On December 1, the more than 100 classic vehicles, the village storefront displays, and even a 32-foot, 1918-vintage carousel housed in John Staluppi's Cars of Dreams Museum will be sold in a no-reserve auction in North Palm Beach, Florida.
Earlier this year, the collections of the Milhous Brothers, Michael Dingman, the Salmon Brothers, Charlie Thomas and Baron J.O. Raben-Levetzau also were sold and not at the usual classic car auction venues of Scottsdale, Amelia Island, Monterey, etc., but, like Staluppi's cars, at a special sale staged at the collection's home grounds.
The frequency of such private collection sales away from the major classic car auction venues has increased in the last couple of years, although such sales are how the classic car hobby really got its first big push a half-century ago as people such as Jim Leake, Russ Jackson, Tom Barrett and others held auctions culling their personal collections.
Reasons for such sales in recent months vary from families telling Dad they'd rather not deal with dispersing his collection after he's gone to a collector deciding to move and not wanting to go through the expense of moving dozens of vehicles to a new location.
Those cars could be sold through the usual classic car auction channels, as was done with the collection of the late John O'Quinn, but that can consume considerable time and money. Imagine the cost of shipping more than 100 cars from Florida to the traditional auction venues around the country.
By arranging an on-site sale, the collector gets to enjoy his or her cars one last time, gets a gorgeous auction program that chronicles the collection, and there's another benefit that cannot be overlooked.
Although such sales often are held with no-reserve pricing, RM Auctions specialist Ian Kelleher said bidding at such private sales often exceeds what might be anticipated on those same vehicles at a big, annual auction venues.
"Each collection has a definitive moment when it's likely worth the most," he said.
"Some collectors are better served selling their collection while they're alive. Their ownership adds provenance and value. The collector is left with a successful sale and the catalog illuminates everything they've collected over the years."
Kelleher noted that Staluppi has been a serious collector for less than 10 years, has a collection strong enough to support a full museum, "he's probably going to start over again."
Staluppi's father, an electrician in Brooklyn, New York, took out a loan so his son, a budding mechanic, could operate his own gas station. A young Staluppi was successful enough to acquire other stations and then was among the first to open a dealership when Honda started exporting cars to the United States. He later added early Hyundai stores. Today, his Atlantic Auto Group has become the largest-volume dealership group in New York, selling vehicles produced not only by Honda and Hyundai but by Volkswagen/Audi, General Motors, Toyota and Nissan. In 1998, Staluppi also launched a company that produces yachts in Florida.
Staluppi is 65 and his car collection comprises 1950s and ‘60s American boyhood favorites, and most of them are convertibles.
Most of the recent private collection sales have been managed by RM, which will do a sale in February at the Bruce Weiner Microcar Museum in Madison, Georgia, although Mecum Auctions also had done them, most recently the sale of the Salmon Brothers collection in Arkansas and with Fran and Ron Green's Verde Classic Museum sale set for February in Boynton Beach, Florida.
Donnie Gould, an RM specialist and president of Auctions America by RM, said that RM has developed a niche market for private collections, in part because "we have the staff that is able to go in and catalog and photograph and describe the sale. We take a lot of pride when we do these sales and they all do very well.
"Someone like John Staluppi doesn't want to load up 120 cars on transporters and take them to an auction venue."
Gould added that "it's a lot of work selling cars. It's not something you just do with a magic want. It's a complicated process and by selling an entire collection at one time, it's literally hands-free for the consigners.
"Some sell for health reasons. Some will sell because they're moving to a different location in the country and it's going to take a few years and they don't want the cars to deteriorate so they sell off and start over. Some need capital to start a new business. I haven't met two who have sold for the same reason," he added.
John Kraman, a consignment director at Mecum Auctions, sees a trend building in private auction sales.
Such sales, he said, aren't a new phenomenon, "but in the last couple of years a lot of high-profile auctions have met with strong bidder interest."
"They have been a great success," he said, adding that such success piques the interest of others with large collections who are thinking about selling, and selling for a variety of reasons, he added, from the age of the owner or the vehicles to simply having a new interest and selling the current collection to fund a new one.
He said the no-reserve format helps because potential buyers aren't purchasing airline tickets and flying in only to see a few of the vehicle actually go to new owners.
Click here for event calendar.
Click here for more articles by Larry Edsall.