An antiques dealer was browsing for bargains at an auction, and saw a tray full of odds and ends. He fancied one of the items, so paid £100 for the lot. At the time he hadn't noticed a small, chipped porcelain beaker lurking in among the other items. That modest beaker has just sold for £37,000.
He took the tray to a Peter White Fine Art Auctioneers in Nantwich, to get them to sift through the items, sort them into lots, and sell them. The valuer, Chris Large, spotted the fact that the blue and white beaker featured a mark that indicated that it was made by Chelsea porcelain 266 years ago.
The trident and crown mark on the base meant it was particularly rare, because only 20 known items feature this mark, and only one other beaker like this is known to exist. It's also highly unusual because it's blue and while, and Chelsea didn't make much in those colours.
Large, told AOL: "I got a feeling it was a rare piece when I saw it, and when I did more research I realised the potential value. However, the seller wasn't sure it was genuine, and because I hadn't handled a piece like this before, we decided to give it a cautious estimate, and be careful about how we catalogued the item." The guide price was just £100-£200.
Yet again it goes to show that it's not always the flashiest items that fetch the most at auction. Large told AOL: "18th century porcelain is fairly subtle stuff. An expert gets an eye for it, and can spot the important or fine pieces, but the average person wouldn't necessarily spot a valuable piece."
But before you raid the cupboards in the hope your chipped cups could be worth thousands, Large points out that it is only the very fine and rare pieces selling for huge sums at the moment. For more average pieces, 18th century porcelain is actually cheaper than it was ten years ago. He suggests that now might be a good time to add to a collection of porcelain, rather than a key moment to cash in your family china.
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