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Despite a decidedly unstable economy and a lingering pandemic, it was a six-month banner for global classic car sales. In a mid-year survey by Classic.com, auction listings fell from 31,098 in the first half of 2021 to 44,417 through June 25 this year.

In terms of dollar volume, $1.28 billion was spent in the first half of 2021, and in 2022 so far, we’re at $2.16 billion. Many classic models, detailed in the report, have seen double-digit increases in value, as expressed in these auctions. The Mercedes-Benz 300SE (W126) from 1986 to 1991, for example, is the top performer among 100 assets in appreciation with a 95% increase over last year. Oddly enough, number two was the 1992-1993 GMC Typhoon at 83%. In third place was the 2004 to 2006 Porsche Carrera GT, at 80%.

Of course, total spending was skewed somewhat by the fantastic $142.28 million sale of the Rudolf Uhlenhaut Mercedes-Benz 300SLR, one of only two built, in May. It was by far the most expensive car ever sold, surpassing a 1963 Ferrari GTO that traded for $70 million in 2018.

Other cars that quickly appreciate include the base Porsche 928 (with automatic), BMW 633CSi and 540i; the first-generation Mini Cooper S convertible and the Honda S2000 CR. The survey also tracked 78 cars which lost value, and the main depreciator was the MG-TD (down 18% from last year), followed by the Mercedes 280SL (down 16% ) and the E39 BMW M5 (down 15%). .

The 1992-1993 GMC Typhoon saw an 83% increase.

Cars and Auctions

The results reflect the rise of highly accessible online auctions, large amounts of disposable income, low interest rates and perhaps lingering pent-up demand from the worst COVID years, said Juan Diego Calle, CEO of Classic.com. “We’ve had phenomenal growth,” he said. “People who have invested in cars have done well.” The influence of online auction houses is clear, as in the first half of 2021, 13,026 online listings were sold and so far in 2022 there have been 18,806.

Donald Osborne, CEO of the Audrain Automobile Museum in Newport, Rhode Island, also sees a healthy, but not necessarily consistent, collector car market. “Some cars on, say, BringaTrailer.com will bring high prices, and then similar cars won’t sell at all,” he said. “Online auctions are the new classifieds. We certainly see more and more people in the market to buy cars. Maybe they see the turmoil in the stock market and choose to buy cars instead.

According to Classic.com, the average sale price for cars among the 31,091 listings sold at auction so far in 2022 was $69,318, and the sell-through rate was 70%. People are clearly investing in classic cars, and Calle notes a generational shift that favors younger buyers and cars from the 1980s and 1990s that have more comfort than older models and can be taken on the highway and used as drivers. dailies. Perhaps that’s why the first-generation 1950s Lincoln Premiere is down 14 percent.

But some of the less capable cars are among the most desirable, like the Ferrari 365 GT 2+2, the Datsun 240Z, the first Chevrolet Camaro Z/28, the Mercedes SL55 AMG, the Porsche 911 SC coupe and others like it. kind. . This could reflect their rapid price rise in previous years – some were in an unrealistic bubble. And, as Calle noted, when buyers can’t afford the model they really want, they start looking for something similar but cheaper, like this automatic Porsche 928. Of course, that adds to the demand, making those former ugly ducklings more valuable.

porsche carrera gt
The 2004 to 2006 Porsche Carrera GT is up 80%.

Classic.com

“Online auctions bring a high level of transparency to the table,” Calle said. “People can find out a lot of information about cars that they couldn’t get before. And that allows us to see the whole market and be very specific about makes and models: are people buying manual or automatic, coupe or convertible?

So where is the market going? Calle says he thought 2022 would see a slowdown, as much of the suppressed COVID demand was met in 2021. Now he says that hasn’t happened, although sell rates have started to to lower. There could be a shift as online auctions lose the huge advantage they had during the worst of the pandemic, he said. But online is clearly not going away, and on-the-ground auction houses such as RM Sotheby’s, Bonhams, Gooding and Mecum are investing heavily in it, he said.

Calle said a hybrid business model, with online and field sales, is likely a winning formula in the near future. But all the predictions could turn out to be wrong. “It’s impossible to talk about the classic car market in a macro sense,” Osborne said.

Where do you think the classic car market is headed? Will field sales ever return to the level of importance they had before the pandemic? Share your opinion in the comments below.

Where do you think the classic car market is headed? Do you think in-person and on-site auctions will regain the importance they had before the pandemic? Share your opinion in the comments below.

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