Whisky Auctions for Beginners

There is no doubt at all that there has been a massive surge in the popularity of whisky, and no more so can this be seen in the proliferation of on-line auctions. This can be a good way of building a collection for drinking, for investment or for finding that unusual gift. So how do these sites work, and what are the advantages and the pitfalls of using these sites?

Getting Started

A quick search on Google will reveal several websites that offer specialist whisky auctions. I’ll supply links at the end of this blog post for these, so if you are interested, you will be able to see for yourself and decide if the whisky auction scene is for you. The sites I am registered with are Whisky Auctioneer (in Perth), Scotch Whisky Auctions (Glasgow), Global Whisky Auctions (Glasgow) , Just Whisky (Dumfermline), Whisky Online Auctions (Blackpool), Grand Whisky Auctions (Invergordon), Whisky Hammer (Ellon, Aberdeenshire), and Whisky Auction.com (Germany). Of course there will be many more sites world wide, but these are the ones which I use due to them being close to where I live, or have reasonable shipping charges.

Usually all of these sites require a small, non-refundable payment to register, typically £5 / €7 to try and discourage spam accounts, and also to ensure the person registered with the site is over 18. It’s as simple as that. And now the whisky world is your oyster.I

Start Bidding

And now it is time to scan through the site to see what interests you. Once you find something that you wish to purchase, then its time to place a bid. Before you place any bid, there are a couple of things that you need to take into account in order to keep yourself financially safe, and perhaps bag yourself a bargain.

1. Know the how much you are willing to spend. This is this most important thing you need to take account of. By not sticking to this, you are at risk of spending more than you can afford, or perhaps more than the item is worth. It is also worth remembering that the hammer price is not the final price that you will pay.  The final cost will be the hammer price, plus somewhere around 10-15% commission. You will also have to pay VAT on the commission, which in the case of businesses is not VAT recoverable. If you are getting the item delivered you will also have the courier costs and the optional insurance which is typically 3%. An example would be a hammer price of £50. 10% commission +VAT = £6. Delivery costs typically £10 for a single bottle. 3% bottle insurance £1.50. Total cost £67.50. Although this may be a small increase, the effect of the commission etc increases greatly as the price of the bottle goes up.

2. Know the value of what you are buying. This may not be the most obvious, but is very easy to get caught out on. To be honest, I have been caught out badly with this once, but thankfully got away with it. The thing is that auctions can be fun, and it is very easy to get carried away, hence why the most important rule is the first one above. However if you don’t know the value of what you are bidding on, you can easily be overpaying. This can be avoided by doing your research prior to bidding. Search other auction sites, or google the bottle to see if there is a trend in the price, and to see what they generally go for. It is then you decide whether or not what you want to spend is sufficient, or if you need to adjust your limits upwards or downwards. Don’t just go on the last sale price or only from one site. You might find that one site does manage to get slightly better prices than others.

3.Google Google Google. While this post is concentrating on auction sites, don’t limit your research to just whisky auction sites. It could be that the bottle you are bidding on is still available in the shops for less than the typical auction price. One great success I have had recently was when I was recommended the 2017 Bunnahabhain Moine Oloroso. This was out of production, and the video blog I was watching was saying how if you see one on a shelf, buy it! Well, I did a thorough Google search, and as had been advised, every site was saying sold out. I was just away to give up, but scrolled through one last page and lo! and behold – a retailer with 2 in stock. A split second later, I had both bought for £157 including delivery. I then looked up auction prices and found typical price is £120-£180 for a bottle! And remember the additional costs underlined in point 1. This has made my bottles a very worthwhile investment. The only explaination why the price in auction may be higher is that perhaps the bidders are in a country where particular bottles are not available or they are desperate to obtain a bottle.

4. Don’t be tempted to up your maximum bid. As the auction draws to an end, you may find yourself outbid. In many auction sites, as the price goes beyond certain thresholds, the minimum bid increase goes up. For instance, below £100, some sites only allow bid increases at a minimum of £5, but above £100 it may rise as high as £10. Beyond £500, some sites have a minimum increase of £50. You can see how it will get expensive very quickly. Only increase your maximum bid if you are fully comfortable in doing so. Remember that it is ok to walk away, as most bottles I have walked away from have appeared in another auction within a year, and I’ve often got them cheaper.

5. At the end. At the end of the auction, if you have the highest bid, then you win the bottles. If an auction ends at 7pm, the auction extends by between 5-10 mins if there is a bid within a set time before the auction ends. This is to defeat sniping software and gives people the chance to up their bids. Depending on the site, some extend the whole auction until there is no new bids for 5 mins, and others only extend the auction for each individual bottle. So you may win a bottle, but other bottles are still availble for bidding. TOP TIP If you are desperate to win a bottle, sometimes it is better to bid, but keep your maximum bid right to the end – as people are usually only informed that they have been outbid by e-mail. Given the delays in the system, you can always put in a last minute bid, and hope that the person you are bidding against doesn’t have their email program running. This is a bit sneaky but is entirely within the rules of every auction site. However this may start a bidding war, so be careful!

6. Pay your bill. Not long after the auction ends, you will get a bill for your purchases. These often require payment within a week, but some of them require payment within 3 days.

Purchase Cheap Whisky

One of my favourite ways of getting new whisky to try, is to search the entire auction, but set the search results to display low to high prices. At the bottom end of the auction are usually the mass produced blends such as Famous Grouse or various blends used for export, and also miniatures. I’m a big fan of this method of bargain hunting, and usually go for the miniatures. This can work out a lot cheaper than buying the same whisky in a bar, and you can still get aged whisky as well – a recent purchase of Benrinnes Connoisseurs Choice miniatures included a 1968, 1972, 1973 and 1978. One caveat is that whisky sold in Scotland is subject to the minimum price laws, which dictate a minimum price of 50p per unit of alcohol. This has meant some auctioneers placing minimum initial bids to cover this.

Have Fun!

I have to say that I enjoy the excitement of an online auction, and if you follow this guide, you should remain safe. Of course, what you bid on is solely a matter of taste, but be sure not to exceed your limits. The time I got caught out, I bid over £1400 for a Glenfiddich only worth £500. I only got away with it as somebody else bid £1500. They didn’t pay, and claimed that their computer had been hacked. This was probably not the case, and it is more likely drunk bidding. So stay sober and just wait for your newly acquired drink to arrive!


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