Wokingham Auctions

‘Worthless’ porcelain sold for £10,000 at auction
Posted On: 15 Aug 2019 by Pascal McNamara


from The Henley Standard, August 15th, 2019

A SET of “worthless” Chinese porcelain vases and a bowl belonging to an elderly Henley couple has sold at auction for £10,000.

The pair had owned the items for many years after inheriting them from a distant relative but assumed they had no value because several had been smashed and crudely restored.

Their auctioneer, whom they met during the weekly valuations at the Vintage Look antiques shop in Hart Street, Henley, agreed and priced the lot at between £50 and £100.

However, the items attracted the attention of several Chinese buyers because one of them is believed to date back to the early 19th century.

The 36cm tall blue and white baluster jar, which bears craftman’s marks from the reign of Qing dynasty emperor Daoguang, has several large cracks and a circular mark where a chunk was knocked out then glued back in.

But the online buyer, who was based in Beijing, was still interested because it is part of his country’s heritage. Several other Chinese bidders made offers, both online and in person at Wokingham Auctions.

Auctioneer Pascal McNamara said such items were becoming more valuable because China’s economy is developing and there is a growing middle class.

He said many artefacts were taken from Chinese imperial palaces during invasions by Western countries and there was a desire to reclaim them regardless of their condition.

The lot also included two pairs of vases and the bowl dating back to about the early 1900s. Several of these were also cracked,

Mr McNamara said: “The couple were clearing their house out to downsize and they popped into Vintage Look with a few items of jewellery. We got chatting and they asked if I’d be willing to have a look at their vases. The lady had been left them by a great-aunt who spent a lot of her life in the Far East during the Thirties and Forties and she knew very little about them.

“She thought they had little value and her main concern was just to get rid of them.

“It’s difficult trying to value and age these items because we see so many reproductions, right down to the character marks. When I saw the vases I was in two minds as to whether they were worth taking.

“However, over the past 15 years or so we’ve seen Chinese ceramics fetching higher prices because China’s middle class is very patriotic and they want their ‘loot’ back.

“Online auctioneering has also made it possible for people with very specific interests to search for fairly obscure items as and when they come up.

“We had no idea that there would be so much interest until just before the auction.

“These kinds of sales are wonderful but quite rare. I spoke to the buyer afterwards and he confirmed it was the jar which attracted his attention.

“That jar had been pretty badly smashed but the fact that it had been reconstructed shows that it was worth doing so. If it had no value, the previous owner wouldn’t have repaired it

“This was an exciting result and the owner was astonished. It was a lovely surprise and there’s a sense of things going full circle as the vase is returning to where it came from.”

During the same sale on July 20, Mr McNamara sold a collection of gold sovereigns and coins from the estate of a deceased Wargrave resident for £30,000.

He also sold their collection of 19th-century editions of the London Illustrated News for £1,250.