A British man unknowingly used a 4000-year-old piece of pottery to house his toothbrush for several years before it was appraised.

Karl Martin, a 49-year-old collector from Derby, purchased the clay jar at a car boot sale, along with another pot for a total of $A7 (NZ$7.33) about five years ago.

The jar featured a painting of an antelope and caught Mr Martin's eye immediately, reports news.com.au.

"I liked it straight away," Mr Martin said, in a statement released by London auction house Hansons.


According to the statement, Mr Martin used the pot as a toothbrush holder for the last several years, completely unaware of its age and value.

"I used it in the bathroom to store my toothpaste and toothbrush — it even ended up getting a few toothpaste marks on it," Mr Martin said.

"I suspected it might be very old but forgot all about it."

Mr Martin, who actually works at Hansons, spotted an Afghani antiquity at work that looked similar to his toothbrush pot.

Mr Martin holds his prized pot. Photo / Supplied
Mr Martin holds his prized pot. Photo / Supplied

"I was helping Hansons' antiquities expert James Brenchley unload a van and noticed some pottery which was similar to my toothbrush pot," he said.

"The painting style looked the same and it had similar crudely-painted animal figures"

After rescuing the pot from his bathroom, and giving it a clean off, Mr Martin had it professionally appraised by Mr Brenchley.

What the pair discovered left Mr Martin shocked.

Mr Brenchley confirmed that the toothbrush holder was a "genuine antiquity from Afghanistan and dated back to 1900BC".

"That means it's around 4000 years old — made 2000 years before Christ was born," Mr Marrtin said.

"It's amazing, really. How it ended up at a South Derbyshire car boot sale, I'll never know".

He sold the pot for more than $140 last month and said bids for the ancient artefact came thick and fast from avid collectors.

"I like the pot but decided to sell it at Hansons' November antiquities auction just to see how it would do," he said.

"There was interest straight away with advance bids placed and it eventually sold for £80 — not a fortune but a decent profit.

"Perhaps I should have held on to it. I feel a bit guilty about keeping my toothbrush in it now."