Porcelain Bowl Bought at Yard Sale for $35 Could Sell at Auction for $500,000

And as any devoted Antique’s Roadshow armchair appraiser can tell you, few things rhyme better with “Ka-ching!” than Ming—Ming Dynasty, that is.

That’s why when one eagle-eyed thrifter spotted a promising-looking piece of porcelain amidst the other tchotchkes at a Connecticut yard sale, he didn’t even haggle over the price. Soon enough, it was, “Sold to the gentleman for $35!”

Even so, the unnamed buyer was likely bowled over when he learned that the delicate blue-and-white dish—measuring just a bit over six inches in length and decorated with lotus, peony, chrysanthemum, and pomegranate blossoms—was one of a mere half dozen such Ming pieces to have survived into the 21st century.

Sotheby’s confirmed the exquisite 15th-century treasure likely originated during the reign of the Yongle (which rhymes with Mongol, which starts with a capital “M,” and that stands for Money!) Emperor, circa 1403–1424.

“The Yongle Emperor really promoted the artistic importance of porcelain,” Angela McAteer, head of Sotheby’s Chinese art department, told CNN. “He elevated it from being a utilitarian bowl, for example, into a true work of art.”

With an estimated value of between $300,000 to $500,000, the lovely lotus bowl is to be auctioned off during Sotheby’s “Highlights From Important Chinese Art” sale on March 17. “In every respect,” notes the catalog listing, “this delicate bowl is a quintessential Yongle product, made for the court, showing the striking combination of superb material and painting.”

Adding to its a mystique, from what McAteer said, “[The bowl had an] incredibly smooth porcelain body” and a “really unctuous silky glaze [which] was never replicated in future reigns or dynasties.”

Should the fetching vessel go for the half-million figure when it goes under Sotheby’s figurative hammer, even taking into account the auction house’s cut, an up-to 1,428,471% price hike is a pretty nifty return on anyone’s $35 dollar investment.