WHEN jobless Brian Hann forked out a few quid for a “bunch of junk” in a second-hand store, he never imagined it could be potentially worth a small fortune.
But that’s the stroke of luck he enjoyed after finding rare footage of comedy genius Charlie Chaplin that could fetch up to £100,000 at auction.
The 40-year-old unearthed his bargain buy at Second Time Around in Westoe Road, South Shields.
He only paid a small sum for the box containing pottery and 35mm footage on a tin reel of Chaplin from 1916.
At the time Mr Hann, of Fort Street, the Lawe Top, South Shields, was unaware he had stumbled on treasure.
Now it has emerged that the footage is part of a First World War propaganda film called Zepped, starring Chaplin and showing scenes of a Zeppelin raid over London. Last week, what was believed to be the only copy of the film, went on sale at Bonhams auction house in London, with a £100,000 asking price.
The auctioneers have been informed of Mr Hann’s find, and one of their film experts is to examine the footage to authenticate it.
Mr Hann said: “When I read about the auction in London, and saw the footage, I realised it was exactly the same as I had picked up at the charity shop. I couldn’t believe it. The only thing missing is the Zeppelin footage at the start.
“There’s Chaplin reading a newspaper while leaning against a tree, then a bathing beauty comes into shot and there’s a wartime message about saving food. I’m not greedy, I’m not expecting £100,000 for the film, but it should be worth more than what I paid for it.”
Zepped is almost seven minutes long and recorded on extremely fragile 35mm nitrate film.
It was designed to be sent on a morale-boosting mission to troops in Egypt, and to defuse the terror inspired by Zeppelin bombing raids over London during the First World War.
A spokesman for Bonhams said: “In the event the footage didn’t sell at the auction, we’ll be happy to put Mr Hann in contact with one of our experts to authenticate it.”
The film was classified by the British Board of Film Classification in 1917. The last known reference to it is an advertisement in the publication Manchester Film Renter, which listed a trade viewing of the film in Victoria Street, Manchester.
Lindsey Whitey, owner of Second Time Around, was shocked when the Gazette told her of the potential worth of the footage.
She said: “I can’t believe it. It looks like I will never be a millionaire, but good luck to him. I hope he gets a lot of money for it. I’m no expert on film, I think it was in a box with a load of other stuff. This place is like an Aladdin’s Cave.”
Meanwhile, Mr Hann has asked for help from any experts and dealers to evaluate his find. Call 427 4852.