Last week, I chose three collector cars that I found interesting, which were scheduled to cross the auction block during what’s known as Scottsdale Auction Week. All three were European sports cars, and all were offered at no reserve.
In that blog post, I provided a brief summary of each vehicle, listed the auction companies’ pre-sale estimates, and gave my own projection of a final hammer price. With the auctions concluded, let’s revisit the cars and see how accurate I was (or wasn’t).
(Note that all three auction companies charge a 12% buyer’s premium, and that inflated number, with premium, is what’s shown on their websites. This makes the sales results appear higher than they really were. I backed out that 12% to show the actual hammer prices.)
Bonhams: 1978 Porsche 928, Lot #11, sold on Thursday
ESTIMATE: $45,000-55,000 (NO RESERVE)
RICHARD’S PREDICTION: $30,000
HAMMER PRICE: $67,000 (plus 12% premium for final price of $75,040)
Ahem…. Not only did I miss the hammer price by a country mile; this car blew right past the high end of its pre-sale estimate. Undoubtedly, its original condition and low mileage contributed to giving the seller a grand slam, funky ‘70s colors be damned. And to those who continue to maintain that 928s are not collectible, I now have this piece of evidence in my arsenal.
Gooding & Co: 1969 Alfa Romeo 1750 Spider Veloce, Lot #010, sold on Friday
Estimate: $80,000-100,000 (NO RESERVE)
RICHARD’S PREDICTION: $50,000
HAMMER PRICE: $64,000 (plus 12% premium for final price of $71,680)
I was a little closer with this one, but my guess was still under the hammer by $14,000. Auction fever can infect bidders in many ways, and someone caught the fever and stepped up for this cute little roadster. While this Alfa sold for 50% more than what similar cars have brought recently, note that its hammer price was still well under the auction company’s unreasonably optimistic estimate.
RM Sotheby’s: 1970 Jaguar E-Type roadster (OTS), Lot #168, sold on Thursday
ESTIMATE: $110,000-140,000 (NO RESERVE)
RICHARD’S PREDICTION: $95,000
HAMMER PRICE: $75,000 (plus 12% premium for final price of $84,000)
Last week’s post stated in part: “… the Series II cars have become the affordable E-Type….”. Given that the hammer price was $20,000 under my seemingly reasonable guesstimate, and $35,000 under the auction company’s low-end estimate, it’s not going out on a limb to call this one a good buy. The new owner got a beautiful E-Type OTS (Open Two-Seater) with 80% of the charm of a Series I car at a 50% discount.
These cars represent such a small fraction of the hundreds and hundreds of collector cars sold in Scottsdale. Can we draw any conclusions from just three sales? I maintain that we can:
- No Reserve cars are, by definition, guaranteed to sell. A theory I’ve heard about no-reserve sales, disproven here, is that they always favor the buyer. Sometimes, when the audience knows the high bidder gets the car, a bidding war erupts. Both the Porsche and the Alfa sold over their high estimate, so the consignors in both cases should be delighted with these results.
- Another theory we can try to debunk based on this minuscule sample is that the hobby is in poor health. The Alfa and the Jaguar are blue-chip collectibles; the 928 less so, but it’s still a Porsche. Each of these cars appeared to be in very nice shape. I’d venture that all three buyers, if a modicum of care is taken with their new prizes, will not lose money in the long-term when it’s time to sell. Were these cars affordable? It’s a relative term. For a large segment of the Scottsdale audience, vehicles under six figures are affordable, and return on investment was not a primary purchase factor. The hobby is far from dead.
- Are auctions a good place to buy cars? There is no simple answer to that. It would be misleading to look at these results and think it’s not. Instead, I would postulate that these examples highlight the need for bidders to educate themselves before raising the paddle. You cannot make good judgments from pretty online photos while sitting 2,500 miles away. Learn all you can about the model you’re interested in, make direct contact with the auction company, seek out the seller if available, and bid with your head, not your heart.