Brewing up a surprise: €100 teapot sells for €50,000


A little Chinese teapot, valued at €100, created a saleroom sensation yesterday when it sold for €50,000. The teapot, which would barely fill a mug of tea, was the unexpected “sleeper” in an antiques auction at Sheppard’s Irish Auction House in Durrow, Co Laois.

The buyer was a Chinese collector who bid by telephone from Beijing. The teapot was made in China during the reign of Emperor Yongzheng who ruled between 1723 and 1735. It was sold by an anonymous Co Carlow family who had inherited a hoard of Chinese porcelain which they believed was of only ornamental value. The “tea-leaf green” teapot had a crucial mark on the base indicating the imperial reign. It was one of many items to sell for thousands of euro.

The sale represented the latest spectacular price paid for oriental ceramics. All year, fine art auctioneers worldwide have reported unprecedented buying by newly super-rich Chinese collectors seeking to repatriate their cultural heritage. Yesterday, their attention turned to the midlands.

Some of the bidders were Chinese who had travelled to Ireland especially for the sale. Their interest was sparked by the discovery of a hidden gem in the first tranche of the Carlow family’s collection during a previous Sheppard’s auction in March. Then, a little blue and white vase, estimated to be worth around €100, was spotted on the internet by collectors in London and Beijing who recognised it as a genuine imperial vase from the era of Emperor Qianlong. It sold for 1,000 times its estimate – €110,000. Subsequently dubbed “The Carlow Vase”, it was re-sold in London last month for £240,000.

Sheppard’s had again assigned low valuations to the items yesterday because the family-run firm did not have the expertise to value oriental ceramics.