The classic car auction market is finally starting to cool off.
An ultra-rare Ferrari may have sold for a staggering $30 million at Monterey Car Week, but overall auction results were mixed at the annual automotive gathering, according to Bloomberg. In fact, both total sales and the sell-through rate fell compared to last year.
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Auctions and after-sales overseen by the five major houses—BonhamsCars, Broad Arrow, Gooding & Co., Mecum Auctions and RM Sotheby’s—brought in around $400 million this past weekend. This is the second-highest total ever for Monterey Car Week, but it also represents a 16 percent drop from last year’s $473 million total. Additionally, the sell-through rate, or the percentage of cars that sold at their minimum price, fell from 78 percent last year to 68 percent this year. The average sale price also dropped from $591,768 to $477,981.
Even Ferraris, which are largely viewed as being immune to market whims, didn’t fare as well as expected. The weekend’s most expensive car may have been the 1967 Ferrari 412 P Berlinetta (pictured up top) that sold for $30.2 million—making it the fifth most expensive car sold at auction—but its gavel price was nearly $10 million short of BonhamsCars’s high-end estimate. Another rare Prancing Horse, a 1964 250 LM expected to sell for around $20 million, failed to meet its reserve. (The empty, burnt-out body of a 1954 500 Mondial Spider Series I did sell for $1.9 million, though.)
“It’s chaotic,” says Stephen Serio, a high-end automotive broker, told the financial news service. “There’s a whole generation of things, even some great cars that have done well here before, which have just turned a corner, and I don’t know if they’re going to come back.”
A weekend of tepid sales doesn’t come as a complete surprise, though. Classic cars have been one of the worst-performing assets of 2023, with values having dropped by seven percent through the first eight months of the year, according to CNBC. In that same period, art, jewelry, and watch values have all risen. The slowdown suggests that inflation, high-interest rates, and market volatility may be causing collectors to think twice before bidding on their dream car.
Not all cars struggled at auction, though. Sales of pre-war vehicles, meaning those made before and during World War II, were one of the weekend highlights, according to Bloomberg. RM Sotheby’s sold a 1937 Bugatti Type 57SC Tourer by Corsica for $5 million, while Gooding & Co. sold a 1914 Mercer Type 35-J Raceabout for $4.7 million. Pre-war cars didn’t just perform well at the auction block, either. A 1937 Mercedes-Benz 540K Special Roadster also won Best of Show at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.
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