Rare wine corkscrew sells for $23,000 at auction

A rare, English-made wine corkscrew has fetched more than $23,000 at auction, amid reports of rising prices in this little-known collectors’ market.

Seventy-four bids from around the world sought to secure the ‘Japanned’ Thomason mechanical corkscrew.

It eventually sold to an American buyer for $23,244 in a November 2018 online sale, according to a newsletter published this week by the auctioneer, Collector Corkscrews.

For comparison, fine wine lovers would not have to pay too much more for a bottle of the highly rated DRC Romanée-Conti 2015, based on recent market prices.

But the rare corkscrew market has been growing in recent years.

The Japanned Thomason is now one of the most expensive wine corkscrews in the world, largely thanks to its ‘Japanning’ design on the handle; a practice adopted by English designers around 1800.

Bidders might have only paid around $500 without the design, said Collector Corkscrews.

While most items on CollectorCorkscrews.com only end up selling for around $250, demand has risen for rarer pieces from the 18th century, it said.

The site has sold $5m-worth of corkscrews via its twice-annual auctions since 2008.

Collectors believe that higher prices in recent years have partly been driven by a project in Bucharest, Romania, to develop the world’s largest collection of corkscrews.

The Bucharest museum claims to have a private collection of 30,000 corkscrews, according to the Museum of Romanian Records.

Richard Stevenson, who leads the British Corkscrew Collecting Club, said that Bucharest changed the market; rare corkscrews have become more difficult to acquire but opportunists have been able to sell pieces for higher prices.

Many enthusiasts have more modest collections. ‘I’ve got about 300, but many people have more than that,’ Stevenson told Decanter.com. ‘My wife bought me a bow corkscrew in 1995 and I started collecting.’

Stevenson, now in his 70s and who fell in love with wine when working in the trade in his 20s, specialises in Henshall-type corkscrews and those with teeth grips.

The Reverend Samuel Henshall was the first to patent a corkscrew, in England in 1795.

Stevenson also collects ‘Champagne taps’, which were developed in the 19th Century to draw Champagne out of a bottle without pulling the cork. A valve mechanism was designed to preserve the fizz in the bottle.

The next auction held by Collector Corkscrews will run from 12 to 21 April 2019.