In our November sale No.19, a total of 343 lots sold for US$184,000 reflecting a completion rate of 37%, well down from 47% in April and the 55 % average in all our prior sales. 88 of our 1046 registered participants were successful buyers and 53 were successful sellers.
As always the latest sale included some great corkscrews, some exciting contests, pieces we hadn’t seen before and some great buying opportunities. But generally the sale was subdued with some excellent pieces not meeting reserves.
There are several explanations for this soft market, all interconnected and, inevitably, they can be summarized in terms of supply and demand.
Overall interest in the sale, measured by the number of participants, visits to the website and numbers of buyers, has remained strong.
The overall quality of listings has declined from the exceptionally high standard of recent years when a buoyant market drew out a quite amazing range of the highest quality pieces .
Some sellers, perhaps by choice, have not adapted to the softer market conditions so starting levels and reserves were often too high and completion rates were well down.
Before the latest sale, Don Bull started selling down his massive collection which has significantly increased the market supply. We have highlighted some of Don’s sales in this earlier blog. Don’s sale is ongoing with more corkscrews being continually released. A great buying opportunity!
At the same time demand has softened a little now that the various corkscrew museums are well established and in particular Ion Chirescu’s Bucharest collection has reached 25,000 pieces. While his buying now is more about filling gaps, he remains the dominant buyer in our sales.
Our back of envelope analysis suggests that buying is down most in continental Europe. Perhaps currency levels (Euro down 20% against US$ in 2 years) and economic conditions are a factor.
The pieces holding their value best are at the top end of price, visual appeal and rarity.
The two highest priced lots in the sale had strong buying interest but failed to reach their reserves.
A very rare and impressive Thomason variant with serpent handle was passed in at $10,250 after strong bidding from a wide range of collectors. This piece had an interesting London retailer’s plate and displayed beautifully with it’s detachable brush intact. Perhaps the mention of a sometimes sticking handle slowed the bidding.
Interestingly a serpent variant sale on Ebay last year was the subject of an earlier blog HERE, and just last week a good version missing it’s brush sold at an English auction for about $7,300 including fees. It seems the detachable brush often goes missing. T hough tricky to price, the bidding for the serpent example in our November sale looks very healthy.
An even rarer item, but with much less display appeal, was the Rushworth 1884 English patented direct pressure corkscrew. The Rushworth was bid up to $15,000 but did not meet reserve. The only benchmark price is a 1998 Christie’s sale of a somewhat sad looking version for $10,600. 1997-1999 was a high point in the corkscrew market, not reached again until 2010-2013.
The highest completed sale price in November was $9,000 for another very fine example of the Frary bar corkscrew with bird foil cutter. In our report on the April 2015 sale we highlighted the very high price achieved when 2 very determined bidders pushed an identical example up to $14,000. $9,000 is still a big price for this piece.
Other noteworthy sales in November were two early English classics with great display appeal: $6,300 for a very good Cotterill perpetual with pleasing patina and $7,000 for good Lund bottlegrips with very nice markings on the grips. Both attracted strong competition and very healthy prices. Even a Lund with a broken bottle grip was bid up to $2,100. And a second Cotterill, recently polished, sold in after sale offers for $5,300.
Other Interesting Lots
There was no shortage of eye-catching lots.
Top of my list was a “Rare and Remarkable Lund Lever Set” sold as part of Don Bull’s sale. Happily it was won by a dedicated English lever collector though it didn’t come cheap: $3,550 after a good contest. The Lund lever corkscrew itself is nice enough but the total presentation case with Champagne knife and capsule cutter all marked Lund is spectacular.
Another standout was the bow with 3 different sized worms won by a dedicated English bow collector. But he had to outlast Ion Chirescu which resulted in a healthy $1,795 sale. This piece is probably a salesman’s sample.
Super rare US patents are often the basis for interesting sales and the 1911 Browning patented multitool featuring a nail clipper on a key ring attracted predictable interest. This time Ion Chiresu prevailed over a US patent specialist at $1860. The same bidding result was repeated on a US barscrew marked “Victor Jr” which looks like a common Yankee No 1 but, with the addition of a caplifter, becomes one of only two known examples and sold for $2090.
A strikingly designed and previously unseen version of Fischer’s 1902 DRGM marked “The Automatic” sold for $2,860 after healthy bidding but surprisingly little interest shown by German collectors.
A possibly one-off creation using an American bald eagle as the fulcrum in a Lund style lever and marked “Centenial 1876” attracted strong US bidding before selling for $1200. The story behind the corkscrew, specifically the efforts of the seller to authenticate the piece, are well worth a read. Made in America or India? We will add a copy of Willie Barnes’ article in the March 2006 CCCC Quarterly Worme to our site shortly.
A nicely carved roundlet proudly described as a fake with a “crappy worm” was sold for $100. The carving looks lovely. A good buy!
A fun caplifter with folding worm depicting an unidentified cartoon character saw bidding from competing museums up to $165. A fair hike on the $30-40 suggested in Bull’s Figural Corkscrews (p181).
With the market subdued, there were plenty of opportunities to pick up quality pieces at good prices. In looking for bargains care needs to be taken of variations in condition. Sometimes a poor description or photo can detract from its appeal.
One benchmark is the US patented Hootch Owl lever, “the most sought after American corkscrew of the 20th Century” (O’Leary p150). Hootch Owls often come up for sale and the condition of this piece, because of its design and robust quality manufacture, is consistently good. There are older versions with a wire helix marked with the 1936 design patent number and slightly more common later versions with bladed worm marked “Pat app’d for” signifying the later 1938 mechanical patent. A bladed worm version sold in November for $2000, the lowest price of the 13 examples sold on our site since 2008.
Also good buying was an 1870 US patented Dickson ratchet in excellent condition which sold for $1,065. Only 3 had been offered in earlier sales and then 3 appeared together in November.
Other good buying included a Smart Express with it’s nice German and British markings only $270, a rare Neues DRGM 35550 with 3 springs for $950, a 1895 US patented Peerless concertina for $400, cream and green Ross pigs for $175 each, a 1910 US patented Chippendale multitool for $375 and a “Source Parot” 1905 French patent in nice condition for $300 and a rare English Hampton lever in good condition for $1,110.
Sale 20 will be held in April/May 2016.
In the meantime we encourage you to visit our BUY NOW site which has a good range of collectible pieces for sale, usually at lower price levels. You will also find plenty to tempt you on Don Bull’s ongoing sale.
We continue to promote corkscrew collecting with publicity releases and some paid advertising. To date we have concentrated on improving our website and arranging publicity in US based antique and collecting magazines. We are now looking further afield at wine appreciation publications and international publications. Your suggestions and help in spreading the word about the pleasure of corkscrew collecting would be greatly appreciated.