We’ve seen the end of the vintage Davidoff market. That’s the startling claim from a man who should know. Mitchell Orchant, managing director of C.Gars Ltd and organizer of the world’s biggest annual cigar auctions, says he believes that we’ve seen the last great sales of the hugely prized vintage Cuban Davidoffs. “They’ve had their day,” he told Cigar Journal after the recent London auction.
As highlighted in previous editions of this column, Davidoff cigars made in Cuba (prior to the company’s decision to move production to Dominican Republic in 1991) have fetched astounding prices over the years, due to both their quality and their rarity. But following this last vintage auction of 2016, which raised an eye-watering GBP 475,000 (EUR 558,658), I sat down with Orchant to discuss the current state of the market. That’s when he dropped his bombshell – and I nearly dropped my Por Larrañaga.
“We’re just not seeing the levels coming through any more,” he continued as I coughed and spluttered. “There were a few lots in this auction, but nothing like the stocks we used to get, and I genuinely believe we’ve seen the best of it. Unless there are vast stashes of vintage stocks – which I won’t know about until someone puts them up for auction – we’ve reached the end of the road.” But surely they’ll come back on the market in due course? “Some might,” mused Orchant. “But I believe most of them have been smoked rather than stored.” So there you have it.
In the space of a few short years – since C.Gars Ltd auctions were launched in 2009, basically – the cigars from the vintage Davidoff market have been bought, sold and smoked. I was quite taken aback and it took me the rest of my Petit Corona to compose myself. Long discussions ensued. With the increase of interest in vintage cigars – due in no small part to the rise of Orchant’s auctions and people like me commenting and speculating on what makes a cigar vintage – more and more collectors and smokers have been made aware of the great Holy Grail of vintage smokes. Those who can afford them have bought and ultimately smoked them with friends and colleagues.
It’s interesting spending time at C.Gars Ltd’s “mission control.” Under the watchful eye of long-time general manager Michelle Adler, the company’s 24-hour, 365-day cigar business runs alongside the burgeoning cigar auction business, which has sold in excess of GBP 6 million (EUR 7.57 million) since its conception. No sooner has a new corner in the warehouse been found to house the latest stock, it gets filled. Every last nook and cranny here is stuffed with cigars and cigar-related ephemera. In this pre-festive frenzy, it’s like a little Santa’s grotto, with C.Gars elves dashing about with sacks of goodies. Having secured a lease on the building next door, Orchant has had a new walk-in humidor built, with a lower relative humidity of 65% to protect those gently slumbering cigars of yesteryear. And this, too, is now gloriously stocked, from floor to ceiling, with some of the cigar world’s most priceless gifts. Take a look at the adjacent pictures and drool.
“Quite a lot has changed since we’ve been involved in the vintage market,” Orchant says. “In the beginning we were a little naive and took calls from people who had a box of this or a box of that and wanted to push us for a valuation. And then, when we finally got sight of the box, it would be a moth-eaten, dried up old thing worth virtually nothing! So over the years, we’ve learned to cover all bases and how best to deal with both people and their old and delicate cigars.”
How does a typical collection of vintage boxes make its way to auction? “We usually get a phone call, if there is a collection to be dealt with. We ask for an inventory of what is there; we usually need pictures in order to decode some of the stamps and little details that only a vintage cigar merchant would be aware of. “We usually advise the seller to drop the items into one of our nationwide stores, if feasible, from which they will get to me. Failing that, we’ll arrange couriers, or if I can, I’ll personally make the journey to assess what’s there. I’ve travelled across the US, Europe and Asia in recent years to offer my opinion on some fine collections. “Once we have the cigars in hand, we can assess their condition and make recommendations on pricing. After that, it is entirely up to the client as to how they wish to proceed.”
C.Gars Ltd charges a flat rate for selling and buying vintage cigars – a 15% commission, whether the cigars are sold via auction or private treaty. Private treaty basically means that the seller and buyer are matched up and the sale is made outside the auspices of an auction. “It’s a transparent process; both the buyer and the seller can see what’s happening and have to agree on a fair price. At auction, whatever the cigars fetch, they fetch. It’s a true market test of supply and demand and that’s something that’s always interested me,” says Orchant.
Back to the Davidoffs. What we’re really seeing with the tapering o of these supplies is the end of one phase in the market – and the beginning of a new one. I wonder what will become the “new” Davidoff and Dunhill of tomorrow? “I have some ideas, as I suppose I should,” says Orchant, “but no-one can really tell you for sure. But what I can say is that the buyers in our early auctions may have landed themselves some very good deals indeed.”
Have a root through your humidors at home, folks. You never know, you may just be hiding the next Davidoff Dom Pérignon.
Bulgari Hotel, Knightsbridge
• A cabinet of pre-embargo H. Upmann Berlios sold for a record GBP 39,500 (EUR 46,432)
• A cabinet of 50 La Flor de Cano Short Churchills from 1992 sold for GBP 5,100 (EUR 5,995)
• A cabinet of 100 Romeo y Julieta Coronations de Luxe Cabinet Seleccion fetched GBP 12,500 (EUR 14,694)
• Total auction takings were GBP 475,000 (EUR 567,283)