The surprise discovery of a second vase created by Tiffany designer Paulding Farnham shows an important element of how rare works are valued. The first vase was considered a Canadian national treasure and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It sold last year for $662,500. This year a twin was discovered and sold at Sotheby’s over the weekend:
Now, the second vase has been sold at Sotheby’s for $386,000 U.S., just over half the price of the first and slightly below its expected sale price.
The buyer, according to auction house spokesman Darrell Rocha, was a descendant of the Farnham family.
Why? Isn’t the second one also worth $600k? The answer, of course, lies in the absence of bidders. The Canadian national honor was satisfied at a very high price. But that bidder didn’t show up for the second sale. Small markets often suffer price declines as strong sales attract new, unexpected works onto the market. With each successive sale, a bidder is satisfied and removed from the market.
That’s how a work can set an astonishing price and a similar work will follow with a disappointing price. However, the original estimate on the first vase ($12ok) was still far below the selling price of the second ($386k.)