Why do you want to sell your car at one of the Monterey auctions? Rick Cole, who organized the very first Monterey auction, points out that these auctions are probably not a good venue for the average collector. There are some large expenses involved with the Monterey auctions. Room prices during this week are at their maximum level. A typical room costs roughly four times more than normal and most hotels require a four-night minimum.
There are no inexpensive restaurants in the vicinity of the auction action, so plan to spend heartily on food. If you intend to take in an attraction or two in the off-auction hours, such as a visit to the Quail before your auction and maybe Pebble Beach after you’ve sold your car, plan on spending another $1500.
None of these expenses will bother someone offering a Ferrari 275GTB, but if you’re selling your prized 1969 Camaro Z28 most of the profit might have just flown out the window. You might very well walk away with more cash by using a different venue.
Selecting an Auction House
You might even have trouble finding an auction house that will accept your car at the Monterey auctions. RM Auctions, Gooding, and Bonhams reject two out of three candidates. The reality is that these high-end houses choose you. You don’t choose them.
There are two distinctly different tiers on the Monterey peninsula. The top tier consists of Bonhams, Gooding, and RM Auctions. These companies produce beautiful catalogues and sell a limited number of very expensive cars. These top tier auction houses have to maximize the amount of money that each car can bring. They really don’t want your Porsche 911T. They make more money on one Ferrari than they can with a half dozen 1984 Porsches.
Take a look at the past sales on the various web sites and see if your car fits. Is your car suitable for one of the high-end auctions? Or would it be better for you to consign your car to one of the high volume auctions houses such as Mecum?
The Value of Your Car
The auction house wants to get the highest possible price for your car. This is especially true of the top tier houses. The lower tier houses make money by running a lot of cars across the block. If you’ve been to both Barrett-Jackson and a Gooding auction you have seen this. Mecum and Barrett-Jackson deal in volume. Gooding, Bonhams, and RM Auctions offer a limited number of very expensive cars.
There’s nothing to be gained by waiting to consign your car. You could very well lose. Auction houses don’t want to offer competing cars. A lot full of Mercedes 190SLs will just compete against themselves and lower the values of all the 190SLs being offered. An auction house may offer one or two that are very different in terms of colors or condition but too many of the same car presents them a real problem.
Waiting to consign your car might very well mean you’ll have to sit out the sale since other owners have consigned earlier and the auction company doesn’t want to compete with cars that they’ve already accepted. Begin the process very early.
Preparing Your Car
Is your car properly titled? Every auction house encounters a car they have to turn down at the last minute because the title is not in order. Auction houses act as car dealers and dealers are legally obliged to pass along a clear title to their buyers. A 25-year old scrap of paper with a signature from the Clinton administration, and no reassignment, is not a clear title.
Racecars are a special category all together. They normally don’t have titles. Do you have anything that demonstrates proof of ownership? Will what you have be sufficient to transfer the ownership legally? Find out all of this well before the week of the auction. This is just one more reason to start the selling process early.
Next you must have all of your historical documentation in order. You need to make copies and transmit all of this documentation to the auction house. Let the auction house make the decision as to what they will use. You job is to assemble all the material. You need to do this well before the auction and long before the catalogue copy is written. Once the catalogue goes to press it’s too late to add material.
The actual prep work on the car should begin before the photographer shows up to take the catalogue pictures. The photographer does not want to wait around while you apply a final coat of wax to your car. Get it done before the photographer arrives.
You’ll want to make contact with the photographer before the shoot takes place. Find out what the photographer wants from you. A happy photographer will take better pictures. Maybe you even should invite a friend over for the shoot. An extra set of hands is generally a positive thing. Positive as long as you and your friend don’t make suggestions to the photographer.
At the Auction
Make sure that you have a ¼ tank of gas in the car and a fully charged battery. If you have any questions at all about the battery just buy a new one. You don’t want the battery to die before it’s driven across the block. Also, if your car has some unique starting procedures you might attach a note to the steering wheel.
Have your car professionally detailed just before the auction. I know that you had all of this done before you loaded the car on the truck. Now it has to be done again the day of the auction. If you want to detail your own car do it prior to the preview. Nothing looks worse than someone cleaning their own car during the preview.
RM Auctions and the other top tier auction houses have detailers on staff working to keep the cars pristine during the preview. These detailers generally arrive two days before the auction and work throughout the preview and sale. Each car gets a final touch up just before it crosses the block. You needn’t hire detailers to do that during the auction.
Don’t Babysit the Car
The kiss of death is an owner who stands by his or her car for the entire preview and auction talking to everyone who comes within a ten-foot radius. Buyers want to buy your car; they don’t want you to come with it. A lot of us have formed relationships with our cars. It’s almost like selling your puppy. You naturally want to let everyone know what a great puppy (car) it is.
You’ve consigned your collector car to the auction company. Let them do what they do best. They’re the professionals here. It is the same as when you’re selling your home and the agent throws you out on the day of the open house. The auction company prefers you leave the selling to them. They sell thousands of cars every year. They know how to do it. Seriously.
All photos courtesy RM-Sotheby’s Auctions © 2015 All rights reserved.
The Companies and Dates
Bonhams & Butterfields – August 15, 2015
Quail Lodge, 8205 Valley Greens Drive, Carmel, CA
Gooding and Company – August 15 & 16, 2015
Pebble Beach Equestrian Center, Stevenson Drive and Portola Road, Pebble Beach, CA
Mecum Muscle Cars – August 14 to 16, 2015
Hyatt Regency Monterey, 1 Old Golf Course Road, Monterey, CA 93940-4908
Rick Cole Auction – August 15 to 17, 2015
Monterey Marriott, 350 Calle Principal, Monterey, Ca 93940
RM Auctions – August 15 to 16
Portola Hotel & Spa, 2 Portola Plaza, CA 93940
Russo and Steele – August 14 to 16, 2015
Old Fisherman’s Warf, Monterey CA 93940
(The seventh large auction company, Barrett-Jackson, does not conduct a sale in Monterey.)