Chinese White Jade Censer, ca. 1920

Value (2010) | $50,000 Auction$80,000 Auction

I was in college in New York City in 1965, '66, somewhere right in there, and went home for Thanksgiving vacation. My birthday usually falls on Thanksgiving vacation, and a very good friend of mine who was an antiques dealer in Baltimore called me up and said that he had a piece that he'd just gotten from an estate that he thought that I should have. So I went and looked at it and fell in love with it instantly. I asked him what the price was and he told me and I said, "Well, I can't afford that," just on my allowance, you know, in college. And he said, "Well, go home and ask your mother to give it to you for your birthday." So I did. And she said, oh, that was way too much. And I said, "Well, how about birthday and Christmas?" So she gave it to me for my birthday and Christmas combined and I think it was a pretty good investment. She paid $350. I did have it appraised in 1982, and that appraisal was $20,000.

$20,000, that was probably for insurance purposes I guess.

Yes. From my understanding, it is the Qianlong period and it is very fine quality jade.

Well, first, this is a censer, covered vessel. And it has these loose, sort of articulated rings on the handles, which is technically difficult to do. The other type of carving here on the side is all in relief and it's a series of lotus vines. And there's kind of stylized lotus vines. And this has a butterfly forming the handle. And, really interestingly, when we turn it around, we'll see that the lotus decoration, which is all around the side, emanates from several vines that are sprouting from underneath. The other point is that the stone is this nice, even, white color. This is all carved from one piece of stone. If you look at the details of the carving, which are really quite beautiful, you'll notice that there's some little lines on the leaves. What you find on works that were done in the 18th century is you usually don't see that kind of technique. It's a little bit more finished in terms of the quality. And you have some fluidity, but in the 18th century ones, it's really pretty extraordinary. So my sense is that this certainly is in the style of the 18th-century works that you get in the Qianlong period, but it was done in the early part of the 20th century. That's my sense. Now, what's happened in the last few years is that there has been an influx of buyers from China.


That has dramatically changed the market. And what they're looking for are pieces that are of even white color, which this certainly has, but they're also looking for things that are in a traditional kind of style, 18th-century style, and when that falls into place, they're pretty enthusiastic about it. So, I think that the figure that was given in the '80s was, you know, was pretty stiff at the time. And if you wanted to sell this at auction today-- and I would rather err on the side of being a little bit more conservative-- but my sense is that it would be in the $50,000 to $80,000 range at auction, which is a pretty good price.

Well, it's still a very nice birthday present.

Oh, Lord, yes.

Don't you think?

And I have to say, I don't know many people that have put $300 down and ended up with something like this.

Appraisal Details

Lark Mason Associates
New York, NY
Appraised value (2010)
$50,000 Auction$80,000 Auction
San Diego, CA (June 12, 2010)
20th Century

Executive producer Marsha Bemko shares her tips for getting the most out of ANTIQUES ROADSHOW.

Value can change: The value of an item is dependent upon many things, including the condition of the object itself, trends in the market for that kind of object, and the location where the item will be sold. These are just some of the reasons why the answer to the question "What's it worth?" is so often "It depends."

Note the date: Take note of the date the appraisal was recorded. This information appears in the upper left corner of the page, with the label "Appraised On." Values change over time according to market forces, so the current value of the item could be higher, lower, or the same as when our expert first appraised it.

Context is key: Listen carefully. Most of our experts will give appraisal values in context. For example, you'll often hear them say what an item is worth "at auction," or "retail," or "for insurance purposes" (replacement value). Retail prices are different from wholesale prices. Often an auctioneer will talk about what she knows best: the auction market. A shop owner will usually talk about what he knows best: the retail price he'd place on the object in his shop. And though there are no hard and fast rules, an object's auction price can often be half its retail value; yet for other objects, an auction price could be higher than retail. As a rule, however, retail and insurance/replacement values are about the same.

Verbal approximations: The values given by the experts on ANTIQUES ROADSHOW are considered "verbal approximations of value." Technically, an "appraisal" is a legal document, generally for insurance purposes, written by a qualified expert and paid for by the owner of the item. An appraisal usually involves an extensive amount of research to establish authenticity, provenance, composition, method of construction, and other important attributes of a particular object.

Opinion of value: As with all appraisals, the verbal approximations of value given at ROADSHOW events are our experts' opinions formed from their knowledge of antiques and collectibles, market trends, and other factors. Although our valuations are based on research and experience, opinions can, and sometimes do, vary among experts.

Appraiser affiliations: Finally, the affiliation of the appraiser may have changed since the appraisal was recorded. To see current contact information for an appraiser in the ROADSHOW Archive, click on the link below the appraiser's picture. Our Appraiser Index also contains a complete list of active ROADSHOW appraisers and their contact details and biographies.