Gandhi’s pair of gold-plated spectacles, left in a letterbox, sold for $340k in UK auction

“A pair of early 20th century c1920 gold plated circular rimmed spectacles by repute owned and worn by Mahatma Gandhi,” notes the auction lot details.
Mahatma Gandhi laughing

A pair of gold-plated glasses worn by Mahatma Gandhi and presented as a gift in the 1900s has been sold in Britain for £260,000 (about 288,000 euros, $340,000), an auction house said Friday. The auction price has broken all records for a UK auction house by selling for 260,000 pounds.

“We found them just four weeks ago in our letterbox, left there by a gentleman whose uncle had been given them by Gandhi himself,” East Bristol Auctions wrote on Instagram after the sale late.

“An incredible result for an incredible item! Thanks to all those who bid,” he added.

Watch the auction sale here:

The lot for auction was titled “Pair of Mahatma Gandhi’s Personal Spectacles” and formed part of the auctioneers’ Military, History and Classic Cars online sale.

“A pair of early 20th century c1920 gold plated circular rimmed spectacles by repute owned and worn by Mahatma Gandhi,” notes the auction lot details.

“The spectacles of usual form, with sprung gold plated arms and prescription lenses. Jointed by a gold plated nose bar, the spectacles formed an important and somewhat iconic part of Gandhi’s overall appearance. It was known that he would often give away his old or unwanted pairs to those in need or those who had helped him. A rare and important pair of spectacles,” it notes.

“The uncle working for British Petroleum at the time and was stationed in South Africa, and it can be presumed that these were gifted by way of thanks from Gandhi for some good deed. A note from the vendor is included,” the auction lot adds.

The glasses were estimated to fetch between 10,000 pounds and 15,000 pounds but the online bids for the lot kept multiplying to finally go under the hammer of the six-figure sum.

The glasses are said to have been in the family of the unnamed elderly gentleman vendor in England, who was told by his father that they were a gift to his uncle when he was working for British Petroleum in South Africa between 1910 and 1930.

“The vendor’s uncle definitely worked for British Petroleum in South Africa, and I believe Gandhi didn’t wear glasses until the late 1910s early 1920s,” said Auctioneer Andrew Stowe in reference to the provenance of the glasses, which are likely to be one of Gandhi’s earliest pairs during his time in South Africa.

Gandhi was known to have handed over his personal items as gifts to admirers and a number of similar items have emerged on the auction circuit over the years.

East Bristol Auctions in Hanham, south-west England, had earlier said that they were pleasantly surprised to find that the spectacles, dropped through their letterbox in an envelope, may have such a rich history behind it.

Gandhi became synonymous with the iconic round-rimmed Windsor-style glasses, common during the period when he was studying law in England in the late 1800s and 1900s. While initially used infrequently, the glasses became a regular feature during the national movement and Gandhi’s civil disobedience protests in India.

With inputs from agencies

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