Bidding on 39 bottles distilled from 1789 to 1977 does not meet reserve price of $100,000
By ALAN J. WAX
A collection of liquid history remains unsold.
The collection of 39 rare, historic bottles of Cognac and Armagnac went up for sale at Christie’s Auction House in New York on April 13. Now, they’re being re-packed and returned to the seller.
The set, called the American Presidential Collection and the first potential sale by a Dutch collector, however, failed to meet the seller’s reserve price of $100,000.
The collection, on sale as one lot, included bottles of Cognac distilled during each American presidential term, from 1789, when George Washington first became president of the United States, to 1977, when Jimmy Carter moved into the White House. The collection included rate Cognacs from from famous houses such as Courvoisier 1884, Marnier-Lapostolle 1865, Otard Dupuy 1865, Bisquit Dubouché 1858, Pierre Chabanneau 1850, Meuow 1842, AE Dor 1840 and one extremely rare bottle of 1789 Grand Champagne Cognac,
The bottles belong to renowned Dutch history buff and collector Bay van der Bunt, who with help from investors gathered more than 6,000 bottles of rare elixirs worth $15 million over 40 years. The auction had been arranged by Bart Laming, who since 2010 has been managing director of van der Bunt’s trading and investment companies, Old Liquors. “This is the first time a collection of this type has come to the market,” Laming said.
Many of the bottles had been acquired years earlier by van der Bunt through estate auctions in Europe and through auctions at Christie’s in London. Laming, at a tasting on the eve of the auction, said many of the bottles had increased in value at compounded annual rates of 10 to almost 20 percent from the time they were acquired.
Van de Bunt, who is 67, decided it was time to sell some of his assets,” Laming said. “He can’t take it with him.”
Laming said he was disappointed that bidding stalled at $95,000. Sales materials for the auction forecast a sales range of $100,000 to $150,000 for the collection. The Cognac lot was squeezed into a sale of sculpture and other art works that generated more than $10.5 million in winning bids.
“It was a challenge,” Laming said of the attempt to sell the Cognacs among the 36 lots of decorative arts. But he noted the collection “represented the art of distilling.”
Laming said he surmised that the Asian bidders he and Christie’s hoped to attract might have found it difficult for the collection to travel easily across borders.
Old Liquors will try again to sell the bottles in Asia in the fall, Laming said, adding trip to the United States was successful nonetheless, since it enabled him to meet liquor merchants whom his Old Liquors might sell to in the future. “The mission was successful,” he noted.
Up Next: Tasting rare Cognacs, Armagnacs, Port and Madeira