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Record Price For ‘Worthless’ 18th Century Chinese Vase At Guildford Auction House

Published on: 6 Dec, 2022
Updated on: 5 Dec, 2022

A beautifully decorated 18th century blue and white Chinese vase sold for a record £48,500 after a “fierce” online and telephone bidding war with seven mainly Chinese bidders in October.

It was the highest hammer price for a single item for Wellers Auctions Ltd based in the centre of Guildford.

This blue and white Chinese vase sold for a record £48,500 at Wellers Auctions in October 2022. The vendor had thought it probably “worthless”.

The vase, decorated with Qianlong marks to the base, was sent for auction by a Guildford resident who had inherited the vase from his father. The vendor, who has preferred to remain anonymous, said he thought it was probably worthless but sent it to the auctioneers just in case it had a “modest value”.

The 18th century vase had Qianlong marks on the base.

He had stored it in the back of his transit van for some years and it then spent a further period among the weeds in his back garden.

Despite the vase being damaged and poorly repaired, bidders were enthusiastic and pushed the price up to £48,500 (excluding the buyers premium).

Andy Stubbs, marketing director for Wellers Auctions Ltd, said it was an “incredible sum” for the Chinese vase.

He said the moral of the story was to “never take for granted the value of anything, especially if it is of Chinese origin”. He also added that modern internet search engines developed by leading on-line portals will find anything of interest very quickly.

The vase reached an “incredible” £48,500 at auction despite being “damaged and poorly repaired”.

The vendor who wished to remain anonymous told the tale of how the Chinese vase came to auction.

He said: “Between the early 1970s and the late 1980s, my parents owned a couple of antique dealerships near Guildford. When my mum died in 1989, my dad attempted to keep the business ticking over for a further two or three years until recession in the 1990s brutally eviscerated the fine arts retail industry with little prospect of recovery.

“By that time, and In poorer health himself, my dad had made up his mind to sell up and mothball the entire stock, their storage backrooms, nearby lockups and half of the house in which he was living.

“I suspect his plan was to sell off individual items periodically in order to supplement his pension as he told me he was auctioning period furniture to pay his bills and feed himself.

“Once my first wife and I had moved down to sunny Spain to build up a landscape design business, I saw little of my dad during the 1990s until I returned to England to find him living as a recluse. Sadly, his mental as well as his physical health were already in rapid freefall before he died in 2004, leaving me as sole beneficiary of his estate.

“Eighteen years on and I’m still nowhere near to clearing through his chattels. Most of the remaining valuables are currently in storage, some at a remote address in Cornwall with others knocking about up here in Guildford.

“Unaware of its true worth, the Chinese Qianlong vase was retrieved from a heap of junk in the back of my tatty old Ford Transit van before it finally wound up overtaken by weeds in the back garden.

“Clearing space to assemble an outdoor jacuzzi ahead of last summer’s heatwave involved shifting a grubby pile of ceramics among which lay the said vase.

“I had a growing suspicion it might be of modest value and we added it to a small collection of items ready for any upcoming local auctions.

“As for what happened next, we could never have imagined. The rest is history.”

Andy Stubbs said to get in touch with Wellers if you are interested in selling any antiques, jewellery items or collectables. You never know the value of what is in you garage or loft

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