11 Apr 2021
February 16, 2012 - Filed under: Antiques Advice — Richard

Retired solicitor Andrew Johnson and his mother were on cloud nine in November 2010, when a rare Chinese vase they uncovered during a house clearance sold for an astonishing £53 million at provincial auctioneer Bainbridges. But 15 months on, they have yet to see a penny from the sale – because the Chinese billionaire who placed the winning bid is refusing to pay a 20% buyers’ premium of £8.6m.

This should serve as a cautionary reminder to anyone in Cumbria with a Victorian mahogany partners desk , which they feel might do well at auction. However valuable a piece is, sometimes putting it under the hammer isn’t worth the hassle. You might not even see the money. If the sale goes ahead unimpeded, you’ll certainly not see all of it.

The problem with the vase isn’t one of cash flow – it was purchased by billionaire property developer Wang Jianlin, one of the richest men in China. However, he baulked at the extravagant buyer’s premium which added almost £10m to his winning bid. He protested that Bainbridges should have operated a sliding scale. Mr Johnson – who travelled to China with Bainbridges to sort the matter out, unsuccessfully – no doubt agrees, because in the event the sale goes through he will also have to pay a substantial seller’s premium, bringing the actual cash in his pocket down to £37m. To make matters worse, Bainbridges’ conditions of sale mean they hold the re-auction rights.

Currently, there has been a slump in Asian art sales, with Chinese buyers flocking to sales of British antique furniture. Nonetheless, you might find it more profitable to sell your Victorian dining chairs to a Preston antique dealer.

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