You just never know what you will find at a yard sale. Some folks snag some new golf clubs. Others grab some clothes for the kids. And some people, the ridiculously lucky people, pay $35 for a small porcelain bowl that turns out to be a rare, 15th century Chinese artifact that could fetch up to $500,000 at auction.
The bowl, about 6 inches in diameter, turned out to be one of only seven such bowls known to exist in the world, reports the Miami Herald.
Perhaps the most interesting part of this story, however, is that after purchasing the bowl, the anonymous buyer emailed information and photos to Sotheby’s Auction House asking for an evaluation.
Which, to me, means that there is a pretty good chance this person knew exactly what they were buying for $35 on that day, suckering whoever owned it previously out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. No wonder they wish to remain anonymous.
“It was immediately apparent to both of us that we were looking at something really very, very special,” said Angela McAteer, Sotheby’s senior vice president and head of its Chinese Works of Art Department. “The style of painting, the shape of the bowl, even just the color of the blue is quite characteristic of that early, early 15th century period of porcelain.”
McAteer and Chinese ceramics and art expert Hang Yin determined that the bowl dates back to the early 1400s during the reign of the Yongle emperor, the third ruler of the Ming Dynasty, and was made for the Yongle court.
Yard sale find: A small porcelain bowl bought for $35 at a Connecticut yard sale turned out to be a rare, 15th century Chinese artifact worth between $300,000 and $500,000. It's one of only seven such bowls known to exist. https://t.co/cfij1geyil #odd
— AP Oddities (@AP_Oddities) March 3, 2021
“It’s always quite astounding to think that it kind of still happens, that these treasures can be discovered,” McAteer said. “It’s always really exciting for us as specialists when something we didn’t even know existed here appears seemingly out of nowhere.”
Five of the six other bowls like this one are located at the National Palace Museum in Taipei, two museums in London, and in the National Museum of Iran.
The bowl will be going up for auction in New York on March 17 as part of Sotheby’s Auction of Important Chinese Art.