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Auction news September 2011

New auction houses in Chicago and San Francisco are a boon for wine buyers

The fall-winter auction season is likely to focus western and Asian attention on heightened competition in Chicago and on the west Coast.

New York-based Acker Merrall & Condit, a pillar of hong Kong auctions, has purchased Edward Roberts international, a small auction house in Chicago, and will inaugurate its Midwest auctions on 22 October.

Edward Robert Brooks, founder and now ex-chief executive, directs Acker’s new operation.

Acker is primarily going up against hart Davis hart, which has dominated the Chicago arena since its 2004 founding. The 37-year-old Chicago wine Company’s regular auctions rarely attract the secondary market’s spotlight.

John Kapon, Acker’s CEO, said: ‘with Chicago representing the second largest wine market in the uS, this transaction demonstrates both our commitment to the uS market and our determination to maintain and build on our worldwide leadership position.’

Michael Davis, Hart’s vice- chairman, said: ‘we welcome the competition… and feel it is a testament to the vitality of the Chicago market and our success within it. There’s plenty of room for Acker’s entry.’

Spectrum wine Auctions (in irvine, California) and heritage Auctions (headquartered in Dallas, Texas) have been joined by wineGavel (a start-up San francisco organisation) as rivals of Acker, Bonhams & Butterfields, Christie’s, hart, Morrell, Sotheby’s and Zachys, and minor Skinner (in Boston, born in 2007) for consignors’ and bidders’ dollars.

Spectrum wine, a live and online operation, was founded in 2009 by Spectrum Group international, which describes itself as a ‘global collectibles network’ and auctioneer of memorabilia.

By the time New Yorker Kevin A Swersey, an adviser of high-net-worth collectors, joined as a consultant last January, Spectrum had sold more than $17.7 million worth of wine at its live California and hong Kong auctions, qualifying as a significant player.

At a 25-26 June hong Kong sale, its largest, Spectrum sold 94% of 1,994 lots for uS$7,494,079, against a $7 million pre-sale estimate. Asians bought more than 65% of the lots. An internet auction that closed 30 June grossed $566,165.

Spectrum takes print catalogue photos a step further. online viewers, mouse in hand, can rotate pictured bottles 360°; external impeccability doesn’t guarantee quality, but the gimmick is fun.

Heritage, billing itself as ‘the world’s third largest auction house’, offers live and online sales. it grossed $1,652,278 at its inaugural wine auction on 2 April in Beverly hills, home to its wine department.

At a 16 June sale, heritage sold 96.4% of 768 offered lots, realising $2,589,080 – less than the book’s pre-sale $2,754,000 low estimate.

The department director is Frank C Martell, who held that job at Bonhams & Butterfields. if he decides a sale’s contents suit hong Kong’s market, live California sales will be simulcast. An innovation: heritage publishes all reserve prices.

WineGavel has held nine sales since its 2009 founding. The gross from live and online sales now totals $3,587,882, according to CEO Joshua A Krummenoehl. ‘our team has over 100 years combined experience in the fine and rare wine auction industry,’ said marketing director Richard E Caplan.

As is customary elsewhere, blue- chip lots dominate brick-and-mortar sales and lower-priced bottles find a home online. for 2012 and beyond, Caplan said, WineGavel plans to expand live auctions to New York and Hong Kong

Written by Howard G Goldberg

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