December 2020 Historics and Bonhams in the Market


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Interesting changes in the auction world

Historics at Ascot – Making the Effort in Hard Times

The scale and beauty of the cathedral to equine excellence that is the Ascot Grandstand is stunning and, like every cathedral, the roof soars above the interior and boy, is it cold on a December day!

There are a number of points for which the organisers deserve just praise – the discipline to adhere to Covid-19 precautions and making it easy for attendees to follow those precautions. 

There cannot be many venues where Hand Sanitizer is supplied out of a redundant 2-gallon oil can!  One-way systems, obligatory face coverings and regular reminders from the rostrum.

But best of all was the presentation of the inventory inside the building – showroom quality would be an apt description but they had clearly paid a price for their efforts.  It was revealed in the pre-amble to the auction that a number of items had been removed from cars and the audience was told in no uncertain terms that this was disapproved of!

It was good to be attending a “proper” auction after reviewing so many versions of the virtual variety. It was also encouraging to see the attendance – we were told by the auctioneers that numbers were limited but those numbers whilst not in the volume of the last Ascot sale, they were enough to fill the available seating and more besides – most encouragingly for such a massive inventory which lasted for many hours, the attendance was consistent throughout the event.

But there was an inevitable downside to that scale of inventory and that was time – Fabian Hine intoned “I’ve clear instructions to sell, not dwell” and he and Edward Rising who alternated rostrum duties kept a significant pace on the event. Why a downside? Well for the Sellers, were they getting the best prices and for Buyers, especially remote bidders, would they have gone further with a bit more time?

The liberal sprinkling of “No Reserve” lots meant that another sale was not far away although the start was a little uncertain with some unusual motorbikes.  But the cars got off to a cracking start with the first miss being a Ford Escort RS Turbo which fell well short of estimate. But it was clear that for anything a bit “special”, estimates were out of the window – a 1957 Cadillac Eldorado Seville was bit £10,000 over its bottom estimate.

We had to wait until a quarter of the way through the inventory for the first Aston – a beautifully presented Vantage 550 in Suffolk Red with Automatic Transmission and less than 15,000 miles on the clock – bid to £115,000 it was declared provisional and confirmed as a sale at £130,000 including premium – ultimately a slightly disappointing market indicator, but closing the deal is one of the strengths of the Historics team.

Not a lot they could do with the next Aston Martin, a DB7 Vantage Volante – as the bidding stayed obstinately below £20,000, the auctioneer said he had never sold one so cheaply and so it proved – at a top bid of £18,500 it remained unsold.  As did the DB6 Saloon – a car with a cracking service history and well presented, it was bid to £242,000. 

It shows the weakness in auction sales – a realistic price for the car was £270,000+ but that is what the Buyer’s Premium + VAT would take the car to – one commission is enough sometimes!

In between those two misses, there was a DB7 GTS – a limited edition from Stratstones, she looked beautiful and made a sale with a hammer price of £36,000 (£40,320 with premium) which was not bad in today’s market – a long way short of the market peak!

There were two more Aston Martins in quick order – a Lagonda Serie IV and a stunning Vanquish Ultimate, the last one from production.  Both cars came in the middle of probably the worst run of the day – six cars in a row failing to make a sale – the top bids called for the cars were £75,000 for the Lagonda and £240,000 for the Vanquish.  Even accepting that speed was the essence of the bid process, a less generous spectator may have called it, bid wise, the best runs of the day.

But happily, normal service was resumed with a handsome V8 Coupe finding a new owner at a hammer of £51,000 (£57,732 with premium). 

Observations on the day – deal of the day for Historics was a good old fashioned bidding war for a replica Bentley 8 Race Car – the bid price of £102,000 translated into a bonanza £126,480 with premium as it counted as Automobilia and attracted a Buyer’s Premium of 20%!!

And when you review the sales rate, 81% sales is a cracking result – if you look at our results summary, you will see a reference to Y* in the Sold Y/N column.  These are cars that were either noted as not sold or provisional sales from the rostrum – although this is an undoubted strength of Mark Perkins and his team, there is always a sense that auctions should flow with the rise and fall of the market – best bid wins the prize, whatever the price and that is what makes “No Reserve” sales so dynamic.  Deals done “off-line” really belong in a different medium.

But the message about values is that of course, they are well off their peak, but with realistic pricing and good presentation, there are deals to be done. 

It was great to be back at a live event but what a long day – the inventory was too big for a single session and the time pressures allowed some of the old doubts around auctions to surface.


Bonhams Bond Street

Seeing the year out with a Whimper not a Bang


Timing, they say, is everything and with Covid-19 increasing in the South East of England, Bonhams of Bond Street, less than a week after Historics, found themselves operating under Tier 3 constraints.

There was an audience at the Bond Street event although we restrained ourselves to the services of online broadcast but at least we could record the bidding and get a feel for the reaction to an inventory that was modest in number but not in quality.

It is worth spending a little time on each car and Jamie Knight opened with a Ferrari 328GTB – opening the bidding at £50,000, increments of £5,000 soon dropped and the final bid of £68,000 saw the car the first of what turned out to be a majority of the inventory in the unsold column.

Clearly Historics had sated the Mercedes Convertible market because a nice 230SL followed the pattern of the Ferrari opener and topped out at £70,000 – no sale!

Then came the first of the Astons – a pre-war 1½ litre Standard Sports Model – opening at £75,000 she climbed steadily with the hammer coming at £100,000 (£115,000 including premium) – the first sale and an Aston, but it wasn’t a portent of things to come!

Next up and showing the enduring appeal of James Bond, was a 1969 Mercury Cougar that appeared in Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Opening at £85,000, £5,000 increments quickly became £10,000 and at £120,000 someone laid down the gauntlet with a bid of £150,000 – she went on to a hammer of £310,000 (£356,500 with premium) and drew applause from the audience.  Rightly so, it is what auctions should be about!

The next car, an Aston Martin 550 Supercharged was opened at £100,000 and just like the one 4 days earlier, topped out at an offer of £115,000 – but this one did not convert to a sale and joined the unsold column.

Jamie Knight can blame Historics again for ticking the Jaguar K140 boxes at the weekend because the Bonhams offering of a 1955 Drophead Coupe started at £75,000 and climbed in £5,000 steps to £95,000 – not sold!

Not the same story with a very pretty Alvis TC21Cabriolet Sport opening at £100,000 it quickly reached its estimate of £120,000 and registered a sale at £138,000 including premium.

Afraid it was back in the doldrums for the next Aston – a DB6 Saloon Automatic, we know the auctioneer meant to say 4.2 litre rather than 2.4 litre, but why start her so low?  £120,000 climbed to £160,000 before Mr Knight was apologetically offering £5,000 steps but stalled at £170,000 – not sold.

A 1924 Vauxhall steadied the ship ebbing and flowing up to a hammer of £130,000 (£149,500 with premium) and another sale.

But the smiles did not stretch to the Aston Martin DB5 that came up next – opening at a respectable £480,000 she went up in £20,000 jumps but not far – she stalled at £540,000 and offers of £10,000 increments elicited no more bids – not sold.

Price ambitions on the 1933 Rolls Royce Owen Sedanca appeared modest enough but from £70,000 to a final £95,000 in £5,000 jumps did not take long – another for the unsold column.

Similarly modest aspirations for the next Aston – a DB6 Vantage Volante but sadly the same result - £400,000 to £480,000 in nearly as short a time as it takes to read about it and another not sold.

A 1967 Ferrari 330 GTC came next and it is interesting that, opening at £220,000 and with a final bid of £300,000, way short of estimate, drew a comment from Jamie Knight that he had started too low!

Something a little different, an Atalanta 2 litre Sport started at £200,00 and, although short of its estimate, found a new home at £250,000 (£287,500 including premium)

The auctioneer obviously didn’t learn from his Ferrari faux pas when he opened the Aston Martin DB4 Series I at the same £220,000 – at least it got further than the Maranello product with a top bid of £330,000 but the end result was the same – not sold!

A 1953 Bentley Continental is a thing of beauty but although attracting strong bidding, its journey from £330,000 to a finish at £470,000 did not prove enough for a sale.

But back to something our of the ordinary and the 1965 Lola T70 attracted interest and had a steady run from £80,000 to a hammer of £115,000 (£132,250 including premium) and although short of estimate marked another rare sale.

Back to Maranello for a 1959 250 GT Coupe and spirited bidding from £170,000 to £230,000 but one wonders about underlying issues when the estimate is £300,000 - £400,000 and the hammer price and the “with premium price” are marked as identical. But log sale #7.

The final lot was another Aston – a DB6 Saloon, originally an automatic but rebuilt as a 4.2 litre manual. Following his own advice, Jamie Knight opened at £170,000 but the bidding and the evening stopped at £180,000 – this market is hard to predict!

So in summary – 20 lots entered, 1 was withdrawn, 7 sold and 12 remained on inventory.  A very different story from Saturday and a very select inventory – as we said on the opening line, timing is everything.



In these strange times, we constantly hear talk of “the new normal” – the classic car auction business, like all sectors of the industry, is under the cosh.

With the second demise of Coys and Bonhams’ historic position in the market coming under pressure from the likes of Silverstone and Historics, people recognise that their success, in terms of selling, comes from hard work and even harder dealing.

If you are invested in the market, good sales rates do not always equate to a return on investment.  We at Byron International are still selling Astons but the reality is that they need to be well described, honestly presented and carefully negotiated.  There are no shortcuts.

So, with that thought, we would like to wish all our clients Seasons Greetings and our sincere wishes for a Happy, Healthy and Successful New Year.


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