And while most left disappointed, expert valuers from Christie’s of London did discover one gem, and a second potential gem, during a valuation day in Cork.
Christie’s associate director Christine Ryall said a couple arrived at the Crawford Art Gallery with a painting under their arms that had been hanging in their dining room for years.
“They didn’t know what it was they had,” she said.
“But we knew straight away that it was a wonderful George Campbell watercolour.
“We advised them they should go home and insure it for €50,000.
“It was really quite a wonderful surprise. They were stunned.”
Ms Ryall said she couldn’t reveal their identity.
Another family from Tipperary, who declined to be named, brought a partially damaged watercolour of the Thames for valuation.
After a detailed examination, the experts said it might be an original work by American artist James Whistler (1834-1903), and described it as a “fascinating picture”.
They have sent it to their head office in London and if a Whistler, it could be worth nearly €30,000.
Original Whistlers are extremely rare and highly prized in America.
Hundreds of people queued from early morning for the valuation day organised by Christie’s ahead of the closing date for the 10th anniversary Irish sale which takes place at King Street on May 12.
The event was organised to help raise funds for the gallery’s acquisition fund.
People were invited to bring paintings from the 18th century on, as well as jewellery, silver, books and other objects, and donate €5 per item valued.
But Ms Ryall said she was amazed at the range of items brought along.
“We examined a lot of silver, as well as etchings, prints, porcelain and toys.”