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A Chinese vase that sold for $1.7 million at Altair Auctions in Norwood, Mass., in May 2013 has a "twin" that sold for $3,840 at a Jackson's auction in Cedar Falls, Iowa, in May 2012. The story exposes a problem with provenance (history), appraisals, and the habit of some bidders to "walk away" from their winning bids. The 2012 auction described the vase as a marked famille rose porcelain vase. It did not mention age and estimated its value at $5,000 to $7,000. The 2013 auction said the vase had been auctioned by Christie's in London in 1989 and that it still had its Christie's sticker from that sale. The lot number on the sticker, it turned out, matched a statuette from the 1989 sale, not a vase. Since the high bidder, telephoning from Italy, did not pick up or pay for the vase, the 2013 sale was canceled. Mistakes happen and even experts sometimes disagree about the age or maker of an antique. Read more and decide what you think. The full story appeared in the May 12 issue of the Boston Globe; a shorter version was written by well-known expert Catherine Saunders-Watson, editor of Auction Central News, on May 13.

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On left is vase purchased in 2012, on right is vase purchased in 2013.

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