Winter Auction Season


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Just a week of December gone and we are already more than half way through this year’s Winter Auction Season.

Historics didn’t wait for December to get the ball rolling and showed their usual mixture of bravery and hard graft as the market pathfinders.  With no Aston Martins on parade, we followed the sale online and spoke to a number of people who attended. 

Like many of the current auctions, they had a huge inventory but also had a big audience for their eclectic model mix.  The first thing we noticed was that the electronic bid reporting system showed an initial sales rate of around 40% which had developed into a near 70% rate after their team had put in the hard work.

Edward Bridger–Stille of Historics rightly hammered the doomsayers in his own eloquent report on the sale in their in house Newsletter.  The Classic Car industry is currently experiencing a simple fact of economic life – there is plenty of money and buyers but, as the inventories show, there are also plenty of sellers in the market.  As auctions are constrained to the single negotiating parameter of price, the buyers are in control.

That was demonstrated in stark detail on Tuesday night at Coys “True Greats” at the Horticultural Halls in London.  There was a good sized audience whose humour was enhanced by pre-auction drinks and a good inventory which included three very different Astons.  Again, cars were selling under estimate but it was the conduct of some of the bidding which was indicative of the current market.  The auctioneer, Douglas Jamieson is hugely experienced and not lacking in assertive self confidence, so it was strange to see him allowing the bidders to establish the bidding increments.  Even his own team on the telephones – positioned far too far from the rostrum – were calling bids rather than accepting the rostrum’s call.

But Coys had put in their preparation with Sellers’ reserves moderated to the weekend’s news from Byfleet, most notably on a Mercedes Benz SSK Count Rossi “Evocation” – with a bottom estimate of £600,000, a sale at a hammer price of £315,000 was a major price adjustment! 

Coys had presented an interesting and varied inventory of just over 50 cars but even some outstanding offerings didn’t get listed on the sold side of the ledge 

On the Aston Martin front it was three out of three making or beating their estimate.  First up was a 2005 Vanquish “S” imported from Japan – finished in Silver, it was not at its  best and offered without reserve but still sold at £72,000 on the hammer (£82,440 with premium).  Next up was a 1955 DB2/4 that was on its third trip to an auction in recent years – previously Blue, the current owner had had restoration work done and the car had a new Gunmetal Silver paint and fresh Blue leather inside.  Close detail was not the car’s strong point and it made bottom estimate of £125,000 (£141,800 with premium). 

The final Aston was a DBS V8 that had made the long trip from New Zealand – non standard wheels and more lack of detailing didn’t seem to hold back buyers. Reflecting the market’s burgeoning love affair with the DBS it beat top estimate with £94,000 on the hammer (£107,080 with premium).

So as we approached the half–time whistle for this season’s sale, Bonhams looked ready to capitalise.  Since they re-located their December sale to their New Bond Street HQ, it had adopted an air of exclusivity with exceptional inventories and a matching audience. 

There is another Bonhams Sale later this week at Hendon and from the combined inventories, you could see that the refined single malt had been distilled into Bond Street whilst the wash was consigned to Hendon in the week.  They had even split out one of the collections into the Gordon Willey Collection Part I and Part II.  Bonhams were looking to capitalise on the aura of New Bond Street but the reality was that their overall inventory was as bloated as Historics’ the previous weekend and, without the exceptional in the Bond Street catalogue, the outcomes would prove as unpredictable!

The environment in New Bond Street is 5 star and the presentation of the cars better than any other sale.  So the first Aston Martin, a DB5, flattered to deceive, it looked magnificent but the catalogue noted that its last MOT was 10 years ago and went on to suggest “careful re-commissioning will be required”.  So a hammer price of £460,000 (£516,700 with premium) makes it a £750,000 car on completion and, for the buyer, a realistic proposition.

Next from Newport Pagnell was a DB4 Series II that failed to excite the audience and failed to progress beyond £300,000.  However, the team from Bonhams clearly got on the case after the sale and their website now reports the car “Sold” but sadly without price detail.

Also branded Aston Martin were a pair of brilliantly restored Lagondas entered by the manufacturer.  First up was a 1963 Rapide, estimated at £350,000 but when the bidding ran out at £310,000, it was noted as not sold.  In contrast, an equally magnificent 1974 Lagonda Series I with a 7 litre upgrade on the engine was bid to £380,000 (£427,100 with premium) and whilst still short on estimate, it went to a new home.

Sticking with Lagonda, there was also good news with a pre-war  T45 4½ litre Rapide which delivered its top estimate of £700,000 (£785,500 with premium). 

But star of the day, and laying a benchmark that may be impossible to live up to, was a left hand drive Jaguar XK150 Drophead.  It sailed past top estimate of £150,000 to an incredible £380,000 (£427,100 with premium).

That result probably summed up the market brilliantly – it is a vibrant and exciting market with a buyer for everything, but it is a brave and foolish soul who predicts the price.  For Buyers and Sellers alike – keep doing the job properly, there are no short cuts to a successful sale / purchase and remember prices are just one dimension in the process and while they are variable, the trend remains positive.



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