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300 Year Old Vase = Big Payday

January 15, 2021

white chinese celandon jade vaseI have written about the surprising auction results of Chinese art objects many times, but I am still amazed at how auctioneers consistently seem to have a hard time with their valuations.  A recent sale in Ireland, once again, demonstrates the difficulty in valuing objects and the strength of the market as the final price of another Chinese vase shocks the auctioneer and the family that consigned it.

It is unknown how the 300-year-old Chinese vase made it to Ireland, but it has been part of an Irish family’s collection for over 80 years. Since there was very little information about its history, the auction house’s estimate was modest (€ 800–1200), and the catalog description was very basic — ” Chinese celadon vase of amphora form decorated with scroll handles, seal mark to base” … but that was just enough to spark quite a lot of interest.

Bidding started at just €500; it appears this was intentional to stir up the competition as the auctioneer had become aware of the high level of interest. When the lot opened, the price quickly shot past €100K. As the bidding escalated, the competition dwindled to just two bidders, one online and the other on the phone.  The phone bidder, a collector from Taiwan, was undeterred and eventually became the new owner when the hammer finally came down at € 1.2M/$1.44M (€1.5/$1.84M w/p), which set a record price for an art object sold at auction in Ireland.