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Tiny vase bought at thrift shop could sell for $11,800

Posted at 6:15 PM, Jul 13, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-13 18:16:40-04

(CNN) — A hand-sized vase bought from a UK thrift store for just £2.50 ($3.30) is expected to sell for up to £9,000 ($11,800) at auction.

The 10-centimeter (four-inch) masterpiece was spotted by a couple in the southeastern English county of Surrey, on the edge of London, according to Canterbury Auction Galleries in a press release.


“My partner Ahmet and I wandered into the charity shop to have a look around – I always head for the books and he heads off to look for art and vintage stuff,” said seller Karen, who only provided her first name, in the release. “He’s not an expert but he does have great taste and an instinct for the ‘real thing.’”

“He came over and showed me the vase and I said something a bit dismissive like ‘very pretty’. ‘No, look at the base!’ he said, and showed me the etched marks,” she added.

They suspected the etchings could be significant but had no idea what the item could be worth, according to the auction house.

They purchased the item for a grand total of £2.50 ($3.30) before contacting the auction house for an expert valuation.

Specialists identified the vase as being the work of late Japanese ceramist and cloisonné artist Namikawa Yasuyuki, who lived between 1845 and 1927, the release added. He was one of Japan’s most famous artists from the Meiji period.

“The beautiful work by Yasuyuki’s Kyoto studio is held in several collections and is highly sought-after,” said specialist Cliona Kilroy, co-director of Canterbury Auction Galleries, in the release. “He and Namikawa Sōsuke were the most famous cloisonné artists of the late 18th and early 19th centuries - the ‘Golden Age’ of enamelling in Japan.”

Cloisonné is an intricate enameling technique which involves soldering delicate metal strips or wire, bent to an outline of a design, to a metal surface. The small spaces created in the enclosed outline are then filled in with colored enamel paste, before the entire decorative piece is fired, ground smooth and polished.

Japanese cloisonné is unique for its highly polished, glass-like surface, according to the auction house.

As for Yasuyuki’s vase,”the exceptionally fine work and naturalistic depiction of cockerels and hens on a black background, with birds in flight overhead, was something of a trademark of his,” Kilroy added.

The vase will be available to bid for in a two-day auction between July 29 and July 30. The couple selling it plans to give a “generous donation” to the charity shop where they found the item, according to the auction house.

A larger vase by the same artist sold at Canterbury Auction Galleries for £29,000 ($38,000) in April 2019, the release added.