Valuer's surprise find

12th May 2022

A pair of porcelain bowls have sold for £131,250 at auction after being discovered being used for storage high up on a kitchen shelf.

One of the Chinese bowls was spotted by an eagle-eyed valuer from Woolley and Wallis on a routine visit to a house in Buckinghamshire. Its pair was almost immediately unearthed from its hiding place behind a Staffordshire meat plate and consigned to be sold in the Fine Chinese Works of Art auction in Salisbury on 17th May.

Jeremy Lamond, Head of Valuations, said he couldn’t believe his eyes when he made the discovery. “The kitchen is usually the last port of call on a routine valuation as most just contain the household dinner and glass wares, so I wasn’t expecting to find anything of interest. The first bowl was full of corks and corkscrews and, being on a high shelf, could easily have been overlooked so I was excited to see it. Then when I saw there was a pair to it, I knew we had something special.”

The bowls, known as ‘Lantern’ medallion bowls, were made during the reign of the Daoguang emperor in the first half of the 19th century and have seal marks that indicate they were Imperial pieces made for an important Chinese client. They have been in the vendor’s family for at least the last 60 years, being passed down from their grandparents. The bowls are listed on a Harrod’s valuation from 1962 with a value of £35 (the equivalent of £550 today) - a lower value than that recorded for the family refrigerator. Two insurance valuations carried out since that date had missed them altogether.

“The bowls were on a shelf about 7ft up - one full of corks, the other containing a broken Beswick figure and a tube of superglue – it didn’t look like anyone had paid much regard to them for some time,” continued Lamond. “But once they were found I had to stop the client from giving them a quick wash! I was delighted when they agreed to consign them for sale.”

The bowls were sold at Woolley and Wallis on Tuesday 17th May (lot 572) where eager Chinese buyers chased them well beyond their £20,000 starting price.

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