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Who would pay such a sum to own a memento of those early days of Fab Fourdom? A Southern California collector named Andy Geller, who left a bid “so huge, it couldn’t possibly be beaten”. Every Beatlemaniac worth their salt had been eyeing the auction listed by an eBay novice in London called chunkytoys, so Geller knew it wasn’t going to be bargain day, but he felt it might be his only opportunity ever to own the seriously rare display.

“Complete and in this condition, it’s a one-of-a-kind piece,” he said. “There may be others in private collections or people’s attics, but I doubt there’s going to be a big ‘find’ of them. Thirty-five years have passed since their manufacture. It would have already happened by now.”

The countertop box measuring 71/2 by 51/4in (19 x 13.5cm) was produced by Anglo Confectionary Limited of Halifax, Yorkshire. An unusual aspect of its design is that the premium cards contained inside each gum pack create one giant Beatles image if placed face down and alongside each other.

One expert confirmed the item’s rarity saying, “The winner did not overpay. If it’s really mint and as described, it won’t ever go down in value.”

It did not take long for word to spread about the remarkable price paid for the sweet shop treasure. In fact, only days after the auction ended, a questionable copycat listing originating in Germany and using the photos from chunkytoys’ ad popped up on eBay. The oddly coincidental ad was swiftly removed by the auction website, causing only marginal concern to Geller, who believes his transaction will still go off without a hitch.

“There are unscrupulous people out there,” he said, “but I had already planned a trip to England this month, so I’ll be picking up my purchase in person.”

Happily, there is peripheral provenance to comfort Geller as he counts out the cash. Seller chunkytoys is actually illustrator Peter Campbell, who is credited on the 1985 Beatles Pop-Up Book. Campbell revealed he had bought the set in the mid-1970s “for its intriguing graphics, for only three or four times face value from a stall on Portobello Road. I listed it on eBay thinking there was nothing to lose and was stunned it even made its £8000 ($12,725) reserve.”