PRO­FILE

Meet mas­ter auc­tioner Joseph Mast

Toyota Connect/Lexus Life - - CONTENTS -

As a spe­cial­ist in putting clas­sic “Amer­i­can mus­cle” and su­per-cars un­der the ham­mer, Mast reg­u­larly gen­er­ates dou­ble or tre­ble the ex­pected price.

This smooth-talk­ing sales­man auc­tioned the Bat­mo­bile from the first Bat­man movie for a mind-bog­gling

$6,4 mil­lion and raised $100 000 for the Bum­ble­bee, from the Trans­form­ers movie. Other movie star cars he’s auc­tioned came from The Fast and the Fu­ri­ous se­ries, some per­haps a lit­tle bashed and bat­tered.

When he sold a car owned by

Steve Tyler, front­man of rock band Aero­smith, the deal in­cluded an overnight stay at the singer’s home for the suc­cess­ful bid­der.

If you’re buy­ing a car, on the other hand, per­haps you don’t want motormouth Mast on the podium, be­cause you might get car­ried away and spend twice as much as in­tended.

There’s a well-recog­nised mood called the “auc­tion phe­nom­e­non”, when peo­ple get swept away and bid well be­yond what an item’s tech­ni­cally worth.

“That’s part of what we do. We try to cre­ate that frenzy and that at­mos­phere where you don’t nec­es­sar­ily bid based on what you think the value of some­thing is, but on what you want. It doesn’t mat­ter that it’s worth $2 500 – you’re go­ing to pay $3 000 be­cause you’re there that day, you want that spe­cific one and you’re hav­ing fun do­ing it,” he says.

Mast runs his own com­pany, Mast Auc­tion­eers in Ohio, spe­cial­is­ing in cars, real es­tate and thor­ough­bred race­horses. He also hires him­self and his team out to Bar­rett-jack­son, which runs the world’s great­est clas­sic car auc­tions. It at­tracts en­thu­si­asts from around the globe and is screened live on the Dis­cov­ery and Ve­loc­ity TV chan­nels. Up to 400 000 peo­ple at­tend its sales in Scotts­dale, Ari­zona, in the course of a week, when about 1 800 cars are on the block.

Quite what con­sti­tutes a clas­sic car seems to be de­bat­able. Mast de­fines it as “any­thing that’s col­lectable, any­thing that’s rare, any­thing that’s just old but well kept. Peo­ple’s def­i­ni­tions of ‘clas­sic’ can be wide-rang­ing: some peo­ple fall in love with a car and sud­denly they think it’s clas­sic.”

Even af­ter 18 years in the trade, some sales are un­ex­pected. “We take ve­hi­cles that we don’t think will have much value and sud­denly we find that ev­ery­body wants it. We sold a ve­hi­cle last year that should have been worth $30 000, but ended up bring­ing in

$250 000 sim­ply be­cause two ri­vals fell in love with it. That’s what they re­mem­ber driv­ing as young­sters.

Now they have plenty of money and felt they just had to have it.”

In Jan­uary, Mast auc­tioned a car for Bar­rett-jack­son flanked by chat show host Jay Leno and for­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W Bush on the block. The two men had signed the ve­hi­cle and it raised $1,4 mil­lion, with the money do­nated to the Mil­i­tary Ser­vice Ini­tia­tive. It was tech­ni­cally worth about $250 000, Mast says, but it bore Ve­hi­cle Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion Num­ber 1, which made it unique.

His ad­vice for buy­ing a clas­sic car at an auc­tion is to know what’s real and what’s not. “There are many fakes, with peo­ple build­ing ve­hi­cles to look like old cars, but they’re not orig­i­nals,” he warns. It’s im­por­tant to seek ad­vice from ex­perts and read the auc­tion notes care­fully, he stresses. Rep­utable auc­tion­eers will put some­thing in the de­scrip­tion to say it’s not orig­i­nal, to pro­tect their own rep­u­ta­tion. “We ob­vi­ously want re­peat cus­tomers, so if we sell some­one a car that we say is orig­i­nal and it’s not, next time they won’t be that con­fi­dent buy­ing from us.”

Be­sides spe­cial­is­ing in early 1950s to late 1960s clas­sics, Mast also sells newer su­per-cars. While he owns a cou­ple of spe­cial mod­els, he drives a pick-up truck most days. But he won’t ar­rive at an auc­tion in a pick-up if it’s

Be­low: Top auc­tion­eer Joseph Mast with Tim Mast, Pres­i­dent of the Na­tional Auc­tion­eers ‘ As­so­ci­a­tion, and Joff van Ree­nen, Di­rec­tor of SA’S High Street Auc­tion Com­pany. Op­po­site, top: For­mer Amer­i­can Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W Bush Jnr as­sisted Mast at a char­ity auc­tion. Op­po­site, be­low: The Toy­ota 2000GT and Lexus LFA are con­sid­ered se­ri­ous col­lecta­bles. out of town. As a qual­i­fied pilot – who earns com­mis­sion on ev­ery item he auc­tions – he flies him­self around in a pri­vate plane.

Mast ven­tured into auc­tion­eer­ing as a teenager. “I was a sixth-gen­er­a­tion dairy farmer. My fa­ther sold the farm when I was 18 and I had no idea what I was go­ing to do,” he re­calls. “He brought home a flier for auc­tion school one evening and said to me: ‘You’ve got a good voice. I think you’d be good at this.’”

He does, in­deed, have a good voice – a solid, re­as­sur­ing, de­pend­able one, even if he rat­tles off dur­ing bid­ding at such high speed that you only catch one word in five, or the fig­ure that’s been bid and the in­cre­men­tal rise he’s seek­ing. It’s all part of the show­man­ship de­signed to gen­er­ate

“PEO­PLE’S DEF­I­NI­TIONS OF ‘CLAS­SIC’ CAN BE WIDE-RANG­ING: SOME PEO­PLE FALL IN LOVE WITH A CAR AND SUD­DENLY THEY THINK IT’S CLAS­SIC.”

ex­cite­ment, just as a horse-race or foot­ball match wouldn’t be as thrilling if the com­men­ta­tor weren’t be­com­ing fran­tic.

The style of pat­ter changes ac­cord­ing to what he’s sell­ing. “You have to be a chameleon,” says Mast. “You can’t sell clas­sic cars the same way you sell real es­tate – you have to change your chant, as well as your speed and style.” The “chant” is the auc­tion­eer’s pat­ter, marked by a par­tic­u­lar rhythm and ca­dence.

“For clas­sic cars, it’s pretty tra­di­tional to have an English chant, but I use a very Amer­i­can, very fast, up­beat one with very high en­ergy. You’re also slur­ring a lot of words. In­stead of ask­ing: ‘How many?’, you might say: ‘Howmny?’ It cre­ates a rhythm, like the way you tap your foot to mu­sic. It keeps you en­gaged, keeps things fun and keeps things mov­ing along quickly. We might have 1 800 cars to sell in a few days, so we have to move very fast and me­thod­i­cally.”

Be­sides, we’re not sup­posed to un­der­stand ev­ery­thing he says, be­cause much of the time he’s speak­ing in code to the spot­ters – his col­leagues who scan the au­di­ence for bids. You might think an auc­tion­eer has his eyes ev­ery­where, but of­ten there are far too many peo­ple for him to mon­i­tor. There might be 20 000 peo­ple in an arena, with any­one likely to bid at any time. Each spot­ter has a spe­cific area to watch and sig­nals to the auc­tion­eer when some­one in their turf bids.

“It takes quite a bit of co-or­di­na­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween the bid spot­ters and the auc­tion­eers to know whether you’re in, whether you’re out, whether you got in first or sec­ond – it’s like con­duct­ing an orches­tra,” he says.

Many peo­ple buy these cars as in­vest­ments, while oth­ers want the plea­sure of ac­tu­ally driv­ing them.

The stock mar­ket also in­flu­ences in­vest­ment car pur­chases. “If the stock mar­ket’s re­ally strong, the col­lec­tor car mar­ket can dip be­cause peo­ple put their money into stocks. When the stock mar­ket goes down, peo­ple in­vest their money in cars be­cause they don’t want to lose it. They put it into some­thing that they en­joy, they can drive and they can touch and feel. They know their money’s in some­thing solid.”

The most com­pelling rea­son to sell valu­able as­sets by auc­tion is that you get the high­est price. With a tra­di­tional sale, you put a price on some­thing and the buyer ne­go­ti­ates you down, but in an auc­tion, bid­ders are ne­go­ti­at­ing up­wards – par­tic­u­larly if two peo­ple com­pete against each other in a bid­ding frenzy.

Sadly, SA’S auc­tion busi­ness isn’t as vi­brant as it is in the USA, says Joff van Ree­nen, Di­rec­tor and Lead Auc­tion­eer of The High Street Auc­tion Com­pany in SA. He ex­pects that to change in the com­ing years and says used ve­hi­cle com­pany We Buy Cars al­ready shifts 4 000-5 000 ve­hi­cles a month through auc­tions, or roughly 50% of its stock.

CLAS­SIC DRIVES

With a lo­cal her­itage ex­tend­ing more than 50 years, Toy­ota SA has its fair share of iconic cars in its posses­sion. Many of them are be­ing pre­served at the mu­seum at the Jo­han­nes­burg head of­fice.

2000 GT

The two-seat sports coupé – with its beau­ti­ful, cur­va­ceous lines – was jointly de­vel­oped by Toy­ota and Yamaha, and only 351 units were pro­duced from 1967-1970.

The ex­am­ple that’s in the care of Toy­ota SA was im­ported to this coun­try in May 1968 and was orig­i­nally painted in Pe­ga­sus White. It’s un­clear when it re­ceived its red coat, but it was ini­tially used by Toy­ota SA’S founder Dr Al­bert Wes­sels’ daugh­ter, El­iz­a­beth (later Bradley) as a daily runaround.

Nowa­days, the 2000 GT is widely ac­knowl­edged as a se­ri­ously col­lectable mo­tor­ing icon. There are only two in the coun­try and they’re each val­ued at over R10 mil­lion.

LEXUS LFA

“We didn’t just make a su­per-car – we made his­tory,” Lexus fa­mously an­nounced. It took more than a decade to pro­duce the Lexus LFA, which set the stage for all Lexus per­for­mance ve­hi­cles that fol­lowed. Lim­ited to just 500 units, only three of which are in SA, the two-seater su­per-car is val­ued at about R6 mil­lion.

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