Another found-in-the-attic story has a happy ending. Two relatives were cleaning up their inherited house near Heathrow Airport in England. They found a number of Chinese items, including a colorful 16-inch vase. They were wise enough to take it to a suburban London auction house, Bainbridge's. The highest-priced item the auction house had ever sold before brought $161,000. Peter Bainbridge researched the value of the vase and estimated it at $1.3 million to $2 million. But the final price for the vase, $85.9 million (including the buyer's premium and value-added tax), is a new world record price for a piece of porcelain and for a piece of Chinese art. It's also the 11th-most-expensive piece of art ever sold at auction.
The economics are interesting. The winning bidder was a Chinese collector who had tried to buy a similar vase at an earlier Hong Kong auction. The sellers will probably have to pay capital gains taxes of about $19.3 million, but they will still be among the richest people in England. The auction house received a $13.9 million buyer's premium, which gave the company a fabulous year.
How the vase got to England is a mystery, but the sellers said it had been in their family since the 1930s. It may have been stolen from a royal palace by British or French soldiers during the Second Opium War in the 1850s.
Photo source: Bainbridge’s Auctions