One of Bradley Farrell’s missions in launching the immodestly named Finest Automobile Auctions company was to break some traditions. One of those traditions was “grinding,” putting pressure on consignors to lower their reserve prices when bids on their vehicles were falling short of those levels on the auction block.
Instead, Farrell would extend the bidding period, by as much as 72 hours after action on the block had ended. He believed that someone who would bid only to a certain level during the public auction would be willing to increase a bid when away from the heated auction environment.
The Finest’s inaugural Aspen/Snowmass auction proved Farrell’s points, he said in reporting that the sale generated $2.8 million in revenue with a 68 percent sell-through rate, a rate boosted significantly through online, post-block activities.
One person who consigned several vehicles to the sale asked Farrell if he wanted him to lower his reserves, Farrell said.
Instead of the too usual pressure tactics, “I said it was up to him.”
Farrell also shared the story of a customized 1967 Ford Mustang 427 fastback that was bid only to $40,000 during the live auction.
“The guy was in the room and bid to 40 grand and would not come up (any higher),” Farrell reported. “I said, ‘It’s OK, you still have a chance of getting it. You can bid online’.
“And that’s what he did.
The man who wouldn’t bid more than $40,000 in public raised his offer to $60,000, which was still short of the reserve price, then went to $68,000 and finally to $70,000, which met the reserve and won him the car.
“The grinding process completely disappeared,” Farrell said of the conduct of his sale, which also gave proof to Farrell’s belief that “people will outbid themselves in the privacy of their own home on their own phone.”
Under The Finest’s format, once bidding ends at the auction, there’s a 24-hour period during which bidding continues online, then another 24-hour buy-it-now time and finally a 24-hour “make-an-offer” period when sales still can be negotiated by the auction house between the bidder and consignor.
Farrell noted that three cars sold during the 24-hour bidding extension, three more during the buy-it-now slot and three others in the make-an-offer period.
Cars that don’t sell on the block or in the three extending periods go back to their consignors.
Farrell said he was pleased with the overall results of the inaugural sale.
“Considering the inventory we selected for the sale,” he said of the $2.8 million sales figure. “A lot of it was under $100,000. We peppered in some higher-dollar cars that just didn’t sell, so I clearly showed that a brand new auction house in a brand new location shouldn’t be bringing out higher-dollar cars.”
Six of the cars bought at the live auction went to internet bidders rather than those in the auction tent.
Farrell said much of what he’s having to do as a new company with new sales in new locations and newcomers to the hobby is educational.
He said having pricing comparables from Sports Car Market “helps a new buyer make a better decision with a trusted source in the industry.” He also said he heard several people ask about whether they could get parts to maintain a classic car or inquire about who might be available to do repairs when needed.
“Once we could educate them, they were a lot more likely to bid.”
Among the new bidders, he said, was someone who had been participating in the hot-air balloon festival across the street from the auction, but wandered over and drove home in a 1975 Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow sedan.
In addition to the balloon festival, a wine festival was being held in Aspen/Snowmass, and Farrell said there’s talk of adding a concours d’elegance and a hillclimb event as soon as next year.
“We’re proving a new business model and we’re excited to move forward,” Farrell said, pointing to both his company’s next off-site sale, February 11, 2017 at Boca Raton, Florida, and the first of a series of sales based at The Finest’s new headquarters in Danbury, Connecticut, at a date yet to be announced.
Top 10 sales, The Finest auction at Aspen/Snowmass 2016
- 2009 Mercedes-Benz AMG-SL65 Black Series, $220,000
- 2000 Ferrari 550 Maranello, $170,000
- 2005 Ferrari F340 Berlinetta, $135,000
- 1957 Mercedes-Benz 190SL, $126,500
- 1969 Mercedes-Benz 280SL, $121,000
- 2004 Ferrari 360 Modena, $115,000
- 1957 Mercedes-Benz 190SL, $115,000
- 1988 Ferrari Testarossa, $115,000
- 1943 Volkswagen Type 166 Shwimmwagen, $116,500
- 2008 Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder, $110,000
(Prices include buyer’s premium.)