Tiny Chinese pot sells for almost £1 million

Emma Woollacott
The Heaven jar
The Heaven jar

A small pot bought for less than a tenner has just sold at auction for nearly £1 million.

The four-inch-tall porcelain jar was given to the vendor's parents as a present in 1946, having been bought from a London antique shop for £9 10s – around £350 in today's money.

It then sat gathering dust on a shelf in a storage room in the owner's house in northern England.

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However, when the owners' home suffered flood damage last year, they decided to try and raise some cash for repairs. A local antique dealer spotted the jar as potentially valuable and advised calling in an expert.

And when Asian art specialist John Axford of auctioneer Woolley and Wallis saw it, he identified it as an incredibly rare Chinese Heaven jar.

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Nearly three hundred years old, the jar was one of several made for Emperor Yongzheng of the Qing Dynasty. It's painted in green and blue with two scaly winged dragons in flight amongst scrolling clouds.

It's believed to be the best of its kind in the UK: even the one at London's Victoria and Albert Museum is rated as being of lower quality.

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With a guide price of between £100,000 and £200,000, the jar ended up going for much more. The hammer price was £820,000, with buyers' fees bringing that up to £968,400.

"The vendors were very pleased with the result. My attention wasn't on them during the bidding but I saw them and spoke to them afterwards and they said they were off for a very good lunch," Mr Axford tells the Mirror.

"They originally didn't think it was worth anything it at all so to have lots of people from China, Hong Kong, Japan and Taiwan getting excited about it was very surreal for them."

It's been the second time in a week that a disregarded piece of Chinese porcelain has sold for a fortune. As we reported, a 200-year-old Chinese hat stand used for years as a lamp base made £540,000.

While Chinese porcelain was for years undervalued, it's now hugely popular amongs wealthy far Eastern buyers - so it could be time to check out all that old crockery in the attic, perhaps.