Auction 140 Highlights

Welcome to Smalls Auction Sale 140. In this sale we have on offer a wide array of desirable collectables from Antiquities, Chinese Pottery, Historical Medals and Souvenirs to Vintage Women’s Watches. For collectors of the unusual we have a magnificent specimen of Baltic Amber containing a fully formed cricket. It’s not a dinosaur but it’s still exciting to gaze upon a creature that was entombed and preserved from thousands of years ago. Amongst the antiquities we have for the avid fisherman a hook from Roman times. Complete with barb it is not too different to modern hooks showing how innovative the Romans were. The pick of the Historical medals is a souvenir of the Sydney Harbour Bridge crafted from one of the surplus rivets used in its construction and remains in near Uncirculated condition. The standout in the Chinese pottery is a magnificent Jun Bowl. Jun Bowls are classic masterpieces that sell for millions of dollars in international salerooms but, the catch is ‘provenance, provenance, provenance.’ As with all Chinese antiques these days the market is awash with copies some terribly bad and some very good, but when the stakes are so high it is no surprise that master forgers have entered the fray to produce some extremely convincing examples. With high quality copies, it is also not unusual for unscrupulous dealers to play the long game buying and selling and buying back pieces through a series of sale rooms of increasing respectability to create a lengthy false provenance and an escalating price before they eventually pocket a tidy profit. Regular visitors to our auctions would know that our core background is dealing in numismatics since the mid-1970s. We have observed similar trends across all Chinese collectables similar to Chinese coins some of which only existed is rarefied numbers decades back only to now appear in the census reports of the third-party grading services PCGS & NGC in the thousands. Where were these mostly high-grade coins hiding in the 1950s, 60s and 70s when China was under strict communist rule that forbade bourgeoise pursuits ? Certainly not in coin collections outside the borders of mainland China. Hmmm. The Bowl on offer can be traced back to the early 1990’s, but not beyond, and so considerable doubt lingers about its authenticity. It has more pros than cons meeting most of the characteristics of authentic pieces located in highbrow auction catalogues and museums but this would also be expected of a master copy. For example, it is heavily potted in the typical style and has “the carefully spaced spur marks that ring the perimeter of the base (that) indicates that (the) basins rested on a bed of spurs during firing,” which is a characteristic noted in descriptions by the upmarket London dealer Eskenazi. It also has the overall shiny gloss along with the bronze glaze on the feet typical of the numbered pieces, and the earthworm tracks in the inner bowl thought to be “the relics of cracks formed in the glazes when they dried.” It is the accepted theory that the number on the base of the bowl indicated a deescalating size with the numbers through 1 to 10 going from largest to smallest, and so the number “///” (3) on the base of this piece indicates that at 23.5cms it is a larger example. Christies in its May 2019 Sale offered an impeccably provenanced piece numbered “/” (1) measuring 25.1cms with a pre-sale estimate of US $1,000,000- 1,300,000. In the same catalogue they picture as a reference an example in the Palace Collection in Beijing also numbered “/” (1) measuring 23.5cms the same size as our Number “///” (3), so there appears to be no steadfast measurements across examples with small decrements possibly occurring in line with the standards set by different factories. What does cause some concern is that the outer purple glaze appears darker and less radiant than other pieces found in catalogues but, perhaps it was produced to please the taste of the customer who commissioned the piece. The piece is estimated as being more likely an emulation or copy but for the brave at heart it offers an opportunity for a major windfall – or not. Fortune sometimes favours the brave. Smalls Auctions