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Defective ceramic Moomin mug fetches €6,100 at auction

The woman who made the winning bid said she came to the auction prepared to pay 10,000 euros for the unique mug.

Harvinainen muumimuki.
The illustration on the Moomin mug was accidentally printed twice and normally would have ended up in the rejects pile. Image: Ville Välimäki / Yle

An auction for what some believe to be the world's rarest ceramic Moomin mug was held at Auction Centre Turenki in southern Finland on Sunday.

Moomin mugs, manufactured by the ceramic design firm Arabia for decades now, feature illustrations of the myriad characters in children's books created by Tove Jansson.

Many people collect Moomin mugs casually, usually buying them new for around 20 euros apiece at department stores and gift shops. But others are much more serious collectors and the resale market is brisk.

The mug that went to the auction block on Sunday was defective. The illustration of the female character Fillyjonk was mistakenly printed twice and normally would have ended up in the assembly line's rejects pile.

Official mug

However, the mug received the manufacturer's stamp on the bottom despite the defect, qualifying it - among hardcore collectors, at least - as an official and very rare Moomin mug. The starting price for the piece was 4,500 euros.

The collector who made the winning bid of 6,100 is a woman from the south-western municipality of Masku. After the auction she said she came prepared to pay up to 10,000 euros for the mug.

She said that she plans to put the mug in a display case, alongside her collection of more than 500 others.

She added that her new acquisition isn't even the most she's paid for a Moomin mug.

The highest price a Moomin mug has fetched at auction is believed to be about 8,240 euros for an item that features a Christmas theme, and which was sold in Sweden in 2016.

UPDATE 9.4.2019:

On the day after the auction, the purchaser of the rare Moomin-themed mug cancelled the deal and received her money back. She contacted the auction house to say she suspected that the mug's handle had been broken off and glued back on sometime before she bought it.

An examination by the auction house verified a hairline crack in the handle.

The auction house agreed that the mug should have been in pristine condition at the time of sale, as advertised. A representative of the auction house was unable to tell Yle if and when the rare collector’s item will be put up for sale again.

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