Although I don’t watch tons of TV (I’m more likely to listen to it, as my satellite radio runs through my television), I’ll admit to a fascination with Antiques Roadshow and its redneck cousin, Pawn Stars. If I notice either of them when I’m scanning the channel guide, I’m there. Part of it is my ravenous appetite for odd bits of information, but another part of it, of course, is the fantasy — the idea that something neglected in the attic may be worth a small — or even a large — fortune. It’s like Cinderella for hoarders.
And in that spirit, I suggest what may be the ultimate current example. A vase found in an old woman’s possessions was identified as a unique piece of 18th-Century Chinese porcelain, and valued by Bainbridge’s auction house at about 1 to 1.5 million pounds. However, when the auction came, the vase went for 43 million pounds. For those of you keeping score here, that’s 71.38 million dollars at the current exchange rate. As Sam Knight observes at Prospect:
It […] was by a factor of seven the most expensive thing that Peter Bainbridge had sold (he used to auction rare cars). In his own saleroom, which he has run since 1979, the record was £100,000, for a Ming alms bowl in 2008. This vase, at 430 times the price, was a leviathan. At £8.6m, the buyer’s premium (an extra charge levied by the auctioneer to cover administration) was about the same as the total turnover for the auction house for the past decade.
Knight’s article looks at the fascinating, high-risk world of the Chinese art market, and the high-stakes controversies surrounding the sale. It’s a nice piece of journalism, but it’s a shame there wasn’t any way to work Chumlee and Big Hoss into it.