Dried-out 285-year-old lemon sells for a staggering £1,400

A dried out 285-year-old lemon has sold for a staggering £1,400 after sparking an unlikely bidding war.

The ancient citrus fruit was discovered in the bottom drawer of a 19th century chest salvaged during a house clearance.

The vendors were sorting through their uncle’s possessions and thought the cabinet may be valuable so they took it to an auctioneer.

The specialist found the decaying lemon in the back of the drawer while photographing the cabinet for the upcoming sale.
They were taken aback by an inscription that had been carved into the yellow zest dating it to 1739.

It states that the citrus was ‘given by Mr P Lu Franchini Nov 4 1739 to Miss E Baxter’.

It is thought the lemon may have been a bizarre love token and was brought back to England from colonial India. The 2ins wide lemon is brown and completely dried out but ‘remarkably well preserved’ and still maintaining its shape. The vendors had no idea it was in the cabinet.


    Since it was so unusual, they stuck it into the auction for a bit of fun with an estimate of £40-60. But, to their astonishment, there were 35 bids for it online, with a British collector winning out.

    There was a round of applause in the room when the hammer went down at £1,100, with auctioneers fees taking the final figure paid to £1,416 at auctioneers Brettells, of Newport, Shrops.

    The cabinet the lemon was found in went for a hammer price of £32 – so the lemon made 50 times that sum. The auctioneers believe the lemon was bought back to Britain from colonial India in the 18th century.

    They say it achieved such an incredible price because ‘you’ll never see anything like that at auction again’. Auctioneer David Brettell said: “The lemon arrived in an ordinary late 19th century Chinese collectors chest.

    “It was right at the back of one of the drawers so we took it out.

    “Who knows how long it had been in there for, but I suppose it is not something you would have ever taken out.
    “I think it must have been a love token brought back from colonial India.

    “We thought we would have a bit of fun and put it in the auction with an estimate of £40-£60.

    “The bidding started at £40 but suddenly it ramped up to £340, then £440 and higher.

    “By the time we got to £700, there were two bidders battling it out.

    “There was a round of applause when the hammer went down at £1,100.

    “I was telling them that you are never going to see an object like this at auction again. It is completely unique.

    “One dealer joked to me afterwards that he was going to buy some lemons and go home and stick them in the oven!”

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