Tiny Chinese ‘teapot’ found in lockdown clear-out sells for ‘life-changing’ sum at auction

Posted on 24/09/2020 in Press Coverage

A tiny Chinese ‘teapot’ found in a Midlands garage during lockdown has sold for hundreds of thousands of pounds at auction.

Phone bidders from around the world battled to buy the 18th century imperial Chinese wine ewer which was found during a garage clear-out and almost went to a charity shop.

The rare Beijing-enamelled object, which dates back to the Qianlong period (1735-99) and resembles a small teapot, sparked international interest after it was taken to Hansons Auctioneers’ Etwall Auction Centre, near Derby, for free valuation.

Its owner, a 51-year-old semi-retired construction worker from South Derbyshire, feared the experts might laugh at him when he showed them the tiny pot, which measures just 8.5cm high, but it sold today (Sept 24) for a ‘life-changing’ sum.

It smashed its £20,000-£40,000 estimate to reach £390,000 when the gavel finally fell. Eight phone bidders from around the world, including China and America, battled to own the item which was eventually secured by a London buyer. Two almost identical teapots, both with Qianlong reign marks, exist in the National Palace Museum in Taipei, Taiwan, and the Palace Museum in Beijing, China.

Charles Hanson, owner of Hansons, said: “I am absolutely delighted for our vendor. When objects achieve results like this, it’s a potentially life-changing sum for their owners. This is one of the most important objects I’ve ever had the privilege of selling. It has to be the best lockdown find ever. It was found boxed up in a Derbyshire garage and was destined to go to a charity shop.”

The seller said: “I’m thrilled. This will change a few things for us all. It’s come at a really good time. I sat and watched the auction live at home with my brother and family. It was tense. I got a few cans of Guinness in beforehand. We’ll be going for a drink tonight and toasting grandad. I might even buy that metal detector I’ve always wanted.

“The teapot has been in my family as long as I can remember. My mum used to display it in a cabinet. We believe it was brought back to England by my grandfather who was stationed in the Far East during the Second World War and was awarded a Burma Star.

“Mum passed away 17 years ago, then dad nine years ago and the teapot ended up in a loft in Newhall. Later it was boxed up and moved to a relative’s garage in Church Gresley. We’d been thinking of sending everything to a charity shop.

“But then lockdown came along and I finally had time to go through the boxes in the garage. I’d always thought the teapot, which is what I’ve always called it, was special. Even so, when I took it to Hansons I was still unsure so dug out a few other bits and pieces for them to value in case they laughed at me when I pulled out the teapot.”

Hansons’ valuer Edward Rycroft did smile when he saw it - but only because he recognised its potential: “I knew it was special and persuaded the vendor to leave it with us so we could carry out some research. We were delighted to tell him later that it could be worth tens of thousands of pounds but the auction result exceeded all expectations.”

Mr Hanson said: “Ewers and teapots of this type were fashionable at court during the period of Emperor Qianlong. He was fascinated by European enamel and the new method of enamel painting and the style was replicated in his imperial workshops. During Emperor Qianlong’s reign this art form reached heady heights of perfection, with designs reflecting the emperor's extravagant taste.”

The rare Qianlong period wine ewer was sold on September 24 at Hansons, Heage Lane, Etwall, Derbyshire, DE65 6LS. To find out more, email: [email protected].