Wealthy Chinese investors and collectors managed to pay record prices at a Hong Kong auction late last month, seemingly defying the negative sentiments believed to be prevalent in the city's markets. Hong Kong's markets have been plagued by rather a gloomy spending amid months of domestic unrest and having just hit a technical recession.
According to L&H Auction, one of the biggest purchases during the event was an HK$8.4 million ($1.08 million) winning bid for seven compressed cakes of Tong Xing Hao Puer tea made in the 1920s. Bidders from both Hong Kong and the mainland managed to drive bid prices at the higher end of the range, which was estimated to be between HK$5.8 million and HK$8.5 million.
Causeway Bay auction house CEO, Zhou Zi, explained that the winning bid for the particular lot represents a 14.4 percent compound annual growth based on its HK$10,000 value in 1970. Zhou explained that Vintage Puer teas are worthwhile investments given that they cannot be replicated and they only taste better with age.
Other Puer teas were also sold during the auction, including a number of red-marked Puer teas from the 1940s and 1950s and a number of Baba Qing Puer from the 1980s and the 1990s. These types of teas were originally only used by ethnic minorities in China. However, the teas quickly became popular after the imperial families in the Qing Dynasty started drinking them on a regular basis.
All throughout the last century, prices for Puer teas went through a rollercoaster as priced fluctuated. In 2017, prices for a variety called the King of Puer fell to a price of 200,000 yuan from 6 million yuan. A similar fall was also experienced in 2014 when prices of Dayi Horse Zodiac teas fell by more than 50 percent.
Apart from the rare teas, a number of rare wines were also auctioned off during the event. Around more than 17,000 bottles of wine were sold during the auction, with a total of $29.8 million spent on the lots.
The surge in the winning bids for the rare collectible consumables is in line with a recent trend in China involving locally made memorabilia and collectibles. Over the past months, investors and collectors have spent millions of dollars snapping up auctioned items such as Kweichow Moutai liquor and rare teas.
Last year, a series of Old Master Q comic books, which has become iconic in Hong Kong's pop culture, was sold for five times its estimated price. The series was sold at a Sotheby's auction with the identity of the winning bidder not being disclosed.