Historically, the tail end of the third quarter auction season is a quiet one, as collectors return from summer holidays and slowly acclimate to the quickening pace of the fourth quarter ahead. That wasn’t the case this year: September witnessed several record-high prices and fierce bidding wars. Recent results from four top U.S. auction houses are detailed below.
Acker Merrall & Condit’s Manhattan sale on Sept. 8 and 10, playfully titled “The Acker Open,” brought in a total of $4.03 million against a pre-sale high estimate of $4.6 million. Chairman John Kapon had high hopes for the auction’s Champagne and Sine Qua Non offerings, but the top lot was a case of Armand Rousseau Chambertin–Clos de Bèze 1985, which sold for $34,580 compared to a high estimate of $40,000. Other premium Burgundies in demand included two six-magnum lots of G. Roumier Bonnes Mares 2012, which both sold above the $30,000 estimate at $32,110, and six bottles of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti La Tâche 1999, which also sold above its estimate to hit the same hammer price of $32,110.
On the same weekend, Sotheby’s partnered with premium Cognac brand Rémy Martin to auction off the first of three Louis XIII Cognac crystal magnum decanters. The Cognac sale alone brought in $134,750, a price that just barely reached the estimate range of $100,000 to $500,000, but it still marks one of the highest prices ever paid for a Louis XIII Cognac. Each of the three decanters are engraved with a map of the Americas and packaged in an Hermès trunk—Rémy Martin says each package took more than 1,000 hours of 50 artisans’ handiwork to complete. The two others will be sold in Hong Kong and London in the coming months. The Cognac sale came amid an action-packed weekend for Sotheby’s, as the auction house hosted two additional private-collection auctions. By the end of the weekend, the total earnings came to more than $5 million.
On Sept. 17, Hart Davis Hart held an auction of the late Aubrey K. McClendon’s wine collection, a consignment consisting of 1,057 lots. The sale exceeded all expectations and brought in $8.44 million (the highest total of the quarter) against a pre-sale high estimate of $7.6 million. The sale was 100 percent sold, and nearly 80 percent of the lots sold above the high estimate.
McClendon was a former magnate in the energy business from Oklahoma City, and more than 1,000 bidders participated in the sale, including many new bidders from McClendon’s home state. “I think [McClendon] would have been proud to know that we had more than 10 times the usual number of Oklahoma bidders,” said Ben Nelson, HDH vice president of consignments.
The most expensive lot of the day was a case of three double-magnums of Château La Fleur-Pétrus 1989 that fetched $65,725. Other highlights included a 12-bottle case of Château Le Pin 1989, which sold for $41,825, and an imperial of Château La Mission Haut-Brion 1982, which brought in $21,510 against an estimate of a $14,000.
The star of Zachys’ $7.2 million sale in Manhattan on Sept. 22 and 23 was a series of classic 1961 Bordeaux lots. Eight of the sale’s top 10 lots hailed from the vintage, including three cases of 1961 Château Latour (one selling for $51,450 and two for $49,000) that boast 100 points from Wine Spectator. The auction’s showstopper was a case of 1961 Pétrus which sailed above its pre-sale high estimate of $110,000 for $140,875. The Pétrus was followed by a case and five magnums of 1961 La Mission Haut-Brion, selling for $49,000 each. The successful sale showed that the ’61s are still going strong.