|By Larry LeMasters
Tasters, sommeliers and collectors probably all agree that the pleasure in a good bottle of wine begins with the opening. This much-used adage is especially true when a vintage bottle of wine is opened using a corkscrew valued at $20,000. But, alas, where does a wine drinker find such a corkscrew?
Since 2008, the best place to buy collectible corkscrews has been the online auction site CollectorCorkscrews.com.
“CollectorCorkscrews.com is operated as a volunteer group with the cooperation of over 10 different corkscrew collecting clubs,” said Paul Luchsinger, self-proclaimed volunteer public relations guy and avid collector. “We have sold more than 5,000 corkscrews in the last six years.”
Managing member Fred Kinkaid added, “We are a taxpaying entity where all revenues are used for promoting a marketplace for antique corkscrews. Our three annual online corkscrew auctions operate under the name ICCAuctions and we also have a ’Buy Now’ section on our website.” Each of the corkscrews offered at these auctions are valued at $100 or more, making these auctions fast paced, exciting and, by some standards, expensive.
Expensive may be the best adjective to accurately describe the top-selling corkscrew at the November 2013 CollectorCorkscrews.com auction at which 520 corkscrews exchanged hands among 116 successful bidders. Called “exceeding rare” by Luchsinger, a single-lever corkscrew, patented in 1875 by John Burgess of England, sold for $20,000.
“A bidding war developed between two major collectors,” Luchsinger said. “This final sale price is a great outcome for a virtually unique corkscrew from a California collector.”
The Burgess corkscrew appears similar to the “common” Lund lever corkscrew that, on average, sells for around $100. The Lund, a two-piece corkscrew, was patented 20 years before Burgess improved on it by attaching the screw to the lever, creating a single lever design and a collector’s dream.
Whimsical corkscrews were also present at the November auction. A giant corkscrew resembling a Cough “finger pull” corkscrew, manufactured by Monopol and used for promotional “point of sale” purposes by Clough, opened at $100. Looking more like a trade sign than a functional corkscrew, Luchsinger said of it, “More than a dozen bidders quickly pushed the final selling price to $634.” Unusual corkscrews obviously attract attention.
While the Burgess corkscrew brought the highest bid and the giant Cough added humor at this auction, both were far from being the most eye-appealing corkscrew offered. For “eye candy,” it is hard to beat figural corkscrews, and in this auction, one of the finest examples of “eye candy” was an 18th century English and Dutch silver figural corkscrew of a standing goat. Opening at $400, “spirited bidding” quickly pushed this old goat’s final sale price to $8,875.
Luchsinger attributed the high bid for this goat corkscrew to “spirited bidding, particularly from the Netherlands.” Desire to keep vintage “Dutch sheathed figural corkscrews” in the Netherlands also attributed to the final sales price of $5,688 for another figural corkscrew – shaped like a dog – also offered at this auction.
Figural corkscrews also will be featured in CollectorCorkscrews.com’s April 2014 online auction. One popularly designed figural corkscrew that will draw lots of attention is a German corkscrew in the shape of a mermaid. Marked “Ges. Geschutzt” (protected by law), this celluloid and metal corkscrew is expected to bring $750. “In addition to the corkscrew helix,” Luchsinger said, “there is a foil cutter blade on the ’foot end’ of the corkscrew.”
Described by Luchsinger as “a representation of the quality and variety of corkscrews in the upcoming auction,” one of the highlights of the upcoming April auction will be an extremely rare Samuel Henshaw corkscrew. The Rev. Samuel Henshaw received the first British corkscrew patent for this cleverly designed corkscrew.
“A button at the top of the worm assists in loosening the cork, and there is a small brush on the end of the handle to remove dust from the cork before opening the bottle,” Luchsinger said. The corkscrew is appropriately marked with one of Henshaw’s favorite sayings, “OBSTANDO PROMOVES SOHO PATENT” (by standing firm one makes advancement) on the top of the button. Luchsinger estimated that Henshaw’s historic corkscrew would sell at $2,000 or more.
American corkscrew inventor Thomas M. Strait will also be represented in the April auction. His June 12, 1883, patented corkscrew, according to Kindaid, “was a significant improvement” when he designed it.
CollectorCorkscrews.com’s upcoming auction begins April 18 and runs through May 10, although there is some expectation that this ending date may change. Luchsinger promised that approximately 1,000 collectible and antique corkscrews will be offered during the April sale, ranging in value from $100 to more than $5,000.
Corkscrew collecting has grown in the last 30 years and is now considered a worldwide hobby. “ScrewBase, a digital database created by international corkscrew collectors, lists over 9,500 different corkscrews,” virtually guaranteeing that no collection will ever be complete, Luchsinger said. And since the average cost to a seller is only 2.8 percent and there are no buyer’s fees ever, CollectorCorkscrews.com is the premier place to bid on all of the different corkscrews available.
Further information on the upcoming corkscrew auction or on joining a corkscrew club may be obtained at www.CollectorCorkscrews.com or by phoning 757-345-3984.