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A case in point is the 18th century porcelain tableware known as 'toys' or miniatures produced by the likes of Worcester, Caughley and Lowestoft which are thought to have variously served as children's playthings or possibly small-scale functional pieces.

When this 1¾in (4.5cm) Bow cup was entered for sale at Paul Beighton's rooms in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, the firm's director Jody Beighton recognised it as an unusual piece from the London factory.

The early, c.1750, cup, which is painted in underglaze blue with a two-storey building to one side and rocks and bamboo to the other, was in good condition with no obvious defects save some pitting. Entered with a very tempting guide of £100-150, it soon started to attract interest from the specialist trade.

"I thought it might make £1000," said Beighton after all the emails and phone enquires came in.

In the event there was enough competition at the August 23 auction from the main specialist dealers in 18th century porcelain to send it way past that level.

A final contest between two dealers on the phone took it to a substantial price of £6500 (plus 17.5% buyer's premium).