March 05, 2021

Bowl Bought at a Yard Sale for $35 Is Revealed to Be a Rare Chinese Artifact Worth up to $500K

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A small porcelain bowl purchased for $35 at a yard sale in Connecticut has turned out to be a rare Chinese artifact traced back to the 15th century and worth half a million dollars. 

If the saying, "One man's trash is another man's treasure," is to be explained literally, there is no better way to do so than with an ancient Chinese bowl bought at a yard sale for $35 but is worth $500k

The exceptionally rare porcelain bowl dates back to the 1400s-1500s and was picked up at a Connecticut yard sale at the cost of $35, a very minute fraction of the bowl's actual worth

Ancient clay pottery amphora vases and pots from Pompeii in the Roman Empire in Italy. | Photo: Getty Images


Now, the bowl, which features a floral design and measures six-and-a-half inches in diameter, was scooped at the yard sale last year by an antique enthusiast and will now go to auction at Sotheby's. 

According to Sotheby's, a live auction will begin for the porcelain bowl on March 17 as part of its Auction of Important Chinese Art. 


The bowl is estimated to be worth $300k-$500k and remains in good condition. The blue and white bowl is from the Ming Dynasty in the Yongle period, which lasted from 1403 to 1424. 

There are only a few others like this bowl existing in the world. Museums in Taipei, Taiwan, and London have two apiece, while Iran's National Museum has one piece. 

No scientific tests were needed to arrive at that conclusion.


The unnamed buyer of the porcelain bowl from the yard sale emailed Sotheby's after purchasing it, sharing its photos, and asking for an evaluation. 

Sotheby's experts on Chinese ceramics and art, Angela McAteer and Hang Yin receive such emails weekly, but this particular mail was the type they usually dream about.

McAteer, who is the auction house's senior vice president and also heads its Chinese Works of Art Department, told AP: "It was immediately apparent to both of us that we were looking at something really very, very special."


McAteer further said that the bowl's painting style, shape, and color are characteristic of porcelain's early 15th century period. After observing the porcelain bowl in person, the experts confirmed it was from the 1400s.

No scientific tests were needed to arrive at that conclusion with only the trained hands and eyes of specialists necessary for the purpose. 

The bowl felt smooth to the touch, had a silky glaze, and also had colors and designs that distinguished it as originating from the early Ming period. 

No one knows how the bowl ended up in Connecticut though McAteer explained that it might have been passed down through generations of the same family who were oblivious of its uniqueness.