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Priceless Ming Vase

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Krusty: Why, this rickety ladder in front of this door is the perfect place for this priceless Ming vase. Eh? Eh?
[Bart walks in, knocking the ladder over and smashing the vase.]
Bart: I didn't do it.

When a fragile and priceless item is featured in a work of comedy, it will inevitably be destroyed by The Klutz. Despite their adoration for their prized treasure, the owner will not secure the item in a display case, but rather perch it precariously on a pedestal so it can be tipped over by the slightest breeze. Traditionally the item is a vase, but paintings, sculptures, heirlooms, or other seemingly priceless and/or sentimental artifacts can be used.

The person who broke it will often go to great lengths to repair or replace the item before the owner finds out.

Common outcomes include:

  • The item was not that rare or valuable, but the character assumed it was.
  • The owner secured the real item in a vault, and the item on display was a replica.
  • The item was sentimental, but the owner forgives their friend for breaking it.

Historical background for the rise of this trope has been thoroughly researched by historians.

Frequently caused by What the Fu Are You Doing?. A character may attempt a Desperate Object Catch (which may or may not successfully defy this trope).

If the item contained cremation ashes, see Ashes to Crashes. For the automotive version, see Watch the Paint Job.


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  • 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 NOT to 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 breaks something just about every time she is cleaning up.
  • High School Star Musical plays with this. It appears when the main team of acting students arrives at their senpai's mountain villa for a training practice, and later, when they break it, they lampshade the Chekhov's Gun. Then, the two senpai come in and ask what happened to it - and the two rival teams have to improv their answers together. "A bear did it!" "Where did the bear go?" "That way - no, that way - out the door!" "But the door is locked." "What a considerate bear!" It escalates to the point where Inumine is singing goodbye to the bear, shirtless. Of course, the two senpai can tell they're lying the whole time, but instead of confronting them, they respond with their own bluff - it's a good thing a human didn't break it, because the vase is cursed. After freaking out their students for a moment, they tell them they could tell all along.
  • 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 favorite 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 Crayon Shin-chan revolves around Ai Sutome's servant/driver breaking a priceless item in her mansion and Ai blackmailing him 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 ungrateful snarker. 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.
  • In Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-Ohki OVAs, Washu messes around with Doctor Clay's precious priceless vase by pretending to nonchalantly 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.
  • In Hinamatsuri, Nitta's most prized possession is his collection of expensive vases. Then he ends up taking care of a bratty kid with telekinetic powers. You can probably guess how this turns out for the vases. Any pieces of pottery that survived her attempts to blackmail him by smashing them deliberately were destroyed when her powers went out of control and blew up his whole apartment.
  • An episode of Adventures of the Little Koala revolved around Roobear and his friends going to a local museum and seeing one. Upon noticing it's about to fall over, Roobear manages to break its fall. Unfortunately, his finger is now stuck in it and he can't get it out. He desperately tries to hide the situation from everyone including his family, resulting in him not eating in days or else risking revealing it. Eventually, his not eating causes his finger to slim down enough to slip right out and the vase (surprisingly) falls safely back into its display undamaged.

    Comic Books 
  • Archie Comics :
    • This happens with Archie almost any time Mr. Lodge buys a precious antique.
    • One time Lodge is savvy enough to buy an indestructible copy. Then his attempts to get Archie to break it results in the destruction of the real thing.
    • 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.
    • Lampshaded in the Jughead story "Ming Madness", when told that a certain vase is a Ming by Veronica, Archie goes into a tirade to Jughead on how Cliché'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 back to the Manchu dynasty, and thus vastly more expensive. Cue Archie fainting.
    Archie: I've never heard of a Manchu vase!
    Mr. Lodge: Old! Valuable! Very rare! And they're not such a Cliché as those Ming...
  • Batman: Black and White: In the comedic "Batsman: Swarming Scourge of the Underworld", the climactic fight scene takes place in a museum. One of the museum displays is a large vase labelled "Priceless Ming Dynasty Vase", which inevitably gets used as an improvised weapon and doesn't survive the experience.

    Comic Strips 
  • 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.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • Flushed Away: Roddy accidentally destroys Toad's entire collection of cheap Buckingham Palace gift shop knick-knacks... I mean, priceless royal family memorabilia.
  • Kung Fu Panda:
    • One of the priceless artifacts stored at the Jade Palace 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.
    • The Urn appears again in Kung Fu Panda 3 when Po shows his father Li around, mentioning that it was once broken by "some idiot." This time, Li is the one who breaks it.
  • Dean Hardscrabble's scream can — her one souvenir of a lifetime of scaring — in Monsters University. Its destruction is what gets Mike and Sulley kicked out of the scare program, or rather, speeds up their inevitable expulsion.
  • The Little Mermaid: Ariel's grotto full of human objects, including a large statue of Prince Eric, which King Triton destroys when he finds out about it.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Meet the Parents: The urn carrying De Niro's mother and the gazebo Owen Wilson built.
  • Children's Party at the Palace: Whilst at the picture gallery of Buckingham Palace, Horrid Henry breaks a ceramic vase on accident when he tried to open a locked cabinet.
  • Duplex: Ben Stiller's computer containing his finished novel.
  • 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.
  • The opening shootout of The Corruptor happens in an antiques store, and inevitably in the cross-fire plenty of antique Ming vases gets shot to bits.
  • 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 while fighting Juntao's men — and then one of the vases gets shot. 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.
  • The Pink Panther:
    • In The Pink Panther Strikes Again, Clouseau smashes a piano.
      Butler: But that's a priceless Steinway!
      Clouseau: Not anymore!
    • In The Pink Panther (2006), Clouseau gets his hand stuck inside a valuable looking vase:
      Clouseau: Is this vase of great value?
      Larocque: It is a worthless imitation.
      [Clouseau slams the vase on the nearby desk, breaking both the vase and the table in the process]
      Larocque: [cringing] But that desk was ... priceless.
  • In Flirting with Disaster, Ben Stiller destroys some knick-knack when visiting that neo-Confederate woman.
  • James Bond:
    • In Moonraker, 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. 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.
    • In Tomorrow Never Dies, Bond overheard a conversation between some mooks talking about a satellite standing in the middle of a room, which was explicitly stated to be worth 300 millions. Naturally that was the first thing he broke when he was escaping from said mooks.
  • 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.
  • X-Men: Apocalypse: The destructive test of Cyclops' powers results in a tree on the estate being carved in half. Xavier mentions that it was the first tree planted by his grandfather. Immediately after he says this, the tree finally breaks in half, and Scott fears that the Professor will kick him out of the school.
  • 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...)
    Eddie: You want me to break anything else?
    The Dukes: NO!
  • 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.
  • The priceless vase appears a few times early in Haunted Honeymoon. In the climactic fight the villain tries to hit Larry (Gene Wilder) with the vase, but gets shot by the vase owner, Aunt Kate (Dom De Luise), and falls, breaking it.
    Larry: This vase was so valuable. There's only five of them in the world.
    Aunt Kate: [unflinching] Four.
  • In The Case of the Mukkinese Battlehorn, a museum curator is rather careless when indicating a valuable artifact:
    Nodule: Or even this — this priceless Grecian vase.
    [His outstretched hand knocks it off its pedestal.]
    Nodule: Botheration! Cleggett! Nip round to Woolworth's and get me one of those priceless Grecian vases, will you?
  • At the start of Holmes & Watson, Holmes is growing a gigantic marrow of which he is inordinately fond. It is squashed by Watson's abortive suicide attempt.
  • The Three Stooges short "Listen Judge" has Shemp stumble into a cabinet, which made the vase that was on top of it fall over and would've broken it if it wasn't for the quick reflexes of the panicked housewife. This is one of those American works where the owner uses the "vahz" pronounciation, which the Stooges mock:
    Housewife: This vase is worth $3000!
    [The Stooges start talking in "posh" voices]
    All three Stooges: VAAAAAAHZ!
    Moe: Say what, Harry old boy?
    Shemp: Do you have a bloater?
    Larry: No, but I have a sardine!
    Moe: [normal voice] You'll have to beat it, lady! We've got a lot of work to do! [shoves her away] Thank you!
  • In Borat, Borat visits an antique store that happens to hold a lot of glass collectibles, many with obviously racist motifs. Borat asks to inspect them, and sure enough, several items wind up "accidentally" knocked over and smashed.
  • They Call Me Bruce:
    • Bruce is waving around nunchucks in a dojo and ends up breaking the Old Master's expensive vase. The master throws Bruce out of his class, telling him to keep the chucks so he can practice with them... in the closet!
    • In the sequel They Still Call Me Bruce, an antique Korean vase is the MacGuffin, leading to the obligatory scenes where Bruce has to stop it from being smashed among all the kung fu shenanigans.

  • Roald Dahl's The Witches subverts this: a Cool Old Lady accidentally breaks one of her own vases and tells onlookers not to worry because "it's only Ming!".
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Invoked 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.
  • Discworld:
    • The so-named Ming vases aren't priceless at all, as their name comes from the fact that if you run your finger along the edge, it goes ming. The actual priceless Chinese artifacts are from the McSweeney dynasty (very old established family).
    • The really valuable thing is the unique lifetimer that every individual has, measuring out the seconds of their life like sand in an hourglass. Events in Hogfather, are precipitated when the Hogfather's lifetimer was found, by Susan, to be in shattered pieces on the floor. She also noted the stray catsnote . In accordance with the age-old law of cats, shelves, and delicate, irreplaceable, and easily broken things thereon...
  • Rikki Fry's father collects these in The Chalet School and Richenda, and her habit of touching them, despite repeatedly being told not to, gets her sent to the Chalet School as punishment.
  • Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere had an unusual subversion. Mr. Croup, the sophisticated member of "The Old Firm", is a connoisseur of objects like Ming china. He will deal even with enemies to prevent them destroying such items, if they offer him a chance to personally destroy the objects himself. He delights in the destruction of rare beautiful objects, preferring to eat them.
  • In The Fourth Bear, Jack and Caliban get into a physical altercation right next to Madeline's (who's mad at Jack) precious family heirloom vase. Of course, it breaks immediately, leading to further anger from Madeline.
  • In "Gentlemen, the King!" by Damon Runyon, one of the casualties of the incursion into the king's bedroom is "a big jar over in one corner of the room, which Miss Peabody afterwards tells me is worth fifteen G's if it is worth a dime".

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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 Lone Gunmen: the autographed golf bag Langly throws up into.
  • The Suite Life of Zack & Cody: 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. Moseby 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." 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.
    • In the same episode, Bernard and Manny wind up drinking a priceless bottle of wine and spend much of the remainder of the episode trying to augment a cheap bottle of wine to replace it. Said wine ends up killing the Pope, but when Bernard sees the headline he only notices the date on the paper - it's his birthday!
  • Highlander:
    • When Gina and Robert de Valicourt argue in "Till Death":
      Robert de Valicourt: Not the Ming vase! Not the Ming— [crash]
    • After they make up, Duncan buys them another Ming vase. It ends up broken too, because Methos thinks it's funny.
  • Seinfeld: The cabin. Cherish the cabin.
  • 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.
    Blanche: You shot my vase!
    Sophia: Thank God, I hated that thing!
    Rose: At least I didn't shoot Lester!
    Blanche: I'd rather you shot Lester!
    ** Another episode has Sophia and Rose scrambling to replace a rare commemorative plate of Blanche's which has been accidentally broken on their watch.
  • 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 The Late Late Show returned to air after New Year's, Craig was able to borrow a pair of "Priceless Ming vases on loan from the Getty Museum". Then Secretariat comes out.
  • When Richard Hammond painted and James May sculpted for a "car art" challenge on Top Gear (UK), 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.
  • El Chapulín Colorado: At the final moments of the episode "De noche todos los gatos hacen miau" (All cats meow at nightnote ), Chapulín finds the noisy cat, that did not let people sleep, inside an expensive vase. Then Chapulín pets the cat and drops the vase.
  • 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...
  • It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia:
    • On two separate occasions the Gang got ahold of priceless WWII artifacts (from the Nazis) only to end up burning it behind the bar after their attempts to offload it fall flat.
    • In one episode the Gang breaks into a family's house to steal a priceless vase, but get frustrated with sneaking around and give up. They then awkwardly walk past the family to the front door, only for Frank to see the vase in their living room and try to grab it with his whip, shattering it.
  • 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. When Boomer and Boz go to Chicago, they encounter another priceless vase in Mr. Dawson's home. When they accidentally break it, they assume it will magically get fixed, similar to their vase above.
  • In Three's Company, Mr. Furley claims at one point his apartment downstairs is "filled with priceless antiques." Chrissy retorts that "'Priceless' means it's not worth anything."
  • 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. When Rachel finds out it's fake she casually hides it into a lamp.
  • Grande, Pá!: Jose is getting married, and uncle Blanca from Bahia Blanca send her a wedding gift: a vase. She found it hideous. Flo returns from school and, seeking some useless thing to put for sale in the school fair, she took the vase. Jose does not mind: she did not want it, and she's glad that there is a good use for it. Problem is when uncle Blanca comes home, and wants to see the vase. Norma bought a new one, and they go great lengths to explain first the absence of the vase, and then why Norma had it, and then why it isn't the same base, and then that Jose likes it so much that they shouldn't denounce the postal service for the "mistake"... and, when it is all settled, María broke it by accident.
  • In the "The Tennis Bum" episode of Series/Wings, Lowell has spent months building a perfect scale model of a blimp, which actually flies under remote control. Of course, Joe tries flying it in his office, and it is smashed by someone opening the door into it.
  • The Farscape episode "Back And Back To The Future" involves a time loop. Each time, Crichton goes into Zhaan's room and talks to her, picking up a delicate mask on a display shelf, then as he's playing with it he ends up dropping it and causing it to shatter, to Zhaan's distress. However, on the final loop, since Crichton has figured out what's going on, he instead carefully sets the mask down before deliberately stomping on it.
  • One episode of Derry Girls introduces a statue of the Christ Child that Sister Michael is attached to. It's destroyed right the climax of the episode in an attempt to hold the statue hostage. The girls try to glue it back together, but do so incorrectly, and their ruse is caught.
  • One episode of Series/Chucklevision has the Chuckle Brothers tasked with protecting such a vase. Surprisingly, the vase actually survives the events of the episode, and instead, the ending of the episode involves it getting put into a cloning machine, and Paul and Barry find themselves having to smash all the cloned vases in order to preserve the vase’s uniqueness, as it’s meant to be the only one of it’s kind in the world.
  • Averted in Downton Abbey: When Matthew Crawley and Sir Richard Carlisle come to blows in the drawing room at Downton, they knock over an apparently significant vase with flowers. As the parties are departing, Matthew tries to apologise to the Dowager Countess:
    Matthew: Sorry about the vase.
    The Dowager Countess: Don't be, don't be. It was a wedding present from a frightful aunt. I have hated it for half a century.
  • Batwoman (2019). The title character is fighting a Classy Cat-Burglar but is still getting the hang of her wonderful toys. She fails to catch a batarang on its return and it smashes a vase once owned by Marie Antoinette.
  • Person of Interest. In "If-Then-Else", the Machine is running simulations to find out a way for our heroes to escape the predicament they are in. When a valuable painting gets damaged by stray gunfire in every simulation, the Machine gets Root to move the picture so it won't be damaged in reality.
  • Odd Squad: In "Crime at Shapely Manor", Otto orders Lord Rectangle, Miss Triangle, General Pentagon and Professor Square to stay inside the titular manor and blocks their only way out. He ends up accidentally knocking over a vase, causing it to shatter (one that was right in his peripheral vision, no less), and one of Lord Rectangle's butlers quickly rushes to clean the mess up while Olive reacts with her her trademark Face Palm. Otto apologizes for the blunder and offers to pay for it, and upon asking how much the vase cost, the butler responds by bluntly telling him "it was priceless, sir". Otto takes that to mean that the vase was free and expresses relief over not having to pay anything, causing Olive to give him a head shake of disapproval.

    Puppet Shows 
  • Monsterpiece Theater's "Cyranose de Bergerac" ends with the title character chasing the Queen of France around and knocking two presumably very valuable vases down to their doom with his very long nose-and briefly pausing to apologize for doing so. Then he chases Alistair Cookie around and does the same to the priceless porcelain.

  • 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."
  • One episode of The Goon Show has a gag about a priceless Ming vase going under the hammer.

  • The Glass Menagerie: Used not for comic but for dramatic effect.
  • Similarly used dramatically in Summer of the Seventeenth Doll, where the shattering of the doll echoes the shattering of the characters' hopes.
  • 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."

    Video Games 
  • 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. The villain who tricked you into breaking the vase never actually expected you to be able to pay off the debt. If you scan it beforehand, Tippi will say it's worth only 100 coins at the most.
  • In Kasumi's loyalty mission in Mass Effect 2, a renegade interrupt gives you the chance to introduce one of Donovan Hock's priceless vases to a round from one your guns. It could class as a type of Interrogation by Vandalism, with the wrinkle that your primary motivation is to get him to stop talking at you.
  • In the Phoenix Wright: 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.
    • At the very end, a picture is shown of a very young Maya and Mia restoring the vase, implying that it happened a lot before.
  • In Worms, if you find one in a crate, you can break a Priceless Ming Vase... the pieces of which then blow up. Like everything else in the game.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, Link can break some of these, but if he breaks too many, he has to pay 10 rupees each.
  • 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.
  • In the parody Very Big Cave Adventure, if the savvy player attempts to do the correct solution from Colossal Cave, the pillow eats the vase and laughs at them.
  • Phantom Brave: One of the many, many weapons one can use in this game, it's basic attack is "shatter".

    Web Comics 
  • Happens in Narbonic numerous times. For instance:
    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.
  • In Homestuck, the SACRED URN of NANNA'S ASHES is 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.
  • In Men in Hats, Aram starts to wax despondent while wantonly smashing priceless ancient vases.
  • Played for Drama in Anecdote of Error. Luntsha accidentally knocks over a museum exhibit while everyone is trying to restrain Zeya, which causes it to shatter into smithereens, reveals their presence to Yensha, and gives everyone present the ability to manifest objects from thin air.

    Western Animation 
  • In the DuckTales (1987) episode "The Bride Wore Stripes", the Beagle Boys use a Ming vase as a baseball bat, of course breaking it in the process.
  • In DuckTales (2017) episode "Nothing Can Stop Della Duck!", Scrooge and the kids are about to go on another adventure now that they've acquired a rare magical quill that can find any treasure on the map... only for Scrooge to drop it, causing it to shatter in pieces, when he sees Della at the front door.
  • Codename: Kids Next Door has "Operation: B.R.E.A.K.U.P." centered around this trope, starting with Numbuh 4 breaking many copies of his mother's vase with his antics and told to make sure the last vase stays intact or else be sent to ballroom dancing school. This results in him getting to a place where kids make a game out of destroying their parents' priceless objects, thwarting a bully's plan, and ensuring the vase stays in one piece until the end credits.
  • The Powerpuff Girls:
    • 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 wanting to touch 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.
  • The Simpsons:
    • 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 yacht he took to throw a party was hijacked by pirates.
    • Homer has also torn and spilled chocolate on the US Bill of Rights while sitting in Archie Bunker's chair, and destroyed the Stonecutter Sacred Parchment by using it as a napkin.
  • 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:
    • Timmy's parents got a priceless Ming vase on the internet 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!
    • 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 de Milo, and The Holy Grail. With the world being silent, though, his parents are unable to yell at him.
    • In another episode Timmy is entrusted with protecting his parents' cabinet full of glass figurines. It's destroyed as soon as they get back, but his mom decides to start a broken glass collection.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: 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 (and to teach them to be more careful), which causes him to laugh so hard, he gets spit all over the walls, washing off all of the paint.
    Mr. Krabs: Aww, crud! I really gotta learn to say it, not spray it.
    • Exaggerated in "Shell Shocked" when Sponge Bob accidentally breaks all the shells in Angry Jack's Shell Emporium while shopping for a new shell for Gary.
  • 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 evicted like Herriman threatened earlier, but then he laughs, saying that the bust gets knocked over and broken so many times that Madame Foster had several dozen copies made, which he keeps in a closet, just in case.
  • In Jackie Chan Adventures, Jackie often spends most of his time in Uncle's antique shop saving antiques from breaking after they fall from some place rather unsafe for a rare antique. Not that he lets any hit the ground, this is Jackie Chan. After one particularly close call, Jackie scolds the villains for their carelessness:
    Jackie: [sternly] Babylonian urn.
    Ratso: What's a Babylonian urn?
    Finn: Probably more than we do!
  • Family Guy:
    • 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 through 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.
    • One cutaway has a literal bull in a china shop, but it rather carefully and delicately looking at the wares. However Peter and the guys play golf nearby and one of Peter's hard shots smashes through the shop window and bounces into numerous expensive ornaments, leading the shop owner to enter the room and find the bull next to his ruined goods.
      Bull: I know what you're thinking...
  • 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.
  • In an episode of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Shredder has an entire room in the Technodrome full of ancient porcelain vases, all stolen because Shredder admires how rare and valuable they are. An alien from another dimension that loves to eat fine china quickly devours them all.
  • The Batman: When Bennett arrives at Wayne Manor and tells Bruce "I met the Batman," Alfred knocks over a vase, then brushes it off with "It's only a Ming."
  • 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. Fortunately for Alfred, Bruce's threat was just an April Fool joke.
    • In the episode "The Terrible 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?
  • Rugrats:
  • Taz-Mania:
    • The golf trophy in "Return of the Road to Taz-Mania Strikes Back".
    • In "Gone to Pieces", Taz accidentally breaks Jean's vase when he plays tiddlywinks with his bottle cap collection. After spending the entire episode trying to put the vase back together, with each attempt breaking the vase even more, Taz eventually sells his bottle cap collection to raise the money to buy a new vase. At the end of the episode, it is revealed that Jean was planning to sell the vase at her next garage sale for five dollars. Taz gets upset and destroys the replacement vase when he realizes that all his efforts were for nothing.
  • Lampshaded in Space Ghost Coast to Coast, ironically during a telethon to raise funds for the show.
    Brak: Take this, Ming! I'm sick of your dynasty!
  • The Amazing World of Gumball:
    • Subverted in "The Castle" when Darwin's high-pitched squeals of anger after Gumball mocks his voice cause a crystal decanter worth over $10,000 on the antique show on TV to shake... and then the Shooting Star host shatters.
    • Also subverted in "The Vase": Nicole wants her kids to deliberately destroy an ugly vase sent to her by Granny Jojo under the guise of it being an accident, only for the kids to find that it's Made of Indestructium. Nicole then has to stop them from destroying it at a wrecking yard when it turns out that it contains the ashes of Louie's pet python.
  • Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness: A Running Gag follows along with the movies as listed above; any time the Vase of Whispering Warriors appears on screen, it gets broken again.
    [smash; ghostly moaning]
    Po: Sorry, guys.
  • An episode of The Venture Bros. focuses on 21 trying to pay Doc using an old comic book—specifically, Marvel Comics #1 in near-pristine condition, which 21 claims to be a family heirloom worth around 500,000 dollars. Naturally, Doc scoffs at the fact that it's worth anything (it says 10 cents on the cover) and gives it to his son Hank, who immediately takes it out of the wrapping, and over the run of the episode's events, it gets ripped, chewed on, shot, and used as toilet paper. The episode is even told in Anachronic Order, with various scene transitions being marked by a counter showing how much value the comic has lost—by the end of the timeline (and the start of the episode), it is completely worthless.

    Real Life 
  • Man builds Leaning Tower of Pisa with 12,000 Jenga blocks. You know what's coming.
  • Possibly the single most cringe-worthy example is when the Eternal Flame at an Israeli Holocaust Museum was accidentally extinguished ... by the German chancellor.
  • Man breaks last remaining wax phonograph cylinder live on Tech TV
  • An extremely unlucky man named Nick Flynn visited the Fitzwilliam museum in Cambridge in 2006. During the course of his visit he tripped on his untied shoelace and fell down a flight of stairs, at the bottom of which was a rare vase from the Qing dynasty. The vase not only fell over and shattered but also knocked over and broke two more Qing dynasty vases that were next to it. The combined loss was estimated at over £100,000. Mr Flynn attributed his mishap to a "Norman Wisdom moment". Thankfully, the vases were completely covered by insurance and were later restored; they are now in a protective case.
  • Similar cases to the above, of "visitor accidentally destroys art exhibit" include:
    • In 2015, a 12-year-old boy tripping and punching a hole in Paolo Porpora's Flowers, valued at $1.5 million.
    • In 2016, a visitor trying to reactivate a clock in a clock museum ended up dislodging it from the wall, causing it to smash on the floor.
    • Also in 2016, a 91-year-old woman saw a painting of a crossword, with the phrase "insert words" next to it. So she did. In her defense, there were many pieces of interactive art in the gallery and she thought this one was also interactive.
    • Then there's this incident, where two young children walk past a cordon to play with the glass sculpture Angel is Waiting while their parents stand by filming them. The sculpture of course breaks. The artist renamed the sculpture to Broken without repairing it, and left it up alongside a monitor displaying the moments before the sculpture originally broke, as a warning to other museum-goers.
    • In pretty much all such cases of accidental damage, the visitor is reassured that accidents happen and that they will not have to contribute towards the cost of restoration or have charges pressed against them. One notable exception is when two Norwegian kids ruined a 5000-year-old cave carving of a skier, by scratching into it with the intent of trying to make it more visible. In fairness, they turned themselves in to the authorities after the vandalism had been reported and issued a public apology.


Video Example(s):


A Palace Vase Shatters

Whilst Horrid Henry looks for a television at Buckingham Palace, he suspects that it's in a nearby cabinet. When he tries to open it, the cabinet shakes, ending up in a porcelain vase falling from the top of it and shattering into pieces on the floor.

How well does it match the trope?

4.67 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / PricelessMingVase

Media sources: