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Prices of Rare Cigars Skyrocket at a Christie's Auction in London

Where There is Smoke There is Fire
James Suckling
From the Print Edition:
Susan Lucci, Sep/Oct 99

(continued from page 1)

Cohiba also held its own. Three boxes of 25 Coronas--a Cohiba size last made in the early 1990s--sold for approximately $4,125 each. Even more recent Cohibas drew a premium. A 1995 box of 25 Cohiba Lanceros sold for nearly $760. A box of the same Lanceros is currently available in U.K. cigar shops for $660. "This shows that people are more prepared to pay a premium for aged cigars, even if they are only two or three years older than what is currently available on the market," says Desmond Sautter, the owner of Sautter's cigar shop in London and an expert on aged cigars.  

An American at the sale who bought plenty of cigars for smoking during his trips to Europe confirmed Sautter's views. "You just can't find in the market Cohibas or other top cigars such as Hoyo [de Monterrey] Double Coronas with a few years of age," says Jack Kellman, a businessman from Chicago. "I really enjoy smoking cigars with three, four or five years of age. And this is what I am buying at the sale."  

This may be why many of the pre-Castro cigars from the 1950s did not fetch the high prices that were anticipated. A partial box of 18 Ramon Allones de Luxes No. 1 sold for about $550, $150 less than estimate. "Real cigar aficionados know that the pre-Castro cigars are usually not that good to smoke," says Kellman. "They are more interested in buying and smoking things that they have heard about but have never had the chance to smoke and they know that they smoke well."  

A number of limited-production commemorative humidors from different events held in Cuba over the past six years were also sold at the bottom end of their estimated prices. This suggests that the demand for these boxes of cigars is slowing. For instance, two 1492 humidors, produced by the Cubans to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Columbus, sold for $13,000 apiece; a year ago they were worth $23,000.  

This said, very old cigars in the sale fetched surprisingly high prices, considering most are unsmokable. A single giant H. Upmann perfecto from the 1920s in a wood box went for close to $500. A box of 50 small figurado La Flor de Henry Clay Dalias from 1890 sold for about $9,075. "Even if you can't smoke them, these cigars are collectible," said Bohrer. "Serious cigar lovers want to have them as part of their collection."  

The boon in old and rare cigars is benefiting those who are willing to sell their smokes. Many were originally obtained for a fraction of their current value. For instance, a box of Don Pablo Ambassadores perfectos, circa 1930, that sold for about $1,800 was bought for $50 a few years ago. A box of Montecristo No.2s from 1875, a gift from an old woman to some builders for remodeling her kitchen, sold for nearly $7,850.  

Most of the Dunhills in the sale came from the collection of a foreign exchange dealer from Hanover, Germany. He walked away with tens of thousands of dollars, after selling dozens of boxes of Cohibas and Dunhills. "I bought these cigars just two or three years ago for one-tenth the price," he said. "But I never bought them with the idea of reselling them. I wanted to smoke them. But now with the prices being what they are, it was just too tempting not to sell them."

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