There are slightly more than 2,000 cars on the docket for Dana Mecum’s 31st annual Original Spring Classic, the collector auction taking place this week at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. Of those 2,000 or so cars, nearly 25 percent — 449 of them if I counted correctly — are going to auction from 30 private collections.
Some might think Mecum Auctions is putting too many of its eggs in one basket. The auction company anxiously disagrees.
“We think it’s healthy. We think its relevant,” said auction spokesman John Kraman, a long-time part of the Mecum consignment team and currently part of the NBCSN team that televises the auctions. He’s also Mecum’s director of company relations and its spokesman at public events.
Kraman acknowledged that there’s a perception that collections go to auction only when the collector is aged, or in the case of an estate sale. But that’s not the case in many, if not most cases, he said.
“It’s not just old guys selling their cars,” he said.
In many cases, the collectors have enjoyed building their collections, and it’s the chase rather than the possession that provides much of the thrill. After building a collection, the owner may have come to recognize that the time may be ripe to sell. Or perhaps they’ve simply run out of storage room and have no intention to stop buying, so they have to sell some to create room for others. Once the collection has sold, those sellers plan to immediately start over again on a fresh collection.
The right time and the right place.”
Kraman acknowledged that 25 percent of the auction docket coming from such a large group of collections may be a record, and he added that the Mecum staff will be watching carefully to see how the bidding unfolds. But, he added, “We think this trend is going to continue.”
For one thing, he said, new buyers like cars coming out of collections because they understand that those vehicles likely have been carefully chosen, properly restored or maintained, well cared for, and perhaps even “loved.”
Of late, Mecum Auctions has emerged as an increasingly popular place for collectors to part with their collections.
Kraman said the company doesn’t chase after such consignments but responds eagerly when it receives inquiries from collectors or their heirs.
“When that happens, we can put together a package,” he said.
That package is designed to make things quick and easy for the consignor, with a promise that the vehicles will be properly marketed, a program that includes the production of special printed catalogs with professional photography and text detailing each of the vehicles in a particular collection.
The results of that marketing effort, which includes prominent placement that showcases each collection at the auction venue, can mean more interest in the cars and higher bids.
Keith Busse, an Indiana businessman, consigned his collection of Corvette Indy 500 pace cars to Mecum’s Original Spring sale, and has earmarked the money they bring for charity work. He said he likes the care Mecum takes with all consignments and the way it treats clients, and noted that should “any problem arise, Dana treats the client well.”
He said he decided to sell the one-of-a-kind collection because the building in which he stores his cars is full, and he’s not ready to stop collecting, so something had to go. He finally decided it was time to part with his Corvette Indy pace car collection, and that Mecum’s sale at the Indiana State Fairgrounds presented “the right time and the right place.”
Another collector offering up a group of cars is former baseball star and long-time car guy Reggie Jackson. He said he’s selling because he’s 71 years old.
“It’s time for me.,” Jackson said. “I walked into the garage and realized I have too many cars. It’s time to pare down and let some of them go.”
He said he chose the Mecum auction in Indy because of “Frank and his dad” (Frank is one of the Mecum sons involved in the aucton company) and said he opted for the Indy sale rather than the one in August not far from his northern California garage because he’s selling muscle cars, not antiques or exotics.
“Mecum is more into the muscle cars,” Jackson said, adding that selling such cars in the Midwest makes sense. He also said he likes the way Mecum”presents my cars.”
The 30 collections being offered at Indianapolis range from a two-car collection owned by former NFL player Adam Vinatieri to 50 cars from the Maryland Collection. In between are collections owned by the likes of baseball Hall of Fame player Reggie Jackson to those with such interesting titles as Cornhusker, Best of Show, Surf City Garage, 17th Street Garage, J Street, Serial #35, Charlie’s Travels, New England, and two Jim Street Collections — one including such cars as The Golden Sahara II and Kookie’s Kar, the other a collection of several hundred outboard boat motors.