During the final night gala at the Habanos Festival in Cuba each winter, an auction of serious collector humidors and cigars—think Romeo y Julieta cabinets stocked with more than 300 smokes—draws the industry’s heavy hitters. It’s not uncommon for the most desirable lots of those auctions to command six-figure prices. Needless to say, cigar collecting is a serious practice and, like any market for precious commodities, dedicated auctions provide an arena for record-setting purchases and—if a bidder is particularly savvy—fantastic bargains.
Cuba’s annual, end-of-the-winter festival notwithstanding, most serious cigar bidders flock to London during the remainder of the year, where noteworthy auctions have become a longstanding tradition. For years, Christie’s reigned supreme and often hosted cigar sales in conjunction with its wine auctions but, when the auction house stepped away from luxury tobacco, Mitchell Orchant seized the opportunity. Today, Orchant serves as the managing director for C. Gars Ltd., and hosts two dedicated cigar auctions each year. The winter auction (scheduled for November 19), will offer more than 400 tantalizing lots of rare and aged Cuban cigars, including a 1969 Diplomatic Cohiba Lanceros Estuche Tallado (an engraved humidor) containing 23 cello-wrapped cigars, all sporting the original Cohiba band. Interested bidders should plan to spend handsomely for it; the humidor is estimated to sell for £25,000 (about $40,000).
If you’ve never purchased cigars at auction, Orchant says that the most important thing is to inspect the lots in person or request a condition report. Don’t forget to ask about provenance as well. Some cigars might be pristine, but it’s possible that others haven’t been looked after for a few years. But, Orchant adds, if you know your cigars and you know the market, the auction scene can be very good to you. “If you know what you’re looking for and you understand the scarcity of particular brands, you can find bargains,” he says. “The market sets the selling price.”
Should you make it to London next month and want to remain surrounded by spectacular smokes and astute company, aim to stay at The Wellesley; it’s the venue where Orchant typically entertains clients and it boasts a superb cigar terrace. If the Wellesley is booked, don’t despair; The Lanesborough in Hyde Park Corner has one of the finest cigar bars in the world.