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Rare metal dragon from Japan sells for $170K at Westside auction

A view of the articulated dragon that was sold by Gorman Auctions Nov. 8 for $170,500.
Courtesy of Gorman Auctions
       A nearly five-foot-long, articulated metal dragon from 18th century Japan recently sold for $170,500 at Gorman Auctions on Garden of the Gods Road.
       Although the bidding was international in scope, the eventual buyer - name kept confidential - wound up being a Colorado resident, according to Debbie Gorman, who owns the business with her husband Bob.
       Believed to be one of only nine like it in the world, the dragon drew auction interest from registered buyers in Japan, Singapore, China, Germany, Canada, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan, Turks & Caicos Islands, El Salvador, Australia, Sweden and “all over the US,” she said.
       “Articulated” means that all of the dragon is moveable along its numerous tiny metal scales. The piece was signed “Myochin Nobuie.” The Myochin family was known for making armor for the Japanese military in the 1700s and devising more fanciful works during peacetime.
       “There were four serious bidders,” Gorman said. Two were from Japan (one with an absentee bid and the other participating by phone). The third was on the phone from New York. (Phone bidders communicate through auction-house employees on cell phones, who relay the bidders' wishes to the auctioneer.) The winning bidder from Colorado was present at the auction.
       The bidding started at $35,000 and continued steadily to the final number with only a pause for “a few sconds” at $100,000, Gorman said. After that, it was between the Japan and Colorado bidders until the latter's final number went unchallenged.
       The Gormans had hoped beforehand the object could go for as much as $200,000. A similar Myochin, two inches shorter, had sold at an auction elsewhere in 2010 for just over that amount. But this version was missing whiskers and two plates, which affected its value, one bidder told the Gormans.
       The dragon had turned up unexpectedly in an estate in Colorado Springs. The owner hadn't even liked it, telling the Gormans, “'That's my husband's old snake, and I have always hated that thing. Take it with you.”
       Gorman said it was satisfying to help out the woman, who was not wealthy. The auction house owner also believes it was instructive, in that the value of things is not always obvious, and it was only after research that the Gormans realized what they had. “We just want folks to know they could have a 'dragon' too,” she said. “Don't just sell it for $200. It could be worth a lot more.”

Westside Pioneer article
(Posted 11/19/14; Business: Events)

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