Nick Foulkes: The ultimate status symbol – a cigar you can't smoke

Today's trophy-hunting a laborious affair

Share
Related Topics

The tale of the customer who sent a magnum of 1961 Pétrus back because the cork did not carry the stamp of authenticity he was looking for sheds light on the new enthusiasm among the super-rich for objects of desire.

The word "trophy" has attached itself adjectivally to all manner of things. The current issue of Vogue, for example, informs us of the return of the "trophy jacket", prized because of its identifiable characteristics.

Trophies are the thing among the shockingly well off. It is not just wine that is following this pattern: certain cigars, watches and artworks have been climbing skyward. Cigars have long been a badge of plutocracy, but today it is specific cigars that appeal to the impregnably wealthy.

Any old Cuban will not do, nor is it just enough to be smoking a Cohiba, the brand once favoured by Castro himself. It has to be Cohiba Behike, a cigar made in strictly limited quantities to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the marque: 100 humidors of 40 cigars at €15,000 (£11,000), or €375 a stick. They were all pre-sold before they even made it on to the market.

These are cigars so rare that there are collectors willing to pay any sum, but it is unlikely that any will ever be resold, let alone smoked. These are cigars to keep. No more will be made. The really rich are concerned that the stuff that marks them out as individuals of substance and discrimination is, like so many of the planet's resources, running out. You can almost hear the thought process: "Well you never know, better get in early, beat the rush, just in case."

There is an element of scalp-hunting about the whole process of what is known as pinpoint purchasing. As with blood sports, it is as much about the thrill of the chase – tracking down the bottle of wine, wristwatch or cigar – as it is about owning it.

At the very top level, the problem lies not in selling trophies, but rationing them. The most sought-after Patek Philippe watches, such as minute repeaters, which chime out the hours, are difficult to make in anything other than small numbers. However, such is the demand that potential purchasers have to be vetted before they are allowed to join the waiting list.

The vintage Rolex market has also taken off but, again, not just any Rolex will do. You want a Paul Newman Daytona, a Steve McQueen Explorer, a Comex or a Double Red, even if you do not know what they are and what they do. These are out-of-production watches, originally costing a few hundred pounds, that were made in small numbers or did not sell particularly well. Now they fetch tens of thousands of pounds. Often it is only forensic details that give these watches trophy status: the colour of the printing on the dial, the serif on a number or letter – but it is enough.

Daniele Pizzigoni, who deals in such timepieces from his shop just off Bond Street, remembers one customer who handed over his credit card and told Mr Pizzigoni to charge what he wanted for such a trophy.

These items – and even the boxes for vintage Rolexes, another object of mega-rich aspiration – exist only in finite numbers. Yet some are vanishing fast. The upmarket wine merchant Corney & Barrow insists that every bottle of Pétrus it sells is destroyed once its contents have been consumed.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Service Engineers - Doncaster / Hull

£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...

Recruitment Genius: Employability / Recruitment Adviser

£23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: how to spell BBQ and other linguistic irregularities

John Rentoul
 

South Africa's race problem is less between black and white than between poor blacks and immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa

John Carlin
Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...