A Connecticut Man's $35 Yard Sale Purchase Turned Out to Be a Rare Chinese Artifact Worth $500,000

One man's trash is another man's treasure.

Estate and yard sales are always full of hidden gems. And while an item may be just the thing you were looking for, rarely are they worth more than the price tag on a sticker. But that wasn't the case for one Connecticut man who purchased a blue and white bowl at a New Haven yard sale for $35. After sending photos of the bowl to auction specialists, the owner—whose name has not been disclosed to the public—learned that his recent find is in fact a 15th-century Chinese antique valued between $300,000 and $500,000. It will be placed up for auction at Sotheby's in New York next month, according to CNN.

blue and white Chinese bowl
courtesy of sotheby's

The bowl, which was originally commissioned by China's imperial court during the Ming dynasty, features beautiful motifs of lotus, peony, chrysanthemum, and pomegranate blossoms. "[The bowl had an] incredibly smooth porcelain body" and a "really unctuous silky glaze," said Angela McAteer, head of the Chinese Works of Art department at Sotheby's, and noted that the design "was never replicated in future reigns or dynasties." In addition to its cobalt blue and white design, "it had all the hallmarks that one would expect of these great commissions of the Yongle period."

Measuring just six inches in diameter, McAteer believes that the bowl would have both artistic and practical value to the court. However, there is very little known about its specific provenance, how it fell into the hands of the original owner in Connecticut, or why it was being sold at a yard sale.

The bowl will be auctioned on March 17, 2021, as part of Asia Week at Sotheby's, which includes the sale of other artifacts, antiques, and contemporary art from across the region. Other notable Chinese items include an ornate silver bowl from the Tang dynasty and an 18th-century jade brushpot, both of which are estimated to be worth approximately $1.5 million.

For aspiring antique hunters, McAteer says to "look for an equilibrium and balance in the design…and assess the quality and the workmanship that has gone into it." With these tips, you too may score a hidden treasure.

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