Tuesday, February 24, 2009

State of the state of the collectible car market

I'm not a real car buff (wouldn't even be able to change the oil in my car), but I do have this fantasy about owning a classic American muscle car. So, I followed with some interest the Arizona auto auctions that recently took place, and found they were far from disasters.

What are the Arizona auto auctions?

First, a little background. Barrett-Jackson, Russo and Steele, Gooding & Co. and RM are four automobile auction houses that each run their own auction in January in the Phoenix/Scotsdale area. Barrett-Jackson's auction seems to be the biggest in terms of dollar sales made. Their auction is also the only one not to set reserve prices. Russo and Steele was founded by a former Barrett-Jackson employee. Gooding is relatively new to the Arizona auctions, but was the only one of the four to have a sales increase this year. RM is the leader at the high end of the market. The auctions attract an over 55 moneyed crowd.

This year's auctions results

From the Barron's article:

At the auctions, the top prices generally were fetched by prewar U.S. and European classics; the bottom, by 1960s American muscle cars without adequate provenance. Entry-level cars priced at less than $100,000 -- veteran collectors call them "drivers" -- did well, especially with first-time buyers. Among sports cars, vintage Ferraris did fine. Newer ones didn't.

Overall, prices are below the high-water marks of the past two years. But the bulls contend the 20%-to-30% drops simply reflect the cooling-off of an overheated market, rather than a long-term slump like those that have devastated stocks and home prices.
I like to see that the muscle cars I want to buy are coming down in price. Good for me, but bad for the sellers

The Times take on things:
Given the economic circumstances, there was great interest in cars priced under $100,000 that would also serve as summer weekend drivers. Cars that are easy to find parts for, and eligible for events like vintage rallies and tours, did well.
Do you remember hearing about GM selling some of its historic car collection to raise capital? Well, they used these Arizona auctions too, although the articles imply the reasons for the sale were not for GM to raise capital.

One of the notable aspects of the Barrett-Jackson sale was the sale of 214 cars from the General Motors Heritage Collection. Most were prototypes or concept cars and included the striking 1996 Buick Blackhawk. Built to celebrate Buick’s 100th anniversary in 2003, it recalled the granddaddy of all design studies, the striking 1938 Buick Y-Job; the Blackhawk sold for $522,500.

Nearly all the cars in the G.M. offering were sold on either a bill of sale or a scrap title, according to Barrett-Jackson. The former, Mr. Jackson said, can never be legally registered for road use. Fortunately, the Blackhawk was sold on a scrap title so it can be registered and driven on public roads. It would be a shame for it to spend its life behind a velvet rope.

(This bill of sale vs. scrap title bears further research. I spent a few minutes on Google to little avail. Comments on what this are welcome.)

The car auction houses

NameURLOther Auctions
Barrett-Jacksonwww.barrett-jackson.comFlorida in April and Las Vegas in October
Russo and Steelewww.russoandsteele.comFlorida and California
Gooding & Cowww.goodingco.comCalifornia in August
RMwww.rmauctions.comNumerous. Check out www.rmauctions.com/Directions.cfm for more details.