Auction houseAP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth

When Tony Johnson and his mother Gene put up an antique Chinese vase for auction in 2010 they were stunned by the result. A Chinese billionaire bid an astonishing £43 million, making it the most ever bid for this sort of antique. However, their joy turned to disappointment when the billionaire discovered the 20% auction fees and pulled out of the purchase.

Now there's another twist in the tale, as they have finally sold the piece.


The sale

The 16 inch vase was made for the Chinese emperor Qianlong, who ruled from 1736 to 1795. According to the Telegraph, the Johnson's inherited it from Gene's sister - who in turn had inherited it from her husband, who had received it from an uncle. It was sold by Bainbridges auctioneers (pictured) in 2010 for 40 times its estimate.

After the sale fell though, the auction house started negotiating with the buyer, and even brought in international auctioneer Bonhams - but with no success. The 18th century vase remained unsold, and the Johnsons no better off.

However, this week it emerged that there was a happy ending to the story as a private buyer from the Far East has stumped up £25 million for the vase. Julian Roup, a spokesman for Bonhams, told the Daily Mail: "We are pleased to confirm the sale of the vase for an undisclosed sum, in a private treaty deal.

It's not a patch on the original bid, and we can safely assume that both auction houses got a slice of the money. However, it should leave the family compensated for two years of uncertainty.

Other disastrous auctions

It's a happy ending for a potential disaster. However, it's not the first time an auction has ended in tears.

At the moment, the internet is buzzing with a photograph taken by a woman trying to sell a yellow skater dress on eBay. When photographing it she didn't realise that an image of herself in a state of undress was reflected in a mirror, and subsequently posted to the website. It was soon taken down, but not before it was shared and seen by millions of people.

Traditional auctions can feature disasters too. One couple bought a Detroit property at auction in October last year for just $500. However, on arriving at the property earlier this year they found it had been demolished by confused City employees. Fortunately they were refunded what they had paid, and offered the opportunity to pick any of the other empty properties owned by the city for nothing.

The Olympics produced an unusual auction headache too last year. The games organisers hit on the notion of selling off items from the games. The trouble is that some of them didn't materialise after the games - which was a pity because they had already been sold.

A director of auction organiser Innovative Sports told the Telegraph: "Unfortunately some of the products didn't materialise in the way they should have. The issue is people wanting products that we just don't have. We are offering everyone affected a 100 per cent full refund. Some people don't want the refund, they want their products. I don't know what to do about that."



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