'$500' Chinese panels auction for $864,000 in the UK

Four antique Chinese panels that were discovered in an elderly man's bungalow have smashed their estimate at Charterhouse Auctioneers in the UK.

Chinese antiques panels bungalow
The auction house and consignors are still clueless as to the panels' age

The ceramic panels, which have yet to be dated, sold for an outstanding £516,000 ($864,176), as Chinese bidders surprised those in the auction room on February 13-14. They were estimated to sell for just £200-300 ($334-502).

The panels were first valued when their owner, whose father brought them back from his travels in Hong Kong in the 1960s, moved to a retirement home. The pensioner's son and daughter got in touch with Richard Bromell, an auctioneer at Charterhouse, to view the bungalow's contents.

Upon arrival, Bromell found the pieces separated across the house. Realising their potential, he began to contact Chinese dealers and experts for more information, but there was little response.

Yet as auction day approached, Bromell began receiving calls from interested dealers, one of who offered £10,000 ($16,747).

Nonetheless, the auction went ahead, and Bromell was right to stick to his guns. The bids rolled in from overseas, with the winning amount placed by an anonymous buyer from Shanghai.

However, the auction house and owners remain clueless as to the hidden appeal of the panels. Even their true age remains a mystery.

"I take great pride in getting my prices right but my sniff-detector with these was off the scent," commented Bromell in the Daily Mail. "When the bidding reached £50,000 someone in the room just shouted out '£100,000' and you could hear a pin drop."

"I telephoned the client and she had forgotten all about the sale. I told her that I had some good news. Her brother was with her and there was a moment of silence followed by lots of laughter.

"It is their father's money at the end of the day so I'm not sure what is going to happen to it."

It's been a mixed week for Chinese antiques, with the success of the sale offset by the destruction of a Han Dynasty urn by an artist in Miami - an act of protest against an Ai Wei Wei exhibition.

However, Ai Wei Wei had already defaced 16 of the ancient vases himself, dipping some in paint and displaying a photograph of himself deliberately dropping one. The defacement of ancient artefacts is a common feature in his work, which aims to make political statements against the Chinese government.

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