CL A S S IC M A R K ETPL ACE
The Pebble Beach Concours d’elegance is certainly the highlight of the Monterey Car Week that’s held every year in August, if not the whole of the international classic motoring calendar. Americans, it seems, often like to do things on a grand scale, though, at times, the US can be a little parochial. So, in the same way that the Major League Baseball finals are called the ‘World Series’, Pebble Beach dubs itself, “The World’s Concours d’elegance”. The Wall Street Journal also says it is, “The world’s best annual display of historic and beautiful cars”, although, maybe its journalist has not been to the Villa d’este Concorso d’eleganza. The Financial Times in the UK, perhaps less patriotic, also gives it a resounding endorsement, calling it, “The number one event of its type in the world”.
The Concours d’elegance is just one part of a whole festival of car-related events, including automotive art exhibitions; car gatherings such as Concorso Italiano; forums; retail opportunities; historic motoring memorabilia and collectables; motor sports; road trips and rallies; and, of course, auctions. RM Sotheby’s, Gooding & Co, Russo and Steele, Mecum, Bonhams, et al. will all strut their stuff with gargantuan auctions at various locales on the Monterey Peninsula in northern California. And what a bun fight those auctions can be, especially when the Pebble Beach or Quail Lodge (where Bonhams holds its bash) ‘effect’ sets in.
At times, Pebble Beach fever can take over at these sales, and, with great cars on offer and lots of money and lots of egos in the room, prices can fly. In 2015, of the top13 auction sales worldwide — which ranged from the US$18,645,000 paid for a 1961 Ferrari 250 GT Spyder California SWB to US$7,975,000 for a 1950 Ferrari 275/340 Sport, 10 of those prices were achieved during Monterey week. An interesting aside is that, of those 13 sales, 10 were of Ferraris, with only a Mclaren F1, Jaguar C-type, and Porsche 956 breaking the Maranello hegemony, while sales 13 to 19 were also Ferrari!
If you have a rare Ferrari, it is probably much sought after, and, if you sell it at auction at Pebble or Quail, you may well maximize your asset. A word or two of warning here for sellers, though — it will need to be a very special car, and sending your precious baby overseas can be accompanied with problems. I always remember the cautionary tale of an Australian who sent his lovely Bentley to auction at Villa Erba in Italy. Not only did it fail to sell, but also, due to unforeseen circumstances, while in the care of the auction house, it caught fire and was very badly damaged! A difficult situation to handle when you are sitting on the other side of the world.
From September 1, 2014 to August 31, 2015, the total dollar value of the classic cars sold at auction was in the region of US$1229M, and, of this, some US$410M were raised in the one week in August at Monterey — a third of the entire annual global market! The August 2016 results will once again be a barometer for the classic vehicle auction industry.