Am I the great and powerful BigslyOz (part 2) ?

In the first part of this post, I pointed out that I didn’t think the position of the author of made sense, and in fact it sounds a lot like what I expect to hear from overly “negative” people who have a tendency to “catastrophize.” If you have never heard of this concept, this might help “bring you up to speed:”

Catastrophizing is an irrational thought a lot of us have in believing that something is far worse than it actually is. Catastrophizing can generally can take two forms.

The first of these is making a catastrophe out of a situation…

The second kind of Catastrophizing is closely linked to the first, but it is more mental and more future oriented.This kind of Catastrophizing occurs when we look to the future and anticipate all the things that are going to go wrong…

An even simpler take is:

Catastrophizing has two parts:

Part 1: Predicting a negative outcome.

Part 2: Jumping to the conclusion that if the negative outcome did in fact happen, it would be a catastrophe.

At some point the vintage greats will be gone and I have a feeling that somehow humanity will survive this! At that point, technology may be available that can create fairly good representations of these scents, without the supposed allergy issues that led to IFRA regulations and also without concern for environmental destruction or species extinction (because the products may be entirely created in a lab). Whatever the case may be, some of us live in the present and don’t catastrophize. Those who do may want to look into the way they view things in a more general way, because it’s a lot easier and more fun to live life with a positive outlook, in my experience.

Apparently, this blogger thinks that someone out there will soon be the Robert M. Parker, Jr. in the realm of “fine perfumery,” if this person doesn’t already exist (I certainly don’t think I am that person). I wish he would have told us who this person (or people) is! If we go to the wikipedia article on Parker we learn that: “Parker argues that he scores wines on how much pleasure they give him.” And as with scents, the wine aficionado is not likely to drink the exact same kind of wine whenever he or she pops a cork. However, Parker isn’t going to buy a bottle of wine from a vineyard that once produced a great vintage for that reason alone. In this case, bad weather may had led to a vintage to which he gave a low score. What’s in the bottle is what matters, not the bottle, the vineyard, the company, etc. The author of may think that any Bordeaux from a particular vineyard should be bought because of past good vintages, lest that winemaker lose money and decide to sell the land to “developers.” Is there any wine aficionado who would agree with this sentiment?

Now as to the effect Parker has had on wine sales, let’s again turn to wikipedia:

There is evidence that Parker’s rating scale has a dual effect on prices and sales, with claims from the wine industry that a Parker top score is valued at potentially £5 million.[4]

When Parker declined to review the 2002 Bordeaux vintage “in barrel,” the vintners were forced to drop their prices.[citation needed]
According to one Bordeaux shipper cited by McCoy, “the difference between a score of 85 and 95 [for one wine] was 6 to 7 million Euros”, and a “bottle rated 100 can multiply its price fourfold.”[19]
Château Quinault, which used to have hard time selling its wine at 100 francs a bottle, saw its 1998 vintage rise in price in half a day to 125 francs after Parker gave it a 92 rating.[32]
According to a 2005 economic analysis, Parker’s scores would inflate the prices of already highly rated wines[33] but, for the less good ones, it would not decrease their sales nor even increase their prices.[34]

Whatever his influence, Parker alone cannot impact the market price for a wine if he is alone against the mainstream. The famous controversy around the Château Pavie 2003 is an example of this: despite Parker’s positive ratings, the wine in bottle sold 30% cheaper than en primeur.

Is the author of suggesting that some fragrance blogger has more influence in this market than Parker does in the “fine wine” market? It certainly seems that way! My guess is that people like myself will buy up vintage scents we like to the point of at least two or three 100 ml bottles, and then if the prices skyrocket, as occurred a long time ago with Patou Pour Homme, sell one or two. Whatever effect that has, a sharp rise in vintage prices may be more due to the “word getting out” that oakmoss-rich scents or ones with an excellent sandalwood note are largely if not entirely a thing of the past, for example, than anything else. People have a right to want these kinds of scents, just as people at a Southeby’s auction may bid all kinds of “luxury” items up to incredibly high prices at times, including paintings that are available as posters reproductions in a local store for a few dollars! And that leads to an intriguing question: should someone who never wears scents but has some extras space and money be buying up vintage ones thinking that it won’t be long before prices do rise substantially? Isn’t that inevitable, unless new technology is invented that can replicate the vintage greats at low cost? Isn’t that “capitalism 101?”

In sum, what I’ve seen (and I spend more time that I’d like to admit looking through ebay fragrance listings) is a rise in select vintage scents, but this has not happened all at once. Givenchy Gentleman, the first three “masuvline” Lagerfelds, and Chaps are examples of ones that used to sell cheaply until perhaps two years ago. You can still get the reformulated GG for reasonable prices, whereas Chaps is apparently nothing like the vintage formulation (I haven’t tried the new version), and the bottle looks very different. Some rise but then seem to drop for a while, which I’ve seen with Escada’s Magnetism for Men and Vetiver de Puig. Who talks about Vetiver de Puig, even in the Men’s Forum at Basenotes? Yet if you use ebay’s completed auction search you will see that there appears to be a nice little market for this one! Others that do get talked about there and are listed for high prices sometimes sell for very reasonable price (such as London for Men by Paul Smith).

And this brings me to a point I’d like to make about valuing vintage scents. Recently, I was negotiating vintage swap possibilities with two different people. One was Be Bop Pour Homme for Carrington Cologne, while the other was Davidoff Classic for Perry Ellis for Men (1985) and Obsession for Men (all original versions). I own the latter scents, and what I tried to explain to these two people is that it was a blind swap for me and I was giving up popular ones. In the case of the former, I noticed that DC was not selling well relative to the high prices some were offering it for on ebay. The seller insisted it was worth something in that range ($125 for 125 ml), whatever that means (seems like he needed to take an ECO 101 class), but of course I can say the same thing about what I have to offer! In the latter case, I told the person that Carrington Cologne seems to be quite popular (another one that nobody seems to talk about on any site, relative to ones like Patou Pour Homme or Kouros), whereas the sales of BBPH on ebay did not suggest I would get a scent in return that I could sell quickly for more than I could my CC bottle.

These were swaps they wanted because they knew what the ones I had to offer smelled like, whereas I was taking a chance, the point here being that this factor is not the case for swapping most other collectible items, which are not going to be “used” (or used much, such as with collectible automobiles). The main thing is that nobody knows for sure which scent might experience a sharp rise in ebay prices. I have had some scents that now sell well and at high prices (such as Envy for Men), and one could argue that I shouldn’t have swapped it off (for scents that are listed at high prices but hardly ever sell near those levels). Even if all things were equal, isn’t life too short to worry about whether you might have been able to sell the scent you swapped off for $20 or $30 more than what you really wanted? I told those guys to go ahead and sell their scents on ebay and then use the money to buy the ones they wanted from me (at 70% of the listed ebay prices); I haven’t heard back from either of them! Does the old saying, “put your money where your mouth is” not apply here?

UPDATE: In his latest post on his FromPyrgos blog (titled, “The Consequences Of Thinking that You Are Inconsequential”), the author states:

And there you have it – free advertising for Azzaro’s discontinued, and now re-released gem. I would like to meet the man who can tell me with a straight face that these words were not the direct motivators for Azzaro to dig up this formula, dust it off, reformulate it, repackage it, and re-release it as Acteur. He’ll have a hard time of it…

This statement was preceded by a few quotations taken from positive reviews of this scent. As I said before, this is the same person who told me (not that long ago) how few people read my blog, which generally has been very positive towards scents such as Acteur, but putting that aside, he is also the same person who likes to demand strong evidence from others if they make similar claims. And as some of you may have already recognized, he expects those who disagree to “prove a negative,” unless you are one of those who actually made the decision to reformulate Acteur and release at least one batch of it. If people like me wield such power, I’m not going to complain, and in this case it helped me acquire a vintage bottle at a very low price, because few know the difference between bottle designs and there was an overall significant price drop, apparently. However, I’m also not going to buy any of the reformulations if I can avoid it.


Filed under Criticizing the critics.

4 responses to “Am I the great and powerful BigslyOz (part 2) ?

  1. Hello, bigsly!
    I enjoyed the above discussion, and now I am wondering whether you have seen the film Mondovino. I reviewed it at the salon de parfum a while back and compared the case of wine to the case of perfume. If you haven’t seen the film, you definitely should, as it treats the topic of Robert Parker in detail. The director of the film hates Parker and all of the wine consultants who, the director contends, have homogenized wine, making whites more oaky and reds more silty and Merlot-like. Here’s a link to my review, in case you’re interested:

  2. No I didn’t but I did read a long article about Parker more than ten years ago, I think in the Atlantic Monthly. Have you seen the film, “Bottle Shock?” That was fairly good and entertaining. I got involved with wine a while back but only drank organic, sulfite-free so my choice were very limited. Now I’m more of a coffee drinker, but I never got involved in it at the aficionado level. In any case, I can’t imagine anyone who writes about scents having the kind of influence Parker has or had in the “fine wine” industry, for a variety of reasons, but if people want to follow a wine or scent guru, that is their right. I don’t see why one should worry about it, especially with vintage scents. If you want vintage most are available now at very reasonable prices, especially compared to “fine wine,” which can sell at major auction houses for huge sums. Paying even $50 more for a 100 ml bottle of Kouros seems like “small change,” and certainly is not something one should lose sleep over, IMO !

  3. So true: the price differences between fine wine and perfume are somewhat unbelievable. A while ago I argued that perfumistas should not be pushing this currently fashionable idea that perfume is art–whether we believe it or not–because if the view became widespread then perfume prices would rise accordingly, following the path of wine…

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