Going, going, gone – a bargain!

If ever there was something to make you clean out your house and sort out your ‘rubbish’, this has got to be it!! A Chinese vase found gathering dust in an attic has just sold for £43 million at auction. The buyer will pay around £53 million after paying the buyer’s 20% commission to the auction house and VAT. The seller will get around £40.75 million, after deduction of the seller’s commission by the auction house. The auction house itself will make over £10 million – not a bad day to be an auctioneer!

With the price starting at £500,000, onlookers could hardly believe it as the price began to increase by £1 million at a time. The buyer is thought to be a Chinese person or a state-backed company. And, just in case you didn’t realise, the FT article does make special mention that the person is likely to be ‘wealthy’!

The Chinese vase sold for over 40 times its estimate, with speculation that the price was forced up by a Chinese cultural agency owned by the state. As China aims to regain many of its lost artefacts, prices for objects such as this have been pushed up: although perhaps £53 million is a little expensive for the everyday consumer! However, unstable financial markets and rising inflation may also be partly to blame for the surge in prices for objects such as this. We’ve seen how gold and other commodities have increased in value throughout the recession, as investors look for more stable investments – and the same appears to be happening in the world of art. I’ll certainly be keeping a look out for any dusty artefacts!

House clearance vase fetches £53 million Financial Times, Jan Dalley, Peter Aspden and Justine Lau (12/11/10)
Chinese vase: the suburban auction house that made £12m Telegraph, Andy Bloxham and Martin Evans (12/11/10)
Qianlong Chinese porcelain vase sold for £43m BBC News (12/11/10)
Chinese vase fetches record $69 million in UK auction Reuters (12/11/10)


  1. Why are auctions a good way of selling and buying a product?
  2. The auction house has made over £10 million from this sale, despite only employing 8 people. Does this income guarantee the success of this business?
  3. Using a demand and supply diagram, explain the factors that have fuelled the price increase in artefacts, such as this Qianlong porcelain vase.
  4. Why are people investing in assets, such as art and commodities, rather than in more traditional financial assets?
  5. Could an auction be an example of price discrimination?