17th-Century Chinese Bronze Guardian Figure
I was living in Los Angeles in about 1991, and I came home one day, and a box was on my front step. I took it inside, I opened it up, and I found this. And I found an address on the outside of the box that was a post office box which I knew to be my father's. I gave him a call, and I said, "Where did this come from?” And he said, "It was something your grandmother picked up when she traveled around the world in the 1950s." And he said, "It struck me as the kind of thing that you ought to have."
The figure is a Chinese bronze guardian figure. These are celestial beings. It's a religious figure. It dates from the 17th century, so it's late Ming. It's a well-cast bronze. They are examples of the robe, which are in very uniform high relief. So it's very finely cast. This ribbon latticework on either side, the tunic, the beast masks to the vest, are very well cast. We move up to the head, and we start to see what we refer to as falling away. The bronze becomes less crisp, less defined.
And you'll see this crown almost falls into itself. The cast may have been coming to an end. The crispness of the cast was becoming lost, like woodblock prints. So many prints, the woodblock no longer has its sharpest edge. This would have been potentially gilded with polychrome gilding, with glass beads, glass jewelling. It would have been very vibrant. It would have really had a presence about it. Bronze is relatively scarce. This has a good period patina. It still has a good coffee hue to it. It's not been polished. Many of the glass beads remain intact. And it's a heavy, heavy casting. So it was a good quality casting in the 17th century. A conservative auction estimate today would be between $15,000 and $20,000.
Ten years ago, these guardian figures would carry an auction estimate of $2,000 to $3,000.
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.