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Pebble Beach Auctions – Return of Live Excitement!

Monterey week is famous for the array of spectacular car events. However, it is also known for top-notch auction houses delivering the best classic car buying opportunities for lucky collectors. This year, after a year of primarily on-line sales, the auctions roared back as strong as ever, with collectors ready to buy.

Five auction houses brought in a total of $343 million across three days of sales this past August —up 37% over the same array of opportunities in 2019. Monterey’s high sales numbers were even more impressive, considering that 25% fewer cars were offered than in 2019. A higher-than-normal sell-through rate of 80%, compared to 59% in 2019, contributed to that result, but so did the recognized high quality of many cars on offer. The average sale price of a vehicle sold in 2021 was $428,004, up from $334,114 in 2019, according to Hagerty.

“The collector car market has weathered the pandemic and then some,” said Brian Rabold, vice president of automotive intelligence for Hagerty, in his auction report. “We forecast 2021 will be the best year ever for auctions.”

Over three evenings, the RM Sotheby’s auction fetched a total of $148.5 million; that figure includes the sale of a 1962 Aston Martin DB4GT Zagato for $9.25 million and a 1962 Ferrari 268 SP by Fantuzzi for more than $7.7 million. For the British car collectors out there, Thursday night’s offerings were amazing (and largely without reserve). A 1961 Aston Martin DB4GT Zagato “Sanction II” sold for $2.5 million. The 1955 Jaguar D-Type reached a high bid of $4.2 million while the 1959 Aston Martin DB4GT Lightweight went for $3.5 million. Friday night, a packed ballroom saw more than a few Jaguars cross the block. The 1993 XJ220 sold for $425,000, a 1974 Series III E-type sold for $150,000 while an early outside bonnet latch E-type sold for $230,000. In a nail-biter, South Florida Jaguar Club member, Brad, sold his recently restored 1967 E-type 4.2 Roadster for $170,000. Saturday’s line up saw the 1991 Jaguar XJR-15 (one of only 53 examples) sell for $1.72 million. “We achieved a sale total that ranks in the top three best Monterey auctions of all time,” says Gord Duff, the company’s global head of auctions. “This week has demonstrated that the market is as strong today as it has ever been, with collector-grade cars finding willing new buyers from all over the globe.”

Bonhams one day sale saw close to $37 million in sales, highlighted by a 1928 Mercedes-Benz 26/120/180 S-Type Supercharged Sports Tourer that sold for over $5.39 million. Other notable sales at Bonhams included the 1948 Talbot-Lago for $1.7 million and a1974 Alfa Romeo Tip 33 TT for $1.5 million. For “celebrity status” cars, nothing beat Tom Hank’s 1992 Airstream travel trailer. Fun, in that its windows were covered with clapperboards identifying eighteen locations where it was used by Tom, from Sleepless in Seattle in 1993 to The Circle in 2017. The Airstream sold for $210,000, right around the middle of the estimate.

One lot that grabbed the most headlines was offered through Gooding & Company: a 1995 McLaren F1 that went under the hammer for $20.46 million. That result not only marks the top price ever received for a McLaren F1 at auction, but the most expensive car sold at any auction in 2021.

Mecum’s three-day auction also didn’t fail to inspire. In a highly eclectic array of vehicles sold, there was a 1929 Duesenberg Model J Sedan which went for $2.15 million. A 1952 Ferrari 340 America ran up to $3.1 million before stalling. A 2014 LaFerrari fetched $3.1 million. One of the main attractions of the auction, the 1967 Shelby Cobra 427 S/C sold for $2.6 million. One of only 29 Semi Competition Cobras built, it was invoiced to Shelby American on February 23, 1965. XK120’s were represented and two crossed the block with prices ranging from $80K (no sale) to $122,500. An XK 150 Fixed Head Coupe sold for $70,000 with a Drophead going for $97,500. Another hit with bidders was Serial No. 1 of just 350 2022 Acura NSX Type S slated for production. The yet-to-be built car was offered with all proceeds to benefit charity. Ultimately it achieved a final sale price of $1.1 million, far exceeding its base MSRP of $171,495. All in all, Mecum’s sales reached $57.4 million with 80% of all cars sold.

Apart from the statistics of the sales, the enthusiasm in the crowded auction rooms was great to see. We were back to 2019 levels everywhere. I think live auctions have returned!! I suspect we will continue to see a combination of on-line and in presence for the future.

Happy buying and selling!

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