Seven Rules to Stay Sane and Win at Whisky Auctions. Or: Maybe The World isn’t Crazy After All

This post is a quick followup on our story relating to the absolutely crazy  pricing of two 1999 single cask Glen Garioch bottles at last month’s auction. If you didn’t yet, read ‘In Whisky, Is Crazy the New Normal?‘ and then come back here.

The short of it is that two Glen Garioch 12 year old single cask bottles bottled for the Gatwick North World Duty Free stores (cask 2906 at 58.2% ABV) sold at the last auction for £450 and £440 each (worked out with 10% commission that comes out to £495 and £484 respectively).

Bottle 4/210

Bottle 3/210

I was quite adamant in that post that this does not mean that the overall whisky market has gone crazy. Yes, prices are rising (for now, but that’s a subject for another post, as I’m starting to see the first signs of the downturn, but it will take time for reality to catch up), but 12 year olds don’t sell for £500, even if they come from my favorite distillery 😉 In fact, I hypothesized, there are some collectors out there who have, or are trying to complete, a set of all 11 of the World Duty Free bottlings, and already have the 1978 and 1986, as well as most of the other bottles from the 1990s. I mean, even if  £500 is mere pocket change for you, you can surely do better for your money than a 12 year old ex bourbon cask.

In the post, I asked those collectors to drop me a line, as I’d love to interview them about their collections, but sadly nobody came forth.

You can imagine my utter amusement when this month’s auction (the 66th auction) brought two more bottles from this same cask (bottle 2/210 and 5/210). Here we can actually put my hypothesis to the test. Has the world gone crazy, or is the world normal, with two crazy people bidding for whisky at auction. You’ll also recall that I stated that the price range should top out at £90-£100, which would also show a nice premium to the seller on her (or his) investment.

So what happened with these two bottles?

You’d probably not be too surprised to learn that both sold for £85.

A Tale of Four Bottles: August Auction on left, September on Right

A Tale of Four Bottles: 2 August Auction Bottles on left, 2 September Bottles on Right

So how do you play the auction game intelligently? Here are some rules to live by for anybody bidding in auctions:

  1. Bottles have a tendency of showing up again, it may take time, but they’re bound to resurface.
  2. Every bottle has a price after which it’s just not worth having. Do some research, as I’ve seen people pay at auction more than an available bottle retails (I saw someone pay £125 for a current Glenfraclas 25, sold retail off the shelf in the UK for £120, and in the Netherlands for €100).  Whatever that maximum price is for you for every particular bottle, know it going in.
  3. Don’t EVER forget the commission. That’s another 10%-15% that ONLY shows up on your invoice, not on screen. Moreover, if you’re shipping inside the EU, add VAT to the commission. In the case above, our “winner” of the Glenfarclas 25 actually paid almost £141 for a £119.90 bottle).
  4. If you don’t live near the auction house, don’t forget the shipping. Speaking of shipping costs, stores typically charge £5 for the delivery of a bottle, including insurance. Many ship free if your purchase is over £100. Auctions charge £11 for the delivery of a single bottle in the UK, and insurance can run another %3 of hammer price.  (So your £125 bottle is delivered to you actually costing £155.75. If you’re in Western Europe, you’ll pay another £9 for the shipping, bringing you up to £164.75).
  5. Set your maximum price for the bottle, and enter it on your first bid. Auctions are smart, and they’ll only raise your price if you were outbid. Once that’s exhausted, the bottle just isn’t yours.
    Deal with it 🙂
  6. DO NOT sit on the auction during closing. At 2pm on September 4th, both the £450 bottles were at £65. So were the two £85 bottles yesterday!
  7. It’s just whisky, and auctions are just games. If playing the auction game will end up giving you an ulcer, you won’t be able to drink the whisky you won. Set your limit, let the game play out and rejoice in your winnings. Those you didn’t win? Heck, there might be two more heading your way for a fifth of the price!

 

 

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