A CHESTER couple are expecting a huge cash windfall after an unusual ceramic hand warmer they failed to sell at a car boot sale was valued at £15,000.
The 17th century Delft-style piece, which was disguised as a five-inch-long prayer book, will now go up for auction next month.
The sellers, who want to remain anonymous, recently offered it for just £2 in a car boot sale but took it back home when they could not find a buyer.
Unperturbed, the pair showed it to experts at London auctioneers Bonhams, who authenticated it as an original handwarmer made in 1673.
It would traditionally be sneaked into church so ladies could keep themselves warm during cold winter services.
Yesterday Bonhams' ceramics expert John Sandon told the Daily Post: "It's lucky for them they didn't manage to sell it when they put it on their paste table at a local car boot sale.
"Presumably people thought it was a fake.
"The couple would have been kicking themselves if they had seen it in a catalogue afterwards and realised its true value.
"Churches were freezing in those days and ladies would sneak it into services on particularly cold days disguised as a prayer book, filled with hot coals or hot water to warm their hands.
"It is a wonderful piece and in excellent condition."
The hand warmer was valued at a pre-sale estimate of between £12,000 and £15,000 at the Bonhams Fine British Ceramics, Glass and Enamels sale in London on December 8. The piece was made in London, dated 1673, and the cover is secured by two twisted straps held by shield-shaped clasps.
It is painted in blue on both covers with a diamond-shaped ornament and a small, square-shaped hole in the top to allow hands to go in.
Delft is typically the blue and white pottery traditionally made in the Netherlands around the town of Delft, although the style is used around Europe
Two-tone designs usually feature native Dutch scenes, although some English Delftware can also be more colourful.
Bonhams valuer Fergus Gambon said: "The couple brought the piece into our Chester office and they sent a picture to us in London.
"When we saw it, we just thought 'Wow', as it was such a nice piece.
"As I understand it, it is an original family piece.
"Delft refers to the process of using tin in the glaze to make pottery look like ceramics."