Unearthing gems: Top charity shop treasure revealed

Every day charity shops are handed vital donations from the public to sell in their stories and online.

But while many of these donations sell for a few pounds occasionally generous supporters offer rare treasure for a charity to sell and benefit from.

Earlier this month one of the most high-profile donations emerged, when staff at the British Heart Foundation (BHF)’s Sutton Coldfield shop were handed a Beatles album.

But this was not any record by the fab four. This rare copy of their 1968 White Album was one of the first versions of the record and one of only 10,000 copies in existence with a rare misprint, making them highly sought after by fans.

The mono album also contained original inserts, a fold out poster and four colour prints of the band and was then listed for auction with ebay to maximise its promotion globally and attract as many fans as possible.

It more than doubled its original listing of £999 and eventually sold for £2,350.

“High-value items like this allow us to continue to carry out our lifesaving research and make a difference to the 7.6 million people living with heart and circulatory diseases in the UK,” said BHF head of retail online Richard Pallier.

This sale shows the importance to charity shops of being able to value and spot rare treasure, from jewellery and clothing to books and records.

Here we detail some of the other lucrative charity shop donations in recent years.

Give Me Do

The BHF’s recent White Album sale is not the first time the Liverpool band has helped out the charity. Four years ago, a rare copy of the band’s debut single Love Me Do, worth £4,000, was donated to its store in Midhurst in West Sussex.

As well as being an original seven-inch demo of the track it also contained a misspelling of Paul MacCartney’s surname as McArtney.

Such was the rarity of the 1962 release, which was one of only 250 copies, it eventually sold for £9,400.

Rare album almost sells for £1.99

But sometimes the true value of a rare record is not spotted immediately. Six years ago the shelves of Oxfam’s charity shop in Thornbury in South Gloucester included an album by renowned cellist, the late Jacqueline Du Pre that was on sale for £1.99.

Luckily it remained on the shelf for months unsold as volunteers discovered it was an extremely rare album by du Pre worth £2,000, that was eventually sold online.

Cartier Watch...

Jewellery can be another money-spinning source of treasure for charities to earn from.

Earlier this year the BHF discovered its highest ever valued online sale item when a Cartier watch, worth almost £10,000, was discovered in a bag of donations handed in by a supporter at the charity’s shop in Hounslow, London.

After being verified by the charity it was placed for sale on eBay and sold for £9,766.66.

“When you consider the average value of an item donated to a charity shop is less than five pounds , finding a Cartier watch is like striking gold and winning the lottery at the same time, said Kama Villiers, enterprise customer success manager at Shopiago, BHF’s online shipping partner which listed the item.

..and Bracelet

Three years ago a similarly valued Cartier breacelet was donated to Scottish charity Sight Action. The item was donated to its base in Inverness after the charity asked local people to donate unloved jewellery

“Looking online, at first we thought it was worth hundreds not thousands but, new, it is worth £10,000 and this one, while second hand, hasn’t a scratch on it,” the charity’s executive manager Gillian Mitchell told local media at the time.

Down the Rabbit Hole

Charity books are full of fantastic cheap books to buy but sometimes editions handed in can be worth huge sums.

For example, in May this year a rare French first edition of Alice in Wonderland, which was donated to Oxfam’s books and music shop in Stirling, raised £3,000 for the charity.

This book was a French first edition of the iconic book that was donated to the shop before Christmas 2022. Its value was further enhanced as it was inscribed by the author Lewis Carrol to one of the children he photographed next to his inspiration for the book, Alice Liddell.

The book was bought by a specialist dealer who visited the shop.

Collectable Ulysees

Another notable expensive charity shop read emerged last year when a rare 1936 edition of James Joyce’s Ulysses was donated to a Tenovus Cancer Care’s shop in Cardiff.

It was going to be sold for £1 but after investigation about its true cost it was valued at £800 at auction.

The book was numbered 766 out of 900 and was decorated in gilt with a Homeric bow, in reference to Homer’s Odyssey, the influence of the book. It also contained two 1946 court summons which were being used as bookmarks.

“I discovered this special edition in relatively good condition amongst a pile of Thomas Hardy books donated from a gentleman we’d not seen in the shop before and none of us knew,” said shop volunteer Françoise Curtis.

“My role as a volunteer is to sort through the books donated to us and fill the shelves with a variety of different genres. I have a real love of books, have done since a child, and when I saw this Ulysses edition, I knew I’d stumbled on a real gem – I’ve been treating it with kid gloves ever since.

You’re worth a fortune, Harry

Another notable rare book to be donated to a charity shop last year was in Harrogate, when a first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was handed in to Oxfam’s store in the North Yorkshire town.

Luckily the store’s manager notiched that it had a rare different quote at the bottom of the front cover and also contained some typos. It was later sold at auction for £4,000.

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