At Sotheby's, you can read a 50 pages sales pitch for a 8 to 10 million USD (estimated) Sung dynasty flower shaped bowl! (The auction will be held in Hong Kong on April 4.) This provides a good example of how a collector would look at a piece of teaware:
1. History: when was it made? Who made it? In case there is a seal under the object, it will receive a considerable amount of attention. The risk of a fake will also be discussed. Technical expertise will be needed to spot later copies.
2. Rank of the owners: Who were its past owners? And who are the present owners of similar pieces? An artifact made for an emperor carries the highest level of prestige. Nowadays, if similar pieces are owned by big musea (National Palace Museum,the Louvre...), then this add to the piece's value.
3. Scarcity : As with almost every product, if this ware exists only in limited numbers, its value will be higher.
4. What makes it a masterpiece? Beyond fame and scarcity, what technical prowess or artistic element makes this ware so special? (This point is where the collector and basic perspective come closest).
packaging tells us, to some extent, how much the previous owner valued his ware. (And the Japanese are masters at this art!)
6. Last but not least: Money! Purchase price, monetary value and future price increases are almost always central decision points for a collector. (I had mentioned them in the first sentence to catch your attention!)
If you liked this Ru Guanyao brush washer but can't afford it, don't despair! You can always come to Taipei's NPM or click on their website to see this top ru piece (it has no cracks). (Or you can hope that somebody asks a talented potter to make a modern reproduction of a similar Sung dynasty bowl...)