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Wine Artifacts Shine at Sotheby's Americana Sale

Demand was high for Colonial-era items such as decanting funnels, bottle tags, wine coolers and storage cabinets.

Peter D. Meltzer
Posted: January 20, 2003

This weekend, Sotheby's held a New York sale of important Colonial Americana from a private collection, which included several hard-to-come-by wine artifacts. Many of those unusual items sold well above their estimates at the Jan. 18 event, which brought in more than $4 million.

Demand was intense for a rare Chinese Export porcelain wine funnel, used to facilitate the decanting process. Dating from 1700, the funnel carried an estimated presale value of $800 to $1,200, but it was finally knocked down for $8,400.

Two Battersea enamel bottle "tickets," used to identify the contents of a decanter, proved even more popular. The two, one labeled "Champagne" and one "Madeira," sold for $10,800 -- double the high estimate.

A two-bottle wine cooler, which was traditionally filled with iced water to chill the dinner wines, also generated heated bidding. Made of Sheffield plate and dating from the end of the 18th century, it sold for $9,600 -- almost twice the high estimate.

Perhaps the best buy of the auction was a handsome French wine cabinet dating from 1780. Made of mahogany, it was fitted with a metal-lined well for storing bottles on their side. Estimated at $10,000 to $20,000, it was snapped up at the low end of the range, for just $10,800.

At that price, the wine cabinet works out to about $2,000 less than the current auction price for a case of Château Pétrus 1998 -- and it's almost certain to last longer.

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