Auction Commentary by Kevin Watts


Well, another auction season in Monterey has come to a close and I’m sorry to say I had to watch it from afar this year. Only being able to see and hear the results and the condition of the cars might just give a different perspective than years past; you be the judge? We will look at and judge the performance of the big auction houses, RM/Sotheby’s, Gooding’s, Bonham’s and we will even throw Mecum in for some levity. We can crunch the published numbers. We can give an opinion on the condition of the cars.


Overall the results were down to $317,500,000 from a high of $400,000,000 in 2014. I view the decline as two-fold: The great cars have great homes and the vast majority of the rest were simply average. Even the new guys to the hobby are paying someone to look over their shoulders and make sure they are getting what is being represented to them. The sellers’ view of the condition of their car and reality don’t always match up. Poof! Another no-sale! 


RM Sotheby’s had one hell of a sale! They sold 86% of the lots offered and brought in $133,000,000 in sales, collecting 10% from the buyer and seller. That’s the easy way to make $26,000,000 in a weekend!


Gooding had to change things up this year. The Sunday auction is no longer! David & Co. started with a new Friday sale and they went head-to-head with RM. They they started a little earlier Saturday to avoid any serious conflicts because there simply aren’t that many buyers for cars at more than $2,000,000-$3,000,000 a copy. Gooding’s numbers were down compared to the record setting 2016 sale but still nothing to scoff at with $91,000,000 sold with a strong sale rate as well.


Bonham’s was this year’s surprise really picking up their game with some really Big/Important cars and a total of $56,500,000 million in sales and an 80% sell through rate.


Mecum is the interesting one! If I were buying a $4,000,000 car I would have to ask myself if the Iowa State fair is where I’d want to buy it! It’s hard for me to get past the tractor auctioneer and I can make neither hide nor hair out of their auction. I can’t decide if it’s made-for-TV drama or an old-time tent sale. They had some bigger newer super cars and sold a few. Their sell-rate was in the upper 50% range. But, they had more cars than the other three houses combined! Fools and their money are soon parted, as the old saying goes.  A bunch of the cars should have sold except for the stupid reserves that were three years out of date. Oh well, they will pack it up and be in Dallas in early September or Louisville later in the month or Chicago or….


Overall, the car prices seemed to be in line with the condition of the cars. The buyers have figured out how much time and money it takes to properly restore a car and so they are willing to pay for it if they don’t have to wait. Largely original, unrestored, fully documented cars are killing it, and they should because they just don’t seem to exist. The good-looking average cars that have no pedigree and no paperwork are still falling like a rock; look out below!

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