Chinese collector Liu Qiquan paid for $36-million to collect a rare Chinese “Chicken Cup” at Sotheby’s Hong Kong by putting it on his American Express Centurion Card, netting 422 million rewards points in the process.
Many of us plan our big, monthly purchases with rewards points in mind. Whether they are frequent flyer bonus points, credit card rewards points or another system that offers some kind of prize for spending money with a certain dedicated card, when we are buying big-ticket items, somewhere in the back of our brain we are calculating how much closer we are getting to those free tickets to Cancun.
In April, Liu Qiqian—the Chinese collector and museum founder—picked up one of his most recent purchases; a rare, Chengua-period porcelain Meiyintang “chicken cup” he won at auction at Sotheby’s Hong Kong with a bid of $36 million (that’s 281 million in Hong Kong dollars), the most ever paid for a Chinese collectible. To take possession, Liu simply reached into his wallet and pulled out his American Express Centurion Card.
After the transaction was complete, Liu calmly sipped some tea from the little, 3¼-inch porcelain cup in front of the attending media. One of the reasons he pulled the little bit of theater was to prove that Chinese collectors do pay for top-shelf auction items and would not default on their winning bids.
After the transaction was complete, Liu calmly sipped some tea from the little, 3¼-inch porcelain cup in front of the attending media. One of the reasons he staged the little bit of theater was to prove that Chinese collectors do pay for top-shelf auction items and would not default on their winning bids. The chicken cup, now that’s it belongs to Liu, will soon appear in his Long Museum in Shanghai.
OK, so back to the reward points. Liu’s daughter, Betty, explained the process of using the American Express card to pay for the piece; he doesn’t speak English. Because the card is denominated in yuan, capital controls on the currency and a HK $12 million cap on any one purchase, the auction house had to swipe the card 24 times and Liu had to sign 24 different credit slips.
A reporter later asked Liu about the rewards points then they learned he paid for the porcelain cup with plastic. “He didn’t even know,” Betty Liu is reported to have said. “He is checking now to find out about how many points he can get.”
It turns out his little purchase netted him exactly 421,860,000 million points.
What would a man with the wherewithal to buy a $36-million piece of ancient porcelain needed with AmEx reward points? A quick look at the American Express website shows that one way to spend 422 million points would be to convert them into 28 million frequent flyer miles.
The chicken cup is adorned with a rooster, a hen and chicks, which is to represent the emperor, the empress and the people of the empire. Created during the Chengua period (1465-1487), it is considered one of the most faked pieces in China and replicas abound in the thousands. The one Liu purchased and is putting on display in his museum is the only genuine chicken cup in all of China.
Gregory Watkins is the editor of WorthPoint.com You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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