A BARGAIN hunter who bought a car boot sale ornament for £2 was shocked to discover it is worth £30k.
The savvy car-booter spotted the six-inch white Chelsea figure at an event in Gloucestershire in the mid-1990s.
The buyer kept it as an ornament for almost three decades before taking it to an antiques expert for a valuation.
They were amazed to discover it was around 278 years old and was the "holy grail" of early English porcelain.
The rare sculpture was one of the first pieces produced at London's famous Chelsea factory which was a leader in porcelain figures in the 18th century.
It is now going under the hammer with an expected sale price of between £20k-£30k.
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Auctioneer Charles Hanson said: "It's extremely important because it demonstrates early attempts to make figures in the mid-18th century.
"A sleeping child in a horizontal position would have been far easier to make than a standing figure.
"It was made at the Chelsea factory during its early production period in 1746.
"A find like this is the holy grail for any keen collector of early English porcelain."
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"The design may have been influenced by John Michael Rysbrack, a key sculptor and designer in England in the 18th century.
"My early years of training focused on early English porcelain so to find an item which defines the start of its manufacture in the mid-18th century is a thrill for me."
The Chelsea Porcelain Factory began production in 1743-45 and was the first important porcelain maker in England.
It made soft-paste porcelain aimed at the luxury market.
Its site in Chelsea was close to the fashionable Ranelagh Gardens pleasure ground which opened in 1742.
Its first known wares are 'goat and bee' cream jugs with seated goats at the base but it became known for its figures.
The firm operated independently until 1770 when it merged with Derby porcelain.
The sleeping baby figure will be sold at Hanson Holloway's Ross Auctions in Banbury, Oxon, on March 4.
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