Purchase price: $3
Value: $2.25 million
A $3 garage sale purchase made headlines this month when it sold at auction with Sotheby's in New York for $2.22 million. The ceramic bowl, just over five inches in diameter, is decorated with leafy lotus sprays inside, and the exterior has overlapping vertical leaves. Turns out that bowl was a rare and important 1,000 year old 'Ding' bowl from China's Northern Song Dynasty. Ding is a county in the Hebei province known to produce china ranking among the "five great wares" of the Song Dynasty.
The seller picked up the bowl at a 2007 tag sale in New York and displayed it for a few years before investigating its origins. When asked whether sellers are advised to remain tight-lipped on details of where they got their finds, a spokesman for Sotheby's declined to comment, citing discretion and client confidentiality.