Mahatma Gandhi memorabilia auction

In August 2020 staff at East Bristol Auctions discovered a pair of glasses in a white envelope in their letterbox, accompanied by a note from the vendor stating they had once belonged to Mahatma Gandhi, but to ‘throw them away’ if they weren’t of interest.

Mahatma Gandhi spectacles memorabilia auction

Image: East Bristol Auctions

Auctioneer Andrew Stowe described the find as ‘the most important in the company’s history” and had expected the glasses to sell for £10,000 - £15,000.

Bidders came from India, Qatar, America, Russia and Canada showing how popular Mahatma Gandhi memorabilia is, however after early internet bidding it was two phone bidders who finally battled it out and the glasses sold for a whopping £260,000 including buyers premium.

But the price wasn’t really a surprise as in 2009 Antiquorum in New York had auctioned a pair of Gandhi’s spectacles along side a pair of his leather sandals, a watch and a brass bowl for $1.8m.

In November 2013 Mullocks, another British auction house sold Gandhi's Charkha, a portable spinning wheel Gandhi designed whilst in prison, for £110,000 - double the estimate.

The same auction saw the sale of Mahatma Gandhi's handwritten will for £20,000.

A year earlier Mullock's had sold a piece of earth with blood stained grass, allegedly from the exact spot where Gandhi was assassinated in 1948. This macabre piece sold for £10,000.

So why is Mahatma Gandhi memorabilia so popular?

Quite simply he was one of the most iconic figures of the 20th Century, up there with Winston Churchill, The Beatles, JFK and Princess Diana as far as collectors are concerned.

The 2020 sale has made East Bristol Auctions one of the go-to auction houses for Gandhi memorabilia with the auction house receiving a new offer of Gandhi related memorabilia every week.

So much so that in May 2022 another Gandhi memorabilia auction took place.

Among the items offered for sale were two more pairs of Gandhi spectacles, one of which was gifted to Labour MP, Sydney Silverman which carried an estimate of £80,000 - £120,000.

One of the more unusual lots is a loin cloth, made and worn by Gandhi, into which he stitched the word ‘Bapu;, meaning father, into the fabric. This lot carried an estimate of £15,000 - £25,000.

Other lots included a pair of Gandhi’s wooden sandals, made by Gandhi, with an estimate of £15,000 - £25,000.

But the sale of such personal memorabilia isn't without issues.

Previous Gandhi memorabilia auctions have caused storms of protest, especially so the 2009 Antiquorum auction where the protests at the private sale of pieces of national heritage, resulted in the Indian Government issuing a High Court injunction to stop the sale. Despite the vendor agreeing to pull the auction, the auction house proceeded, however the items were purchased by Indian businessman Vijay Mallya and returned to India.

The items from the latest East Bristol Auction sale have not yet caused any protests with the auctioneers stating that “Everything in the sale has been in the UK for at least 100 years. We can prove that it was imported properly at the time. There is no legal issue that we are aware of.”





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