Bookshelf: Yearbook reports on collector car market’s vitals

Auction yearbook: An annual report on marketplace health |Historica Selecta images
The annual report on marketplace health |Historica Selecta images

‘The health of the market should not be judged on values alone,” writes Peter Wallman, managing director of RM Sotheby’s Europe. Instead, he suggests, consider such things as “the aspiration to own collector cars.”

“Whether this is via the multitude of specialist rallies, Concours d’Elegance, historic race meetings, or even local Cars & Coffee events, the burgeoning lists of entrants and spectators at such events really should be factored in when analyzing the health of our industry, and by all accounts, it appears the appetite to enter into classic car ownership is very healthy.”

Wallman’s analysis is presented in the latest and 21st edition of the Classic Car Auction Yearbook, which covers auction sales between September 1, 2015 and August 31, 2016.

During that period, the market was flat at best, or declining by six points if you only consider overall sell-through rates. But Wallman suggested such a market correction was overdue after years of rocketing growth.

“There is no reason for alarm.”

Each year, authors Adolfo Orsi and Raffaele Gazzi publish their massive and fascinatingly detailed book full of auction results and charts and graphs, and with context provided by such folks as Wallman. Or Philip Kantor, head of Bonhams Motor Cars Europe, who not only sees the marketplace behaving more rationally, but now involving three groups of potential buyers.

There is the traditional enthusiast, he suggested, as well as the investor looking for a profitable flip, but also what he calls “the social animal.” This breed, he writes, buys a collector car because it “will open the doors to rallies, events and social connections he has not made on the golf course, at pheasant shoots or while skiing in the alps.”

While Kantor is writing about those shopping at the major, high-end auctions, consider how someone not born into the hobby becomes involved. Sure, some simply are drawn to the cars, whether as art or mechanical marvels, but others are drawn by the social interactions they see even at local cruise-in events and quickly realize the key that unlocks the door also starts an engine.

What sold in 2015-16?
What sold in 2015-16?

As for the investors, Matthieu Lamoure, managing director of Artcurial Motorcars, notes that after 15 years of rising prices, “this sudden rise has halted, affecting those who have entered the market uninformed, hoping to profit from an easy investment and make a quick buck.

“These speculators,” he writes, “have been punished for not buying with their heart.”

Among those punished were those trying to cash in on Ferraris and Porsches. The authors point out that laws of supply and demand reign in the collector car market just as they do elsewhere, and that while 576 Ferraris were offered at the major sales in the 2014-15 period, in the past year that number soared to 812.

Ah, but the great cars are selling, and for great prices, they add. A record 12 cars sold for $10 million or more. The authors note that they have never seen such a group of exceptional cars offered at auction in the same year — and this is their 21st annual publication.

For the past two years, Artcurial auctions has hammered “sold” (or however it is said in French) on the highest selling vehicles, and Lamoure’s words would seem the best advice for those in or entering the market:

“To buy what you love, with passion, is the best investment!”

Reviewed

Classic Car Auction Yearbook 2015-2016
By Adolfo Orsi and Raffaele Gazzi
Historica Selecta, 2016
ISBN 978-88-96232-08-8
Hardcover, 416 pages
$79 (Amazon)

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