Monterey, CA — Two record sales dominated the 2018 Monterey auction week, pushing preliminary sales totals to $368 million — a 12% increase over last year’s $327.6 million.
The highest auction price to date for an automobile went to the 1962 Ferrari 250 GTOthat sold for $48.4 million at RM Sotheby’s, and the most expensive American car to be sold at auction was Hollywood icon Gary Cooper’s 1935 Duesenberg SSJ Roadsterthat sold for $22 million, at Gooding & Co. Third on the podium was the weapons-grade 1963 Aston Martin DP215 Competition Prototype that sold for $21.455 million via RM Sotheby’s.
Rounding out the top five sales were the 1966 (3rd at Le Mans) Ford GT40 MkII (RM/Sotheby’s) at $9.795 million and the dual-purpose 1958 Ferrari 250 GT TdF coupe at $6.6 million (Gooding). Vintage competition cars ruled the top rankings at most of the auction houses, a trend throughout the week. Notable examples included Gooding’s 1955 Ferrari 500 Mondial SII Spider ($5.005 million) and 1931 Bugatti Type 51 Grand Prix racer ($3.74 million); RM/Sotheby’s 1957 Porsche 550A Spyder ($4.9 million); Bonhams’ top car, a 1948 Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 Competizione Coupe ($3.525 million); Mecum’s Daytona 24-winning 1989 Porsche 962 ($2.2 million) and Worldwide’s 1962 Shelby Cobra 260 roadster ($990,000).
Big numbers were also fetched for less-than-vintage race cars and supercars, which can rule the roost at a track day or add bragging rights to any collection. Among these were RM/Sotheby’s 1998 Mercedes-Benz CLK GTR sold at $4.515 million, Gooding’s 2007 Porsche RS Spyder race car at $4.51 million and Mecum’s 2014 LaFerrari coupe at $3.19 million.
Sub-$1 million competition cars were also moving at strong prices, including RM’s 1965 Shelby GT350R at $720,000, Gooding’s 1995 Porsche 993 GT2 at $616,000, and Bonhams sold a 1986 Porsche 944 Playboy Cup car prepped by Brumos for $64,960.
Across three days and six auction houses, 1,376 vehicles sold with a median price of $95,200 (up $5,000 from last year) and with a sell-through rate of 61% (versus 59% in 2017). While the total sales number is a significant improvement from last year, it falls short of the 2014 high-water mark of $428 million.
The increase in seven- and eight-figure cars on offer this year boosted total sales, and while the sell-through rate for eight-figure cars was at 80%, seven-figure cars slipped significantly to 58% (versus 70% last year).
Heavyweight bidders rose to the challenge posed by so many A-list cars in Monterey this year, but the rest of the buyers weren’t so bullish. Bids were firm with 46% of cars inspected bidding above market value per their condition, but more expensive cars performed better than less expensive examples. Entry-level collector cars (<$25K) only saw 20% of cars bid above market value; mid-market cars ($25K-$250K) had 47% of lots bid above market value; and the top of the market ($250K+) had 54% of cars bid above market value.
One thing very apparent was buyers’ appreciation of low-mile cars, and this wasn’t focused on a particular decade or type of car. Russo and Steele’s top seller was a 2017 Ford GT, the first unencumbered model (via John Cena’s favorable court ruling) to be sold, at a whopping $1.54 million, more than $1 million over the sticker price. A 19,000-mile 1978 Mercedes-Benz 450SEL 6.9 sedan at Gooding ($156,750); a 4,231-mile 1995 Porsche 928 GTS with an automatic from RM Sotheby’s ($140,000); and a 19,995-mile 1977 Honda Civic CVCC from Mecum ($22,000) all soared past market values, demonstrating the allure of documented originality.
While the top of the Ferrari market appears to be firing on 12 cylinders, aside from the 250 GTO and the Admiral’s 500 Mondial, the market for those worth $1 million-plus suffered this year. Despite six fewer being offered in 2018 compared to 2017, the sell-through rate fell from 68% to 54%. The average price crept up with the GTO sale, but it declined more than $1 million — to $1.3 million — when the GTO is excluded.
Pre-War greats were more numerous this year with 114 offered, up from 90 last year. Sell-through rate did drop from 76% to 61%, but the average price almost doubled to $899,000. Total sales also jumped to $62.9 million. While both improvements were affected by the $22 million result for the Duesenberg SSJ, the median price fell just $1,000 to $101,000. Other major Pre-War sales included a 1931 Bugatti Type 51 Grand Prix race car sold for $3.74 million at Gooding and a 1933 Duesenberg Model J Bohman and Schwartz Convertible at Mecum that went for $3.85 million, both selling above high estimate.
From the more than 1,300 vehicles offered this year, at least 200 had been sold at an auction at least once before. Repeat sales in Monterey this year had an average annual return of 14%, across an average holding period of 5.1 years. Some standouts for recent gains include a 1972 Ferrari 246 Dino GT that sold in 2012 for $214,500 and went this year for $373,500 and an ex-Steve McQueen 1950 Hudson Custom Commodore Six Convertible that sold in 2015 for $71,500 and sold again this year for $98,000, both times at Bonhams.
The week showed continued strength in the classic Porsche 911 market with few deals to be had, and the Ferrari Dinos showed strength. On the other end of the spectrum, it appears the Ferrari 308/328 craze has slowed, with a number of nice cars selling at multiple auctions in the $50,000 range. The Jaguar late Series 1 E-Type market also seemed a tad weak with nice cars moving at just over $100,000.
Does the significant increase in total sales from last year mean a change is underway? At the moment, the market favors the best cars, but there are signs of weakness just below the summit. The abundance of Pre-War cars risked overwhelming the market, but collectors generally responded to the selection and added vehicles from that era. Entry-level cars remain the most active segment of the overall market which Hagerty predicts will continue to improve — Monterey isn’t reflective of that market segment.
–Our appreciation and thanks to Jonathan Klinger at Hagerty Insurance for providing this insightful commentary and preliminary auction results. Additional commentary provided by analyst Andy Reid.