$200 million in sales predicted for Arizona classic car auction week
By Larry Edsall
"During times of financial uncertainty collectors with cash have parted with untold millions of dollars, putting their liquid assets into Picassos and Giacomettis, Rothkos and Warhols.
"When the big fall auction season in New York starts on Wednesday, Sotheby's, Christie's and Phillips de Pury & Company are hoping that the flight from cash into art will continue given the financial uncertainty in the United States and especially in Europe. The catalogs are bursting..."
Take those words by Carol Vogel of The New York Times, written a little more than two months ago, substitute "Ferraris and Bugattis, Duesenbergs and Cobras" for the names of the artists, change "fall" to January, "New York" to Arizona, adjust the date and substitute Barrett-Jackson, RM and Gooding & Company for the auction houses and you get a pretty good idea of the level of anticipation for the start of the 2013 classic car auction season.
That season launches with six auctions in Phoenix and Scottsdale -- Bonhams, Russo and Steele, and Silver also parading vehicles across the block the week of January 13-20.
Hagerty, the classic car insurer that closely monitors collector car values -- and thus sale prices in both the auction and private sale arenas -- expects the Arizona auctions to generate $200 million in sales this month. That would represent nearly a 10-percent increase compared to the record-setting sales total of $183,8 million posted at the same venues a year ago -- and a more than a 26-percent increase over 2011, when the Arizona sales rebounded from both the recession and the foul weather of January, 2010.
Making Hagerty's expectations even more impressive is that fewer cars will be available for sale this year in Arizona than last year. More than 2700 were on the various dockets last year; this year only some 2500 are in the catalogs.
While a prediction of $200 million may sound astounding, consider this: Those art auctions in New York totaled nearly a billion dollars. Yes, that billion with a B!
Southeby's thought it had done something astonishing with its $375-plus million event on a Tuesday evening, only to have the Christie's sale the following night post more than $412 million in sales.
And those numbers, as reported, do not include the auction house sales commissions, which add between 12 and 25 percent to whatever top bid finally secures an object of art that does not move under its own power (makes classic car auction commissions seem almost reasonable, doesn't it?)
As usual, a couple of Ferraris -- a 1958 250 GT LWB California Spider at Gooding and a 1960 250 GT SWB Competizione at RM -- are expected to be the high-dollar vehicles when the final hammer falls this month in Arizona.
But such cars don't figure to be the only triggers for big-buck bidding.
"Building on last year's success with the ‘salon series' cars at Barrett-Jackson, we expect even more attention focused on their Saturday night offerings," say the folks from Hagerty.
"There is a lot of buzz around the Bonham's catalog including the 72 Lamborghini Miura SV," the statement from Hagerty continues.
But wait, that's not all: "One thing to point out," Hagerty continues, "is that in 2012 we saw the rebuilding of the muscle car market and we expect to be talking about muscle car sales post Scottsdale. Barrett-Jackson has a 1971 Hemi ‘Cuda convertible and Russo and Steele has a 1969 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 Coupe. These are examples of hot muscle cars that should do well."
Muscle cars were all the rage a few years ago, with some of them generating seven-figure bids. That may not happen again, but overall the genre again is strong, says Hagerty:
"The muscle car market tends to parallel the real estate market and there has been recovery in that market through 2012."
But while the high-dollar cars capture the attention, there also will be bargains in Arizona for those looking for a classic to drive and display at their favorite local car shows or cruise-ins.
"The best way to find bargain buys is to show up early," the folks from Hagerty add.
"If you have a disciplined hand it pays to sit in the audience and wait for a good deal."
And where do we find these bargains?
Well, early in the day at Barrett-Jackson and Russo and Steele, and throughout the auction at Silver.
"Silver does a great job of bringing a variety of entry level cars," the Hagerty statement concludes. "Show up early and study the lots ahead of time so you have an idea of vehicle condition."
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