Duke's auction house in Dorchester, England, said an elderly man brought the lamp in for auction and had no idea that it was a 15th century vase from the reign of Emperor Xuande, the British financial Web site This is Money reported Tuesday.
"It is tempting to speculate how many millions the vase would have fetched if it had not been damaged when it was converted to a table lamp," said Guy Schwinge of Duke's auction house.
"Chinese porcelain from the reign of Xuande bearing the imperial marks of the Emperor are extremely rare and highly prized by a new breed of collectors from mainland China," he said.
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