Sale of 18th C Chinese Vase Wednesday 18th October

At its recent sale of fine art and furniture the auction house of Wellers, based in the centre of Guildford, was very pleased to sell a small late entry Chinese vase for a record sum. The beautifully decorated blue and white vase decorated with Qianlong marks to the base was the subject of fierce bidding with 7 mainly Chinese bidders all locked in battle either on-line or on the telephone.

The vendor, a local Guildford resident inherited the vase from a family member and regarded it as worthless. He stored it in the back of his transit van for some years and it then spent a further period amongst the weeds in his back garden.  During its life, it had suffered some damage as there was evidence of some poorly effected repairs. Despite this, bidders pushed the price up to £48500 excluding Buyers Premium.

The moral of this story is twofold; firstly, never take for granted the value of anything, especially if it is of Chinese origin; and secondly acknowledge that search engines developed by the leading on-line portals will find anything of interest very quickly.

We asked our vendor who wished to remain anonymous to add a bit more flesh to this story and this is what he told us:

‘Between the early Seventies and the late Eighties, my parents owned and ran a couple of antique dealerships not a million miles from Guildford. When my mum passed away in 1989, Dad attempted to keep the business ticking over for a further two or three years until recession in the early Nineties brutally eviscerated the fine arts retail industry with little prospect of recovery any day soon.

By that time, and In poorer health himself, Dad had made up his mind to cut his losses, sell up and mothball the entire stock from the two shops, their storage backrooms, nearby lockups and half of the house in which he was living. I suspect his plan was to sell off individual items periodically in order to supplement his pension as he told me he was auctioning period furniture to pay his bills and feed himself.

Once my first wife and I had moved down to sunny Spain to build up a landscape design business, I saw little of Dad during the Nineties until I returned to England to find him living as a recluse. Sadly, his mental as well as his physical health were already in rapid freefall before he finally passed away in 2004, leaving me as sole beneficiary of his estate. 18 years on and I’m still nowhere near to clearing through his chattels. Most of the remaining valuables are currently in free storage, some at a remote address in Cornwall with others knocking about up here in Guildford.

Unaware of its true worth, the Chinese Qianlong vase was retrieved from a heap of junk in the back of my tatty old Ford Transit van before it finally wound up overtaken by weeds in the back garden. Clearing space to assemble an outdoor jacuzzi ahead of last Summer’s heatwave involved shifting a grubby pile of ceramics amongst which lay the said vase. As I had a growing suspicion it might be of modest value, we added it to a small collection of items ready for any upcoming local auctions.

As for what happened next, we could never have imagined. The rest is history .’


If you are interested in consigning any antiques, jewellery items or collectables to auction, our next sale is taking place on Tuesday 24th January from 9:00am. You can do so by emailing our specialist Wayne Brough via and the deadline for entries to this auction is on Tuesday 17th January, so please make sure you submit any entries to us by this date.