AN Amarna Princess replica created by convicted master forger Shaun Greenhalgh has been auctioned for just £500 — a fraction of the £440,000 paid for his original work in 2003.

The 20-inch statuette was sold at Bolton Auction Rooms yesterday to an anonymous internet bidder — and experts say the buyer may have bagged a bargain.

The original was sold to Bolton Museum — by Shaun Greenhalgh's father George Greenhalgh — after being authenticated by experts at Christie’s auction house and the British Museum, who believed it was 3,300 years old.

The sculptor emulated the work of history’s most revered artists from the small home he shared with his elderly parents.

It took him just three weeks to make the Amarna Princess, which stood proudly in the museum for two years.

The statue was originally thought to be worth £1 million — before experts finally twigged it was an alabaster fake.

The latest replica was created and signed by Greenhalgh last year.

He gave the statue to his nephew who later decided to sell the piece.

It is understood the buyer is local to Bolton, despite bidding online.

Stephen Sloan, auctioneer at Bolton Auction Rooms, said: “I think it’s a bargain at £500 considering its pedigree and the fact it has been signed by Shaun Greenhalgh himself.

“I would have expected it to make anything up to £5,000.

“It’s a beautifully executed piece by a very skilled artisan and it would look best in a study or living room with the spotlight on it. It would be a marvellous conversation piece.”

Harry Howcroft, director of Bolton Auction Rooms, said the reason for the low price was that it was a late entry to the auction.

Mr Howcroft said: “I think £500 is very cheap. It could have easily sold for £5,000.

“We are absolutely in awe of Shaun Greenhalgh as a craftsman. I think this is a marvellous piece.

“Something like this would go very well in a boardroom or a reception room.”

Two other pieces by Mr Greenhalgh were also sold at the auction — a Majolica style tureen and cover in the form of a hare eating a cabbage leaf, which sold for £190, and a large game pie tureen and cover in the form of foxes chasing ducks, which sold for £210.

It is estimated that the Greenhalgh family raked in about £850,000 from their various cons — which took place over a 20 year period.

George, who fooled the art world selling his son’s forgeries, died last month aged 91.

The pensioner fronted the sales operation of the fakes — produced by his son — at their home in The Crescent in Bromley Cross.

The family were described by police as “possibly the most diverse forgery team in the world”.

But they came unstuck when a minor error in a supposedly ancient Assyrian tablet produced by Shaun was spotted by the British Museum.

Police later raided the family home and found a host of fakes, including three of Shaun’s previous attempts at creating the Amarna Princess.

In 2007, George and his wife Olive were given suspended sentences for their part in the fraud.

Their son admitted laundering more than £400,000 and was jailed for four years and eight months.

The family also had assets of £404,250 confiscated by the court and they were ordered to pay £363,000 to Bolton Museum.

Following his release early in 2010, Shaun Greenhalgh launched a website selling his artworks, and advertised an Amarna Princess replica for £2,500.