Last weekend some of the world's biggest auction houses came together on the misty hills of Monterey for the annual Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance and automotive auction extravaganza. Featuring big names like RM Auctions, Bonhams, Gooding & Company, Mecum and Rick Cole, the weekend provided a number of surprises for buyers and watchers alike. Gizmag's Angus MacKenzie was on the ground for auction action that saw US$400 million change hands.
As Gizmag's Mike Hanlon reported ahead of the event, anticipation for this year's Pebble Beach auction was high. But now with sales closed we can see exactly how 2014 fared compared to last year.
On the money front, initial reports peg total sales for the weekend at US$400 million, an increase of nearly $83 million over the 2013 auction. According to Hagerty Insurance, this figure, which doesn't include Rick Cole's sales (a figure estimated to be around $25 million), means the total increase from the previous year is closer to $100 million.
Predictably, Ferrari dominated the sales at Pebble Beach with nine of the ten most valuable cars changing hands wearing the prancing stallion. The only other car to squeeze into that list was a 1965 Ford GT40 prototype that RM managed to fetch US$6.93 million.
This domination reflects the entire rare car marketplace. When the dust settled after the weekend, 52 of the top 100 most valuable cars ever to sell at auction are Ferraris, with Mercedes-Benz second (10 cars in top 100), Bentley (five cars in top 100) third, and Bugatti (4) and Talbot-Lago (4) equal fourth.
Average sale price for the cars that sold was estimated to be around $535,000 with the median selling price coming in at just under US$100,000 (an increase of more than 30 percent over 2013).
According to classic car specialist, Hans Wurl from Gooding & Company, the buyer demographic is shifting slightly from the older, more established auto collectors to a younger crowd. The hardcore car people are still there, but more and more buyers from areas like the tech sector and similar are moving in. Perhaps coming into the game in an effort to acquire either cool toys for their garage or to expand their portfolios and collections as longer term investments.
I asked if cars purchased by secretive persons/entities ever just vanished after auction. "Sometimes vehicles are sold to anonymous bidders from outside the country," Wurl said. "In some cases cars have been shipped to secret locations and countries only to go into hiding for years."
Surprisingly, Gooding & Company failed to sell its Top 10, a shock to many as these cars were expected to bring premium dollars. Cars like the 1966 Ferrari 365 "Tre Posti" and the McLaren F1, despite getting close to reserve amounts, failed to meet minimum bids.
So what does this mean for future sales? Have the old-school collectors gone underground to deal privately and so avoid aggressive bidding wars? Or is it just the market correcting itself in order to better normalize valuations and perhaps turn down the heat on the hype? Only time will tell.
The most anticipated sale of the show was definitely the 1962 Ferrari GTO, courtesy of Bonhams. Although the car did in fact sell with the auction house's estimates, the popular media had hyped the car's value beyond realistic expectations.
However, the condition of the car and the amount of work required to bring it to a "Concours" state all influenced the final price. The US$38.1 million sale figure for the 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO Coupe included the house fee. It was, nonetheless, a new world record at auction.
To view some of the top auction items and other beautiful examples of automotive innovation and design, check out our extensive gallery.
Over the next few days we'll also bring you highlights from Pebble Beach's Concept Lawn, the oceanside experience of Concours d'Elegance, historic vehicles and surprises from the Rolex Historical motorsports event at Laguna Seca, and a surprise event by Aston Martin.
A close look at the Top 10 sales at Pebble Beach over this past weekend shows Bonhams and RM Auctions each sold four cars in the top ten, with Gooding & Co selling two.
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