$35 yard sale bowl sells for over $700,000

A rare 15th-century Chinese bowl bought for $35 at a yard sale was just sold for over $700,000.
A rare 15th-century Chinese bowl bought for $35 at a yard sale was just sold for over $700,000. (Image credit: Courtesy Sotheby's)

A floral porcelain bowl, purchased for $35 at a yard sale in Connecticut last year, just sold for over $700,000 at a Sotheby's auction.

Only after having the bowl evaluated by experts at Sotheby's did the yard-sale-goer discover that he had casually bought a rare 15th-century Chinese bowl. There are only six other companion bowls like this one known to exist around the world, Live Science previously reported.

The experts estimated the bowl, which is shaped like a lotus bud and painted with cobalt-blue floral patterns, to be worth between $300,000 and $500,000. But on Wednesday (March 17), after a battle between four bidders at the Sotheby's Important Chinese Art auction in New York, the bowl sold for $721,800, more than 20,000 times its asking price at the yard sale.

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The bowl dates back to the reign of the Ming dynasty's third emperor, known as the Yongle Emperor, who ruled from 1403 to 1424. The Yongle court, for which the bowl was made, brought in a new style of porcelain to China, according to the previous Live Science report. 

It was "a style immediately recognizable, never surpassed, and defining the craft still in the eighteenth century," according to the Sotheby's listing for the bowl.

"With more than five centuries of history, the bowl has an incredible story," from the Yongle court to present-day Connecticut to the Sotheby's York Avenue salesroom, Angela McAteer, the Sotheby’s Head of Chinese Works of Art Department in New York, said in a statement. "Upon viewing the bowl for the first time, our team immediately recognized the quality of this undisputed gem, and it is a reminder that precious works of art remain hidden in plain sight just waiting to be found."

Originally published on Live Science.

Yasemin Saplakoglu
Staff Writer

Yasemin is a staff writer at Live Science, covering health, neuroscience and biology. Her work has appeared in Scientific American, Science and the San Jose Mercury News. She has a bachelor's degree in biomedical engineering from the University of Connecticut and a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz.