At Unconventional Wealth, we love hearing from our readers. Not only are the stories you share with us from the front lines fascinating but they can also be very valuable to your fellow readers.
John W. wrote in to say our recent story detailing the dos and don’ts of attending a wine auction was “refreshing, different and highly appreciated.” He says he’s never been to a wine auction, but is now interested in going.
I, for one, am thrilled to hear that, John. Please write again when you go and tell us how you do! (And if you’ve already been to a wine auction, feel free to share your experience as well.)
We also got a specific question from Tom L.:
As a college student I bought a case and a magnum of 1974 Chateau Mouton Rothschild with an Andy Warhol artist label. Are they worth something and where would I go to put them on the market? I also have 1974 Beaulieu Cabernet.
Great question, Tom. I’m sure you’re not the only one wondering about a bottle or case you’ve had for a while…
If you have wine on hand you think may have some value, I’m going to explain the simple steps you can take to determine if it’s worth anything and if so, how to sell it.
Play Internet Detective
Start with the blindingly obvious Google (or your favorite browser) search. You never know what might come up. And the more information you can learn, the better.
Once you’ve done a general search, it’s time to narrow things down. Go to www.wine-searcher.com. Enter the wine name and select USA (or you’ll get the entire world) to see what comes up. (Note: Wine-Searcher also has an app. I highly recommend downloading it so you can check wines on the go.)
This handy site will show you where the wine is on sale (the name of the store, city and state) and — ding, ding, ding — the price. This will give you a ballpark idea of how much your wine is worth
Get ready to be amazed — you won’t believe the range of prices some wines are listed for…
As an example, I looked up Tom’s Mouton Rothschild. Notice the $300 difference for a single bottle.
Not too shabby, Tom, not too shabby at all…
I did enter “Andy Warhol” as part of the search term but nothing came up. However, my Google search suggests that the Warhol label might add more value. It’s certainly worth looking into.
Do Your Due Diligence
Once you’ve determined your wine has value that justifies further action, get your proof of provenance together.
This includes any receipts or paperwork that show where and when you bought it, plus photos of where you’ve stored it. (At the very least, you need to be prepared to succinctly explain how you acquired the product.)
Keep in mind that wine needs to be stored carefully. Extreme temperatures — hot and cold — are bad for the bottles. Also, wine should be stored in such a way that the cork stays moist. That’s why wine racks are built the way they are.
You know how when you go out to a nice dinner, order a bottle of wine and they give you the cork to inspect? That’s not so you can sniff it to check for a vinegar smell — no. It’s to see if the cork is wet. (Now when you dine out, you can dazzle your dining companions with your knowledge.)
So be warned — if the bottles have been stored upright… if they’ve been in an attic or basement… or if the bottle or label is noticeably damaged… your wine might not be of saleable quality.
As in all markets, top dollar goes to pristine product.
To Market, to Market…
Armed with the best provenance you can muster, you can look to sell in three ways — private person to person, online or at auction.
To meet a private buyer, you might attend a wine event locally (search for wine clubs), enquire at a retail store (they might bite or have a regular client they know will be interested) or tap into your personal or business networks to put the word out about what you have.
Three of the best online brokers for wine are…
Of course, there are other reputable sites as well. Do a little research and decide which one you like best.
One word of caution: Do not make your own listing and try to sell your wine on Craigslist or other resale sites yourself. You will likely find yourself running afoul of state and federal laws…
Because you can’t sell alcoholic beverages without the proper license. And unless you intend to make a career out of it, the red tape you’ll have to go through is a showstopper.
Yes, you will find some people chancing it. Just be aware that the authorities in several states (as well as the feds) randomly select people to prosecute — and they’ve gotten convictions. Don’t take the risk. It’s not worth having a criminal record.
Finally, you could sell at auction. But unless you’ve got a rare product worth thousands of dollars, this is not your best option. The auction house fees will obliterate your profits.
One exception is Acker Merrall & Condit, the New York-based wine authority. The buyer pays the auction fees, not the seller.
Speaking of fees… Ask in advance (and be sure to get in writing) what the fees are, i.e., sales commissions, shipping and handling, storage and insurance.
That said, one good thing about going through an online broker or auction house is some of them offer low-cost or even free valuation.
One such company that we recommend is Cult Wines, a full-service wine advisory based in London. (Yes, they do work with Americans.)
So if you’ve got a few bottles, or perhaps a case or two, you’ve been holding onto, you might want to see if they’re worth something.
That special occasion you’ve been waiting for could be cashing a check instead of drinking to your health.
To your wealth,
Editor-at-large, Unconventional Wealth
Steffi Baker is the editor-at-large of Unconventional Wealth. For the past 10 years, she worked with a small strategy consulting firm that dealt exclusively with wealth-management companies, helping them market themselves to ultra-high-net-worth clients.
Through this line of work, Steffi attended events in London and New York and hobnobbed with household names and international...