British Antique Collector’s Chinese Plate Sells for Over £210,000 After Gathering Dust on a Shelf for Decades

Rare 14th-century Chinese lacquer charger sells for £210,000 at a provincial auction house in Gloucestershire, UK, after being thought to be worth only £3,000. The antique belonged to an anonymous British owner who inherited the circular charger, measuring 12 inches in diameter. The owner thought it was either Chinese or Japanese but had no idea of its worth.

The owner took it to a provincial auction house ‘on a whim’ where experts thought it dated back to the Ming Dynasty of imperial China. The charger was given a pre-sale estimate of £3,000, but the auctioneers were soon inundated with enquiries from bidders in Asia, leading them to believe that it was something special.

It turned out the deep red charger was made by a master craftsman during the Yuan Dynasty in the 14th century. Carved lacquer was a highly-skilled, time-consuming craft. Using a wooden base, lacquer was built up in many layers of resin and tree sap to form an extremely hard wearing natural ‘plastic’ which was then carved. The skilled carving was at its peak during the Yuan Dynasty.

The charger that was sold at Kinghams Auctioneers is comparable to similar examples in prominent museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Its authenticity, rarity, and quality resulted in a frenzied bidding battle, leading to the item selling for a hammer price of £165,000. With fees added on, the winning bidder paid £210,540 for it.

Adrian Rathbone, an associate director at Kinghams, said: ‘The vendor brought it to us on a whim. They had inherited it about 20 or 30 years ago and it had just been sitting on a shelf gathering dust. I guess they were just looking at it one day and wondered what it might be worth.’

Mr Rathbone added: ‘We carried out research on it and concluded it was something special and thought it was from the Ming period but it turned out to be even older than that. Bidding just took off. The vendor is over the moon and it is a really good result. It is a tidy sum and an early Christmas present for them.’

The sale represented a record for a single lot sold by Kinghams, beating the previous best of £140,000 for a piece of lalique. It highlights the importance of consulting expert valuers and the role that auction houses can play in revealing the hidden value of items that may have been long-forgotten.

This story also underscores the timeless appeal of Chinese art and artifacts to collectors around the world. In recent years, China’s booming economy has created a new class of wealthy collectors eager to repatriate lost treasures, leading to record-breaking sales of Chinese art and antiques at auction houses worldwide. This lacquer charger is yet another example of how the allure of Chinese art and the meticulous craftsmanship of ancient artisans continues to captivate collectors and fetch top dollar at auction.