May 30, 2009

Acker Hong Kong IV: pricing gets silly

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I stopped by the Acker auction today for a few hours, and sat through about half the lots. Contrary to the last couple of auctions, I decided not to show up until after lunch, and also didn't stay till the end. Quite a few friends had decided not to show up this time, so I didn't have much of an incentive to hang around.

In view of the results from recent auctions at other houses, it appears that bargains were no longer to be had. The hammer prices before buyer's premium were already more than what one can get from reputable merchants in London. So I went to the auction more to observe the action and to keep my finger on the pulse of the market.

The room was noticeably emptier than previous auctions. I did arrive towards the end of lunch so that may be one reason, but the reserved tables were not full and the back was virtually empty.

The action was slow. John was running behind schedule as usual, as he tried to work the room to ensure that the lots received every bid out there. The addition of internet bidding made a lot of difference, as many lots were pushed up by bidders not in the room, and there were plenty of times when an internet bid came up "on the hammer" and bidding continued. 

Prices went the way many of us expected, with very few bargains to be found. By my estimate most lots sold for above the low estimate, with many changing hands near or above the high estimate. Irrational bidding - spurred on by ego - has returned to the room. When wines not considered ultra-rare and desirable sell for double of the low estimate (or more), it makes you wonder.

There were no superlots this time. The highest-priced lot was 6-bottles of 1985 Richebourg from Henri Jayer, who is being described in the Chinese press as the "wine god of Burgundy". No doubt the Japanese comic Les Gouttes de Dieu (神の雫) had a big hand in this...

I didn't stay till the end of the auction, as it was taking way too long to finish more than 1,100 lots and I had other commitments. Having failed in several attempts to bid on small lots of good Burgundies, I had to be content with one small lot from a birth year vintage that I bought just above the high estimate... I guess I didn't want to walk away empty-handed...

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