Thursday - 21 August 2014

A real corker! Harvey's Wine Museum Sale

04 October 2003Written by Anne Crane

FOR Harvey's read Bristol Cream, but there is far more to this celebrated brand than the nation’s best known sherry.

The eponymous Bristol company, now part of the Allied Domecq group, has been involved in providing the world with drink: shipping it, bottling it and marketing it for over 200 years.

Many visitors to Bristol will remember their restaurant housed in the cellars under the original premises near the harbour. Not only could one enjoy a good meal there, but the cellars also housed Harvey's wine museum, where all manner of artefacts related to the history of wine-making and drinking were set in a series of displays.

Now, with the company relocating outside Bristol, the city centre premises have been sold with the decision taken to disperse the museum contents rather then put them into storage. The result was a three-day series of auctions at Bonhams Bond Street offering all manner of temptations for oenophiles and collectors of wine-related memorabilia.

Kicking off with around 220 lots of wine from the restaurant on the afternoon of September 30, which netted just over £60,000 towards proceedings, it carried on the next day with a sale devoted to the museum's collection of English delftware, wine bottles and drinking glasses.

This was followed in the afternoon by another devoted to its silver wine labels and ceramic bin labels and finally by a sale on October 2 featuring all manner of accoutrements relating to The Arts, Craft and Science of Wine. In all this added up to just shy of 1000 lots.

A single-owner collection, a well-known name, and some attractive pieces that had been chosen with care and knowledge were all plus points in the Harvey's dispersal. Much less of a selling point was that all the lots attracted VAT, not just on the premium but also on the hammer price, which meant prospective purchasers had to factor in around 40 per cent worth of add-ons on their final bid.

By and large Bonhams counteracted this fiscal disadvantage by keeping estimates and reserves pitched at realistic levels. A well illustrated catalogue and active promotion also ensured the attracted the maximum number of buyers.

It says something about the measure of success that they managed to get away all but a handful of lots and that the final net total of just over £660,000 was around 50 per cent over the £400,000 predicted.

The buyer's premium was 19.5/10%.

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