Americans who do business in China know that they will be operating under unfamiliar rules. Now United States owners of Chinese antiquities are finding the same thing when they sell to mainland Chinese.
This hit me personally. I sold a 16th/17th century cinnabar box at Christies, NYC at its March 22, 2012 sale. It fetched a respectable price. Though this was cause for celebration, more than two months later I haven’t been paid. The reason according to the auction house is that the buyer didn’t reimburse them.
When I pressed as to whether the purchaser was Chinese, the Christie’s person wouldn’t say for reasons of confidentially; however, it’s probably a good bet. The market for antique cinnabar boxes tends to be wealthy mainland Chinese, and, unfortunately, this group is notorious for not paying for the items they buy at auction.
According to Melissa M. Chan who writes for the China Digital Times, almost half of Chinese auction bids are unpaid. Other articles, such as the one in Newsweek Magazine, reported the same scenario. Though both publications focused on Hong Kong and Asian auction houses, there is no reason the same thing can’t happen in the United States and elsewhere when mainland Chinese bid.