Like others, perhaps even like you, I sat at my computer and watched the live webcast as, within just about a two-hour period, people paid nearly $63 million for 31 vehicles -- 28 classic cars, two motorcycles and an 1892 horse-drawn coach -- and for seven works of automotive art at the "Art of the Automobile" auction RM and Sotheby's held in New York City.
To put things into perspective, if we include only the classic cars, the average sale price was more than $2.2 million.
On the other hand, you might argue that the New York art-collecting community hasn't quite embraced the automobile as art if you consider that while $63 mill is amazing, a little more than a week earlier, at another sale at Sotheby's, someone paid $104.5 million for a single painting -- perhaps ironically, it was Andy Warhol's "Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster) -- at an auction of contemporary art at which 54 works sold for a combined $380.6 million.
Nonetheless, for a classic car auction the results were amazing, RM and Sotheby's got to showcase classic cars to a new audience and a new venue, and 15 percent of those registering to bid were doing so for the first time at an RM event.
"Working with Sotheby's, we set out to create the finest automobile auction that there has ever been," RM founder Rob Myers said in a post-auction statement. "Our aim has been to raise the bar and set a completely new standard for quality and presentation, and I am delighted to say that these amazing results have proven it a great success. What we have established here in New York is a complete demonstration of how to bring some of the world's rarest and most exceptional automobiles to market, in both an exciting and visually arresting way. Furthermore, the sale has successfully brought many new collectors into the market for the first time, which is fantastic news for our hobby."
Sixteen cars sold for $1 million or more, and 11 sold for record auction prices. The 1964 Ferrari 250 LM brought $14.3 million, the 1938 Talbot-Lago teardrop cabriolet went for $7.15 million, the 1969 Ferrari 250 GT "competition" special sold for $7.04 million after a bidding battle that opened for $3 million and didn't end until 21 higher bids had been placed.
Just two cars earlier, there had been 23 separate bids made before the 1955 Maserati Spyder sold for $4.455 million.
On the other hand, when the auctioneer asked for a $1 million opening bid on the "2011 "Bleu Nuit" Bugatti Veyron, someone said "2.1 million" and the room went quiet and the car was sold with no additional bids placed.
Silver Auctions adds fall sale for Arizona snow birds
For more than 20 years, Silver Auctions has been a regular part of what has grown into Arizona Auction Week, with a half-dozen or so classic car sales in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area.
What separate Mitch Silver's event from the others are its location -- east of the Valley at the Fort McDowell casino complex near Four Peaks, the tallest mountain in the area -- and the fact that while others tout their million-dollar vehicles or their circus-style showcases, Silver's is a low-key, almost mom-n-pop style event where bargains still can be had.
Earlier this year, Mitch Silver was back in the Phoenix area for an auction in the middle of March, and now he's coming back yet again for yet another new event, the Arizona in the Fall auction November 30-December 1.
"It's pretty crazy for a market that size [Phoenix is the fifth most-populous city in the country] to have auctions only one weekend a year," said Silver.
"We did the March sale with very little pre-announcements," he added. "We didn't have time to do national advertising, but the March sale was very successful."
Silver said he's adding the new autumn sale in part because of what he's seen happen with the McCormick's sales at Palm Spring each February and November.
"They're timed around the snow birds arrival and departure," Silver said. "It makes sense. People are looking for something fun and new to drive, but maybe don't want to take it home with them [after a winter in the desert]. There's a fair amount of that activity. It's not necessarily collectors cars, more borderline exotics -- Mercedes, Porsches, really nice cars that are fun."
Silver includes himself as that sort of customer, though in his case he said he usually takes a couple of Arizona auctions cars back to Spokane, Washington, with him to sell as good, clean, rust-free used cars.
"I usually bring them home and drive them for six months and then sell them up here," he said.
Silver said he'll have around 150 cars on the docket for his fall sale in Arizona, including a "blackout" 1942 Buick (most new car production ended soon after the U.S. became involved in World War II, but a few 1942 models were produced, though with painted bumpers and other parts so chromium could be devoted to the war effort), a Crosley-powered 1950s midget racer, a 1948 Lincoln Continental coupe with a Cadillac engine, a Model A street rod and an orange-and-white, 100-percent stock 1955 Chevrolet convertible with factory power windows.
Silver said the fall sale also gives him an opportunity "to meet some people and so them what we do, so when January [and his big auction] comes around, they'll be comfortable with us and feel they know us."
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