What Does The Collector Car Market Look Like After Amelia Island?
Photography by Nate Stevens
It feels like only a few short weeks ago we were lamenting the somewhat stagnant auction results from Scottsdale, and looking ahead to Amelia Island to see if what transpired was just a blip in the market, or perhaps the beginning of a downward trend.
Reviewing the numbers from the auction houses in attendance at Amelia Island, however—Gooding & Company, RM Sotheby’s, Bonhams, and upstart Hollywood Wheels—we can definitely say the crystal ball is perhaps a little clearer.
First, the good news: quality continues to sell. Wares from marques like Ferrari, Porsche, Bugatti, Mercedes-Benz, and the like continue to be in demand, but perhaps one didn’t need a crystal ball to predict that.
A 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spyder, as featured in the movie Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow with Sophia Loren, sold for the princely sum of $17,160,000, setting both the record for both the Gooding & Company auction house and the Amelia Island auctions overall. Bonham’s star car, a 1937 Bugatti Type 57 SC Sports Tourer, traded hands for $9,735,000, and set the Amelia Island record for a single day until that pesky Ferrari California at Gooding’s crossed the block less than 24 hours later and obliterated the record. RM Sotheby’s had some more quiet success with Ferrari, with a 1962 Ferrari 400 Superamerica LWB Coupe Aerodinamico crossing the block at $4,400,000. In much the same vein, the Seinfeld Collection garnered significant interest against high expectations, with all but one of the comedian’s cars sold, and realizing just over $22 million dollars for the funnyman and Gooding (once again).
Looking at the bigger picture versus just a few particular sales, the outlook was a bit more upbeat and rosy—especially so after Scottsdale. With its second sale at Amelia Island, Bonhams reported earnings of $27.5 million on 80 cars at the 2016 edition of Amelia, compared to $14 million last year. The sell-through rate slumped somewhat to 65% compared to almost 80% one year ago.
Gooding & Company earned just over $60 million from 79 cars offered compared to $27 million last year, with a sell-through of 87%. However, RM Sotheby’s—while setting an auction record with that Ferrari Aerodinamico—experienced a bit of a pullback overall from the highs of 2015. Its total was $38.6 million against a high 89% sell-through rate, strong results by any measure except its $60 million performance last year. Hollywood Wheels, a newcomer to the collector car auction scene, offered up an all-Porsche auction, taking in $1.8 million from a 42% sell-through rate.
The Overall Top 10 List, prices inclusive of commission
- 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider—$17,160,000—Gooding & Company
- 1937 Bugatti Type 57 SC Sports Tourer—$9,735,000—Bonhams
- 1955 Porsche 550 Spyder—$5,335,000—Gooding & Company
- 1962 Ferrari 400 Superamerica LWB Coupe Aerodinamico—$4,400,000—RM Sotheby’s
- 1959 Porsche 718 RSK—$3,300,000—Gooding & Company
- 1966 Ford GT40 Mk1—$3,300,000—Gooding & Company
- 1973 Porsche 917/30 Can-Am Spyder—$3,000,000—Gooding & Company
- 1937 Mercedes Benz 540 K Cabriolet A—$2,970,000—Bonhams
- 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4—$2,750,000—Bonhams
- 1931 Duesenberg Model J Disappearing-Top Convertible Coupe—$2,640,000—Gooding & Company
Overall sales were almost $134 million, up from $115 million last year, with a corresponding bump in average sale price at $437,834 per lot, compared to $324,466 the year prior. While there may be a few post-sale transactions that smudge final numbers a bit, looking at the auction catalogues, and seeing what did and did not sell, we can perhaps say that perhaps a resurgence and renewed confidence brought back pocketbooks that were a bit more willing to open wide at Amelia Island, at least for top-tier cars that sold well.
As has been the trend for a few years, pre-war and early post-war American cars didn’t do quite so well, with a continuing diminishing audience and market for them. Another segment that saw some pullback was the modern classics from the ’80s and ’90s, but a correction was perhaps overdue due to the run-up in prices over the past few years. It may well be temporary.
At Amelia Island it seems, we aren’t seeing any signs of an imminent crash, but perhaps a continuing correction on a few different types of cars. C’est la vie, but overall, the market seems to be healthy.
Our best advice though, if you’re thinking of dipping a toe or two into the market? Buy cars you love, because like the old saying goes, “Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”