For six months, despite a decidedly troubled economy and an ongoing pandemic, it was a banner for vintage car sales around the world. in the a mid-year survey through Classic.comauction bids increased from 31,098 in the first half of 2021 to 44,417 by June 25 this year.
In terms of dollar volume, $1.28 billion was spent in the first half of 2021, and in 2022 we’re at $2.16 billion so far. Many classic models – detailed in the report – have experienced double-digit increases in value, as reflected in these auction sales. The Mercedes-Benz 300SE (W126) from 1986 to 1991, for example, is the leader among 100 valuers with a 95 percent increase over the previous year. Curiously, the 1992-1993 GMC Typhoon came in second with 83 percent. The Porsche Carrera GT from the years 2004 to 2006 followed in third place with 80 percent.
Of course, total spending was somewhat skewed by the fantastic $142.28 million sale of Rudolf Uhlenhaut’s Mercedes-Benz 300SLR – one of only two built.in May. It was easily the most expensive car ever sold, surpassing a 1963 Ferrari GTO that fetched $70 million in 2018.
Other quickly appreciated cars are the base model Porsche 928 (with automatic), the BMWs 633CSi and 540i; the first generation Mini Cooper S Cabriolet and the Honda S2000 CR. The survey also tracked 78 cars that fell in value and the MG-TD (down 18 percent from last year) was the number one depreciator, followed by the Mercedes 280SL (down 16 percent) and the E39 BMW M5 (down 15 percent). ). .
The results reflect the increase in easily accessible online auctions, large amounts of disposable income, low interest rates and maybe some catching up to do from the worst of COVID years, said Juan Diego Calle, CEO of Classic.com. “We’ve seen phenomenal growth,” he said. “People who have invested in cars have done well.” The impact of online auction houses is clear, with 13,026 online listings sold in the first half of 2021 and 18,806 in 2022 so far.
Donald Osborne, CEO of Audrain Automobile Museum in Newport, Rhode Island, also sees a healthy market for collector cars, but not necessarily a steady one. “Some cars on, say, BringaTrailer.com will fetch big prizes, then similar ones will not sell at all,” he said. “Online auctions are the new classified ads. We’re definitely seeing more and more people coming to the market to buy cars. Maybe they see the turmoil in the stock market and buy cars instead.”
According to Classic.com, the average selling price for cars from the 31,091 listings sold at auction so far in 2022 was $69,318, and the sell-through rate was 70 percent. People are clearly investing in classic cars, and Calle is noting a generational shift favoring younger buyers and 1980s and 1990s cars that are more comfortable than older models and can be taken on the highway and used as daily drivers. Perhaps that’s why the first-generation Lincoln Premiere from the 1950s is down 14 percent.
But some of the underperforming cars are among the most desirable, such as the Ferrari 365 GT 2+2, the Datsun 240Z, the early Chevrolet Camaro Z/28, the Mercedes SL55 AMG, the Porsche 911 SC coupe and others of its kind. That may reflect their rapid price increases in previous years – some were in an unrealistic bubble. And, as Calle noted, when buyers can’t afford the model they really want, they look for something similar but cheaper — like the automatic Porsche 928. That, of course, increases demand, making these one-time ugly ducklings more valuable.
“Online auctions bring a great deal of transparency to the table,” Calle said. “People can discover a lot of information about cars that they couldn’t get before. And that allows us to visualize the entire market and pinpoint brands and models – are people buying the manual or the automatic, the coupe or the convertible?”
So where is the market going? Calle says he thought 2022 would see slowing momentum as much of the suppressed COVID demand had been met in 2021. Now he says that didn’t happen, even though sell-through rates have started to fall. There could be a shift as online auctions lose the huge advantage they had during the worst of the pandemic, he said. But online is clearly not going away, and local auction houses like RM Sotheby’s, Bonhams, Gooding and Mecum are investing heavily in it, he said.
Calle said a hybrid business model with online and brick-and-mortar sales is likely a winning formula for the near future. But all predictions could turn out to be wrong. “It’s impossible to talk about the classic car market in a macro sense,” Osborne said.
Where do you think the classic car market is headed? Will on-site selling ever regain the importance it had before the pandemic? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Where do you think the classic car market is headed? Do you think face-to-face auctions will regain the importance they had before the pandemic? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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