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An Auction Fit for a Legend

Posted September 25, 2000, 5:30 p.m. e.s.t.

On October 5, Christie's will auction some very special cigars, many that were most likely bought by the highly esteemed British hero, Sir Winston Churchill. Although the auction house was given explicit instructions not to connect the sale to the late prime minster, it's obvious that a few of the lots were bought for the smoking pleasure of the legend himself.

The Soames family, whose matriach is Lady Mary Soames, the daughter of Sir Winston, is selling 43 boxes of cigars at the auction. They range from cabinets of 50 Don Candido Dunhill Seleccion Suprema No. 506 (5 1/2 inches by 46 ring gauge) made in the 1970s to cedar boxes of Dunhill Cabinetta Robustos (4 7/8 inches by 50 ring).

The cigars that most likely were the personal property of Churchill include one box of Santa Cubana Barnatos (5 1/2 inches by 43 ring) made in the 1950s, and eight cabinets (25 and 50 count) of Don Candido Dunhill Selection Suprema No. 502s (5 inches by 43 ring). Churchill died in 1965, so any cigar in the sale made prior to that date would probably have been bought for the famous man.

"On the strength on the quality of the cigars, even if they were not from the Soames family, they should sell very well," said Brian Ebbesen, head of cigar sales for Christie's. "The provenance is excellent for these cigars."

All the cigars have remained in the humidors of London merchants Alfred Dunhill and J.J. Fox for decades.

It's important to note that most of the nearly 400 lots of cigars in this auction are not trophy cigars costing thousands of dollars a box. There will be plenty of smokes from the 1990s ranging in price from about $280 to $320 per box. The entire auction is expected to raise about half a million dollars. The question now is whether the big buyers from the Far East will be bidding, since they generally pay the biggest prices.

"We have lots of other great cigars in the sale," added Ebbesen. "There's everything you can think of. It's even better than our last sale."

The estimated prices range from about $100 per box to more than $20,000 per box. Some of the highlights include:

Several boxes of Davidoff 80 Aniversario cigars, made in 1985 to commemorate the 80th birthday of Zino Davidoff. The 9 1/4 by 47 ring cigars are estimated to sell for £6,000 to £8,000 ($8,400 to $11,200) for a box of 20. Two boxes of 10 cigars will be sold at an estimated £2,000 to £3,000 ($2,800 to $4,200), and a lightly damaged pack of five cigars £900 to £2,600 ($1,260 to $3,640).

Several lots of Davidoff Dom Perignon cigars, 7 inches by 47 ring. Price estimates vary widely, from £1,200 to £1,500 ($1,680 to $2,100) for eight cigars with damaged ends to £4,500 to £6,000 ($6,300 to $8,400) for a sealed box of 25 cigars.

A box of 25 Davidoff Château d'Yquem, one of the most limited-production Davidoffs ever made. This line was introduced in 1970 and taken off the market in 1978 at the request of Alexzandre Lur-Saluces, the proprietor of the famed sweet wine. The lot is estimated to sell for £3,800 to £4,400 ($5,320 to $6,160).

A partially filled box of eight Sancho Panza Dulcineas, 9 inches by 47 ring gauge. These diademas are half foil-wrapped, and were made in 1972. £450 to £600 ($630 to $840).

A three-pack of Partagas Lusitanias believed to have been made in the 1960s. The cigars, which measure 7 5/8 inches by 47 ring, come in their original three-pack. Unlike today's Lusitanias, they are figurados. £80 to £120 ($112 to $168). These shaped cigars have been recently remade at the factory and will be sold in November. [Click here for details on the new cigars.]

A box of 50 Romeo y Julieta Dunhill Seleccion No. 98 cigars rolled in 1961. £1,200 to £1,500 ($1,680 to $2,100).

A cabinet of 50 Ramon Allones Dunhill Seleccion Supreme No. 501s, 6 1/2 inches by 42 ring. The cigars were rolled in 1964. £2,000 to £3,000 ($2,800 to $4,200).

Two boxes of cigars signed by Cuban President Fidel Castro, each to be auctioned separately. The first, a cabinet of 50 Diplomatic Trinidad cigars measuring 7 inches by 38 ring, was signed in 1994 and won at a dinner hosted by Cigar Aficionado editor and publsher Marvin R. Shanken. This is expected to be one of the most valuable lots in the sale, with a pre-sale estimate of £12,000 to £15,000 ($16,800 to $21,000). Additionally, a box of Cohiba Siglo V cigars (6 inches by 43 ring) rolled in 1993 carries a pre-sale estimate of £2,000 to £3,000 ($2,800 to $4,200).

A number of fine humidors, including two Partagas Salomones humidors. Only 100 of these humidors were made. Each humidor contains 50 cigars, and is estimated to sell for £5,000 to £7,000 ($7,000 to $9,800).

A Cuaba Salomones humidor, one of 45 in existence, with 47 cigars rolled in 1999. £1,500 to £1,800 ($2,100 to $2,520).

One of the 150 Partagas 150th Anniversario Humidors will be auctioned. These humidors, created in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Partagas brand, contain 50 each of three different sizes of cigars. There are double coronas measuring 7 5/8 inches by 59 ring, coronas measuring 5 inches by 42, and robustos, 4 7/8 inches by 50. This is humidor number 54 of 150. £8,000 to £12,000 ($11,200 to $16,800).

Two 1492 humidors, one slightly damaged. There were 501 of these boxes made to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Columbus's discovery of tobacco. The first lot, humidor No. 8, contains all 50 cigars, and is estimated to sell for £6,000 to £8,000 ($8,400 to $11,200\. Humidor No. 243 has one cigar missing, and the feet on some of the cigars are slightly damaged. £4,500 to £5,500 ($6,300 to $7,700).

Four Cubatabaco 1994 humidors, numbers 31, 139, 359 and 484 of 502 produced. The boxes, the second product commemorating Columbus's historic discovery, each contain 50 5 inch by 46 ring gauge cigars. Each has a pre-sale estimate of £2,000 to £3,000 ($2,800 to $4,200).

One sealed box of 25 Por Larrañaga Magnums, measuring 6 3/4 inches by 50 ring, from 1975. The cigars are esimated to sell for $2,840 to $3,550. The Magnum is one of the greatest Cuban cigars ever made.

Cigar auctions are here to stay, and they are good places to score serious, well-aged Cuban cigars. If you can't be in London in October, Christie's plans to conduct a sale in New York on November 30.

For more on the London sale, check out

--Jordan Russin contributed reporting for this article.

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