HomeThe MarketHagerty graph shows impact of million-dollar car sales

Hagerty graph shows impact of million-dollar car sales



Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders would love the Graph of the Week from Hagerty, the classic car insurance and valuation company, because it’s about how the 1 percenters get all the attention while spending most of the money.

For Bernie, the 1 percent comprises those multi-millionaires and billionaires who seem to get richer all the time. For classic car fanatics, the 1 percent are those seven- and eight-figure cars that the millionaires and billionaires buy and sell at auction.

Hagerty points out that more than 19,000 collector cars were sold by North American auctions during 2015, but less than 1 percent of those sales exceeded $1 million.

A 1961 Ferrari 259 GT California Spider sold for more than $17 million | Bob Golfen
A 1961 Ferrari 259 GT California Spider sold for more than $17 million | Bob Golfen

Yet these are the sales – such as the more-than $17 million spent to purchase a 1961 Ferrari 259 GT California Spider at Gooding & Company’s recent Amelia Island auction – that make headlines and grab people’s attention, even though the vast majority of collector car enthusiasts could never approach buying a million-dollar collector car.

But like the economic 1 percenters, the top echelon automobiles garner the lion’s share of the attention.

While the million-dollar-plus cars made up less than 1 percent of the sales by number, they made up more than 36 percent of the dollar total in North America during 2015, according to Hagerty’s research.

“They therefore have a disproportionate impact on the auction market,” Hagerty said in its newsletter. “Figures commonly used to measure an auction’s performance, like total sales volume and average sales price, can be greatly affected by whether a seven- or eight-figure car sells or not, as can an auction company’s revenue.”

This top-down effect on the collector car market has been growing during the past five years, according to Hagerty. As the overall collector car market has grown in value, the prices being paid for the top cars have been rising that much faster.

“For example,” Hagerty continues, “in 2011, million-dollar cars only represented 19 percent of the value of cars sold at auction. So while they’ve always been a disproportionately large part of the market, their overall value has grown significantly compared to the rest of it.”

Bob Golfen
Bob Golfen
Bob Golfen is a longtime automotive writer and editor, focusing on new vehicles, collector cars, car culture and the automotive lifestyle. He is the former automotive writer and editor for The Arizona Republic and SPEED.com, the website for the SPEED motorsports channel. He has written free-lance articles for a number of publications, including Autoweek, The New York Times and Barrett-Jackson auction catalogs. A collector car enthusiast with a wide range of knowledge about the old cars that we all love and desire, Bob enjoys tinkering with archaic machinery. His current obsession is a 1962 Porsche 356 Super coupe.


  1. It would be nice if Classic Cars. com would keep it’s nose out of politics. Just the mention of the name “Bernie” taints the entire conversation. And while I am at it; did anybody consider the effect of million dollar sales has on what were $10,000 cars. It seems to me that the auction companies taking cars over $1,000,000 has made $10,000 cars turn into $50,000 cars. Then look at the number of ‘average’ people with earnings up to $250,000 can afford to spend on a hobby car. What does all of this do to the ‘average’ person wanting to get into the old car hobby?

  2. A better gauge of values would be to use median price not average. Using average skews the numbers higher and distorts the picture of values.

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