The Economist details the many conflicts of dealer Hugh Moss who advised the Bloch family on the first sale from a huge collection of Chinese snuff bottles. Moss was adviser to the family (he chose Bonham’s because they were supposedly low cost–though the story doesn’t make clear how the family benefited from the lower costs of the Hong Kong sale), scholar (he wrote a seven volume catalogue of the collection himself) and the biggest buyer at the sale (taking home half the lots and spending nearly US$4m.)
But he was not able to secure the top lot, 129, despite having owned the bottle twice before, in 1981 and again in 1986. Enamel work on copper is extremely rare, as was the decoration of a European-looking woman with a young curly-haired boy who peeks out from behind her basket of flowers. Estimated at HK$1.8-3m, this snuff bottle attracted six serious bidders. Mr Chang dropped out at HK$7m, leaving the field wide open to two buyers from mainland China, Kevin Tien bidding in the front row on behalf of a client on the telephone and another private collector in the room, who finally secured the piece for HK$9.3m, one of five pieces he bought that day.
Message in a Bottle (The Economist)