$3 Bowl For $2.2 Million: Why Was Such A Cheap Bowl Suddenly So Expensive?

By Jason Van Hoven on March 20, 2013 11:05 AM EDT

Sotheby's
Sotheby's is one of the world's largest auctioneers of fine and decorative art, jewelry and collectibles. (Photo: Creative Commons)

A $3 bowl sold for $2.2 million on Tuesday.

Could you believe it?

A rare, 1,000-year-old Chinese bowl from the Northern Song Dynasty purchased at a tag sale in New York for just $3 sold at Sotheby's Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art auction in New York, according to reports. The $2.2 million winning bid was nearly eight times the $3 bowl's estimated price of somewhere between $200,000 and $300,000.

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Surprisingly, the $3 bowl sold for $2.2 million had been sitting on a shelf in the living room of the original owner's upstate New York home since 2007. When the owner's family, who has remained anonymous, noticed the increased interest in Chinese art among collectors in recent years, it had the bowl appraised and realized its value.

The $3 bowl sold for $2.2 million bowl, white with an ivory glaze, a saw-tooth pattern etched around the outside and five inches in diameter, was the prized object of a bidding war among four bidders at Sotheby's auction in New York. London dealer Giuseppe Eskenazi eventually won with his bid of $2,225,000. 

As NBC News reported, Eskenazi is regarded as one of the world's top dealers of Oriental art. He opened a gallery in 1960 with his father and started a festival called Asian Art in London for international collectors.

The only other bowl in the world known to match the $3 bowl sold for $2.2 million to Eskenazi has reportedly been housed in the British Museum in London for the past 60 years as the New York Post notes. That bowl, called a Ding Bowl because of the county Ding in the Hebei province in China where the kilns used to make the bowls were housed, almost identical in size, form and coloring, was donated to the museum in 1947 by the prominent British collector Henry J. Oppenheim.

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