As I was looking through my latest Google Analytics last month, I realised how many of you were actually interested in the “auction” aspect of whisky. Blog statistics are always a real goldmine of information about your readers and I thought it would be just fair to tell you more about my job as a whisky auctioneer.
Nope, this isn’t a sponsored post, just me trying to be transparent about my day to day routine 🙂
Just so that you know, I do not work for any of the “big” conventional auction houses like Christie’s or Bonhams but a rather recent company with a start-up vibe, Catawiki, a Netherlands-based firm boasting a global audience of sellers & buyers trying to sell/buy their “wow”. What sets Catawiki apart from other auction houses to me, is mainly the fact that it was first created back in 2008 as an online community for collectors and only started organising auctions a few years later. And browsing through the other categories such as Lego, meteorites & Dinosaurs skeletons are always great fun x)… Oh and last but not least, I work from home, which is quite a significant advantage!
Anyway, I have been working for the whisky category of Catawiki (along with 2 other colleagues) since more than a year now, so it’s high time I unravel the mystery around this mission!
Here are the 3 key activities of my whisky auctioneer role:
While Catawiki has now acquired a great reputation & visibility, you can’t build an auction without lots to sell, so first things first, supply is key and dictate the following steps. Of course there’s sometimes a sort of seasonality effect as well in the auction industry, we could see hundreds of lots being offered up one week while there’s not as much the week after, it’s sometimes unpredictable, sometimes obvious (you know there won’t be much people thinking about selling at auctions when the Football World Cup is on for instance… 😉 )
We work with both private individuals (your father found a nice bottle in his cellar? Your neighbour is willing to sell his collection?) and professionals and enable them to reach a global audience of collectors, that’s basically the core of our mission.
So before anything, sourcing quality lots is crucial – whiskies we auction have to be collectible (rare, old, limited editions…) and diverse. You won’t find 10 times the same old White Horse 1970s bottle in an auction, there’s no point for us, we’re not Ebay 😉
That’s definitely one of my favourite steps, when I get to check all those nice whiskies being offered up by sellers – needless to say how jealous I can feel sometimes when seeing some incredible bottles appear (not saying we don’t see some weird stuff being offered sometimes as well 🙂 )... But what makes this job thrilling is also knowing that you’ll make a collector happy when he wins this bottle! As I often say, I treat whisky bottles as real pieces of art and checking all those gems every day is like working in an open museum to me.
So when a bottle comes up, my mission is to check its authenticity and “auctionability” – I won’t enumerate all the bits and pieces I check as it would be really annoying for you and I don’t want to bother you with tax stamp science, bottle codes etc, but basically, the point here is to make sure the bottle is genuine and fit for auction, so that collectors can bid confidently.
This step also implies estimating every single bottle (and with more than 300 bottles going for auction every week, trust me, that’s not a detail!). Valuation implies refering ourselves to past sales experiences, our personal experience & knowledge, the current market value (there’s sometimes a confusion here as people tend to take into account retail value as they check prices of their bottles online and go “hey my bottle is worth 450£ as seen on blablabla website”. Nope, that’s not market value guys!) and other aspects. Extensive researches can sometimes be engaged for a specific bottle to make sure it is authentic, in some cases that may include contacting the distillery etc.
When all the bottles have been checked for authenticity and auctionability, it’s now time to start building the weekly auctions and themed auctions. We do this through our backoffice software and that’s not of much interest to give you the technical details here, the main point is to build the most diversified, rich and appealing auctions.
We organise 3 weekly auctions (all going live on Friday at noon) including one especially reserved to Exclusive Whiskies where you’ll find the oldest, rarest & most “wow” bottles. Also, we like to come up with specific themed auctions: Japanese, Bourbon, Irish… We have plenty of projects in mind, but at the moment, we are doing a special “closed distilleries” auction every month since September, which so far has proved really successful – #Pride
Keep your eyes peeled for things to come 😀
There are also other aspects of this job: marketing, communication, building relationships with sellers & buyers, answering a huge amount of questions we receive on a daily basis, attending fairs & festivals, always keeping up to date with the whisky market trends, new releases etc.
Cover Pic: Words of Whisky