This Old Lemon Made Lemonade at Auction

Yes, we are talking about a piece of fruit.

Courtesy Brettells Auctioneers & Valuers.

Fruit is generally seen as a perishable item, one whose value goes down pretty quickly when sequestered in the icebox. But a citrus that surfaced at an English auction house recently defied that conventional wisdom.

Brettells Auctioneers & Valuers, in Newport, Shropshire, started the bidding on a nearly 300-year-old lemon at £40 (about $50) at a January 16 sale. 

“We thought we’d have a bit of fun and put [the lemon] in the auction with an estimate of £40-£60,” David Brettell, owner of the house, told the Sun.

To the house’s surprise, some 35 bidders vied for the item, which in the end went to an unnamed British collector who paid £1,416 (about $1,788) including fees. Bidders came from as far away as Maine and Moldova, Brettell told the Shropshire Star.

The citrus fruit has an inscription indicating it was given by Mr. P Lu Franchini to one Miss E. Baxter on Nov. 4, 1739, suggesting to Brettell that it was an unlikely token of affection, perhaps presented by an Italian suitor to an English woman on a Grand Tour of Europe, as reported in the Shropshire Star. The fruit is believed to have come from colonial India, the native home of the citrus fruit. 

“The lemon arrived in an ordinary late-19th-century Chinese collector’s chest,” Brettell told the BBC. The family that brought the cabinet in said it belonged to a deceased uncle. “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.” 

“You’ll never see an object like this at auction again,” Brettell says he told the crowd at the sale.

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

The cabinet, meanwhile, sold for just £32 (about $40).

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