Put up for auction at a starting price of €600 (US$696), a mandarin hat from Vietnam’s Nguyen Dynasty (1802–1945) was finally sold for €600,000 ($696,000) by an anonymous online collector last month.
The record rate for the mandarin hat dating back to the Nguyen Dynasty, the last Vietnamese dynasty, was set at the auction held on October 28 by the Spanish auction house of Balclis.
To many observers who are familiar with auctioned artifacts at Balclis, that was one of the craziest auctions they had ever seen.
Before the public auction around one week, bidders paid much more attention to the mandarin hat that Balclis introduced on its website on October 22.
The Spanish auction house gave out only a few lines of description saying, “Vietnamese Mandarin cap from the Nguyen Dynasty, late nineteenth century and early twentieth century.”
|Besides some tiny damage, the mandarin hat is preserved nearly intact after so many years. Photo: Balclis|
The hat comes with a wooden box that is gilded and decorated with lacquer. Apart from some tiny damage, the hat is preserved rather well.
The Balclis offered the hat at €600 in the period before the public sale. The rate spiked to €70,000 ($81,000) after a few days with more than 73 bidders.
The discrepancy was unprecedented for the auction house.
The price soared wildly on October 28. Believing the mandarin hat would become the most attention-catching artifact, the auctioneer used a tactic to have an impact on the bidders’ psychology.
He delayed the auction for some minutes, which caused a little bit of disruption in the event held both online and in-person.
|The wooden box comes with the mandarin hat. Photo: Balclis|
Maybe owing to the tactic, the bidding prices continued to surge remarkably when the auction was resumed after a short hiatus.
When the bidding reached €270,000 ($313,000), all the bidders who were present at the auction house gave up, leaving the race for just two online competitors.
The two continued their competition in ten minutes. Finally, the bidder with code-number 5618 secured the hat when the hammer was hit to confirm the closing price at €600,000, which is a record price for a Vietnamese artifact to date.
The Nguyen Dynasty mandarin cap became the priciest item sold at the auction on October 28 at Balclis, far outstripping other Vietnamese artifacts that were offered then.
|A pair of altars originally from Vietnam are auctioned at Balclis, October 28, 2021. Photo: Balclis|
According to collector Nguyen Huu Hoang, who specializes in the Nguyen Dynasty’s monarchical robes, the mandarin hat is rather rare in the market.
He is not surprised at the high price the artifact could fetch given its well-preserved condition.
Another artifact researcher, Tran Dinh Son, suggests that the mandarin hat could have been carried abroad many years ago when he looks at the item’s nearly intact state.
It could be carried by the French colonials, or it could be used as a gift by mandarins who worked under the reign of Emperor Tu Duc (1829-1883), the longest-reigning monarch of the Nguyen Dynasty.
At the auction on October 28, the bidding race did not only include the mandarin hat, but also a royal robe from the Nguyen Dynasty and a pair of altars made of wood originally from Vietnam.
The altars’ sale began at €340 ($394), which ascended to €1,750 ($2,030) in the end.
The same development occurred to a royal robe, initially offered at €850 ($986) before being sold at €35,000 ($40,600).
|This Nguyen Dynasty robe was auctioned at Balclis on October 28, 2021. Photo: Balclis|
Balclis is an auction house that was founded by Antonio Climent Benaiges, a pioneer importer of antiques, and Juan Baldrich in Barcelona, Spain, according to Balclis’s profile on LinkedIn.
It is the leading Spanish auction house in the international market.
Since it was founded in 1979, Balclis has auctioned over 200,000 works of art, items of jewelry, and antiques.