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Broken teapot bought for £15 sells for staggering £460,000 at auction

The £15 teapot is missing a lid and has a wonky handle – but still went for £460,000 (Woolley and Wallis/SWNS.com)

A broken teapot bought for just £15 has sold at auction for a staggering £460,000.

The small porcelain teapot, which was missing a lid and had to be glued back together, turned out to have been made by acclaimed 18th-century British potter John Bartlam.

Estimated to be worth £20,000, the item sparked a bidding war at auction in Salisbury, Wiltshire, before being sold to a London dealer on behalf of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

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The pot was made in the US by Bartlam in around 1780 and has been described as the “birth of American porcelain”. His efforts to establish himself overseas were curtailed by the American civil war.

The teapot is believed to date to the 1780s and was made by an expat potter, John Bartlam (Woolley and Wallis/SWNS.com)

Just a handful of his pieces are known to have survived, so are very collectable and desirable State-side.

It was bought in 2016 by a collector for £15 at an auction in Lincolnshire, minus its lid and with a broken handle.

He took it to Clare Durham of Woolley and Wallis Auctioneers in Salisbury and she identified it as a rare example of Bartlam’s work.

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She said: “The vendor decided not to come to the auction but his daughter watched it online.

“I have spoken to him since and he can’t quite believe it. He is very happy and very thankful.

“The vendor is not a dealer at all. He likes problem pieces that are unmarked and tries to identify. He has bought and sold odds and sods with us before but nothing like this.”

The design features two cranes sheltering under a palm tree (Woolley and Wallis/SWNS.com)

The 9cm (3in) tall blue and white patterned piece features two cranes beneath a palm tree on one side and a man on a bridge on the reverse.

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The pot was such a rare find that even without its lid, it proved a major attraction.

“It is such a unique item that nothing like it will ever come on the market again so in that respect the missing lid was probably irrelevant,” added Durham.