A medal said to have been presented to late Kuomintang leader Chiang Kai-shek remained unsold at a Hong Kong auction yesterday amid doubts about its authenticity.
The Order of Blue Sky and White Sun with Grand Cordon, which auction house Spink said was awarded to Chiang in 1930, failed to attract a single bid. The suggested opening bid was HK$2.8 million, and the medal had an estimated value of HK$3 million to HK$5 million.
"Nobody is interested in the room," the auctioneer told a silent crowd of about 40 collectors, adding, "I guess it is passed" when no telephone bids came in.
Other lots, including stamps and banknotes, were sold at prices below than HK$10,000, with some going for as little as several hundred dollars.
Earlier this week, Taiwan's Ministry of National Defence stated that the medal was buried with the late Republic of China president in his mausoleum, indicating it would be impossible for it to appear for auction outside Taiwan.
The Taiwanese edition of Apple Daily yesterday quoted the ministry as saying that it "would not rule out the possibility" an official replica of the medal had been made to better protect the original one.
But ministry spokesman Luo Shou-he said yesterday: "I have no idea where Apple Daily or other news media got that information. We stand by what we have said: that the medal was buried with the late President Chiang."
Asked what he felt about the comment by the auction house that the Taiwanese government should send someone to Hong Kong to check the authenticity of the medal, Luo reiterated the government's position that the medal was buried with the late president in Taiwan.
Chuk Hong-ming, an author who wrote a book on the medal, said the doubts expressed by the Taiwanese authorities over its authenticity dampened the enthusiasm of collectors.
He said their suspicions were unfounded. Chiang should have owned four versions of The Order of Blue Sky and White Sun during his life, Chuk said.
"The one buried with Chiang was numbered 200 something," he said. "The one in this auction was [labelled] 'Special One'… the latter was mentioned in historical documents and can be seen in an old photograph."
A Singaporean collector attending the auction said it was hard to judge the medal's authenticity without a certificate. A Taiwanese stamp collector believed it was real, but said it was too expensive.