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'Dreadful' silver fetches pounds 78,000

A WOMAN and her son who took some silver along to the BBC Antiques Roadshow, carrying it in an casual holdall because they were sure it was worth so little, saw it turn to gold at Christie's yesterday. Some 20 items which they thought too 'dreadful' even to give away fetched pounds 78,717, writes Dalya Alberge.

In the best Antiques Roadshow tradition, jaws dropped as Ian Pickford, a silver expert, identified a museum-quality collection of early English silver. He valued a rare Victorian cup cast as a stag's head at pounds 10,000: it sold yesterday for pounds 9,775. Mr Pickford said: 'One wonderful piece followed another wonderful piece.' It became the programme's most important silver discovery.

Margaret Hobbs had found the collection in shoeboxes under a bed at her home in Sussex, stored there by her husband, Harold, who died two years ago. He had had a passion for silver, scouring London stores to buy it. But his wife's intense dislike of silver encouraged him to keep it out of sight. Mrs Hobbs had long forgotten about the boxes. It was only when she heard the Roadshow was coming to town that her son reminded her of the silver. They had been planning to take along a couple of tables. At the last minute, they decided to take the silver too.

Among the 20 items sold yesterday was a James I parcel-gilt bowl, dated 1607, which made pounds 12,650. A silver-mounted ostrich egg-cup made pounds 10,350. Mrs Hobbs said: 'I am absolutely thrilled . . . Perhaps life will be more comfortable.' She has since found a 1970s bill for the stag's head piece, showing that her husband paid pounds 500 for it.

Yesterday's sale did not include the entire collection. Not only are more objects to be sold in May, but her husband may have had other hiding-places: only yesterday, Mrs Hobbs found a couple of 17th-century boxes at home.

(Photograph omitted)