Chinese vase sells for 450 times estimate

A Chinese vase that was believed to be a copy has sold for 450 times as much as the estimate after a bidding war.

Auctioneers Fellows handled the sale of the large porcelain vase, which was valued by the seller at between £1,200 and £1,800.

Decorated with small golden carp, lotus blossoms and waving grasses, it was believed to be a twentieth century copy of a wucai fish vase, dating from the reign of Emperor Jiajing of the Chinese Ming dynasty, who ruled from 1521 to 1567.

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"This vase was consigned via a Chinese client. Initial research when cataloguing had pointed to a number of historic precedents sold in the tens and hundreds of thousands," says Mark Huddleston, a senior specialist at the firm.

"We examined the decoration to the collar and felt that it lacked sophistication of these early pieces."

However a number of bidders queried the condition of the piece before the sale - and were clearly happy with what they found out. The vase sparked a fierce bidding war on the internet, on the telephone and in the room - and eventually sold for £810,000 to a telephone bidder.

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"Little could have prepared us for the result," says Huddleston.

"Bidding began at £1,000 and, with a handful of telephone bidders plus the usual hundreds online, predicting the final price became impossible.

"The most gratifying aspect is that a number of bidders were actually in the saleroom and had viewed it in person. One bidder even flew in from Japan and has a number of these in his collection."

In fact, Chinese porcelain is so popular these days that even copies can attract massive prices.

In January, for example, a twentieth-century copy of a Chinese Tibetan style enamelled temple vase sold for £252,000, after having initially been valued at £1,200 to £1,500.

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There's been a huge boom in demand for quality Chinese ceramics of all types, driven by wealthy far Eastern buyers. In fact, last year, Chinese art accounted for 30% of the world's auction sales.

Late last year, an old piece of porcelain that had been converted into a lamp made £540,000 at auction, while a small pot originally bought for less than £10 sold for nearly £1 million.