces from the original set have been found and the new discovery makes 94.
The Lewis chessmen are known for their quirky and unique looks.
The chess piece will go up for auction at Sotheby’s next month. Kader estimates that the warder could fetch up to $1.2 million or even more. “We can safely say that a million pounds will transform the seller’s life,” he said.
Kader was also quick to point out that the Lewis chessmen are almost complete. “There are still four out there somewhere. It might take another 150 years for another one to pop up,” he said.
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