But just four lots later it was broken again, with lot 722 – a c.1920 label for a bottle of Wheeler’s Oatmeal Stout – serving up a new high of £2000 (plus 17% buyer’s premium).
Not to mention lot 720, which on its own would have set a record in this collecting field, only to be eclipsed by the other two.
It goes to show how determined the bidders are in this niche but very competitive market, with the successful buyer of all three of those lots, a UK private phone bidder, seeing off strong competition from the room.
The Wheeler’s label, which Arkell admitted to be a “very bland-looking label”, was conservatively estimated at £30-50. He said: “We regularly have labels that make the high hundreds, because we have three or four nice collections in here at the moment. My understanding is the highest previous individual price for a label was £1200.
“A couple of labels hadn’t been seen before. One of the collectors on sale day, a very prominent collector of labels, said ‘you’ll get a record price for an individual label today’ and then, by jove, I think we beat it three times.”
Stout developed from porter, which was a popular beer style during the Industrial Revolution. In 1818 a Daniel Wheeler invented the drum roaster to improve the process, but Arkell said no specific connection was known with ‘Wheeler’s Oatmeal Stout’ and whether any link exists remains a mystery. In any case, oatmeal stout did not appear until the 1890s.
Loddon offers around 120-150 beer label lots per sale, usually either in small groups of 10-25 or, for other rarer and older examples, sold singly.
Arkell said: “We’ve got a very good cataloguer for beer labels and we can identify the ones that will sell individually.” He added: “Most label collectors I know collect mostly everything – they are pretty comprehensive collectors. I think highest demand is for mostly obscure small breweries, which wouldn’t have printed too many labels. Older ones are the ones that don’t crop up very often.”
The other would-be record breakers at the auction on August 8 were for Castle Ale, Lascelles Tickner & Co, Guildford (£1500), and pale ale brewed by Shirley Brewery, Croydon (£1400).