+44 (0)1428 653727 sales@johnnicholsons.com

The four Ds that lead to items being sold at auction are Death, Divorce, Debt and Decluttering. After what we have all been through since March, I suspect that Debt will be the prompt for a whole new slew of consignments to auction as people try to get back on an even keel.

As people scour the attic and the hall cupboard looking for anything that might raise a few pounds, it is a timely reminder of some of the most unexpected things that have come up trumps in the auction rooms.

My favourite story of recent years took place in France last year. An auctioneer was called to clear out the modest 1960s home of a woman in her nineties when she noticed a small wooden painting hanging from the wall above the kitchen stove.

It had been passed down through the family and the old elderly woman thought it worthless, but it struck the auctioneer as something rather better.

Her hunch paid off: is was a lost work by the early Renaissance master Cimabue painted c.1260 – only 11 other works by him are known – and it went on to sell for €24.2 million, making it the world’s most expensive medieval artwork sold at auction.