One Ernest P. Worrell commercial from the '80s has Ernest practicing for The Price Is Right by pricing various items in his house, and picks up the vase... with predictable results.
Ernest: Ming vase... a steal at two grand. [smash]
An advert in New Zealand for Vero Insurance intersected this trope with the Bull In A China Shop parable. The panicky owner of said china shop sees a bull wander inside, only for it to leave without knocking anything over. The owner sighs with relief... only to drop the vase he's holding.
Anime & Manga
The whole plot of Ouran High School Host Club centers around Haruhi having broken one of these. Lampshaded with a giant blinking arrow over it the moment it appears on screen... and every time during the next few shots before it is finally broken a few minutes later. The way they set up the whole scene, it's impossible to NOT see it coming.
Early in He Is My Master Izumi breaks a vase worth 5,000,000 yen. And that is just the beginning of her increasing debt. She simply break something just about every time she is cleaning up.
Played with in Totally Captivated when Ewon breaks a priceless vase given to Mookyul by the mafia boss. When the guys inform him that Mookyul will kill him over it, Ewon proposes gluing it back together since he is good at puzzles. Unsurprisingly the guys tell him to run and hide and never come back. Meanwhile, Mookyul doesn't notice the vase is missing but is rather upset that his favourite Butt Monkey has run away and forcibly brings Ewon back, while Ewon's terrified he intends to kill him. In the end, to emphasize how unnecessary the whole debacle was, Ewon eventually does glue the vase back together and it looks flawless.
A common running gag in Shin Chan revolves around Ai Sutome's servant/driver breaking a priceless item in her mansion and Ai using her knowledge of that to get whatever she wants. Best example: The Toilet Thinker!
One mission in Naruto had Kiba and Naruto guarding a priceless artisan dish for an ungratefulsnarker. Inevitably, it breaks, but guess what? It's not so precious!
One episode of New Dominion Tank Police has Buaku and the Puma Twins attempt to steal a rare painting, currently stored in an archive alongside of many, many other rare pieces. The burglary would probably have gone swiftly and painlessly had the painting's owner not hired a small army of mercenaries to defend it, which they do by opening fire with automatic weapons inside the archive. The painting makes it out intact, along with the thieves. The rest of the treasures... not so much.
There is a bit of a subversion in Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-Ohki ovas where Washu messes around with Doctor Clay's precious priceless vase, by pretending to non-chalantly toss it around in the air and almost miss catching it several times. She never did break the vase, but when Mihoshi later reports to Washu on Doctor Clay, it turns out that the "priceless" vase was a forgery... created by Washu herself ages ago to make some quick cash. Of course, being Mihoshi, she immediately breaks the vase on accident.
This happens with Archie almost any time Mr. Lodge buys a precious antique.
Subverted when Lodge buys an indestructible copy. Double Subverted when his attempts to get Archie to break it results in the destruction of the real thing.
Lamdshaded in another story, when told that a certain vase is a Ming by Veronica, Archie goes into a tirade to Jughead on how cliche'd the whole concept is, almost breaking it several times. At the end of the story, Mr. Lodge comes in and says that the vase is not a Ming but dates from a different dynasty, and thus vastly more expensive. Cue Archie fainting.
Another story involved Archie very nearly destroying several of Mr. Lodge's treasures, only to have Jughead catch it at the last second every time. The story ends with Mr. Lodge forbidding Veronica to go on any more dates with Archie unless Jughead accompanies them.
Film - Animated
Flushed Away: Roddy accidentally destroys Toad's entire collection of cheap Buckingham Palace gift shop knick-knacks... I mean, priceless royal family memorabilia.
One of the priceless artifacts stored at the Jade Palace in Kung Fu Panda is the Urn of Whispering Warriors, said to contain all the 5,000 souls of the Tenshu Army. Naturally, when Po arrives at the palace, he ends up breaking it. The end credits shows a palace goose gluing the urn back together, fragment by fragment.
Subverted in The Adventures of Tintin: When the cat knocks it over, Tintin catches the vase just before it hits the ground.
Dean Hardscrabble's scream can — her one souvenir of a lifetime of scaring — in Monsters University. It's destruction is what gets Mike and Sulley kicked out of the scare program, or rather, speeds up their inevitable expulsion.
Film - Live Action
Meet the Parents: The urn carrying De Niro's mother and the gazebo Owen Wilson built.
Bean: Whistler's Mother. Before he destroys that, he's at the family's house, and two priceless valuables are introduced right after one another. Within a couple minutes, Bean sends the glass swan flying across the room into the painting, destroying them both.
This is a Once per Episode occurrence in Jackie Chan movies. Mocked by The Onion headline "Jackie Chan attacked while carrying World's Most Expensive Wedding Cake.". For example Jackie Chan spends considerable time protecting the pottery treasures of China from damage in Rush Hour.
Beautifully averted in Shanghai Knights, however, where a fight between Jackie and several mooks takes place in a room full of these. Originally, the writers were planning to play this trope straight, until they realized that it would be much funnier if the mooks were afraid of breaking the vases because they belonged to their boss. This results in Jackie using them to his advantage by running the mooks ragged trying to keep him from breaking any of them.
In Moonraker, James Bond and the first dragon of the film, Chang, are fighting in a Venice glass museum where they smash just about everything in the exhibition. Averted, then played straight: At one point during the fight Bond picks up an item, hears the alarm that reminds him that it's "priceless," and carefully replaces it; seconds later, Chang smashes it.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Indy's father Henry hits him over the head with a vase because Henry thought Indy was a Nazi, and is instantly regretful — because he broke the vase. Turns out the vase was a fake.
This was actually intended to be a Call Back to an earlier scene in the film. Originally, while teaching at college, Indy was going to smash a fake Ming vase which a fellow professor thought was the real McCoy. Just as when Henry does it, the evidence of the fraud is the internal cross-section. Together, the scenes illustrate that, despite their rocky relationship, Indy and his father aren't so different after all. The scene in question was deleted in the final edit, but the professor (named "Mulbray") is still listed in the end credits.
In The Sandlot, Smalls, after his team's last ball gets knocked over the fence into the neighbor's yard where "The Beast" lurks, decides to play baseball with his step-dad's autographed Babe Ruth baseball. Sure enough, that ball gets knocked over the fence too, and the rest of the movie is spent trying to get it back.
Appears in Hot Shots! Part Deux, when Topper catches a falling expensive-looking vase during a firefight. In a rundown riverboat in the jungles of not-Iraq.
In The Naked Gun Vincent Ludwig shows Lt. Drebin the many rare and valuable items in his apartment, including a rare Japanese fish, a pen given to him by Emperor Hirohito, his collection of vases, and Gainsborough's famous Blue Boy portrait. Naturally they all get destroyed.
In Risky Business, Joel finishes getting the house back in order just seconds before his parents get back home, but still gets in trouble because his mother's beloved crystal vase has a tiny crack in it.
In A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas, Harold and Kumar accidentally burn Harold's father-in-law's (played by Danny Trejo) Christmas tree after he tells a story of how important Christmas trees are to him. Harold and Kumar spend the rest of the movie frantically trying to find a replacement.
In The Party, while Bakshi (Peter Sellers) is trying to fix a running toilet in a producer's posh home, a painting falls off the wall into the tank. He tries to dry it off with toilet paper, but smears the paint beyond recognition (and never fixes the toilet either).
In What a Girl Wants, during Peach & Pear Orwood's coming out party, Henry tells Daphne not to mention the chandelier in front of the father as he will tell you the entire story revolving around it. When Daphne convinces Ian to play some rock music to liven up the party, you can guess what happens.
In Trading Places, Eddie Murphy, assuming that the Duke Brothers (more than corrupt corporate types, closer to American Aristocrats Are Evil) are scamming him (they are, ultimately) when they tell him they're giving him a richly furnished town house, tosses a vase around, accidentally smashing it. The Duke Brothers put a good face on it, saying that even though it was extremely valuable, it was insured for rather more than it was appraised at, so he's technically made them money by breaking it (ha ha, insurance fraud is fun...)
Dumb and Dumber includes a scene where the two main characters are at a fancy party. Also at the party is one of the few surviving rare endangered snow owls. Needless to say, it doesn't survive its encounter with Harry and Lloyd.
Played for Drama in A Single Shard, by Linda Sue Park — though these are priceless celadon vases. Tree-Ear accidentally breaks a vase belonging to Min, the master potter, and must work for him to pay off the vase's value. Later the two vases that were to determine Min's entire career, which Tree-Ear was carrying to Songdo, are broken by bandits out of cruelty.
The Paul Jennings short story The Strap-Box Flyer featured a sweet old lady who has a priceless porcelain collection, including a little china dog that she was especially fond of. She decides to put them all up on a shelf she was able to make herself, using a few wood pieces and a tube of Griffin's Great Glue, which bonds any material unbreakably...Unfortunately, Griffin is a fraud who conveniently forgot to tell his customers about the "for a couple of hours" part. Hilarity does not ensue when she takes a nap after happily placing her collection on the shelf, only to be awakened by the crash a while later to find the collection smashed to pieces. Including the little dog.
In Gordon Korman's This Can't Be Happening at Macdonald Hall!, Boots, in an attempt to annoy his snobbish new roommate enough to force the headmaster to reunite him with his old roommate Bruno, deliberately used three of said roommate's mint 1886 Queen Victoria Canadian stamps to mail a letter to his mother.
Played with in Septimus Heap, where in Darke Larry from Dead Languages translation puts such a vase in front of his easily stuck front door so that people coming in will fall on the vase, break it and have to pay for it.
In Farmer Boy, the third book in Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House series, so much description is given to Almanzo's mother's formal parlor — so elaborate her children are not even allowed to set foot in it — that when the children spend a week alone in the house, it's difficult to see Almanzo's throwing a tar brush at his sister and hitting the parlor's brocade-papered wall as anything but inevitable.
In the classic story Tom Browns School Days, Tom is "going a bit off the rails" due to over-harsh treatment by his form master and burns what he thinks is only a stack of test papers or something of similar importance. He later discovers that it was actually the text for a book which his form master had spent years (if not decades) researching and writing, and was not only very valuable in money terms but also of immeasurable sentimental value to his form master. Played horrifyingly straight, although the form master eventually takes it as a lesson that he needs to pay more attention to the needs of his students and put less value on things and forgives Tom.
Frasier: A mask of the late wife of a neighbour, a blind James Earl Jones', the only thing he has to remember her by. Cue increasingly desperate attempts to replace it without him noticing only for him to reveal at the end that he kept the mold because he's constantly breaking the mask himself due to being blind.
The Suite Life of Zack and Cody (Subverted): Early on, there was a Running Gag which involves a vase that was always in danger of being knocked down by Zack and Cody's antics, only to be saved by Mr. Mosby or some other hotel employee. Although it had never been broken, just the idea that it was going to break became the source of the comedy. It actually did break in the final episode of the series.
There was an episode that DID use the standard plot, where Zack and Cody accidentally break London's bust while pet sitting for her. They spend the episode hosting an illegal slumber party in London's suite (that the guest thought was a legit hotel room being rented to them and their hosting services being part of an actual hotel package) in order to be able to have enough money to replace it before she got home.
The Brady Bunch: "Mom always said never to play ball in the house." (For those who don't know, they broke a vase playing ball in the house.)
The first Dictionary in Blackadder season 3, which has been the work of ten years by Samuel Johnson. Which is promptly set on fire by Baldrick. What Baldrick destroyed then turns out to be Edmund's book, which he has been writing for ten years. Funny that. The dictionary is revealed to be safe. Then Baldrick set that dictionary on fire.
A sketch on In Living Color! involved an idiot high school hall monitor (David Alan Grier). At one point, a student (Jim Carrey) comes in with a model of something that took him weeks to build and represents 80 percent of his grade for a class — Grier wastes no time in accidentally breaking it.
The Armstrong and Miller Show has the "Enlightenment with Dennis Lincoln-Park" sketches, in which the title character is repeatedly entrusted with priceless works of art despite being totally accident prone.
On Black Books, Bernard and Manny house-sit for a friend and the first thing they do is knock over a vase. It's owner says that he has another, but to be careful with it because "it's the only one left in the world... now". The outtakes on the DVD show a take where Bill Bailey knocked over the vase but then caught it before it hit the ground.
The Golden Girls: The girls have to deal with a recent break-in, and Rose goes out and buys a gun for protection. Late one night she hears someone at the front door — the alarm goes off and a frightened Rose fires the gun... hitting Blanche's priceless vase.
Family Matters: moments after Carl Winslow puts the finishing touches on a model clipper ship he built himself, the clumsy, nerdy, lovable Steve Urkel walks in. And then, guess what happens. It gets to the point that Carl just buys all of his furniture in bulk now. But after he shows it to Urkel, the backups all get accidentally destroyed.
When Richard Hammond painted and James May sculpted for a "car art" challenge on Top Gear, the former plunged his work by accident to a pond, then crashed the latter's sculpture.
The end game for the fourth series premiere of Talkin' 'bout Your Generation was about "gluing together a ming vase you've smashed before your parents get home"... although Shaun actually did it by pushing each vase off a pedestal, and Gen X's vase barely chipped, so he threw it on the floor.
In The Big Bang Theory when Penny finally comes into some money, she buys Leonard and Sheldon mint, in-box collectible, Star Trek transporters as a thank you for all the times the guys let her mooch off of them. However, she's a bit disappointed when they decide TO KEEP them in the boxes and not play with them and enjoy them. And unbeknownst to her and Leonard, so is Sheldon, who decides to opens his, plays with it and breaks it. He switches his box with Leonard's hoping no one will ever know, only the next day Penny convinces Leonard to open it. Sheldon Cannot Tell a Lie and breaks down and admits the deception after Penny was going to demand her money back from Stewart at the comic book shop.
Michael Bentine's 1960s BBC show It's A Square World had a sketch about a man who'd spent many years building a beautiful model of St Paul's Cathedral — out of matchsticks. Unfortunately he'd neglected to remove the matchheads, and under the hot studio lights...
In Pair Of Kings, Boomer and Brady (And Boz) have a priceless vase in their room that breaks almost once every single episode in some way. It always shows up perfectly fine the next episode, which leads to a lot of lampshading.
In the China episode of Kickin' It, Rudy continually bumbled into the priceless artifacts that were (logic-defyingly) on display in a room where a martial arts tournament was being held. Somebody at Disney XD must really love this trope.
In one episode of Friends, Rachel accidentally breaks a dinosaur thing in Ross's apartment. She really hopes it's not real because Ross is a palaeontologist and treasures his precious collection. Subverted when Rachel finds out it's fake and she casually hides it into a lamp.
Garfield: Jon once bought a real Ming vase. Garfield casually reached over and shoved, smashing it to the ground. ('Ming, shming.") Jon had a brief Heroic BSOD followed by a hysterical meltdown, screaming "YOU DUMB ANIMAL! YOU'RE SO STUPID! YOU DON'T EVEN KNOW WHAT YOU DID!" Then, once he had left, Garfield privately reflected (in very eloquent language) that he had smashed the vase as a protest against the autocratic tendencies of Imperial China.
A Bob & Ray skit has newsman Wally Ballou conducting an interview at a glass-fruit factory, and repeatedly dropping and breaking the expensive product. When he assures the outraged owner that "Of course, my employers Bob & Ray will cover this..." we abruptly 'cut back' to Ray: "Ah, thank you, that was Wally Ballou. And no, we won't."
Cats: During Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer's number, the lyrics tell you that they're the ones responsible for breaking, among other things, "a vase which was commonly said to be Ming."
In Super Paper Mario, you can't progress in the game until you have "accidentally" broken a priceless vase on top of a question mark block. You then have to pay a million rubies to make up for it, which the villain who tricked you into breaking the vase never actually expected you to get. Subversion, because if you scan it beforehand, Tippi will say it's worth only 100 coins at the most.
In the Ace Attorney games, the Fey clan's greatest treasure is the Sacred Urn, said to house the soul of the clan's founder. It gets broken and put back together again at least three times over the course of Justice for All and Trials and Tribulations. It's only at the end of the game when it's finally put back together CORRECTLY.
A sidequest in The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks has Link bring an incredibly fragile vessel to Steem so he may decorate his sanctuary. The slightest hit from an enemy attack or reckless actions on the rails will smash it to pieces. Even when Steem has the vessel safe and sound ... it isn't. Don't even think about whacking it with a sword.
In Colossal Cave Adventure, one of the cave treasures is a delicate Ming vase. If you put it down, "the vase drops with a delicate crash" and the item is destroyed (leaving worthless fragments behind). One of the game's many puzzles is figuring out how to collect it safely. Drop the soft pillow first, then put the vase on the pillow.
In the parody Very Big Cave Adventure, if the Genre Savvy player attempts to do the correct solution from Colossal Cave, the pillow eats the vase and laughs at them.
Dave: Nice house you have, Iris. Iris: Thanks! We just got done redecorating and landscaping. Here are the glass cabinets for our collectibles...the priceless vases are family heirlooms...and here's where my husband keeps his collection of extremely fragile mounted insects with...er... Dave: Sorry. I tend to cause foreshadowing. Iris: I'm cutting the house tour short before the computer room, okay?
And sure enough, before the evening's gaming is over, Dave has opened an interdimensional portal that causes the house to be swarmed by angels. While attempting to fix the microwave.
Discussed and subverted early in Homestuck, when the SACRED URN of NANNA'S ASHES seems to be introduced as this. John notes the comic inevitability of it tumbling and shattering, but doesn't seem to find it priceless, or concerned with how priceless it may be to his father. As a veteran jokester, Nanna may appreciate the use of her remains for a gag, and when she's later incarnated as a clown spirit she doesn't even mention it.
The girls are tasked with protecting The Mayor's priceless super-rare one-of-a-kind porcelain poodle from some crooks, only to drop it and watch it smash to a million pieces as soon as they saved it. Apparently, everyone was fine with it.
In the same episode, the criminals are dressed as the girls (as seen on the Easy Impersonation page) so they can get away with anything. The mayor is fine with this as well.
Leader: Look at this vase!
Partner: I think it’s pronounced “vahz.”
Leader: Oh, yeah? I think it’s pronounced— (pushing it off pedestal) —“broken”!
In another episode, Bubbles can't keep her hands off a Ming vase (the object of the very first crime Mojo Jojo ever committed). Mojo does save the vase before it falls, but when he's zapped by his own laser, it's destroyed anyway. He definitely wasn't fine with it.
Subverted in "The Mansion Family". When Homer and family house-sit for Mr. Burns. He returns to happily discover that the priceless Ming vase he keeps on a narrow pedestal is unharmed and his rare coin collection was not spent in the vending machine that's kept right next to it. That's then when Homer returns to inform him that the yatch he took to throw a party was hijacked by pirates.
The Critic: Parodied in a spoof of Saturday Night Live. "Mr. Sweaty Guy, this is the original copy of the U.S. Constitution. It's been kept dry for two hundred years. I want you to hold it."
The Fairly OddParents: Subversion — Timmy's parents got a priceless Ming vase at a garage sale for $1 and insured it for $49,999, so when it got broken, they were not upset. Vicky was, though, because she'd gone to some trouble to get Timmy to break it so the parents would clobber him.
Mom and Dad: "We're RICH!-ER!
Played straight in another episode where, while attempting to find out if the world really has stopped having sound, Timmy causes a domino effect in his living room which destroys a Fabergé Egg, a Ming vase, the Venus of Milo, and The Holy Grail. With the world being silent, though, his parents are unable to yell at him.
Sponge Bob Square Pants: Zig-zagged to hell and back in "Wet Painters": SpongeBob and Patrick are hired to paint Mr. Krabs's knickknack-festooned living room with paint that supposedly never, ever comes out. They manage to paint the entire room (pretty much by accident) without getting paint on anything else. At first it appears that they are off the hook, until SpongeBob notices a tiny, nearly microscopic speck of paint on Krabs' first dollar earned. Trying to wipe it off only spreads the paint all over, and they spend the rest of the episode trying to get it off, then hiding it from Mr. Krabs. Finally, Krabs discovers the painted bill, and licks it clean! Turns out Krabs only told them the paint was unwashable to mess with them, which causes him to laugh so hard he gets spit all over the walls, washing off all of the paint.
Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends: Happens in the very first episode, when Mac's mean older brother begins forcing Mac and Bloo to destroy the house by running them into objects. The Ming vase only gets broken at the end of the scene, where Bloo grabs it and smashes it over Terrence's head. Terrence tries to blame them for it, but his mom doesn't believe him.
In the episode "Busted", Bloo breaks a bust of Madame Foster while roughhousing. His attempts to fix it just makes things worse. At one point, he actually has Madame Foster herself pose as the bust after covering her in flour.
Mr. Herriman finds out about this, and it looks like Bloo is going to be grounded, but then... he laughs, saying that the bust gets knocked over and broken so many times that Mrs. Foster had several dozen copies made, which he keeps in a closet, just in case.
In The Boondocks episode "Stinkmeaner Strikes Back", Huey knocks out the possessed Tom with Grandad's ancient lamps and vases which have never been mentioned in either media prior to the moment Huey needed to knock Tom out cold.
Family Guy: Subverted; Peter launches himself out of a catapult. Cut to a scene involving a room full of neatly stacked dominos, priceless crockery, and the owner's "newborn haemophiliac baby", with a wide open window. Cue Peter speeding though the air towards the window only to land just outside without harming a thing. He even leans in to comment on the man's "really nice things".
Man: You hear that, Jimmy? We were complimented.
Subverted on Jimmy Two-Shoes: Jimmy and Beezy accidentally break one of Lucius' vases, causing them to freak out and fear his trademark Disproportionate Retribution. Turns out the vase is one of several that are worthless, Lucius breaks them whenever he gets mad.
Batman: The Animated Series: Strangely, Alfred deliberately smashed a Ming (he had been driven mad by one of The Joker's poisons) and afterward felt ashamed, and was even prepared to accept docked pay from Bruce Wayne as punishment.
In the episode "The Terrific Trio" the titular trio are robbing a house, and one of them accidentally break one of these vases. He quips "Oh well, Ming was a boring dynasty anyway."
There is one easily missed moment in "Infinite Realms" of Danny Phantom, where Vlad Masters defeats all Ming warriors so they will lead him to their master. Cue shot of broken vases and this:
Monk: You have dishonored our priceless treasures! We shall never obey you!
Danny: You see what happens when you play ball in the house?