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Rare Offering Of Rye Whiskey Far Surpasses Pre-Sale Estimates At Chicago Auction

July 2, 2014

In an unusual offering, the Chicago auction house Hart Davis Hart Wine Co. last weekend sold a case of 24 pints of Dougherty’s Private Stock Pure Rye Whiskey, distilled in 1917 before Prohibition and then bottled in bond in 1930 at the Philadelphia-based Dougherty’s as a medicinal spirit, for $19,120. The pre-sale estimate for the case, which came in the original wooden box, ranged from $3,000 to $4,500. The buyer was an individual from the European trade, Hart Davis indicated.

“Much of the interest in this rye came from bidders outside the U.S., which surprised us,” said Laurel Sallack Macupa, a research associate at HDH who set the price range. The bidding started at $6,500 and then rose quickly from there, she said. “What was so unique was that all the bottles were in their original cartons fitted inside the case and they were in great condition. They had been sitting in a basement for many years gathering dust.”

The weekend auction, with 3,000 lots spread over two days, grossed $8 million, bringing HDH’s auction total for the first half of 2014 to $24.7 million, up 24% over the same period a year ago. It also solidified HDH’s No.-1 ranking in live U.S. auctions so far this year, easily surpassing No. 2 Acker Merrall & Condit Co. in New York, which grossed $14.4 million, according to publicly-released data. The global leader for the first half was Sotheby’s at $36.4 million. For the first time in years, U.S. sales, at $73.4 million, outpaced sales in Asia, which totaled $63.1 million, in the first half. Global live auctions for all houses rose 24% in the first six months to $157.6 million, according to HDH executives. HDH, which claims to account for more than 50% of the U.S. wine auction market, has scheduled second-half auctions for September 20, November 1 and December 6.

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