STANSTED MOUNTFITCHET, UK – A Chinese vase bought for just £1 ($1.29) in a charity shop has sold for a staggering £484,000 ($620,945) on Friday, Nov. 8, after it was found to have been made for an 18th century emperor.
The lucky shopper, unaware of its significance, listed the small yellow vase on eBay – only to be inundated with messages and bids.
Realizing it must be valuable, he removed it from the site and took it to specialists at Sworders Fine Art Auctioneers’ in Stansted Mountfitchet, Essex.
They studied the 8-inch-tall vase and identified it as being Chinese imperial and made for the Qianlong Emperor who reigned from 1735 to 1796.
The Qianlong famille rose vase is marked with a symbol that meant it wasn’t for export, but for one of the emperor’s palaces.
It is inscribed with an imperial poem that “praises incense” and two iron-red seal marks that read “Qianlong chen han,” or “the Qianlong Emperor’s own mark.”
It also reads “Weijing weiyi,” which translates to “be precise, be undivided.”
The Qianlong Emperor was the sixth emperor of the Qing dynasty. He abdicated in favor of his son, the Jiaqing Emperor, and died three years later aged 87 in 1799.
The pear-shaped vase is designed to be attached to a wall, with a flat back and floral decoration on the front.
The unnamed buyer spotted it in a charity shop in Hertfordshire.
The successful Chinese buyer bid a hammer price of £380,000, with extra fees taking the overall figure paid to £484,000.
“The gentleman vendor was in the charity shop and picked out the vase because he liked the look of it,” said Yexue Li, head of the Asian art department at Sworders. “He was shocked and very excited when we explained its importance. The vase is special because it comes with the inscription by the Qianlong Emperor, and he must have commissioned this vase. The enamel on the vase is special because it uses yangcai (foreign) enamels on a yellow ground – a special color traditionally reserved for the emperor. It’s a high-quality vase because it was court commissioned, so it would have been of a high value when it was made.”