Whisky Auctions: Why Hide the Reserve?

Well, Hello! I was going to take a longer hiatus and then Whisky Auctioneer had to go and have an absolutely brilliant selection of That Boutique-y Whisky Co. that I couldn’t resist watching! I think I was watching about 12 bottles. Some I knew there was a very slim chance that I would get and I knew there would be a couple I would have to fight for. In my first post about whisky investing I wrote about getting the Tobermory batch 2 and batch 3. I had lost batch 1 and have been keeping my eye open for it. This auction had TWO of them! More about the bottles I won once they arrive.

In the meantime, as my next three bottles are making their way across the big old pond from Edinburgh to me, I wanted to touch on something that buyers may run across in auctions and not notice right off the bat. Most auctions will have some bottles that have a reserve. This is common in all auctions. Generally if there is something of high value that the seller wants to make sure they are making their money on, they will set a reserve as to not go under that amount. As I was going through some of the whisky auction houses (that’s what I am calling them cause it sounds cooler than “site”), I noticed that there were a couple that don’t list a reserve price even where it says “reserve.” I noticed at this particular auction because I was excited to see there were some bottles of Japanese whisky that ALWAYS have reserves but this time they weren’t listed on some and the others said reserve but had no amount available. Being the curious self I am, I wanted to know why there was no listing and sent out an email to Whisky Auctioneer, which by the way, have some of THE best communication for an auction house.

This was their brilliant response, like it or not, it is a good point and just makes me like em even more…

So reserves are hidden. 
We felt that by displaying the reserve price we were stating that the bottle had that value. We disagree with this practice as it greatly influences a bottles price. 
 
So what we decided to do was keep the reserves selected by the customers hidden. This means bidders are not influenced by what the seller thinks the bottle is worth. 
 
Some auctions just start at the reserve value, we do not like this system as if it doesn’t sell, then we are still not aware of the “market value” of the bottle. 
 
By having a hidden reserve value the bottle hits what the market (The buyers) are willing to pay for it. This is great for then showing to sellers as they will often relist the bottle with a more reasonable reserve. 
 
We feel this is the best way to operate the reserve system. We have discussed this many times and some people agree and some people do not., essentially there is no way to keep everyone happy. We feel that this satisfies the most people. 
 
However if someone directly asks us the reserve on a product we are happy to give it. 
 
We are happy to hear feedback and your thoughts. 
 
If you have any questions please ask. 
Sean, of Whisky Auctioneer, let me know that it is one of the most contested policies on their website. I can see why, however as a buyer you have to respect the explanation above. Bidding and looking at auction prices is almost psychological and when you see that reserve number (let alone ANY of the rest of the auction numbers) it’s really easy to get psyched out. Regardless of this policy, I have won two auctions from them and I will continue to patronize and talk about this particular auction site…err house…  because their user interface is SO amazing and smooth, I like that they use DHL for their shipping. (which is a WHOLE other blog entry), and their customer service response time is phenomenal!
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