Monday, December 21, 2009

Tea Auction in Beijing

End of December seems to be a good time for auctioning tea in Beijing! There was one last year and one yesterday. The first 6 pages are about old puerh. Fewer seem to have sold this year. Still, this auction recorded the extraordinary amount of RMB 504,000 (73,000 USD) for a 280 gram Hung Piao Sung Hao that's (supposedly) 80+ years old. That's over 250 USD per gram (6 times the price of gold)!

For a 88 Raw cake (late 1980s 7542 cake), the price is now RMB 13,440 (USD 1,950) or 6 USD per gram. Cloud's mentions a price of USD 1,300 in 2007 for this cake (see A0405)... 50% increase in 2 years and a half (we're almost in 2010)!

Pages 7 to 11 list the Yixing teapots that were for sale. You can look at the items by scrolling over the name (3rd column) and then clicking for a closer view. The 4th column indicates the estimated price range and the last column indicates the final price. No price means the item failed to reach the minimum bid. This was often the case for the Yixing teapots on this auction. And I agree there were few designs I liked. The star of the auction, a zisha Shi Piao Hu sold for RMB 896,000 (USD 130,000)! -My hungni Shi Piao is almost just as beautiful! Well, almost ;)-

The best selling items on this auction were the old Japanese tetsubins on page 12 and 13. Only 2 failed to sell. Gold and silver decorated tetsubins very particularly appreciated. This kind of decoration shows that these kettles weren't for common people, but for the most powerful and rich Japanese. Now they belong to rich Chinese. A sign of changing times...

Article 5 from this auctioning company states that "the Company cannot guarantee the genuineness or fakery or the quality of the Lot (...) Bidder and/or his/her/its agent shall bear the responsibility of carrying out his/her/its own inspection and investigations as to the nature of the Lot." The key points are in the fine print.
With the pictures of old puerh and teapots, it can be fun to play Sherlock Holmes. For instance, can you spot what's wrong with this cake or this teapot? (I have posted my answer in the comments).

Update: The winner is Nerval. This wine taster will receive 25 grams of winter 2009 Dong Pian from Zhu Shan. He will find it interesting that, contrary to wine, the later the harvest, the lighter and fresher the Oolong tastes. However, yields also drop and price increase as well.

The runner up is Tyler. He wins a 25 gram sample of winter Jinxuan Oolong. This is the tea that has blown Jeff away.
(Please send me an email with your postal address to claim your prize).


Arcane-Dissonance said...


I have three thoughts about the teapot mentioned in the last paragraph, despite my ignorance of such things,:

1) The clay mash used throughout the teapot appears to be coarser than it should be. Most old zhu ni teapots that I have seen are quite smooth in general with a fine yixing mash while new pots intentionally use a coarse mash.

2) At the locations where spout, knob, and handle meet the body of the teapot, the material appears darker and elongated (especially at the bottom of the handle). This could be done to simulate patina accumulation.

3) Possible false cosmetic aging could include the two bands of scrapes around the lid and the black flecks across the body. I have seen such artifacts in older pots but they could be easily faked.

Thanks for fun challenge!


小 約翰 said...

Thank you posting this info and links, joyeux Noël. john

Kaiten_Kenbu said...

Salut Stephane,

Merci de nous faire partager les ventes des fêtes :)

je tente ma change pour l'enquête :
- la galette on dirait qu'il y a une grosse proportion de tiges par rapport aux feuilles et que les feuilles sont coupées.

- la theiere comporte des traces de métal, comme si elle avait été polie avec du métal pour avoir l'air bien patinée

- Watson

Wojciech Bońkowski said...

Isn't the neifei ticket on the cake looking suspiciously young and intact for such an old tea? There are bits of what looks like an older paper scattered throughout.

Michael said...

Does older mean better? I thought tea gets bad after a while.

TeaMasters said...

not all teas get bad. Puerh is one of the teas that can improve with age (if certain conditions are met). Obviously, the buyers of this auction liked old puerh a lot!

Silence said...

Pour ma part j'ai la nette impression que les prix ne sont pas influencés par le goût du consommateur mais plutôt le que le goût est influencé par le prix.

Je m'explique, c'est un peu comme le visiteur lambda au musée du Louvre, il se presse vers les oeuvres les plus connues, les plus vantées, les plus chères. Est-ce parce qu'il les apprécie particulièrement ? J'en doute fort,

Actuellement les gens ne semblent plus savoir goûter et apprécier les choses, ils suivent l'avis des experts qui sont avant tout, des spéculateurs.

Ceci dit un thé peut aussi valoir son prix mais il faut toute proportion garder.

TeaMasters said...

I am pleased to see such high quality answers.

I think that Nerval is right on with the suspicious Neifei. It not only looks very young and unchanged from many years of close contact to the leaves, but it also looks too much sticked on top of the cake and not sufficiently included in the leaves. Neifeis are generally much deeper.

The scattered old paper could be genuine. But this makes the Neifei look even more abnormal.

Tyler has spotted the darker and elongated material of the handle up and down. This seems to indicate that the teapot was broken and repaired there.
This isn't mentioned in the description of the pot. If it were, there would be little interest in a damaged good (at this price).

TeaMasters said...


Ton commentaire me rappelle que j'ai un jour diné avec un milliardaire taiwanais. Il me proposa de le conseiller dans le choix du vin. En effet, il me dit d'un air bon enfant qu'il n'y connaissait rien, et c'est pourquoi il choisissait toujours le plus cher!

Un premier grand cru classé vaut-il son goût? Bu trop jeune, trop froid ou mal accompagné (par un plat) ou en mauvaise compagnie, on aura probablement diminué plaisir potentiel. Si, par contre, tout est optimum, alors un vin exceptionnel apportera un plus par rapport à un vin plus commun.

Je suis d'accord avec toi que la plupart du temps il faut savoir garder la proportion des choses. Mais justement, pour des moments vraiment spéciaux, uniques, il est bien de pouvoir les agrémenter de thés/vins/mets (selon sa ou ses passion) qui le sont aussi.

D'accord aussi pour commencer par gouter un échantillon de puerh ancien et de voir si l'on aime par soi-même.

TeaMasters said...

Encore une petite histoire.
Cette année, un lecteur a voulu fêter la soutenance réussie de sa thèse de doctorat (plus de 4 ans de boulot) par un thé exceptionnel. J'ai pu lui proposer un Hung Shui Oolong de Dong Ding de 1980. Il s'en souviendra toute sa vie et il me dit que ces feuilles valaient plus que de l'or!

Silence said...

Bien sur, un amateur averti qui aura expérimenté plein de choses avant et aura des points de comparasion peut s'offrir une merveille de temps à autres !

Mais boire un millésime romanée conti ou chateau petrus pour la premiere fois qu'on goute un vin la non ;)