The World’s Biggest Collector Car Auctions – Monterey Versus Scottsdale

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    By: Peter Volny & Linda Goddard

    Monterey, CA, in August and Scottsdale, AZ, in January are the two largest collector car auction venues in North America and possibly in the world. Multiple auction houses convene at both venues and individual auction houses vie for top billing, so let’s begin with an overall comparison.

    Monterey, in August 2019, did a total of US$245.5 million versus US$251.2 million for Scottsdale five months later. Monterey’s total had fallen a whopping $125 million or about 35 per cent from the year before, and was the lowest since 2011, so needless to say all eyes were on Scottsdale to see if this was a portend of the future market. The six auction houses participating in Monterey sold 768 vehicles of 1,315 on offer, a 58 per cent sell-through for an average of $319,610 a vehicle.

    Slightly Ahead

    In Scottsdale, total sales of $252 million were just ever so slightly ahead of last year’s total. Here there were eight auctions, two more than in Monterey. A total of 2,994 of 3,867 vehicles sold and sell-through was 77 per cent with an average price of $81,534, reflecting the vast difference in type of cars.

    In Scottsdale, perennial leader Barrett-Jackson easily retained bragging rights with $141 million, its highest sales ever at an auction in its 49-year history. This came from over 1,900 vehicles and over 1,200 items of memorabilia.

    A long-standing tradition is the sale of cars for charity and this year nine vehicles raised $7.6 million, including two that were VIN 001. One was the very first of the new mid-engine C8 Corvettes, which brought $3 million with none other than GM President Mary Barra in attendance, no doubt wishing they all sold at that price. The other was the first production 2021 Lexus LC500 Convertible Inspiration Series that went for an astounding $2 million.

    Barrett-Jackson’s nine-day event is far more than an auction with acres of vendors at the vast Westworld complex selling everything from helicopters to boats as well as Cobra and Ford GT40 replicas and every imaginable auto accessory and service. Inarguably, the main event of the city’s ‘Auction Week,’ it attracts entertainment and sports celebrities as well as Fortune 500 CEOs.

    A distant second this year was Gooding & Company at the large downtown Fashion Square Mall with $35.8 million over two days, selling 123 of 138 lots for an 89 per cent sell-through. It also had the highest individual sale of the week at $3.2 million for a 1995 Ferrari F50 coupe and had five of the week’s top 10 sales.

    Pagani Top Sale

    Top 10 Sales:
    • 1995 Ferrari F50 Coupe: $3,222,500 (Gooding & Company)
    • 2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Coupe: $3,000,000 (Barrett-Jackson)
    • 1932 Hispano-Suiza J12 Dual Cowl Phaeton: $2,425,000 (Gooding & Company)
    • 2018 Pagani Huayra Roadster: $2,370,000 (RM Sotheby’s)
    • 1948 Tucker 48 Sedan: $2,040,000 (Gooding & Company)
    • 2021 Lexus LC 500 Convertible: $2,000,000 (Barrett-Jackson)
    • 1967 Ferrari 330 GTS Spider: $1,985,000 (Gooding & Company)
    • 1972 Ferrari 365 GTS/4 Daytona Spider: $1,930,000 (Gooding & Company)
    • 1951 Ferrari 212 Inter Cabriolet: $1,930,000 (Bonhams)
    • 1967 Ferrari 330 GTS Spider: $1,710,000 (RM Sotheby’s)

    RM Sotheby’s two-day event at the iconic Frank Lloyd Wright designed Biltmore Resort came in third with $30.4 million and a 90 per cent sell-through. Top sale was a 2018 Pagani Huayra Roadster at $2.37 million.

    Leake Auctioneers, in its inaugural event at ‘Arizona Auction Week’ at Salt River Fields, had sales of $17 million. Its high sale was a 2012 Lexus LFA Coupe at $434,500.

    Russo and Steele moved their trademark, high-energy ‘Auction-in-the-Round’ back to its preferred original high-visibility location. With a total of $10.7 million, high sale was a 1957 Mercedes-Benz 300SL at $1.045 million.

    Bonhams, at the Westin Kierland Resort, had $8.4 million in total sales with a 1951 Ferrari 212 Inter Cabriolet as its top seller at $1.93 million. It also hammered Lee Iacocca’s 1992 Dodge Viper RT/10 with serial number 001for $285,500.

    Worldwide Auctioneers moved to a new location in Tempe and sold $5.4 million with a 1936 Auburn 852 SC Boattail Speedster bringing $880,000.

    MAG Auctions, farther away in Peoria, hit $2.6 million with high sale going to 1968 Shelby Mustang GT500KR at $167,400.

    Ferraris are always among the top sales and this year was no different with exactly half of the top 10 sales, while the other five were split among five different brands.

    What’s the takeaway, cars in the sub-$100,000 category are selling very well, but it seems that the combination of both sellers and buyers at the upper end of the market has dwindled. Theories abound. One is that when the stock market is hot and providing great returns, investors abandon steel and rubber. The market is aging so there are fewer buyers who lust for pre-’75 cars; millennials are not interested in cars at all and are ‘Ubering’ instead. One thing we have seen is that like most things, the market is cyclical, but only time will tell if the high-end is coming back. In the meantime it’s certainly a buying opportunity – buy low, sell high.

    Peter Volny and Linda Goddard
    write regularly for Private Wealth Canada on cars and travel