The success of programmes like Antiques Roadshow and Cash in the Attic are proof that where money is concerned, hope springs eternal in the human heart. Usually it's the hope that Aunt Mabel's house full of tasteless ornaments and general tat will yield a nugget worth thousands, something that will pay the mortgage for a year or so, or fund an upgrade to the fishing boat. But, in most cases, cheap rubbish does not appreciate in value simply by becoming cheap, old rubbish.
Every so often I get inquiries from people who have found an old bottle of liquor somewhere and want to know what it's worth, and it's heart-rending to have to tell them that their half-evaporated bottle of McWilliam's sherry is not going to fund their retirement after all.
But still the calls come in, proving once and for all that while the love of money might be the root of all evil, it's also the root of people's motivation.
However, the answer is almost always the same - if you find an old bottle of spirits, you're better off drinking it yourself, because you won't make any money selling it, except in special cases.
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This is because most spirits are made in pretty large quantities, so what you have might be old, but it's unlikely to be rare, and it's rarity that gives value. This accounts for the exceptions I mentioned above; wine, for example, is relatively rare and a good label from a good vintage will attract a good price - although unless you happen to have found a case of 1914 Chateau d'Yquem among Uncle Alf's belongings, you're not going to be getting thousands.
With New Zealand wines, longevity is also an issue, so if you have wine from the 70s it's now past drinkability and into the vinegar stage. There are exceptions, but generally anything before 1983 will be on the ropes.
Single-malt whisky, Cognac and Armagnac can appreciate in value, but it all depends on which brand you have and how old it is. Whisky, for example, is a favourite among collectors, especially dated bottles, although when it comes to spirits it's important to remember that they don't get any better once they've been bottled, so a whisky won't suddenly be super-valuable just because it's been sitting in a hall cupboard for 40 years.
With a bit of research, you can make money from drink. Find a good wine from a good vintage and buy a few cases when it comes out, keep it in good condition for a few years (a dark, dry place with little variation in temperature) and then you can sell it on.
Restaurants are often interested in older vintages, as they like to be able to present a wine at its best. Wineries, too, are often interested in replenishing older vintages for their library stocks, so you can sometimes make a wee profit simply by storing the wine for a few years.
Whenever I discover older drinks, I find it's often best to just enjoy them. I was given a bottle of "port" from West Auckland a couple of years back that gloried in the name All Black Port. It was in a glass flagon and I opened it during the Rugby World Cup. I wasn't expecting much and I wasn't disappointed, but it wasn't foul either. I'd managed to date it to around 1960 and for a 50-year-old fortified wine from a less-than-superior producer, I have to say it wasn't bad at all.