Arizona Auction Week: why were numbers down this year?

This year's sales in Scottsdale, Arizona saw strong results but lower final numbers overall. Our man on the ground explains why, and what this means for the market

Last year at the annual Arizona Auction Week in Scottsdale we saw total sales number for all auctions of $259.8-million with 2899 of a total 3486 cars sold. This year those numbers were a bit lower with sales totals of $247.8-million dollars in sales with 2668 of 3176 cars sold.

This to me was explainable with one car that was missing from the sale, and that is a $10-million dollar car at Bonhams. Had Bonhams had a car like the E-type Lightweight that they had last year the revenues would almost be identical to last year’s numbers.

Another thing that would have altered these numbers was if either Gooding and Company or RM Sotheby’s had been able to sell their Jaguar D-types. The fact that neither of these cars sold was a bit of a surprise as the D-type usually flies off the auction block when offered, due to their eligibility and historical significance. Had either or both of these cars sold we would have seen a higher number for the final sales tally.

The top selling cars for the week were:

  1. 1965 Ferrari 275 GTB Speciale Coupe for $8,085,000 at Gooding & Company
  2. 1958 Porsche 550A Spyder for $5,170,000 at Bonhams
  3. 1954 Ferrari 500 Mondial Spider for $4,455,000 at Gooding & Company
  4. 1931 Bugatti Type 55 Roadster for $4,070,000 at Gooding & Company
  5. 1966 Shelby Cobra 427 S/C Roadster for $2,947,500 at RM Sotheby's
  6. 1972 Ferrari 365 GTS/4 Daytona Spider for $2,640,000 at Bonhams
  7. 1967 Ferrari 330 GTS Spider for $2,530,000 at Gooding & Company
  8. 2017 Ford GT Coupe sold for $2,500,000 at Barrett-Jackson
  9. 2014 Pagani Huayra Coupe for $2,090,000 at Gooding & Company
  10. 1948 Tucker 48 Sedan for $1,792,500 at RM Sotheby's

Looking at these top sellers, only four of the cars sold for more than $4-million and only five broke the $2-million dollar mark. These numbers help to explain the difference between last year's numbers and those from this year.

Basically the top selling cars offered this year were lower cost cars than those offered last year. Taking this and the no-sale of the pair of Jaguar D-types explains where and why the numbers differ this year.

This market still looks to be a stable one if a bit flat. One trend that seems to be happening is that it seems to be easier than ever to sell a good example of a classic car that is in the price range of $25,000 to $150,000. Cars at this level seemed to fly off the block.

The market seems to have slowed down for the cars valued between $400,000 and a million dollars. Cars in this range were often seen to sell for full market value no matter what their condition. Now classic cars to sell at this price range have to be great examples in order to get top money. To me this speaks of a stronger and more sensible market and the day when any driver level E-type Series 1 OTS selling for more than $200,000 look to be over.

Anther trend that I noticed was the continued slide for the Mercedes 190SL. These cars have in the past sold for more than $200k and now even nice examples sell for little over $100k. Again this is a good sign as these cars were driven up by 300SL values and have been overpriced for a few years.

The 300SL as a model was if anything pretty flat. This to me is another indicator for market stability.

The usual market indicator for Ferrari is the Daytona. Happily prices for Daytonas seemed to be strong all week with the Daytona Spider at Bonhams setting the week price high point of $2.64-million.

The Ferrari 308 GTB Vetroresina cars were off quite a bit this week with none of the cars offered getting to the $200,000 point that they were selling for last year. This is likely a temporary situation and I feel that both of the two cars on offer in Arizona – the one at Bonhams selling for $140,250, and the one at Gooding for $138,600 – both represented great deals that will appreciate as time goes on.

My best buy of the week was actually a very high dollar car, the 1958 Porsche 550A Spider werks race car that sold for $5.17-million at Bonhams. Porsche team cars do not come up for sale that often and the fact that this factory race team car finished second at the 1958 Le Mans only confirms that it was a great buy.

There is one thing I noticed at all the sale rooms though: every auction without exception seemed to lack some of the excitement and tension that I have always noticed since first attending Arizona auction week in 2003. It was if they all had the volume turned down a few notches.

I am not sure if that was just my personal perception, and despite this missing element all the various auction houses had solid weeks. This year just lacked some of the fun I have come to expect from auction week, or at least had that fun served in smaller doses. Maybe it was just the no sales on the D-types but it seemed to be more than that.

The one time I really saw it present itself was when President Bush was on stage to sell the Ford GT (above). That had some of the old energy of auction week but it was a single occurrence. It could be that I am jaded from 15 straight years of Arizona auction week, though I think it was more that the mood of the sales was the feeling of a more flat and subdued market. When the market is up big or down big the room has a certain energy and maybe a more level market, one that I have rarely seen in 15 years of reporting, just feels different.

So in a nutshell there were very few if any real surprises during Arizona Auction Week and I am happy to report that the market while flat appears to be quite healthy.

MORE: How the UK auction market fared during 2017.

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