Updated: Thu, 20 Sep 2012 17:05:09 GMT | By Felicity Hannah, writing for MSN Money

Junk that sold for thousands

A look at some of the rare finds that earned their lucky owners a fortune.

Rare and valuable finds (© Image © PA - Rex - Christie's)

Are you sitting on a small fortune that you mistakenly think is junk? The Co-operative certainly thinks so: it's found that homeowners are sitting on an average of £2,813-worth of clutter, ranging from heirlooms to unused clothes.

But sometimes people uncover a real treasure in their attic or shed. Or, if they're really lucky, they pick up a bargain at a car boot sale and only discover its true value later.

Here are some of the best stories of Brits who discovered that their clutter had been well worth hoarding...

Philip Treacy bag worth £350,000
It's not always your own clutter it's worth searching through; sometimes other people fail to spot the value of their own junk. For example, earlier this year, pensioner John Richards bought a brown bag in an Oxfam shop for just £20.

Later on he discovered that it was an original Philip Treacy, worth as much as £350,000.

Lalique vase worth £280,000
An old, stained vase found in a Morpeth attic turned out to be from the hands of the French craftsman Rene Lalique.

When it was sold by auctioneers Anderson & Garland, they expected it might fetch £30,000. But thanks to a bidding war between collectors, it sold for an incredible £280,000.

It just goes to show that you should be careful when rooting around your attic. The owners had two vases, one of which was broken. Fortunately, it was the less valuable one that had cracked!

Rembrandt sketch (© Image © Christie's)

Rembrandt drawing worth £133,000
Any old sketches lying around your house? It might be worth digging them out, as one Scottish homeowner found earlier this year. The owner found a black chalk drawing in a wardrobe and contacted the auction house Christie's.

It was estimated to be worth £80,000, but A Blind Beggar With a Boy and a Dog actually sold for £133,250.

The homeowner also discovered a pile of work by Rembrandt's pupils; not a bad find!

Angel of the North design model worth £1m
It might be a good idea to poke around the office when looking for valuable junk. Office workers at Gateshead Council hadn't given much thought to a scaled-down model of the famous Angel of the North statue.

Originally, the models had been made to get local politicians to support the ambitious art installation. But when the Antiques Roadshow rolled into town, it was soon able to put the council right.

The model was worth an estimated £1 million - the first time the programme had ever valued an item that highly.

'Keep calm and carry on' posters worth £15,000
Everyone's heard of the 'Keep calm and carry on' slogan, originally intended as a second world war poster in the event of invasion. It's on mugs, in staff rooms, on T-shirts - everywhere.

But it had been thought that just a couple of copies survived, until Moragh Turnbull took her collection to the Antiques Roadshow. Her father had served in the Royal Observer Corps and had been given 15 of the posters to distribute in the event of an invasion.

His daughter kept them rolled up and safe, only to be told they could be worth £1,000 each. Since she had recently lost her job that was a very-well-timed windfall!

Possible Cezanne painting (© Image © Rex Features)

Painting by Cézanne worth £40m
Instead of buying lottery tickets, maybe you should start browsing picture shops... An unnamed owner bought a painting because he liked the frame but then left the picture in his attic.

He later realised that it might be something special after reading up on the signature. While it's still being confirmed, some experts believe it's possible the painting is the earliest known work by the French post-impressionist Cézanne.

If that's true, the painting could be worth as much as £40 million.

Two oil paintings worth £30,000
It does seem to be art that most often surprises owners with its true value. In 2010, a London pensioner pulled two paintings out of her attic, where they had spent the last 60 years.

She was about to throw them away when she decided to ask her neighbours what they thought. The paintings turned out to be by the celebrated English-Australian artist Blamire Young and were worth £30,000.

Certainly a good outcome for the pensioner, who had merely been hoping to get enough for a new TV!

Wedding cake (© Image © PA Archive)

Slice of the Queen's wedding cake worth £1,100
Don't just raid the attic, check the filing cabinet too! The Princess Alice Hospice found a slice of the Queen's wedding cake hidden away in a drawer last year and managed to sell it for an impressive £1,100.

The slice was still wrapped in cellophane and tucked in a box inscribed 'Buckingham Palace 20th November 1947'. It had been donated to the hospice for fundraising back in the 90s but had then been tucked away and forgotten about.

Quite a slice of luck!

A famous explorer's kit worth £800,000
Do you have any famous ancestors? It might be time to look through any old family junk. A collection of exploration gear belonging to Sir Henry Morton Stanley was found in 2002, buried under dust covers in the attic of his family home.

In the 1870s, Sir Henry was a famous explorer, best known for his intrepid journeys into Africa and his search for David Livingstone. The pile included more than 1,000 items, ranging from his rifle to maps that he carried on his adventures.

The hoard was worth an estimated £800,000.

Contents of an ancestral home's attic worth £2m
Perhaps it's easier to find priceless antiques in your attic when your house is stuffed with them too. Earl Spencer, the brother of Diana, Princess of Wales, has had a number of clearouts at his ancestral home.

In 2001, he invited a team from Sotheby's to root through his 30 attic rooms, cataloguing antiques ready for sale. They hauled out everything from books and saddles to furniture and paintings.

The aim of the sale was to raise £2 million, with Lord Spencer planning to spend some of the money on contemporary art.

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