Treasures from Fun-Ming-Fair Estate Return to China After Record-Breaking $1.2 Million Sale

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A 200-year-old vase, initially thought to be a fake, was one of the valuable treasures auctioned by Auctions in early March.

A Famille Rose Jiaqing Vase from China, initially believed by some critics to be a fake, stunned both bidders and Auctions by selling for a record $264,000 at a March 11-13 sale in Fort Mill, SC.

The vase was one of the highlights of the Treasures of Fu-Ming-Fair estate of Florence Eleanor Ueltzen of Pennsylvania. The sale, marketed in more than 68 countries, netted $1.2 million – considerably more than the estate’s appraised value of $350,000, according to CatBecca’s head of research, John Scherz.

Ueltzen’s collection consisted of 1,400 lots of exotic jades, Famille Vertex, Famille Rose Chinese porcelain, snuff bottles, incredible jewelry, and an eight-piece sterling set fashioned from the renowned Tientsin silver of the early 1900s. Records were set on Rosewood stands, jade and porcelain.

One rare vase

The vase was initially believed to be a Famille Rose vase from the Qianlong period (1736-1795). But after Chinese buyers purchased the piece, it was examined by high-level experts in China; they determined the vase, actually from the Jiaqing period (1796-1820) is authentic and extremely rare and could be worth more than $2 million.

The seller remains pleased with both the vase’s sale price and the fine research conducted by The confusion was centered around whether it was a jar or vase. Many critics assumed it was a mismarked jar and worth much less.

Bidding on the vase was so intense that online bidders saw jumps from $100 to $10,000 to $100,000. Only two bidders – one online in China and one live in-person bidder from Hong Kong -- remained after the price topped $150,000. The Hong Kong bidder won the piece for $264,000, with buyer’s premium. The hammer price shocked everyone, according to Phil Wolfe, auctioneer with Auctions. Interestingly, the seller’s wife noted that the rare vase had been sitting in her bathroom for years, used as a vase.

After that milestone, the auction continued and entered a new phase with many pieces bringing premium prices. According to Steve Czarnecki, head buyer, bidders just wanted anything from Fu-Ming-Fair’s estate at any price. That was obvious by the influx of bidders from across the nation as well as overseas.

On preview days, bidding teams showed up from China, Taiwan, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington D.C., Florida, St. Louis and Boston. Buyers from Hong Kong requested interpreters and hotel rooms to house serious buyers from overseas. Hundreds of phone callers from Asia requested phone bidding. There were more than 2,500 requests for phone bids.

Bidders were greeted with advanced software systems, wireless bidding terminals and photo ID bidding cards. Computers were also available for pre-bidding via three online catalogs from websites in London, on and

More than 65 percent of the items sold online; normally, online bidders account for less than 15 percent of the winners at major auction houses, according to Michael Whelchel, IT director with “The record flow of online bidders willing to pay top dollar from their homes without attending live, expands the future of live auctions, this online trend is increasing.”

Friday’s opening was supposed to be a warm-up for Sunday’s main event. But the success of the rosewood stands and assorted box lots shocked everyone. Chinese bidders were smitten with the rosewood stands. Speculation was that Ueltzen refused to part with the stands for decades. One large (16-inch) 1950s stand sold for a record $8,100 with buyer’s premium. That set the tone for the other stands, many which blew past presale estimates.

On Saturday, firm prices were maintained for all stands and jade. There were more than 75 live in-person bidders and 3,000 registered online bidders. Auctioneer Phil Wolfe, CEO of Auctions, had to monitor two to four phone bids, live bids, online left bids and online live bidding from and all at once. Web hits exceeded 2 million hits over a three-day period on

Here are a few highlights from the three-day event. Prices include 20 percent buyer’s premium.

  • Jiaqing Famille Rose jar, $264,000
  • Qianlong Celadon Jade archaic tripod cup, $15,600
  • Qianlong Steatite table screen, $9,360
  • Large hand carved rosewood stand, $8,100
  • Qianlong Peking glass pair Red overlay, Imperial yellow candle shrouds, $9,360
  • Ming Dynasty, Ting Yun-Peng silk album, $38,400
  • Kangxi yellow dragon cups, $21,600
  • Qianlong white Nephrite dragon, $18,000
  • Kangxi dragon dish, $24,600
  • Qianlong / Jiaqing yellow bats pear vase, $10,800
  • Qianlong Peking glass five-color overlay vase, $12,600
  • Guangxu Russet Jade plaque, $19,200
  • Huge Guangxu baluster vase, $16,800
  • Qianlong Celadon Jade carved plaque, $18,000
  • Chinese Royal Yellow Peking Glass vase, circa 1700-1735, $8,100

Jade offered in June

What’s next for CatBecca? The Indiana firm will offer a major estate collection of archaic, antique and vintage jades this summer. A Study in Jade - Treasures Thru the Ages is a collection of 800 to 900 pieces of jade, agate and other hard stone carvings, with prices ranging from $100 to tens of thousands. According to Scherz, some of the jade pieces are expected to top $50,000.

Other highlights include ivory, prints and a 30-year collection of auction catalogs from houses such as Sotheby’s, Christie’s, Robert Eldred and others. This incredible collection is offered by a well known collector/dealer who is taking his business in other directions.

CatBecca is honored to present this sale that will have something for everyone from the beginning collector to those interested in museum-quality items of rarity and beauty.


John Scherz Auctions

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