What can $327million Monterey tell us about the classic market?

Better than expected. That pretty much sums up the 2017 Monterey auctions. With the media on a desperate hunt for a decent headline in the run up to the auctions, hopes and expectations of strong results were probably best described as “not aligned” amongst those in the collector car world.

In fact, to put the sales in context against a background of global political and economic uncertainty, we could probably find three more words to describe them – pretty darn good.

The results:

Overall from all auction companies

Cumulative Total: $327.3M

745/1,277 lots sold: 58% sell-through rate

Average Sale Price: $439,361

Prior year (2016) Results

Cumulative Total: $338.2M

723/1,260 lots sold: 57% sell-through rate

Average Sale Price: $467,698

Overall Top 10 Sales from all auctions:

1. 1956 Aston Martin DBR1 Roadster sold for $22,550,000 (RM Sotheby's)

2. 1995 McLaren F1 Coupe sold for $15,620,000 (Bonhams)

3. 1966 Ferrari 275 GTB/C Coupe sold for $14,520,000 (Gooding & Company)

4. 1970 Porsche 917K Race Car sold for $14,080,000 (Gooding & Company)

5. 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB Coupe sold for $8,305,000 (RM Sotheby's)

6. 1963 Jaguar E-Type Lightweight Roadster sold for $8,000,000 (Bonhams)

7. 1959 Aston Martin DB4GT Prototype Coupe sold for $6,765,000 (RM Sotheby's)

8. 1955 Ferrari 121 LM Spider sold for $5,720,000 (RM Sotheby's)

9. 1959 Ferrari 410 Superamerica Series III Coupe sold for $5,335,000 (RM Sotheby's)

10. 1959 Ferrari 250 GT SI Cabriolet (open headlight) sold for $4,840,000 (Gooding & Company)

Source: Hagerty International

Not much change then from 2016 but some way off the record breaking 2014 season where the total value of cars sold was $428.1 million, selling for an average of nearly $560,000. The current market favours affordable classics over the top tier of collectables (over £250,000) but in a reversal of that trend, it was the cars over $250,000 that performed the best in terms of sell through rate. This should hearten owners of those cars, provided they have bought well. The number of cars sold under the lower estimate by The Big Three (Bonhams, Gooding & Co and RM Sothebys) was down and the number of cars sold within the estimate was up which would indicate that estimates were considered more sensible by buyers and sellers alike.

British sports racers took four of the top ten slots. Bonham’s Lightweight E-type sold after the auction for a record £6.2 million, and it seems that the future looks rosy for E-Types in general. Who would have guessed (the auction house aside) that RM Sothebys’ Aston Martin DB4 GT Prototype would have sold for double the price of a standard DB4 GT at £5.2 million – not I. Bonhams’ McLaren F1 sold for just under £12.2 million - this might just look like a bargain in a few years time. If not its spiritual successor, the F1 is surely the car most likely to succeed the Ferrari 250 GTO as the car world’s Most Valuable Player (MVP).

While we are on the subject of race cars, a Porsche 917K in Gulf Livery sold for £11 million. Used in Steve McQueen’s movie Le Mans but not actually driven by McQueen himself, the car was also lacking in any race history but still managed to achieve an amazing result. Where else could you find an iconic race car that hasn’t been bent, though? The Aston Martin AMR1 Group C car that had failed to find a buyer in the UK sold within estimate for a sturdy £480,000 and a 2006 DBR9 sailed past its realistic estimate of £210-250,000 to realise an amazing £480,000 with premium. A good week for Aston Martin.

Modern collectables fared well, with cars from the 80’s and 90’s outperforming their elders in terms of sales price vs market value. Hagerty’s troops on the ground reported a 10% increase in cars that their team had appraised as in “Excellent” condition. Prices for the Holy Trinity of today’s hypercars (LaFerrari, McLaren P1 and Porsche 918) were in line with the current (settling) market values, Bonhams’ Enzo made £1.6 million and Ferrari F40s performed well with two examples breaching the £1.1 million barrier.

The auctioneers in Monterey have delivered once again. Maybe it’s the market, maybe it’s the venue but most likely it’s the combination of interesting catalogues, sensible estimates, quality cars and the abundance of the global super-rich. My thoughts go out to the editors who are cursing as they have to mothball their “Market crashes at Monterey” headlines for yet another year – although some of them have chosen to run with them anyway….

Let’s see what the UK Super September auctions bring.

Words by Edward Legge

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