Auction Houses

A $3 Garage Sale Bowl Fetches $2.2 Million At Auction

Next time you are at a garage sale, keep your eye out for ancient Chinese objects of art. You never know....

This from the New York Post: A New York family scored a huge payday when this small bowl, which they bought at a garage sale for $3, turned out to be a 1,000-year old Chinese piece that sold for $2.2 million at Sotheby’s. The family bought the rare bowl at the secondhand sale in 2007, and kept it sitting on their mantle for years, the auction house said.

After becoming curious, the bargain hunters began consulting experts about the bowl. They finally brought the piece to Sotheby’s, which estimated it would sell for somewhere in the $200,000 to $300,000 range. But yesterday, London art dealer Giuseppe Eskenazi blew away those figures when he plunked down $2.2 million for the museum-quality piece.

AFP/Getty Images
The small Chinese pottery bowl that started as a $3 tag sale only to turn into a massive $2.2 million windfall at auction.He beat four other bidders for the Northern Song dynasty bowl — known as a Ding bowl — which dates back to the 10th or 11th century.There is only one other bowl like it in the world, and it is in the British Museum.A little less than 5 1/2 inches in diameter, the multimillion-dollar bowl could be mistaken for a decorative ashtray.Early-era Ding wares are known for their small utilitarian qualities, Sotheby’s said.Author Rose Kerr believes the ornamental Ding bowls were made to mimic the more elaborate gold and silver wares that were common in palaces.

The ancient piece is described as a Ding bowl because of the county Ding in the Hebei province where the kilns used to make the bowls were housed. The Ding bowl owned by the British Museum in London has been on display for more than 60 years, since it was bequeathed by famous collector Henry J. Oppenheim.

This isn’t the first big buy for Eskenazi. In 2005, the Turkish-born dealer paid $23.5 million for a rare blue-and-white jar from the 14th century at a Christie’s auction. Sotheby’s would not identify the lucky bowl sellers, only to say that they were a family from somewhere in New York state.

Earlier this month, a collection of abstract Impressionist art found in a Long Island garage was appraised at $30 million.

The owners of the bungalow found thousands of paintings and drawings by the Armenian-American artist Arthur Pinajian in 2007. They were later appraised by art historian Peter Hastings Falk and shown at the Antiquorum Gallery in Midtown.

Chinese Vase Brings $69 million at Auction

The next time you see a dusty old relic in your attic that you think is junk, don't throw it away. It may be worth millions of dollars. We hear this type of story every day but nothing quite so extraordinary as the case of a brother and sister from England who were cleaning out their parents attic. There they spotted a dusty old Chinese vase that had previously been dismissed as a reproduction. Nevertheless, they took it to an auction house to see if they could get some money for it.

As it turns out, this was a rare and very old Chinese vase with an illustrious history. After feverish bidding, the vase brought in a closing successful bid of $69.5 million dollars. Wow!

The blue and yellow vase is believed to have been made around 1740 and dates back to the royal court of Qianlong, the fifth emperor in the Qing dynasty.

It's unclear how the vase -- decorated with a fish motif -- ended up in suburban London, but experts think it was taken out of China probably around the end of the Second Opium War in 1860.

After 30 minutes, the sale finally went to an unidentified Chinese man seated in the front row on a gilded sofa who refused to divulge his identity.

Read more: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/international/chinese_vase_found_in_attic_3tBQvVo6Y8cTVrItqy3gRL#ixzz15I2YrNC6


At auction yesterday, April 14th, the first census of the United States signed by Thomas Jefferson sold or $122,000.   
Also, yesterday, in response to my comments on Tepper Gallery closing its doors, I received an e-mail from  reader advising me they had furnished their entire apartment with items they bought  at auction from Tepper, and wanted my suggestions on where to go next time around. I suggested Doyle Galleries on East 87th st. in New York City. Great values if you are aware of what you are bidding on.

Prices of diamonds, and colored stones are down. Do not sell...Hold!  As the economy gains, so will these commodities.  It may be good opportunity for buying, but be careful. Do not fall into the trap of having your adrenalin get into the way of buying emotionally. 
Remember - be AntiqueSmart!


 What is Red: Tepper Galleries, an auction institution on 25th st.. is closing its doors.  It was a great place to buy; plenty of good value.  This auction establishment was next door to Swann Galleries,
a thriving auction house dealing in prints, autographs, books, etc  There are many auction houses not doing well. If you have something of established value to sell, do not feel intimidated about
negotiating for  lower commission to be paid to them. If you have a timidity crisis, I will do it for you: NO CHARGE.

What is as hot as a Chinese firecracker? Chinese jade, especially white. Record prices at every auction. The excellent quality is hard to duplicate. Beware of bronzes, porcelain, stone carvings. All of these items
are being  reproduced in China, and fooling many of the experts. If you have anything you want me to look at, my normal rate is $50.00 per appraised item. For all AntiqueSmart clients, $20.00;  If I do not feel
I can provide accuracy, NO CHARGE. Be sure to contact this Web Site. 

Many auction houses are crying the blues, because they are in the red.  The are depending upon a forthcoming auction to have monies available to pay the rent, the electric bill, the advertising; the client is the last on the list.

Good is better:  a map of the siege of Yorktown, brought 1.15 million dollars at a Julia auction in Fairfiled, Ct . One thing about historical documents: they are not very easy to duplicate, and carry off as an original.

Antique jewelry is doing very well. Art Deco is hot, hot, hot, and if you have anything you want looked at,  especially if it is signed, you may want to contact Sothebys or Christies, or Doyle.

African Art Department:  I bought two pieces in Brussels, Belgium, in 1968, at an Antique Shop.  I sent then to a prominent auction house dealing in Ethnographic Art. I received  a phone call from them
advising me they were reproductions made in the last ten or twenty years. I refused to waste my time arguing with them, which brings me to a very interesting discussion on dealing with people at
auction houses. First of all, many of these people do not know what they are talking about. I have taken pieces into prominent N.Y. auction houses with one telling me the piece was modern, the other that it was Ming Dynasty. I have had their representatives asserting the sculptor was "Mr. X" and another telling me it definitely was "Mr. Y" Still another advising me my drawing was 16th C Italian, another auction house asserting "definitely 16th c Germanic" They even gave me the names of the artists.  If I may paraphrase, "Be Careful, It's my Art".

Keep tuning in!
I am never at a loss for words on this troublesome, but important marketplace, which places prices on items by people who may be self-described experts, but other-described novices.


Well someone did just that at Sothebys several days ago.  Andy Warhols' 200 One Dollar Bills went for a few million dollars. Not bad for a silk screen.
The New York Times confirmed last Friday, what I had reported to you two weeks ago. Auction houses are reporting lower sold and therefor more unsold items. At their American Paintings sale, name artists of new-to-market paintings are showing strong prices.

With President Obama in China, I have an interesting story to tell about my experience with the Chinese Government and the U.S. State Department:

About 12 years ago, while on a trip to Hong Kong, I decided to spend the afternoon strolling through one of the many alleyways, on the Kowloon Side of H.K. I stumbled upon a small shop selling fossils: dinosaur eggs, ammonites, fossilized fish, stingrays, etc.   Frankly, outside of a museum and magazines, I had never seen dinosaur eggs and ammonites. This story is about the ammonite which I purchased along with several other items, having them shipped to my home address in N.Y.
 Dinosauer eggs

The items were paid for. When I left H.K. and boarded the plane back to N.Y., I filled out the customs declarations clearly indicating that chinese fossils were being shipped separately. Several weeks after returning to N.Y., I received a letter from U.S. customs advising me the shipment was being held up in customs in San Francisco, because the airwaybill of lading showing the cargo to be "toys" and not fossils, with an accusatory tone of "smuggling " chinese national treasures.  
U.S. Customs referred the case to the Chinese Embassy in Washington D.C. When the Chinese Embassy heard about the fossils, they wanted the shipment returned to China, because they claimed these were "national treasures".  Never mind that Bloomingdales in New York were selling chinese fossils;
they wanted the good returned sight unseen.

I wrote a series of letters to the State Department in Washington, and a series of letters were written back to me. By providing copies of my invoices by the seller, receipts by the seller showing tat they purchased these goods from an OFFICIAL CHINESE GOVERNMENTAL AGENCY in Hunan province from whom they purchased the goods, and with a copy of my original customs form showing that I had certified I would be bring chinese fossils into the U.S., I had appeared to convince our authorities that this was a bonafide transaction, adding that the Chinese government had never even seen these goods, but they wanted it back, anyway.  
I was getting a little nasty with my tone, and then wrote a letter under the Freedom of Information Act, asking for the letters and all communications between our U.S. State Department and the Chinese Embassy in D.C.; I received many, convincing me that our State Department was trying to resolve this issue.  After almost 18 months, the State Department wrote a letter to the Chinese Embassy advising them that inasmuch as they, the Embassy representing the Peoples Republic of China, had failed to prove to them that the legal ownership was the government of China, and that I had legal title to the goods. The goods were finally released to me, after 20 months, but only after I paid storage charges
to U.S. customs in S.F., where my fossils were held, in a private storage area.

What is the moral of  the story? I do not know.......but I would suggest you keep all of your receipts, be honest with U.S. Customs, declaring everything when entering the U.S., and if their is a story on what you are buying, get it in writing.


As unemployment is inching towards 10%, a dark cloud hovers over the antiques and arts markets. I have spoken to people associated with auction houses in New Zealand, Hong Kong Singapore, New York, Pennsylvania, and San Francisco. Layoffs continue due to lagging sales, and lower prices at auction resulting in lower profits. The first place to start is by laying off people..No salaries, no fringe benefits, no sick pay, no vacations.

Auction house sales are down to about 65% on average. Big ticket items are not attracting the collector or the investor The $20,000,000. works of art are not attracting bids, and if they are, they are in after market at 50% less. After market translates to an offer after no one bids on the item. A nicely kept secret.

There are trickle down effects. With fewer people buying, galleries have closed. The Chelsea area in New York City, once a mecca for the gainfully employed now has storefronts with going out of business sales. The unluckier ones have already closed down. Dealers are stuck with inventories of "up -and-coming" artists. These artists are suffering because the dealers cannot sell their artwork. Entrepeneurs who run Exhibitions are finding fewer exhibitors willing to spend money on booths. Travel, hotels, insurance, no longer add up to investment spending, when there is no return on the investment. A dealer in Florida in Fine Art, went to Washington D.C., to exhibit. "A disaster" he asserted.

Many publications are seeing lower ad revenues. Fewer pages mean less hiring, more firing.. Newspaper and magazines, dealing in art and antiques, coupled with journalism hard news, are laying off reporters, columnists, graphic artists; "assistants to the" are becoming a thing of the past. It has been reported the Los Angeles Times has laid off more than 50% of its staff of 1100 people. The Wall Street Journal is closing its Boston Bureau. Newspapers and magazines over the past few years have reduced journalism spending by 1.6 billion dollars. That is BILLION, with a "B".

Is there any good news out there? If here is, YOU CAN BET YOU WILL READ IT HERE FIRST. So what is someone to do who has something to sell? Hold on to it, unless you need he money, and if you need the cash, ask me what it might be worth before you give it away, Incidentally, some of he smaller auction house are sending out notices to their clients, that that they will accept up to 15% lower bids on the lowest bid you will accept for your consigned property. In this economic environment, everyone who is hurting, winds up wounding the other guy financially. We are backed up with ll of the inqueries we are receiving from you, but we promise to answer all of those questions quickly.

Remember, be ANTIQUE SMART!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Gold Tiger Head sold at Bonhams and Butterfield


The San Francisco auction house Bonhams and Butterfield, sold a gold tigers head, 2 1/2 inches high, made for Tipu Sultan, known as THE TIGER OF MYSORE, for an astounding $576,000. at an April auction. At that price, would you sing "Hold that tiger..."? Or "sell that tiger...?
Gold tiger head


Metropolitan museum of art 
Auction houses continue laying off staff.  Museums are the next tough area. Even the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art has just laid off dozens of people including curators. Things are so bad that a number of museums want to sell some of their art work so they can pay their bills.
The New York State legislature wants to enact a bill to forbid the sale of any art works in N,Y, Museums. This, however, is a double edged sword. If they will not be allowed to dispose of the art to pay outstanding bills, they will have to layoff people.
Did you know there are hundreds of thousand of items in the basements of these museums, never seeing the light of an exhibition hall? It makes more sense to dispose of some of these items
instead of laying of people with children to support.  Unfortunately, politicians want to make noise to bring attention to themselves. A couple of laid off people, are only a couple of votes lost.
If you would like to know the names of these jerks, read todays N.Y. Times.  VOTE THEM OUT OF THEIR WARM OFFICES, and strip them of their fringe benefits.

To demonstrate some of the great art held in storage at our museums, check out this book on a unique exhibition of Andy Warhol's work that was in storage at the Museum of Modern Art in New York:

Raid the Icebox 1, with Andy Warhol: An Exhibition Selected from the Storage Vaults of the Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design


At a recent auction in Vineland N.J., a 37 inch long enamelled tin clown train sold for $103,500.....The 1909 Marklin piece is alleged to have been found in an attic. The train consisted of four clowns sitting on  separate chariot-type chairs, pulled along by a clown on a bicycle. 
1909 Marklin tin clown train What's in YOUR attic???


Sothebys and Christies have laid off hundreds of staff as sales continue to fall. Several small auction houses in the New York/New Jersey area have filed for bankruptcy, Antique shops are closing down due to lower volumes and their inability to cover expenses. High-end items continue to do well. Low-end have become out of favor due to a reduction in discretionary spending.
How will this impact the art and antiques market? I predict that the art market will continue to retract as the economy continues to shrink. The high end will always have buyers but even at the high end, the price for art will decline somewhat. The greatest pain could be experienced at the low end. Those buying lower priced art, tend to buy it when times are flush since you will not buy art if you are concerned about paying your rent and food.
However for those who are debt free, still working and don't feel the strain of a bad economy, there is no better time to buy art and antiques. There are great bargains out there for those who want them.