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.

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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.

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


Art auction 

Many of those of you who have been given a gift of value, or have inherited it from a great Aunt Martha, and perhaps tired of it, may have wondered about its value, and whether to dispose of it.

The first step in making any decision is knowing its value; a market value and an auction value. These are two important distinctions. A market value is essentially a retail price one might expect to pay in a shop. An auction value is the price one is willing to pay at auction. If one person is bidding for your item, you are going to get th minimum amount set up by the auction house for your item. If two or more people want your item, they will bid up the price, and you will receive more money for your item.

Let us assume your Great Aunt left you a Chinese vase from dated from the early 20th century. Normally, depending upon size, condition, and rarity, you may want to get an appraisal. I consider this essential. You should have some idea of value. While "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing", no knowledge is worse. Once you have some idea of what you have, it is easier to describe it to the outlet you select for sale.

The first step is locating an auctioneer who has the knowledge of auctioning off your item, and who has the expertise in providing you with what they feel is a good auction estimate. Let us start with a valuation of $1500-$2000., This is a pretty good idea of what a fine porcelain vase, 14" tall, blue and white scene, good lustered vase should bring to a collector of chinese vases. If you leave it with the auction house, you will have to give them a minimum commission of 20%, and perhaps higher.

At that point you agree to let them know and you no visit a consignment shop for their opinion. Generally, a consignment shop will not have the knowledge of an auctioneer for a delicate work of art. They will give you some pricing idea, usually very low, because they are "in and out" people. Get it in, and get it out fast. Their money is made on inventory turnover. The faster the turnover, the more quickly they make a fast dollar. If they have no knowledge, they would probably price it at around $100. They give you a 50% return on what they sell. When they sell it, you get $50. However, let us say they see something special about your vase, and they decide to mark it at $750. When and if it is sold you will get $375. You can do he math.

If you have something you no longer want, and want sll it, get it appraised. If you need my help in finding a specialized auctioneer for your special item I will help you locate one. Remember, ANTIQUESMART, is the way to go.


"The Good, The Bad and the Ugly" was not only a great Clint Eastwood movie, but we can relate to the movie as one can relate to consignment shops. 
People who are in a hurry to dispose of their valuable items through consignment shops, have two strikes against them when they step into the door. The employees providing them with appraised valuations cannot possibly have knowledge about every item being brought in, for possible sale,- 
from old dolls to duck decoys, from pewter to paintings.

Many of these shops employ workers who have never had fine arts experience, and consequently 
the consignors have to depend upon the knowledge of the shop owner and these same employees who may have no recourse but to use a library or the internet trying to place a value on these items. Their knowledge is lacking so they have to go looking; I refer to them as the "lacking and looking" shops. 
The motivation of many of these shops is high turnover; get them in, and get them out fast. Overhead has to cover rent, light, heat, taxes, and hourly wages. You cannot stay in business keeping items in inventory for more than 60 days. What does his mean? It means that their looms the possibility of your items not getting the best fair market value for your items. 
I heard from a very reliable source, about a chinese bronze being purchased in a Florida consignment shop. The item came in on a Monday, marked at $250. It was sold on a Wednesday of the same week. The consignor received he usual 50%, or $125. The buyer sold it through a major auction house for $11000. Where was the expertise on the item? Where was the fiduciary responsibility of the shop owner towards the seller? I have been made aware of an item marked "print" selling for $35., with proceeds going to the consignor for $17,50, with the same item being sold for $4599. as an old master drawing. 
What is attractive about selling through a consignment shop?Unless you definitely that your item is worth only a few dollars, the it does not matter. What does matter is for the individual having a clearer understanding of what they have, a market value, the best place to offer it, etc., etc., 

To paraphrase Bing Crosby, "Be Careful, it's my Art" 
A future column will be "How do I value my art, and how can I best dispose of it at high market values " Another future column will discuss: Buying From Consignment Shops' Traps to Avoid!