May 5, 2010 / 3:33 AM / 8 years ago

Indonesia fails to sell shipwreck treasure at auction

JAKARTA (Reuters Life!) - Indonesia failed on Wednesday to auction a 10th century treasure trove which was salvaged from a Chinese shipwreck off Java island about five years ago because there were no bidders.

<p>Guards stand near 10th century Chinese Yue Mise imperial wares from the Five Dynasties (907-960 AD) on display at a showroom in Pamulang district, Tangerang, Indonesia's Banten province May 4, 2010. REUTERS/Beawiharta</p>

Organizers had hoped to raise $80 million from the 271,000 items that were supposed to go under the hammer at a government auction house in Jakarta.

But officials said bidders were probably deterred by government rules that require bidders to deposit 20 percent of the total estimated value to join the auction.

The shipwreck was found 90 miles off Cirebon, in West Java, following a tip-off from local fishermen in 2004 and it took 30 divers and some 22,000 dives to recover the treasure.

But the auctioneer was forced to close the auction because there was no response.

An Indonesian fisheries ministry official, Sudirman Saad, said before the auction about 20 companies and individuals had shown interest in the treasure, which includes Chinese porcelain and gold jewelry studded with rubies and sapphires.

<p>Empty chairs of auction participants are seen during an auction of 10th century Chinese Yue Mise imperial wares from the Five Dynasties (907-960 AD) at the Indonesian Fishery and Maritime Ministry office in Jakarta May 5, 2010. REUTERS/Beawiharta</p>

“If you want to sell something like that there are certain ways to do it, and you need to have big marketing, big promotion. You have to go where the buyers are,” said the owner of the salvage company, Luc Heymans.

“The buyers, they’re in China, Hong Kong, Singapore, so you go there.”

Slideshow (2 Images)

Fisheries minister Fadel Muhammad said the government will see whether the bidding rules need to be changed.

He said there may be another auction. The rules allow two more auctions a week after the first one before the collection can be offered to auction houses or museums.

Museums in Taiwan, Singapore and China have informally expressed interest in the treasure, he said.

The Indonesian government has agreed to split the money with the private salvage company which helped recover the treasure.

Reporting by Olivia Rondonuwu, Pipit Prahoro, Johan Wijaya, and Esther Samboh; Editing by Sugita Katyal

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