The Märklin tinplate limousine that sold for £38,000 at Tennants.

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The 16in (41cm) long toy was produced by Märklin from about 1909 until the First World War and several others are known in collections worldwide. In May 2006, US auctioneers James D. Julia of Maine sold a similar large-size limousine for $31,000, despite having been overpainted.

This example was bought into a Tennants valuation day in Windermere by a lady from Cumbria, who had no idea of its value. It had been passed through the family and had sat in a cupboard for many years.

Specialist tin toy dealer David Pressland told ATG: "This example was unusual in having the burgundy brown bonnet and cab and blue striped rear bodywork, as most examples known are in either green or blue. Although in need of conservation, crucially the original paint was still reasonably good and restoration should be a relatively easy project."

He added: "This is by far the best tin toy automobile to appear at auction in the UK since a Sotheby Belgravia sale in 1973."

Tennants originally valued the car at £400-600 but interest in the toy saw a packed saleroom on August 21 and eight phone lines booked.

It sold to a UK telephone bidder.

The buyer's premium was 15 per cent.