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Edinburgh Family Finds $1 Million Lewis Chessman in Its Drawer

by Eben Diskin Jun 3, 2019

If you need some extra cash, it’s worth rummaging through some old drawers. Not only might you find some loose change, but if you’re lucky, you’ll discover a centuries-old trinket that could fetch millions at auction. At least, that’s what happened to this anonymous family in Edinburgh, who recently found a Lewis Chessman in a drawer. The chessmen were first discovered on Scotland’s Isle of Lewis in 1831, but five pieces have remained missing for over a hundred years. Now, the newly discovered piece could be worth upwards of $1 million at auction.

The family’s grandfather, an antiques dealer, had purchased the 3.5-inch piece at auction back in 1964 for just $6, having no idea about its real value. Indeed, the chessmen are among the biggest draws at the British Museum and the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. They are considered to be an important part of European civilization, though the family didn’t guess the piece’s true value when they brought it in for assessment.

Alexander Kater, a Sotheby’s expert who examined the piece, 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. I said, ‘Oh my goodness, it’s one of the Lewis Chessmen’.”

Since the four sets were discovered in 1831, one knight and four warders have been missing. The piece discovered in Edinburgh was a warder, bearing a shield, sword, and helmet. The original trove of chessmen were believed to have been underground for about 500 years before being first discovered.

The warder will go on display in Edinburgh on Tuesday, and then in London just before the auction on July 2. If you’re interested in making a bid for the piece, you’d better be prepared to spend at least $1 million.


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