The initial price offered by Balclis Auction House was EUR500-600 euros. However, when the auction opened, many bidders participated, causing the price of the antique hat to increase by 1,200 times compared to the estimate.

In the end, this Nguyen Dynasty antique was sold for EUR600,000, excluding tax, to an anonymous Vietnamese collector.

According to sources of Viet Nam News, the final bidder is a businessman with a special love for Hue. He was determined to bring this mandarin hat back to Vietnam and will donate this artifact to Hue at the right time.

On the website of Balclis Auction House, the hat was simply described as “Vietnamese Mandarin cap from the Nguyen Dynasty, late 19th century-early 20th century”.

It comes with a box in lacquered and gilded wood, and has “some flaws and defects”, the website said.

The photo of the hat presented by the auction house on the website has attracted the attention of many Vietnamese researchers and experts because it appears to be intact.

Many researchers, restorers and traders of Nguyen Dynasty antiques in Vietnam said this is the most intact and beautiful chanh nhat pham (first-rank) mandarin hat they have ever seen.

In Vietnam, at museums and houses of Nguyen Dynasty descendants, there are only hats from the third-rank (tam pham) and all are restored or damaged hats.

Experts said this is not the first time antiques from the Nguyen Dynasty have been auctioned abroad at a huge price.

According to a representative of the Hue Monuments Conservation Center, in 2014, the centre was authorised by the People’s Committee of Thua Thien-Hue province to participate in the auction of an Nguyen Dynasty rickshaw in France.

The rickshaw is said to be a present of Emperor Thanh Thai to his mother, Empress Dowager Tu Minh, to use in the royal garden.

With the support of the Embassy of Vietnam in France, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism as well as the Vietnamese community at home and abroad, the rickshaw was successfully acquired at a price of EUR55,800.

In 2015, after more than 100 years in France, the rickshaw was transported to Vietnam by air and is now on display at Dien Tho Palace in the Hue Citadel, where the empress dowagers of the Nguyen Dynasty used to live.