/ 28 May 2008

British man to net fortune with ‘shoebox’ treasure

An ancient gold cup mysteriously acquired by a British scrap metal dealer is to be sold at auction with an estimate of nearly $1-million, after languishing for years in a shoebox under its current owner’s bed.

John Webber’s grandfather gave him the 14cm high mug — which is decorated with the heads of two women looking in opposite directions and knotted snakes — in 1945 and long assumed that it was made from brass.

But he decided to get it valued when he was moving house last year and was told it was actually a rare piece of ancient Persian treasure, beaten out of a single sheet of gold hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus Christ.

Experts said the method of manufacture and the composition of the gold was ”consistent with Achaemenid gold and gold smithing” dating back to the third or fourth century BC.

The Achaemenid empire, the first of the Persian empires to rule over significant portions of Greater Iran, was wiped out by Alexander the Great in 330 BC.

Auction house Duke’s, in Dorchester, south-west England, will put the cup under the hammer on June 5, with an estimate of £500 000.

Webber (70) told the Guardian that his grandfather had a ”good eye” for an antique and picked up ”all sorts” as he plied his trade in the town of Taunton, also south-west England.

”Heaven knows where he got this, he never said,” he added, revealing that as a child, he used the cup for target practice with his air gun. – AFP