Written by Casey Van Ommering
Supply and demand is the name of the game when we’re talking about economics – the reality that prices are determined by the number of providers and purchasers who want an item, good, or service. There’s no better place to see this at work than collector’s items. No longer in production, collector’s items are limited in existence and highly coveted; and as a result, the rarer the item is, the higher the price goes up. Centuries-old Chinese ceramics embody China’s history within its artwork, craftsmanship, and materials, making excellent examples of supply and demand.
At a recent auction in Hong Kong, a porcelain bowl sold for more than $25 million – amongst the highest prices a good has ever sold – due in part to the details behind its formation. It originated from Beijing’s imperial workshops in the 18th century under the reign of Yongzheng the Emperor (1722 to 1735).
A recent find in the South China Sea gives yet another closer look at history – the wrecks of two ships along the Silk trade routes. The ships were found just 12 miles apart, heading in opposite directions, pointing to the fact that it must’ve been a busy trade route at the time, particularly the Sea Silk Trade routes.
If you look at the picture of the bowl above, you’ll find the artwork of two swallows, a blooming apricot tree, and a willow painted around the outside. It is also decorated with a portion of a poem written for Emperor Kangxi, the predecessor to Yongzheng. Only two of these bowls are still in existence – the one recently sold and the other at the British Museum in London.
Many families own these rare items from generation to generation without realizing the value, importance, and price they may have in the eyes of collectors. One man became significantly richer, discovering that his two Chinese bowls were worth $80,000.
“I watched the auction live online, and the prices kept rocketing. I was shouting at the computer.”
He texted his sister during the auction, “We just couldn’t believe what was happening.”
Collectors join the hunt for rare items like these every day.
Collecting and selling Chinese ceramics is not only incredibly lucrative but thrilling to be part of.
After reading this article, if you think collecting and/or reselling items like Chinese ceramics sounds like it might be right for you, proceed with a word of caution. People are trying to swindle anywhere money is involved, even forging art to make a quick profit. As a potential collector, you have to know what to look for when making big purchases.
The top 3 suggestions:
1. Become familiar with ceramics and art from different eras to recognize an authentic collector’s item when the time comes.
2. Ask experts in the field what they look for. Chances are, you walk away more ready and equipped to buy top items like the Chinese porcelain bowl worth $25 million.
3. Attend an auction rather than a museum selling valuables. The plus side of attending and purchasing at an auction versus a museum is that you can feel the ceramic before purchasing it to determine if it is authentic.
Chinese ceramics are an exciting impression of the past, describing the details of Chinese customs, culture, art, lifestyle, education, social structure, and government. You can easily learn more by giving Chinese ceramics a quick Google search, encountering it at a museum, or collecting it yourself. Who knows? You might be the next person to come across a rare Chinese ceramic and sell it for, say, thousands, if not millions, of dollars.