The discovery of a rare 1688 porcelain "prayer book" set an antiques roadshow fundraiser at Wellington College abuzz.
The blue and white Delft piece was worth between $50,000 and $60,000, organiser Pallas Hupe said.
"The appraiser, Peter Wedde, said it could go straight into the British Museum. The owner knew it was special, but had no idea how special."
Yesterday's event, which also featured a book fair and a high tea, raised several thousand dollars towards a new assembly hall and performing arts centre for the college. So far, $3.5 million has been raised for the centre.
More than 40 people brought in items to be appraised, at $10 an item.
Wellington College old boy John Mills had a framed 1799 etching of a scene from Shakespeare's Richard III.
He brought the item in more out of curiosity than in the hope of a windfall, he said.
The scene, depicting the murder of the two sleeping princes in the Tower, was "a bit grotesque", he said.
"It's not the sort of thing you put on the wall."
The piece was valued at $200.
Judith Trevelyan and granddaughter Kate Nicholls, 10, brought in a pair of swords, which turned out to be French, dating from about 1833.
Rather than getting a valuation on the spot, they were given the name of a militaria expert.
Wedde, a Kelburn-based antiques expert who boarded at Wellington College as a boy, said part of the appeal of the event was the element of "surprise and emotion".
- The Dominion Post