John Weber, born 80 years ago in England, was given a metal mug by his grandfather in 1945. Though his grandfather had a “good eye” for antiques, John never thought the metal mug was worth much. He played with it as a child, and even used it as a target for his air rifle. The mug, assumed to be brass, languished in a shoe box under Weber’s bed for decades.
Well, it turns out Weber’s old mug may be the world’s most expensive plinking target! The cup is actually made of solid gold, and is a rare, ancient artwork, crafted over 2300 years ago. The unusual mug, decorated with twin, opposite-facing female heads, was appraised with a value exceeding one-quarter million dollars ($250,000)!
According to news reports, Weber decided to have the old mug (thought to be brass) appraised when he moved from his house. He was shocked to learn that the mug is a Persian gold treasure, beaten out from a single sheet of gold before the time of Alexander the Great. Experts said the type of gold and the way the cup was hammered was “consistent with Achaemenid gold and gold smithing” dating back to the third or fourth century BC. The Achaemenid Empire ruled most of the Middle East and was conquered by Alexander the Great in 330 BC. Could this cup be one of Alexander’s war trophies? What stories could it tell from the past 2300 years?
The rare cup was sold at auction by Duke’s Auction house in southwest England in June, 2008. Though the Cup was valued much higher by experts, it only fetched £50,000, or roughly $99,000 U.S. Dollars (at 2008 exchange rates, $75,769 today). John Webber said he was still very pleased with that result.