Walker’s Fine Arts and Estate Auctions was commissioned to sell a Chinese plate by the George R. Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art in Toronto, Canada. As reported by CTV, the auction house estimated that the glazed pottery featuring a three clawed dragon was between 300-500 years old and valued the piece at $700-$900 Canadian (over $656-$844 US).
Walker’s president, Jeffrey Walker, admitted that he was not a specialist in Chinese porcelain, so he consulted with experts who indicated that the plate was quite rare. Jeffrey told CTV the plate was, “Said to be from the late Yuan, early Ming Dynasty. Produced in an imperial kiln. Quite a rare example where only, only a very small handful are known to exist in the world.” Still, the auction house kept their estimates low. “We’re conservative with the dating and we’re conservative with the pricing,” said the auctioneer.
From the developing interest in the plate as the auction date neared, Jeffrey realized they valued the plate much lower than what interested parties may spend though they thought, “We were hoping then for $10,000, maybe $15,000.” Their expectations were blown away when the winning bidder, who chose not to reveal his name or nationality, purchased the plate for $1.025M Canadian (over $961K US). The anonymous foreign winner flew in to Ottawa to bid in person and competed with other international internet and phone bidders.
The winner spent a total of $1.2M Canadian (over $1.125M US) including Walker’s commission of $175,000, or over 1200 times the plate's original valuation. The Chinese plate has fetched the highest price the auction house ever received on a single item and Jeffrey said, “We’re researching to see if this, if this might be the most expensive Asian art sold in the country.”
The plate’s original owner was Mrs. Waltraud Ellis, the widow of John Ellis, a former Member of Parliament. Upon her passing in June, she donated the plate, which was believed to have been passed down by her Austrian grandparents, to the Gardiner Museum. Canada’s national ceramics museum decided to sell the donated plate to invest in Canadian pottery and ceramics.