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Rare Chinese Bowl Bought for $3, Sells for $2.2 Million

ABC News' Josh Haskell and Katie Kindelan report:

London art dealer Giuseppe Eskenaz says his new bowl is “absolutely perfect. It doesn’t have a crack or a chip or any imperfection.”

Not bad for a bowl that not long ago was bought at a tag sale in New York state for $3.

In the tales of trash to treasure made famous by shows like “Antiques Roadshow” and the DIY decorating craze, the sale of this Chinese bowl at Sotheby’s may top them all.

On Tuesday it sold at the famed auction house  for $2.23 million, nearly eight times its estimated price.

The bowl,  from the Northern Song Dynasty, had sat on a shelf in the living room of the owner’s upstate New York home since 2007,  Sotheby’s confirmed to ABCNews.com.

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When the family, who has remained anonymous, noticed the increased interest in Chinese art among collectors in recent years, it had the bowl appraised and realized its value, according to Sotheby’s

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“This piece arrived in a simple looking box and when the top was opened, my first impression was that I was looking at something very, very beautiful … something very special that will be exciting for potential collectors,” said Henry Howard-Sneyd, Sotheby’s vice-chairman of Asian art in North America.

Howard-Sneyd says Sotheby’s tracked down the only other bowl like it in the world, which belongs to the British Museum in London, comparing the two and estimating its value.

The 1,000-year-old bowl, white with an ivory glaze and 5 inches in diameter, was the subject of a focused bidding war on Tuesday, among four bidders both in the room and on the telephone.

The buyer willing to fork over $2,225,000 was London art dealer Giuseppe Eskenazi, who tells ABC News he was willing to go substantially higher and had been thinking about the bowl for six months.

Calling the bowl “absolutely perfect,” said Eskenazi, “the leaf flower carving inside and the leaf on the outside which are also carved, it’s very rare to get that combination.”

Eskenazi has been dealing Chinese art for over 30 years and said he’s not worried about finding a buyer for the bowl. He also said he’s never heard a story like this.

“You don’t really find things for three dollars which are worth a million, two million.”

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The bowl had a presale estimate of $200,000 to $300,000, the auction house said.

During day two of Sotheby’s Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art auction in New York, the auctioneer recalled the reaction he got from the family who owned the bowl, when he told him how much it sold for.

“I got an e-mail that said in capital letters, WOW, and then wow again with a line of exclamation marks,” said Howard-Sneyd. “I can say they were very pleased.”

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