The first thing to remember is that every bottle of spirit is unique and every spirits auction is unique too. It’s important to do your research. You’ll need to compare price trends as well as past auction results against current retail prices.
Valuations are as much an art as a science. So what are the main things to consider?
Compare auction trends
First, search Whisky.Auction to see if we have already sold the same bottle before.
Now compare what each of the bottles fetched at auction and note the dates.
Next, consider whether the price is increasing or decreasing and also the rough pace of change.
Finally, look at whether the pricing remains consistent over time or if prices fluctuate from one month to the next.
As an example, Campari from the 1970s makes an excellent classic Negroni so it’s particularly popular with bartenders as well as collectors. Prices dipped briefly before they levelled out and have been creeping up again recently. Another celebrated auction regular is Glenfiddich Snow Phoenix, but it’s prices have remained fairly consistent with less fluctuation.
Refer to original retail prices
It’s also important to search retail sites for the original or ‘primary’ market prices.
If the bottle is easily available at retail, it may sell for less at auction.
If your bottle is no longer easily available at retail it may sell for more than the most recent retail price. For example Ben Nevis 12 Year Old Highproof bottled by Hidden Spirits was released into retail in 2018 with a recommended retail price of around £100. Single malt from the Ben Nevis distillery is popular with whisky drinkers, as are bottlings from Hidden Spirits, thus it sold out quickly. In August 2019 it sold for £130 at auction.
Retail Vs Auction
Take care when using retail prices to estimate the auction value or your bottle. It can be useful to think of a retail list price it as an opening offer, on the other hand an auction result shows what someone actually paid and when. Some retail list prices may be optimistic, unreasonable, or simply outdated.
Keep in mind that retail prices will already be 20% higher [in the UK] because VAT is included, whereas no VAT is changed on the hammer price at auction.
A retail list price also needs to allow enough profit to cover shop overheads. You can expect some retail prices to be 20% to 100% above the price they originally paid so you’ll need to assess a shop’s general pricing and adapt.
What condition is the bottle in?
It’s equally important to compare the bottle’s condition to other bottles that have sold. Look at the fill level, the condition of the closure, Does it have its original box? Is there any damage to the labels?
Next, consider how much the condition affects the price on your particular bottle. For example, take two bottles of Macallan 1962 Campbell, Hope & King bottled in the 1970s for Rinaldi. In March 2019 a clean bottle with its original box fetched considerably more than a bottle which had a stained label and no box.
Is there a market for this bottle?
Remember the value of any bottle is only ever what someone is willing pay for it. If there is a lot of demand for a bottle, the value will be higher. If there is no market for a bottle, regardless of how special it is, it won’t fetch as much. This of course is great news when you’re buying.
What if your bottle hasn’t appeared on the market before?
If you can’t find any exact matches for the bottle you want to value then use auction results for similar bottles and look for any trends. Do this by finding a bottle that shares its category, bottling era, historical value, reputation, duration of maturation, producer… to gain some insight.
Ask an Expert
If all this sounds like too much work then don’t worry, you can just ask us for a free valuation. We’ve assessed and valued thousands of old and rare bottles and can give you an authoritative idea of what your bottle might be worth.