Here’s a story that could cause some social unrest: Liu Yiqian, a Chinese collector, recently dropped about $36 million on a single teacup at an auction by Sotheby’s of Hong Kong.
The least surprising aspect of this auction is the price. Imperial wares (this one dates back to roughly 1465) of high quality and rarity have been receiving astronomical prices on auction for some time. What floors us is the cup’s scale (it holds about three sips of tea) and that Liu charged this to a credit card.
Liu used his Centurion Card to pay for the cup due to Chinese capital controls. He had to sign 24 separate card receipts due to transaction caps. The purchase netted him 421 million American Express points, which can be converted into about 28 million frequent flyer miles.
The cup is destined for Liu’s private museum. The piece dates back to the Chenghua era and is called the “Chicken Cup” for its depiction of a rooster, a hen and their chicks, which Bloomberg states represents the emperor, the empress and his subjects. It’s also apparently is one of the most faked pieces of porcelain in China, so let’s hope for Liu’s sake that Sotheby’s did their homework.
Above image: The “Chicken Cup,” sold at a Sotheby’s auction for $36 million, is on its way to a private museum.