A 500-year-old china stoup belonging to prominent businessman Ömer Koç's collection was stolen by unknown suspects, according to a report by the Turkish daily Hürriyet Friday.
According to the report, Koç contacted the police in July to report a robbery at his estate and reported the Ottoman-era china dating to 1495 was missing from his collection. After news about the theft reached Istanbul Archaeological Museum, authorities formed an evaluation group to estimate the worth of the missing piece.
Turkish law requires all collectors to register any cultural and historical artifacts with local museums under the supervision of the Ministry of Culture and Arts.
Despite being considered a priceless piece, officials from the museum estimated the stoup to be worth TL 5,000 and then proceeded to fine Koç accordingly. When asked about the surprisingly low price, officials in defense said they do not appraise value in a way auction houses do.
"We do not approach artifacts like antique collectors or appraise them like auction houses. Our evaluation process considers how unique the piece is and how many similar pieces are currently hosted in other museums," the officials were quoted as saying.
Meanwhile, the ministry's General Directorate of Cultural Heritage and Museums put up a statement on its website along with pictures and descriptions of the stolen item, warning collectors and auction houses not to buy the china.