Mixed Bag at Scottsdale Auctions

BJ DuesyOne-fifty large for a numbers-matching ’70 Hemi ‘Cuda, $300K for a ’69 Mustang Boss 429, $1M for a 1933 Duesenberg dual cowl phaeton.

No, these aren’t pre-9/11 values, they are the latest sales results from the January 2008 Barrett Jackson auction in Scottsdale, AZ.

Just last year the subject Cuda would have easily topped $300K, more the prior year as Mopars take a beating in the market and where economic malaise on a grand scale is forcing buyers to rethink discretionary purchases.

The spectacular Duesenberg suffered from pre-Scottsdale overexposure (Auburn, Hershey, eBay). Its current Le Grande body was put on the chassis by sixties Duesenberg collector Russell Strauch and is well-known in club circles. The one lone “bidder” caught on Speed Channel looked more like dupe plucked form the crowd than a guy seriously intent about forking over seven figures on heavy metal. Rumor has it that the consignor bought it back to the tune of a whopping $150K “transaction fee.” Can anyone confirm?

Now to the real meat and potatoes. Check out the table below and note which auction company during the Scottsdale circus raked in the most doe: Barrett-Jackson, RM Auctions, Russo & Steele, Gooding. Now, these are gross revenue figures so there’s no accounting for costs, and I used a somewhat grounded 12-lots per hour sale rate. Each auction firm makes commissions on both buy and sell sides and rely almost exclusively on consignments. So costs are pretty much limited to event infrastructure, promotion, overhead. With that, I’d rather be under the Gooding or RM tent knowing that I’m doing more with less. Or more simply put: Close to $4M per hour with newcomer Gooding versus about $890K per hour for veteran Barrett-Jackson. And the skeptic in me says there’s no way B-J hit a 100% sell thru (see comment above).

Key Stat’s 2008 Scottsdale Auctions

B-J

RM

Gooding

Russo & Steele

Lots Offered

1,135

95

71

490

Lots Sold

1,135

88

64

298

% Sold

100.0%

92.6%

90.1%

60.8%

Sales Total

84,475,000

26,700,000

21,030,000

19,150,000

Average Sold Lot

$74,427

$303,409

$328,594

$64,262

Lots per Hour

12

12

12

12

Average Sales per Hour

$893,128

$3,640,909

$3,943,125

$771,141

Source: Auction Companies

Then we suffered through Speed Channel’s anemic coverage of B-J. Car & Driver’s Matt Stone offered the only sage comments during what seemed like endless hours of verbal diarrhea. No market insights or discussion of pricing levels. Was Speed told to confine their coverage to “Wow I’d sure like that one in my garage,” and not address why we love auctions? It’s about the money, stupid.

Craig Jackson was asked on camera about his firm’s noble efforts with charities including a number of related consignments at this year’s sale. His response: A diatribe about the so-called health of the collector car market. So, lemme get this straight. We’ve got sub prime mortgages that have crippled some of Wall Street’s biggest players, declining property values that have bankrupted builders and homeowners, a stock market meltdown that has erased about 20% of investors’ portfolio values in just two short weeks in January, fuel prices are at record levels, increasing unemployment coupled with declining consumer confidence that don’t exactly make you wanna buy that big screen TV. And, oh I forgot, it’s an election year.

The collector car market is long overdue for a correction. Subject vehicles are discretionary purchases. When values double or even triple in less years than you can count on one hand, a reality check is in order. Even The Wall Street Journal in a recent editorial suggested exotic car dealers (Aston, Ferrari, Bentley) better tighten their belts.

B-J moved with the times to shift its inventory focus from the heavy classics to more contemporary vehicles in an effort to capitalize on Boomer fantasy buys. And did they ever. But they ignored a principle tenant of collecting: intrinsic value. When a Hemi Cuda convertible fetches more than a Alfa 1750 Zagato, something is outta whack. Maybe boutique firms such as Gooding and RM will seize the day, and like the publications I write about here at CPI, capitalize on inventory with real traction.

Now, wouldn’t it be swell if automotive publications added more traction to their pages and report on what actually occurs at auctions? It’s called investigative journalism. And that’s where magazines are uniquely positioned to compete.

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There Are 2 Responses So Far. »

  1. that duesenberg did not sell.

  2. Like most business run by windbags with big egos, BJ is about to get a dose of reality. more power to russo and steele and others.

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