Several collectors had shown interest in the box prior to the sale but Bonham's Asian Art Specialist Yvette Klein was astounded by the unanticipated sale price. “Despite not being in mint condition, the dragon box is very rare as it is thought to be a Ming Dynasty imperial piece,” Ms Klein said. “Like anything with a royal connection, this touch of glamor and exclusivity adds immeasurably to the value of item.”

The 16th-17th century 'dragon-box' was a popular item in the packed auction house's Paddington showroom, there were several in-room, phone and internet bidders during the first sequence of the bidding, which started slightly lower than the pre-sale estimate of $1000-$2000. A bidding war broke out between two Asian collectors, one in the sale room and one online. The bidder in the room finally won the bidding paying an unprecedented high $146.400 for the coveted piece.

See more Decorative Arts from the Ming Dynasty on Barnebys here.