You never know just where you might find a hidden gem. A case in point would be a Chinese vase, long relegated to being a doorstep and imminently destined for a car boot sale. Sold at auction, it went for £650,000.

A weighty 26-inch tall piece of porcelain, its survived 36 years of doorstop duty for a family in the UK, frequently second away from destruction as football games were improvised around it. Fortunately, its value was spotted by a visiting auctioneer.

The couple, who have opted to remain anonymous, inherited the 300-year-old vase from their Great Aunt Flo, a Cornish antiques dealer. The vase, which dates back to the 18th century, bears the mark of the Emperor Qianlong and is actually a remarkably well-preserved specimen of classic Chinese porcelain work. Once an ornament at the Imperial Palace, it was only spared the ignominy of the car boot sale by the eagle eyes of Adrian Rathbone, an employee of the nearby Hanson’s Auction house.

Recalling its discovery, Rathbone says: “I found it on the hallway floor and the owner said they had always wondered if it was of any value. I spotted the seal mark and took it away for a closer look.”

There is no information as to how the vase came to be in Britain but, according to the couple, their Auntie Flo had bought it at a house sale in the 1930s. Valued at £300,000 to £500,000, the vase, sold for £650,000 to a Chinese buyer. There is no record of its car boot valuation.

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