A battered stringed instrument handed in to a charity shop caught the eye of an Antiques Roadshow expert – and was snapped up by a collector of ethnic art.

The wooden zither, embellished with a bird’s head and tail, turned up at the Princess Alice Hospice shop in Raynes Park, where manager Maureen Creely took a shine to it.

The instrument had been donated by a woman who was moving house.

“I thought it might be of value and decided to take it along to the BBC Antiques Roadshow when it came to Morden Hall Park,” Maureen said.

“I was directed towards Lars Tharp, who looked at it and said ‘wow’ – and people started crowding round."

Lars declared it to be a tribal zither, made for export but of unknown origin.

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“He plucked the strings and it made a lovely sound – like the signature tune from Tales Of The Unexpected,” the shop manager added.

Although the zither was not chosen to feature on the BBC TV show, Maureen took it back to the shop and placed it on sale with an £85 price tag based on Lars’s valuation.

“I popped out from the shop for a few minutes and when I returned, it was gone,” Maureen said.

The staff said the zither had been snapped up by one of the shop’s regular customers, Brian Watson, who is an avid collector of ethnic art.

Brian was delighted with his purchase, which he identified as probably Burmese, around 200 years old.

“It has a lovely sound,” he said. “I originally spotted it a while ago and realised it was a zither – and this time I visited the shop I decided to buy it.”

He has added it to his extensive collection, accrued over the years as a result of his global travels.