Chinese vase auction disaster has happy ending

Auction house

When Tony Johnson and his mother Gene put up an antique Chinese vase for auction in 2010 they were stunned by the result. A Chinese billionaire bid an astonishing £43 million, making it the most ever bid for this sort of antique. However, their joy turned to disappointment when the billionaire discovered the 20% auction fees and pulled out of the purchase.

Now there's another twist in the tale, as they have finally sold the piece.
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The sale

The 16 inch vase was made for the Chinese emperor Qianlong, who ruled from 1736 to 1795. According to the Telegraph, the Johnson's inherited it from Gene's sister - who in turn had inherited it from her husband, who had received it from an uncle. It was sold by Bainbridges auctioneers (pictured) in 2010 for 40 times its estimate.

After the sale fell though, the auction house started negotiating with the buyer, and even brought in international auctioneer Bonhams - but with no success. The 18th century vase remained unsold, and the Johnsons no better off.

However, this week it emerged that there was a happy ending to the story as a private buyer from the Far East has stumped up £25 million for the vase. Julian Roup, a spokesman for Bonhams, told the Daily Mail: "We are pleased to confirm the sale of the vase for an undisclosed sum, in a private treaty deal.

It's not a patch on the original bid, and we can safely assume that both auction houses got a slice of the money. However, it should leave the family compensated for two years of uncertainty.

Other disastrous auctions

It's a happy ending for a potential disaster. However, it's not the first time an auction has ended in tears.

At the moment, the internet is buzzing with a photograph taken by a woman trying to sell a yellow skater dress on eBay. When photographing it she didn't realise that an image of herself in a state of undress was reflected in a mirror, and subsequently posted to the website. It was soon taken down, but not before it was shared and seen by millions of people.

Traditional auctions can feature disasters too. One couple bought a Detroit property at auction in October last year for just $500. However, on arriving at the property earlier this year they found it had been demolished by confused City employees. Fortunately they were refunded what they had paid, and offered the opportunity to pick any of the other empty properties owned by the city for nothing.

The Olympics produced an unusual auction headache too last year. The games organisers hit on the notion of selling off items from the games. The trouble is that some of them didn't materialise after the games - which was a pity because they had already been sold.

A director of auction organiser Innovative Sports told the Telegraph: "Unfortunately some of the products didn't materialise in the way they should have. The issue is people wanting products that we just don't have. We are offering everyone affected a 100 per cent full refund. Some people don't want the refund, they want their products. I don't know what to do about that."

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10 of the weirdest celebrity products
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Chinese vase auction disaster has happy ending

When it comes to bizarre celebrity products, they don't come much weirder than the Bill Wyman Signature Metal Detector, designed and marketed by the former Rolling Stones bass guitarist.

Apparently, Wyman, who is now in his mid-70s, loves archaeology and has used his own metal detector to find relics in the English countryside dating back to the Roman Empire.

Fans of US president Barack Obama can show their appreciation for the politician by buying a Barack Obama Chia - shaped like the president's head - and growing grass out of the top of it.

And for those who prefer a more historical theme to their garden ornaments, Chias shaped like the heads of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln are also available.

Action star Sylvester Stallone put out a protein-infused pudding designed to appeal to fans keen to build muscles like the big man's.

Unfortunately for them, however, the pudding has now been taken off the market.

Heiress Paris Hilton endorses numerous products, ranging from outfits for your dog to hair extensions.

But the most random Paris Hilton product on the market has to be her line of craft supplies, the Creativity Collection, which features items such as stickers and transfers.

Rapper Snoop Dogg's latest business venture is a "smokeable" lyric book.

"Rolling Words: A Smokable Songbook" contains the words to some of Snoop's biggest hits, including "Ain't Nothing But A G'Thang" and "Gin and Juice" - all on cigarette rolling papers.

Hollywood film director David Lynch loves coffee so, of course, he decided to make his own.

Embarrassingly, the tagline on the David Lynch Signature Cup is "It's all in the beans ... and I'm just full of beans."

Former boxer George Foreman's grill is undoubtedly the most successful, random celebrity product of recent years.

The "machine", which claims to reduce the fat content of your meal by 42%, has earned Foreman more than $200 million over the last decade or so.

Supermodel Heidi Klum has her own line of low-fat sweets, which includes Heidi's Yogurt Dessert Cremes and Heidi's Yogurt Fruit Cremes.

Apparently, the design of the sweets is influenced by icons that Klum uses in her text messages to friends. Strange.

Actor Danny DeVito is such a big fan of Italian liquer Limoncello, he decided to launch one of his own.

Called Danny DeVito's Premium Limoncello, the diminutive star claims that it's "like pouring yourself a glass of liquid sunshine straight from Italy's Sorrentine Peninsula".

Steven Seagal made his name leaping around in action films that allowed him to show off his martial arts prowess. But he is also behind an energy drink called Lightning Bolt.

Advertised as being "packed with vitamins and exotic botanicals", it sounds like just the tipple if you are planning to take on 10 armed men with your bare hands.

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