Are decanters worth anything? A Brief Guide to valuable decanters



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    How valuable are decanters? This can be a loaded question. I’d like to take some time to answer each perceived question here. 

    One may talk of the actual value of a decanter. Like if you are a decanter collector, how much do you get from them if you decide to sell it. A complete set of crystal decanters, depending on the manufacturer can cost thousands of dollars. 

    Another is the value of the decanter in serving your spirits. A decanter is valuable to red wine drinkers since it aerates the wine. Aeration, as a result from decanting, makes the wine more pleasurable to drink. Decanting the wine adds value to it but not in monetary terms in this sense.

    Yet another value of a decanter may be through the aesthetics it gives to your spirits. Why serve your whiskey in its bottle when you can beautify it with a decanter? 

    A Look into the Past

    The use of decanters can be traced up to about 2,500 years back. Back then, wines were served in earthen vessels since the glass vessels were yet to be made. In the 17th century, it would have been rude to serve the wine from the bottle. Decanters became more popular during this period.

    By the 18th century, decanting had become a tradition in England. This tradition then spread throughout Europe. 

    Types of Decanters

    Different spirits need different decanters. However, the other spirits can be decanted interchangeably in the decanters, especially as other spirits do not really need decanting. These decanters are simpler in appearance and come with a stopper. The stopper prevents the spirits from becoming flat. 

    A number of wines need to be allowed to breathe to soften the tannins and remove the sediments. Among those that could use a decanter are young red wines, red wines with visible sediments, some white wines and vintage ports. 

    Wine decanters, on the other hand, do not need stoppers since its purpose is really to aerate the wine. Most wine decanters are shaped oddly but fashionably.  

    Most Expensive Decanters

    The most expensive decanters are crystal decanters. If car lovers dream of owning a Rolls Royce, Bugatti, Lamborghini or Aston, wine lovers dream of Waterford, St. Louis, Baccarat, and Orrefors. 

    These very expensive whiskey decanters range from $25,000 to $3.5M. It’s kind of unbelievable how people are willing to pay for such decanters.

    Here are a few of these very expensive decanters.

    First on the list is the Highland Park 50 Year Old decanted designed by Maeve Gillies, inspired by the movement of the wind and the sea. It sells at $25,000 although only a few bottles are still for sale. Aside from that, the empty bottle reveals the famous rose window of the St. Magnus Cathedral in Orkney, Scotland.

    Another is the creation of Baccarat crystal made for the centenary of Kilian Hennessey. The  decanter is housed in a liqueur chest and comes with 4 whiskey glasses. It sells at US$190,000 at Schiphol Airport Retail in Amsterdam. 

    The gem of them all is the Tequila Ley .925 Diamond Sterling decanter and is known as the world’s most expensive decanter. It is sold at US$3.5 million for a decanter less than 1.4 liters. This decanter is made with hand-blown glass covered in silver and pure platinum and inlaid with 4,000 cut diamonds.  

    Antique Crystal Decanters - Are They Worth Anything?


    Antique decanters are usually lead crystals. Online auctions sell antique crystal decanters from a few hundred or thousand dollars, depending on the era. Sites like invaluable.com and 1stdibs.com sell beautiful antique crystal decanters.

    If you are in search of antique crystal decanters, here are a few tips. No need for special equipment since most are visible.

    1. Seam. Antique crystal decanters are seamless, each clear and polished.
    2. Weight. Since antique crystal decanters are infused with lead, they are heavier than its glass counterparts. 
    3. Appearance. When held under a light, rainbows form on it, the crystal acting as a prism. They are also usually very ornate with metallic and gem embellishments on its body. 
    4. Markings. Turn over the suspected antique decanter on a plain surface lined with a soft cloth to protect its rim from chipping. Use a magnifying lens to look for markings. Sound. Because of the metallic content on antique crystal decanters, it has a ring to it when tapped with a teaspoon. 
    5. Internet search/books. Most antique crystal decanters or any antique crystals for that matter have been catalogued in books or internet sites. Etsy has a very extensive list of antique crystal decanters for sale, too. Books like Glass of the World by George Savage and Miller's Antique Encyclopedia by Judith Miller. It also has companion handbooks for the current price of antiques.

    Are Old Whiskey Decanters Worth Anything?

     

    If anything, old whiskey decanters have the same price trend that other antiques follow. When the interest in them lessens, the price also lowers. Auction sites show that some of the items have been on the site for so long that the curators decided to put them on a lower price. 

    Design always seems to dictate the price of the decanters, whatever their age may be. For example, a 1970 whiskey decanter that is plain to site used to sell at $245 but after a time, it sells only at $221. 

    Another dismal sale is Silver and Cut-Glass Claret Jug. Dating back in 1887, the jug dropped 52% from the $1,450 price. Despite its craftsmanship and very good condition, this Victorian jug still lost so much of its value. 

    Another is the number of units produced and still available in the market as well as the state of the decanter. Chipped or cloudy decanters fetch a lower price than its counterpart that was kept in pristine condition.

    Are Whiskey Decanters Good?  

    In comparison with wine decanters which have an actual purpose of improving the taste and value of the wine, whiskey decanters are used purely for aesthetics. 

    Are Wine Decanters Worth It? 

    Taking into consideration the additional expense of wine decanters, are they really worth it? Well, unless you want your wine, red wines especially, harsh and has sediments, then a wine decanter won’t be needed. However, since no one wants that, a decanter is a good investment for wine lovers.

    Decanting is not simply a whim, it is science. Wines, after being aged for a number of years, build up sulfites and a combination of other chemical reactions within it. The result is unpleasant wine. To solve that, wine should be allowed to breathe. Decanting allows the wine to breathe, resulting in softer tannins and less sediments. 

    Wine connoisseurs and scientists, though, argue that the result of decanting is really a matter of perspective of the drinker. Some may believe that decanting has improved the value of their wine while others can drink the wine by just swirling it in a wine glass. 

    What Are Old Jim Beam Decanters Worth? 

    Jim Beam decanters were made following a themed series, like the Ram, Glass, State and Wheel series. The antiques dating from the early 20th century do not fetch much - from $20 in 1964 to $40 as of 2020 is not much difference. But some items on the Wheel series do fetch a good price. The most expensive was the Gold Semi 18 Wheeler which lists for $3,000. It was made in 1991. 

    Another very valuable Jim Beam decanter was made in 1964, made exclusively for the board members of First National Bank of Chicago. Because of their exclusivity - each bearing the name of a board member - it lists for $1,584.

    They can be a good investment if you know how to seek one. However, just like any collectibles, the price of antique crystal decanters is volatile, depending on the demand in the market. One example is a Jim Beam decanter that was first listed at $160 in 1976 but is now valued at $40. Be sure to consult price guides before splurging in antiques. Price Guides like Miller's Antique Handbook and Price Guide for 2020-2021 are a good place to start. 

    Conclusion

    Since the experience would be entirely personal, it is best to let the drinker choose just how he wants to drink his wine. Whether you choose to buy antique or contemporary decanters, the bottomline is that you enjoy how you use it.

    For more options, here is a selection of carefully curated whiskey decanters and wine decanters.


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