While the effects of the global pandemic continue to have an impact on the collector car marketplace, the authors of the 26th annual edition of the Classic Car Auction Yearbook report some positive news from the 2020-21 sales season.
For example, after two years of sub-billion-dollar global sales at the leading auctions, sales re-emerged to $1.037 billion between September 1, 2020, and August 31, 2021.
Do the math and discover the one-season increase vs. the previous year was a whopping 65.8 percent!
Another example, online auction sales tripled, from producing only 4 percent of the market action to 13 percent.
Some also will be happy to read that no-reserve consignments represented nearly 30 percent of the market, and nearly half of all cars offered during Monterey Car Week.
“We were not optimistic about the capability of online auctions to capture the interests of collectors,” the authors admit. “Looking at the numbers, our expectations were partially wrong, it is an interesting way to present the so called “young timers” to a modern audience, but the big cars are still offered either privately or at traditional live auctions…”
By the way, the authors also note that sales of what they also call “contemporary” cars, those produced this century, were off slightly in the 2020-2021 period, accounting for only 12.5 percent of sales.
The authors aren’t the only people sharing their marketplace analyses. The heads of Artcurial, Bonhams, Gooding & Company, Mecum and RM Sotheby’s also were invited to look back at the previous 12-month period.
“Many of those involved in the market have had to adapt or transform their way of working by throwing themselves at the mercy of the internet,” writes Artcurial’s Matthieu Lamoure. “Online auctions have bloomed like sunflowers in the sun!”
But, he adds, he much prefers in-person events with the human rather than keyboard touch because, he adds, because he and passionate not only about cars but about car people.
Speaking of people, Lamoure notes that during a break in the Artcurial calendar, he loaded his children into a 1973 Pontiac Grand Safari station wagon for a road trip he trusts they will remember for the rest of their lives.
Bonhams’ Philip Kantor notes that online auctions may be best suited for selling what he terms “more commonly offered cars.” He also notes the frequency of no-reserve consignments “guaranteeing a sale and leaving it up to the market to decide the price on the day.”
Mining the marketplace data, the authors point out that of the highest-dollar auction purchases in 2020-2021, only 1 of the top-5 and 3 of the top-10 were Ferraris. Also down during the period were Porsches, the highest-selling Porsche only 37th on the top-100 list.
If Ferrari and Porsche were down, what was up? Duesenberg had the highest per-car sales average, and Ettore-era Bugattis and McLarens also accelerated in value.
The pandemic’s impact on the collector car marketplace wasn’t the only event covered by the 2020-2021 edition of the Yearbook. For the first time in its 26 years of publication, there was a person rather than a car on the cover, which shows the late Robert Brooks, gavel in hand on the auction block.
Brooks was 64, and had been battling cancer. After racing Formula Fords as a teenager, he followed his auctioneer father into work at Christie’s, and by age 30 was on the board of directors. Three years later, he launched his own collector car auction house, Brooks, which would come to include Phillips and Butterfields before being rebranded as Bonhams.
Brooks later became an important player in vintage racing.
So where does all of this leave the collector car marketplace? Or, as the authors put it, “Is the glass half-full or half empty?”
Their non-statistical analysis, pending the pandemic and its surges, is that we should know “in the months to come.”
Classic Car Auction Yearbook 2020-2021
By Adolfo Orsi and Raffaele Gazzi
Historica Selecta, 2021
Hardcover, 400 pages