With the collector car auction market ending 2017 at a five-year low according to The Hagerty Market Rating, the auto collector’s market started off this year with an uncertain future. Although some collector car auction houses like high-end RM Sotheby’s reported strong growth last year with $526 million in global auction sales – a 17% increase over the year prior – the overall North American Auction market fell 5%.
Many auction houses and collectors in the U.S. and abroad were therefore awaiting the year’s first major auction events with bated breath.
On the back of U.S. tax reform and one of the best starts to the year for the U.S. stock market in decades, the 2018 Scottsdale Collector Car Auction Week in Arizona saw more bidders than last year arrive for the week-long event, which included auctions by Barrett-Jackson, Gooding & Company, RM Sotheby, Bonhams, Worldwide Auctioneers, Russo and Steele and Silver.
According to Hagerty, the classic car data analytics and insurance company, the mega-event saw a total sales result of $247.8 million. 2,668 of the 3,176 cars offered across 176 lots were sold – a sell-through rate of 84%, with an average sales price of $92,887. Although the total sales marked a 5% decrease from 2016, the Arizona Auctions set an overall optimistic tone for the coming months due to the strength in the lower-end “Everyman” classic market – which is also the largest. Meanwhile, a potential softening trend in the higher-end collector car market continued, with a sell through rate on the $250,000+ bracket sitting at 70% at the Arizona Auctions.
Of course, that doesn’t mean the higher-end buyers have stopped buying. The top three sales for the week included a 1965 Ferrari 275 GTB Speciale Coupe at $8,085,000 for Gooding & Company, a Bonham’s auction 1958 Porsche 550A Spyder for $5,170,000 and another Gooding & Company sale at $4,455,00 for a 1954 Ferrari 500 Mondial Spider.
One of the world’s largest and most prestigious annual auction events, the Paris Salon Rétromobile, backed up the strong start to the auction year with top results during its sale from February 9 – 10, 2018. With 3,000 attendees and bidders from 15 countries who participated in person, online and via telephone, the Artcurial Motorcars Rétromobile 2018 reported 86% of its lots sold for a total of €31,815,566 (US$38,814,880), with 40% of the lots sold at above pre-sale estimates.
Seven private collections were presented, with a selection spanning pre and postwar car and motorcycle classics to modern supercars. The auction set a total of 13 world record auction prices. This included the top selling lot, a 1938 Bugatti Type 57C Coupé Atalante at €2,903,200 (US$3,557,376), as well as the second and third: a 2006 Ferrari FXX for €2,674,400 (US$3,277,000) and a 1954 Maserati A6 GCS/53 Spyder for at €2,445,600 (US$2,996,764).
Based on the results of these and other car auction events, The Hagerty Market Rating has increased for the third month in a row to 64.73. The increase in the auction activity section was bigger than any other sector, although there was also a small increase in private market activity due to more cars selling above their insured value, according to Hargerty.
They also report that market observer optimism started out strong in 2018 thanks to the initial results of auctions like the Scottsdale event, however, this sentiment fell in March. Additionally, the “number of owners expressing the belief that their vehicles are getting more valuable” is falling. This is a trend that Hagerty has observed for more than a year, reporting in February that the “the overall number of owners who think the value of their car is decreasing is growing 10 times faster than the number of owners who believe it is increasing”.
In spite of the negative sentiment, the collector car market continues to strengthen, and although it’s a far cry from the all-time high of 71.95, the current rating of 64.73 is surely better than many feared coming into 2018.