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Gandhi’s glasses, worth more than $19,000, were left hanging out of an auctioneer’s letterbox


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(CNN) — A pair of spectacles thought to belong to Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi are set to be auctioned for more than $19,000 — after being left “hanging out” of a letterbox on a busy industrial estate.

Around four weeks ago on a Monday morning, auctioneer Andy Stowe headed into work and was checking the letterboxes at his office on an industrial estate in Bristol, southwest England.

“I saw an envelope hanging out of our letterbox — really, literally, just hanging out,” he told CNN.

When a colleague opened the envelope, they discovered the unusual contents — a pair of gold-rimmed, circular spectacles.

“They had a little note in there saying ‘These belonged to Gandhi, and my uncle was given them,'” he said.

Stowe told CNN he called the phone number on the note and traced the item’s seller, who was an elderly man who lived locally.

The man told Stowe that the glasses had been passed to him from his uncle, who told him they were given to him by Gandhi while he was employed in South Africa.

“The uncle [was] 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,” auctioneers East Bristol Auctions said in an item guide.

“We started doing some research and realized they were worth quite a considerable amount of money,” Stowe told CNN, adding that the glasses have been valued at between £10,000 and £15,000 (from $13,000 to $19,500). They are expected to sell for “a considerable amount” more, he added.

“I gave him a call back later that day, and I think he nearly fell off of his chair when he learned how much we were going to value them at,” he said.

Stowe told CNN that auctioneers researched the item’s timeline, and are confident that the story — and the glasses’ provenance — checked out.

“The dates and the facts match up fine. The guy is an 80-year-old man — I don’t think he concocted it up in his head,” he said.

“From our point of view, the history and the story matches up completely fine,” he added. “The fact that the gentleman told me that if they weren’t worth anything, I could throw them in the bin — I’m quite sure he had no idea how much they were worth.”

The glasses will be auctioned on August 21.

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