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The libation cup that made £80,000 at Brown and Co.

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The 6in (16cm) high cup, which had been acquired in China by the vendor's seafaring grandfather in the 1920s or 30s, was dated to the 17th century and was offered for sale with an estimate of £20,000-30,000 in the March 27 sale.

Bidding came exclusively via the internet on the-saleroom.com up to £63,000 but the final price was paid over the phone by a London dealer against an internet underbidder.

The buyer was Kensington Church Street dealer Richard Peters who described it as "probably the finest literati libation cup to turn up in the English countryside in recent history".

He added: "It is now being accepted by scholars as being of special significance made to Imperial order."

The buyer's premium was 15 per cent.