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31 years ago, May 1986

Christie’s treasure is a runaway success

Christie’s Amsterdam sale of porcelain recovered from a Dutch East Indiaman wrecked in the China Seas in the mid-18th century outstripped even the most optimistic expectations. The sale total moved towards £10m on Friday, the last day of the week-long auction.

Some dealers in Chinese export wares had feared that this huge amount of material appearing on the market would depress prices, but in some cases, bidders were almost fighting to pay well above the going rate for comparable material.


Cargo sales were a phenomenon of the 1980s and ‘90s. More than 20,000 people queued to view the so-called Nanking cargo with over 25,000 commission bids left before the sale commenced.

A top price of 700,000 gilders (about £190,000 at the time) was paid by a Swiss buyer for a 144-piece dinner service.

Few prices paid in 1986 are replicated when the items reappear for sale today.