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How to win your favourite bottle at the next online whisky auction

independet bottler | whisky business | whiskylifestyle

October 19, 2022

Tips and Hacks to bid successfully on online whisky auctions

You cannot believe it. Your dream whisky bottle is at an online auction! You rush to the website, maybe sign in, and immediately place your bid. And you see the price go up and up. You place another bid, this time a little more hesitant because it is actually becoming a little too expensive. Eventually, it becomes far too expensive for what it’s really worth, but you really want it, and you are too involved in the bidding war anyway. In the end, you win the bottle, but the sense of frustration at having overbid doesn’t leave you. Maybe all this will result in you giving up the next release of your favourite distillery. 

Whisky auctions are not really worth participating in. Or is it? Maybe all you need is a guide on how to actually win your bottle without all that frustration at the end.

Lucky for you, here is MNIW’s guide to online auctions! We’ll give you tips on how to bid and win the bottle of whisky you’re aiming for, and then suggest a few of our favourite online auctions. Are you ready? Here we go!

What are whisky auctions?

Let’s start with the basics. Online whisky auctions are a website where you bid on bottles of Whisky.

If you are looking for a rare bottle, then chances are high that you will find it in such (virtual) places. Online whisky auctions are also useful to find limited edition expressions, special editions reserved for certain countries or, why not, some ordinary releases at a lower price.

Participating in an online auction is quite simple. You register on a site of your choice, place your bid, and wait patiently to see how it ends. If you win, you get the bottle.

I know, easier said than done.

Indeed, there are certain elements (a.k.a. taxes) that you must always, and I mean ALWAYS, keep in mind before placing your bid.

Registration Costs

Many online auction sites ask you to pay a registration fee. Once paid, you can place your bids and actually participate in the auctions. On average, the registration fee is around 5-7€. But don’t worry, it is a one-time fee. This is to prevent the creation of spam accounts that could then use bots or mess up the auctions. Sure, it is a bit annoying, but it is a fair price to ensure that the auctions remain clean. 

Auction Success Fees

Whenever you win a bottle, expect to see the final price of up to 10% more than you bid. What is this extra 10%? The winning fee is how auction houses earn money from their online business. 

Doesn’t sounds like much? Well…if you buy a rather expensive bottle, this means an additional 50€ to 100€…and more! So be careful when you think you are about to close a deal. Maybe that same bottle would be cheaper at the official retailer! 

Shipping & Storage

Shipping varies depending on the service used. Mind you. It is essential to use a quality delivery service for such a delicate load. You certainly don’t want to receive a wet box with several pieces of glass in it at home! 

How much can shipping cost? Let’s say an average of 10 or 15 euros per bottle. Some services will give you a discount if you collect more bottles to ship.

And if you are only interested in the investment aspect and don’t want to risk the trip to your precious bottle? 

Some auction websites offer storage options that are free or charge a low fee for a limited period.  Whisky can be stored safely for the long term in the right light and temperature conditions. Insurance is usually included. This is probably a cheaper option than trying to secure your whisky collection at home or in a storage facility.

Tips on how to bid on auctions online

Having made our premise, let us move on to the tips on how to actually win a bottle at an auction!

Know thy whisky

It is important to know the bottle of whisky you are about to buy if you don’t want to suffer from disappointment or rip-offs.

Before participating in an auction, it is good to do some research and set up your plan of attack:

  • Aim for a bottle.
    Don’t randomly browse the catalogue. This will give you more focus.
  • Prepare a watchlist.
    This way you will avoid being tempted by other bottles.
  • Check previous and current prices.
    Some auction websites offer convenient graphs of price trends
  • Always check the packaging.
    Examine carefully the pictures provided on the listing page (any minor damages, dents, label peels or scratches will probably reduce the value that should be paid for a particular bottle).

Set your budget

Before setting your budget, you need to keep two factors in mind:

  • Are you bidding on a bottle for your whisky collection?
  • Are you bidding on a bottle of whisky to drink?

Based on your answers to these questions, you can decide how to set your personal budget.

But why have a budget?

Your budget must take into account your situation, but also the real value of the whisky you want to bid for. That way, you will not run the risk of bidding on a bottle of whisky that is 200% of its value. And no, no matter how much you want it. trust me, the feeling of frustration at the end is not worth it.

Don’t rush when placing your bid

In any auction, the more bids a ‘lot’ receives, the faster its price will increase. If you see your dream bottle in an auction during the first day or two, remember that there are still a few days left. Add it to your watchlist and wait patiently until the last day to bid.

If the bottle has exceeded your budget…well, you haven’t wasted your time getting involved in a bidding war! Otherwise, you can try to get a bargain in the last few hours.

Consider automatic bidding

Speaking of bidding…don’t forget the automatic bidding feature!

Most auction sites offer two ways to bid:

  • Manual bidding: you increase your bid as you go along, which means you have to keep your eyes fixed on your prey the whole time.
  • Automatic bidding: you set a maximum budget for a “lot” and the auction site bids on your behalf up to the established limit.

Of course, there is no question that automatic bidding can take the thrill out of an auction. But the good thing about it is that you can set how much you are willing to spend on that bottle. In a moment of calm and clarity. Not when you’re caught up in the adrenaline rush of going high on bids!

Be Aware of the ending time

One thing that confuses newcomers is that the “end time” of an auction is not actually its end time. In fact, the auction is usually prolonged by a few hours (without being stated how much) to get “smart” people using sniper software into trouble. 

Software snipers are used to placing an automatic bid, as late as possible in an auction with a set end time. This practice gives other bidders very little or no time to counter-bid. To counteract this, most auction sites do not end at a fixed time. In this way, the sniper does not have a fixed target.

Unfortunately for everyone who uses the auction properly, this also means that the end time will generally be in the middle of the night. Which will give you two options:

  • Stay awake until the end of the auction by bidding.
  • Set the maximum bid using the site’s automatic bidding feature and hope it is sufficient.

Whisky Auction Website you should check out

Now we come to the fun part. Here’s a (not complete) list of what we think are the auction sites you need to keep an eye on.

Scotch Whisky Auctions

Registration Fee: £5
Success Fee: 10%
Shipping Rates: Depending on your country

This website has generally a really good selection of expressions, with lots of bottles in each auction. Their prices for buying and selling aren’t steep either, which is not a bad thing!

Whisky Hammer

Registration Fee: £5
Success Fee: 10%
Shipping Rates: Depending on your country

One of the most convenient aspects of Whiskey Hammer is that it allows you to accumulate Hammer points that save you money on future purchases. Definitely one of the best in terms of saving money.

Whisky Auctioneer

Registration Fee: £5
Success Fee: 10%
Shipping Rates: Depending on your country

Lots of auctions every month! They also have a lot of speciality bottles and have a good range of rare finds.

Whisky Auction

Registration Fee: £5
Success Fee: 15%
Shipping Rates: Depending on your country

If you are looking for rare bottles, Whisky Auction may be your next favourite website. Moreover, you can also find memorabilia.

The Grand Whisky Auction

Registration Fee: £5
Success Fee: 10%
Shipping Rates: Depending on your country

This online whisky auction specialised in limited edition and rare whiskies.

Whisky Galore

Registration Fee: free
Success Fee: 10%
Shipping Rates: Depending on your country

Have you fallen in love with a particular distillery? Whisky Galore really has them all! Plus, it’s a family-owned business. What can we say, you can always see the heart in businesses like this!

Liquid Whisky

Registration Fee: free
Success Fee: 8%
Shipping Rates: Depending on the seller

This is an unconventional whisky auction. The aim of Liquid Whisky is to provide a low-cost trading platform to buy and sell whisky Buyers place bids (how much they are willing to pay), sellers place offers (how much they are willing to sell for) and when the prices match, Liquid Whisky will facilitate trade between buyer and seller.

In Conclusion

We have come to the end of this mini-guide on online whisky auctions. Now you know just about everything to win your next bottle. Let us know which one it will be!

Want to learn more about online auctions? Well, we suggest you follow MNIW on Instagram and Facebook. Very soon we will have a surprise for you…

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