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A West Hampstead novice antique hunter who paid just £20 for a rare handbag in a charity shop has been told it could be worth as much as £350,000.

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John Richard, 73, discovered the Philip Treacy bag in Oxfam in Kingston in February.

It has a distinctive Elvis Presley design by pop artist Andy Warhol and is believed to be one of only 10 ever made.

Mr Richard, who lives off Lymington Road, said: “I found it lying in a box in the shop. I was shocked that it had ended up there.

“I bought it but then only looked at it again a couple of months later. I decided to take it to the Philip Treacy shop and they confirmed that it was one of their’s.”

The lucky pensioner, who has lived in Hampstead for 40 years, says he has already had interest from two private buyers in China – who have offered him an incredible £350,000 and £250,000.

It would have originally sold for £200 to £400 when first made.

He now plans to use any windfall from a sale to open a hair salon for his partner – although he has been advised by auctioneers in Bond Street to hang on to the rare find.

Gee Brunet, store manager of Philip Treacy London, said: “Mr Richard contacted me a few months ago saying he had found the bag. I can confirm that it is definitely one of our originals.

“I was very surprised to hear that he had found it in a charity shop. But he worked hard to get the sale so whatever he does with it is up to him.

“Only about 10 such bags were ever made. I imagine it could reach £350,000 – it’s a piece of art, not a bag.”

But some other valuers have doubted the bag’s worth.

A representative from auction house Bonhams told the Ham&High it was highly unlikely that the bag could fetch such an amount.

If it did sell for the figures Mr Richards has suggested, it would become the highest priced bag ever sold.

Fee Gilfeather, head of marketing for Oxfam Trading, said: “We were stunned to hear about the world record-breaking price this bag could be expected to achieve.

“It’s highly unusual for an item of such extreme value to go unnoticed and demonstrates the growing appetite for seemingly ordinary items overseas.

“We are, of course, very disappointed that Oxfam won’t benefit from the sale. In West Africa, where millions are at risk from severe food shortages right now, £350,000 could help bring food to 35,000 families for a whole month.”

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